Sunday, January 16, 2022

Raptor Saturday

Ravi, a Western Screech Owl, looks with apparent disinterest and possible distain at a piece of chopped up mouse offered her.
The last few days have been foggy in the Willamette Valley, which makes the distant tree lines and hills look mysterious (or disappear).  I confess I do appreciate it when the sun breaks through and makes everything brighter.  

Mostly overcast skies graced the Cascades Raptor Center when I arrived at the 10 opening, so I had diffuse lighting for photos. The best photos of the resident birds happen when they are outside of their aviaries, and I was lucky enough to get photos of Ravi, a Wester  Screech Owl, and Maple, a newly arrived Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Maple, a Northern Saw-whet owl, perches on a falconer's glove and peers behind her underneath a sign reading "Northern Saw-whet Owl."
Ravi was not very hungry, and was not very interested in the chopped up mouse offered to her.  Maple, on the other had, was obviously ravenous.  

What I learned during this visit is that the resident birds don't hunt live rodents released into their aviaries, that many of the residents either can't or don't know how to hunt, and that it would be dangerous for them to hunt within the confines of the aviaries because they might smack into a wall.  

I stayed until "The Hour of the Snackening," which is heralded by two-to-three-year-olds having a melt-down around 11:40 because their blood-sugar levels have tanked and they need their after-lunch nap.  

At home, I found Mark working on an art project on our (then) sunny deck.  A murder of crows flew overhead, raising an alarum of mobbing-caws, and our neighbor's chickens, which had been released for free-range foraging, raced to the sanctuary of their pen.  

"They're mobbing a raptor," I said, and raced inside for my camera.

Outside out front, what looked like the hawk from last month perched over the street on a power line.  I fiddled with manual settings, but only got a blurry photo of a the power line and some tail feathers as the hawk launched itself for an escape.  

Then the fog rolled back in.  

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Dream: Cheesy Villains' Society

Dreams Jan-13-2022

We join the dream in progress.

I was mostly me, but I was also an investigative reporter.  I was transitioning from one dream segment--something about a jungle or canyon--and walking along a hillside road.

There was a tallish man behind me, wearing a black silk hat and a black demicape of some heavy material.  I want to say that he started out with a Snidely Whiplash moustache, but later on in the dream I think he was clean-shaven.

"Say," I said, "Are you a member of The Cheesy Villains' Society?"

It turned out he was.  

There's a break in my recall.

I interviewed him.  At some point, The Cheesy Villain darted me with a tranquilizer, and I woke up in his lair.  This didn't seem to bother anyone, and the interview continued.

The dream recall is very uneven; somehow TCV disappeared, his lair was in the middle of a local branch of the CIA or FBI or some police organization, and there was a secret passage built into the very heavy and large armchair in the room (the seat and the lower half of the back hinged forward).  

In another dream segment, I woke up in our house, but it was an odd dream amalgam of our current house, our old rental, and some other houses I've lived in.  Our backyard was mostly lawn, and it was surrounded by a five or six foot high wood plank fence.  It was an early spring day, the sun was just up, and it was something like five in the morning.  I was practicing pulling a bow back, I might have even shot an arrow.  What struck me was that I would hold the bow in my left hand, pull the string back with my right hand, and site the string against the bow with my right eye.  The bow and the string lining up was significant.

I didn't want to wake Mark and The Child, so I went next door into a building that was simultaneously the old Corvallis High School building an University of Oregon building.  There was nobody in it.  I might have been in my bathrobe.  I remember walking by the old English Resource Center (a library in CHS filled with multiple copies of scripts and standard English literature volumes--this is where I read "Lord of the Flies," "Dante's Inferno," and "Happy Birthday, Wanda June" for fun in high school).  

I heard voices, and three women walked by on the way to or from an early-morning meeting.  They were somehow connected to the university, but the only one I can recall is my old boss, M.R.  We had a short discussion. Then the three ladies departed for another building.  

Later dreams were fairly obvious sexual wish fulfillment dreams.  With my husband (well, at first...).  

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Dog Park Moon

Late December and early January nights were supposed to be good for watching the waxing crescent moon pass by Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Since it's just after the Winter Solstice, the evenings and mornings have been cloudy and overcast, so I hadn't really seen much of the moon (or the planets, for that matter) for about a week and a half.

When we took Aoife to the dog park a few evenings ago, just before sunset, the sky cleared up enough to show a waxing half moon.  I surprised myself by managing to take an in-focus picture of the moon bracketed by tree branches.  

