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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

An Appropriate Imbolc

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

An Appropriate Imbolc

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Today is Imbolc, which is the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. To all who observe Imbolc as part of your spiritual or cultural tradition, I wish you a good day and spring to come!

Today was a rather appropriate Imbolc for us. Today is the warmest it's been in weeks. It got up to 50F/10C, which felt positively springlike! However, the temperature will drop again tonight (not to polar vortex conditions, thankfully), and we are presently under a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service with 5 inches (12.5 cm) of snow predicted into tomorrow. And, for the next week, there are multiple winter weather events predicted, including an ice storm Tuesday into Wednesday and a potential snowstorm this weekend that one of the weather models is predicting could leave us with 30+ inches (75 cm).

Today was the first day that the yard wasn't completely covered in snow in two weeks now. It is still mostly covered but patchy where the Goldens have had the most traffic. Unfortunately, when we have good snow coverage, the Goldens abandon all idea of correct places to pee and poop, so we have turds on the patio now. Bleh.

We had to take Alex today to a vaccination clinic at a nearby pet store. His rabies vaccination is overdue, and in the past few weeks, there have been two confirmed cases of rabies in Manchester. Both in cats. His regular vet could not fit us in (we already have an appointment for late February, which was the earliest Bobby could get when he called after we got back from England), and this is nothing to screw around with. Alex and Lance have harried cats that have gotten into the yard before, and we have a possum living in the chicken shed. As it turns out, the clinic prices for vaccines was much lower than what we pay at the vet, so we took both dogs and got all of their vaccinations up-to-date.

Lancelot, a.k.a. Phil, having a nap on the couch during the Super Bowl after being super-brave about getting his shots.

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One hour later ... same position, same place, different dog: Alex, a.k.a. Old Piss, sleeps off the excitement of the day.

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And the two of them.

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Phil in a ball. (This required extensive scratching of and circling on the couch before it could be accomplished.)

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We went to lunch at Salsarita's, which is a little Southwestern food franchise owned by a local family whom we have become chummy with over the years. In the summer, we belong to the same pool. We haven't seen the wife who owns the franchise in a while, and she was thrilled to see us and said she'd worried we'd moved or something had happened. This is one of the things I like about living here: that you do actually feel that people might notice if you died or disappeared.

We also started our first seeds today: three kinds of tomatoes and three kinds of peppers. (We will grow many more varieties of the latter, but since jalapenos, cayenne, and poblano are relatively easy to find as plants, and since we have a lot of success with these, then we don't usually start these from seeds since, lacking southward light, we have to start everything under grow lights in the basement.)

I am plugging away at the reading for my final paper for my Enlightenment class. I am, at present, reading Rousseau's Social Contract, which is far better than his Confessions. Autobiography sounds more interesting than political treatise, and even the title Confessions suggests something more titillating than Social Contract, but the man was honestly so disturbed and paranoid (and very long-winded) that his autobiography is hard to read. It's page after page of paranoid ramblings about how this one wronged him and that one is out to get him.

Given this, I did something dumb the other day. My B2MeM writing prompt is the song Autumnal by Arcana. I thought it'd be a good idea to listen to it again and see if I could at least get a vague idea of what character I wanted to write about. Ha. Hahaha. I ended up with whole scenes coming at me like a freight train through the Shire, and now I really, really want to work on it, but of course, I'm stuck working on my paper. If we're home some days this week because of the weather, I hope I can make quick work of the reading I have left to do and will be able to justify allowing myself some time for it.

In other fannish stuff, I finished putting together the SWG newsletter today. I want to recommend Oshun's biography of Tuor, which was a really impressive task (I'm afraid I wasn't very encouraging when she told me she was writing Tuor and my response was something like "OMG you're brave!"). It is really an excellent biography that expertly illustrates how material from The Silmarillion becomes essential to The Lord of the Rings.

Bobby was listening to Professor Olsen's lecture on the Númenor material in Unfinished Tales while I was doing the HTML for Oshun's biography and half-listening too. It has provoked some very thinky-thoughts. I am forewarning for the half-baked nature of what follows and the lack of citations.

