What is “I Have Blue Roses”?

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Quote from essay by Tennessee Williams I superimposed on blue roses

As a high school sophomore, I was assigned the play, “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. It instantly appealed to me because it seemed fitting that a play about a fragile girl should be told in a dim, memory-like, unrealistic way.  It was the beginning of my obsession with memory. Years later, the concept of memory as time travel began to lodge itself in my mind, and it has been a constant philosophical question I’ve had ever since.

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My copy of the play

I have always been an extremely nostalgic person. Except for a great loss that terminated my childhood innocence at age 13, I had an idyllic childhood. Time spent at my grandparents’ house on a weekly basic, sometimes more frequently than that. Time spent in the mountains camping, or staying at cabins. A daily existence rife with reading magical stories and most days spent outdoors with very imaginative friends playing in worlds entirely made up inside of our minds. So, when I was introduced to this play in high school, I was thrilled to encounter an artist that had been dabbling in the subject of memory.  Eventually, after college, I started to read Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” (and have been ever since, without yet finishing, of course,) as well as Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves,” and “Mrs. Dalloway.” I have to admit: I was disturbed by the concept that our memories are re-created each time we remember them, re-shaping the actual memory. It made me realize that I have probably memorialized certain memories into mythic proportions, and made them touchstones I can pull out like videos in my mind. At first, it concerned me that, perhaps, not all of my memories are “true.”  The longer I sat with this concept, however, the more fascinating it has become to me. And then, I started reading time travel stories, and here I am today. I don’t have any grand conclusions about any of this, but I named my blog after the phrase from Tennessee Williams’ play in homage to the artist that sparked this philosophical question in my life.

In the production notes, Tennessee Williams writes the stage direction to have a screen between the front room and dining room, with images and legends being projected upon it from behind, therefore “the legend or image upon the screen will strengthen the effect of what is merely allusion in the writing.”

Laura: I-don’t suppose-you remember me-at all?

Jim [smiling doubtfully]: You know I have an idea I’ve seen you before. I had that idea as soon as you opened the door. It seemed almost like I was about to remember your name. But the name that I started to call you-wasn’t a name! And so I stopped myself before I said it.

Laura: Wasn’t it-Blue Roses?

Jim [springing up, grinning]: Blue Roses! My gosh, yes-Blue Roses! That’s what I had on my tongue when you opened the door! Isn’t it funny what tricks memory plays? I didn’t connect you with high school somehow or other. But that’s where it was; it was high school. I didn’t even know you…Gosh, I”m sorry.

Laura: I didn’t expect you to. ….

Jim: Aw, yes. I’ve placed you now!… How was it that I got started calling you that?

Laura: I was out of school a little while with pleurosis. When I came back you asked me what was the matter. I said I had pleurosis-you thought I said Blue Roses. That’s what you always called me after that!

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Image is copyrighted by Laurie Olinder @ laurieolinder.com

The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details: others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic.”  Tom addresses the audience as a narrator saying things like, “I give you the truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion…I turn back time…The play is memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic.”

 

 

Autumn and 3D Crochet

 

What are the reasons I love the Fall and Winter seasons?  For one thing, I loved the rhythm of the school year and wish I could have remained a perpetual student: get your syllabus, complete your papers, get a good grade and move on to the next term.  I love the Fall because many of my favorite books begin with passages evocative of this time of year. Autumn is also the time when I like to walk in lonely places and imagine I’m in another time, perhaps a medieval wood or harvested field.

So in this post, I am sharing a few quotes from said books, as well as some favorite Autumn pictures I’ve taken, and the crochet projects I’ve completed with a Fall theme.

We’ll start with the crochet.  First, I figured out a way to display my crocheted leaves: I made a wreath! This is a traditional idea, but in my 30 some odd years, I’ve never actually constructed one before, so this was a fun project to do. I wish I could say that these were real sticks and vines I twisted together myself, but we’ll just use our imaginations for that.

 

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Secondly, I crocheted an amigurumi candle. “Amigurumi” is basically 3d crochet. It’s when you crochet small objects instead of flat pieces. I thought it would be neat to make a candle and I wanted to use more magical Harry Potter-like colors; not just black and orange. 3d Crochet may seem like an insurmountable task, but actually it’s just a matter of the kind of stitches you make. For me, the cool thing about making this is that I started to understand WHY I am doing certain stitches while crocheting; not just following the pattern. Once you understand why you are doing something, you can begin to see the finished product before it’s actually constructed.  For instance, to go 3d, you are basically just crocheting the same amount of stitches on top of each other.  If you want to make a flat circle, you have to keep adding stitches, otherwise it won’t lay flat. To make a circle, you would start with 12 stitches, and then in the next round you add 6 stitches to make 18 stitches around the circle, and so on and so forth.  But if you keep stitching 12 and 12 and 12 on top of each other, the yarn builds up and begins to grow up instead of out flat, which creates this effect.

