Purple has become kind of a “pop” color. We have “When I’m an Old Woman” and we have The Color Purple and a bed company called Purple, a name almost as cryptic as “Trail Confidence Marker.”  People decorate with it — my mom did. It was a radical departure for her in the 70s to buy purple towels and rugs for the big bathroom in our house.

Purple was difficult to make in ancient times — especially as a dye. It came from sea snails and was worth its weight in gold. Only royal or holy people wore it.

I don’t have anything better to say about this color than does Epictetus… It’s kind of difficult to sort out the speakers, but Epictetus is the one who makes sense…




‘To the rational creature that which is against reason is alone past bearing; the rational he can always bear. Blows are not by nature intolerable.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Let me explain; the Lacedaemonians bear flogging, because they have learnt that it is in accord with reason.’

‘But is it not intolerable to hang oneself?’

‘At any rate, when a man comes to feel that it is rational, he goes and hangs himself at once. In a word, if we look to it we shall see that by nothing is the rational creature so distressed as by the irrational, and again to nothing so much attracted as to the rational. But rational and irrational mean different things to different persons, just as good and evil, expedient and inexpedient, are different for different persons. That is the chief reason why we need education, that we may learn so to adjust our preconceptions  of rational and irrational to particular conditions as to be in harmony with nature. But to decide what is rational and irrational we not only estimate the value of things external, but each one of us considers what is in keeping with his character. For one man thinks it reasonable to perform the meanest office for another; for he looks merely to this, that if he refuses he will be beaten and get no food, while if he does it nothing hard or painful will be done to him. To another it seems intolerable not only to do this service himself, but even to suffer another to do it. If then you ask me, ‘Am I to do it or not?’ I shall say to you, to get food is worth more than to go without it, and to be flogged is worth less than to escape flogging: therefore, if you measure your affairs by this standard, go and do it.’

‘But I shall be false to myself.’

‘That is for you to bring into the question, not for me. For it is you who know yourself; you know at how much you put your worth, and at what price you sell yourself. For different men sell at different prices.’

‘That is why Agrippinus, when Florus was considering whether he should go down to Nero’s shows, to perform some part in them himself, said to him, ‘Go down.’ And when he asked, ‘Why do you not go down yourself?’ said, ‘Because I do not even consider the question.’ For when a man once lowers himself to think about such matters, and to value external things and calculate about them he has almost forgotten his own character. What is it you ask me? ‘Is death or life to be preferred?’ I say ‘life’. ‘Pain or pleasure?’ I say ‘pleasure’.’

‘But, if I do not act in the tragedy, I shall be beheaded.’

‘Go then and act your tragedy, but I will not do so. You ask me, ‘Why?’ I answer, ‘Because you count yourself to be but an ordinary thread in the tunic.’ What follows then? You ought to think how you can be like other men, just as one thread does not wish to have something special to distinguish it from the rest: but I want to be the purple, that touch of brilliance which gives distinction and beauty to the rest. Why then do you say to me, ‘Make yourself like unto the many?’ If I do that, I shall no longer be the purple.’

Priscus Helvidius too saw this, and acted on it. When Vespasian sent to him not to come into the Senate he answered, ‘You can forbid me to be a senator; but as long as I am a senator I must come in.’

‘Come in then,’ he says, ‘and be silent.’

‘Question me not and I will be silent.’

‘But I am bound to question you.’

‘And I am bound to say what seems right to me.’

‘But, if you say it, I shall kill you.’

‘When did I tell you, that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine. It is yours to kill, mine to die without quailing: yours to banish, mine to go into exile without groaning.’

What good, you ask, did Priscus do, being but one? What good does the purple do to the garment? Just this, that being purple it gives distinction and stands out as a fine example to the rest. Another man, had Caesar in such circumstances told him not to come into the Senate, would have said, ‘Thank you for sparing me.’ Such a one he would never have forbidden to come in; he would know that he would either sit silent like a pipkin or if he spoke would say what he knew Caesar wished and pile on more besides.

This spirit too was shown by a certain athlete, who was threatened with death if he did not sacrifice his virility. When his brother, who was a philosopher, came to him and said, ‘Brother, what will you do? Are we to let the knife do its work and still go into the gymnasium?’ he would not consent, but endured to meet his death. (Here some one asked, ‘How did he do so, as an athlete or as a philosopher?’) He did so as a man, and a man who had wrestled at Olympia and been proclaimed victor, one who had passed his days in such a place as that, not one who anoints himself at Bato’s. Another man would have consented to have even his head cut off, if he could have lived without it.