I think Mark thought I was particularly daring to bring the camera into the Very Muddy Dog Park (we'd had two inches of rain a few days earlier, on top of the previous week's eight inches of snow).   I was more worried that Somebody Else's Dog might jump on me with their muddy paws than I was of slipping or dropping the camera into a puddle.   I managed to get a few photos of Aoife, but the majority of them were blurry action shots of her chasing things.  

The fog, which had rolled back around noon, reasserted its dominion over the landscape as the sun set.   By the time we got home, the sky was a dark grey blanket, unspangled by stars, and the night was moonless.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

January and Octagons

We've taken down the Christmas trees at our house and at my folks' house.  Our tree this year was one of the smallest ones we've had, and once we took all of the paper doves, ornaments, and lights off of it, I carried it outside.  I enjoyed the tree, but while it was up it underscored how frat-house-cluttered our living room is.  I suppose whenever we decorate for a holiday, we cross over a saturation point.  

My folks' tree is a monster artificial tree that practically requires a blowtorch to take apart, and winches to cinch back into its boxes.  But we did it.  This may be the year I come up with some kind of origami collapsable tree contraption that my dad can manage (I'm seeing a rack-and-pinion mechanism that expands like a car jack, only tree-shaped).

The snow from December has melted and we're back to our regular upper-thirties rain and overcast (with occasional sun).  Since the hummingbirds were peering down the hole in the fountain's stone pillar looking for water, I braved the frigid water and reinstalled the pump.  Within an hour-and-a-half, they'd come back to splash in the fountain's flow, which made me surprisingly happy.

On the art front, I've been playing with octagonal symmetry.  The results tend to look like quilt patterns.  Whereas pentagons and Penrose tiles have to deal with the golden mean and the odd gap where things don't quite line up, octagons have to deal with issues around the square root of two.  What's interesting is that triangles repeating around an octagon almost will make a perfect five-point star (one can almost, but not quite, make eight pentagons fit around an octagon).  I stuck to squares, right-triangles, and isosceles triangles mostly.  It occurs to me that I didn't try using alternating half-circles set on a square's corners--but that might end up looking like jigsaw puzzle pieces.  Hmm.

The latest dream involved going on an archeological visit to an ancient stone tower, built by vaguely South Americans in some unspecified past.  The tower was more like a giant mesa, eroded volcanic plug, or stone pueblo.  I got caught in a shaft that was being used as an elevator and got mashed a little by the plastic gondola as it descended.  

When I got to the top of the tower, there were a bunch of other tourists there.  A strong wind picked up, and the tower began listing to one side.  We were directed to walk down hitherto unnoticed stairs before the whole thing could blow over.  

I can only conclude that the symbolism of the tarot card, "The Tower," has been added to my typical elevator anxiety dream, which, I'm  just now realizing, had the beginnings of the "lost in a constricting maze" elements in it.  Sigh.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

New Moon Cleaning

Sunday was a new moon.  Sunday was a cleaning day.  

One of the drawbacks of not having a craft room or a library is that my side of the bedroom gets cluttered with books, artistic projects, and stray papers.  At one point in the past, I purchased some project boxes, and that helps a little, except that the boxes tend to end up underneath our bed along with stray summer shoes, and collect dust-bunnies and hairballs.  

The tchotchkes and pocket detritus, I'm sorry to say, even winds up on the top of my dresser, which is supposed to be my altar.  The dresser was also doubling as my vanity table and necklace display.  

Mark worked on another project and walked the dog while I reshelved books.  Then I reviewed a few old textbooks.  It was very hard, but I threw away a thirty-five year old S Statistics Package manual from 1986.  I haven't analyzed data with S (on a PDP-11 VAX) since I wrote my undergraduate Psychology thesis.   I think even S+ is old and this was just plain old S --  they've moved onto calling it R -- and my old Statistics Instructor, Albyn Jones, retired just the other year.   It was very weird getting rid of it -- I felt like I had betrayed the Spirit of the Library of Alexandria, or tossed out a children's tattered magic kit, or burnt an old lover's letters -- and I had to sit down with Cicero afterward.  

But I soon carried on, vacuuming, cleaning out old receipts, storing some items in the garage, and even tossing a few periodicals from the late 1900's, which allowed me to actually shelve a few more books instead of stacking them.   And yes, some things were shook out, wiped off, and returned to newly dust-free nooks.  

