Sunday, January 24, 2010

Farewell to Silvermoon....

Today, we lost another one of our older cats, Silvermoon. She was about or a little over 10 years old, and had been in good health...however, today she came out from under the bed obviously in some distress and when Dreamweaver went to pick her up, it became clear that she was experiencing a stroke or a seizure....probably a seizure. She recovered somewhat, momentarily, and was alert and aware. Dreamweaver brushed her coat out (Silvermoon's absolute favorite activity) and offered her water and got her back on her feet. We put her with us in the studio, where she appeared to have several more seizures. At one point, alert and brighter, she climbed into Dreamweavers lap and purred and sought petting. Shortly afterwards, she simply seemed to slip away from consciousness, and then quietly passed.

Her passing could have been so much harder and she could have lingered, or hidden away for us to find her too late. Instead, she came to be with us, and though the seizures were distressing, she was alert and loving right up til the end. We chose not to break neck getting her to the vet, because past experience has taught us that there is not a lot the medical establishment can do in this scenario. In this case, there was nothing they could have done to change Silvermoon's situation, and she was far more comfortable and happy with us at the end then in a cold frightening unfamiliar place with strangers around her.

Silvermoon, we shall miss you. You were always the sweetest, shy little cat and always loved having your glorious fur brushed and your vanity pampered. Be at peace with the litter mates who have gone before you - Brom and Bastet. We will meet again, in the Summerlands.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

GAFilk Part 1

Well, here it is - GAFilk! (I am actually in this shot, though I doubt I am findable) Friday arrived finally, for our departure. Everything looked good...stuff was packed. Priestess was already here...Light did not have class, so she came on with Dreamweaver...and then we hit the hitch that made us miss the opening ceremony (darn it!). We were taking Priestess' modest 4 door sedan down - more room in it than Dreamweaver's car, automatic transmission, unlike Dreamweaver's car, which meant we all could drive if need be, nice size trunk, and working heater (unlike my go-buggy with the broken heater. No one will ride with me 'til spring...wonder why??? And the transmission is slipping. Tires you could read newsprint through too. Not going to Atlanta, no. Here's why we want to cry - I have a station wagon! *sigh*)...anyway, sounds good right. We're on schedule, at least temporarily. Here's where we seriously bogged down: we had to Pack the Car. Near as I can recall this is what had to go in the four door car: one suitcase, a cooler, a 3x3.5 foot painting, Dreamweaver's jewelry gear - three sizably heavy bags and a box - one guitar, 2 doumbek drums, the Lollipop drum (3 feet in diameter - sounds like a lambeg!) Priestess' clothing bag, Light's back pack (she won the "she who packs lightest" award!) a ukulele, a strum stick, a guitar stand, a music stand, the crockpot, a bodhron drum (17" in diameter), the CD case, Priestess' walker, various assorted miscellany, such as extra sodas, and pillows etc...and, oh yeah, the four of us. We would have never made it if it hadn't been for Light's incredible packing skills (genetic, we suspect, from her Da, Superman, the overly engineered!)! It took longer than we had allowed for, and there were several unpacks and repacks...a shallow grave was threatened a few times as items were added. But when she got through folding the space time continuum, it ALL fit in there, including us. I think if one more molecule had been added, implosion would have occurred and we would have disappeared into a black hole. Let all sing the praises of the awesome Light ! (pictured above)

