Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I don't usually make resolutions; at least, I haven't for the past few years. But I was reading through some of my life journal entries for the last year and the following one resonated with me.
"...His mother said to the servants "whatever He tells you to do, do it.'"
Such a simple statement. Eight words. Three that are the most important.
#1 - Whatever.
The word "whatever" covers a huge area. It could mean that the Lord wants you to go to India for the rest of your life or maybe He just wants you to reach out to your next door neighbor. Or maybe He wants you to stop beating yourself up.
The Lord could ask anything of you.
How do we do it, whatever "it" is? Mary knew that her son was also the son of God. And we know it too. Behind those eight words there is a universe of attributes - who Jesus is, what He can do, what He has done, what He will do.
#2. - Do it.
Like the Nike commercial - "just do it." Don't whine, complain, or feel sorry for yourself. A miracle might be waiting. And even if it's not a miracle - why not obey the One who made you? Who knows you better than you know yourself?
Lord, in 2010, help me to just "do it".
Thursday, December 24, 2009
And the light shines in the darkness..."
Wishing all my friends and family a blessed Christmas filled with light.
If you haven't heard of it yet, check out the website below. It might make you want to change a few things next Christmas. http://www.adventconspiracy.org/
Monday, December 7, 2009
Blacksmithing is an ancient art. One of the oldest references to blacksmithing is from the Bible, Genesis 4:22:
"...Tubal Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron..."
The word "blacksmith" comes from 2 sources: black, because iron was the "black" metal. And "smith" comes from smite, which means "to hit".
In ancient times, blacksmiths were regarded almost as gods because of the mysterious way they used earth (iron ore), water, wind and fire to produce iron.
We don't think much about this now but in other times, without a blacksmith to make the swords and knives, the plowshares and hoes, the pots and pans and hooks - there would be none of the instruments people needed to live and produce food and defend themselves.
In the time period of Ciara's Tale, which is early 5th century, the blacksmith would have had his smithy out in the open, away from other buildings. He would have used a leather apron and his clothing would have many singed holes in it. His biceps and forearms would be immense with muscle from swinging a heavy hammer all day. Burns in various stages of healing would cover his hands and arms.
I have a blackmith character in Ciara's Tale. In May of 2005, I corresponded with a blacksmith named PawPaw Wilson, who helped me get the finer points of blacksmithing correct and critiqued some of my writing.
I also corresponded with some of the fellows of an interesting website called AnvilFire. They offered lots of helpful information, even trying to help me figure out what the smell of freshly "quenched" iron was like. (That's when the hot iron is plunged into water to cool it.) Check out their website: www.anvilfire.com.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The bowl to the right is called the Staffordshire Moorlands cup and it was discovered in 2004 by experienced metal detectors out for a walk.
The bowl has the names of the first 5 forts on Hadrian's Wall engraved along the top outside rim, and originally had a handle and might have been used as a type of skillet. It dates to the 2nd century.
It has elaborate Celtic-style curvilinear design and possesses much of its original decoration which was done in vivid turquoise, blue, red, yellow and purple enamel.
In the photo below you can see the name "DRACO" inscribed on the top left. It is uncertain if Draco was the owner of the bowl or the person who manufactured it.
The photo below is of a copy of the Rudge cup, found at the bottom of a well at the site of a Roman villa in Wiltshire, England. It shows a representation of Hadrian's Wall with its turrets and milecastles. The cup dates to the first half of the second century and also lists forts on the Wall.
I visited Hadrian's Wall in northern England in 2008 while I was writing Eleri's Tale. Fascinating country!
Friday, November 27, 2009
Surge domine et dispentur intimici et fugent qui oderant te facie tua...
Michelle Brown, Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies in London, believes the style of lettering implies a 7th or early 8th century date based on the use of uncial letter forms.
Professor Okasha of Cork has identified traits that suggest 8th or early 9th century.
There are multiple websites already dedicated to this hoard and many discussions going on all over the world with experts from various backgrounds weighing in.