I figured out a better way to store and display my necklaces:  only one is a proper talisman,  two I'd call amulets, about half are charms, and the rest are merely theatrical -- so moving them off of my altar area made sense.  I do like wearing them, but over the last year with COVID and not going out as much, I've fallen off of choosing one in the morning.

With more space, I moved the Portable Stonehenge to be more central.  Continuing with the "less is more" theme, I cleared away most of the junk jewelry and all but a few of my elemental emblems and ritual tools.  The end result feels calmer and less frenetic, and I'll have to see if I can continue to just take 30 seconds in the morning to ground, center, and move the day, moon and sun pegs around their courses.

Friday, December 31, 2021

The Return of Nefertari in Portland

Yesterday, Mark and I went to the Portland Art Museum.  Mark wanted to revisit a exhibit of French painters from the 1890's (the Nabi Brotherhood) and I wanted to revisit the Nefertari exhibit.  Luckily, the weather cooperated and the drive was rainy and sunny instead of snowy and icy.

My impression that the Nefertari displays were oddly lit and poorly placed was reinforced during this second visit.  Several items were clearly meant to be seen from behind and were shoved against walls; coffin lids were placed next to each other so that one side was not accessable -- perhaps the museum's rectangular galleries constrained the displays, or maybe the curators wanted the best layout for minimizing COVID exposure.   

However, this time around there were fewer patrons thronging the halls, so I had more time to appreciate and photograph the New Kingdom artifacts.  Mark put it the best:  the exhibit is more more scholarly and archeological than it is artistic (sort of like one of those back study rooms at the MET); and reviewing my photos, many of them are studies in in form that I would refer to if I were designing graphics with Middle- and Late-Kingdom Egyptian motifs.  

Thinking back, my favorite pieces from the exhibit were the sculptures of Sekhmet, the lion goddess (Mark and I had a fun time looking at the ways the manes were different and how some Sekhmets looked happy while others looked fierce); the sculptures of the king between Amun and Mut; and a cat sculpture.  

Mark enjoyed the Nabi Brotherhood exhibit, especially some of the paintings of subjects interacting with their cats or dogs.  I will admit to being a philistine when it comes to paintings--very often I'll look at portraiture and it's either not speaking to me, or it's Yet Another Madonna and Child, or it doesn't have a strong narrative I can access, or it's Yet Another Crucifixion, or it just plain looks like an assortment of colored textures, or Look! It's Boobs!--but I did appreciate some black-and-white prints.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Snow Wishes

More snow this morning--not a whole lot.  No moon or stars, only grey clouds making the snow a dusky pastel blue.  The forecast for today is a tug-of-war between snow and rain.  I expect the day to become darker as the rain washes away the snow.

Yesterday the sun came out and turned the snow brilliant.  The light bouncing off of everything lifts my spirit, and makes for some fun photography.

The cats are hopeful that the snow will go away, and seem dashed when we open the doors to that cold white stuff covering everything.   They spent most of yesterday on tables and chairs, in the sunlight, waiting for the snow to melt.

The dog loves it, though.  Mark has been making snowballs for her and filling some of them with dog treats.  

Monday, December 27, 2021

Snowy Third Day of Christmas


We've got about eight inches of snow, with some more on the way this evening.  The dog loves it; the cats hate it.  Oregon State University in Corvallis shut down; the University of Oregon was on a two-hour delay.  The city doesn't plow our street, so we're walking everywhere until driving conditions improve.


The sky has been so stormy the last few days that it was a real treat to see the waning crescent moon this morning.  I went out and took some pictures ere rosy fingered dawn appeared in the east.  I will have to take my tripod out with me next time I want to get some good moon photos; the majority of the ones I took were blurry.  


I had better luck photographing snow on branches--I can't put my finger on why snow on branches is pleasing:  is it the contrast of light and dark? or the ephemeral way the snow pressed down the branches? or is it the novelty of snow draping everything in white?  Some neighbors had left their holiday lights on, which made for some festive-looking photographs. 


I wanted to take some photos of snow flakes, but I think I've got the wrong kind of set-up.  When I tried to collect them on a plate yesterday, the plate was too warm and the snowflakes melted before I could really focus on them.  This morning's snow is dryer, but it's still clumping together, which makes it difficult to see the individual crystals.


