happy summer solstice!

Happy Summer Solstice!

Today is the longest day of the year.  Enjoy the sunlight and take some time to reflect on all the beautiful and bright things in your life.

It’s the end of the first week of the 2019 season of the Bamburgh Research Project and I’m back in Edinburgh just for the day do run errands and do my laundry.

This season I am working as the Assistant Finds Supervisor.  If you’ve been totally out of the loop, the BRP is located at Bamburgh Castle in Northumbria.  Bamburgh was a massive Anglo-Saxon stronghold and later medieval fortress.  Excavations are currently focused in the outer ward of the castle in a known metal working area circa the sixth to seventh centuries CE.

So far, I’ve been teaching illustration techniques and am currently in the middle of reorganizing how the project stores bulk finds (pottery, ceramic building material, charcoal, etc).  Up until recently the project stored bulk finds by year.  It was decided that to make it easier for future study we would reorder everything so artefact types are together regardless of year.  It’ll make everything easier… but is a process to do.

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view of the office.

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This past week has truthfully gone by quickly.  I took the train from Edinburgh last Friday.  We had a staff work day on Saturday to organise our new offices and get the trench ready for students the next day.

I also received my degree classification last Friday.  I have been awarded a First Class Degree in History & Archaeology MA with Honours.  It’s a mouthful, but basically it means I did a pretty damn good job.  A First is the highest degree classification you can get in the UK.  Also, as I found out yesterday, I was one of two students to receive the Archaeological Dissertation Prize.  The award was split this year and is awarded to the student (or students) who received the highest mark for the year on their dissertations.  Maybe it’s time to actually print copies…

If you can remember that far back to April, my dissertation focused on architectural archaeology and cultural heritage management of the Botanic Cottage at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  I pulled in a lot of my experiences volunteering at the Cottage for the past two years as well.

But yeah. It’s been exciting.

And honestly, it’s a week illustrating what happens when you really, really want something.  I guess dreams really do come true, kiddos.  And, like, I really, really don’t want to sound like an asshole, but I’m so proud.  I am graduating from a top 20 world university with top honours, hanging out at an archaeological site all summer, and then starting a Masters in a field I love.

I never compare myself to others because we are all flowers growing at our own pace,  however, I do compare myself to past versions.  This is my evaluation: present-Kenn is everything past-Kenn hoped she would be, but, present-Kenn still has work to do so future-Kenn can be her best version.

But, I could have never done it without my friends or my parents or my lecturers or my supervisors or the RBGE or the BRP.  My heart is so full and I owe it to you all.

I’m back to Bamburgh this afternoon and then back to Edinburgh again next week.  My family is arriving for my graduation not long after I get back and it’ll be great to see them.

Happy Summer Solstice!

 

roadtrip 2019

I’m back in Edinburgh from yet another two week Yummick Roadtrip and I have the midge bite scabs and sunburn to prove it.

For those completely unaware, I cast my lot in with the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club (EUMC) in first year.  After four years and three committee positions, I’ve found it to be an incestuous league of miscreants who might also just be the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of suffering in a bog with.

This year eight of us departed Edinburgh on May 26.  Split between two cars, we headed northward arriving at the walk in to Strabeg Bothy with plans to spend at least two nights.  The bothy is maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA) who manages and upkeeps basic open access shelters around Scotland.  Most of them are old croft houses with stone walls and two fireplaces.  They can be notoriously dark, dank, and soggy but it really beats pitching tents in rain and wind.

The walk in was a treat.

It was only meant to be a little over two miles but during the day the river had flooded and the surrounding bog had become a swamp.

I fell into this swamp after being dumb and thinking I could just take my shoes off and wade through the water.  Lies.  Incorrect.  I too was bamboozled.  After sufficient ridicule, Erling finally attempted to help me but at this point the mud and sheep shit had already absorbed me up to my knees.

bog

But, we finally made it to the Bothy after wading across the flooded river in a chain, put on dry clothes, and hung everything else to dry by the fire.  Ben had decided to abandon us all and wade across the river himself.  I still don’t know if it was ambitious, stupid, or if he was just trying to off himself so he didn’t have to listen to my shit chat anymore.    We all cooked dinner (steak stir-fry if you’re wondering) and then went to sleep.  The next day I slept in because, truthfully, I’m going through a bit of an insomniac phase again.  I found a copy of Atonement in the Bothy and kept the fire going.  It was cozy.

We stayed at Strabeg for two nights and then walked out.  Ironically, the river torrent we had been forced to cross two days earlier was a little more than a stream.

Considering that most of Scotland was still a bog from the heavy rain the last few days, we headed even farther north to Sheigra in hopes that there might be dry rock or sun.

