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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

hap newt year!

yikes, another year in the books and to be honest, 2018 was pretty amazing.

Here’s my Year in Review:

January

Traveled northward once again for Hogmanay at the EUMC Bothy.  Went skiing in the Cairngorm National Park and tripped over flat ground.  Ordered a sleeping bag with arms and legs.

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what a place to send 2017 to its fiery demise

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February 

Tuva and Erling invited me to Norway and abandoned me in a snow drift outside of a mountain hut while they went inside and ate cinnamon rolls.  Jokes aside, I got stuck all on my own.  The Beast from the East hit Edinburgh and the university was closed for a week amidst faculty strikes and bread rations.

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♑️⭕️🌾🔱🅰️✌️

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⛷⛷⛷

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March

March was essay season and I sort of stared into the void for most of it.

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y i k e s // pc @caitlin_mcgovern

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April 

The end of third year, a trip to Berlin to see Gregor and Sophie, my 21st birthday, and the last university exam I will ever take in my life. Get wrecked.

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🅱️3️⃣®👍📍♑️

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May

I take my Theoretical Archaeology exam and run/swim away to the Highlands.  The EUMC has its 75th Anniversary Dinner and then we kick off for the Road Trip.  We spend nearly a week on Skye with no rain and about a 100,000 midges.

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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

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Some scrambling.

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June

Dad visited, I went to London with Besty, worked on some dissertation stuff, started at Bamburgh as an Assistant Environmental Supervisor, and then back to Chester for more work in a medieval kirkyard.

August 

Flew back to America and meet the family for a well needed holiday.

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captured at the moment they said i could touch it.

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September 

Roseneath came to Kansas.  Gregor’s plane was never going to Chicago and he landed in Newark.  We meet a Bud Lite corporate rep who gave us 12 free pitchers.  Returned to Scotland for the start of fourth year.

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✌🏼❤️🌻

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October

Completed less work than I would have liked but went back to the Lake District one final time to see a Roman Fort.

November 

Built a model of an iron age Round House and cooked Thanksgiving for forty people. And went to the EUMC Bothy together for our last Bothy Trip.

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bothy trip year iv.

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December 

Had my last essays, EUMC Christmas Dinner, went to see Hoizer in concert, flew back to America early, spent Christmas with my cat, and flew back to Edinburgh with my sister.

I’m back in Edinburgh until term starts in the next few weeks.  Currently I’m finishing the second of my four essays for Early Medieval Sexualities, a presentation about my dissertation, and still writing and researching for the dissertation. My courses for this semester don’t change drastically.  Only ‘Architectural Archaeology’ was a semester, the rest are full year.

Edinburgh has a massive city wide party and instead of driving up north, this year the flat, some friends, and I stayed home.  My parents sent Crosby to Edinburgh for New Years here as well so my friends and I made sure she had a good time.  We watched the fireworks shoot off from the Castle in the Links and it was a pretty great start to New Years.

So hap newt years!

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✨ hap newt year ✨

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four years of bumbling

An update a little late for some but not for others.

It’s week two of fourth year.

This past weekend was spent in Glencoe.  I hiked the Three Sisters on Saturday (a walk I had done in first year and was keen to repeat to see how times had changed).  I ran down the trail back to the bus in boots and probably broke at least two toes.  That evening the club went to the historic Clachaig Inn and fondly reminisced about the snow and the hail and the rain and then finally the sun.  I learned boat races are not a thing I should compete in no matter how much I want to.  Sunday morning I left for a gentle ten mile jog, came back to the campsite by one, and took a nap until people returned around four.

I hadn’t been to Glencoe since first year, so I was quiet excited to return to see how I’ve improved.  Spoiler alert, three years does make a pretty big difference.  And since coming from Kansas back in 2015, I’ve learned a lot about mountains/mountaineering in general.  I’m still by no means an expert, but I would say I’m at least fairly competent.  It’s a bit odd now, if I’m being entirely honest, being seen by the new members of the club as one of the people who ‘knows what they’re doing.’  Especially if I think back to the some of the stupid tactical errors I pulled in the first three years of my mountain existence such as:

  • thinking I didn’t need a roll mat
  • putting guy lines of a tension tent in the wrong direction so it collapsed
  • having my water bottle freeze shut because it was metal and reversely trying to fix that by putting boiling water in a metal bottle the next day and burning my hands
  • forgetting. my. gloves.

