dawn_felagund: From "Spirit of Gonzo" by Ralph Steadman (spirit of gonzo)
I took a photo for yesterday but didn't post it, so today I have two (okay, actually three) photos, plus a very annoying unsolved mystery.

Last night, we went out for dinner at the Thai restaurant in Newport. They also have sushi--and a phenomenal sushi chef--and I have been fiending for sushi something fierce. Twice, I have gone to places with great sushi, and they haven't had it at that particular moment for whatever reason. Thankfully, as the saying goes, three is a charm, and I succeeded in getting my sushi! At last!

Dusit Thai is a beautiful restaurant in addition to having incredible food. It's my favorite restaurant in Vermont, hands down, and there is some pretty steep competition for that title.

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Their portions are huge, so Bobby and I shared a spicy eggplant stirfry that we'd never tried before and will definitely have again. I've never tried anything off of their stirfry menu because I tend to hear "stirfry" and think "boring," but this was far from boring. Then we shared three sushi rolls.

Bobby had rented a movie for us for the night, and this is where the annoying unsolved mystery comes in. When he picked me up from school, he told me that he rented a DVD, and I saw it on the floor behind my feet, sitting on a pile of bungee cords. Somewhere between that time and our return from the Thai restaurant, the DVD disappeared.

In between, we went to the Thai restaurant and, after that, shopping at the natural market, so I got out of the car just once after he picked me up from school. All the same, given where it was placed--behind my feet--and how high off the ground our car is, it is unlikely that it fell out of the car. We tore apart the house and car--looking in and under things, including many places where it could not possibly be--and even drove back to Newport and checked where we parked the car, in case it had fallen out. NOTHING. We came up with multiple theories that were shot down one by one. It's so frustrating! Our house is small, and it's pretty impossible to lose things here. I am hoping that when we return to the video store to cop to losing the movie that the owner will tell us that someone found it in Newport and turned it in. But I highly doubt that it could have fallen out of the car.

My best theory at this point? That there was some kind of anomaly in the universe and it simply disappeared!

Today, Bobby went to Jay Peak to snowboard. Since the Yaris isn't appropriate for driving in the snow--we intend to replace it as soon as we can sell our house in Maryland--then we are sharing the Subaru, so I went with him, had breakfast with him, then drove back to Newport to run errands. One of which was getting my library card at the Newport Library! An actual library that is open every day except Sunday and has a lot of books for all audiences! Maybe because I look like someone who would avail herself of this or maybe because she tells everyone, the young woman who helped me informed me without my asking that I would be able to use interlibrary loan after three months in good standing.

I of course visited the fantasy section and was delighted to find a pretty nice selection. I was amused by the arrangement of genres, however.

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It seems like this would be controversial in a lot of places in the U.S. to have these two side by side! I imagine little church ladies glowering at ... well, people like me!

Then I went back to Jay Peak to meet Bobby for lunch and wait for him to go home. Jay Peak has received four feet of snow so far this year. It has received more snow than Breckenridge in Colorado and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. According to Bobby, "The goods are in the woods," and it was a very good day. The mountain will be all open very soon; the only reason it is not already (with four feet of snow!) is that the famed tramway needed a special part for a repair, which has arrived and was being done this weekend. Parts of the mountain are only accessible via the tramway, so they have been unable to get all open because of that.

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All of this snow is much needed. Jay Peak (and Burke Mountain in the southern NEK) became embroiled last year in a financial scandal due to the crooked dealings of their owner, who is now under federal investigation. It's a long and convoluted story, but the gist was that major expansions at Jay Peak that were done using local labor and businesses went unpaid-for. And this is not, as anyone who reads here knows, a wealthy area. The Northeast Kingdom is very low-income. These were contractors and workers who did work on the resort and were never paid for it. The threat that the resort would close (or be temporarily shut down) added an element of distress because so many people depend on the resort for their employment. And again, this is not an area that can weather a lot of economic distress.

To add insult to injury, last year, the snowfall in Vermont was exceedingly low--the NEK didn't even have a white Christmas--and the resort suffered even further from that. So the snowfall this year--among the best the resort has ever had--could not come at a better, more-needed time.
dawn_felagund: (alex say what)
The Goldens have always been also named The Wilds. Alex and Lance were The Wilds, and now Lance and Gwen are also The Wilds.

People often speculate, "I wonder what my dog does when I'm not home?" I'm fairly certain I know what The Wilds do when we're not home. Spending both weekend days home with them revealed that all they do? Is sleep.

This was The Wilds over the weekend, both knocked out cold on the floor of my study while I worked.

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Guinevere has taken to not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and installing herself on the guest room bed. Bobby's staff holiday party for Jay Peak was tonight, and when we got home, we had to call her about five times before she finally deigned to come see us. And this was after a full day of doing what you see in the picture above.
dawn_felagund: (art not war)
2016 NaNoWriMo WinnerI officially reached the 50K mark on Tamlin last night, just in time to claim an official NaNoWriMo win today. The novel itself is not finished, but it actually is getting close. I am in the part of the story that I think of as the Let's All Go to the Underworld! part. It has maybe 10K left in it? (Which probably means more like 15-20K because it's me and I am a champ at underestimating things.)