One discussion centers around which type of hoard this is because of the nature of the items: all the items are militaristic with the exception of the 3 crosses. There are no feminine items. And the hilts and pommels have all been stripped off the swords and knives they once decorated.
If you'd like to see some great photos, you can go to:
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In the words of Leslie Webster, Department of Prehistory in the British Museum:
"This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England...as radically, if not more so, than the Sutton Hoo burials. Absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells."
The hoard dates to the 7th century and contains over 5 kilograms of gold, the richest hoard ever discovered, and over 1500 artifacts, many decorated with precious stones.
It has been said that archaeologists and historians will be evaluating and debating the significance of this find for decades.
The top right photo is of a folded cross. Note the detailed work on the gold.
The artifact above is a gold and garnet scabbard boss fitting for a sword. Below is a gold and garnet sword hilt.
One item that has provoked the most interest is a strip of gold with a Biblical inscription and I will write a post on that this week.
A website has been established for the hoard for anyone who wishes to know more. It has 500 photographs of the finds so far. Many artifacts are still waiting to be dug out of blocks of soil taken from the dig.
Monday, November 16, 2009
In my second novel, Eleri's Tale, my character Eleri is learning to read and write Latin. She writes her translations out on wax tablets.
These were thin sheets of wood with a poured layer of wax. A stylus would be used to engrave your letters in the soft surface of the wax. The wax could be easily softened over a small flame when you needed a new page.
Above is a fresco from the tomb of a Roman lady. She is shown holding the aforementioned wax tablet and stylus.
Wax tablets have been around for thousands of years. Pictured below is a reproduction kit made for the reenactors of Roman and Celtic history like the organization called PENNSIC.
Below is a new wax tablet with a message inscribed in Latin.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
The cosmetic box shown below is especially fascinating to me. It's Egyptian and it has nothing to do with Eleri's Tale but it is such an amazing box!
It contains a pot, 2 vases, a pumice stone, a cosmetic dish, a pair of sandals and a kohl pot. It dates to about 1550 BC and was discovered in a tomb. There is something so incredibly poignant about that pair of sandals (bottom left of box).
Shown below is the world's oldest face cream, found in 2003 by archaeologists excavating a Roman temple on the banks of the River Thames. This little tin pot is 2,000 years old. The lid still bears the fingermarks of the person who last used it.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
In the time period of Eleri's Tale, only wealthy women had access to these things, especially cosmetics. Shown above is a set of Roman implements, including bone combs and long hairpins. The mirror is made of polished bronze.
This particular mirror is in the British Museum, and dates to about 50 AD, several hundred years before my story takes place, but it gives you an idea of what the mirrors looked like. The reverse side would have been highly polished and given a fairly good reflection.
The details feaure a cloverleaf pattern, engraving in a basketweave pattern and "hatched" texturing. Doesn't it look gorgeous for its age?
Monday, November 2, 2009
They were erected around 450 A.D. to mark the common grave of three priests who served in the area. For 1400 years they stood unmolested in the churchyard until 1850, when they were pulled up and taken away for another use.
It is thought that the three priests may have served with St. Ninian at his "Candida Casa", or the white house on the hill across the bay. Ninian is a character in Eleri's Tale.
Below the Chi-Rho symbols are the Latin inscriptions. They were meant to stand together and form a continous narrative. The translation of the Latin is:
"Here lie the holy and eminent priests, Viventius and Mavorius (first stone), and Florentius, (second stone), and on the third stone "INTIUM ET FINIS", the Beginning and the End.
I used the names Mavorius and Florentius for the characters of 2 priests in Whithorn in Eleri's Tale. This is an example of how archaeological research can drive the story.
In 1861 the two taller stones were discovered in the manse gate. The third stone wasn't found until 1916.
But that's a story for another post - the "lost" stone of Kirkmadrine.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
In my second book (which I have just finished editing and revising and I just sent out a query to an agent and I am so excited!!!), Eleri's Tale, the action takes place in 3 main places.