The painting was for the GAFilk auction (as were the ukulele, and the strum stick). The GAFilk auction proceeds go to Interfilk, an organization that funds bringing guests to filk cons. They have brought guests from as far away as England; Alexander James Adams traveled from Oregon this year. So, it's a very worthy cause, and most of us, when we can, bring items to donate, and most of us who have money come prepared to bid like crazy. This year my donation was a painting I did, titled "We took it with us..." showing a filker on another planet, or perhaps dreaming of being on another planet, blowing a dandelion's seeds to the sky. Yes, that is my guitar pictured there...she posed! In the chaos of the wake of semester ending, and other craziness, I did this painting in about 2 days flat. It's more linear than painterly, a technique that I fall back on for speed when needed, and there would have been more detail if there had been more time. But I am very pleased and happy with how it turned out. When we arrived, Fiber Geek, one of those in charge of the auction, took one look and on her authority sent it straight to voice auction, skipping the silent auction - something I was even happier with. Dreamweaver also donated an absolutely beautiful necklace with a blue Murano glass focal point in the shape of a musical note, and hand made beads that she created. This too was immediately slated for voice auction. The ukulele and the strum stick were donated by Priestess in honor of Truthteller, who passed away months was his wish that some of his musical instruments be donated to the Interfilk auction. These also went to voice auction. More about the auction as we get to it.
So, we all ventured forth, bravely down the road, off to the filk, car bulging at the seams. We arrived around 8:00 - 8:30 and discovered to our great joy that all our hotel rooms were on the same hall and across from each other - Fibergeek, Cat, Booboo (Cat's adorable almost 2 year old son, who had all of us out numbered all weekend!) Dreamweaver and myself in 423 and Priestess, Light and Light's Da, Superman who was able to join us (and there was great rejoicing!) in room 424! Yay! (as an added bonus, our friend Gorgeous Amazon was a few doors down as well, we found out later!) Hotel room digression...generic room, hotel, one. Beds apparently cunningly constructed of cinder blocks. Bleah. Bath tub an added happy bonus! (we don't have a tub, only a shower, due to the fact that we...ahem...set the tub on fire a few years ago. If you ask nicely, I MIGHT post that tale at some point...maybe.) End hotel room digression.

Momentary Pause...

Left to right, Priestess, Dreamweaver, and Light, with Superman, the height empowered in the back...

Myself and the Gorgeous Amazon...sigh...I'm short. :)

Dreamweaver and friends and counting for 13 years

Cat and BooBoo, in the closest I have to a still shot of them...if we had this boy's energy, we'd rule the world!

This is the part one post - much more to follow, very shortly. If I did all in one post, I think my reader's eyes would glaze over and fall was a huge weekend with many wonderful things! So, part two, already on the way. A final note...these beloved people pictured above are my dearest family of choice. And there are a few more dear friends in that category still to come that you will meet as we move forward in the great tale of GAFilk 12. Hope everyone enjoys...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Water LIke a Stone...

I have had one of the most glorious weekends just behind me, that ended actually with this Monday being perfect as well (Dreamweaver returns to work tomorrow)...and I am going to approach it backwards, writing about today first, and then in more posts, the events of the convention we just attended.
But I have to start here...our lake is frozen!!! Please understand...Dreamweaver and I live in the south. We have cold weather here, yes, but it is as I have stated before, cold here is balmy and warm compared to other places. I have seen warm winters where we never even broke the freezing mark. This winter has been unusually cold thus far. So when I took MacDhu out for his morning walk in the brisk 25 degree plus windchill, we went up to look at the sea gulls on the lake, as he and I always do. We got to our look out point...and I looked. And then did a double take. And then frankly stared, with my mouth hanging open. The lake was frozen solid, all the way out to the other shore and as far down its great length as the eye could see! This was not some little rime of ice dusting and hugging the lake edge; this was the entire lake locked down under a thick translucent scrim of dark ice! I bolted back to the house, excited as only a thin-skinned southerner could be, burst in our back door, and caught up with Dreamweaver in 0ur studio.

