17 July 2018

Water Monster Retrospect

I'll just leave this video of Merlin vs. The Water Monster here while the Periphery takes a short break.

For the record, it's Green Hose 7, Merlin 0. But there is always tomorrow.

30 June 2018

Reading Women Poets of the World


I've been re-reading Women Poets: From Antiquity to Now by Aliki Barnstone. It's an interesting collection ranging from a lone Sumerian poet through Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Persian, Indian, African, Chinese, Japanese, European, Native American and even one translated Egyptian Hieroglyph poem.

The time span ranges from about 2300 BC to poets born in the 1950's. The range of voices is fascinating. Although the poets are separated from us by hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, the poems themselves transcend time. They speak of love, hate, relationships with husbands and lovers, children, the pain of growing old, regret and betrayal.

In the introduction the Barnstones speak of the sense of loss in Latin poetry. We know women wrote and painted, but little has come down to us because of the culture of the time. Women's arts were not worth preserving. Contrast this with the reverence Eastern peoples held for their poets, male and female, and a subtle difference is seen in the writing. There is boldness, a straightforwardness to the writings of the Chinese and Japanese women. Their poems are as powerful as those of Basho, Issa, or Buson.

From the Diary of Izumi Shikibu
by Izumi Shikibu

On nights when hail
falls noisily
on bamboo leaves
I completely hate
to sleep alone.

From 18 Verses Sung To A Tatar Reed Whistle
by Ts'ai Yen

A Tatar chief forced me to become his wife,
And took me far away to Heaven's edge.
Ten thousand clouds and mountains
Bar my road home,
And whirlwinds of dust and sand
Blow for a thousand miles.
Men here are as savage as giant vipers,
And strut about in armor, snapping their bows.
As I sing the second stanza I almost break the lutestrings.
Will broken, heart broken, I sing to myself.

One of my favorites comes from India, a classical Sanskrit poem that is dated from somewhere between 700 and 1050 AD. It lists no title; the author is identified as Mahodahi.

On the holy day of your going out to war,
the sky is black with dust
which the chisel of your horses' feet
ground from the earth.
The sun's charioteer is lost,
his steeds rock from horizon to horizon,
stumbling off track
and the sun on its longer voyage
is melancholy.

The poet paints a vivid picture of a loved one gone to war, and how the day stretches endlessly as she waits for his return. The sense of pending loss hangs over the poem like a knife. She has little hope that he will return, 'black with dust', 'the sun's charioteer is lost', and 'stumbling off track' all lead us to the inevitable conclusion.

I find inspiration in reading these missives from the past. It translates over into other forms of writing. How does a female character feel as her lover gallops off to save their kingdom from invading forces? I imagine she reels from unsaid emotions much as the woman in Mahodahi's poem does.

We are not as far removed from our ancestors as we like to think.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay
This is a reprint from an earlier Periphery essay.

18 June 2018

What Doesn't Kill You - Makes for a Great Revenge Story

Bring it on.

You may have noticed a slowdown in Life on the Periphery posts. Partly because it's summer, 
and partly because I've been writing. Not poetry this time, but a new fantasy novel. Newer than my 
other new one. I got an idea and it just grew and grew until I had to start writing it down. I've been 
working on it for a couple weeks, writing in great bursts. Much of the writing is getting to know my main
characters. I had a clear idea of my protagonist, so I started shoving her into little scenarios to see how
she'd react.

Of course the novel started out linear, here's the inciting incident, here's what happened right after, etc.
Then it all turned left, another character demanded his time on stage. We'll call him Character A 
for Annoying. He bulled his way into my book. So protagonist and I set out to test him, to see if he was 
worthy. I chased him down alleyways with a rifle, then a wolf, exploded magic at him from all sides, 
had the bad guys thunk on him, let the protagonist take some cheap shots. Character A has passed 
the test so far, although he's looking a bit rough around the edges.

Character B was a whole 'nother kettle of anchovies. She is aggravating in that 'don't tell the 
protagonist anything important' sort of way. She revels in letting the protagonist flail about and figure 
it out herself. Which is good, in a way. No one likes easy answers. Yeah, I'm lying, everyone likes easy
answers. But character torture is in the job description.

