Sunday, May 27, 2007

Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley


I just finished Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley this morning. This is one of those interesting books that must be read with an open mind. The story's setting is Ireland during the Dark Ages (around 500 CE) as pagan ways were giving way to Christianity. The "pagan nun" in the story is Gwynneve, a girl raised as a pagan, trained as a druid and later turns into a nun with near-saintly status, much like the story of St. Brigit, which is the patron saint of the convent were Gwynneve lives. The story is double-folded, first it's a memoir of Gwynneve's life and upbringing and second tells of the events in the convent that lead to a unfortunate ending. It is also a love story and a story of world in transition, where two religions meet and inevitably one religion must give way to another.
What makes the book compelling is that it is a story of a very bright, intelligent woman who sees the world through both sides of the glass and is confused and vexed by it. On one side she understands the pagan ways and why they are important to the people of the land. On the other side she sees the need for change and wonders about this new religion. Her task at the convent if coping manuscripts from around the world and she often has running theology debates with the manuscripts writers. I think that Gwynneve's strength comes from that she understands so much more that she is given credited for. Her debates usually rage why the old ways can't coexist with the new ways and why there is so much hostility between the two groups. Towards the end of the novel you feel she is setting up the scene for Ireland's long history of "Troubles" where Christians fight Christians, upper class fights the lower class and many people suffer. By the end of the novel she has traveled her land and been many things to many people, including a wife to the man she loves, mother to the needy and comforter of the sick and dying. However, it is the Christians who she lives and calls her home that turn on her and brand her as a witch. In the end, Gwynneve, a pagan nun, is martyred by Christians as her story lives on through those who truly knew her kind deeds and she is often revered as an almost saint in the abbey she lived in. The story is both poetic and lyrical yet straight forward. I found myself agreeing often with Gwynneve over theology debates and how sad it is to see the worlds clash like they do. I think in the end, Gwynneve found herself the victim of knowing too much and not being afraid to teach all who would listen. And like so many times knowledge is power and there will always be people who wish to strip that power from you and dehumanize you. I will leave this post with one of many truths that Gwynneve found in her life: It is not that ignorance is bliss. It is that ignorance opens the door for one to become enslaved by another and never realize that they are being mistreated. It is up to teachers to free people's minds and allow them to realize all that they can be. "The truth will inevitably cause tremors in those who cling to power without honoring justice."

My impressions (or not just leaving this post yet): Why I liked this book is that I see myself in Gwynneve. I understand what it means to straddle two worlds. While I study literature, it is impossible for me not to take on parts of stories and find myself hiding within the lines of the work. I am every story I read and have written. But I also must live in the "real world" where I work and interact with others who don't have my unique views. I'm not religious nor do I consider myself a Christian or any other religion for that matter. But I was raised one and understand their history and the history of the world as it has come to be. So, I can easily see myself sitting next to Gwynneve at the dawn of a new era and understanding why words hold so much power over her. I can see how her heart aches for something spiritual and yet only truly half-believing that there is something else in this world. She is a liar like me. And yet, I hope I too possess such an inner strength that Gwynneve shows. 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Knitting List

I decided to add a little list of forthcoming knitting. I tend to forget what I'm suppose to do and why I have two drawer-fulls of yarn. I've been trying to add progress bars like I see on so many blogs, but I keep doing something wrong with the coding, I'll figure it out though. Currently this is just a list of stuff I want to make, have the yarn for, but not yet cast-on.

The Lineup:
  1. Felted Messenger Bag in Patons SWS
  2. Cabled Jacket in RYC Soft Tweed
  3. First Pair of Socks in Regia Tweed
  4. Lace Shawl/Wrap in Lane Borgosesia Oceano
  5. Microspun Top in Lion Brand Microspun (My own design!)

I've been playing around with the demo version of Knitware and for a demo it offers a lot that you can do. I designed a cute little top for the microspun yarn, which is so much softer than I expected. I normally rather not have a top of 100% acrylic, since it can get to hot and sticky. Hopefully it won't be too bad.

The bad news is that school started again and I'm taking a full load this summer. I won't have much time for knitting or much else of what I love. :-(

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Knitting Progress and Wildfires

Knitting Update:

I'm so happy to report that I'm halfway through the bust increases for the Soleil tank. I pushing to get this finished at least by my birthday so I can wear during the summer. I can't wait to see how this fits. I'm hoping that I don't have any fit problems, I would hate to rip this out. Next up on the knitting list is either a lace project with some beautiful yarn I just bought at Red Needle Yarns or another tank top/tee shirt with Lion Brand Microspun yarn. There are so many projects I want to make I can't decide. I also want to eventually get to a winter jacket and some socks, but these won't be until the end of summer.

Wildfires:

The smoke from the wildfires has been so bad here. The fires are mostly north of the Tampa Bay region and the wind is pushing the smoke down. It was sooooo hazy yesterday that visibility was down to half a mile. I had ash all over my truck, too. These conditions are horrible for my allergies. Yesterday I was close to having a asthma attack twice! I hope we get some relief soon. I hope this year's hurricane season is not to bad, but I rather not have a wildfire summer (like we did in '98). Rain please, Rain please!