A side by side comparison of my wholesome growth illustrated through my first year trip to Glencoe versus this past weekend for interested parties:

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spot cha girl

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Which, again being as honest as I can on this platform without further incriminating myself as a bumbling idiot, is pretty reflective of my time here at University.

For those unaware, I upended my life in 2015 and moved to Scotland having accepted my offer to study without actually visiting the country prior or knowing anyone who lived here.  At this point, as well, the longest I had spend away from home had been at most two weeks.  It was a bit of a snap decision really.  For most of my high school years, I had plans to attend UChicago to play basketball.  It really wasn’t public knowledge at the time, but I had actually been in the middle of recruitment process, having visited the university, spoken with the coach, and attended a few camps.  I applied to Edinburgh in October more as a long shot ‘what if’ but six days after my application had been submitted I was facing an unconditional offer.

By January, I decided to not even apply to UChicago and move to Scotland.

But, I am glad that I did it.

Really glad actually.

(My university saving and parents are as well just fyi.)

But, then to complicate matters further, instead of joining the basketball team as I had thought I went on the Cobbler day trip with the mountaineers.  And, after spending my formative years in Kansas, (a flat farming state in the landlocked dead-center of the USofA) I decided that I should learn how to rock climb and hillwalk.  It was a very steep learning curve, both figuratively and literally.  But it has allowed me to travel the country and see sites (including archaeological ones) that I would have never seen otherwise.

Which I guess is the point of this post? And the reason for the beginning anecdote about Glencoe. This year brings my undergraduate degree to a close, but hopefully opens up more opportunities for additional study.  And my typical fashion of bumbling around until something works out, it’ll probably crop up when I least expect it.

straight outta lfk.

Hey pals!  It’s me, writing from the authentic and original Lawrence, Kansas.

I’m in America until term starts in September.  After a short holiday with my family, I’m finally back in Kansas.  *Cue Wizard of Oz joke.* I have bit to myself to relax and write before Tuva, Erling, and Gregor show up to stay with me.  I’m really looking forward to showing my flatmates my hometown.  Lawrence isn’t as big as Oslo or as old as Crieff but I hope they will enjoy their time here.

For those unaware, Lawrence was founded by an abolitionist group from Massachusetts in 1854.  It sits on the border between Kansas and Missouri.  Prior to the official beginning of the American Civil War, Lawrence was a central part to the period known as “Bleeding Kansas.” “Bleeding Kansas” was the struggle between pro-slavery factions who wished the see the Kansas Territory enter the Union as a slave state and abolitionists who fought to see Kansas enter as a Free State.  The Kansas Territory was the hot ticket at the time as it would tip the scales (Free States to Slave States) either way it went – so there was plenty of fighting within the territory as well as external groups such as the one from Massachusetts establishing cities to gather support and abolitionist votes.

In 1855, John Brown visited the territory in support of the abolitionists and aided Lawrenicans known as ‘Jayhawkers’ to help free slaves across the Missouri border and take them to Underground Railroad stations.  The Underground Railroad was a system of safe-houses leading from the American South to the North and finally to Canada to help African-Americans escape slavery.  Because of Lawrence’s involvement in both of freeing of slaves and the setting up of a provisional abolitionist government headquarters it was attacked by Sheriff Samuel J. Jones in 1856.  Jones and his men burned many of the buildings on Massachusetts Street (the central street in Lawrence), including the Free State Hotel which had served as the abolitionist headquarters.  Lawrence rebuilt and continued to resist the pro-slavery factions based in both Missouri and nearby then official capital of Kansas, Lecompton.  Between the period of 1858 to 1861, Lawrence became the ‘people’s capital of Kansas’ and the rival to Lecompton.  Finally, in 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a Free State.