What is really amazing to me is that I still want to write this story. I think about it all the time. I wish I was writing it now! (I need to decide if I want to go there when I still have Thanksgiving preparation chores to do. Sometimes writing spoils me for anything productive!) When I finish this, it will be the first NaNovel that I actually do finish, sadly enough. The Midhavens novel I was writing needs a complete rewrite (much like Tamlin did) because I've changed my mind so much, and I was writing another fantasy novel that I need to decide if I want to finish or not.

But next up is the prequel to AMC, which was going to be my NaNo project until Tamlin spiraled beyond being a Haunted October story and into firm novel-length territory and demanded two months to write.

I'm going to keep entering my word count till the end of the month so that I can have the data and will ramble at some point in the near future about what I learned from this experience. Because that's what NaNo is to me: a reason to prioritize working on a big project for one full month and the opportunity to learn what works for me and doesn't as a writer. Interestingly, based on word count data, my habits as a writer have changed since the last time I did NaNo, which I suspect is the result of disciplining myself through a humanities MA and Master's thesis. But more on that later.

This is cool too: A couple of weeks ago, I posted offhand to Twitter about doing NaNo and mentioned the writer's club I was starting at my school. A few days later, I was contacted by a journalist from the education website The 74, wanting to interview me for an article she was writing about teachers using NaNoWriMo with students. I checked in with my principal to make sure it was okay to talk to her, and he was thrilled and gave me the green light. Well, the article is online! I'm about halfway through, rambling about tea and the culture of persistence and the importance of giving opportunities to write to kids in disadvantaged communities.

NaNoData

Nov. 12th, 2016 09:16 pm
dawn_felagund: (art not war)
I am power-walking my way through NaNoWriMo. Not quite running! I'm not done yet, and I know there are people who are. But I'm bookin' like an octogenarian mall walker who heard they're giving away free cups of decaf in the food court! (Seriously, I used to work in a mall--those people would run you over!)

Today has been my best day so far with just under 7500 words written. I like the new NaNoWriMo site; it graphs your progress for you, so I do not have to make an Excel graph as in years past.

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You can tell this was a long weekend: I had two strong days in a row. (My goal for each day this weekend is 5000 words.) You can also see Election Day: The one day I made no progress at all. I was too nervous to write.

The NaNo site estimates me finishing by Friday. I don't need to finish that soon, but I did want to have the bulk of the project finished before my family arrives for Thanksgiving since I can't count on any writing time from that Tuesday through Saturday.

What is interesting is that, in past years, I would have a strong day with a high word count followed by two or three days with more modest progress. This year, my progress much more closely follows my work week. Capping 2000 words is REALLY hard on a school night. In addition to my writing time competing with the work I sometimes bring home, I'm generally exhausted by the time I get to finally sit at my desk. I fell asleep while writing my novel this past Wednesday (because I hadn't slept much or well on Election Day and then had a long workday and resisted taking a nap). So you can see I barely made any progress that day.

It seems now that I can have two days in a row with a high word count: yesterday and today! Will I be able to to 5000 again tomorrow? It will be interesting to see. Based on past study of my NaNo progress, I would have doubted my ability to do over 5000 today. And indeed, I did put off getting started by working on some SWG stuff that has needed doing for a while. But once I began, I was off to the races.

In any case, "Tamlin" definitely has 15,000 more words in it, though probably not much beyond that, which will put it at 75,000 words total, much longer than I expected it to be (but that's always the way with me). I should probably call it Tamlin now; it will definitely be a novel, though on the shorter side of that classification.
dawn_felagund: Lamppost in the winter snow. (winter lamppost)
I am presently sitting in a rather rigid chair, listening to moldy oldies and bubblegum pop being broadcast over a loudspeaker. My feet are cold. I can smell chili and it's making me hungry, but not that hungry since I just finished off a bottled tea that cost me five dollars.

In other words: The Season has begun! I am in a ski resort!

Killington Resort in central Vermont generally aims to be the first resort open each year in the continental U.S. For the past few years, they made it; this year, A-Basin in Colorado beat them to it by a few days. It looks like a pretty ukky day from my vantage point by a picture window in the lodge: gray, overcast, the tops of the mountains swathed in fog. But Killington has five expert-level trails open today so--hot dog!--here I am, getting work done on my computer while Bobby crams as many runs in on those five trails as humanly possible! At least it appears to have stopped raining.

It took a lot longer to get here than I expected: more than two hours. Meh. But we are stopping on the way home at what's supposed to be a good restaurant here in Killington. And, as I have found to be true of most ski resorts and the round of ice rinks I attended before them, I find it's really easy to concentrate and get work done. At home, I have more distractions and things I'd rather be doing. I am hoping that by the time I'm home, all of my work is done. (I'm actually mostly planned for the week at this point, which is pretty excellent, especially since tomorrow is Halloween and we will observe Samhain on Tuesday, so I won't want to be stuck with hours of at-home work on those nights.)

Jay Peak has been getting nonstop snow all week (as we've been getting nonstop rain down in the valley, which we need since we were in the early stages of drought), so hopefully they will be open soon too and we won't have to drive two hours for Bobby to have the opportunity to stand sideways.
dawn_felagund: Lamppost in the winter snow. (winter lamppost)
We had our first snowfall last night. Around nine o'clock, we began to spot the first fat snowflakes among the rain, and by eleven o'clock, it had changed over to all wet snow. It was sticking a little on the ground by the time we went to bed around 1 AM, but when I eagerly peeked out the window this morning, I was disappointed because it had all melted already.