Sunday, December 26, 2021

Wrapping Up December 2021

  I envisioned myself blogging (and writing) much more this December than has actually happened.  Part of this is due to posting to social media more than actually blogging.  I suspect that I need to have add some time-keeping software to my apps to bring social media usage back into balance.    

To recap the last few weeks.   

Through a series of events, the Day Jobbe has expanded to full time.   It's mostly remote, and I drive in to work some days.  I am doing a combination of departmental intranet design and web site management.  It has been a reminder of how brutally insurance benefits are awarded (or not) to vested employees. 


Writing is going very slowly, which I find it tends to do this time of year.  

My extended family is doing mostly well and managing to stay healthy during the pandemic.  

The cats have crossed another threshold with the dog and are more likely to spend the night in the house (rather than the garage) with the dog.  The cold might have something to do with this.  They also seem more tolerant of the dog in general, and no longer zip out of a room whenever she appears.  

Smokey seems to have recovered from his earlier medical emergency.  He's still as fluffy as ever, but--whether through the medicine he's taking or through the touch of age--he is bonier than he used to be.  

On the design front:  last November I sat down and decided to see about reproducing an Islamic design I've always thought was an interesting interlocking of circles, triangles, and hexagons.  As is usual with these sorts of designs, one can make it tile infinitely.  Other design projects include designing this year's family calendar and paper projects.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Quick and Dirty Guide to Ancient Egyptian Magic

Last week was the last of my Zoom classes on ancient Egypt and Egyptian magic.  Since I justified it as writing research, here's my writer's take-away from the last few weeks.

Ancient Egyptians conceived of a natural force, called heka, which was created by Re before time as a resource for humans to use to ward off bad things.  I suppose in a way it's like static electricity, in that some objects will hold it, and a user of heka can direct it.   To speak a spell is to have heka in one's mouth. Powerful magical items hold and direct lots of heka; some things have more intrinsic heka than others: like the king, graveyards, books, gold, names, precious stones.  

Heka was also used to combat the forces of chaos -- the desert, storms, sickness, dangerous animals, and foreigners --  in order to uphold "maat," or truth and order.  (The imagery of foreigners in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, foot ware,  religious iconography, and in magical texts is the xenophobic elephant in the pyramid of Egyptian studies.)  Heka could form a protective shield encircling the magician, or could in turn encircle and bind the forces of chaos.   

Ancient Egyptian spells involve ritual actions or gestures, special or exotic focus objects, and written or spoken words -- especially names.   So if you're writing a magic scene set in ancient Egypt, your spell-caster is going to be waving around an ankh (at least) while using as many True Names as possible.   Spells to subdue an enemy might involve breaking pots with a person's name written on them, or melting wax images of them.   In some rituals, a magician/priest has the goddess Maat painted with white paint upon his tongue so that his words are true and pure. 

Colors had magical correspondences.  Green was associated with plants, and therefore flourishing growth.  Blue (like lapis) was associated with heavenly powers.  Black was a powerful color (maybe associated with the fertile black soil?).  Red was a color of power, but also chaos, associated with the chaotic god Seth.  Magical scrolls might have magical names or chaotic powers written in red ink (otherwise, they mostly used black).

Scholars like to spend a lot of time writing about the boundaries between ancient Egyptian religion, magic, and medicine.  This is because the boundaries between the three are blurred.   Ancient Egyptian (Early- and Middle-Kingdom, at least) spells tend to begin with a story about the gods as a kind of "this is the way the universe works" starting statement, and then has the spell caster identify with one of the god-protagonists in the story.  Also, magic spells were part of a non-exclusive toolkit -- along with prayers and mundane actions -- for healing or averting ill fortune.

Scholars also like to talk about how ancient Egyptian magic is different from the modern (-ish) western concept of sympathetic magic as put forward by Sir James Frazer.  I'm not sure there are that many differences, since ancient Egyptian magic operates with the Law of the Macrocosm and Microcosm, the Law of True Names, the the Law of Contagion.  On the other hand, I'm not sure how to classify a spell that requires one write write the spell onto one's body and then lick it off for it to work -- consuming or otherwise taking the spell into one's mouth was a way for illiterate folks to activate the potency of a spell.   

Simplifying things greatly, ancient Egyptian magicians came in three flavors:  the king as high-priest of the nation casting spells to uphold order (maat), a scribe-priest associated with a temple's scriptorium (or House of Life) who might cast healing spells or compile magical guidebooks for navigating the afterlife, and common folks who used charms, talismans, and magical gestures during times of crisis (like birth or death) to manipulate health and luck (and hippos and crocodiles) or avert the evil eye. 