Behold. The sunny beach of Sheigra.

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yummick roadtrippin’ 2019

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northy north

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Upon arriving we pitched up and decided what to do next.  I ran off along the coast for a pleasant run.  Alven placed his crab trap in hopes of catching something for breakfast.  That evening we sat at the beach until the sun started to dip below the jagged sea cliffs.  The only option was to climb higher and we watched the last rays of the sun from a grassy ledge above our pitched tents.

We packed up mid-morning.  Alven checked in on his trap only to find that a crab had indeed been caught, ate the salami bait, and then broken out of the trap.  Saddened, we headed off for a day of climbing.  I ran off for a short run and then returned to climb.  From climbing we headed to Scourie and pitched up in a field near the shore (we pitched on the middle peninsula in the photo).  Being Alven’s birthday, we treated ourselves to something nicer than what we can cook on our gas stoves.  Ben, Sam, Erling, and Alven then decided they had been wronged when they learned that the ladies’ bathroom at the restaurant had clean hand towels to wash faces and spa soap and lotion.  The gent’s apparently only had a weak hand dryer.  Walking back to our tents, we watched the sunset.

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yesterday’s sleep spot.

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The next day we left for a bit of day cragging on semi-dry rock.  We returned that evening to the same field in Scourie to spend another night.  From Scourie, we drove southward to Ullapool.  It had been nearly a week at this point so we stopped to resupply food and take showers at the Ullapool leisure centre.  (We had wanted to go swimming, but the pool was closed for Senior Hour in the morning.  But, alas, no seniors were floating about.)  As usual, the boys had finished their showers well before the girls and were waiting outside with their arms crossed.  Honestly, I pity that you all just don’t appreciate clean hair and scalding water more.

From Ullapool we continued southward toward Applecross where the annual EUMC dinner meet was to be held at the Walled Garden.  It was a chance to see everyone before parting ways for the summer, take showers, peel off sweaty leggings and shirts and put on something nice.

We met up with various other parties of Yummicks at the pub to swap stories from the week and then pitched up by the water.  We stayed up late wrapped in a tarpaulin to keep out the chill.  Many were already realising the bittersweet finality of this last road trip.

The next day we packed up and moved to the Applecross Campsite. It was raining so some ambitious folk went running and others went to the cafe.

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oh deer

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By the afternoon, Ellie B had arrived from Edinburgh and it was almost time to get ready for dinner.  Getting ready for Dinner Meet is a rather social affair.  Imagine, people rushing around the campsite fixing each others ties and makeup while balancing plastic wine glasses or tins on cars or soggy grassy patches.

We held the Dinner Meet at the Walled Garden this year.  It was a short walk from the campsite which was a blessing as it was still threatening to rain again.

Dinner was really nice.

After, we danced our way back to the campsite to change and then headed down to the beach for a bonfire. I’ve come to realise I’m actually quite a sentimental piece of shit and found myself trying to memorise that moment on the beach. How everyone’s smiles reached all the way to their eyes. How the fire flickered in the sand. The feeling of being spun on the beach in a dance and the cold sand beneath my feet.  How the stars looked overhead.

The next morning was rainy and fit the mood of farewells. Ellie Leigh returned to Wales to continue her amazing internship. Ben headed north and then south to London to start his summer job (He also drove off with all the remaining food and my camping mug!!! Sabotage!!). Tuva and Erling returned to Edinburgh.  The rest of the Yummicks scattered to the wind to do amazing things of that I am sure.

It was just Ellie B, Alven, and I heading even farther north to Skye.

The following week went as quickly as the week before despite my pleas to make it slow down. We spent a windy night on the edge of the world and woke up early to catch a ferry to Lewis and Harris.

We spent the next two days driving around the island and visiting every historical site on the map. The Callanish Stones were absolutely stunning. They are a stone circle similar to Stonehenge, but arguably much larger and probably more significant – they exist in a larger landscape with more of the subsidiary stone circles still surviving.

As an aside, stone circles don’t exist in isolation and play into the landscape.  They’re all connected to each other like a spider’s web across expansive miles. Their position is affected by other circles and geographical features. Because Lewis and Harris is still relatively undisturbed compared to the landscape around Stonehenge you can actually get a better feeling for the prehistoric landscape. Also, you can walk right up to them.

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~ritual purposes~

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The sun finally came out and the waters turned into one of the most beautiful turquoises I have ever seen. (The most beautiful still has to be Shetland.)

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🥰

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The three of us took the ferry back to Skye and then drove to Sligachan to meet back up with other Yummicks.  We spent the night at Neist Point and watched the sky turn from blue to yellow to orange to pink to purple and then to black.

