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Support Medieval Archaeology and Art History!

6 Feb


Do you like history? Are you a Francophile? Fond of architecture? Have a secret desire to be Indiana Jones? Love medieval monks like no one else? (Yeah ok, that one tends to rank a bit lower for most people.)


But, if you dig any of those things, check out “Of Monks and Men”, my crowdfunding project on! There are lots of details about the project available on the page, but feel free to ask any questions you might have about the project!


Here’s another link, if you would like to share it:


Where have all the Relics Gone?

20 Feb

I feel like these days, relics (and relic worship) get a bad rap. Relics were an important part of medieval religion and served a variety of perfectly legitimate and reasonable roles. For one, they literally brought Christianity, as an abstract concept, down to earth. Saints were, first and foremost, people who walked and talked, lived and breathed; basically, they were people too. Everybody needs a role model, and saints were (for the most part) pretty decent folks who seemed like fine role models. Saint Simeon Stylites (c.390-425), for instance, was a Syrian holy man who was influential in settling local disputes and well-known for his acts of piety (and a really good track record with the Big Guy).


Also, as his name suggests, he is also famous for sitting atop a column for 37 years in the middle of a desert. (It may have been a desert, but they built a very snazzy monastery around Simeon and his pillar to accommodate visitors/followers/pilgrims/etc.)


As challenging as the logistics of living on top of a column sound to most of us, Simeon was actually a popular role model. There’s actually a whole category of “Stylite saints” who demonstrated their piety, humility, and faith (among other top-notch character traits) by sitting on top of columns. In fact, there’s a Saint Simeon the Younger (521-597), who seems to have been encouraged by his mother (Martha) from his childhood to lead an ascetic life. She may or may not have been involved in the construction of his first column (he moved around several times over the course of his life). She’s what I like to think of as one of the earliest examples of a stage mother. (Saint mother?) Fun fact: she’s venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Church- take that as you will. What I was going for with this story is that saints seem like nice enough folks, and in life serve a variety of purposes. (Although, lets be honest, martyrdom is a rough way to go- Jerome (3rd century) got grilled on a gridiron by the Romans and Catherine of Alexandria (282-305) was tortured on the “breaking wheel”.)

Even after death (yes, I’m getting to the relics part), saints continue to serve a social/political/cultural role in their communities. By “communities”, I mean towns, cities, and villages, as well as religious communities, like monasteries. For instance, especially in the 9th-12th centuries, saints were seen as the patrons of the communities where they’re relics were interred. From a legal standpoint, if there was a monastery that owned/held lands with serfs, those serfs could technically be servants of the patron saint who relics resided in that monastery (the monks acted as holy accountants in that case, I suppose). Thus, when the local peasants/serfs/whatnots had grievances, they could take themselves to the reliquaries and address their issues directly to the saint (in addition to other courses of action). Additionally, religious communities that held relics could use them to redress their own grievances, as in the case of the “humiliation of the saints”, a ceremony in which the canons or monks could take their relics down from their usual spots and place them before the altar, possibly covered with thorns, as an act of humility. This was usually done in order to pressure someone (like a local lord who was holding out on something) to give in to the demands of the religious community.

For instance, when the Count of Anjou, Fulk Nerra (more on him in another post), came crashing through the church of Saint Martin at Tours in 996/997, damaging some of the buildings and mightily perturbing the canons of the church (canons are kind of like monks, but not). In retaliation, they performed the humiliation of the saints’ relics and refused to allow people from the castle into the church for services (since monks and canons aren’t allowed to do excommunications, this was as coercive as they could get). Eventually, Fulk Nerra gave in and humbly apologized. I this way, relics (saints) played an important part in how different groups (peasants, monks, canons, noblepeople) negotiated with each other in the Middle Ages. Relics were the earthly representations of the saints, who were themselves intermediaries between humanity and Christ.

Head reliquary of St. Eustace, 13th century, British Museum.