In the mountains, however, there is quite a bit on the ground. Bobby is currently pacing around the house waiting to be picked up by a friend to go up to Jay Peak, where it's estimated they got about 6 to 7 inches (15 to 17 cm). They'll "earn their turns" by hiking the mountain and snowboarding down. Power to them! That sounds like a lot of work, but Bobby is over the moon.

At his colleague's house about 15 minutes north of us, she posted a picture on Facespace with about two inches (5 cm) on the ground, so it seems we just missed it being cold enough to stick, which isn't particularly surprising, since we tend to be a couple degrees warmer here in the valley than in the surrounding areas.

Yesterday, we went to the matinee show of Vermont Vaudeville. We loved it. The show was held in the beautiful still-undergoing-restoration Hardwick Town House. It was hilarious. I think they cross-pollinate a lot with Bread and Puppet; I recognized some of the actors from B&P shows.

It was a really miserable day yesterday: in the mid-40s F (about 4C) and this constant, omnipresent, drizzly rain. We decided to pack it in for the evening. We'd had a stupendous and large lunch at Positive Pie in Hardwick, so we grabbed some Chinese food at the Wok 'N' Roll in Newport and rented three movies from the video store.

We moved up here for a variety of big reasons related to lifestyle, ideals, and emotional health, but we constantly discover little things that we love and never expected. Having a video store is one of them. An old-school, locally owned video store, not a Blockbuster, certainly not a RedBox. Bobby and I love movies, and one of our favorite ways to spend an evening is seeing a movie in a theater or renting one at home. Yet neither of us are particularly wild about streaming movies. The reality is that we live in the middle of nowhere and have satellite Internet, and the nights when you most want to watch a movie at home--when it is raining or snowing--are the nights when the satellite Internet is least reliable or, during storms, may not work at all. We also like having the cases to hold in hand, to read the reviews and the blurbs, look at the cover and the stills that have been chosen, see if the movie was presented at any festivals or won any awards, etc. Discovering we had a video store up here was an amazing find for us.

During October, we rent mostly-to-all "scary" movies. New England Video has a special where you can rent three non-new releases on Saturday night for three bucks and keep them for three days. Since we're expecting poor weather this weekend and three bucks for three movies is an amazing deal, then we rented three scary movies. Last night, we watched one called Frozen--no, not THAT Frozen--about a trio of college kids who get stuck on a high ski lift after hours. It was the stupidest thing ever! It appeared they were citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (I will avoid using the term that Vermonters use for this particular type of tourist from that particular state), skiing/riding at a fictional resort in Massachusetts, but there managed to be man-eating wolves? It was awful! But of course, the awfulness is part of the fun for scary movies a lot of the time. All the same, this wasn't the kind of awful that I recommend watching.

We've rented a few this month that I've really liked. Dawn's 2016 Haunted October Movie Recommendations )

So speaking of Haunted October, my own Haunted October is going well and so not-so-well at the same time. It's going well because I am still hooked on the story and write at least a little of it every day. I don't think I've had a 5000+-word day, but I've had a handful of occasions where I manage a few thousand in a sitting, which is good. But it's nowhere near being done, which looks like it won't be ready to post even part of on Halloween (since I don't like to post unfinished work), and at this point, it also threatens my NaNoWriMo aspirations, since I'm not going to put it on hold to start something new. So at this point, I probably need to just call it "Tamlin" and forget about the Haunted October piece. I can't bring myself to be disappointed in myself, however, for missing a self-imposed deadline because of my enthusiasm for a story that has been in my head for years.

Last night, I finally got to some sinister supernatural monkey business. Yes, JUST LAST NIGHT. I still have a lot of story to tell.
dawn_felagund: (yavanna earth)
Earlier this week, we took a walk down my road, in the valley along the Barton River. These pictures, which we taken the day after the walk down my road, couldn't be more different. Instead of the valley, this walk was along the ridgeline of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain. Instead of soft meadows, a gently coursing river, and a palette of colored trees in the distance, the landscape here is ragged rock and plants tough and strange enough to survive in such an unforgiving climate.

The only similarity was the weather: It was borderline unpleasant on both days. This was the weather on the drive down to Stowe. It was supposed to clear up but really didn't.

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(As always, click for full-size!)

We ostensibly opted to do the Mansfield hike because of the views, but there weren't many views to be had: We were above the clouds for most of the walk, which only added to the strangeness of the scenery. The temperature on the ridgeline hovered right around freezing with wind chills dipping to the mid-20s F when the wind would kick up. Those were moments of ambivalence: They often swept away enough of the clouds to get a glimpse of the view, but they also tended to occur at moments when I was making crossings on rocks where I was not fully comfortable. I felt like the Fellowship on Caradhras, with the sense that the mountain was mocking me!

The ecosystem is alpine tundra, which exists in isolated pockets atop the highest peaks in New England. The linked Times article describes the alpine tundra as such:

Such is the weird world of alpine tundra, where life adapts to cold stone and thin soil, and snow, ice, wind, water and sunlight mix in rare and intense proportions to mimic conditions not widely seen since the end of the last ice age. Hike uphill high enough in parts of New England and you might as well be trekking in far northern Canada. Save for polar bears and permafrost, the look and feel of places like Mount Mansfield’s summit — a bald schist knob at 4,393 feet — mimic the arctic no-man’s land east of Hudson Bay.