Me: "ThelakeisfrozensolidIneedthecamerawherearethebatteries?????"
Dreamweaver (looking very bemused) "Um, dear, that was all consonants...could I buy a vowel?"
Please imagine the rest of the conversation, me quivering with wound up enthusiasm, Dreamweaver patiently trying to reign me in long enough to get the batteries into the camera. ("Its not going to thaw in the next 15 minutes...") I am grateful that she seems to find me cute!
So, armed with camera and fresh batteries, back out the door I went into the below freezing air. I was joined on my quest by my black and white cat Dickens who had slipped out earlier to go cage cheap cat food from our neighbors. He and I walked back up to the top of the knoll where I take all my lake pictures, and instead of stopping there as usual, I plunged on down the hill. Dickens was deeply concerned by my unexpected behavior. Having swung too wide following me, he came up on the other side of of the wire fence on the neighboring property and was cut off. All he could do was parallel my progress down the steep treacherous slope of broken branches, scrub grass, old roots and autumn leaves, mewing loudly through the fence. As we neared the bottom, he suddenly realized that the end of the fence was attached to the low shed that my neighbor keeps his lawn equipment in and he could jump onto the roof and come down on my side! Oh happy Dickens! So he ran to the bottom and leaped gracefully onto the shed roof...
...which is made of tin. BWA-ang-ANG-ang! He froze, all four legs spread and braced, eyes as round as saucers, and his tail fluffed in a bristle brush! "Mom, help!" was his next startled mewp. I called to him, guiltily suppressing my giggles, and he finally got the nerve up to sidle over to the edge, with the tin vibrating and clattering under his every step. He leaped down, and ran to me, still wide eyed and tail fluffed and we continued the last few feet to the bottom.
It was some place like Chicago, or Fargo, it would have been normal, even boring. But here, where everyone I have spoken with has stated that they have never seen a total lake freeze in their lifetime, it is a remarkable event, something that has not occurred here in the past 50 to 80 years. Wondering what the thickness might be, I snagged a thick log and tossed it onto the ice - no, I did NOT venture out on the ice! I know that is not safe, as I have no experience in gauging the thickness of ice! - but I thought that the log might break through a spot, and give me an idea of how thick it was, and a contrast for a photograph. The log hit the ice, bounced and broke into two pieces, spinning away in opposite directions on the ice! Ok-ay! I'm impressed. Whether or not it might bear my weight, it is definitely ICE and not a thin frosting!

I edged around to see more of the ice close to the shore and spotted a leaf, trapped in the ice, frozen in time and place in a moment of pure perfection, and was just in awe. It was as though every vein on the leaf, every variation in the ice stood out in crisp clean lines and shapes...a tiny miracle of form in the bright morning air.

Out on the lake in the center stood the flock of forlorn sea gulls, standing and pacing on the ice, with this huge feeling of "What the &%$# happened here - we can't get to the fish!" in their disgruntled poses. I was equally certain that under the ice beneath them, the fish were going "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah - you can't get us!" I have a reasonably good camera, but the center of the lake is w-a-y out there, at the extreme end of my zoom lens. Still, I leaned on a tree to brace myself, triangulated through the viewer until I got them in sight and managed to get a fairly reasonable picture of them huddled together, patiently waiting for a thaw.
At this point, getting decidedly colder by the moment and needing to thaw a bit myself, I decided I really ought to head back I took a few more pictures, and began the climb back up the steep hill rising above me. I was picking my way very carefully when Dickens came running up and began to do the twine around my ankles, hover under my every step thing that cats do; "Mom, be whatcha doing...Mom pay attention to me...Mom, watch your step...purr, purr, merowp!" Needless to say, as I was leaning almost prone against the curve of the slope and careful testing every step under the blanket of slippery autumn leaves, I was not amused! "DICKENS! You are gonna get my neck, come here, NO! Not between my..DICKENS!"

My unuttered threat - *If you don't quit this, I am going to play ice bowling for seagulls with you for the bowling ball: meow/squawk! And you can hike back from the center of the lake!* - needless to say, went unfulfilled. Finally he and I got to the top of the hill, fortunately without me landing on my ass or my cat. The break we took half way up did seem to calm him a bit, at any rate.

So, as I write this, even though the temperatures finally rose a little above freezing today for the first time in weeks, the lake remains solid and hard, without the slightest hint of thaw. I am considering taking some bread down and scattering it for the birds if this goes on.
What a beautiful unexpected moment in time - something that I have never seen before in my life, or perhaps even in my parents lifetime! I stood there, in a timeless moment of eternity, that may not come again for me, looking out over the ice and the words of Christina Rossetti came to me:
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as Iron
Water like a stone...
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow.
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter
Long ago.How precious are our long-agos...
treasure them while they are present and now,
While they are presence in our lives and hearts.

Monday, January 4, 2010

And now for my BIG news of the week!!!

