Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Is Here!

Or is it? 
Technically, yes: the vernal equinox has been and gone, leaving days that are longer than the nights. The weather, however, refuses to conform to this stereotype and insists on it being winter still.
I mentioned last week that the weather people were predicting a snowstorm on Tuesday; so I went out into the icy winds on Monday to stock up on groceries, in case we were to be buried in snow, and Thomas hoped for a snow day. Tuesday morning dawned quiet and clear: the snowstorm was cancelled – or, at least, only the Eastern parts of this country got any snow. Quite a lot, actually, in some places. But here, all was peaceful; and during the day, I discovered that the pleasures of staying in all day were more anticipatory than actual; so I went out anyway.
I had been relieved that the snowstorm was to be on Tuesday, since I had a meeting in Aarhus, about an hour’s drive away, on Wednesday, and the roads should be cleared by then. Anyway, we had a bit of snow during Tuesday afternoon and evening, like a feeble attempt at real winter weather. On Wednesday morning, we got up to – snow. Great big flurries of snow pelting down, covering everything, snow ploughs on the roads and drivers slowing to a crawl for fear of skidding, even though the roads weren’t that bad. Typical, right? And it kept coming down all through Wednesday and Thursday. And some on Friday. So maybe the snowstorm wasn’t cancelled after all, but only delayed.
Snow in the garden after the cat has been playing
The cat, as always, has been loving it, jumping about and throwing snowballs at himself.

The soundtrack for this post should be Tom Lehrer’s joyful song Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, extolling the delights of springtime pastimes with your sweetheart. A caveat: don’t listen to this song in the company of someone who takes a literal view of things. No, actually, come to think of it, do play it for them and use the occasion to teach them about satire.

The Apple of the Week:
In the ancient calendars, the Spring Equinox, when the Sun moves into the sphere of the Ram, was the time of the New Year. It makes a lot of sense: this is the time of nature waking up from its winter sleep, blossoming and greening; the birds are nesting and mating, lambs are born, and all that. So in an agricultural setting, spring is the beginning of the year.
This is also why in horoscope overviews, the Aries horoscope comes first: the period of the Ram begins at or around the vernal equinox, and the ancient Babylonians who invented western astrology also celebrated the New Year at this point.

You may remember from a previous post (in January 2013) that in the Roman calendar, the first month is March, named after the god of war and fertility, Mars; and at first, the calendar had only ten months, ending with December (decem meaning ten in Latin). The winter period had no name: it was a dead period. And even when the remaining two months were invented, so to speak, and named, and the official calendar had the year begin in January with the inauguration of the new civil servants, the rural and agricultural celebration of the New Year still took place in March.

This is also reflected in the Greek myth of the grain goddess Demeter and her daughter: the young girl, Kore (which means just that: young girl), was out and about, and Hades, the god of the Underworld, fell in love with her and snatched her. Demeter searched in vain for her lost child; and while she grieved, she did not function: nothing would grow. This, of course, could not go on, and the other gods called on Zeus to do something about it. He discovered that it was Hades who had the girl, and demanded that he give her back. Unfortunately, Kore had eaten nine pomegranate seeds from the Underworld, and thus she could never again be wholly free of this realm. So a compromise had to be made: for eight months of the year, Kore is above ground and with her mother, but she has to spend four months as Persefone, queen of the Underworld; and during those months, nothing grows while Demeter misses her daughter.
This is an aetiological myth explaining the seasons.

Astronomers have gone through the text of the Odyssey, interpreting mentions of stars and phases of the moon, to determine that Odysseus returned home to his Ithaka around this time, the first new moon after the spring equinox. That cannot be coincidental; of course, it is the right time to start the sailing season, when the winter storms have abated, and thus the right time for him to leave the island of Kalypso, where he had been imprisoned for seven years, and sail on towards home. But his homecoming also marks a new beginning for those at home: his wife who waited for him for twenty years, and his son who never knew him.

Another story of a new beginning is that of the deliverance from Egypt of the children of Israel, celebrated as Pesach; and as a branching out from that, the Christian Easter that will be taking place next week. When I say ‘branching out’, I mean that the crucifixion of Jesus happened in Jerusalem when he, being a good Jewish boy, travelled there to celebrate Pesach at the Temple.
Both of these stories symbolise new beginnings, new light and hope for the world – or for selected people, at least.