We had originally planned to take the gondola from the resort and hike the Cliff Trail to the summit (called the Chin because the profile of Mansfield looks like a face in repose), but the poor weather made this unwise, so we took the Auto Toll Road to the end and hiked out from there instead. Take a walk above the clouds )
dawn_felagund: (funky pumpkin)
The weekend before last was peak leaf weekend in the Northeast Kingdom. Unfortunately, because things usually work this way, after weeks of perfect weather, it was rather cloudy and gray, which didn't make for the best conditions for photography. But I went out despite and took a walk down the road I live off of to photograph the leaves.

I live in a rather unusual place, as far as what one thinks of as stereotypical Vermont. Coventry is situated in a valley, with the Green Mountains to the west and the so-called Eastern Highlands (the mountains enclosing Lake Willoughby) to the east. The road I live off runs alongside the Barton River, so the ecosystem is largely wetlands rather than the mountains and forests that come to mind as Vermont's typical landscape. However, it is exceptionally beautiful: The river is calm and a near-perfect mirror of the surrounding landscape and sky, winding through tall grass with the occasional tree. I've been wanting to photograph the river for a while, and peak weekend seemed the ideal time to do it.

Come take a walk with me! )

Oh Poop

Oct. 17th, 2016 07:51 pm
dawn_felagund: (alex eek)
I never thought I could use an icon with that poop emoji that people have a bizarre attachment to.

Friday night at about 1 AM, Bobby and I were rudely awakened by a screeching-blaring sound coming from the direction of our storage freezer and washer/dryer, which are tucked behind a curtain in the kitchen. We initially thought the sound was coming from the freezer, but after dragging the freezer out into the kitchen, we discovered it was the septic tank alarm. Uh oh! It was screaming its little head off and the warning light was lit up red.

I've lived in a home with a septic tank for all of my life except for the three years that I lived in an apartment in Ellicott City and had sewer like normal people. But we were both at a loss as to what the alarm means. Bobby got it shut off and we returned to bed, where he perused his iPad to discover the myriad things both silly and serious it could be, and first thing in the morning, he called the septic guy who did the inspection. He came out for an emergency call but couldn't tell us much on the spot except that we weren't in immediate danger of coming home to a bathtub full of poop.

The septic guy came back today, and we have a better idea of what is wrong without having a full notion yet of what it will cost to fix. The electrical box was foolishly placed in the tank itself--apparently a common practice when our house was built ... erm, delivered (since we live in a single-wide! *banjos!*)--and not surprisingly got wet and all the wires burned up. Which is scary but also kind of cool: We likely had an underground poop fire in our yard! If there was a way to make the concept of Silent Hill more horrifying, there it is. Anyway, since there is no wiring, then the pump is not working. What we're still not sure about is if and how damaged the pump is and what it will cost to fix/replace if it is. If the pump is fine, the repair will be a few hundred dollars. If the pump needs to be replaced, it will be a few thousand. Eep.

It stinks (DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE) but it could have been worse. It could have happened over Thanksgiving weekend when we had a house full of people. It could have happened in the middle of winter. The alarm might not have worked and we would have literally had poop coming out in our backyard, which is full of poop enough thanks to the Goldens. (More good news from Brian the Poop Guy: If our tank were to overflow, it would go into the backyard before it backed up into the house. Yay?) We can weather the cost, even if it means we'll be eating home a lot more in the weeks to come. Until everything is sorted, we have to be careful with our water usage. The septic guy is coming back tomorrow with the plumber and electrician: a whole poop-tank team! Now let's hope we don't get any crappy news ...
dawn_felagund: (halloween dawn)
Our primary source of heating in our new house is a wood pellet stove. Back in Maryland, we had a woodstove in the basement and electric baseboard heat upstairs that we resisted turning on as long as possible because it was so expensive. The woodstove, on the other hand, was wonderful, and we used it as much as we could. However, it took a while to start it, and it was messy, producing a lot of brown ash that would cover everything in the house.

The pellet stove, on the other hand, starts with the push of a button and does not seem to be nearly as messy. We've had it on three times now--temperatures were in the upper 20sF/-3C a couple nights this week--and it made the house a little TOO hot! But since we live in an area where it is not uncommon to have temperatures as low as -30F/-34C, then we will be grateful for it in short order, I suspect!

Midway through the summer, Tractor Supply Company had a great pre-sale on wood pellets, so based on the usage of the previous owners (who used the pellet stove as their primary heating source as we intend to do; we have a kerosene backup), we ordered three tons (2.7 metric tons). This weekend, they were delivered, and the entire weekend was blocked off on our calendar for transporting them from the TSC in Derby--which is about twenty minutes away--to our house.

We have a little cart for our Subaru, and using that, it took three trips and about three hours to move all three tons of wood pellets. We put about 2.5 tons in our new barn and about a half ton in the log cabin shed alongside our house. Let me tell you, moving three tons of wood pellets is hard work! They come in 40 lb/18 kg bags. A 40-lb bag is not difficult for me to lift and carry, but repeated 150 times with much bending and lifting was rough! By the end of the third round, my poor little forearms were DONE. Bobby drove the Subaru down to the barn and was carrying the bags from the cart to the barn, where I waited with outstretched arms for him to dump the bag onto them, which I would carry into the barn and add to the pile. One of the last ones he plopped entirely on my forearms, and I barely made it! He was complaining of fatigue, and I wanted to say, "Imagine how I feel!" I have above average upper-body strength for a woman, but really.

