C. S. Lewis



"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

-C.S.Lewis

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Three Star preview

I got to go watch the US Olympic team (plus members of Great Britain's team, Canada, Australia and Puerto Rico) compete at a three star event this past weekend....So much heat and humidity, oh my word. But, also, so much talent and skill on display. I took a lot of pictures...Here is a sneak peek:













Monday, June 27, 2016

34-Kindling

Balleck had carried his poi—chains with the weighted ends tightly wrapped wicking–with him all the way from the circus caravan. “You never know when you might need a diversion,” he winked, holding the poi while I used the flint from my daggers to light them. He had soaked them in kerosene from a lamp in the day laborers’ hall and the poi sprang to life with a gentle froosh. Most of the circus women, and the girls from Gillenwater, had followed us from the hall to watch.
Picking up the slender chains Balleck spun the weights till the fire looked like golden wheels. The wheels danced, interlaced, twisted and came apart again. I could see the world falling away from him; he seemed to forget about me as he moved with the fire, bending and turning and leaping like a flame himself. The rest of the circus people trickled out of the hall.  Olena came to stand beside me, I put an arm around her shoulders. Balleck spun the flames in a fury of motion, between his hands like a potter’s pot, then arching around himself until it looked like he would be consumed.
Balleck ended with a backflip, the fire trailing from his hands stilled and, as if waking from a stupor, he noticed just how large his audience had gotten. He bowed deeply while his colleagues clapped.  Seeing Olena with me, he came over and offered Olena the poi.
Hesitantly, Olena accepted them. With Balleck’s encouragement, she stepped out and gave the poi a test spin. The weights performed. She spun the other poi, then took another step or two and sunk into a deep lunge. Now the poi swept up in an arc and the red haired Olena followed them into a leap. The other circus women gave hoots of delight as Olena, too, threw herself into the fire dance. All her considerable skill came out as the poi danced at her bidding, as she danced, too. I stole a look at Balleck and noticed tears in his eyes as he watched his cousin. I wondered if he felt as I did—torn by a thousand emotions. Our parting, Olena’s ordeal, and even this bright moment of restoration all threatened to overwhelm. Balleck caught me looking at him—my ears turned red and he reached out and squeezed my hand. I quickly looked away before tears could escape my eyes, too.
Olena finished with her back to us, the poi spinning slower and slower until they stilled. The circus women cheered. I could feel the hope in their cheer—Olena had found herself again, so there was hope for each of them. Olena drew a deep breath and then faced us. She dipped her head shyly, like a child who has been caught singing when she was alone. Balleck walked out to her and folded her into his arms.
The crowd dissolved, some went back into the laborers’ hall, others lingered in clusters outside—a few started stretching. I imagined they were testing themselves, to see if they still were who they remembered.
That would suffice for my fire spinning lesson. Turning to go, I smiled my goodbyes to the few who noticed my departure and hurried off to find my brothers. There were preparations to be made, not the least of which finding something along the lines of armor. Our plan was on the wilder side, but at least this time there was a plan.
I hadn’t gone far down the lane when Jemin fell in step beside me. I looked at him in surprise, “Jemin! Hasn’t Quill got you busy?”
The bearded soldier laughed, “He has, he told me to watch over you.”
“Oh, of course,” I felt silly. Naturally. “Well, it’s good to see you again.”
“Thank you, milady,” replied Jemin, still smiling.
“Do you know where they are?” I asked, gesturing vaguely at the little dirt road and the surrounding fields and trees.
“I have an idea.” Jemin picked up the pace and I followed him at a trot along the dirt path until we came a large barn which had an entire side open to the air. Inside were huge wooden crates, stacked neatly. Also inside were ten of Quill’s men, along with Quill and my brothers. My brothers were outfitted with whatever bits of armor Quill’s men had spare, and were openly wearing their swords. They had one of the crates open and were pulling swaths of gauzy white material out of it.
They greeted me as I approached.
“Ironsides has taken his sons and gone to survey his fields and orchards,” said Namal, “Most of his servants have been given the day off or instructed to teach the circus women some tasks around the grounds so he can explain their presence if he has to.”
“That explains why I haven’t seen hardly anyone around.” I stepped closer to the crate to finger the cloth, though it was so thin it scarcely deserved the word.
“It’s for protecting fruit trees from pests,” explained Quill, sensing my question.
“It’s perfect,” I replied.
“Zare, try these on,” Ayglos tossed me a handful of hard leather.
Catching the bundle, I examined it, finding a pair of bracers, boots, leather breeches, and a leather jerkin that looked as though it had been folded for a very long time and just recently oiled. “Thank you.”
“I think the jerkin belonged to Ironsides when he was a boy,” said Ayglos apologetically. “Do you want to go back to the house to try them on?”
“I can just go around the crates to that corner,” I pointed with my chin. Months of living on the road had done much to change my sensibilities. Ayglos didn’t argue and I ducked around the corner between some crates and began shucking my shoes and trousers. I slipped into the leather breeches with some difficulty. They were newly oiled, but still a touch stiff with age like the jerkin. They fit well enough, and I was grateful to have them. Next were the boots. They were a little too big so I stuffed grass in the toes. The jerkin and bracers I applied over my blue shirt and it took a bit of fussing to get everything arranged properly. The final touch was belting on my daggers again. I twisted and kicked, testing out the motion of my new garb. That would do. I felt a smile. It was not as nice an ensemble as I’d had in Galhara, but it was closer than I’d been in a long while. The leather gear would offer more protection than the cotton, and every little bit helped. Gathering up my trousers and shoes I headed back to join the men.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