The first is this ancient fortress, which stood on this two-headed plug of basalt volcanic rock that rises out of the water to a height of 240 feet.
The Romans originally had a fort at this site and could control traffic and trade from it. Now called Dumbarton Rock, this is where Coroticus, the British chieftain, had his fortress after the Romans left.
Dumbarton Rock was still in use as a military base as recently as World War II. The buildings there now date from the 18th and 19th centuries.
For hundreds of years it was considered impregnable until the Vikings invaded around 900 AD.
Mary, Queen of Scots, hid here for several months in 1548 before being removed to France for her safety.
It is a rarity in that Dumbarton Rock has seen 1500 years of continued use as a military fortress.
It was a great place to visit in the summer of 2008 when I went to Scotland to check out the sites where my story played out.
The other 2 sites are Whithorn, in southwestern Scotland, where St. Ninian had his monastery, "Candida Casa", the white house on the hill, and modern day Carlisle, in northern England, where Hadrian's Wall stands.
In the 5th century, Carlisle was called Luguvalium, and was a Romano-British city. You can travel the length of Hadrian's Wall all across the "waist" of Scotland and visit many of the remains of the Roman forts.
Hadrian's Wall was buit in 122 AD, and large parts of are still standing today.
In upcoming posts I will write about those places. I absolutely loved Scotland and want to go back!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I can't think of anything more awful that seeking the Lord and not being able to find Him. To have sinned and offended Him so terribly, to have ignored Him for so long that He withdraws from me. Just the thought strikes terror in my heart.
Even at my lowest point, I always know that He is here with me.
One of the reasons I'm going through Hosea is to remind myself of His faithfulness. And He has indeed been faithful to me.
I am trying to rediscover the "early love of my betrothal", when I was so young and untested, and meld that into now, 35 years later. I am older but I still want to "follow You through the wilderness, through a land yet unsown".
I still want to sing "as in the days of my youth."
Show me how, Lord.
I bless You and praise Your name.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Coroticus was a fierce British chieftain whose name is known today chiefly because he abducted a group of St. Patrick's converts in Ireland shortly after their baptism and brought them to Britannia to be sold into slavery on the auction block.
Patrick's response was to write a scathing letter that circulated among the churches in Roman Britain and condemned Coroticus for his heinous deeds, which included "giving girls away as prizes" without a second thought.
The armlets in the photo are actually Greek and made of gold. The pair that I used as my model for Coroticus are in the British Museum but I was unable to locate them in their current database.
The British Museum has a great website, http://www.britishmuseum.org/, and it's a lot of fun to navigate around the site. Currently they have an exhibition on the Aztec rulers.
Check them out!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
As I mentioned before, I love archaeology and the study of ancient civilizations. Many of the artifacts that people use in my stories have come from historical finds.
In my second book, Eleri's Tale, the British chieftain Coroticus' wife, Minacea, is dressing for an important banquet. The gold body chain shown above is a piece currently in the British Museum in London. It was part of the Hoxne hoard, found buried in Hoxne, Suffolk, England in 1992.
The hoard was buried in the 5th century and the piece itself dates to the late 4th century.
It contains an oval setting of gold for 9 gems:a central amethyst, 4 garnets and probably 4 pearls, which had long since decayed when the body chain was found.
This is the body chain that Minacea puts on as the finishing touch to her outfit for the banquet.
It is an exceedingly rare piece, and in marvelous condition considering that it's about 1600 years old!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Then the fireworks explode into the sky above. The crowd gives a collective sigh at their beauty and the cheering and shouting escalate. It goes on and on for a good while.
Here is what I like to do when I'm in that scenario.
I like to pretend that this is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
I imagine that I'm standing with all the believers and we are waiting for the Bridegroom to arrive.
The anticipation is phenomenal.
Then the roar goes up and you know He has appeared in the auditorium. Your heart pounds and the crowd goes wild.
