Blog post alert: The British Library is digitizing manuscripts pertinent to the lives of women in the Middle Ages. Hildegard-go! reports on ten manuscripts and contains this illustration of girls learning to read in a classroom. A link to the full manuscript, a Dutch prayer book, lets you view it and the page opposite (f. 28r), which includes an alphabet.
Picturing a World
A muddy ford where a small rill crosses a green track in Wales—on Bilbo and Frodo's birthday, it calls to my mind a tramp across the Shire, with maybe a distant vision of The Mountain. Or taking a different but related tack, one of the green roads maintained by Wend in Diana Wynne Jones's Crown of Dalemark. Less fancifully, the picture is a reminder of just how much very small features of the landscape give specificity to places.
When I saw this sketch in a study of Cézanne's watercolors, it took my breath away. Such sureness and elegance of line! Such vitality in just a few strokes of pigment! The peculiarly expressive hands continue to fascinate me. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that a sculptor might be a superb draftsman, but it did. In the well-illustrated Cambodian Dancers, Auguste Rodin, and the Imperial Imagination, you can read a lot more about the visit of a Cambodian dance troupe that elicited this quick sketch and other studies—and a lot about current thinking on "cultural appropriation," the evils of colonialism, and related social topics.
To work up a writing exercise, I am herewith stealing from Kathleen Jennings' blog post, Five Things to Steal from a Cafe (hers is for illustrators, too). (1) Find a place where you can take notes on your surroundings—a room of your own, a park bench, a public place (library, grocery store, filling station), a performance space, etc. (2) Write down five things you could "steal": objects, patterns, textures, colors, shapes, sounds, smells, light effects, mood, etc. (3) List three ways you could incorporate each of your five items into a story. (4) Choose a few of those ideas, mull over them a few minutes, then in twenty minutes work them—or something like them!—into an outline or the opening of a story.
I made myself work through the exercise.
Literary tip for Anglophiles: Angela Thirkell's long Barsetshire series was written, in effect, in real time. Jutland Cottage (1953) and What Did It Mean? (1954) include the death of King George VI and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Here at the end of the queen's long reign, I have pulled them out for a nostalgic visit to the England that shaped her. And for good measure, Corgi owner that I am, I have ordered a copy of All the Queen's Corgis.) Keep calm and read on?!?
Blog post alert: A post at Jane Austen's World, Sydney Gardens Restoration in Bath, provides information on an upcoming celebration of a restored garden in the English city of Bath—and much more. I loved the video on laying out a labyrinth and followed the links to renting Jane Austen's house (£165 a night for the end of September 2022). The image is from an article, The History of Sydney Gardens at The Bath Magazine on-line. It shows the bandstand as Jeanette and Edward might have seen it if they visited on their honeymoon (for a larger version, click here).
For a fantasy story I am writing, I've been reading up on the gemstone Lapis lazuli and came across a story in ChemistryWorld— Blue teeth reveal medieval nun's artistic talent. Yippee! The archeological discovery of a particle of ultramarine pigment in the nun's dental tartar offered material proof that nuns worked as illuminators by at least the late Middle Ages. The finding is also covered in Harvard Magazine's Manuscripts Illuminated…by Women. It's of no use to me for my story, but, oh, what about in future?!?
Blog post alert: A National Park Service post on Women in the Labor Movement can boost our spirits at a time when Amazon and Starbucks are fighting as hard as big business can against unionized workers' rights, librarians are under attack, and teachers are leaving their jobs in droves. This moment in history may be discouraging, but let's not lose faith that there is strength in numbers if we only pull together. Happy Labor Day!