Relics abounded in the Middle Ages. They were taken and translated (many out of Rome to places north), created (new saints are being made all the time!), traded and gifted all over Europe and the Middle East (let’s not forget the Byzantines, who are responsible for some truly fantastic reliquaries). Even later, various members of the Catholic ruling aristocracy in early modern Europe loved gifting each other relics. At one point, the noted relic-collector Philip II of Spain (1527-1598) was asked by a secretary if he wanted to include a gift of one of his relics (he had thousands) with a missive to one of his powerful Hapsburg relatives. Philip’s reply was something along the lines of  “sure, choose anything, most of them are probably fakes anyways.” (That, from one of the 16th century’s most high-profile Catholics.)

Turning away from history for a moment, I recently visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which had a small number of reliquaries on display. Just sitting there, without any explanation of reliquaries or relics themselves, and no mention at all of the specific relic that presumably resided within at some point. Being me, I was brimming with irritating questions (thanks to Matt and Richie for keeping it cool when I suggested we spend 5 hours at the museum and insisted on seeing everything): where is the relic? Was it in the collection, but not on display? Why would someone separate the relic (surely a delicate item, religious considerations notwithstanding) from its protective reliquary? When did they get separated? What has happened to relics these days?

Ivory Arm Relic, 15th century, French. Boston MFA. This was the relic that prompted the questions.

For another relic, I mostly have the story: in the case of the head relic of St. Eustace, above, the British Museum holds both the relic and the reliquary separately. They were together (the skull of the saint being inside the silver gilt and wooden reliquary) until a 20th century conservation effort separated the two. (Sometimes, I imagine that the life of a conservationist gets weird. Separating heads from metal cases after 800 years falls under the weird job tasks category.) Now, only the reliquary is displayed, while the skull is kept off display. In 2011, the British Museum had a special exhibition of objects of personal devotion (“Treasures of Heaven“), which featured a wide range of reliquaries, large and small, from a varieties of times and locations. I distinctly remember several of these reliquaries (mostly the type with the window, or the box type with the slide-off front) had their relics open for viewing. As I recall, some of these reliquaries had been loaned to the British Museum from religious institutions, including from the Vatican collections (it was a very special exhibition). Maybe that’s what makes the difference? Perhaps secular institutions treat their relics differently (preferencing artistic value over the religious significance of keep relic and reliquary as one) than religious institutions? Then again, many churches have replaced reliquaries and/or changed the way of displaying relics in the early modern and modern period (the Reformation, among other things, was rough on relics). Still, I’m left wondering (per the title of this post), where have all the relics gone? Have they been destroyed? Are they sitting around mouldering in private collections after having been snapped up by 18th century gentry on the Grand Tour? Statistically, what percent are still displayed at churches/for the purposes of devotion?


If you’re looking for some great reading on Simeon Stylites, you can’t go wrong with Peter Brown. If you’re looking for an article, try:

Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity”, Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 61, 1971, pp. 80-101.

If you’re interested in relics and various practices involving relics, including the ritual of Humiliation of the Saints, there’s a lot of great literature out there. I would recommend:

Patrick Geary, Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Charming 12th Century Nuns

14 Sep

There’s this widespread misconception that Medieval people are boring. Add to that the idea that monks and nuns are boring (especially Medieval monks and nuns). If you currently hold this belief, I am going to have to swat you with my proverbial gloves and insist on a duel. Or maybe just fisticuffs, as I’ve never really been fond of getting up before dawn.

Medieval people are fun, especially monks and nuns (seriously, if you were cooped up all day, everyday for the better part of your life, you’d have to find ways to entertain yourself, wouldn’t you?). Evidence of this can be seen in various marginalia in manuscripts- there are the ever-amusing “I’m cold” or “this seat is very uncomfortable”, all the way to the more raucous sketches of steaming piles of poo and “I miss women”-style commentary.

In s similar vein (“nuns are fun”), I recently ran across a poem, written by a nun from Auxerre on a roll meant to honor the recently deceased Abbess of the Holy Trinity in Caen. The Abbess was no less than the daughter of William the Conqueror, Matilda, who died in 1113. Amongst the somber and respectful messages that I’m sure were written on the roll came this lively bit of poetry from a nun:

All Abbesses deserve to die

Who order subject nuns to lie

In dire distress and lonely bed

Only for giving love its head.