That T shirt quilt

This quilt has taken me years. Years.

Granted: Huge portions of that time it was rolled up in a closet of Despair because I had really gotten myself in over my head.

There was an afternoon of industry, several years ago (Maybe even five??): A friend and I half watched 3 or 4 chick flicks while laying out t-shirt quilts. My friend was smart, she measured, made all the squares the same size regardless of the pattern on the shirt, and had uniform lines and came exceptionally close to finishing the entire quilt in one day.


I was not so wise. I thought "I'll make a crazy quilt!" and had squares of all different sizes according to the designs on the shirts, pieced them all together painstakingly with pins, and started to sew. I didn't get anywhere near finished.



We both broke our sewing machines (well, hers broke, mine was threaded wrong). Over time I got huge portions of it sewn, but it was king size, and there were no straight lines, and I'm not really sure how but huge portions of the middle were unsewn and I couldn't figure out how to get to them because you can only fit so much fabric in the sewing machine.

Earlier this year I decided that I was going to finish this thing somehow. So, I laid it out on the back and the batting, pinned it down to the back and batting and decided that I would just sew around the outside and then figure out the middle. Forget the proper way of doing things so there are no exposed rough edges--we're going for picnic blanket here, not actual nice piece of something.

Probably a spurious plan, but it worked. Shockingly well, in fact. I was able to use the machine to sew sections I never thought I could get to. Having the pins removed (due to the ends being sewn down) made a huge difference in my ability to move the fabric and squash things as needed.


I went through a spool of thread and two bobbins...but IT IS FINISHED.

It's not pretty. But it's finished.

Now we have a picnic blanket composed of my considerable high school and college memories--plus a few of Zorro's.



The sense of accomplishment is great.

Monday, June 20, 2016

...loading...

We were pretty close to having a Zare episode today. I wrote for hours yesterday--and still didn't get one finished. But I got a lot of things worked out. So. That's good. Bodes well for next week!

In the mean time, I have this:


Yup, I made myself a tee shirt! I kind of love it.

You can have one, too, if you want. I have it for sale at Redbubble.



Also, there is more than t-shirts; pillowcases, mugs, bags, notebooks...



You should go check it out. 

Also, Redbubble is having a 20% off sale today (Monday, 6/20) use code CARPE20 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Winter's War




via
The Huntsman; Winter's War

Back when Snow White and the Huntsman came out, we went to see it and were torn because it was so close to perfection that the imperfections were devastating. When I saw they were making another, I was obviously interested.

I can imagine the thought process behind this prequel going something like this: Snow White and the Huntsman was a pretty decent movie--except for Snow White, she was the weakest part of the film. Kristen Stewart isn't entirely responsible for that--it's like they forgot to write lines for her, and she just doesn't have the charisma to carry the role in spite of that. I probably feel this even more strongly since the last memory you have of her is a double whammy of what I can only assume was supposed to be an inspiring go-to-war speech followed by a pathetic end fight and a throne room sequence which was supposed to be as epic as Star Wars but forgot to bring the compelling music and the dignity of Princess Leia.

So they decided to take the best parts, their epicly evil queen (terrifyingly portrayed by the mesmerizing Charlize Theron) and their gruff, kick butt and lovable huntsman (the iconic Chris Hemsworth) and add Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt for some extra awesomeness. OK, sounds promising.

