Saturday, August 25, 2007

did it rain? was it too bloody hot? of course

With apologies to my (probably imaginary) readers in Pennsylvania, I remain unconvinced that people were really meant to live there without some sort of genetic engineering, the kind sf writers envision for colonists of heavy-gravity worlds or other hostile environments.
Bear in mind that I'm native to the NW coast, and my ancestors came from the British Isles, so my own haphazard genetic engineering suits me to life on mist-shrouded rocks, eating seagull's eggs and raw fish. I don't even do that well, since I dislike shellfish.
Pennsic weather is hot, very hot, and humid (100%). I showered every day, only in order to be bathed gently in fresh perspiration, rather than a mix of old and fresh marinade.
Then it rains. And it does not rain there the way it does on the west coast, no, despite the NW's reputation for rain. A cloudburst, the kind that beats plants flat and drenches you in seconds, in Vancouver or Victoria only lasts seconds. The clouds burst and empty out and it's over. No, in PA it keeps bursting, for ages. Which, if you're under canvas, surrounded by fields, is difficult to ignore. Rain pours down, turns dirt roads into mud roads or rivers, fills tents, washes gravel out of paths. Our tent has a good steep pitch, but there was enough seepage from outside to have the ground 2-4 inches under water, especially where customers had been walking. Fortunately (and not coincidentally) all our camp furniture is raised. The boxes and bed are on legs, the stock is on trestle tables.
Once the rain stopped, the puddles drained away within an hour, at least where we are, up by the barn on the high ground (physically, not morally).
Although the rain is bad for sales, I preferred it to heat. There's something exhilirating about how overwhelming it is, how loud and present, rather like thunderstorms. Which we also had. Not sky-cracking lightning bolts, but flashes of heat lightning lighting up the sky like Jove's own flashbulbs, soundlessly. The NW doesn't really get thunderstorms, not like the prairies, though we get a good storm-at-sea now and then, with waves smashing up over the breakwaters.

On the drive to Pennsylvania, I had an entertaining new manifestation of the arthritis, starting with stiff ankles and ending with swollen feet and calves. If my legs were sausages you would have been grabbing a fork to poke them. As for my feet, well, if you remember elderly ladies wearing open pumps, and how their feet sort of swelled over the edges of their shoes, that would have been me, if I hadn't been wearing sneakers. Hi-top sneakers.
Not painful, though the stiffness was mildly uncomfortable, and it looked distressing enough to my companions to score me that night sleeping in the front seat so my feet could be up, instead of semi-reclining in the back (single) seat. After about 3 days it went down and my feet looked their regular bony selves.
We didn't take any pictures or I'd put one up here. By the way, I don't recommend googling for images of 'feet edema'.

A few days into Pennsic, we had the first rainstorm. It started during the evening, and the market streets emptied as everyone ran to their campsites to put things under cover. Some merchants shut their tents up and did the same, while those who camp in their sales tents hunkered down.
Cerridwen next to us, who sells hats and bog-coats, came in to ask if we knew how to get hold of the potters across the street, because their roof was filling up with water and there wasn't anyone in the tent. After yelling, we went in and poked the tent roof with a stick to tip the water out.
The pottery itself would have been unharmed by rainwater, but tents falling down on breakables is another matter.
It kept raining. Another set of pottery-sellers across from us turned up to check on their tent (which was okay) but no one knew where the needed ones were camped. So Cerridwen and I took turns invading their tent through the night, poking water off the roof until about 2:30ish am, when the rain faded out.
I confess, there's a certain visceral pleasure in this, for me at least. The pale sagging canvas bellies, sometimes with a line of drops running down the lowest part; the soft squishing resistance of the water-pouch to the stick; finding the right spot to push from so that the water goes off the edge and not sideways into the section I just emptied; the sudden give and gush of water over the wall of the tent and splash to the sodden ground. Like peeling a scab without the ouchiness.
Add to that the setting--rows of pale tents on dark ground, the rain thickening the air to mist, lights around the barn glowing greyly through the slopping canvas; fatigue making everything a little removed, even my wet feet.
But I paid for my fun, waking up with a snuffly cold that lasted most of the war and made me sleepy all the time. So I never did do any volunteer-time at the gate or at A&S Point. I put in a few hours at the A&S display, giving feedback and so on, and that was it for justifying my existence. The nights of doing gate (troll, it's called in the East, a name that makes me twitch slightly) from 2 to 6 am may be over for me. Alas.

The next morning the potters reappeared, and responded to news and helpful suggestions about their tent setup by speaking bitterly of the friend who had made said tent, and how each centrepole was already propped up on two cinderblocks and couldn't get any taller. After they had opened up again Mark observed that no word of thanks had been spoken.
Cerridwen, a kind person, suggested they were distracted by worry over their tent and by annoyance at its design. She hadn't been thanked until she prompted one of them.
Consensus was that nobody would be getting out of bed to poke tents on another night. Fortunately, one of them slept in the tent after that, so no crises of conscience were experienced by their neighbours.

My cold became more miserable, and I would have slothed about in bed during the day, if it could have been done without drowning in my own sweat. But perhaps there is something in sweating out an illness, because I did recover. Cerridwen's Ansteorran campmates fed me the Known World's best leftover chicken stew and beef soup, The Practical Goose brought me ginger teamix (gratefully received, because I'd somehow only brought a single packet!) and I felt weak, cherished, and grateful.
By the next serious rainstorm, foreshadowed by an evening of near-constant but silent heat-lightning, I was becoming chipper (storms have this effect on me anyways, so that probably helped). The storm hit after dark, with less intense rain but some serious wind. The tent-roof lifted off the poles, straining against the ropes, and the poles shook. We spent a few minutes working out whether we'd be able to drop the ridgepole without the centrepoles taking out too many tables.
Whether philosophical detachment, storm-euphoria, or just lack of sleep, I couldn't summon up any concern or even fear. It would happen or it wouldn't, however I felt or fussed about it.
Parenthetically, the problem with easy-ups and Costco garages, increasingly popular for SCA camping in the west, is that people forget that tent-ropes have two functions. They hold tents up, and they hold tents down. Owners of Costco garages forget that they need ropes (and not the dainty things sometimes supplied with the kit, either) until winds come up and send their tent lumbering or rolling along the road, taking out other tents as it goes.

The next day the potters dropped off a bottle of Riesling for us and another for Cerridwen. This was presumed to constitute thanks, and the idle discussion about whether another storm might make it necessary to drop their tent to save its neighbours became muted.

Writing: I did write. I got up about 6 or 7 am, before the heat became too much, plugged in my laptop (yes, we had power) and put in my time. A couple of times I typed in the evening as well, when the light didn't bleach out the screen. Priority was going through the first draft and noting what needed to happen in the missing scenes. On the drive in, I'd managed to figure out an easy fix for the weaknesses pointed out at VP (establishing urgency for their running away and laying the ground for Midame as witch), and tucked those into the first chapter.
I admit, I had foolish dreams of getting the revision completed before the VP reunion, finding a copyshop and presenting PNH with a full printout. But that seemed kind of pushy, plus I want beta-readers to scrutinise it before it goes under more critical eyes. In particular, to tell me what parts I can cut.
The VPX reunion was lovely, but more on that in another post.

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