my third summer with the anglo-saxons

What up boyos!!!

I’m back in Edi for ~one final week~ before bouncing across the ocean for a limited show two-year US tour in search of jobs and education. I’ve lined up a fancy new part-time job (more on that later), enrolled in my ~graduate~ classes, and forced my dad to pick up his grown-adult-child’s vaccination records so I can prove to KU I’m not an plague carrier! As it turns out I’ve been vaccinated twice for meningitis!

However, for the past six weeks I’ve been surviving in the No Phone Dead Zone of Northumbria.  It was my third year with the Bamburgh Research Project and my second year on staff.  This year I was the Assistant Finds Supervisor.  I’ve chatted about the site and my responsibilities previously in various posts but the gist of the position was to assist the Finds Supervisor in cataloguing and keeping all the finds that come out of the trench.

I also specialised in teaching Small Finds Illustration – basically drawing the ‘shiny’ or special finds that come out of the trench like worked bone, carved stones, or exceptional metal work.  I’ve always been ~artistically~ inclined, but I learned how to do technical drawings my third year of university and really liked it.

However, one thing I learned from the season is that I really, really, need to invest in a new computer if I want to seriously pursue digital finds illustration.  Especially considering I almost certainly have an illustration project lined up with the BRP which could transition over to my Masters!  My current laptop is a Grand Old Lady at this point and my poor baby crashed four times causing me to lose more than one illustration over the season.

I’ll provide two different examples of my work from the season below:

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Besides teaching illustration, I supervised the reorganising and moving of the bulk finds from the Castle Windmill to our storeroom inside the castle.  The Project decided that instead of storing all the bulk finds (shell, charcoal, mortar, animal bone, etc) in year boxes they would be stored in artefact type boxes.  This will make it much easier for future study of a particular artefact type.  However, it basically took all season to inventory boxes and create a new cataloguing system.

On a social note, Ben and Alven ‘surprised’ me with visit during the last weekend.  Their original plan was to show up and actually surprise me which I’m very glad they didn’t because I hate surprises.  Ben took the train up from London and Alven took the the train down from Edinburgh.  I picked both of them up from Berwick.

That weekend was also the BRP Reunion so not only did both of them get to meet the students and current staff but many of the Oldies from the project as well.  And of course, while it had been sunny all week – it rained all weekend.  Both of them got drenched on the beach and I forced them to stand next to the space heater.

However, I think between working on site and drinking in the pub, Ben and Alven got a truly well-rounded archaeological experience.  Alven worked a bit with the animal bone since he’s studying zoology and, while, we don’t have an cranes on site for Ben to gush over we do have an EDM which uses ~lasers.~

It was a really nice weekend.  Alven is still being a public nuisance in Edinburgh (HE CRAWLED OUT THE WINDOW OF MY FLAT!!!)  but I’m really glad that I got a chance to say farewell to Ben this time in the bright sun instead of the Edinburgh bus station at night.  There were still tears but I’d say it wasn’t as ~traumatic~ this time around.

And that was the season.  Lots of teaching and drawing and cataloguing.  But as always, I really enjoyed my time with project.  It’s given me invaluable archaeological experience which will only make it easier for me to get that dream job with UNESCO.

I am already looking forward to next summer.  Things are going to be a bit different – we are moving trench locations and there might be opportunities for me to work with both the Castle Museum and the Project.  Again, this might transfer to my Masters.  There are also some other potential summer projects which I am currently trying to make work.  More on those when I know myself.  Fingers crossed.

But, this past Saturday, Gregor drove down to Bamburgh to pick me up from the campsite.  There was a slight issue getting the bike in the car but we eventually found an Allen key.  I said farewell to the rest of the staff and Gregor and I booked it back to Scotland with time to spare.

I’ve got just over a week left here in Scotland and I plan to enjoy every second I have left here in Edinburgh.  These past four years have gone by far too quick – expect a very emotional post in the next week.  More on that soon.

byyeeeee.

 

 

 

the ending of things and beginning of things

It’s the middle of week four of the Bamburgh Research Project.  We have two weeks left in the season.

Last week I was back in Edinburgh for bittersweet farewells and the endings.