Although there was a mention of foreign (Nubian) women and their terrible spells, most magicians in ancient Egypt were male priests working out of a temple.  There might be a sample bias here, as temple priests were more likely to leave a record of spell (or medical triage) books.  Being a priest was a part time  job, and when they were off of temple duty, they were typically doctors or scribes.  As time went on, the priesthood became hereditary.  So if you're going to write an ancient Egyptian magician, they're going to be part of a literate elite, or connected with the royal court.  

Ancient Egyptians made heavy use of amulets, like the ankh (for life); others include the djed pillar (for stability), the shen (for protection), the scarab (for regeneration), and the wedjat eye (for wholeness and protection).  Amulets could be as simple as a knotted thread, or a magical word or symbol written onto a piece of cloth and put into a small bag, or even a tattoo.  

Finally, ancient Egyptian magic was concerned with helping folks attain a good afterlife.  Afterworld spells can be attested throughout the Egyptian kingdoms, starting with the Pyramid Texts (~2353 BCE, and which were reserved for the king),  to the Coffin Texts (~2100 BCE), to the Book of Gates (~1500 BCE) , The Book of Going Forth By Day (~1550 BCE, available to the upper classes), The Book of the Hidden Chamber, The Book of Adoring Re in the West (~1425), and other Netherworld Texts.  These contained spells and rituals a person would need to recite in order to navigate the perils of the netherworld or Duat and unite their ka (or spirit) with their ba (or soul) -- much in the same way Re the sun god was thought to unite with Osiris the mummiform god of the underworld.  The  Book of the Heavenly Cow (~1341) appears to be a collection of stories featuring gods and sorcerers.  

Once we get to around 300 BCE, Egyptian magic starts to look more familiar.  For one thing, it seems to be more about curses and bindings and less about protection, healing, and the afterlife.  The gods become more syncretic.  The spells begin to become more abbreviated and cryptic.  During this time we start to see gods like Abraxius, and magical anagram-like words, like abracadabra make their appearance.  

I suppose if I were going to write about an ancient Egyptian magician, I'd do an alternate history magician.  They would need to be able to read and write.  They'd need to have good observational skills in order to detect and move heka.  They'd need to be versed in the creation myths of their society in order to make use of the Law of Macro-and-Microcosm.  They'd be a boy-scout type concerned keeping the system running orderly.  I'm split on what gender to make them, although writing a non-traditional / non-male would be give them a social hurdle to get over.   Or maybe I'd make them a foreign magician trying to work within their adopted land's system (more opportunities for conflict there) -- maybe they could be a lover or spouse of a native.   I'd probably make my magician a mystery solver -- so I guess a police procedural or Brother Cadfael type of character.   

. . . or . . . 

 maybe I could make them a kind of shabti figure (a kind of Egyptian golem). . . doing work for a magician. . . 

. . . or . . . 

maybe this school-teacher / anthropologist is digging in modern Egypt, and she finds this box from the time of Queen Hatshepsut, and inside the box is an amulet of Isis, and....

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Purple Bat'leth

We join the dream in progress. . .

I was Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The recall is fuzzy, but I was replaying or in a re-boot of the first time Worf meets his mate, K'Ehleyr.  There was a lot of running down stairs, and the Enterprise was more like a dorm or a camping lodge than a star cruiser.  And my bat'leth was bright purple.  

Through dream transitions, I was out of Micheal Dorn's body and in my regular one, setting up chairs on a large, second-story meeting room.  There was a large picture window taking up most of wall on one end.  I think I was sweeping or buffing a hardwood floor, and setting up chairs in front of a speaking area.  The area had the feel of the set-ups I used to do in the 1980's at church.

There was a forty-something priest there; he was the main speaker.  Clean-shaven, curly hair, tall-ish; he wore a black, long-sleeved shirt and priest's collar and dark slacks.  I'm not sure if he was going to give a sermon or just a talk.  I still had my bright purple bat'leth, only in waking life it seems to have become more boomerang like, or even like a purple version of the curved magic wands the ancient Egyptians carved out of hippopotamus tusks.  

He thanked me for helping to set the room up, admired my bat'leth for a moment, and then he looked at me with a priestly, wide-eyed, and earnest gaze and asked, "Why are you here?"