I speak who know, for I’ve been fed,

For loving, long on stony bread.

Charming. And this was on the Medieval equivalent of a public sympathy card. I don’t want to get into too much speculation, but I would guess that this particular nun had some problems with the strictness with the rule (or with authority, or just with “visitors”). I’ll just let you think on that.

(Poem was borrowed from Southern, R. W. The Making of the Middle Ages. London: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1953. 24.)

BBC America, “Copper”, and Haberdashery

26 Aug

Against my better judgement, I watched the season opener of BBC America’s Copper. The show is, as far as I can tell, about a rough and tumble detective named Kevin Corcoran in 1864 New York. I was wary to watch it because the commercials made it look like the BBC interpreted 19th century New York City (i.e. the biggest city/most urban area in the United States already by that time) as the Wild Wild West- muddy streets, wooden storefronts, and all. I did decide to watch it; however, because they lured me in with promises of a mid-episode sneak peak at the next season of Doctor Who (plus I’m weak to the wiles of historical fiction in any format). Despite their commercials, the characterization of 1864 New York City is not as bad as I anticipated. Id even go as far as to say that over, all the show is okay. But I have to say that my overriding thought while watching the show is: “OH MY GOSH- HATS!”

Haberdashery is such a lost art. I feel like great hats sneaked off the scene somewhere in the 60s, leaving Americans in particular in boring, bare-headed turmoil. Now I have to think about styling my hair every day, when I could have been gallivanting around in a fabulous hat. Not that I’d give up the internet, microwavable chicken nuggets, daily hot showers, or anything to to go back in time and live out my hat-wearing fantasies,  but still… I’m hoping that at some point, hats come back in fashion in a big way. Yes, Copper is mostly about men (and their bowlers, top hats, and assorted other headgear), but the “OMG HATS!” feeling is even stronger during this TV show than the feeling I get watching Downton Abbey or any incarnation of Masterpiece Theater. (Hrm…I’m getting the feeling that I’m more likely to experience the reification of haberdashery in Great Britain than I am in America.)

Perhaps I’m getting distracted from the point of the show by all of the hats (I am definitely getting distracted from the point of the show by the hats), but at least it keeps my mind off of the occasionally strange accents that pop up (yes, BBC America, I understand that NYC circa 1864 was a cultural and linguistic melting pot…no, I do not think that means all New Yorkers pronounced “about” like a native Vancouverite), and the logical inconsistencies that crop up in any TV show. (Police back then had, do now have, and will continue to have in the future, jurisdictions and districts. They do not just run around investigating crimes wherever they feel like. Also- they never miss a shot, ever? With a gun in 1864? Really? Seems unlikely, but hey, I’m no firearms expert.)

All that being said, I will probably continue to watch the show. And I encourage you to watch the show (although if you’re looking for historical New York City with a slightly lighter flare, I suggest New Amsterdam, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is now in Game of Thrones, another quasi-historical/fictional show I enjoy.), because there are never enough historical-ish shows on television, at least for my taste anyways. I tend to love whatever BBC puts on air anyways, why should Copper be any different? As a warning, it’s a little dark, and probably inappropriate for children (more than just in the normal crime/detective show gore kind of way, since I think CSI, Bones, and NCIS are all appropriate for children. Copper is inappropriate in an on-screen violence, naked people, and prostitutes kind of way). Still, it features the excellent writing, zinging one-liners, good acting, and well-executed settings that are hallmarks of any BBC show.  Go for it!

P.S. In addition to the frequent “OMG HATS!” feeling, this show also elicits a well-earned “WOAHHHH, MUTTONCHOPS…” reaction as well. It is the 1860s…

P.P.S. You have to love the BBC for letting their writers use whatever vocabulary they want. Dumbing it down for the Americans? No way! Bring on the 19th century words!