Professor Olsen was discussing how Aldarion, unlike many of Tolkien's characters, was obsessed with the journey east rather than the journey west. My initial thought was, "Of course he was; he was forbidden the journey west, yet the longing remains, and he ventures east to sate it, but this is ultimately inadequate." The analogy I later used to Bobby was of a person dying of starvation who eats grass; the grass provides a sense of temporary fullness, but the essential urge that provoked that action remains: He is still starving, and the behavior can only repeat until he dies or actually manages to feed himself. This got me thinking about journeys eastward in the legendarium; Professor Olsen notes that they are often of moral dubiousness.

However, I think this is what sets my viewpoint apart most Tolkien fans and scholars--what leads me to call myself a Tolkien heretic. We all know what the journey west means in Tolkien. But the journey east--often undertaken for morally dubious reasons, i.e., Fëanor--is often undertaken with the intent of locating oneself or one's people within the larger world versus the isolated, protected "paradise" of the West. It is often undertaken with intent of becoming relevant in the larger world. Professor Olsen notes how Gil-galad's letter in Aldarion and Erendis increases the larger relevance Aldarion's eastward travels. The journey east is voluntary abandonment of the privilege of paradise in favor of joining the affairs of the world.

This is what has always attracted me to Fëanor and his story: that the greatest of the Noldor chose to make his life and the lives of his people more meaningful than they would have been had they remained in Valinor. Bobby notes that this is very much an example of Tolkien's idea of "Northern courage," i.e., pagan (not more easily aligned with Christianity, as the journey west would be). To bring this back around to my original topic of Imbolc: They choose to be of the world. They choose to improve the world. I am not a pagan but do identify as heathen in the literal sense of that word, "of the heath": I find spiritual meaning in the cycles and workings of the Earth itself. There is no "beyond the Circles of the World" for me; I am of this world, a creature of dirt and dust like any other, and I recognize my potential to arise in different forms when this existence dies ... but the key word there is to "arise again." So one could say that it behooves me to improve the world in which I live.

Of course, the Elves would have related to this sense of permanence in this world. And when the Elves stagnate morally and set themselves up to fall, they neither journey east nor west but symbolically try to establish the west and covet and keep it: Gondolin, Doriath, Nargothrond, Lothlorien. Numenor among the mortals. Subcreation becomes hoarding and neither advances its people spiritually or in terms of their deeds.

Again, just off the top of my head, so be gentle if you shred me. :)



This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

http://dawn-felagund.dreamwidth.org/330707.html
  • It's page after page of paranoid ramblings about how this one wronged him and that one is out to get him.

    The first thing that popped into my head was Tumblr was made for him!! Oh, yeah, baby!

    We had 50s today also. And also rotten weather on the horizon.

    The impression I got from the Aldarion stuff was that everyone seems to think that he is just entertaining himself and then Gil-galad drops that letter on his dad and it upsets him so much that he had so far misjudged Aldarion that he resigns in his favor. I found the old push-and-pull in the Numenor stuff so far (I'm not a virgin anymore, but still it is my weak area) is very reminiscent of the Noldor business. Wow! They were great when they came to Valinor everybody among the Ainur loved how receptive and wide open to learning they were and then it all goes to shit, according to the Valar! Same with the Numenorean sailors. Tolkien loves their vitality and curiosity but then he has them turn in a short while into rapacious, greedy imperialists. JRRT is actually a very conflicted guy. It makes the stuff for me more readable though. If he were absolutely consistent in his Catholic world view, I doubt if I would have fallen into the trap. As it stands there is an endless amount of research and speculation I can milk out of all of the contradictory sources.

    Talking of the Northern/Pagan experience and sailing/exploring the History Channel's Vikings is starting up again this month--if you haven't seen any they are a lot of fun--pop/myth/history mix with a very attractive and entertaining cast.

    I think I agree with your sailing east vs. west, traveling east vs. west, as nearly as I understand it. On sailing west: I used to always think that I could never write a 4th Age Valinor fic because I couldn't take the died-and-gone-to-heaven aspect. But I got tricked into it through a fic swap and now find it kind of entertaining on a level of pure fantasy. The trick to making it fun for me is it cannot be all peace and love and without conflict. Other fanfic writers have done some exploration on that level also that grabbed my imagination. Russa is working on one now. Himring gives Fingon and Maedhros holy hell to go through, waking up in Aman released from the Halls of Mandos. I don't think that is what Tolkien had in mind at all, but it works for me.