"I've lost my way," I said.  

There may have been more to the dream -- something about a small town in central Oregon called Bear.  I woke up soon after feeling like this was a significant dream.  Of course, it made me introspective, and I've had an early 1990's Styx song, "Show Me The Way," stuck in my head.  

Maybe tonight's lunar eclipse primed me for a significant dream.

I think it's been the early 1990's since I dreamed a Star Trek:TNG dream; usually William Riker featured in them.  I suppose I'll have to dig up old dream journals to confirm.  

Bear, Oregon doesn't exist; but I have a feeling it's somehow related to the dream-North-side-of-Ridgewood-hill, which frequently features bears.  

Based on the bright purple color, I've got a feeling by the end of the dream, the bat'leth was "more than just a cigar" -- but the boomerang aspect and/or Egyptian wand aspect (which is reminiscent of vulvas and has strong associations with birth protection magic) is puzzling. 

The priest seemed to be a generic priest. It's possible he was based on a childhood priest, but the only because he had curly hair.  While I've dreamed I was a priest, I don't usually dream of priests, youngish or otherwise.  

Friday, November 12, 2021

Crows and Hawk

The other day I was in the backyard when I heard the frenzied caws of a murder of crows coming from the street.   I sprinted through the house, grabbed my camera, and stood out on the front porch.  Sure enough, there were eight or so crows, with more winging in from various directions, gathered in the branches of the neighbor's maple tree across the street.   When I looked more closely, I found what I was pretty sure would be there:  a red-tailed hawk.  

Crows will mob a hawk or other raptor, buzzing it while cawing at the top of their lungs.  The hawk typically looks resigned and eventually flies away.  If they wanted to do something about the crows, they could, but I guess it's not worth the trouble.  Crows are interesting, and I'll confess to indulging in the fantasy of making friends with them and having them bring me shiny junk; but it was difficult not to see them as bullying middle-schoolers in that moment. 

I took photos with wild abandon.  There was a frantic moment where I was re-adjusting the ISO to so I could get a quicker shutter speed and then another moment when I was looking for things to lean against to compensate for using high-powered zoom without a tripod.   I got one well-composed shot of both the hawk and a crow.  I tried to repeat the shot by managing to look at the hawk with one eye for a wide-angle view of what was going one and at the scene super-zoomed up on my camera's screen--somehow I did not get sick, but my lucky shot didn't repeat.  

Eventually, I had to go back into the house because Aoife had been left behind in the backyard when I ran off, and, according to Mark, she was going to crash her way through the patio door in a theatrically desperate (and yammeringly operatic) attempt to discover my location and status among the quick or the dead.  

Monday, November 08, 2021

Nefertari in Portland

Over the weekend Mark and I drove up to the Portland Art Museum to see an exhibition of ancient Egyptian artifacts from the time of Queen Nefertari, wife of Rameses II.  The artifacts were (most recently) from the Museum of Turin.

I'd say we've been spoiled by the MET.  I did wish the PAM could have turned up the lights some, although I understand that low lighting is needed for conservation purposes--but it made it difficult to see the minute details on some of the items (and I had to crank up my camera's ISO to the max to get any kind of photo).  I would have had a few of the items pulled away from the walls, turned ninety degrees, or installed in front of a mirror to make it easier to see the back.  I always want translations of what I'm looking at, and if I had been curator I would have had a augmented reality or video display of the artifacts with the hieroglyphs highlighted, along with transliterations and translations (the MET sort of does this sometimes when they shine projections onto the Temple of Dendur).

The artifacts were interesting early Late Kingdom items--but there was nothing of fabulously spectacular craftsmanship fashioned out of gold and inlayed with precious stones.  This wasn't too surprising, as the majority of the objects were every day things from a stonemason's village.  And, to be fair, the show wasn't trying to be a second King Tut exhibit.  There were a number of stelae, pointy-ended jars, little wooden or stone votive statues, and tons of shabti.  The curators did seem awfully fond of a pair of ladies' size nine palm flip-flops.  I'd say my favorite pieces were a bronze cat, an eyeliner case, a carving of the Two Ladies (a cobra and vulture representing Upper and Lower Egypt) with cool detail payed to the two neb baskets, and an early 1900's architectural model of Queen Nefertari's tomb.  