Sunsets have always held a special place.  Growing up in the Kansas countryside you get used to vibrant colours spreading across the wide reaching sky.  The sunsets across the ocean have that same magic and maybe something a little extra.  There’s a moment when the sun’s rays hit the water and appear to wrap around the world.  And then the stars emerge – the same stars people have looked upon for thousands of years and the same ones we all gaze upon now.

I am so thankful I decided to wake up early that morning in September four years ago to get on a bus and head northward.  I am thankful for the sun and the snow and the rain and even the bogs.  For the broken tents and the soggy bothys.  I am thankful for the moments of fellowship in the mountains and trust on belay.  The silence of the night broken by the muffled sound of music.  The quiet breaks on the sides of ridges.  The feeling of exhaustion but also of adoration for the landscape and the people around me.

And the stars.  The spreading canvas of light across the night sky.  They might be separate balls of gas thousands and millions of light years apart, but together they weave constellations and epics across the sky.

I know no matter where in the world we end up, we’ll share the same sky.  Somewhere, you’ll be watching your sun and stars as I watch mine.

Writing this now back in Edinburgh I realise how much I will miss them.  I just hope they will miss me just as much.

I am reminded now of the conversation I had with an old woman in the Tesco car park in Ullapool.  She rambled a bit and was all to keen to tell us the dangers of Germans driving large caravans on small highland roads, but she looked me in the eyes and said something I will carry with me for a very long time.

She said, ‘Some places are magnets and the north of Scotland is a strong one.  People return here.  They always do.’

I hope I do.

Either that or I’ll write a really good story about it.

 

~a week in paris~

Hey all.  It’s me, back to tell you about my international exploits.

For those wondering:

  1. Yes, I am finished with university.
  2. No, I haven’t graduated.
  3. Why? Examinations are still ongoing and the external exam board meets in June.
  4. So when do you graduate? July 2 at, I think, 2 o’clock in the afternoon (?).
  5. So, like, what have you been doing? Well, I went back to America for a bit of sun and then back here to Edinburgh.  And then off to Paris with Caitlin, Sophie, and Ellie.

The trip started by driving down to London from Edinburgh.  We stopped off in Liverpool for lunch with Caitlin’s aunt.  It was late by the time we finally made it to London.  The next day Sophie, Caitlin, and I spent time in central London.  We went to some of the vintage shops near Oxford Circus and I found ~yet another~ leather jacket.

The next day we met back up with Ellie at Kings Cross to take the train to Paris.  We arrived in Paris late afternoon and from Gare du Nord took the Metro to our AirBnb.

Our first day in Paris it was sunny and we spent it wandering around.  We visited the Museé d’Orsay.  The building used to be a railway station but was later adapted when the tracks proved too short for longer trains.  It now houses pieces by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists like Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, and Gauguin.

Basically a dream.

That evening we went to an underground jazz bar that Betsy had recommended.  Betsy had spend a few months living in Paris during a study abroad program and ~usually~ has good taste.

The place was called the Caveau de la Huchette and is located in the Latin Quarter just south of Notre Dame. The basement of the building dates to about 1551 and has links to the Templars.  By 1789, it became the meeting place for French revolutionaries.  In 1772, it was converted into a Freemason Lodge.  After the Second World War, it transformed into a live jazz club when American GIs brought in New Orleans jazz and swing dance.

The drinks are a little pricey but the live music was fantastic.

The night day we got up early to visit Sainte-Chapelle.  The chapel was commissioned by Louis IX in the 13th century to be the reliquary for the holy relics he collected while on Crusade.  It’s construction was relatively contemporary with Notre Dame.  Notre Dame was built to be the more public building while Sainte-Chapelle to be the private royal chapel.

We arrived early in the morning to see the stained glass.

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✨Finally seeing the 13c in Technicolor™️✨

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I don’t know if it’s because I was probably a magpie in a previous life, but I love stained glass.  Actually, that’s probably an understatement.  I could sit for hours looking at stained glass.

We then went for lunch and to see Notre Dame.  Since the fire earlier this month, the street has been blocked off but it was heartening to see the structure appears to be stabilized.  The roof is gone and so are many of the upper windows.  There is smoke damage to the upper rose window on the south side of the building.  However, the bell towers are okay and so is the larger rose window in the front.  Even without a roof, the building was still impressive.

Near to Notre Dame is Shakespeare and Company, an independent bookshop with ties to James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Ezra Pound.  The first shop was founded by the American Sylvia Beach in 1918 as an English lending library and bookshop.  Sylvia soon found herself in the company of dozens of English and American writers of the Lost Generation who had flocked to Paris following the end of the First World War.  In 1922, she published James Joyce’s Ulysses when the book had been banned in most English speaking countries.  She operated the bookshop during the Nazi Occupation of Paris until she was arrested in 1941 for hiring a Jewish assistant and refusing to sell a copy of Finnegan’s Wake to a Nazi Officer.  Beach spent six months in an internment camp.  When she finally returned to Paris, she did not reopen her shop.