Well, it's done now. My upper arms and shoulders ached something fierce this morning, so we went hiking on Mount Hor to keep me from stiffening up and so I could enjoy a dose of pain-fighting endorphins. Also because the views were going to be amazingly gorgeous.

I have a ton of photos to post from a stroll along River Road last week for the peak leaf weekend, and a hike along the ridge at Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain. Honestly, I have been completely lost in this story I am writing based on the Scottish folk song "Tamlin." I am hoping to have it done in time to post it for Halloween at this point; it is much longer than I expected, in a large part because my first attempt at it was not as character-based as I like my writing to be, and characterization eats a lot of pages, at least how I do it. But when I'm on the computer, I don't want to be doing anything but working on this story. I stayed up till 1:30 last night with it.

I'll try to get those other pictures posted soon, but Mount Hor is going to jump to the head of the line. It was a gorgeous day: sunny and mild. Last weekend was the peak for the leaves, but as you will see, the leaves are still pretty spectacular!

Willoughby Gap Just after Peak Weekend )
dawn_felagund: (yavanna earth)
This is apparently peak leaf weekend in our neck of the woods. We saw a lot of out-of-state tags during our errands today. That's great! Come enjoy our leaves and support Vermont's economy!

My posting here should relieve anyone who was worrying that, no, I did not reach an ignoble end in a killer-clown attack at school yesterday. It was a little of a rough afternoon, and my colleagues and I gathered at the end of the day, kind of heaved a collective sigh, and I said, "Well, the good news is that no one was killed by clowns today."

Bobby had a rough week too, so we both very much needed to recalibrate. We discovered while picking up the perennials from his colleague on Thursday that we are about ten minutes from Brownington Pond, so we loaded the kayaks on top of the car and went out to explore.

It was just what we needed. About an hour-and-a-half out on the pond with the setting sun making the surrounding forest glow like fire and we both felt like new humans. Pictures are below the cut with the usual caveats that they are cell phone photos taken from a kayak on the water. I do my best to keep them clear and my horizons straight, but currents and winds sometimes foil my best efforts!

Pictures below the cut )

So I did end up letting that cute bearded guy who followed me up the creek take me out to dinner. We went to the Newport Ciderhouse for their Oktoberfest weekend. I have written here before about how I have the occasional allergic reaction to beer. A lot of beer makes me itch and cough a little, but it's very minor, and so I limit myself to one and never mix varieties, and I'm fine. But every now and then, I get a hold of one that progresses beyond itching and coughing. My face and lungs fill with mucus, so I'm constantly coughing and sneezing, and my face gets red and hot. I had tasted 14th Star's Maple Breakfast Stout when Bobby's ordered it before, but when I had my own pint last night, I was three sips in and felt that distinctive itching start between my shoulder blades. I asked Bobby to finish it for me and resigned myself to sticking with water going forward. Unfortunately, it didn't stop there, and I had a full-blown allergic reaction! D^:

I enjoyed dinner as much as I could given that my head felt like a water balloon being filled by a garden hose. When we arrived back home, I went to bed to read and ended up falling asleep very early, which I probably needed because the Goldens were very restless a couple nights this week, and I was operating under a sleep deficit.

I still can't figure out what causes that reaction. It seems so random. It's happened with four different beers: two stouts, a porter, and an IPA. The only thing I can figure is that it's a specific type of hops or yeast being used. Since Vermont has so many amazing ciders, I'll probably be sticking more closely to those.

Tomorrow, we are hoping to hike Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain, so I hope I will have more pretty leaves and mountains to share soon.
dawn_felagund: (autumn leaf)
Autumn is still descending in its multi-hued glory to Northern Vermont. Yesterday was a grumpy, gray, rather miserable day: 55F/13C, damp, with those drifting, misty showers that seem to ooze out of the air itself. Nonetheless, Bobby and I decided to take a couple-hours kayak jaunt out on Holland Pond, about a half-hour northeast of us. It had been recommended to him as a rather remote and especially beautiful site among the Northeast Kingdom's myriad ponds and lakes.

The rain thankfully held off for the duration of our paddle, and there was enough wind to ensure that we were kept quite warm as we fought to keep our kayaks on course. It was a really fun pond--definitely one of my favorites--with a handful of cabins on its western shore but otherwise surrounded by a wildlife management area and very remote. It was unusual in the large, gray boulders that lined its edges. There were quite a few little coves to explore, one of the things I love best about kayaking. While hiking, of course, leaving the trail is verboten. On the water, one can duck into a little cove or start down a creek to see where it leads, worrying at most about getting stuck and having to make an undignified exit. (Not a problem once yesterday, despite putting myself into some tight spots; I am getting good at navigating the new kayak like I once was with the cantankerous bastard.) When I was a kid, there was nothing better than opening a novel with a map on the first few pages, and even now, I can read a road atlas for hours if left to my own devices. Kayaking scratches that itch to explore very, very well.