 

NEXT: Here are favorite photos I’ve taken, and Autumn/Wintry quotes from some favorite books. Every one of these passages enticed me to read these stories.

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Leaf-fall, 1666 Apple-Picking time

I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins. Smells and sights and sounds that said this year it would be all right; there’d be food and warmth for the babies by the time the snows came. I used to love to walk in the apple orchard at this time of the year, to feel the soft give underfoot when I trod on a fallen fruit. Thick, sweet scents of rotting apple and wet wood. This year, the hay stooks are few and the woodpile scant, and neither matters much to me.

– “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks

 

Almost the first thing Mr. Dunworthy had said to her that first time she had told him she wanted to go to the Middle Ages was, “They were filthy and disease-ridden, the muck hole of history, and the sooner you get rid of any fairy-tale notions you have about them, the better.” And he was right…But here she was, in a fairy wood. She was lying under an oak tree. She could see a few scalloped leaves in the bare branches high above…The underbrush was thick, a mat of dead leaves and dry weeds that should have been soft but wasn’t…Everything else in the little glade – the tree trunks, the wagon, the ivy – glittered with the frosty condensation of the halo. …Kivrin cried, “Holpen me, for I haf been y-robbed by fel thefes!”…There were trees far to the east…following a river that she could catch occasional silver-blue glimpses of – the Thames? the Cherwell? – and little clumps and lines and blobs of trees dotting all the country between, more trees than she could imagine ever having been in England…And the bells began to ring. The Carfax bell first, and then, before the first stroke had died away, the others, as if they had been waiting for a signal from Oxford. They were ringing vespers, of course, calling the people in from the fields, beckoning them to stop work and come to prayers. And telling her where the villages were. The bells were chiming almost in unison, yet she could hear each one separately, some so distant only the final, deeper echo reached her…The village the cows were heading to was there, behind that low ridge…The bells died away slowly…the sky turned violet-blue, and a star came out in the southeast. Kivrin’s hands were still folded in prayer. “It’s beautiful here.”

 

The wheels were solid disks as high as Hob himself, and the wood was warped a little and wet with the snow now coming down hard and clinging in patchy lumps to the rims. The main wagon had the aft right wheel fast in a drift, and as Hob added his slight frame to the stamping, cursing struggle to free it, his foot plunged to the ankle in a depression filled with a freezing gruel of snow and mud…A smell of sweat and woodsmoke and rosemary came to him from his left: Molly, her ample well-turned arms, white as mare’s milk, glimmering at the edge of his sight…At his right Jack Brown suddenly found purchase underfoot, scrabbling in ash and ice and pebbles, and Jack’s grunting heave freed the wheel’s lip just enough. The ox trod forward again, steaming like a dragon, and Hob staggered as the wagon sailed away from him…The road wound through the winter woods, upslope and down, the land rumpled and complex, with frequent outcrops of naked rock..Yews, pale slim birch, massive oaks formed a close horizon; the wagons moved between wooden walls. Hob began to feel an unease of spirit, an oppression. He looked left at the slowly passing forest, rightward across the rippling, smoking haunches to the trackside brush and more trees, climbing away to the west. He felt breathless and ill. He felt like a coney in a snare, and he could not tell why.

– “Something Red” by Douglas Nicolas

There is a regular rasp of a blade on a stone as he sharpens the knives. The blade makes a shuddery, tight noise that I feel in my teeth. It’s November, and today is the day that we kill the pig.  I am inside the house, bending over the hearth. I lay pieces of dry elm and bark over the embers and they begin to kindle as the fire takes. A warm fungus smell rises up and the logs bubble juices and resin. The fed flames spit and crackle, colored jets hissing out wet. A column of thick smoke pours rapidly up the chimney and out into the sky like a gray liquid into milk. I hang the bellow from the strap and straighten up. Fire makes me feel good. Burning things into ash and nothingness makes my purpose seem clearer.

– The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale

Got medieval?

So I realized that I have yet to fully convey my British medieval history obsession on this blog. If I could recommend four books to get you FULLY immersed in the medieval, it would be the following four.  Go ahead and click the youtube links first so you can listen to some medieval music as you read. 😀

 

(1.) “The Doomsday Book” by Connie Willis.