However, by 1951 George Witman reopened Shakespeare and Company with Sylvia’s blessing across the way from Notre Dame.  The shop earned a second life as the inspiration for the Beat Generation with visitors including Allen Ginsberg and James Baldwin.

I grabbed a coffee from the cafe attached to the bookshop and a table facing out toward Notre Dame.

As a hopeful novelist, being in this space was incredible.  I’ve struggled a lot with my writing in recent years.  Often I just don’t feel confident or like I’m expressing myself well.  Just the other day was the seven year anniversary of the publication of my novel.  I can’t believe it’s been that long.  And, I know I really need to finish something else.  Trust me, I’m gathering stories…. which I’ll finish… eventually.  My current piece is something really dear to my heart and I want to make sure that I’m telling it the way I want it to be remembered.

But, being a place where people just want to tell stories and express themselves was comforting.

That evening we went to the Louvre.

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▶️🅰️🌾❗️💲

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As expected, the Mona Lisa was small and the display of Nike was incredible.  She is positioned at the end of a long stairway and looked just like she was taking off as you got closer.  Honestly, she’s a star.

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📈📍🦅📧

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The next day we went to see the Eiffel Tower.  It was pretty.

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🤟🏻🅰️💲🌱 1️⃣

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We had some lunch and then queued to see the Catacombs.

I would never wish to see the Catacombs again.  The tunnels stretch for over 200 miles under Paris and include the remains of over 6 million people dating from the medieval period.  They were removed from overcrowded, un-safe cemeteries during the 18th and 19th centuries and placed underground in walled stacks.  All the remains were kept together and plaques indicate which cemetary they came from.

While, I understand the necessity for the remains to be safely reorganized below ground in a city that was nearing two milleniums worth of occupation… I cannot say that I felt comfortable visiting.

I have worked with human remains in labs and excavated remains in the field.  I had the option of completing a Masters in osteology… but that doesn’t make it any easier.  The Catacombs felt like a world apart and, honestly, I felt like an intruder.  I’ve always justified my study with the scientific benefits of analysis.  However, there was not any scientific advantage to viewing these remains except to see them in dark, claustrophobic tunnels where the living very clearly have no place.

To see a part of history, maybe I am glad for that.  But, not all history needs to be seen.

The next morning we caught an early train back to London.  The four of us split off and I went to Westminster Abbey.  After visiting the Abbey, I found a sunny spot in St James’ Park and read my book.  That evening Sophie and I spent the night at Ellie’s.  The next day, the two of us took the train back up to Edinburgh.

I’ve been back in Edinburgh for few days now finally getting time to decompress.

All in all, the best part? Being with my friends at Caveau de la Huchette and Shakespeare and Company definitely.  Most beautiful piece of art? The windows at Sainte-Chapelle.

 

xxii

Well, it’s probably fitting my birthday post is a few days late.

It’s been a busy few weeks even after finishing my degree and I haven’t really had time just to sit.  But, now that I’m back in Edinburgh, I’ve been using my time to read, sleep, and play Skyrim for the thousandth time.  I just beat Aulduin again last night.  You could call me the Dovah-Kenn (sorry that was a terrible joke).  I also went to see Avengers: Endgame.  I probably need to see it again considering I cried through half of it, especially when Carol did THAT!!! and Steve did THAT!!!

But anyway, here’s that belated birthday post even though I’m still *technically* 15 on my Kansas driver’s license.

I’m always worried about the weather on my birthday considering for the first 18 years of my life it rained buckets.  But, Edinburgh once again gave me the best birthday gift with a sunny, warm day spent in the Meadows and empty seats at the Argyle in the evening.

I’ve never been one to fuss about the day I hatched fully formed from an egg, but I do like to have my space to declare ‘I won’t do a damn thing’ and throw myself down on the ground.

As for words of wisdom now that I am entering upon the golden Taylor Swift Birthday, I’m honestly not sure.  19-year-old Kennedy apparently had a lot to say about the world so you can read what she wrote here.  Truthfully, I think she was pretty smart (albeit maybe a bit arrogant).  Most of it still applies with the addition of maybe one more.

If these past four years in Faerieland, have taught me anything it is: be willing to adapt but also be confident within yourself.  You never know when opportunity will arrive, but you can make sure you are ready to met it when it does.

So, anyway.  Happy Birthday to me.