Of course, I took pictures. They are cell phone photos taken on a gloomy day, mostly from a kayak being tossed lightly in the wind so not the best quality, but I hope they give some sense of Holland Pond and the day! Click for photos )
dawn_felagund: (autumn leaf)
Mount Hor has a terrible name. Apparently, Mount Hor is also a mountain in the Bible, and I suppose it was named after that; I haven't been able to find anything about the history behind the name and can't fathom why you'd name a mountain "Mount Hor" without precedent. So Mount Hor is like the poor kid in school who gets assigned a storied, ancestral, and absolutely awful name: Benjamin Dover or Michael Hunt or Richard Lipshitz. And amid the teasing and the alienation that comes from a decision completely outside his control, he has to deal with the "But your great-great-grandfather the Civil War hero was named Benjamin Dover!" LIKE THAT MAKES IT OKAY. (I got relentlessly teased for the last name Walls, for pity's sake! Kids are senseless and cruel!) So poor, poor Mount Hor.

All this to say that yesterday, Bobby and I hiked Mount Hor. It is in what I term The Willoughby Complex but have since learned has the official name of the Northeastern Highlands of VermontTM. This means that they are not technically part of Vermont's Green Mountains! We have already hiked the two larger mountains in the area--Bald Mountain and Mount Pisgah--and I hiked Haystack Mountain* with my school.

*Which, until I learned its real name, I had named Boob Mountain because it looks like a boob in profile! The Willoughby area brings out the middle-schooler in the best of us.

The Willoughby Complex/Northeastern Highlands of VermontTM easily offer the most dramatic landscapes in a region of dramatic landscapes. The gap between the mountains Pisgah and Hor was ripped open by a retreating glacier, leaving Vermont's second deepest lake (the deepest being Lake Champlain) and dramatic cliffs pressing the lake shores on both sides.

The hikes to the summits of Pisgah and especially Bald Mountain were rather steep and rugged. (They are considered "moderate" in our Vermont hiking book, lol!) I expected much the same of Hor, but the mile-long (1.6 km) ascent to the summit was steep but not nearly as rugged, which made for a much nicer climb. I can pace myself on long ascents--this is why I'm good at snowshoeing--but scrambling rocks makes me tense and fatigues me very quickly. The hike to the top offers three different views: to the south and west from the summit overlook (looking toward the Greens) and two overlooks looking to the south of Willoughby and the northeast of Willoughby that are accessed by a flat trail that runs along the lake-facing edge of the mountain. This hike was pleasant enough that it's one I would strongly recommend for the Mereth Aderthad, because it is doable for someone in moderately good shape, even without experience hiking in the mountains. (For the truly adventurous, Bobby and I will take you to the fire tower at the top of Bald Mountain! :D)

If you want to SEE what I mean about Hor, click for pictures! )
dawn_felagund: (autumn leaf)
It's officially autumn, y'all. Vermont's famous leaves have begun to change. Bobby and I drove down to East Burke last night (about 40 minutes south of us; Burke is the Northeast Kingdom's other ski resort along with Jay Peak) for dinner at an Italian cafe with the very un-Italian name The Foggy Goggle. It was amazing food, and we skirted Lake Willoughby early enough on our way down to see the leaves and then again just after sunset, when the water was still that vivid blue color like it can't quite bear to let go of the daylight.

*happy sigh*

Tonight, we will have our observance for Equinox, so I have to fit in all my computer stuff during the day. We're also hiking Vermont's worst-named mountain, Mount Hor, which is one of the two mountains that form the famed Willoughby Gap. (We accidentally hiked the other, Mount Pisgah, earlier in the summer.)

I'm not a big sharer of videos and links in this space, but I encountered a few things this week that won't leave me so what the heck.

This article from the Huffington Post, Why We Need To Talk About High-Functioning Depression, I felt was important to share in part because I see a lot of myself in this and possibly a lot of other high-achieving women. My mood issues have always been cyclical--soaring highs and crashing lows--but I've always resisted viewing this as anything more than a personal quirk because I'm obviously a high-functioning person, and as a psych major long ago, I was always taught that an inability to function was the most important criterion for psychopathology. For the record, I'm still not convinced that my cycling moods are more than a quirk, but this article was eye-opening because it does reframe how we view depression and people with depression.

I think it's especially important because people who are high-functioning are ... well, high-functioning! It's natural to equate someone's behavior or presentation with their inner state, as though our emotions are precisely reflected in our actions and don't undergo a lot of emotional and cognitive tinkering before being presented to the work. A good friend once mentioned to me that it was odd to see me talk about feeling insecure about my work because I project such confidence. That made me feel, for a little while, like I wasn't really feeling insecure and was maybe looking for attention or doing that thing we do as women when we try to downplay ourselves. Then I realized that wasn't what she was saying at all. I don't want to appear insecure in front of a class or when giving a presentation or even as the leader of fandom projects, so it's good that I don't, but what goes on in my head is no less real because it doesn't show to the world. This is the case too with my low moments; they don't stop existing because I can still teach a class or revise a paper (even though I might feel crushed by the end of the day).

The article talks of perfectionism and bitchiness, which often go hand-in-hand and the latter of which is a particular indictment of many accomplished women. (And both of which I am guilty of sometimes myself, although less so on the bitchy count now that we've moved to Vermont and I feel my life and time is much more in my control.)