The bad guys kind of fell into place after I figured out what my protagonist was doing running around 
the wilderness away from her hometown. What's a girl to do when bad guys come to drag her back 
to the city? Why level up, of course. Secure some weapons, invoke some magic, and conjure some 
great scary creature to stand by her side. Let Character A join the fun, as long as he doesn't cramp 
her style. Time to save the world. Or at least, her little part of it. 

Gratuitous Corgi Pic for Anon

03 June 2018

Fun with Drying Dishes

Finished 15 x 20 inch (38 x 51 cm) dish towels

So. I finished my Space Shawl and a very lacy scarf, and was looking for something different to do. I found a dish towel pattern in one of my weaving books, and off I went. I'd never worked with cotton yarn before, so before I ordered a big shipment from my favorite weaving store, I bought some good old Peaches and Cream cotton yarn. You can find it darn near everywhere, it's cheap, thick, and usually knitted or crocheted into dishcloths of some type.

I grabbed a big cone of white, some colors, and got to work with my pencil and math designing. You'll notice the edges are fluffy/fringey. I left them that way because I didn't want to make hems on my first set, I wanted to see how things would go. I am definitely going to hem my next set, I hated the fringe, it wouldn't stay even and frayed and feathered and just did its own thing. The heck with that. So I need to learn to do hems for my next trick.

The selvedges (sides of the weaving) weren't too bad, cotton has a LOT less give than wool yarns do. It made it easier to control things, although the cotton towels shrank from around 24 inches (61 cm) long to around 20 inches (38 cm) and width wise went from around 18 inches (46 cm) to 15 inches (38 cm). Lots of shrinkage. But the good thing is there are some super warp and weft calculators out there, so I can do the minor math, have them do the major math, and then get an idea of what to expect. Of course washing and drying bring on that shrinkage big time.

Since I bought a bunch of cotton yarn (of course), look forward to more colored varieties of dish towels, until I feel the urge to move on and learn something else. Or run out of the need for dishtowels.

Tie on, header, hemstitching and we're off, weaving!

The gap between the two towels. 10 dent heddle with a worsted weight type cotton. Took about 3 days to do as I figured things out as I went. 

14 May 2018

Miracle Grows

Waiting their turn in the ground.

I am an accidental gardener.
I don’t really make plans, I just go with the flow. A few years ago when I tried doing a square foot garden, it made me uncomfortable. I was happy when the plants ran wild and didn’t stay in their allotted space. Except the tomatoes, they were very orderly. No one budged outside their square. Of course they were scrawny and puny, so that helped. The hazards of growing tomatoes in Wyoming. Sometimes the weather makes you plant late. Then the weather on the other end makes you pick early, or lose your crop. Or it gets wiped out by hail. Or locusts, or some other Biblical sized plague.
This year I’m not putting in a great deal of plants, more out of laziness than a desire to cut down on produce. I’m not an attentive gardener, so I need plants that will thrive despite my brown thumb. There is one thing my Italian self cannot do, and that is not plant tomatoes. It is a requirement, like putting fresh grated cheese on your spaghetti. Plant tomatoes or turn in your Italian card. I did take it to extremes this year, buying six different kinds of tomatoes. (Okay, so I lied about not putting in a lot of plants. Tomatoes don’t count.)
Roma tomatoes, of course. Cherry tomatoes, Better Boys, Early Girls, Beefsteak, and some Black Krims a fellow customer assured me were delicious. After my last undersized crop, I wanted to make sure I get some kind of tomatoes this year. My instincts were to plant just Roma tomatoes and go for an all-out sauce canning session in the fall. But one cannot live on sauce alone. I do like a nice slice of tomato with a pinch of sea salt, and maybe some olive oil and vinegar on it. I’m sure if I get bumper crops of tomatoes, someone will step up and help me eat them. Cherry tomatoes are already earmarked for the grand kids. Easy to pick and stuff in your mouth while still sun warm.
The only other interesting thing I’m planting is cabbage, in hopes I get enough to do a big batch of sauerkraut in the fall. Who knows what other vegetables will fall into the fermenting crock? Hence the need to cut back on planting and growing my own. Then I’d need to buy more canning jars and lids and crocks and…. You see where this is going. In the spirit of self-restraint, I’m trying to rein in my desire to Plant-All-The-Things!
On the other hand, the Farmer’s Market opens soon. Pickled green beans here I come!