That is what I mean by keeping your character: such is its power with those who have acquired the habit of carrying it into every question that arises.

‘Go to, Epictetus, have yourself shaved.’

If I am a philosopher I say, ‘I will not be shaved.’

‘I must behead you then.’

Behead me, if it is better for you so.

One asked, ‘How then shall we discover, each of us, what suits his character?’

How does the bull, he answered, at the lion’s approach, alone discover what powers he is endowed with, when he stands forth to protect the whole herd? It is plain that with the possession of his power the consciousness of it also is given him. So each of us, who has power of this sort, will not be unaware of its possession. Like the bull, the man of noble nature does not become noble of a sudden; he must train through the winter, and make ready, and not lightly leap to meet things that concern him not.

Of one thing beware, O man; see what is the price at which you sell your will. If you do nothing else, do not sell your will cheap. The great, heroic style, it may be, belongs to others, to Socrates and men like him.

‘If then this is our true nature, why do not all men, or many, show it?’

What? Do all horses turn out swift, are all dogs good at the scent?

‘What am I to do then? Since I have no natural gifts, am I to make no effort for that reason?’

‘Heaven forbid. Epictetus is not better than Socrates: if only he is as good as Socrates I am content. For I shall never be a Milo, yet I do not neglect my body; nor a Croesus, and yet I do not neglect my property; nor, in a word, do we abandon our effort in any field because we despair of the first place.’

On Tonight’s Show…

Old 45 has a symbiotic relationship with Twitter and commercial television. He uses them to effect policy. Yesterday he did a promo tweet for a TV show, “Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.” It seems that “Judge Jeanine” was set up to say something Old 45 couldn’t.

That was, “Paul Ryan needs to step down…The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill … The one that he had seven years to work on … The one that had to be pulled to prevent the embarrassment of not having enough votes to pass.” (source)

First a government official shouldn’t advertise for a television show. Second, well, here:

“She added: ‘I want to be clear. This is not on President Trump. No one expected a business man to completely understand the nuances, the complicated ins and outs of Washington and its legislative process.’

Anyone running for any government office should understand the “nuances, the complicated ins and outs of … (the) legislative process.” And if they DON’T they should accept help from those who do or, better still, don’t run for office.


As for the bill, the only way this will work is if the functioning republicans (not the Freedom Caucus) and the democrats get together and build something that will work and that the majority of both parties can vote for. Even more important, it should be GOOD for people. I don’t think some of the people in government (Old 45 tops the list) understand they are governing an entire nation and ALL the people in it, even the pink pussy hat wearing women carrying “Not My President” signs. Government subsidized healthcare really is life or death for millions of people in this country. It’s not politics at all.


It’s getting to be that time of year and I have to think about rattlesnakes and thinking about them means watching for them. I’ve seen hundreds of them on trails I’ve hiked in California, but I never learned to like them.

Reading trail guides that say, “We live here too!” showing a picture of a rattlesnake, my heart strings are not pulled by that cry for tolerance. I don’t believe in killing them. I understand the good they do, but as I’ve lost three dogs to rattlesnake bites I’m pretty sure snakes do not share my point of view.

After I lost Ariel to snakebite (In my YARD) I signed up Jasmine and Lily for Rattlesnake Avoidance Classes. That worked great. When we went back the next year for a refresher, Jasmine remembered it so well that when she heard a snake, she ran to a red pickup truck and tried to jump up in the back. I no longer had a red pickup truck and that one belonged to someone else. I caught her and put her in my car.

Neither Dusty nor Bear has had this training and I would like them to have it. It doesn’t only potentially save a dog, it teaches them how to alert their person.

Meanwhile, I’m teaching Bear to keep her head up and to stay near me on a trail. I believe she’s smart enough to learn the difference between summer and winter trails. Dusty already gets it.

And maybe this is not a Colorado problem, but if I were a snake I would definitely live in all the places I’ve hiked or walked so far except the road to the high school.

Here’s a story of some of my happier snake encounters…

Lamont and Dude Discuss the Meaning of Life

“How can you say it’s meaningless?”

“It is. Intrinsically, it’s meaningless. It might be meaningful to you, but that’s as far as it goes.”

“Lamont, are you sure you’re not a nihilist?”

“I’m sure. If I were, would I keep coming back? I don’t know why it bothers you so much that it’s meaningless. It’s really a good thing.”

“How do you figure that?”