However, in the early morning of August 21, 1863, Lawrence was attacked again by pro-slavery forces in the form of William Quantrill and his band of about 450 Missouri Bushwhackers.  Quantrill and his men burned Lawrence, including the rebuilt Free State Hotel now called the Eldridge Hotel on Massachusetts Street, and murdered 200 men and boys.  The attack had been systematically planned over months and orchestrated with Quantrill compiling a list of known abolitionists to kill and buildings to burn.  It wasn’t just a spur of the moment decision.  However despite it all… Lawrence rebuilt and aided the Union throughout the American Civil War.  I’ve included engraving from Harper’s Weekly below to show the destruction from the raid.  Harper’s Weekly was a national newspaper at the time and Quantrill’s Raid for sure made national news.

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Images from ‘Harper’s Weekly’ 1863.

After the American Civil War, Lawrence continued to be a liberal hotspot in Kansas.  Our city seal is even of a phoenix rising from the ruins of a burning building, a remembrance of the two raids that tried to destroy Lawrence.  Into the twentieth century, Lawrence acted as a halfway point between New York and San Francisco.  As such, it was a hotbed for the Civil Rights Movement and protestors of the Vietnam War.  There were sit-ins and protests such as the one held by 50 black students at the very high school I would later attend.  In April of 1970, the Student Union at the University of Kansas (the university in the center of Lawrence) was set on fire in protest.

In today’s world, Douglas County is one of the few consistently Democratic counties in the state.  The one time there was an Alt-Right rally in Lawrence a few weeks ago, 750 counter-protestors showed up against the Alt-Rights’ 8.  The most recent city wide protest is the protection of art as the voice of the people.  So, if you’re wondering where I get my politics from, it has a lot to do from where I grew up.

Coming back to America is draining for me both physically from the flight and mentally with all the batshit politics.  But, at least being back in Lawrence, I see people who continue to speak out and stand up for what’s right.  And, maybe Kansas isn’t the top of the list for visits to America but I’m pretty proud to call Lawrence my hometown.  Especially now because, admit all the current bullshit, we still remember our history and try each day to do the right thing.

And, I hope when the rest of Roseneath visits they’ll be able to see that too.

 

 

 

 

 

Poulton Research Project 2018

I arrived back in Edinburgh on Saturday after spending the last two weeks in Chester working on site with the Poulton Research Project.  This is my second season back at at the site, which if you’re a keen reader of this blog you’ll know to be a 13-15c Medieval Chapel with surrounding graveyard (read about my first season here).  The excavations focus on the medieval burials – but there is plenty else around the site from Prehistoric, ‘Celtic’ Iron Age, and Roman.

I’ve scanned in my excavation log for your reading pleasure and for an extra challenge of reading my smudgy handwriting. Enjoy.

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Bamburgh Castle Excavations 2018

I just arrived back to Edinburgh last night from working excavations at Bamburgh Castle.  The castle is located south of Edinburgh, across the English border into Northumberland.  While it was largely rebuilt in the 1890s, the foundations are those of a large Anglo-Saxon coastal stronghold with close connections to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (the site of Viking raids in 793 CE).  The excavations are focused in the outer-ward of the castle (roughly the 6/7c CE) in an area of metal working and industrial activity. If you want to read more about the site check out this article from Archaeology Magazine.

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I was on site working as an Assistant Environmental Supervisor, in the role I oversaw and taught students the process of floating samples taken during excavation, drying, sieving, and sorting.  I also completed my own admin tasks helping out Alice (Environmental Supervisor) and Tom (Post-ex Supervisor) to make sure all the paperwork was complete for Graeme (Site Director).

An aside: flotation is a process by which soil samples from the trench are put into a tank of water and broken up by hands and jets.  This allows for the organic material like charcoal and seeds to float to the top and be collected in a flot bag and the heavier, inorganic material to sink to the bottom to dry and be weighed and sorted.  It’s really great for recovering information about what people were eating and growing as well as what sort of wild plants grew in an area.

If you remember, I attended Bamburgh last summer as a student.  They must have found my jokes funny, as this year I was invited back as staff.  While it was the same site, it was totally different experience and gave me valuable time in a supervisor/management role.  I am so grateful for the team at the Bamburgh Research Project for the opportunity!