What do the Great Depression and Pieter Bruegel the Elder Have in Common?

12 Aug

Funny how things are sometimes. For instance, yesterday I was listening to the soundtrack to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou and up came the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, which is a song first recorded in 1928 by Harry McClintock. In case you’re not familiar with either soundtracks or Depression-Era folk music, the song is essentially about a hobo’s paradise, full of plentiful food, alcohol, and other goods (streams of lemonade, licorice trees, a whiskey lake). On a whim, I ran a quick google on the song, to find out when it was written (e.i. whether it was actually from the time period that the movie was set in, or made up in the 2000s for the sake of the film). Turns out, it is originally to the time period. BUT, my dear friend Wikipedia also informs me that the “hobo’s paradise” described in the song, ostensibly describing a feeling particular to the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, actually has a connection to the Middle Ages. And there’s nothing I like more than a connection to the Middle Ages.

Turns out that the idea of a hobo’s paradise has been around for a long time, centuries even. In Medieval Europe (and following periods), the concept is called Cockaigne. Essentially it’s a lazy man’s paradise, where there’s tons of food and luxury goods and no one ever has to work.

In a fun bit of linguistic-ness, the name Cockaigne (which is the Middle-English iteration) is also recorded as the Latin Cucaniensis, or better yet, the modern English “Cuckoo-land”. German writings have it as Schlaraffenland, which, after much internet searching, I believe is not connected to monkeys/apes (der Affe/die Äffin). My favorite versions of the name are the Swedish Lubberland (“lubber” referring to a fat, lazy man) and the Dutch Luilekkerland, which Wikipedia translates as “lazy, luscious land”. Excellent!

Medieval folks (and, I’ll admit, Renaissance folks) really enjoy their utopias. Cockaigne worked itself into a lot of poems, books, and works of art. There are some particularly memorable Northern Renaissance paintings, such as this one by Pieter Bruegel the Elder:


Das Schlaraffenland, 1567. Pieter Bruegel the Elder, oil on wood panel. München, Alte Pinakothek.

Or, for people who like things who prefer things a little more Medieval, Cockaigne ends up as a topic for discussion in the Kildare poems, which date to the mid-14th century. Manuscript lovers and paleography buffs, feast your eyes:

The Land of Cockaigne, MS Harley 913, ff. 3r-6v. London, British Library.

As in the tough times in the early 20th century, the Land of Cockaigne was a popular topic among peasants and poor folks. Of course, back then, although the land of plenty was alluring, it was also a scary idea for the regular people (temptation being what it is, and all). So while it was nice to think that there was a magical bountiful place out there, it was also seen as tempting people to sloth and laziness and generally encouraging them not to be good, hardworking, God-fearing people. And that was definitely bad. I love a good moral conundrum.

The moral of this story is that Cockaigne is cool- cool enough that people have been talking about it for centuries! Cool enough that people sing about it, write about it, and paint it- now and then. In addition to the Middle Ages and moral conundrums, I also love me some artistic continuity. Now, if you’re ever sitting around playing six degrees of artistic separation (is that a real thing? It ought to be a real thing. I’m adding it to my list of party games), you will be able to instantly connect Pieter Bruegel the Elder and hobos in the 1920s, or Harry McClintock and Irish-dialect Middle English verse!

Historical Hotties: Hedy Lamarr

29 Jun

It’s been a while since my last installment in the “Historical Hotties” series, but while roaming across the internet yesterday, I can across my new favorite historical woman. I’m going to put aside my bias against the 20th century (it’s not history yet!). Seriously, this lady is awesome. Her name is Hedy Lamarr (born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler). Besides seriously considering naming my fictional first-born child Hedwig (boy, girl, doesn’t really matter- its a fictional child. How awesome is that name?), Ms. Lamarr is very cool is several respects. First, she was born in Austria-Hungary in 1913 (now-defunct country at a really critical time period- you’ll recall that thing they call the “Great War”; she was interesting even before she was born).