“It’s like a work of art. You do it. You take pleasure in the doing of it and you’re in love with it for a while, then you put it away and go on to the next thing. Maybe someone likes it and maybe they want it because it has meaning for them. I mean, aren’t there things others do that you don’t ever ever want to do?”

“Oh yeah. But really, Lamont, after all these times coming back I think we should know the meaning of life.”

“Dude, what did life mean to you back when you were a single cell creature? Did you even have consciousness?”

“No, not per se.”

“Well, there you go. You got eaten, am I right?”

“We all pretty much always get eaten unless we’re top predators. And then we get eaten post mortem.”

“If we have any meaning at all, it’s as food.”

“Wow. Your philosophy is so bleak, Lamont.”

“Not as bleak as trying to make sense out of Heidegger.”

“Oh! That’s right! I keep forgetting! You were once a philosophy professor!”

“Metaphysics, no less. It made me yearn for my time as a…”

“Woolly Mammoth?”

“No, silly. Velociraptor. I wish that iteration had not been so violently and conclusively aborted.”

“I’m with you, man. Maybe that’s the source of your despairing life view?”



Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a couple of years ago. Because they remember many of their past incarnations, they have a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.

More Cryptic than T.S. Eliot

Yesterday my friends and I returned to Penitente Canyon to finish our hike. There we  saw this sign, one of the most puzzling bits of signage in my experience. I have never, in all my hiking, seen such an absurd and confusing sign. The words were bizarre and what did the 10 mean?

BLT-Lagunas-30OCT08-12_smallIn the mountains of California where I hiked most, there were no signs like this anywhere. There was a trail head. There were markers where trails intersected (such as the Pacific Crest Trail intersecting the Big Laguna Trail) and that was it. Not even on mountain bike trails.

In Switzerland, there are universal markers (universal for Europe) on rocks and trees and the ubiquitous and reassuring Wanderweg sign. Sometimes at an intersection of trails, the Wanderweg signs will tell you what you will find in each of the various directions. Trails are marked more like ski areas. Yellow — a nice walk for anyone. Red and white — 57400374moderately challenging. Blue and white — technical skills are needed (minimum self-arrest with ice axe). I am familiar with those. (That’s not to say I haven’t been lost on hiking trails in Switzerland.) Our hike yesterday in Penitente Canyon would get a red and white sign in Switzerland.

OH well. My hiking style has always been to know where the sun is, find distant landmarks, have and use a map. Even so, it looks like I’ll have to learn a new trail language.

Flumoxed by this “Trail Confidence Marker” I decided I should do some research. I’m NOT in Switzerland or in California, I’m here and that sign is here, too. Turns out the sign is exactly what it says. It’s a sign to tell the person looking at it to be confident they are on a trail. My research says they show up when there are numerous trails. The “Trail Confidence Marker” was at an intersection of three trails. That made the sign the most ambiguous thing there as far as I was concerned.

Now I know these are mostly used by mountain bikers to navigate through a landscape that’s a lot faster than it is for hikers. That explains why it’s high, very new, very bright and in a location that for someone on foot would not diminish anyone’s confidence.

It’s interesting to me that the earth is different depending on how you’re traveling it. A map for trains is a different earth than a map for bicycles or feet. The speed through which we move through the world determines the map we’re using.

Here I am negotiating a trail that, three years ago, I could not have gone up or down.

Ordinary, Schmordinary

Several years ago, when I was pitching Martin of Gfenn I found an agent who looked and read great (based on his website). I really hoped this guy would WANT to represent my book. Most of the pitch letters I sent out were carefully crafted (that’s a word that doesn’t make my teeth itch in this context) but the people to whom I sent them were just addresses. This man was real and I thought “Wow, if he wants to read it, he’ll love it and we’ll have a deal.”

In my pitch I wrote that the story told about an ordinary person to whom extraordinary things happened. The protagonist is just a kid and the kid happens to get leprosy. Because of that he can’t fulfill his artistic promise and has to find meaning in his life anyway.

The agent wrote back that people don’t want to read about ordinary people. They want to read about extraordinary people, the rich and famous. I didn’t understand at that point in my my writing life that the job of an agent isn’t to find good books but to find books he’s pretty sure will sell.

All this led me to discover how much I admire the “ordinary” and don’t think there’s anything “ordinary” about it. The characters in my novels are mostly ordinary people. If a famous person appears at all, it’s out of necessity.