 

back to edi

It’s the 25th of April (three days before my 22nd birthday in case anyone was counting!!) and I’m back to Edinburgh.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in America… not out right hiding but busy with moving back and enrolling for August.  In case you’ve been out of the loop, I had a choice between staying in Edinburgh for another year for a Masters in Human Osteoarchaeology or returning to the States for a Masters in Museum Studies.

I had a lovely meeting with the director and advisor for the Muse program this week and I have already enrolled in my courses.  This August, I’ll be taking a required course on Museum work, another specialising on creating exhibits, and a theory course on historical building preservation.  There’s actually a graduate certificate in Historical Preservation through the School of Architecture I could take alongside my Masters which I may look more into when I’m back.  After writing my dissertation, I’ve become really interested in that line of work and it would fall in well with my ~dream~ of working for UNESCO.

I am actually beyond excited for this autumn.  It’ll be a good change of scenery and a few years of familiarity before I bounce of to do something ‘stupid and crazy’ again.  Trust me, I have plans.

Things back in Lawrence have changed, but, as it it with midwest America, may things stay the same.  It’s a blessing and a curse.

A big change this time was returning with two less in the house.  In February we lost our 12-year-old Newfoundland, Mulan.  While sad I knew she had give our family her ‘true last measure of devotion.’  What was unexpected was losing my 6-year-old cat, Rory.

Prior to leaving Edinburgh at the beginning of April, Dad had called to let me know that Rory had been to see a veterinary heart specialist in Kansas City who had diagnosed him with a congenital heart defect.  Rory spend two days in the clinic and returned home with a blood thinning medication he was to take each morning.

Everything seemed well – until it wasn’t.  Three days after returning, Dad found Rory curled up and asleep in his favourite spot by the window.

I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to find a way to describe what the last six years with Rory meant to me. Each time I fall short, but those with animals know the impact an animal has and the hole they leave.

But, I can say I am glad to know he felt safe and loved.  He didn’t hide or grow scared but curled up and fell asleep.  That is all you can really ask for.

Which is why I think I can write about it now.

But anyway, I’m completely done with my degree and just awaiting the exam board in June to let me know what my classification is.  I get to see the new Avengers films with my friends tomorrow night and then bounce around during May before leaving on the EUMC Road Trip.  We don’t know where we are going but we’ll check the weather and see what looks nice.

After the Road Trip, I’ll be back at Bamburgh Castle where I’ll be working as the Assistant Finds Supervisor for the whole excavation season.  It’ll be yet another summer crying over Anglo-Saxon dirt and I. am. so. excited.

Graduation is in July and after that everyone will scatter to the wind for a while.  While I am beyond saddened, I also know there are so many new opportunities waiting.

 

 

Story Mode Complete

This afternoon, with a bag of frozen peas on my ankle (I face-planted off Calton Hill last night dressed like a 1980s calisthenics instructor), I submitted my final essay and finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh.

After four long years of work and the last year spend writing my dissertation, it feels really, really good to be finally done.  After I submitted my dissertation last week, I went to get an ice cream and found a bench in the Grassmarket.  It was a sunny day and the castle looked gorgeous as ever (you almost forget they used to burn the witches 200 metres to the right!).  Then I left for the Bothy for the weekend and enjoyed the sun up north.

But, I’m not going to lie.  The end is also a bit sad.

I have truly fallen in love with this city.  My time here has shaped the person I have become and the person I will continue to be in the future.  My degree has taught me a lot more than just how to write historical papers or dig in the dirt.  The people I’ve met and the places I have been will, honestly, stay with me for the rest of my life.

Maybe, one day, I’ll write a book about it.

This post is shorter than I anticipated, but, truthfully, I can only say how much the past four years have meant to me in a limited number of ways before it gets contrived.

So, that’s me done.  I’m bouncing on holiday soon.  After that, it’ll be EUMC Road Trip and then at Bamburgh for the rest of the summer to help with excavations.  Graduation is in July.

happy (belated) international women’s day!

I’m going to apologize up front about the delays of this post because let’s face it, this should have been posted last week.

I also wrote most of this last week but got busy writing an essay and sewing 200 plastic balls (like the ones you find in a ballpit) together into a dress for a party with the theme ‘anything but clothes.’

But! On the bright side, this won’t get buried now under all of the other IWD posts!

Happy (belated) International Women’s Day!

*I’ll wait while you call your mom, aunt, grandmother, sister, cousin, or friend*

Right.  It’s that time of year again for my annual ‘angry feminist rant.’

When I was a young kiddo, I used to replace the heads on my little medieval action figures so that my princess character could be the knight and fight the dragons.  (This was probably inspired by reading Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet.)  As it was, all the female figurines wore dresses.  Not only was it impossible for them to be put on the horses, they didn’t have scabbards to store their swords!

