Friday, March 21, 2014

Update, Prelude, & April 2014

Ciamar tha thu? 

(That’s Scottish Gaelic for “How are you?”)

Tha mi gu math, tapaidh slibh. I’m well, thank you.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Okay, it’s been months. Sorry about that! 

For someone who loves to write, you’d think I’d post more often. Trouble is, I get distracted by things: Being my husband’s fulltime caregiver. Trying to herd a small clowder of cats.
Clowder of Cats
 Becoming more active in my worship community. Reading those many, many books that attract me. Writing (and doing research) for my own historical Scottish Western (for lack of a better title) as well as the two WIP novels, Tree & Stone and Marpol the Builder and various short stories in JRR Tolkien’s universe, mostly posted at (under Barrabard). Playing Celtic harp (I’m an intermediate-level harper, NOT a harpist.) 

An assortment of needle arts hobbies—knitting, crewel embroidery, finger-weaving, petit-point. Working my way through my favorite Scottish Gaelic grammar yet again. Discovering new possible projects/subjects to explore, such as woodcarving, mastering baking the Scottish pastries my granny made when I was tiny (a daunting prospect for someone who’s never been a baker) and who knows what will surface….And oh, yeah, housework and laundry.  
Zee-brick finally gone!
Last March was the beginning of our odyssey in remodeling our 40-year-old kitchen (which I’ve hated since the moment the realtor showed it to us twenty years ago). September was the beginning of the demolition. October marked the finishing of installing cabinets, lighting, and floor, plus painting. Sounds as if I would have jubilantly posted about the completed project in November, right? Nope, because it’s mostly done.  Mostly isn’t all. We’re waiting (with varying degrees of patience) for the tiles to be made, painted, fired, and sent to us, whereupon we’ll find a tile-setter and have them installed, and THEN comes the ecstatic trumpeting show-off post. And a party!

You know, Life.

As scattered as it often seems, I doggedly try to be more organized,
set goals, etc., etc. I am, after all, a die-hard optimist. Whenever Mother or Granny sent me off on an errand when I was a little girl, I knew I’d hear, “Look far and go straight!” And occasionally, something actually clicks. Part of Flylady’s housework routines, for example. 

Troupe of Characters Temporarily Onstage....
Another example, speaking of writing, is the fact that in prose I tend to write in chunks. By that, I mean that for years, I ‘ll get an idea for or dream about a character  in a particular situation, write it down…and then do the same for another character or set of characters. As Mark Twain  described it, troupes of actors coming on and off the mind's stage. End result: a lot of disparate chunks about the same characters. It’s connecting them up that’s the hard part! John has begged me to finish something, anything, before he dies; his problem-solving IT mind is too orderly to understand my madcap methods, any more than I can comprehend his understanding of and passion for things like quantum mechanics, astronomy, or some of his other interests. (But we never run out of things to talk about!) I’m actually in good company with my chunks—that’s how such writers as Twain worked and Diana Gabaldon works. A couple of years ago, I decided, just as an exercise, to try writing a story consecutively. The result was the first 43 chapters of Tree & Stone (only about half that have been posted so far). So I can do it. Sometimes!

Prelude: April 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge

Basically, the idea is to write a daily blog post every day during the month of April (except Sundays); Day #1 is centered around A, first letter of the alphabet, Day #2 around B, etc. Since April has 30 days, minus Sundays leaves 26 days, the number of letters in the English alphabet.

Clear so far? 

Csenge Zalka, an outstanding Hungarian storyteller, sent me an email suggesting I participate. This is a neat idea, and I’ve seen a couple of other blogs do this in the past. Naturally, being a storyteller too, it makes sense for mine to center around some aspect of that.

But. I’m finding it hard to commit to almost anything these days, because of some family concerns, and if I say I’ll be involved in something, I want to be reliable and really participate fully. 

Margaret of Scotland, Queen & Saint
So my thought is this: as a Celtic storyteller, specializing in Scottish and Welsh tales, myths, legends, and folklore, what I’m going to try to do is blog using the Scottish Gaelic alphabet, which uses a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u. If you’ve been counting, you know that that’s 18 letters. That does seem like cheating—but in addition to the usual five vowels of a, e, I, o, and u, there are also accented ones—à, è, ì, ò, ù—which adds in five more, or a total of 23. And who knows, I might decide to add in or substitute one or two other English consonants, like Q—I differ with the sainted Queen Margaret about who should be Scotland’s patron saint. Or not.  Or I may go down in flames and not get very far at all. We’ll see. (And if you are fluent in Scottish Gaelic, yes, I know that those are grave accents, and sometimes the acute accent is used for three vowels, á, é, and ó, but not often, and I’m not that advanced.) 


April makes me think of Chaucer’s Prologue to The Canterbury Tales:

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote   [sweet showers]
The droghte  of Marche hath perced to the roote,  [ drought]
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,   [such]
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth       
Inspired hath in every holt and heath…                 [wood]
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,                    [eye]       
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages:                 [hearts]
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages….

and I always get an itchy foot in spring! When you can’t really travel far, one thing to do is travel in other ways—maybe not physically, but into undiscovered countries. Thus, the A-to Z blogging challenge, for one.

For another, as ClarSeannachie, Linda McNair and I are getting ready for Pittsburgh’s Tartan Day on Saturday, April 5th, at Bethel Presbyterian Church. It’s a family-oriented, free event, commemorating the Declaration of the Treaty of Arboath in 1320, one of the source documents Jefferson consulted when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. We’re rehearsing one piece we’ve performed before, as well as two new ones, always fun. See us on the Sanctuary stage at 1:30. In my persona of as Barra the Bard, I’m also doing an earlier solo set of Scottish tales for bairns of all ages on the same stage at 11:30. 

And, hopefully, I’ll be blogging a lot more frequently….Stay tuned, please!

Daffodills, such an April and Spring flower!


  1. You certainly have been busy, but seem well on your way to catching up around here! Happy a-z to you!

  2. I love that passage from Chauce. My mom always used to say it and it enchanted me. I still haven't read The Canterbury Tales yet, but it is on my to read list. Happy "A" Day!

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