Of course, she is also world-renowned for her beauty (she is a Historical Hottie after all). She was a huge movie star in the Golden Age of Cinema, and was contracted (back in the day, a studio basically “owned” an actor via contract, actors couldn’t just run around making movies with any studio they wanted) with the biggest, baddest studio of them all, MGM (the roaring lion one). She was more than just any average pretty lady in a movie- she was a straight up sex symbol, right from the beginning of her career. At age 18, she starred in a movie called Ecstasy, in which she shockingly simulated lady-pleasure (this was in 1933 people!). Her husband was not pleased. (It didn’t help that the movie was about the stifled young wife of an evil older man- and her husband was more than a decade older than Ms. Lamarr.)

As you might know, things got rough for Jewish folks in central Europe right around the mid-1930s (Austria: the land of Hedy’s birthplace…also Hitler). The ingenious Ms. Lamarr disguised herself as her maid (very Padme Amidala) and fled the country in 1937. During the next year, Hedwig went from Paris to London, where she met studio executive Louis B. Mayer (the second “M” in MGM). Consequently, she moved to Hollywood and changed her name from Hedwig Kiesler to Hedy Lamarr.

In Hollywood, she became an even bigger star, usually playing super sexy roles. She made a ton of film between her arrival in the States in 1938 and the end of her cinema career in 1957. While balanced a very successful movie career and a pair of World Wars, she was married six times and had six children.

While that is all very well, what really makes her awesome in my book is the fact that, in addition to everything else going on in her life, she was also an influential computer scientist. I don’t know about you, but I can’t name very many famous female computer scientists (although, I admit, it isn’t my area of expertise- I can name a large number of influential medieval nuns). This famous computer scientist also happens to be a famous movie star (okay, I challenge you to think of a famous computer scientist/movie combo). She (and a neighbor named George Antheil) patented something called a frequency-hopping spread-spectrum communication system. I’m a little blurry on the technicals, but the technology she invented is the basis for everyday essentials like Bluetooth, CDMA (used by cell phones), and COFDM (used for wi-fi. Wi-fi, people- this is huge!)

The moral of this story is that Hedy Lamarr is undoubtedly a serious Historical Hottie (and general all-around total package).

Archaeology in the News: I Wish the News were Better

27 Jun

Usually, I get really excited when archaeology makes the national or world news. (The same type of excitement I reserve for archaeology-themed TV specials and particularly well-researched historical video games and movies.) Unfortunately, the news in this case is really bad.

“Archaeology is destruction” is an oft-used phrase, but it is especially tragic to learn about a site that is slowly self-destructing. I recently read a feature article from the BBC about the site of Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan. The site represents a gigantic Bronze Age (my favorite Age) city- okay, not terribly gigantic under today’s definition, but in the Bronze Age its population of 35,000 would have been positively metropolitan. In fact, it was one of the largest cities in the Indus River Valley civilization. The city is thought to have been first constructed in 2,600 BC and abandoned around 1,800 BC. It is very well laid out (who doesn’t love excellent ancient town planning?), with nice straight streets and amenities like public baths, venues that could hold thousands of people, and is overall a great example of urban infrastructure. (We aren’t talking mere Minoan palace complexes here, people! It’s a whole beautiful city full of innovation!)

The Great Bath and Granary


An aerial view of the impressive city

So what is the sad part of this, you ask? Unfortunately, now that the city has been largely excavated, is had begun to self-construct. The exposed brickwork has been crumbling, which means that the site, which is an amazing example of an Indus (or Harappa) civilization city is at risk of being lost to future visitors and academics. Protected underground for thousands of years, the excavated parts of the site are now exposed to harsh climate conditions and issues. Worse, the site’s lagging popularity as a tourist site means that it had lost needed funding as well (funding issues have put another important site, Pompeii in danger, too). Possibly the most upsetting part of the situation is that “restoration” work (done presumably by archaeologists) is actually contributing to the site continued destruction.

Hearing about things like this makes me depressed. rarely is there the power of funding to help sites like these (and at best, they can only attempt to “arrest” the decay. Thousands of years- it was in the ground for thousands of years! But now, it has been suggested that if there isn’t drastic action, the site could be completely destroyed in the next 20 years. Some birds have longer lifespans than that! These things can’t just be replaced.