Try it the next time you find yourself in a stadium surrounded by thousands of people. One day it will be real.
Friday, October 16, 2009
I have made the acquaintance of a number of professional people in very disparate areas.
Teresinha and her marvelous website on woad I have already written about.
I also can count a Celtic historian, Anthony McKinley, among the wonderful people who have taken time out of their busy lives to help me get things right, answered many question about ancient Celtic history, and who critiqued a funeral scene for me.
My first book has a blacksmith character, and I corresponded with a modern day blacksmith named "Paw Paw" Wilson, who instructed me on the finer points of smelting iron. PawPaw has since passed away but I hope to give a copy of Ciara's Tale to his wife when it is published.
Professional beekeepers and sheep farmers have assisted me, too. All in all, I have been amazed at the generosity of the online community to help a new author.
The most recent friend I have made is a Latin teacher at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Tonawanda, NY. I graduated from O'Hara in 1970 and when my sister Bernadine recently informed me that Latin was one of the languages being taught there now, I wondered if I might presume to write and ask for his/her help.
I did indeed find an email address for Mr. Calvin Steck and sent off a note. He responded quickly and soon I had the distinguished assistance of a Latin scholar. In my second historical novel, Eleri's Tale, my main character is learning to read and write Latin and I desperately needed help to make the scenes correct.
Mr. Steck kindly and cheerfully gave me the benefit of his years of study and knowledge.
So thank you, Mr. Steck!
Your students are fortunate to have you.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I visited the Burren in 2005 and my husband decided that he had had enough traipsing about the Irish countryside in the rain.
It was warm in the car and he had a newspaper so he decided to stay there and let me take the path up the hillside alone.
The top photo is of a megalithic tomb, 4000 to 5000 years old. I stood in that place and contemplated the people who built it so long ago.
I think it was God.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
We played outside all day and our mothers never knew where we were but they didn't worry either.
My mother whistled when she wanted us to come home to 159 Findlay Avenue. She would stand at the foot of the driveway and whistle down the block, one long note followed by a second lower note, and we always knew it was her.
We lived around the corner from Ted's Hot Dog stand. If my sister Bernadine and I could wheedle a quarter out of my mom, we'd go there after school for a bottle of pop and some popcorn.
If we didn't have any money we'd collect pop bottles in our red wagon and return them to the A & P. The small ones were worth 2 cents and the big ones went for 5 cents. We could get candy bars then, 6 for a quarter at Leader Drugs, and they were way bigger than the fun-size candy bars you get today.
Another favorite place was Jet Donuts across the street from Ted's. It's gone now but to this day I have never eaten a Bavarian cream donut that could rival theirs.
And of course, for anybody who lived in Tonawanda, there was Anderson's Custard stand - still thriving today. Their lemon ice was to die for. I was in Tonawanda last summer and my sister and I stopped at Anderson's. I had the lemon ice.
I don't know if it changed or if my taste buds had gotten older but it didn't taste the same. It had a chemical aftertaste and was nothing like the lemon ice I remembered - tart and sweet at the same time and so refreshingly lemony that you ate in in tiny bites to savor the flavor as long as possible.
Many of my memories of my childhood revolve around food. Lots more revolve around St. Amelia's and the Polish nuns who ruled our lives.
But that's another post.
Monday, October 5, 2009
It bore the Latin inscription PAOLO APOSTOLO MART. The Apostle Paul, Martyr.
Further investigations were done in 2007. A small hole was drilled and endoscopes inserted to gather material. Bone fragments were carbon dated and the report was that they belonged to a man who lived between the 1st and 2nd Century.
Paul was beheaded somewhere between 62 - 67 AD.
Also found in the tomb were several red grains of incense, fragments of purple cloth with gold sequins and blue linen cloth.
If you would like to see some photos, go to www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_paolo/basilica/tomba.htm.
Due to copyright laws, I couldn't put them in this post but they are quite interesting.