Sunday when I went to church (sounds normal enough but I haven’t done it since 1981) I walked in the little sanctuary of St. Stephen the Martyr here in Monte Vista. It was empty except for my friend, Elizabeth, who had organized my appearance in church and presentation to her study group afterward. Elizabeth is in her mid-70s, energetic and bright. She was sitting behind the organ practicing for the service, sitting in the golden light of the stained glass windows, completely and totally ordinary.

I don’t think there’s anything less ordinary than the lives lived by ordinary people. There’s a developmentally disabled man who rides his bike past my house. He knows my dogs — mostly he knows Dusty — and if Dusty barks as the man rides by, I hear the man say, “Be quiet, Dusty.” One windy day when my trash can was out, some cardboard had blown into my neighbor’s yard. This man stopped on his bike, got off, put the cardboard back and turned the trash can so the wind wouldn’t blow things out of it. Completely ordinary.

A man at the store gets his shopping cart. He sees me waiting my turn, hands me the cart he had just gotten and smiles. Ordinary.

My neighbor learns I’m having company and comes over with cookies and muffins for me and my guests. Ordinary.

I drop a blender jar on my foot and get a deep cut at the base of my big toe. I need stitches. I go out front and see my neighbor watering his lawn. “Bob, I need a ride to the hospital.” He turns off the water, opens his garage, gets out the car and comes over to get me. Ordinary.

I’m heading to school early in the morning. My next door neighbor sees me and comes running out, “Martha, come and see something beautiful!” I go into her house to see two little blond girls, 2 years old, twins, sitting in high chairs. They are the sisters of the two boys for whom my neighbor is a foster mother. Their parents are junkies living on the street. My neighbor ends up adopting all four kids. Ordinary.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
(Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard“)

My neighbors and I get into the car and head to a canyon and take a hike. We’re just three little ladies wandering around in this extraordinary cathedral of stone, a caldera. It’s a beautiful day, though a storm is coming later. We stop halfway and eat mandarin oranges. We don’t solve the world’s problems — we don’t even discuss them. For a while we are suspended above them. I am very happy because I can do this hike now. It’s not a major hike, nothing Reinhold Messner would even look at. Just an ordinary trail with normal ups and downs, but I’m doing it and for me it is not ordinary at all.

The trail I walk most often with the dogs near the river is just a sandy mile next to a slough. To the south is the sewage treatment plant. To the north they’re building a place where they will be making malt for beer. It’s on the edge of town, no wilderness (except for the wild animals who traverse it). There’s nothing special about it, it’s a completely ordinary place that looks like this:

The Symptoms AREN’T the Disease – a Fable

“Why aren’t you better?”


“I’ve given you all the right medication to fight these symptoms. Why aren’t you better?”

Hearing that, I felt discouraged. It had been nearly three years of this. Asthma, no sense of taste, no sense of smell, poor hearing. I went through a large box of tissues almost daily. In my car was a large shopping bag full of used tissues just from the time I spent on the road driving to the schools where I taught each day.

I couldn’t hear my students when they asked me questions. I was constantly exhausted because I seldom got more than an hour or two of sleep. I hadn’t tasted anything in a long time. I was feeling more and more alienated from others, sort of locked in a cocoon of sensory deprivation. I was grateful I could still see. It’s true she’d given me every known asthma medication. I’d sucked tons of steroid powders into my lungs to no avail, but it still amazes me that my doctor yelled at me for not getting better. I think she should have said, “You need to see a specialist.”

Which I did. On my own hook.

This wasn’t the first time. When my hip went south, my doctor didn’t order X-rays of my hip because I was only 53, “too young” to have what I actually DID have and what my symptoms pointed to (classically). It was two years of my “not getting better” (and that doctor yelled at me, too) before he ordered the right X-rays.

These doctors didn’t see that I had any problem at all. For both of them I was a complaining older woman, probably looking for attention. With the meds I’d been given, my asthma should have been under control. What was wrong with me? Based on the X-rays, there was nothing wrong with me, why did I keep coming back? I was probably just after painkillers, right? I am sure they both had a lot of patients like that (there were some among my friends), but I wasn’t one.

It seems there is often a disconnect between what something actually IS and what we believe it to be based on external (sometimes extraneous) factors, what we expect, or what is common. I have a rare condition called “Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease” that affects 1 in 10,000 people. It took two specialists — an ear, nose and throat guy and an allergist — to identify the problem, and I’m very close to fine as long as I take two medications. And, once the right X-rays were taken, it was clear that, though only in my early 50s, I had advanced osteoarthritis in my hip. That was reality.