I left Bamburgh last Thursday evening and spent Friday running errands to prepare for the coming week.

Ben arrived late from London (He’s currently selling his soul to the corporate engine and getting hit by cars in exchange) on Friday night.  His train was delayed.  Personally, I think it was karma for leaving disgusting fermented lemons in the Roseneath fridge.  I waited for him at Waverly listening to three drunk Glaswegians singing ‘A Thousand Miles’ by Vanessa Carlton on the communal piano.  It was wholesome.

The next morning my parents and Crosby arrived into Edinburgh after flying from America.  Ben, Alven, and I went for an early coffee and then met up with them for brunch and then later an early dinner.  After dinner, we three and Crosby went to see ‘Toy Story 4.’  We all cried.

The next day we three were joined by Gregor and Sophie at Cold Town House, a lil microbrewery with a roof terrace overlooking the castle in the Grassmarket.  We stayed all afternoon in the sweet, sweet Edinburgh sun.

Ben left for a dinner and Alven, Gregor, and I returned to Roseneath to make our own.  I met back up with Sam and Pippa and Ben for a pub quiz.  Then around 10pm it was time to walk Ben to the bus station for his bus back to London because once again he’s sold his soul to the corporate engineering world and needed to be in the London office for bright and sunny Monday morning.

It’s really, really hard watching a bus pull away and not knowing when you’ll see that human again.

It’s really, really hard hearing the bells of St Giles and knowing with each chime that human is further and further away.

It was the first goodbye of many to come and maybe in some place in my mind I thought I was ready.  As it turned out, I wasn’t anywhere close.

Monday, I ugly cried in my kitchen and Alven took photos.

Tuesday, on the second of July, I walked across the stage in McEwan Hall and got wacked on the head by the hat made from John-Knox’s-but-also-not-John-Knox’s-pants-which-did/didn’t-get-sent-into-space (it’s a long story).  I was awarded a Masters of Arts with Honours in History and Archaeology, First Class.  I took my photos in the Old College Quad.

And that was four years.

Taking the photos, I looked up to the Golden Boy on the roof of Old College and thought about seeing it for the first time back in 2015.

After graduation, Mom and Dad and Crosby and I went to Sandy Bells to wait for our dinner reservation.  I messed up the timings and booked a much later reservation than I thought.  We ate at the Witchery by the Castle and once again I’m reminded exactly how I want my future official dwelling to look.

Wednesday, I took the family to Stirling to see the Castle.  On all accounts, I believe they enjoyed it.  I went to Stirling with Gregor and our Canadian exchange student Sarah in first year so it was nice to return.  I also took them to Gregor’s friend’s coffee shop.

Thursday was the Fourth of July.  It was my third Fourth of July outside of America.  Truthfully, I found it hard to celebrate this year when the quote American Dream un-quote is being denied to so many.  When children are being separated from their parents and held in cages with no beds or toothbrushes or soap.  When women are denied autonomy over their own bodies.  When teenagers fear for their lives while they are trying to get an education.  But sure, let’s parade tanks, force people to work instead of giving them their day off, and brag about the Continental Army ‘taking the airports.’

Anyway, I also got two really pretty tattoos. One is a Kansas sunflower – a symbol of loyalty and the flower of the American Suffragettes.  The other is a Scottish thistle – a symbol of defiance and memory.  Both are actually from the same plant family and are also both noxious weeds!  Tattoos have become a cathartic release for me.  I’ll carry them forever as reminders and memories of where I came from, where I went, and where I’ll go next.  Tat me up!!111!!!

That evening Tuva and Erling and Alven and Crosby and I went to see the new Spider-Man film.  Highly rated, Zendaya wears a Joan of Arc T-shirt.

Friday was Crosby’s 20th birthday.  Yikes.  Mom and Dad took her shopping and I ran a few errands.  I met up with Sophie for a quick cup of coffee and she gave me the loveliest card which I cried reading on the train.

That evening, Roseneath went to the Argyle for one last official flat pub outing.  Gregor went to sleep early as he was still recovering from celebrating his own graduation. Tuva and Erling and Alven and I stayed up late into the night drinking whisky and crying in the kitchen.