Honestly, it was tragic.

To my young brain, you obviously needed a both a horse and a place to put your sword to go on quests and slay dragons.

This story might seem a bit silly when you just think of my childhood bedroom floor littered with a bunch of male-bodied knight figurines with female heads, but at the root of it was my desire to see the women I wanted to be when I grew up.

And it really, really sounds cliché writing it here, but reading the Hunger Games at thirteen changed everything.  It was one of the first books I read with a recognized female narrator in an action role.  I had, of course, read female narrators before in Tamora Pierce’s books but a large part of the plot is that Alanna disguises herself as a boy in order to become a knight.  None of the other characters are aware that she is a girl and most of her interactions and decisions in the plot are based around maintaining her status as a boy.  That is, until the fourth book where she reveals her secret and establishes herself as the biggest badass in Tortall.  Honestly, ten-year-old Kennedy was amazed.

But, with the Hunger Games, for the first time, I was getting an upfront first person female perspective on the action and the adventure.  Not just second hand from a male narrator. While I adored Harry Potter and worshipped at the feet of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and as much as Hermione and Annabeth were central characters, they weren’t the narrators.

They weren’t the ones controlling and driving the stories.

Which, I guess, brings me to the point of this post: The importance of female driven stories.  If young girls see or read about someone who looks like or acts like them it gives them someone to believe in.  It shows them something tangible to remember and to hold on to.

I’ll always remember the feeling I had walking out of the cinema after seeing The Force Awakens or Wonder Woman. Watching Rey wield a lightsaber or Diana Prince walk into No-Man’s land was symbolic in more ways than one.  And, what made them such compelling characters was the fact they were distinctly female as well.

Which is why I was so excited to see Captain Marvel last Friday.

Carol Danvers has been my hero since basically forever.  I’m not going to claim any hipster status here… but I was a member of the Carol Corps before it was cool.

I won’t spoil the film for those who haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but I will say that Captain Marvel is the film I wish I could have had when I was eight or nine years old.

It is a film written for women by women.

It shows how emotions are not a hindrance to success and that if believe in yourself, you don’t have to prove anything – to anyone.  (That and the film touches on important themes about fear mongering which is a lesson, I think, a lot of people should learn for themselves.)

Frankly, I’ll always be a little jealous of girls today who get to grow up with so many more stories written for and about them. (That and how none of them have to brutally maim their toys.) But, I am beyond excited to see what happens next.*

Higher, Faster, Further, baby!

(*What’s happening next is Carol Danvers is going to show up in Avengers: Endgame and Thanos is not ready.)

 

shetland

This past week, Ben, Alven, and I took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland.

Considering the events of the week before which included learning I’d lost a friend I’d known since childhood, my parents calling to let me know my faithful dog of 12 years was gone as well, and then deciding to move back to America this August for a Masters – getting away seemed like the thing I needed to do.  The trip was planned quickly, with ferry and train booking happening Thursday to leave Saturday.

Shetland, if you are interested, are the northernmost islands of the UK.  The islands are very close to Norway and have a very strong Norse heritage with plenty of archaeological sites.  One of the really significant ones is Jarlshof which has everything from Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Early Medieval, and Late Medieval on one site.  If you’re interested in the complete history here’s the Wikipedia page.

But, anyway.  We spent the week traveling around the Mainland and working on our dissertations.  All three of us brought work with us, so it wasn’t a total escape.  But the change of scenery was something I dearly needed.

Instead of a normal blog post I decided to make a video to attempt to capture the week.  The video is at the end of this post because I want you to read everything first.

I’m going to be honest here, I fell in love with Shetland.  Everything from its remoteness to rainbows created by the crashing waves to the ancient stone brochs and finally to the long roads to the edge of cliffs.  It felt like there was something familiar about it nagging at me the entire time.

Back in August of 2015, I began the long process of packing up my life and moving to Scotland.  That process included picking and choosing what parts I wanted to take with me and what parts I would decide to leave behind.

Maybe I am a sentimentalist, or perhaps that is just a nice way of wording Kennedy-is-a-hoarder, but one of the things I packed and moved across the Atlantic with me was a worn copy of Selected Poems of H.D. and a typewritten note by one of my English teachers.

A portion of that note reads:

Dear Kennedy,

In his poem ‘Tollund Man’ Seamus Heaney writes:

 Out here in Jutland // In the old man-killing parishes // I will feel lost, // Unhappy and at home. 

I would never wish you unhappiness, however, I know that desire is in you to find a home in the lost places, in history, in poetry, in the bog, in the ruin, amoung the relics.