This week is the upcoming 12th GAFilk convention in Atlanta, GA. GAFilk is a filking convention...and I guess I had better define filking.

Necessary digression: Filking began 30 some odd years ago in the science fiction and fantasy convention fandom when some of the fans discovered they enjoyed writing songs about science fiction and fantasy subjects. Most of the early songs were original lyrics written by fans, set to already extant songs. An early newsletter on the subject misspelled the word "folk" as "filk" and the typo stuck as a name for the genre.
Then the trend began to write original music with original lyrics as well as parody songs. The music ranged from humorous to serious, and began to cover a wider and wider range of subject matter, until the definition of Filk became "filk is what filkers do."
I have been involved in filking since the early 90's and writing and playing filk (guitar and bodhron drum) ever since I sat in on my first "Filk circle". The filk or bardic circle is the ultimate activity of the filker. Basically, everyone gathers in a room in a loose circle of chairs, with their musical instruments and sing and make music together...there are several variations of this - the "pick - pass - or play" circle, where it goes around, and each person may pick someone to do a song they want to hear, say pass so that it goes to the next person, or they play something. And then it moves to the next person. This is great in smaller numbers, but the more people in the circle, the more unwieldy and time consuming this becomes, unless someone is leading it and keeping it moving. The other type of filk circle is called "Chaos Filk" where every one randomly jumps in, in no particular order. The benefits to this is that it moves fast and people can do "follow up" songs, where a subject - Star Trek, etc - builds off related songs. Great fun! The down side is that shyer introverted people, or new filkers who are a little uncertain, can get run over and sit all night silent because they have trouble getting a song or a request in edgewise. A third version of bardic circle is one that has risen that combines the best of both - a ball, or other object, is tossed around the circle; the person who has the ball has the floor, and then may toss it to whom they may. Some one with a follow up song may indicate they have a "follower" and thereby obtain the ball. And people watching for the quieter, more reticent filkers may toss the ball to them, keeping things equitable. Everyone all good? Make sense? Commenters, please ask questions, if need be. Filk is one of the most inclusive fandoms there is - even people who can't carry a tune in a bucket, if they desire to try to contribute, they are listened to with respect. There is also great respect shown to diversity of opinion, gender, life experience, etc. It is an amazing community of people who have made music a living breathing thing and it is done for the love and passion of it. There are professional me, they are not getting rich, but they are doing what they love! And on a more serious note - music is a living a breathing thing in Filking, without the commercialism that has over taken so much of the so called music "industry". The definition of a musician is one who makes music, not one who makes the most money in a prepackaged pop culture. The old tradition of bardic poetry and music is alive and well, in filking. End of digression...

NOW...GAFilk in Georgia is a Filk Con that has a 12 year history, and I have been to all 12 years. I have heard wonderful music and I have beloved friends there, some who I am close to outside the venue of Filk, some whom I only see at this convention, once a year, but the friendships none the less, run deep. And I look forward every year with all my heart to the renewal of these precious friendships! This year however, is also special to me, because of the Guest of Honor at the con this time....
Alexander James Adams! One of my favorite musicians of all time, whom I have written several blog posts about and have posted his music here! Allow me to throw dignity over board and have a fan moment! SQUEEEEEEE! Given that he is a west coast artist based in Oregon, the odds of us hearing him live have been very low, until this moment. I am fast moving into full Tigger bounce mode here - I am so excited! So, this weekend, it's off to the filk. There will be an update post afterwards, with pictures and tales of the stay tuned! It's going to be a great time and I look forward to sharing the experience! Also, Dreamweaver will be taking her necklace making gear with year, we hope to have an official table in the dealers room to vend her stuff, but she is hoping to sell a bit by interest in what she is doing! So keep her in your thoughts, folks!

Filker's Bardic Ring
By Larry Kirby

From the small cons down in Florida
To the big ones in LA
With an old guitar and a battered notebook
They all come to play
They come here for the Filking
They're here for just one thing
To sit and play til the break of day
In a filker's bardic ring.