There were only one or two instances of the htp-di-nsw offering formula, so I was challenged to be able to read the writing, but I did on occasion manage to pick out someone's name or phrases like "forever" and "eternity."  To me it seems like New Kingdom era hieroglyphs are the ancient Egyptian equivalent of Helvetica.  It was cool to see some actual papyrus scrolls of The Negative Confession and what I think was Chapter Eleven from the Book of Gates, where Apep the Chaos Serpent is bound--even if they did have a line-drawing feel instead of a luscious carving feel.

I think I'd revisit the exhibit, especially on a weekday when it would be less likely to be crowded.  While I felt like I didn't learn anything new--and Mark said that he thought the exhibit was more of a display of ancient things than a teaching moment--there were enough there that was interesting to warrant a return visit.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Halloween 2021

This year's Halloween was not exactly a fulfillment of all my spooky cross-quarter hopes, dreams, wishes and desires.   There was no costumed ritual with mist and fire; there was no mystic visions or portents from Tarot cards.  There were no masks blurring boundaries between self and not-self.  

Mark and I did hike up to the top of Spencer's Butte with Aoife and had a token snack at the top -- it wasn't a dawn salutation to the sun, and I spilled hot tea on myself -- but the slanting sunlight through the clouds and river fog was picturesque.

Then it was off to Trader Joe's for party supplies.  

I had hauled the decorations from out of the attic about a week before -- this involved a lot of stooping, a head flashlight, and smacking into at least one roof beam.  

I'm thinking we need to re-arrange our front room a bit because right now it's in a COVID configuration that is too cluttered for anything but frat-house decor (this is mostly my fault, as Mark is our resident Marie Kondo) .   I am grateful that the lava lamps are out for a while, and at least this year we got the Trick-o-Treating cats out long enough to enjoy them.  

While shopping, I forgot to get Mark some Toblerone and earned the epitaph of Bad Husband.  To atone, I set out to the local Rite Aide for some Toblerone (and Almond Roca), which almost always involves standing in a line for way longer than one would imagine or wish for.  

We did have a tea party of sorts, but for various reasons -- I prepped the food too late, I was the only one into it, nobody on the very small guest list showed up -- it was particularly anemic.  Mark made some yummy cheese dollars.  I brewed a carafe of tea over a tea candle, and made cucumber savories.   I cut an apple laterally to make slices with stars at their centers.  Then I binged on Almond Roca and poured the extra tea into a thermos to save for later so I wouldn't over-caffeinate on a school-night.   

The little mini-pumpkins we bought this year had thick, hard rinds; this made it hard to carve them --  and while they came out adequately, I ended up with a broken mellon-ball spoon (a useful tool for carving eyes) and sore hands.  Eventually, they were hung on stakes in front of the house.   

The Child opted to spend all of ten seconds carving the pumpkin I'd saved for him by whacking it with a hammer to give it two dented eyes and a crack for a mouth.  

I did manage to carve a pumpkin and managed to get a Witch-King of Agmar vibe from it, so there was that.  And the jack-o-lanterns and candles were quickened with flames ignited by the focused rays of October 31st.

By five o'clock all the candles were lit, all the little treat bags Mark had decorated were ready, and the Trick-or-Treaters had yet to show up.  I figured it was time to thrown on the black and purple cloak, strap on the RollerBlades and wrist-guards, and glide up and down the street a few times.  I surprised one neighbor as I veered around a corner, and after her startled "oh!" we wished each other a Happy Halloween.

Camille Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre played in my head as I swooped around.

It was enough.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Hectic Weeks

Things have been hectic over the last week or so.  Weird dreams.  Odd hours.  Some projects have picked up at The Day Jobbe, with the result that I've been working a little later into the evening and then inclined to relax and wind down later in the night instead of writing or other creative endeavors. 

Then our older cat, Smokey, had some medical distress, that, after some back-and-forth, has been diagnosed as saddle thrombosis.  For a few days, we thought we might have to put him down.  Luckily, while he's not running around like a kitten, he's made a miraculous recovery and is walking after a fashion.   Cicero continues to be a punk barncat.  

I've continued with some introductory Egyptian hieroglyphs classes, and I'm winding up attending a series of Zoom lectures on ancient Egyptian Magic.  This is Official Writing Research -- the most surprising facet of ancient Egyptian Magic is that it's supposedly outside of the Frazerian concept of sympathetic magic.   I'm not sure I understand how this could be so, but I expect this will be addressed a few lectures down the road.  My challenge will be to write a magic-using character in an Egyptian-like scenario.