Just having turned 21 and still in my undergraduate studies, I was the youngest member on staff.  Truthfully, at first, I was worried I wouldn’t be up to par for the job or that trying to teach students who were often older than me would be a little difficult.  It reminded me a lot of my time practicing tae-kwon-do.  Since I earned my black belt at 8, I was simultaneously the youngest but also one of the senior students.  This meant that despite my age, I had a leadership role.  I learned how to teach a variety of ages and experience levels.  And honestly, as I’ve learned, if you can teach a class of 10-year-olds how to spar correctly and safely you can pretty much do anything.

But anyway, back to the archaeology.

Keeping those lessons in mind, I moved quickly into my supervising role.  In a passing comment from other staff members, I ‘turned flotation into a well oiled machine.’ We quickly moved through the sample backlog from years’ past and put the Enviro team in a really good starting place for next season.  And while I wasn’t the one actually doing most of the work this year, I learned just as much about archaeology as I had the year before.  Teaching a skill really does imprint it further.  Likewise, taking part in the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of the excavation connects all the separate pieces together.

And while it made me realize how much I actually did know about my chosen field of study, it revealed what I also didn’t know.  And that was okay.  One of my biggest pet peeves of any leadership is when a leader refuses to admit they don’t know something.  As I experienced, it’s okay to admit you don’t know something.  A good leader learns just as much from their students as a student learns from a good leader.

I also learned how to quickly adapt to challenges.  We had a large sample which was taken from a shell midden last season (oddly enough, it was a sample that I had taken myself so I only had myself to blame for the mess it created).  It was 2 15L buckets of heavy organic material that when floated broken down into fibers and blocked the mesh, causing the flot bag to silt up.  The team and I had to divide the samples into smaller buckets and mix in hot water and sodium bi-carb to break down the organics.  Then we left the buckets to sit for a few days.  After the weekend, the buckets were finely ready to float.

Besides working on the environmental side of the excavation, I also taught pottery and finds illustration.  It was really fun to teach and again really helped to further ground the skills I had learned this year in my Archaeological Illustration course.  I also got hoisted 90 feet in the air to take site photos so that was pretty neat.

I’m sad to see the season over so quickly as I truly enjoyed my time on site.  Seeing both sides of an excavation was a really unique opportunity and I glad that I was able to do my part to make this season successful.  As worried as I was at the beginning, my fears quickly went away as I got into the flow of the excavation and grew more confident in my understanding of the processes and my abilities to teach.  The rest of the staff was so supportive and because they believed in me – I believed in myself.  And as my first experience in a management role on a prominent excavation – I’m pretty proud of the work we accomplished.

Today, I’m back in Edinburgh to run errands and wash my clothes, but then it’s back down south for another excavation.  More on that to come.

a video?!

 

what is this 2016?! I haven’t done a vlog in ages and this is the least I could do after shoving my camera in my friend’s faces for two weeks.  sorry not sorry. So anyway, here’s a belated mock-u-mentary about the anniversary dinner/roadtrip conveniently edited to a PG rating and under 5 minutes.

roadtripping 2018

Sorry for the absence, I’ve been away for the last few weeks getting eaten alive by midges.

I’ve been in back in Edinburgh for nearly a week after time at the Bothy, Arisaig, Skye, and Torridon.  It’s been just enough time to take multiple showers, postpone my laundry until I physically couldn’t stand to have it in my room, read not one! but two! trashy teen medieval fantasy novels, get the photos from the trip developed, take part in the Processions to celebrate 100 Years of women having the vote in the UK, and teach young children about worms.

A lot has happened so I’ll try to summarize it the best I can without boring you.