Saturday morning I woke up early and packed the rest of the shit I needed to take back to Bamburgh.  Mom and Dad came by Roseneath to help me carry my stuff as I can’t put a lot of stress on my shoulder just yet with the fresh tats.

And that’s when I said goodbye to my sweet, darling Norwegians.  I’m so glad that I met them on a mountain in the Lake District four years ago.  All my love you two.

By now, they are safely back in Oslo.  Gregor is still in the flat and will be there when I return in late July.  But, Roseneath as we knew it with Tuva and Erling and Gregor and Kennedy has come to an end.

It won’t be forever, but I know the separation of Roseneath will probably last far too long.  However, I do know this, when we do see each other again, wherever in the world it will be – it will be as if we never parted.  As I’ve learned, global friendships are some of the hardest to keep.  But, if you can keep them, they prove to be the most rewarding.  Having friends across countries and over oceans makes the world just a bit smaller and that much more wonderful.

But, goodbyes are fucking hard.  I don’t think they will ever get easier.

And so, I returned to Bamburgh Castle and my family toured the site.  We ate lunch together and I worked for the rest of the day.  After a week off, I need to reorganize some stuff and get back into the workflow.

I’ve cycled to and from the castle when it hasn’t rained to think.

So much has ended.  So much is beginning anew.  I’d be lying if I said I haven’t cried at least once per day this past week.  But, I wouldn’t trade these past four years.  I will carry my memories of my friends in Edinburgh forever.

Will update more later.

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!

 

~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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

*stress-fess begins and other haps*

For how many contact hours I have this semester I should really be writing more.

Things around Edinburgh have been in that weird stage of ‘IamextremelystressedbutalsostrangelycalmshouldIbeworriedaboutthis?’

If you know the feeling you know, and if you don’t oh, my sweet summer child.

Apologies for not writing as much, but in reality, I don’t think you’d find my general bouncing and bopping interesting.  However!  I was convinced otherwise by a few devote readers of my illustrious list of mild inconveniences to detail more about the mundane facts of my existence.

Since you’ve last heard from me:

I went to the Cairngorms with the EUMC.  We stayed a cute lil bunkhouse because Scottish winter is very cold and there isn’t enough sunlight to justify camping.  I went running without any knee braces and suffered no ill side effects.  I’ve been rehabbing my knees religiously because I don’t want to have to wear braces anymore.  I also walked to see some prehistoric standing stones.

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wow i love old standing stones.

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I started a 120 hour online TEFL course.  This will let me teach english as a foreign language.  Just more options, I guess.

I submitted my second essay for Early Medieval Sexualities.

I went to see The Favourite and Mary, Queen of Scots. I don’t know why 2019 has become the year of historical female power dramas but I’m living for it!  The films aren’t totally historically accurate, but honestly, sometimes historical purists need to calm down and enjoy themselves ffs.

The EUMC had our Burn’s Ceilidh.  Burn’s Night is a Scottish holiday to celebrate the poet Robert Burns.  Each year the lads and lassies of the EUMC write crass poems about each other to be read aloud at the ceilidh.  My poem was about how I find skeletal remains more interesting than living people, and I mean, I could be offended… but, it’s true?

I woke up the next morning with sore arms and bruises from being 1) swung around during ‘strip the willow’ and 2) purposely throwing myself and my dance partners at other people for funnies (Sorry Alven, Erling, and Ben).  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: ceilidhs are a contact sport set to fiddles and drums. And. I. Love. It.

I’m still plugging away at my dissertation and the last of my coursework.  At the moment, I have three essays, a presentation, and my dissertation.

BUT! Everything is done by 8 April.

It’ll be a stress-fess for the next two months – but it has to get done, so it’ll get done.

All the work has to get done because my loving parents booked a holiday on 9 April. I was told this was booked in the same vein as when my dad sent me my Christmas present right before exams.  Physically, the gift was an Xbox, but, you see, this was only a metaphor for the actual gift: a lesson in self-control and discipline…

But! I will be free from uni soon.  Then I can spend my days working on my novel, and finally, have some peace.