What the specialists did was question. Both of them had the courage to say, “I don’t know what this is, but it could be… We have some tests we can run.” They didn’t offer me anything until they had some answers, and I think, if they’d come up with NO answer they would have said so. “I don’t know.” When the problem was finally diagnosed (by the allergist) the ENT doctor said, “That’s a new one for me. I’m glad she figured it out for us.” US.

It’s amazing how uncomfortable people are saying, “I don’t know,” and yet, if it’s the truth, it’s the point where discoveries begin. It’s a very elegant sentence, really, nothing to be ashamed of because…

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“Can We Get Engaged?”

Where I live people are incredibly friendly and helpful and funny and smart. I love it. Today I drove to “the city” (Alamosa, population 9,000) for groceries. I shop at City Market, a cousin of Ralph’s and King Soopers. I was picking up stuff I forgot when I went there on Sunday.

A few weeks ago, I was rear-ended, nearly, in the store by a large old guy in a motorized shopping cart. I said, “Guess I need brake lights.”

He said, “That’d help.” And told me some stories about his girlfriend rear-ending his truck’s trailer at a red light.

I saw him again today. He recognized me. Now this man is 70+, quite large, on oxygen but somewhere in that marginally ambulatory old guy is a cute kid. It’s weird how that happens. He stopped me and said, “Are you a platinum blond?”

I said, “No, it used to be red.”

He said, “I love redheads. Can we get engaged?”

I said, “God no. Been there, done that.” I patted his shoulder. “I’d rather die.”

“Not marriage,” he said, “just engaged.”

A woman coming up the aisle (our age group) watched the whole show and was laughing.

I don’t think of myself as a 65 year old chubby lady with white hair. In my daily life (unless I’m looking in the mirror) I’m just Martha. Sometimes I’m surprised to see a photo of myself and wonder how my Aunt Jo got in the picture. It happened today.

I have severe arthritis in my left knee but (for some reason, a little voice?) I don’t want surgery. I know that leg strength ameliorates the struggles of arthritis. I have had arthritis in that knee for 20 years and I used to run on it, no problem, back in my hiking days.

So, I have been working on strengthening my leg for three years (things take longer when you’re older) to get it back so I could at least hike hills. After all, I live in the Rocky Mountains and there are places I want to go.The biggest help is my Airdyne. This is a stationary bicycle made by Schwinn. Many bad-ass body builders think it’s torture. I don’t. I actually think it’s fun. I have a TV set up in front of it and videos of bike rides in places I would like to be, mostly high mountain rides through the Dolomites, the French Alps, the Pyrenees. One video lets me bike ride through the center of Milan, a city I love and “seeing” it, even virtually, is great and distracting. At this point I’m riding 14 “miles” in an hour and my goal is 20. I “ride” three times a week and walk the dogs all the other days. When the weather gets to the point where it stays warm, I have an actual real-life mountain bike.

I’ve always loved hiking hills. Running hills was even better. At this point in my life,  if I can “hobble” up and down hills I’ll be satisfied. So far so good.

A week and a half ago my friends and I went to Penitente Canyon and there was a beautiful, muddy, snowy, rocky steep hill. I climbed it. I climbed down, too. When I was at the top, about to come down, I asked my friend to take a photo of me up there. Unfortunately, Aunt Jo showed up.


One of the discoveries of retirement has been the various realizations of what really matters to me. We do not change. What we are fundamentally remains who we are until the end, I think. My biggest source of happiness has always been getting outdoors and moving through some wild space — the deciduous forests near my childhood home in Nebraska were my first experiences. I might show up in photos as Aunt Jo, but I’m really a 13 year old kid running hell-bent through a grassy field toward a forest trail and some hard hills.

Back when Sitting Down Was Difficult

One of the biggest issues of my teen years was whether girls should be allowed to wear pants to school. Yeah. Really. This had been a point of contention for a while. It didn’t just suddenly happen when I entered high school.

What finally made the school board accept the idea of girls wearing pants to school (1970) were our skirts. They were barely skirts at all. Even if we left home wearing skirts, by the time we got to our first class, we’d rolled up the top so the skirt was much less skirt. The boys loved them and had all kinds of ways to successfully explore the upper regions without our knowing it — such as dropping pencils…

In fact, sitting down was difficult. I was editor of the yearbook. A girl we all (the yearbook staff) disliked (and who disliked us) was named homecoming queen. When the best picture of her ALSO showed a bright white triangle, we decided not to black it out. It’s there, bright, white and on page something or another.