    Thanks again for your nice words on my bio. It was more work than I expected but fun.

    Edited at 2014-02-03 03:16 am (UTC)
    • The first thing that popped into my head was Tumblr was made for him!!

      Lol! Gmta! I remember reading Confessions and telling Bobby that one could make a very successful tumblr out of just quoting from it. Even better to translate it into tumblr!English.

      Have you read it? I usually find something redeeming in everything that I read for school, even stuff I'm not interested in (lookin' at you, Machiavelli), but Confessions was simply awful. It might have been interesting in a omg-can't-look-away sort of way if it wasn't so damned long.

      Of course, I would pick to write my final paper on it. Only because I decided where to focus on it very early on and so highlighted tons of passages relevant to my topic!

      JRRT is actually a very conflicted guy.

      Yes! I am increasingly realizing this as I read/study him more. I think his attraction to pagan myth is huge. I have long noted that his characters become less complex as he ages; it's like it really started to hit home for him what he'd done, which was create, in essence, a fictional pagan myth cycle. He can say all he wants about how it is a "Catholic work"; many, many fans just don't see that. And even the defensive tone in the letter to Peter Hastings suggests to me that he was aware of that. I told Bobby this afternoon, while we were talking about the "journey east" stuff, that one of the things I like about Tolkien is that, in his fiction, he seemed to acknowledge the weaknesses of his most dearly held beliefs. Like all the subcreation stuff. He makes Feanor the consummate symbol of excessive pride in one's subcreation and what that can lead to ... and then he makes Feanor the preeminent philologist of the Noldor. It makes me wonder how much of himself he saw in Feanor and the other subcreators that he found morally questionable and yet seemed to so deeply relate to.

      If he were absolutely consistent in his Catholic world view, I doubt if I would have fallen into the trap.

      Same here. I once accidentally picked up a "Christian fantasy" novel at the library and ... ugh, no. (I did read the whole thing too.)

      Talking of the Northern/Pagan experience and sailing/exploring the History Channel's Vikings is starting up again this month

      That is on our to-watch list! We are about halfway through Spartacus right now. We'll probably watch Vikings after that.

      The trick to making it fun for me is it cannot be all peace and love and without conflict.

      I agree. There just is not much story without conflict. Of course, I took a lot of heat for writing imperfect!Aman in AMC! But there has to be something at stake to make it work for me.

      Thanks again for your nice words on my bio. It was more work than I expected but fun.

      You're welcome! I was awed at how thorough and well-done it was. :)
  • The pics of the Goldens are great. Very arty.
    • Thank you! That effect was created by photoing them in the half-light with my webcam while the Super Bowl was on because I was too damned lazy to get the camera. ;)

      ETA ... I like how the wet spot that Alex licked on the couch--very visible in the first picture!--implies the passage of time. ;)

      Edited at 2014-02-03 04:11 am (UTC)
  • I nodded and went "mmhmm, mmhmm" but my brain refuses to come up with anything relevant to add, other than the literal east in LotR, where Mordor - obviously a dubious type of place - lies. Not nearly a thinky thought on par with yours, I'm afraid!

    That was the saddest sad Super Bowl ever. Unless you're a Seahawks fan, I suppose...
    • I watched this Super Bowl like a total girl: I looked up more for the commercials than anything else. I did laundry, typed on the computer, made supper with Bobby. I did watch the half-time show. Even the commercials weren't that good this year.

      There could be a west-east continuum: from Aman to Mordor! It is a good point. :) Bobby mentioned that Frodo and Sam also make a journey east--to Mordor!--and that this also fits the pattern of leaving an idealized, bucolic existence in order to be of service in the wider world.
      • I hardly watched anything. I had the program (it wasn't really a game, was it) on, but so many of the commercials were lame, like you said. Half of them weren't even new! I guess creativity in marketing is a thing of the past. The highlight of the entire thing was David Beckham naked. ;)
  • I very much enjoyed your thoughts on East and West in the Legendarium. With my Istari fixation, I immediately considered Saruman and the Ithryn Luin journeying east. Then, you went on to observe:

    And when the Elves stagnate morally and set themselves up to fall, they neither journey east nor west but symbolically try to establish the west and covet and keep it...

    This is a great point, and can also be applied to Saruman establishing himself at Orthanc. I shall be pondering this.