Here is the original article from the BBC:

When the Mutally Unintelligible is Intelligible

6 Jun

Aw heck, I just like the word “intelligible”. Always kinds of sounds like its tying your tongue in knots when you’re saying it. Ties my fingers in knots typing it.

I was preparing myself for the upcoming Disney/Pixar film Brave, which follows a young Scottish lass and she tries to save her family from an ancient curse. Everyone already knows how much I love Disney movies, and anything claiming to be set pretty much anywhere in history (fictional, magical, medieval Scotland? You’ve got me pinned down, Pixar!), so naturally (or if you’re German, naturlich, which is like one of their favorite phrases, as far as I can tell) I’m excited for this movie, which comes out June 22nd. Seeing the preview, I noticed that Pixar has decided to go with voice actors who have (or are using) Scottish accents, which in my opinion is a pretty bold move. I mean, the movie is primarily aimed at a market of American children, so Pixar appears to be pretty confident about those kids’ ability to understand one of the more difficult English-language dialects (which, at times isn’t really English at all). I consider myself fairly talented at understanding accents and dialects (I watch the BBC all the time, that should do it, right?), but even I was having some trouble following what the characters were saying in the minute-long preview.

So I decided to brush up on my “och aye”s and do some researching into Scottish accents on the good old internet (and any number of novels set in Scotland). Whilst doing that, I came across the phrase “Och aye, I ken it,” which means something along the lines of “yeah, I know”.

And then it hit me. Try to say it with a Scottish accent. If that is a challenge, go google it and see if you can come up with a soundbite of it. Now, German speakers, can you back me up here- doesn’t it sound a lot like “ich kenne es”, which would translate directly (if not really awkwardly) into “I know it”. Grammarians, bite your tongues, since I know that it wouldn’t be the native German speaker’s way of saying “yeah, I know”, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still translate with the same meaning. Anyways, a German speaker listening to Scottish English isn’t going to think it’s entirely sensible anyways, so I doubt they’ll hold the grammar against you. Still- think about it- the languages aren’t as mutually unintelligible as you might think! A German and a Scot might be able to understand eachother, if only for that one phrase! Isn’t that cool?! I’m just sitting here trying to imagine that situation.

I’m not a linguist, but if I was, I would greatly enjoy speculating why or how those two phrases in separate languages might sound similar. (The linguists, they are clever folks, I’m sure they could find a real explanation that isn’t just “hey, it’s a coincidence.”) As for me, I’m going to root for some sort of 8th century Anglo-Saxon connection.

Adventures in Adulthood: The Dishwasher is YOU

31 May

So, as I’m settling into my new apartment, I’m beginning to come to terms with a major factor of my new place: there is no dishwasher. Ok, there is no electronic machine that washes the dishes. There is a dishwasher- me (insert “I told you so”-type comment from my parents here).


When I was doing dishes for the third time today (I got entirely too fancy with my scrambled eggs at breakfast), I was wincing away and wondering if dishes actually do get cleaned with a sponge and some magical, mysterious frothy liquid. It’s green for heaven’s sake! How can a green liquid sanitize my dishes?! Of course, then I remembered that dishwashing machines are relatively new inventions, only entering people’s homes in the middle of the 20th century. Heck, people have been hand washing their dishes/trenchers/meat spears for millenia, and have been totally fine, right? Right. Well…mostly. These are the same people who died of influenza in droves and got diptheria and things like that. Generally, whenever you’re reading about how depressingly low life expectancies were historically, one of the biggest explanations is always poor sanitation. Sanitation…as in clean dishes- ack! Makes me want to boil my sponge (do people do that? Can you even do that? Does it kill the germs? I’ve heard of people throwing things into the dishwasher to sanitize them…but of course I don’t have one of those. People of the universe, advise me! How do I know that my dishes are clean?).


