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Here is today's prompt for the Snowflake Challenge:

In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


I would, of course, choose The Silmarillion. It is not my favorite book, but it is absolutely the book that has had the most outsized influence on my life.

 photo silmarillion_zpspycpzqog.jpg

I came to The Silmarillion as a newly minted Tolkien fan, having gotten hooked by the LotR movies, an interest that was only galvanized by reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. My first copy of the Silm was the one to the right, with the weird cover that has Fëanor with graceful hands, flowing leopard-print scarves, and what appears to be an owl eating his head. The back of this particular edition, which is of course sitting right on my desk in front of me because I need to look something up in it at least weekly, reads:

The Silmarillion is Tolkien's first book and his last. Long preceding in its origins The Lord of the Rings [sic], it is the story of the First Age of Tolkien's world, the ancient drama to which characters in The Lord of the Rings [sic] look back, and in which some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part.


Now to a new fan such as myself, ravenous for more of LotR, this sounded promising! Elrond and Galadriel! I knew them!! I had no idea, of course, that the book wasn't about Elrond and Galadriel, who more or less have walk-on roles in The Silmarillion, but about a cast of dozens, everyone's name of which seems to begin with Fin-. I was also very new to the fantasy genre and really had no idea how to read a book like The Silmarillion. I went into it with my brain relaxed, expecting a frivolous sword-and-sorcery worthy of a beach read, instead of honing on every detail and storing away every name. I failed miserably in my first reading of it. I was about halfway through when Fëanor was mentioned, I looked him up in the Index of Names (the very fact that there is an Index of Names in the book should have been my first clue, no?), and realized he was someone important whom I should have remembered.

It was only because I was stubborn and embarrassed by my failure that I decided to give it another go, this time knowing better what I was getting into and more prepared to read the book as it needed to be read. And I fell in love with my second reading.

It sounds trite to say that Tolkien's world is rich but it is, and I am far from the first to become ensnared in Middle-earth via LotR. LotR, however, did not offer me the complexity of character that I had learned to appreciate in modern literature. I found that much more in The Silmarillion, where few characters are cut-and-dried good or evil but pretty much everyone is floundering around, trying to make the best of a shitty situation. That really appealed to me. The fact that the characters are barely sketched in made it possible to interpret them in myriad ways, drawing on my knowledge of human psychology. (I was a psych undergrad at the time.) When I discovered fan fiction, The Silmarillion practically begged for it: all of these complex characters only skeletally drawn. I found ample raw material for my own creativity.

And I found that The Silmarillion was only the surface of a very deep pool. LotR is a gateway drug that, if you're not careful, you'll find yourself before long flopped on a couch in a dim room arguing with a stranger on the Internet about how to interpret Laws and Customs among the Eldar. In addition to my creative side, The Silmarillion appealed to my intellectual side because there was not only a whole literary history underlying the creation of that particular book--meticulously documented in The History of Middle-earth series that I began to acquire despite my poverty at the time--but an entire pseudohistoriography. The result was a mashup of creativity and scholarship where the borders blurred. I was in love.

The Silmarillion and what it inspired of my creative and intellectual work has had reverberations through most of my life. When I picked it up, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I was terrified to imagine that my love of writing and creativity should be a major part of my adult life. Becoming involved in the Tolkien fandom through my love of The Silmarillion empowered me to embrace my love of language as a core of who I am. I went back to graduate school. I became a teacher. I eventually earned my MA in the Humanities and have had my scholarly work published. All because of The Silmarillion.

Through the Tolkien fandom, I have gained confidence in my skill as an artist, my voice, and the importance of my work. I have met amazing, lifelong friends whom I cannot imagine my life without. I have done things (like present at conferences) and learned things (like web design) that I never would have imagined as the young undergrad picking up The Silmarillion for the first time.

It's hard to imagine such a tiny action as picking up a book to read as having such far-ranging consequences. I still remember standing in the Barnes & Noble on The Avenue at White Marsh and holding my now-battered Silmarillion in my hands, deciding to spend my meager money to have more of this world, clueless that I had just decided to change my life. It's humbling and scary to realize that one's life is very rarely shaped by huge forces or in moments that one recognizes as turning points but in the tiniest of decisions that, looking back, set off a cascade of forces so that nothing was ever the same again. It is both frightening and hopeful to step daily into a world where that is possible.

Snowtography

Dec. 12th, 2016 04:42 pm
dawn_felagund: (newgrange)
Last night we got quite a dumping of snow. There was about a foot (30 cm) piled up on the patio chairs this morning, although it's impossible to tell what of that was new and what was old--but most of it was new. The snow was also powder, that elusive substance so beloved by skiers and snowboarders.

The result of this was that schools were closed! Bobby and I both anticipated a delay, but an all-out closure?? The outcome of this: I got to sleep in, Bobby got a powder day, and I went snowshoeing for the first time this year.

