Thursday, October 11, 2007

Interior journeys

No, not pretentious, merely a lame pun. Last weekend I travelled again into the interior of BC, this time to Oliver, a little past Keremeos and Ashnola. Oliver, the Wine Capital of Canada (is every small town in BC the capital of something?) is working to be wine country, with tours and tourists and quirky shops and wineries.
I wasn't there for the wine, though I did mention it to Mark afterwards as, y'know, something we might do, just for, y'know, fun some time. Our travelling is so firmly SCA-business-related and there's so much of it throughout the year that going somewhere just to go there risks straining the brain-muscles.
On the way back I managed a stop at Crowsnest Vineyards, because driving past every single one seemed perverse. I tasted their two sample wines and bought a 2005 merlot, just because.

The travelling part: I drove there and back by myself, after dropping Mark off in Vancouver so he could share (and further learn) what he'd studied at the two swordsmanship seminars he'd just been to.
The drive to Oliver was smooth, the weather was clear and warm, except for the pass in Manning Park where snow lay on the branches and roadside. The road was clear, and the scenery was--I had to keep reminding myself to look at the road. Spiky evergreens, spattered and occasionally hidden by a bright tawny yellow tree, branches flung up and out like someone in hysterics, a lamp-yellow you could warm your hands at. I don't know what kind of trees they are, I confess this. Birch? I could tell the stands of pine, unfortunately, by the red, dead clusters and swaths of trees hit by the pine beetle. The red-leaved bushes were sumac, (non-poisonous) as I learned at the event.
I stopped briefly at the Hope Slide, and thought about '55 metres above the original ground level.' Driving through the Sunshine Valley spooks me a bit more, perhaps because of the view of the former highway, running into the mass of fallen rock.
The drive back started well. I stopped at Bromley Rock, to stretch my legs and look at trees and rocks, and regret that I hadn't brought a camera.
Mark says he's given up suggesting that I take a camera with me, so this is permission and encouragement to him to start up again, and remind me of the bare, grey, hollowed out tree-root clutching rocks in Bromley Rock Provincial Park.
The campsites or picnic sites are on shelving land stepping down from the road to the water, and the parking lot is built over a section of old road, which now curves past the paired toilets and runs slowly into the foundation of the present highway. The asphalt is smooth still, narrow cracks marked by moss and tall weeds here and there. Young trees are springing up along the edges of the road, making a natural avenue, a little too closely set to be planned. The new highway was high above my head, invisible and muted, and no one else had stopped at the park. I walked along it to the end, something I always want to do when I see old disused roads, but rarely have the chance to.
I suppose roads are liminal spaces, like thresholds, wells and hearths (remembering Dr. Doyle's comment on threshold burials in Well Below the Valley). It was easy to believe in ghostly travellers, in time being muddled and doubled, losing its way on a lost road. There's a lovely evocative passage in one of Hugh Hood's books, where the narrator hikes along a narrow hill or berm and realises that it used to be a railway track, and that in his youth he'd stood and watched the train come along it. One of the Goderich (New Age) stories, I think.
Between Princeton and Hope the weather turned to driving rain and gusty winds. Still scenic, but requiring more concentration. Most impressive was the continuing road construction in Manning Park, where the new road face was skinned with rainwater as smooth as a lake, and reflected the yellow and green of the trees as clear and unrippled as a calendar picture. Until I drove over it, of course.
The toughest part of the return trip was finding the New Westminster apartment where I had to meet Mark. This took easily half-an-hour, including driving up and down the wrong street twice, and largely fruitless quests for a)a public phone with b)a parking spot with a block of it.
Would I rather drive the Crow's Nest, or Vancouver? Let me think.

My purpose was to attend the Tournament of the Golden Swan (hereinafter Swan), mostly to spend some time with my amazing apprentice Anne (sometimes Alis, this time Rajpal), partly to help with judging as needed, to teach a class if anyone wanted, and to visit with a few people I don't commonly have opportunity to visit with.
As it worked out, I did sit in on a fair bit of the judging, had only one student (but eager) in the class, and skimped a bit on the visiting because of the judging, which is only loosely scheduled and can go on. And on. Rather like me sometimes.
Did manage a brief escape to buy local wine at the recommended Toasted Oak, though had to skip the tasting room (yes, another, later, visit is a good idea). I was in full 14th c. middle-class woman, with wimple and gorget, and Rajpal was in full Hindu male with turban as appropriate.
Does anyone know a joke that begins 'So, a nun and a Hindu walk into a wineshop...'? It seems there should be one, unless it's the rule of three and we should have had someone else with us. The staff were quite nonchalant about the whole thing.
Particularly appreciated was the chance to talk with Anne about writing, she being a talented writer (and role-player, and so on). We talked about the difficulty of handling dementia or similar mental problems in fiction. Which sparked some thoughts that might deserve their own post. Hm.

The purpose of Swan is to create and portray a medieval persona. Not someone in fiction, or someone who did exist historically, but someone who could plausibly have existed but didn't. In other words, to do for a weekend what the Society for Creative Anachronism allegedly does all the time. Very few people are willing to attempt this.
PARMA does this at our Fort Rodd Hill demo in late June, but as interactions with the public more than with each other. Often the public has no clue what sort of questions to ask, so I tend to make things easy by telling them what I'm doing, like grinding pigments to make paint, trimming a quill so I can write, boiling parchment scrapings to make size glue, and so on. I rarely get questions about what I'd eat for breakfast, how many rooms in my house, the names of my servants, or anything really prying.
Swan is considerably more intensive, though it has the misleadingly cosy atmosphere of a kaffee-klatch, probably due to being only open to female personae. I have several philosophical disagreements with the concept of Swan, but that, again, is another post some other time.
During the presentations and judging, I did some thinking about how the creation of a persona relates to the creation of a character. The Swan candidates, using words only, need to make their interlocuters believe in their homes, their families, their daily tasks, the journeys they take and the hopes, opinions and faith of someone who never existed. Like radio-plays convincing by sound that the characters are climbing a mountain, or in a storm at sea. Like convincing by a pageful of words and three key details that a character is running through the cobbled streets of a medieval city, desperately afraid of something.
It's always in the details.

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