Monday, July 28, 2008

the forest for the trees

Today I've started making a tiny forest out of twigs, and I'm excited to see how it will turn out.

For inspiration I've been looking at the work of Russian artist Ivan Bilibin. Here are two of his illustrations, published in 1900, of the red rider who brings the sunrise and the black rider who brings the night from the Russian fairytale Vasilisa the Beautiful.

(click for much larger images)

The full story can be read here. Baba Yaga the witch, who flies around in a giant mortar and has a house on chicken feet, makes an appearance. It is well worth reading.

For the last several nights as I've been going to sleep I've found ladybugs on my bedside table. I've been visited by red ones with black spots and black ones with red spots. Even if I let them out the open window they come right back in. I wonder if they'll be back again this evening?

(detail from the Alexander Marshal Insect Watercolors Album, ca. 1600-1680)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

mal à la tête

When I was younger, throughout most of my school career and into my early twenties, I suffered from terrible headaches. In the summer we used to visit my grandparents in Maryland, and sometimes made trips to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. At a young age I fell in love with the Smithsonian's collection of trepanned skulls.

Trepanation is the process of cutting a hole in the skull to relieve pain or pressure. The skulls at the Smithsonian were from ancient tribes who believed headaches were caused by evil spirits, and that by cutting holes in the skull the spirits would be set free. The holes were often made with stone tools while the patient was still awake. Many of the skulls had more than one perforation, sometimes cut into decorative shapes and often partially healed. I was fascinated by these skulls, and imagined what it would have been like to live in one of these cultures and be trepanned instead of sent to the school nurse.

This week I have been having headaches again. My dictionary of superstitions suggests that these could be caused by a thieving magpie using my hair in its nest. It also provides a spell for headache relief, in which lengths of red wool are wound around the affected part as a "measuring cure." Other helpful suggestions include rubbing a stone or salt on my forehead or wearing nutmeg.

Instead I think I might just have some ice cream and go to bed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

back in the saddle

Hello, hello! I am back from my travels, and it only took an extra week or so for my brain to catch up with my body. It needed a little extra vacation after our vacation. I've had a hard time adjusting to not being on holiday, hiking around, seeing friends and family and swimming in the pool every day. I had such a lovely time!

Whew.. no wonder I'm tuckered out!