So my wish for you is an unending quest often satisfied but never for long.

If you’re a nosy reader of my blog here you’ll probably recognize those verses from my About page.  They’ve been there since the beginning.

The book is one of the few I keep close within arms reach next to my bed.  The others, if you’re curious, are Tomorrow is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt, The Art of War by Sun-Tzu, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I have thought of those words often, I’d admit.  When I received them at age 18, I knew that it would be something that would plague me for years and I think my English teacher knew that as well.

Living in Scotland these past four years has become that ‘unending quest.’  And truthfully, my English teacher was right.  It has been satisfying – but at each turn I make, I discover something new and once again I am… on another unending quest.  Traveling to remote places, exploring in wet and windy weather could make someone feel lost – but again, and not to sound like pretenious piece of shite, I have never felt more at home.

I am so close to finishing my degree with only two essays and my dissertation left.  Especially after the events earlier this month, going to Shetland this past week allowed for me to escape everything and find my next move.  It also showed me a place I would happily return to and live unbothered.

 

 

 

 

a logistical plan

Since you’ve last read about my life I’ve made a few decisions.

If you remember from my last post – I had two offers for graduate study.  The first, continue here at the University of Edinburgh for the Human Osteoarchaeology MSc.  The second, return to Lawrence for the Museum Studies MA.

This past Sunday was a beautifully sunny day in Edinburgh.  To sort my thoughts and make a decision, I went for a run in Holyrood Park.  I thought back over the last week as I threw myself down the grassy hills and up rocky paths.  Finally, I found myself at St Anthony’s Chapel overlooking the beautiful gorgeous city that has taught me so much.  St Anthony’s was built some time in the 15c and pretty much the only thing that remains is the front facade with a doorway and two windows.

The window to the right of the doorway has always been a great place sit and think.

Over the past four years, I’ve found myself at St Anthony’s a lot.  It’s fitting, I suppose,  to gravitate to a chapel dedicated to the patron saint of lost things to make all my biggest decisions.

So, I weighed my options in respect to my major concerns:

  • Program suitability and how it fits with my general life plan: 1) do something good for someone other than myself and 2) tell stories
  • Job prospects after / phD
  • Stability but ability to continue to travel and excavate

Below are my condensed notes.  Trust me you don’t want or need to see all the flow charts.

Stay in Edinburgh.  The program is something I love.  The subject is a direct link into the past in ways I can’t really describe.  Logistically, I would get to live in my flat another year.  However, a masters in Edinburgh would lend itself directly into a phD.  I don’t know if I want to do everything back to back.  I also want to do something good for someone besides myself before I find myself behind an academic desk.  A masters at Edinburgh would be in a subject I love, a city I love, but might be too narrowed and would put me right into a phD.

Brexit has complicated matters as well in respect to companies who can sponsor work visas and minimum income required to apply (which falls outside of the graduate jobs range).  As someone who has watched current immigration trends in the UK and researched all types of visas, it’s not like the movies.  You can’t just pack up and move to the UK.  There’s not really a guarantee even with a phD.

  • Best: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Likely: Complete masters but do phD based on current job market.
  • Worst: Do masters, don’t want to do a phD straightaway, can’t find a job, have to leave Scotland.

Return to Lawrence. Again, the program is something I love.  I basically grew up in museums.  The program would also keep my academic interests more broad but still specialized.  I’d be able to work in a variety of heritage fields.  Logistically, I would live at home for the duration of the program.  The program has a required internship component.  I’ve already found internships at the Met Cloisters in New York City to apply for.  I also like the flexibility of the final project which would allow me to make a historical documentary!  A masters at KU would allow me to take time out after, get a job, do something good for this world, and collect my thoughts for an eventual phD.

Brexit and visas are not a concern.  I can always continue my summer fieldwork in the UK and it’s not like if I move away I move away forever.  If anything, getting a good job in America will give me the professional experience to re-apply and get jobs back here in Scotland when things settle back down.

  • Best: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Likely: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Worst: Live forever in my parents house (yikes)

So, I guess if you’ve read this far into my general life rambling you’ve probably come to the same conclusion I came to myself: Museum Studies MA at the University of Kansas.

I said both options out loud and the Museum Studies MA just sounded right.  But, I would be lying if I said it was not a bit sad when I realised how much I would be leaving behind here in Edinburgh.

This city has become my own as much as I have become part of it.  I really don’t know the words to describe my love for Edinburgh.  Trust me, I’ve tried and all that’s come of it are some shitty poems and four drafts of a fantasy novel.

But, I do know that just because I may be moving away doesn’t mean I won’t ever be coming back.

I spent the next few days thinking over my decision.  It was not one I took lightly.