The trailers showed that we'd get to see more of the villain we love to hate and the hero we all wanted to see more of to start with,in that world I so enjoyed last time, so Zorro and I definitely thought this would be a good movie date.

Were we right? Yes.

via
From the producer of Maleficent. It all makes sense now. 

I haven't read the reviews, but I imagine critics weren't happy about the way this movie straddles Snow White and the Huntsman. The first act of the film takes place before Snow White, the second act takes place after. There is no attempt at telling the story in flashbacks, there is almost literally an act 1 and act 2, stopping just short of having an intermission where the overture plays and everyone runs to the bathroom. This was jarring for a cinema experience, but I was OK with it, because I was getting the Huntsman's story.

Despite being a prequel type thing--and based on faerie stories--this was actually an original story. It was a love story, and also a story about love. If you stop an analyze, you can probably come up with C.S.Lewis grade lessons from the different loves--healthy and otherwise--portrayed in the film.

Besides this, the film also reveled in one of the things that made the first film appealing--it's an unashamed faerie world. It's got ugly parts, but it has a lot of unspeakably beautiful parts. There are faerie creatures--good and bad--just around doing their own thing.


If you're convinced already, stop reading and go watch it--it's out on DVD and Bluray now.


If you're not convinced, I guess you should keep reading. **BUT SPOILERS**

I don't want to give away much, but the story follows Ravenna the Evil Queen, and her younger sister Freya. Freya falls in love, but instead of running off with her as planned, her lover murders their baby instead. --Except that we know that rather than lose Freya to another's love, Ravenna bewitched the lover and engineered the murder. Talk about an unhealthy love-- Freya's ice magic awakens in the horror of that moment, and she becomes the Ice Queen who believes firmly that love is a lie. Freya "rescues" children from the lie and makes them her Huntsmen, with whom she conquers the north. Love is forbidden in her kingdom because love is a lie.

Sara (Jessica Chastain) is pretty epic, an archer who never misses ,who also fights with two sick antler knives. The Huntsman (Hemsworth the Huntsman) has axes, and is equally undefeated.

Obviously, the whole "forbidden love" thing is impossible to avoid when you're fighting and leading armies together. Sara and Eric fall in love and decide to run or die trying. Freya has other plans.

Sara is killed and Eric ends up tossed in a frozen river. He barely survives, washing up in Snow White and the Huntsman which is summed up by a narration and a scenic panorama. I think it would be fun to pause the movie there and go put in the other one just to see how well they fit together. I haven't watched it in a while but I seem to recall the Huntsman mourning the death of his beloved and wallowing in cynicism, but by the end of the movie he has rediscovered hope and joy.

So Act 2 begins with a peaceful and solitary life for the Huntsman which us summarily interrupted by a couple dwarves and Prince Charming coming to ask for his help. Snow White has been driven mad by the Evil Queen's mirror--or nearly. So they tried to send the mirror away to be contained by those holy people who contain evil. The mirror, however, has disappeared. Since the Huntsman defeated the Evil Queen, he's the only one they can trust to find the mirror.

He's not terrifically enthused, but thinks it's important and takes the job. The Huntsman at this point is an unusual character--he was The Bitter Reluctant Hero last movie, but this movie he's past that and much more a Regular Guy doing something because he's good at it and feels it's important.

What follows is a good old fashioned quest. But pretty much immediately Freya's other huntsmen find Eric and pick a fight--every quest needs a bar fight--Eric does decently but is outnumbered and ends up being saved by a mysterious cloaked figure. A mysterious cloaked figure who turns out to be Sara--you remember Sara, his beloved. She was killed in Act 1. Eric is overjoyed. Sara is ticked. Freya's deception is revealed (she tricked them both, he believed Sara dead, Sara believed he abandoned her) but Sara is slow to believe. Eric, meanwhile, is delighted she is alive and spends the better part of the quest cheerfully being awesome and trying to win her back.

It's pretty amazing to watch--he pursues her in a gentle, charming, selfless way. It frankly reminded me of how you have to deal with any wounded creature--man or beast--you apply love and attention, but carefully, and not with strings or pressure attached.

Sara is enthralled by this version of love--though she's trying not to be because love is a lie. He cannot be true. Eventually, though, she begins to believe that heIS true. I think the moment of truth for her was when Eric sent her and the dwarves ahead and stayed behind to fight the goblins (what goblins? It's a quest, they go places, you have to watch it). I think she was entirely unprepared for that. ("Greater love has no one than this..."-The Bible)

Sara is, however, working for Freya. Once the Huntsman recovers the mirror, survives the goblins, and for a moment believes he has his wife back, Freya arrives on the bear/cat/thing she borrowed from the White Witch and reveals that Sara was working for her the whole time.