The word Easter is in itself a variant of Ostara or Eostre, a Germanic goddess for light, spring and fertility, who is celebrated in modern pagan and Wiccan circles (so to speak) at the equinox.

So, Happy Springtime to all, whether you celebrate Pesach, Easter, Ostara, No Rooz or the beginning of the gardening season – once the snows clear, that is :o)

The Knitting:

I am, unsurprisingly, still working on the birthday jumper for my nephew Emil who will be 2 years old next week. It is coming along nicely; even though I realised that I had made a stupid mistake and had to frog the ribbing at the bottom to lengthen the body, and then re-knit the ribbing. But I can still finish it by Tuesday, gods willing, so it can be washed and dried by Thursday morning.

And for the simple or take-along knitting, I have my denim cotton & bamboo Summer driftwood jumper to go to. This one is coming along, too: it is a marvellously quick knit in the worsted weight yarn on 4 mm needles, and somehow, stripes always make a project seem faster. I am even understanding the shoulder and sleeve construction this time around, as opposed to just following orders and seeing what came out of it, as I did with the Juniper jumper (which I am wearing as I write, and knit, and read, and everything, actually).
Which means, of course, that I am planning to use this construction for my own purposes at some point down the road ...

So, all is well on the knitting front.

As for books, I am, of course, still very much into the audio books with all this knitting going on. Since my iPod went and died on me several months ago, I have podcasts on my phone (alas, not a smart phone) in mp3 format, and books from Audible on my laptop. So the podcasts, including CraftLit and the subscriber books, I can listen to on the go, in the kitchen, pretty much anywhere; but for the regular books I need to be by or at least near the computer. Which means that I have several audio books running in parallel.

On CraftLit, I finished Gulliver’s Travels and decided to listen to the subscriber goodies before heading into the current book, Jane Eyre, to postpone the moment when I will actually have to wait for the next episode to come out.
So, I downloaded The Canterville Ghost, Wuthering Heights, and Cool for Cats into my phone. The first two, the classics, come with Heather’s comments like in a regular podcast episode, while the third one is a straight-up, modern audio book. Written and read by Andrew Ordover, Cool for Cats is a detective novel, a first person narrative of the life and troubles of PI Jordan Greenblatt.

I had already read both of the ‘old’ stories and was particularly interested in getting the comments on Wuthering Heights, as Heather mentioned quite passionate reactions to it in the Ravelry group; I had to wonder what I missed when I read it – as a young teenager, maybe, or even earlier. This time, having been married and seen some more of life and of literature, I understood a lot more and had to shudder and marvel at the personalities and relationships that Emily Brontë managed to describe. This is a very gripping and troubling tale of passion and woe, and the sins of the parents visited on the children.

Having listened to Ehren Ziegler as both Doctor Seward in Dracula and Gulliver in – yeah, well, you know where – I just have to go check out his own podcast, Chop Bard, in which he does Shakespeare. I have read some Shakespeare, though not in school, as back in my day classicists did not do English after the first year (of the gymnasium). Weird, that, but never mind: I have read plays, I have watched movies, I have been to several performances at The Globe.
And soon, I will listen to Romeo & Juliet. Because I am beginning at the beginning with this podcast, as well; back in 2008, I think. More on that later, when I have actually listened to something.

Meanwhile, on the computer, I am still listening to The Vampire Archives, a huge collection of vampire stories, about 60 hours long – and some normal-sized books in between. Some of these vampire stories are rather lame, to be honest, compared to Dracula, while others have more bite to them (yes, I had to go there).

And Victor handed me a Stephen King novel, when Rick Riordan’s Mark of Athena gave out; so now I’m reading Dead Zone. This is one of those typical Stephen King books that just grab you: I was planning to make a start on it Friday evening, and suddenly I was on page 192. So it goes. I can’t knit while reading it, as it’s a paperback and I don’t want to murder the spine; but that may be a good thing. I seem to have a tennis elbow or mouse elbow or knitting elbow – or whatever; it is somewhat sore and could probably do with a rest.

Anyway, that’s about it for this week. The sun is shining and making everything into a brilliant winter wonder land; and I have to go and find the Easter ornaments before it is time to go to knitting group this afternoon.

So: keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

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