I did not post my photo-a-day yesterday because I had an immensely productive day, which tend to look boring from the outside. I did not leave the house or take off my pajamas all day, most of which was spent in front of the computer. I got a bunch of fannish stuff done and worked through about half of a Drupal 8 course that I found on YouTube. (My Drupal textbook finally foiled me. It is for Drupal 7, so I was wasting so much time trying to find modules that were integrated into the core Drupal 8 software or that haven't been completed for Drupal 8 yet. I also didn't like that the book dived right into projects, thus presenting topics rather willy-nilly, to use the technical term for it. I like to see the big picture of how things are organized first; all that happens when I dive into things at random is that I can never find it again or figure out what exactly I did back when. I have a very taxonomic brain that likes a place for everything and everything in its place and to see how things relate and connect.) None of that stuff exactly provides inspiration for any photos that I think anyone wants to see. (Me in my pajamas staring zombie-like at a Drupal tutorial on YouTube?)

Anyway, I hope to make up for yesterday's lack of photo by posting lots from my snowshoeing jaunt today. It felt good to get my legs under me again. The Nordic Center wasn't really open but they told Bobby over the phone that they didn't care if I went out as long as I didn't mind if the trails weren't groomed. As it was, one of the staff showed me a brand-new not-even-on-the-map-yet trail that he isn't even finished blazing yet, so I did that one. It took about an hour--not a long walk at all given some of my past outings--but with a foot of fresh powder and ungroomed terrain, it was quite a workout!

Snowshoeing at Jay Peak )

Cold & Ice

Feb. 6th, 2014 09:26 pm
dawn_felagund: The Pillbury Doughboy looking angry as he's poked. (doughboy)
Well, now on top of our winter woes, I have a cold. Bobby has been fighting one off for days, and it was inevitable that I'd catch it, and I did.

It was back to work today; Baltimore County schools opened regular time. (Carroll County schools remained closed since we got hit with the worst of the storm.) The drive to work this morning was quite startling. Branches and trees are down everywhere. The damage is substantial. It looks worse than the tropical storms of the past few years.

Everything here is still coated in ice. Drive even just five minutes south, and most of the trees have thawed, but it doesn't appear to have gotten above freezing here today. We lost another branch in the yard from one of the maples that took down part of the chicken run. Luckily, the damage was not bad, and Bobby was able to repair it this afternoon.

Freyja was due to be spayed today, so we loaded her into her carrier to drive her to the vet's office this morning. Ten minutes on the road and they called to cancel her appointment because the office is still without power. So we turned around and drove her home. She is spared again! She was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but we had to reschedule for today because the after-school program started up Tuesday, and we would have had to pick her up right in the middle of it, which was impossible. Hopefully three is a charm and her next appointment will actually happen.

I am almost ready to start writing my final paper for my current class. I really drag these things out ridiculously. I have one more article to read; I have written a draft thesis statement and a quick outline, so it will just be a matter, this weekend, of writing each section. If I can do two or three sections a day, then most of the paper will be done this weekend. Those who think I work too hard will be proud that I downloaded another book by Rousseau yesterday (my Kindle has 3G--dangerous because I can continue to download books even without Internet or power) that I do not actually intend to read for my paper. I decided against it. I have already read three books by Rousseau in excess of what I was required to read for the class, plus the usual collection of articles and book chapters, so I decided to give this one a pass.

This means that I am actually reading something at the moment that is not school-related! (It is still academic-related, for my "Tree of Tales" paper ... baby steps, people!) The book is called The Song of Middle-earth by David Harvey. I'm actually rather disappointed in it so far. It was written about 30 years ago, so the Silm and UT were available, but the book seems to mostly summarize the texts. How annoying! I would assume that if someone is buying a book about Tolkien, then one has actually read Tolkien. He frequently reaches the point where I think he is going to get into something deep and thought-provoking, and then just kind of peters out. He makes some good points about Tolkien's legendarium not being derivative; he starts to delve into world cosmogony but flakes out with a statement that Ainulindalë shares several themes with other world myths. Aaaaand? (He also falls into the trap that I've found to be rather frequent of stating that a particular archetype is "common" in world creation stories when reading a boatload of world creation stories has convinced me that this is not the case.) He also doesn't seem to be much of a writer, and it is hard sometimes to see how his ideas are connected. (This reminds me of an objective that I frequently include when writing Written Content goals for student IEPs: The student will use transitions to show the connections among ideas within and between paragraphs in a multi-paragraph composition. He could use that objective in his hypothetical IEP.) Since he deals with mythological themes and cosmogony in particular, then it was a book that I pretty much had to read before undertaking the next revision of my paper, and I do hope my opinion of it improves. But so far, I'm not enjoying it much more than if I'd read the other work by Rousseau, and that is saying something.
At last, I finished reading it....

*SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS* )

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