Tuesday morning I spoke with my personal tutor about it and he agreed.  Both were very good choices, but a little job security doesn’t hurt.  On Wednesday, I went to speak to the course organizer and thanked her for the offer.  It was really important to me that I went to speak to both of them as they had helped me immensely over the years.  I mentioned that I would like to return to Edinburgh in the future for a phD and they told me to get in touch when I do.

So … that’s me in August.  I’ll be a Kansas Jayhawk for the next two years and then … who knows.  My phone call with the Peace Corps went well and I have more information about applications.  I’m also weighing a few other options.

I’m going to write a larger love letter to Edinburgh one day.  I hope to express everything these past four years have given me.  Honestly, the confidence I have found in this city is why I know returning to America is best choice for me now.  I’m excited to see what lies ahead ‘across the pond.’

But, for the next week I’m bouncing to Shetland. Byeeeee.

 

3 drinks.

Monday night, I went to Sandy Bell’s to listen to live folk music with Tuva, Erling, Gregor, and Alven.  I had one drink for an old friend, one drink for a faithful companion, and one last drink for the future moving forward.

I’ve learned that words can never truly express enough, and I’m never quite sure if I even say the right ones.  And truthfully, the scariest part is you don’t know when your words might be your last.   But, I hope that I’ve shown the people around me how much they mean to me.  It’s something I fear that never do enough and as I realized  is something I should probably do more.

My dear friends both old and new, you have taught me so much.  I deeply adore you all.

So, I guess, now, I’ll speak about the that second drink.

I knew when I left home after Christmas that I probably would never see my slobbery, stubborn dog again.  My dad had told me for months that Mulan was on borrowed time.  At 12, she was well beyond the life expectancy for a large breed such as a Newfoundland.

Monday in class at 5.30 pm I felt something in my chest.  I’d be the first to admit that I haven’t been as religious in recent years as maybe my parents would hope.  But, sitting in class then I knew something had happened.

Thirty minutes after the hour, my beautiful, loving, slobbery sod fell asleep at home surrounded by those she loved and who loved her.

Mulan was hard to train and never graduated puppy school.  She never did what you asked her to do but she always did what you needed.

And for that I am so, so grateful.  I am thankful for the time that I had her and the life she shared with me.

Her favorite season was fall, just as the leaves began to change and the temperature started to cool.  She’d go outside and sit under the trees and let the wind blow her fur with two long strands of drool dripping from her jowls.

She was gentle.  So, so gentle.  Last December, when my dad found a half dead kitten on the porch, it was Mulan who stuck her head in and breathed hot air onto the the kitten’s face until the kitten gasped and my dad realized that my mom would just have to deal with another indoor cat.

To know the love of another creature who expects so little and offers you everything is truly a gift.  To know that love and see it in their eyes is blessing beyond measure.

I will miss her forever, but, if someone offered me the chance, I would do it all over again.  Without hesitation.

Mulan, I love you to the moon and to the stars.  I love you beyond the stars and wherever else we will go.

And, now time for that third drink and a decision.

I have been accepted into two Masters programs.  The first, here at the University of Edinburgh for the MSc in Human Osteoarchaeology.  The second, back in Lawrence at the University of Kansas for the MA Museum Studies.  I’ve also received a very positive email back from the Peace Corps recruiter I emailed prior to the government shutdown who wants to set up a Skype meeting/interview.  And finally, I waiting on the outcome of a few internships I applied for.

Chances are, I will complete a Masters before embarking on any other work – but I want to gather as much information as I can.  At the moment, I’m getting my TEFL certification and plan to double down on learning a foreign language this summer.  It’s actually quite lazy that I don’t speak more than just English.

Which, leaves me with a lot of choices – none of which I realized are bad decisions.  I’ll just have to figure out my next plan of action and move down the field from there.

I do know two things however. I’ve always known them, but I think this week just made it a little bit easier to define them.

First, forty years from now, I don’t want to think about what I have done and realize that I simply waited for the storm to pass. If anything, I love thunderstorms.  But, I’m not throwing myself into a thunderhead for the sake of making history.  I honestly could care less.  I’m not a white man, my chances at being taught about in school are already slim. I’d do it because it is the right thing to do.

Secondly, I want to tell stories.  That might be in a museum or as a novelist or maybe as a documentarist.  I’m no quite sure yet, but I know I want to tell stories I believe in. And, sure, I’m not in a place right now to do that.  I’m still collecting the stories I want to tell.

But, I guess, what I learned this week is this: I hope those closest to me know how precious they are to me.  There will never be enough time, but what you learn from the time you do have will guide you forever.  Just like the rainbow I followed this morning which led me to one of my favorite coffee shops.