It’s true that they were cold on that mile walk to school. I was sick a lot, but I was cool. I didn’t know how cool or to whom until my ten year high school reunion in 1980, an event I attended under duress (pun there, ha ha). My mom, my aunt and my 11th grade English teacher all put pressure on me to go.

When I got home from work the day before I was to leave for this event, (I lived in Denver, my high school was in Colorado Springs, an hour drive away) I found a boot on my wheel for not paying tickets. I usually walked to work at a law firm in downtown Denver, only 3/4 a mile away. No reason to drive and pay for parking right?


In any case, I wasn’t going anywhere until I paid my fines. I took it as a sign and breathed a sigh of relief, but THEN…

“You can use my car, Martha Ann,” said my Aunt Martha. “I’m not going anywhere and if I need to go somewhere, I’ll call your mom.”


My mom had bought me a very pretty dress — white with a pattern of pink and blue, sort of a frothy polyester gauze, a wrap dress that tied at the waist. I think she thought I’d meet a long lost love, get married and live happily ever after.

So, I went. And it was there I finally learned who had really liked the show afforded by my miniskirts back in high school. As I walked by a dancing couple, the girl stopped dancing and turned to me. It was the head cheer leader of my class, the most popular girl, a pretty, bouncy, long-haired A-list classmate. “Martha? Oh my god!” She reached down and opened the wrap dress and said, “You still have those beautiful legs. I used to watch you walk down the hall. You want to go in the Ladies and do a line?”

Minimally Interesting Quotidian Post from Hell

Because it’s their room, I let Dusty and (mostly) Bear decorate the back yard which functions as the dog run. It’s covered with many charming and engaging holes and shredded cardboard boxes. My efforts to keep it clean are minimal, limited to the necessary. During winter, when most of it is frozen, (it’s on the north side of the house) I can forget about it, but spring arrived and today I must go out and rearrange their furniture.

Snow (yay!) is in the forecast for day after tomorrow and that makes me very happy. It’s an Equinox Storm. What’s so great about winter?

  1. No ticks
  2. No rattlesnakes
  3. No gardening
  4. No need to mow the lawn
  5. Walking and hiking more likely not to involve other people so Dusty’s barking doesn’t scare anyone
  6. Cool animal tracks in the snow
  7. Gorgeous light
  8. Cold air
  9. I look horrible in shorts
  10. Bear loves snow
  11. I love snow and in March it doesn’t last long
  12. We need the moisture

I have informed Bear but she doesn’t have any sense of time so it doesn’t matter.

I did my first public reading from my work on Sunday at my friend’s church in their study group. It went well, easier than I expected. It was nice to have the chance to read to a small group of interested people. I do not know when or if I’ll ever do it again, but I look forward to next time. I also talked for 30 minutes about the Reformation and its beginnings and the horror that was set up because Luther and Zwingli could not agree on communion. No one was bored and no one seemed to be depressed before, during or after. I tried to keep it light, you know, another light chat about death and torture.

In the current installment of the Schneebelungenlied, I’m learning about things I never cared about and still don’t care about. I was much happier being a medievalist than I am now being a scholar of American colonial history. I am still not sure I want to persevere. It’s a good story, but it might not be mine to tell.

It’s very strange to realize that back then, I would not have come here. Nothing would have enticed or driven me to get on one of those ships. I’ve learned now a lot about things they did not teach me even in college classes on American history. And, I was an American literature major and there are innumerable things I never saw during even those comparatively intense classes. Even in grad school these things never came up in seminars or the three-quarters long intensive seminar on American literature taught by my thesis adviser who is really and truly a god among American literature scholars.

It’s made me think (again) that literature should not be limited to fancy stuff like Emily Dickinson or Emerson or other high-falutin’ scholar beloved work, but the NEWSPAPER. Stephen Crane called the newspaper, “The wisdom of the age,” and I think he was right. Back when I was in grad school, this was called “popular culture” and I already leaned toward it; my thesis was about a women’s magazine and that LONG before women’s lit was invented. It was a place where I could see into the minds of the people walking around on the earth much more than I could through the lens of what has survived centuries of criticism to earn a place in the pantheon and or just didn’t disappear so we know about it.

BUT…if anyone ever wants to know about 18th century misogyny in the Irish slave trade (did you get all that? Freckle-Faced Lives Matter!), I have a newspaper advertisement and a letter both of which advise someone in Ireland who’s hoping to make a quick quid by sending “servants” to America from the streets of Dublin, “Don’t send women slaves. Women are more trouble than they are worth.”

Yeah, let’s just sweep that under the rug of time.