In a final proof that love is a lie, Freya orders Sara to kill the Huntsman. So she drills him with an arrow to the chest and rides off.

The dwarves gather in dejection, and the Huntsman sits up with a huge grin and a big bruise under the medallion that took the arrow for him. He is now euphoric because Sara doesn't miss. Her love has been confirmed, and he is bound and determined to storm the ice castle and take back the mirror and his wife.

[At this point I was filled with visions from R.E.D.--the Russian spy telling the story of his true love, an MI6 agent who was ordered to kill him to prove her loyalty. She put three bullets in his chest, "And that's when I knew it was love--if not, it would have been the head! It was huge risk for her, of course."]

What follows is a hugely shaky plan to infiltrate the castle, and it goes about as well as could be expected, ("This is a terrible plan."-Eric, hanging by his axes off a rooftop) and that makes it rollicking and fun.

But wait, this story is also about Freya. Freya who believes love is a lie. Freya who has finally gotten her sister Ravenna's mirror--a huge source of power--and is delighted to discover her sister inhabits the mirror ("whoever heard of a witch who really died?"-hag in Prince Caspian). Well, at first she's delighted. Then big sister starts lording it over her like she always used to back in the day, only now that she's been her own boss Freya isn't a fan.

Eric's attempt to kill Freya is foiled, but then Sara shocks the snot out of Freya by also making an attempt--which is foiled by Ravenna. Ravenna who knows love is real.

Ravenna orders Freya's other huntsmen to execute Eric and Sara, who are now back to their "Together or die trying" thing, and then in a stunning display of solidarity, the huntsmen refuse. Freya's entire worldview has just been shattered, because obviously love does exist. And then Ravenna starts killing huntsmen and Freya is thrown into action to defend her adopted children.

The fight scene is worthwhile, possibly too short--it would have been cool to see a longer and more creative sequence--but with less Doc Oc inspired black ooze from Ravenna.

There are poignant moments, and my favorite involved the single tear from Freya (the one icon from the Hans Christian Anderson story which makes it into the "inspired by" materials).

In short, I kind of loved this film. A faerie tale. An adventure. A story about love--romantic, brotherly, unhealthy, and unconditional.

I want to see more like it.


Monday, June 13, 2016

33-Balleck

or the rest of the morning no one entered or left the great hall at Ironsides’ manor. It wasn’t until well after lunchtime, when we had finished our plotting and Vaudrin went to check the kitchen that even servants entered the room. They came in with Vaudrin, carrying trays of food for lunch. After serving they quickly bustled away—even though by that point we were quite done talking and more interested in eating.
After our late lunch, I went in search of Balleck and Olena.
I found Balleck in one of the barns, hanging by his legs from a stall wall and doing sit ups. Even the dim light of the barn caught the red in his blond hair and skimmed his muscles with an artist’s grace. I approached quietly and had to clear my throat he was so engrossed in his work. Balleck startled, then flipped himself to the ground. “My lady,” he said, dusting himself off.
I hopped up on a couple bales of straw. He came and leaned next to me, waiting for me to say something. “It’s been a wild two weeks,” I offered.
Balleck grimaced. “I’d say so. Zare,” he began, then hesitated. “Lady Zare.”
I grimaced.
He began again, “Our part in this fight is over—such as it was. Gabe and I need to help the girls get back to the circus. We’ve discussed it with Ironsides and our plan is to rest here for a week and then take the southern road to Magadar.”
I drew a deep breath and let it out; what had I expected him to say? “That is sensible.”
He looked at me, “You could come with us. Your brothers and the soldiers can handle things here.”
I had definitely not expected that. I turned to him in surprise, “What do you mean?”
“You’re hunted in this land, come with us to a place we’re regular folk again,” said Balleck earnestly, “It’s dangerous here, Zare.”
“I’m dangerous,” I retorted.
“I know—I’ve heard the girls talk about what you did to save them. But you shouldn’t have had to—we were all close by waiting to go in and rescue them. You didn’t need to take that kind of risk where we couldn’t protect you.” Balleck leaned closer, “It turned out alright—everyone is safe now. But it might not have—we might easily have lost you—I could have lost you.” He picked up my hand and sought my eyes pleadingly, “You should come with me to Magadar, your family will follow.”
I stared at him. His blue eyes were pale with pain and I was too stunned to know what to say. I was suddenly aware that the danger which permeated my life was as familiar to me as the morning dew…and that the circus was already part of my past. I squeezed Balleck’s hand and said gently, “I have to stay.”
Balleck nodded, his face resigned. “I thought you would say that.”
“Do you understand why?” I asked, desperately wishing he did.
“Maybe.” A sad smile spread tipped his mouth and he lifted his free hand to my face, tracing my cheek with his fingers. “I lost you the day everyone was kidnapped.”
At his touch every single fire spinning memory sprang to mind and exploded with fireworks of desire and regret. In another life, I could have been a fire spinner: I could have traveled all over the world performing riding stunts with the circus. Married Balleck and had little wild haired children running around with flaming batons and impeccably trained dancing ponies.
But that was before I fished a mysterious wounded archer out of the Tryber River. Before I found out about a rebellion and found hope to defeat the sorceress.  Before my family was stolen. I dropped my eyes because I couldn’t gaze into Balleck’s soul any longer. He traced my face a moment longer and then let his hand fall, too.
We were quiet, listening to the sound of what wouldn’t be, then Balleck broke the spell, “I had a lovely time dancing with you at the harvest festival. Before…you know…everything fell apart forever.”
I choked out a laugh, “Yes…I enjoyed dancing with you, too. It was a lovely night up until the soldiers came. And even after that it wasn’t so bad since we got out alright.”
Balleck grunted, “It was the beginning of our troubles. Back when I thought you were a former duchess or something.”
“Well,” I scooted off the bale of straw, still holding his hand. “We have a little bit of time before,” I hesitated, “I have to be going again.”
He straightened to follow me, “I won’t ask,” he assured a little tiredly.
“Would you be willing to give one last lesson in fire spinning?” I bit my lip as I looked back at him.
“Of course, my lady,” Balleck bowed, the filtered light catching his smile and pressing it into my memory like a signet ring in wax.