After my historically-driven panic over the cleanliness of my dishes (dear friends and family, please don’t be afraid to visit- I promise I’m putting some serious elbow grease into scrubbing those suckers), it occurred to me that I should be thankful I know how to do dishes at all. Who knows- maybe in the future there will only be dishwashing machine ans people won’t know how to handwash things. I can totally imagine fictional-future-me standing in front of the sink waving around plates and spoons looking completely bewildered. (Or maybe washing is intuitive? Although, I’ve recently discovered that fewer of these sorts of things are intuitive than I thought…or maybe I just have a sub-par intuition?)


Just a final question (putting it out the the universe here): will your dishes still get clean if you wash them with cold water? I know the machines use steamy hot water, but they also don’t have hands to burn, either. With all my vigorous scrubbing, it isn’t pleasant to use really hot water for too long (secondary question: can you be boiled alive? Accidentally? Could I accidentally boil my hands like a chicken cutlet?). I do prefer using cold water (especially with the weather starting to get warm), but I also don’t want to sacrifice one iota of potential cleanliness.

Adventures in Adulthood: Pioneer Woman Tea

23 May

I know that I have been away from blogging for a while (okay, more like 6 months), but I plan on getting back into the swing of things. In recent news, I just moved north. Okay, I moved to Rhode Island, but in my head, saying I moved “North” sounds better. When I say it that way, I feel like I’m back in the Civil War era and that I’m proudly declaring myself a Yankee (“I do declare!”), or something along those lines.

Also, I have this weird mental block on “Rhode Island” as a concept. Despite now living here, I struggle to accept that it is a real place. In my head, it’s like some colonial myth (much like Anne Hutchinson)- a totally historical place that, since it is historical, must therefore be fictional (yeah, I know the logic there is a bit iffy, but it is what goes on inside my head, so that’s pretty iffy to start with). Sure, Philadelphia is a historic (even colonial) place, but it also exists, and frequently makes the news (okay, mostly for murders). Ah well, I’ll eventually wrap my head around the idea of Rhode Island. Now, the Rhode Island accent, that’s another matter. How on earth does the Rhode Island accent make sense?

Anyways, the moral of the story is that I’ve moved to a new city, and as a result, I seem to be missing a few necessary things. I’ve been set adrift in adulthood- wandering about in the wilderness of grown-up life. To be honest, it’s more than a bit terrifying (thank you parents, for everything; thank you former roommates for teaching me what vegetables are; thank you everyone I’ve spoken to in the last week for encouraging me). I went grocery shopping for the first time (first time in this new place- of course I’ve been grocery shopping before, but now it seems like a whole new ballgame) and nearly had a meltdown. My thought process went like this:

“What do normal people eat? I like frozen goods [reaching into the freezer section]- wait! I can’t cook frozen goods- I don’t have a microwave! Aaagh, what do real people do?? Soup! You can make soup in the microwave OR on the stove! Adults use the stove! I can be an adult! [reaching for soup cans] Wait- I can’t have soup- I don’t have any bowls, only plates. You can’t have soup on a plate, you just can’t. Noooooo!”

Incidentally, I got the soup. And I bought a bowl. One bowl. Ah well, you win some and you lose some. I’ll get more bowls later (because respectable adults have company, and they make food for their company, which requires them to own more than one bowl).

I also discovered a new way to apply one of my adult skills: boiling water. Usually, I microwave water for tea, but of course, I don’t have a microwave. I do have all the other necessary things, though, like a mug and tea bags and water. But how to make the water hot. Teapots boil water, but I don’t have a teapot. Aha- boiling water! I can do that in a small pot (thank you parents for pots and pans). Weird to pot-boil water for tea? Possibly, but I really wanted my tea, so I did it. I felt very much like a pioneer woman with my pot-boiled water (pioneer women used pots to boil water, right? On their cast-iron stoves, right? In their cabins?), but I had my tea! Success! I haven’t starved yet- more success!

Undoubtedly, there are more of my adventures in adulthood to come (as I founder about trying to pretend I’m completely competent), so stay tuned.