Some can sing like Julia
Like an angel from afar
Some can play like Leslie
On a 12 string guitar
But most just know a few songs
And some can barely sing
But they all yearn to take their turn
In a filker's bardic Ring

There those that write like Misty
With words that soar and fly
And those like Bob Kanefsky
Make us laugh until we cry
They all want to tell those stories
That make you want to sing
And they all long to do that 100th song
In a filker's bardic ring

They don't do it for the money
They don't do it for the fame
Some will sing a lifetime
And never make a name
They long to write that special song
The respect that it would bring
But most by far will never star
In a filker's bardic ring

And then one night at some little con
Where no stars have ever sung
Like a miracle some golden words
Fall off of someone's tongue
And after years of being nothing
They all listen to you sing
And for awhile you'll set the style
In a filker's bardic ring

From the small cons down in Florida
To the big ones in LA
With an old guitar and a battered notebook
They all come to play
They come here for the Filking
They're here for just one thing
To sit and play til the break of day
In a filker's bardic ring...

In a filker's bardic ring!

GAFilk Website - Go look it up - loads of info and pictures!

When Icicles Hang...

We took this picture a few days ago as temperatures plunged in our area of the world. We live in the south, so cold here is relative...someone from Barrow, Alaska with 65 days of arctic night when the sun does not rise, would term us balmy and bright!

However, we have dipped into the teens and have stayed at freezing for the past few days, and the windchill on our lake has been sobering. Winter is here...

We have one cat, Legba, who moved himself out last summer to be an outside cat, despite our preferring to have him inside. He is in, this week. I got him yesterday when the cold finally made even his independent heart rethink being an outside dweller. He is in good shape, his weight is good and he obviously is thriving. He is restless even now, but he is simply going to have to tough out being an indoor cat until the weather improves a bit!

We ran the fireplace all day yesterday keeping the house warmer. Yet fall and winter remain my favorite time of year, for the beauty of the world and the fall colors and the blue skies. The constellation Orion rides the night sky, and the mountains beyond our lake are so clear you feel as though you could reach out and touch them.

Down by us on the lake in the little cove that is just above our house, there are seagulls that are wintering there that appear to be about a hundred in number at a very rough no way do they hold still enough to count! Its an estimate based on how many were sitting on the water and then roughly how many were circling out beyond. We are about 200 - 300 miles from the coast, so it is a little startling to see them here. and they were all swooping and diving - fishing in the lake (this was at 7:30 am and 27 degrees out). They appear to be happy and thriving. Last week, I got to watch a redtail hawk dive on the seagulls looking for HIS breakfast! The hawk missed, which was a little sad for the hawk, but cool for the seagull. But I stood there (frozen) with my jaw hanging open at getting to see that perfect instant. Its amazing that the seagulls and the redtails are here - it's fricking cold out there!

Also, yesterday I observed a small colony of ducks nearer to shore, though I was not close enough to I.D. species. My observation spot is by a tree above the lake at the top of a very VERY steep rolling down slope to the lake edge - there is no beach to speak of. If this was a cliff edge above the lake, instead of a slope, it would constitute about a 30 to 40 foot drop. To get really clear pictures, I am eventually going to have to navigate the scrub and broken ground down the slope to the verge to get close enough for decent photography. I will eventually try this - WITHOUT MacDhu the ADHD wonder dog bounding treacherously around my ankles on his leash I might add! My final exciting bird siting was about 3 days ago - I saw a Blue Heron come in and land on the bank far below me and settle in. My initial thought was that it was a Blue, and then I looked up the breed, confirming what I had seen. Including a picture of one - not one that I took, alas. I doubt it would let me get close enough for a decent shot, unless I was already in position!

My other hesitation in scrambling down that slope is that it is currently about 21 degrees out there - it will not break the freezing mark to day - and we have lake effect wind howling down the valley. So windchill is in the teens. I think it's gonna have to be a little warmer for me to venture down the hill with a camera at this point. The wind is an issue. It would be difficult to hold the camera steady, and I have no doubt, I would shortly be able to add my shivering to unwanted camera motion! thrives even in the cold and chill. When I manage some pictures, I will post them. May you all stay warm and safe, with hot chocolate and good blankets, as we pass through the cold this season.

Blessed Be!

Friday, January 1, 2010


Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.