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This unassuming little science fiction novel was the real catalyst that began my medieval obsession. 6 years, 300 acquired songs and about 100 medieval history books later, I have read it three times. It is about Oxford historians in the future that travel back to various centuries to study the cultures of the past.  The main character Kivrin accidentally gets sent back to 1348, the height of the bubonic plague in England. Listen: it starts a little slow.  But believe me: I have recommended this to men and women of many ages, and they all become obsessed with it and say they’ve never read anything like it.

(2.) “The Great Mortality” by John Kelly.

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After becoming immersed in medieval England during the Black Death, I just had to know more about it. There are countless books out there about this particular plague; (did you realize that there were several waves of the plague throughout the centuries?) However, I felt that this book spoke to the subject thoroughly and in a more readable way than any other “Black Plague” book I’ve encountered.

3.) “The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England” by Ian Mortimer

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The title says it all. Written by a medieval historian, if you want to take a trip around medieval England, you’ll need to have this guidebook in your satchel!

(3 and a 1/2.) “A Medieval Book of Seasons” by Marie Collins & Virginia Davis.

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This one may be a little harder to find. It is a beautifully illustrated text that takes you through a medieval year, ala the Book of Hours. It talks about daily life, what people eat, wore and did for fun.

So if you’ve made it THIS far in my blog post, I have just a few more things to say.

(3 and four quarters.)

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A few years into my medieval journey, I finally took the recommendation of my Mom to read “The House on the Strand” by Daphne DuMaurier.  OH MY GOD! A time travel book about Medieval Cornwall and obsession.  I have read this about 4 times and I purchased an audio copy so I can listen to it on the go. You will never be able to shake this book after you’ve read it.

(4.) Okay, so actually I recommended more than 4 books.

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If you want a VERY comprehensive history that involves the French connection as well, you really must read “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century” by Barbara Tuchmann. I feel pretty safe in saying that I am the only person you know who has an audio copy of this behemoth and enjoys listening to it to fall asleep. Not because it’s boring! Far from it! I just love being lulled to sleep while hearing about the exploits of the Sir D’Coucy and his world.

More Nonfiction: Frances and Joseph Gies have several books about medieval life, as does Toni Mount. Caroline Walker Bynum writes some fantastic books about theology, and also elements of Medieval theology, liturgy and the church.”Life in the Middle Ages” by Martyn Whittock was VERY helpful to me in sorting it all out. “The Year 1000” by Robert Lacey is a bit before the “medieval” but it will help to set the foreground to the British Medieval period. Plus, it’s just captivating to read.

I cannot do justice to all of the fantastic books there are out there about this subject, but let me just tell you about a few fictional but “atmospheric” medieval books.  Since I’m getting a little long-winded here, I’ll just show you the books:

“Company of Liars” by Karen Maitland, “Something Red” by Douglas Nicholas, “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley, “Shadow on the Crown” by Patricia Bracewell. I’ve also heard that Bernard Cornwell is good, but I cannot recommend him because I haven’t read him yet.

 

And listen: I was this close to putting links directing you to support my company by purchasing this from Barnes & ……well, NOT from Amazon. Frankly, I would prefer that you purchase from anywhere BUT Amazon.

However, I’m not going to do that, but just remember to support your local bookstore, even if it is a Barnes & Noble bookstore. For booksellers like me, it’s my livelihood and it helps to foster a place for people to actually interact in person and make recommendations, instead of a world run by Amazon distribution centers.  I’m just putting that out there 🙂

 

The Witch’s Daughter

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She became aware of the sound of distant music drifting faintly through the trees. As she walked on, she recognized the melody of “Greensleeves,” but it was played with such roughness, such urgency of rhythm and such chaotic volume it was rendered the sound of madness – insanity made music.

While I work on my next project, I thought I would do a quick book recommendation.  This is the first book by Welsh author Paula Brackston. “The Witch’s Daughter” is a story about magic, witches, time travel, herbal lore and the plague.  I feel bad that the time of year (Halloween, witches, ghouls,) made me think of this because it is NOT a book about these sorts of witches:

 

Like Brackston’s other books, this is a “realistic” witch story. It’s about women and men with magic powers and knowledge of the power of natural elements.  Since I was thinking about witches, (and I’m always thinking about the Medieval plague,) I wanted to tell you about this dark interesting tale.

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You can check out everything about Paula Brackston at http://www.paulabrackston.com

There was lavender oil for treating scars and burns; rosemary and mint to fight coughs and fevers; comfrey to knit broken bones; fruit leaf teas to ease the pains of childbirth…Pots of honey from John’s bees sat fatly, waiting to treat wounds that were slow to heal or save the lives of infants following sickness. In this dark, quiet corner of this unremarkable room dwelled the secrets of healing and treatments for disease handed down from mother to daughter for generations.