    Also, your thoughts on being heathen are wonderful.
    • With my Istari fixation, I immediately considered Saruman and the Ithryn Luin journeying east.

      Yes! When Bobby and I were having our conversation about the east-west stuff this afternoon, one of the journeys that came to my mind was the journey of the Istari out of Aman and to Middle-earth: They are essentially making the choice to involve themselves in and, to an extent, share the fate of the wider world.

      It is interesting to me how some of the west-to-east journeys are celebrated (Frodo & Sam, the Istari), while others fall into the morally dubious category (Feanor).

      This is a great point, and can also be applied to Saruman establishing himself at Orthanc.

      I hadn't thought of that (due to always having Elves on the brain! :^P) but this is an excellent point and so true.

      Tolkien's Middle-earth has a lot of areas hemmed in by forest and stone, as well as towers, all of which seem to stand for isolationism.

      Also, your thoughts on being heathen are wonderful.

      Thank you. :)
  • It is certainly possible to see Aldarion's journeys eastwards as a substitute for the westwards journey, the way it is later stated explicitly about the Numenorean sailors more generally. But I think Tolkien's sea longing is actually less well integrated in the westward journey concept in the legendarium than it sometimes appears. It is also a thing in itself--if you want to take it really seriously, you could argue it bypasses the whole Valinor thing to go straight back to the Ainulindale.
    I think eastward journeys might perhaps be not so much morally dubious as morally risky--you risk losing yourself out there? And if you start off with an act of robbery and violence, of course you've dealt yourself a bad hand of cards...
    • The more I'm thinking about eastward journeys, the more they seem to earn both approval and disapproval from Tolkien (to make it simplistic), so I like "morally risky." (I don't even think "morally dubious" was Professor Olsen's term, just how it lodged in my brain as I half-listened to the lecture while undertaking the mind-numbing process of doing HTML for a long document! :D) For example, Sam & Frodo and the Istari undertake journeys east; there are morally mixed results. Gandalf is clearly viewed positively for lodging himself in the larger world with the intent to change that world through inspiring its own people to action; Saruman falls into the isolationist trap (per huinare's comment up-thread) and is viewed negatively. Sam and Frodo likewise: Frodo fails and falls into that morally dubious realm of covetousness but succeeds in that his earlier mercy to Gollum allows him to succeed in spite of himself.

      Feanor is a pretty obvious case of a "morally dubious" journey east, but Galadriel and Finrod are harder nuts to crack! :)
  • Gorgeous photos, and of course lovely dogs, but since they're classic Goldens that's sort of a given (nope, not biased at all!). ;) Yours are dark, aren't they, or medium? They breed 'em paler these days, it seems.

    Edited at 2014-02-03 08:31 am (UTC)
    • Thank you! I am biased too--I don't think there are lovelier dogs (and especially puppies!) than Goldens.

      It is hard to see their coloration because I took the photos with my webcam in the dim light of the basement. Alex is very golden and tends toward white on his underbelly and below his tail and on his legs. Alex, now age 7, is really starting to turn white in his face as well, whereas Lance (age 6) is showing very little of that kind of color change. Lancelot is darker and reddish; he is also a little lighter underneath, but it is not a striking as on Alex.

      These show their coloring better.

      Alex:

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      Lancer:

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  • Also, I'm looking forward to your fic inspired by Autumnal!
    Meanwhile, good luck that final paper!
    • Thank you! I did end up home today because of snow, so I'm hoping to make good progress on the paper, which will hopefully free me up to do some story writing. I can't wait to get started! :D
  • Dogs! :D

    Good luck with the paper!

    But the journey east--often undertaken for morally dubious reasons, i.e., Fëanor--is often undertaken with the intent of locating oneself or one's people within the larger world versus the isolated, protected "paradise" of the West. It is often undertaken with intent of becoming relevant in the larger world.

    I really like this! Can't say much more than that, but it resonates.
    • Thank you! If I could stop myself from making B2MeM banners and icons, I might actually get started on said paper ... :D

      I really like this! Can't say much more than that, but it resonates.

      When Bobby and I started talking about it yesterday (he is in the midst of research on something similar about Tolkien's Fall of Arthur), it was amazing how quickly we were throwing examples at each other. And I'd never really thought about it much before.
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