I've experienced both: an actual major depressive episode in my early 20s where I wasn't always functioning at my best, and the lows I've had for years (which are payment for the immensely creative and productive highs), which I weather through without, I hope, really showing it on the outside. I wouldn't wish the first on my worst enemy, but the second ain't a picnic either, and it was nice to see my experience reflected somewhat in this article.

The last two things I want to share are both dance videos that are stunning and have not left my head and make me REALLY want to dance, skate, something again! The first is by the famous dancer Sergei Polunin, who was the youngest principal dancer in the British Royal Ballet. The dance was intended as a swan song to end his career in dance (although the response has also inspired him to continue, although not in traditional company ballet). Embedding has been switched off, so I have to link: Sergei Polunin, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, Directed by David LaChapelle

The second is a story told in dance of connection and love. I found it while searching short films to use in teaching literary concepts to my students. It's obviously NOT school-appropriate but was mesmerizing, and I couldn't stop watching it. Embedding has also been disabled so another link: Sigur Rós - Valtari | Future Shorts

Go waste some time with these!
dawn_felagund: (finrod crest)
I don't know what it is lately with my reembodied Elves kick. Maybe it is because Halloween is getting close. Maybe it is the encroaching dark of autumn. Maybe I am just weird.

I have written *gasp!* ANOTHER STORY. What is this madness?? This is two stories in as many weeks that I wrote for no better reason than having time and wanting to spend it on writing. Creative writing. Fiction writing.

The story was written for the Silmarillion Writers' Guild Around the Fire challenge, for Kenaz, who offered one of those ridiculously tempting prompts that I find irresistible:

3rd/4th age Valinor-- Culture clashes and unanswered questions! For example... How do the Vanyar feel about the influx of relative "newcomers" to Valinor at the end of the 3rd Age? What happens when all of the Elves who can claim right to the title "High King" are re-embodied? Are any of the sons of Fëanor ever released from the Halls of Mandos, and if so, what is the reaction from the Teleri? What happens when members of a family who left Valinor for Middle-earth reunite with family members who didn't leave? Lots of territory to explore here! :)


I remember honing in on this prompt back at the beginning of the challenge, when I was hoping but still uncertain that I'd be able to write anything for the challenge. As the weeks swirled by, I returned to the prompts and kept coming back to this one. It sounded cool, but I had no particular ideas for it. About a week and a half ago, I went back to the prompts, wanting to write, and again came back to this one. This time, I thought about the experience of returning to Ocean City year after year, discovering each time that something cheesy and beloved that had been there since I was a kid had been replaced by something shiny and new. It's a very real sadness, even recognizing how stupid it is to mourn, for instance, an aqua-colored motel I never stayed at or a restaurant where the food was no longer very good but where my sister had once fallen off a chair.

Of that feeling came THIS. The story grew to almost 10,000 words before all was said and done. Here is the summary:

It's the Third Age. Tirion has developed suburban sprawl, and psychotherapists are in high demand. An unkinged Finarfin experiments with political radicalism and has turned the palace into a memorial of the kinslaying. Amarië composes beat poetry. And Finrod has been reembodied into a world and among people he barely recognizes. Dark humor, for Kenaz for the Silmarillion Writers' Guild Around the Fire challenge.


It can be read on the SWG, MPTT, and AO3.
dawn_felagund: (feanorians)
Y'all. I wrote a piece of fiction! Do you know how happy this makes me because it suggests I might have a creative life again?!

The story is for Silver Trails, for the Around the Fire challenge the SWG has been running this quarter. ST asked for, "I would like a conversation between Caranthir and Maedhros, in Valinor, once they both leave the Halls of Mandos. Please don't write them at odds with each other." Which kinda had my name written all over it.

The summary of the story:

After wandering accidentally near to Mandos, Caranthir encounters a procession delivering his newly reembodied brother back to the world: Maedhros. Caranthir breaks into his tent, and the two discuss healing, mutability, and the things that will never change.


It's kind of a creepy weird story because I'm kind of a creepy weird person I like to write that kind of thing. There are allusions to Maedhros's canonical suicide, so tread with care if this is something likely to bother you.

If you think this might be your cup of tea, then you can read "Bone-White" on the SWG, AO3, or MPTT.
dawn_felagund: Keep Vermont Weird (keep vermont weird)
In all of our travels to Vermont and having lived here now for more than two months, we have never been to Burlington. Burlington is Vermont's largest city, recognizing that 1) that is like saying that Maine is the largest state in New England, which is certainly true although it is still far from a large state (hullo, Texas!) and 2) Newport is also technically considered a city, and it's possible to drive from one side of the downtown to another in less than five minutes. But Burlington does indeed have things that one expects of a city, like buildings over three stories and streets arranged into blocks.

Since we had never been, we decided yesterday to visit Burlington for the first time. It's about an hour-and-a-half drive from where we live, but there are no drives in Vermont that aren't gorgeous, so it's all good. We had in mind three big plans: 1) eat some Indian food, 2) ride the Burlington bike path across the causeway, and 3) polish it all off with a meal at Citizen Cider.