Sometimes people ask me what is so fascinating about historical monuments and archaeological sites. Did you ever read H.G. Wells book "The Time Machine"? The idea of being able to step back in time and observe a civilization is not a new one. Sine we can't time travel, the next best thing is to get as close as we can to those people. I think that's why archaeology fascinates me so.
To stand in Newgrange where people stood 5,000 years ago, waiting for the sunbeam to travel down the dark corridor and light up the carved stone at the back of the monument -
To stand on Tower Green where Anne Boleyn lost her head -
To stand before Golgotha in the place where Jesus was crucified -
To walk through the ruins of a Roman Army camp along Hadrian's Wall in Carlisle, England -
For me it is an absolute thrill. I'm not sure if I can explain it any better than that!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I remember those days, right after I was born again at the age of 22. I remember the sense of completeness, the feeling that I was finally "home". The awe I felt that You cared for me personally. Almost too good to be true.
But it was true.
Knowing that You knew everything about me - all my sins, the secrets that no one else knew, the dark places. And You still loved and wanted me. The was the unbelievable part.
So I did "sing in the days of my youth", rejoicing in what you delivered me from and in the future set before me.
Now, looking back 35 years - how do I still be that young girl? There are times when I grow cynical and weary, mostly of myself, but sometimes of the people around me.
One thing I have learned, especially when I feel like that, is to remember Your loving kindness, and to be thankful for all you have done for me, all you have given me, all you have blessed me with.
You said that Your yoke was easy and Your burden is light.
Lord, help me daily to lay my life before You.
Friday, October 2, 2009
First, being close to Buffalo and Lake Erie, there is almost always a thick layer of snow on the ground. Then, because of the continuous mist that is produced by the falls, there is a layer of ice over the snow. On top of the ice is a layer of moisture. Extremely slippery!
The falls were turned off from June 12 to November 25 of that year. Tourism took a nosedive. Everyone was happy when the dam was removed and the mighty waters of the Niagara River were free once again. Years later, the engineers decided to do nothing about the rocks and let the falls continue to erode naturally.
You hear the falls before you ever get close enough to see them. The tremendous roar and power of the water is hypnotic. Niagara Falls has an interesting history. Tightrope walkers crossed the falls and many people have tried to go over the falls in barrels and other contraptions.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Their hobby is looking for coins or other items of possible interest. I wouldn't be interested in doing it here but if I lived in England, well now, that's a whole other story. If I lived in England I'd forget the flea markets and the antique shops. I'd be out in the fields and moors with my metal detector looking for gold.
Just this week, one of the largest and most important hoards ever discovered was announced - the Staffordshire hoard.
It was found by an jobless man in a field with a an old metal detector that cost about $4.00.
The find is 1400 years old and valued in 7 figures.
If you'd like to read more about the Staffordshire hoard and see some of the items, go to http://www.dailymail.co.uk. Click on the Science & Tech tab. There is a small box that says "Field of gold unearthed after 1400 years."
It's definitely worth a look!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I remember those days, Lord, right after I was born again. I remember the sense of completeness, the feeling that I was finally "home", and the awe I felt that You cared for me personally. Almost too good to be true.
But it was true.
Knowing that You knew everything about me, all my sins, even the secrets no one else knew. And You still loved and wanted me. That was the most unbelievable part.
So I did "sing in the days of my youth", rejoicing in what you delivered me from, and in the future set before me.
Now, looking back after all these years - how do I still be that young girl? There are times when I grow cynical and weary, mostly of myself but also the people around me.
But You said that Your yoke is easy and your burden is light.
It always comes back to basics. Being thankful and mindful of all that You have done for me and given to me.
Lord, help me daily to lay my life before you and praise and worship you, Almighty God.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Last year I corresponded with Teresinha about some of the finer points of making woad while I was writing about my character Gethin. Her site is fascinating and it just might inspire you to whip up a batch of woad dye yourself!