Friday, June 10, 2016

caught in the rain

I was at the barn earlier than usual because it was company picnic day. For being June, it was downright chilly! The winds were whipping around and when I looked up at the ridge I saw this bank of dark clouds coming our way.

I greeted all the expectant noses--they all know to show up for pats and scratches when I arrive--and then brought Midas out anyway. I wished I'd brought long sleeves. We walked out to his field trouble spot and did a tiny bit of work--he wanted to watch the coming storm more than anything else.

After a bit of yielding I decided to set about dragging in the broken jump standard. I think it must've lost a fight with the tractor when the  field was mowed. Midas followed at my heels with a big loop in the rope as we navigated the gates and I bent to pick up the 3 footed standard.

He didn't even snatch at grass while I bent over--I told him not to, but he didn't need more than a gentle verbal cue that this wasn't break time--then we tooled back to the gate with me carrying the unwieldly standard with all its broken bits balanced on top of it.

All at once the wind picked up in earnest and started throwing cold rain at us. I rushed to get the standard to the shed and Midas tried to both follow obediently and turn his tail to the sideways rain at the same time. As soon as I could drop the standard in a safe place I led the charge back into the barn and closed up the door as far as I could so we could be out of the cold wind (which was blowing directly into the barn).

Midas looked at me with surprised appreciation when I worked to position him out of the wind--he knows when I park him he's not to move, but I think he was surprised that I would think to park him where he would be most comfortable.

At this point we were both wet--so I couldn't really brush him without making him wetter and colder. So I combed his mane and we peacefully watched the gusty little storm blow through.

It only lasted 10 minutes or so. Then the sun came out and we went into the arena to work on some more liberty stuff. I've not got a huge amount of control when I've sent him far away, I'd like more but I'm not sure how to attain that. But, we're doing pretty well.

He follows wonderfully.

My currently little project is mounting block related. He can be a bit of a pest about the mounting block--not all the time, not every time, but some days--I want to teach him to present himself at the mounting block so we've been working on that.

Monty Roberts teaches this, and I've found a couple other people online (notably Endo the Blind) who've posted helpful info.

On this day I lunged him around the mounting block, then from the mounting block, and then asked him to halt and come in to me there. Then I spent a good long time rewarding him for being at the mounting block--longer if  I could position him so I stood at his shoulder. Yay for back scratches.

I didn't ride at the end of the session. One, I thought it would be better for this lesson if I didn't, and two, I had been to the chiropractor the night before and would much rather my body got good and used to being in the right position.

Oh, and did you see this study they did which confirms that horses actively try to communicate with their handlers? We all knew this already, but it's fun to see science catching on.

after the rain


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