Here in the Northeast Kingdom, we are very rural but we aren't entirely backwoods. We have a phenomenal Thai restaurant in Newport and an upscale German restaurant and wonderful hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Derby, as well as lots of places offering great local fare. (In Vermont, it typically involves Vermont cheese, maple syrup, beer, or all of the above.) But we don't have an Indian restaurant within an hour-and-a-half of where we live, and since Indian food is my absolute favorite, then this is one of the few things I grieve about leaving Maryland (although the Mexican-Indian restaurant in the mall in Westminster has apparently closed, so I wouldn't have had many options much closer in Carroll County either).

Burlington, being a real city and a college town, has an Indian restaurant, so that's where we went for lunch: Shalimar. They had a Sunday brunch buffet, which we both opted for. It wasn't the best Indian food I've ever had, but it was definitely good enough to satisfy my months now of going without (woe is me, right?), and the palak chole (spinach with chickpeas) was incredible. I could eat a big plate of it now if one were placed before me. And they offered free, self-serve hot tea. Win!

We brought our bikes because Burlington has a famous bike path that skirts Lake Champlain and follows an old railroad causeway smack across the middle of the lake with water on both sides. Come tour with me the land of Bernie Sanders and Ben & Jerry's! )
dawn_felagund: (silmarils)
For over a year now, I have been working on writing and revising an article for the Journal of Tolkien Research. While I've published a few Tolkien studies articles, this was my first for a peer-reviewed journal. Well, after much work over the last year, the themed issue Authorizing Tolkien: Control, Adaptation, and Dissemination of J.R.R. Tolkien's Works is now available!

Aaaand, here is my article:
Attainable Vistas: Historical Bias in Tolkien's Legendarium as a Motive for Transformative Fanworks


This paper grew out of the work I've done with the Tolkien Fan Fiction Survey and my long-running interest in The Silmarillion as a pseudohistorical text written from a deliberately biased point of view. It also inspired the research that Oshun and I presented at the New York Tolkien Conference because, as I investigated how authors on Tolkien fanfic archives did or did not seem to use historical bias as an inspiration for fanworks, I first observed that different archives often had different results.

An excerpt from the abstract:

Tolkien's construction of his legendarium as a pseudohistory, complete with fictional narrators or loremasters, offers one means by which some writers of Tolkien-based fan fiction extend their authority to critique and change the details of the texts. As this paper will show, Tolkien employed fictional loremasters and wrote his books from their distinctly biased perspectives. Pengolodh, as the primary loremaster of The Silmarillion, was given a background that leaves him particularly susceptible to bias, and analysis of how characters and realms are discussed in The Silmarillion show that this bias reflects subtly in ways that even readers unfamiliar with Pengolodh's personal history are able to detect. Correcting this bias by showing other perspectives on the story becomes a motive not only for writing fan fiction but for extending the fan writer's authority far enough to allow alteration of details of the text.


The paper initially included A LOT more evidence and data to prove the historical bias of The Silmarillion. The editors suggested that a lot of this material could be moved to another paper, and I jumped at the chance to do this and so ended up cutting out a large part of the paper that dealt more with historical bias in the canon. I had felt, when writing, that the paper responded to the paper on historical bias that I hadn't yet published in scholarly channels, but since this paper didn't exist, I felt I had two cases to prove. (Y'all have been listening to me yammer about historical bias in fannish channels for years now.) Once I settle into my new job, I will be looking around for opportunities to publish what I cut out. It's essentially, at this point, a full paper that's basically ready to go.

Finally, I owe a huge thank you to Oshun and to Bobby, who read and offered excellent critique of the very first draft and cheered me on when I was at that point of writing where I wasn't sure I really had anything of importance to say. Thank you both so very much! I am grateful also to the volume's editors, Robin Reid and Michael Elam, as well as the anonymous reviewers, who offered such helpful feedback on later drafts.
dawn_felagund: (finrod crest)
The support for discussing and planning the Mereth Aderthad on an LJ comm was overwhelming, so I've created the Mereth Aderthad community here. Anyone who has expressed interest in it so far has been sent an invitation, but you absolutely do not need an invitation to join.

Please note that I accidentally sent out a batch of invitations without checking the box for unmoderated status. I've set the community default to unmoderated, so I'm not sure which will prevail, but I've marked down who is affected by this, and as I see them joining, will make sure their status is correct.

If you're like, "What the heck is she talking about??" see this post here.
dawn_felagund: (maedhros and fingon)
If you want to know what the heck I'm talking about? Or would be interested in meeting up with other Tolkien fanfic people next summer in the picturesque mountains of Vermont? See this post on Dreamwidth or this post on LiveJournal and please comment there or message/email me if you're interested in further information about this.

I say there but it is worth saying again that this is a Tolkien fandom event, not a I-have-to-be-good-personal-friends-with-Dawn event. More details are on the posts above.

What I'd like to accomplish on this post is to decide how best for all of us to discuss this. So far, I have had about two dozen people express interest in possibly participating in a real-life Mereth Aderthad, and I'm sure there's more that missed the original post. My thought is that we need an online space where we can discuss plans and share news. I think this space needs to be members-only, since we will sometimes be talking about travel plans and locations and the like, and not everyone is comfortable with that in a public forum.

I would propose setting up an LJ community that defaults to members-only (although it is possible to make public posts for general announcements). Everyone who has responded so far is on LJ. It is possible to set email notifications even for those who do not regularly check their flist.

This is just one idea. If you have other suggestions, this is the place to make them. If we have multiple suggestions, I will run a poll on my journal and go with what the majority prefers.

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