As per my last blog post, I stated I would be returning to the club Bothy in Kintail to do some final fixings before I officially retired from my post as EUMC Bothy Secretary.  With great pride, I can say the EUMC Bothy is now fitted with a fully working gas kitchen.  We cooked a group meal on Saturday night and I spent another weekend in one of my favorite places in Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Then it was quickly back to Edinburgh to repack for the following two weeks of Roadtrip.  Gregor arrived back to the flat with his dad’s orange jeep and the four of us (being Gregor, myself, Tuva, and Erling) drove to Arisaig for the kick off of the annual EUMC Roadtrip and the 75th Anniversary Dinner.  This year was special in that the event was attended by not only current Yummicks but past club members as well.  I spoke with a few members from the 1970s and 1980s.   We arrived on the Friday night and had a BBQ on the beach.  On the Saturday, we went cragging to a nearby sport crag.  That evening we had a hog roast, a ceilidh, bottles of committee wine, and I got to meet not one! but two! very fluffy cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That Sunday, Gregor drove back to see his parents and I along with Alven and Tuva packed out kit into Ellie B’s car.  Erling, Oonagh, and Ben packed with Ellie Leigh.  The eight of us went to the beach near Arisaig were we discovered how quickly the Scottish tide can come in and that apparently, gin bottles explode in hot cars (?).  Then it was off to Mallaig to catch the ferry to Skye were the weather was the nicest.  No one really starts the Roadtrip with any concrete plans, we just check the weather and go.

I had never been to Skye before this week.  I had been close, multiple times.  The Bothy is just south of Kyle of Lochalsh, which if you wanted to drive to Skye over taking a car ferry is where you would find a very steep bridge linking the island to the mainland.  And the weather was incredible.  On average Skye gets about three sunny days a year, the rest of the time it’s known to be clouded in mist and rain.  The week we were there, it did not rain a single day.  Clear skies, hot weather to the point I was still sweating in just a sleeping bag liner… and midges.

The Scottish midge is a beast known only to itself.  While I pride myself for never getting ticks or mosquito bits… holy living Hell I was eaten alive.  I looked like a pox victim.  Actually, probably worse.  And since we wild camped most nights, the midges had no mercy.

But anyway, here’s what we got up to on Skye.  Ellie B and I had a nice walk from Elgol to Kilmarie.  It was along the coast and we stopped for ice cream and met a nice dog.  We ordered way too many plates of sweet potato fries from the pub in Sligachan and probably ate all their mayo as well, sorry.  All of us had the bright idea of wild camping at the Fairy Pools so that we could wake up early and see them without all the tourists, which was great and we all went for a swim until the tourists showed up… with their mechanical, whizzing drones.  I really hope when they rewatch the footage they see my kind, respectful one finger salute while I’m trying to bathe for the first time in a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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day 1 on skye

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In a stroke of ingenuity, we sat cooking dinner in a layby with cars speeding past.  We were all well beside ourselves having realized the speed of the cars kept the midges at bay (it’s hadn’t occurred to us how low our standards had gotten that were were excited about cooking on a layby)…  that was until I woke up the next morning to see the yellow roof of my tent covered in black patches.  In a speedy departure I thought I was home free until I fell into a bog up to my waist.  Pinned down by the weight of my base bag, my friends abandoned me to the midges while I pulled myself (and about a metric ton of bog crap) out and stumbled to the car.

That afternoon, everyone was just a little tired and split up to do different things.  Some went climbing, a few ran errands to get missing kit, and I went for a run.  Despite falling in a bog that morning the day evened out and I ran a solid 18km down Sligachan Glen at the base of the Cullins.  The sun was out, the trail was amazing, and I honestly haven’t felt that happy running in a long, long, long time.  I could have kept going… in fact I sort of did.  I only planed on maybe 7/8km max… but it was just one of those days were nothing hurt and the surrounding were beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was off to Neist Point for climbing by the coast.  I’m normally not scared of heights, but, ouch, did I think I was going to fall into the ocean.  But, I mean it didn’t help that the path to the crag neared about three inches to the cliff with horrid, cackling birds below.  But, the climbing at Neist was great.  The sun did not set until nearly 11 pm so we stayed out late AND! we had our first midge free night!

 

 

 

 

 

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The next day, Ellie B and I met up with Sophie, Caitlin, and Urte who were all on their own roadtrip around Scotland.  However, before we went to Dunvegan Castle because tbh is it a trip if you don’t see a castle?  That evening we pitched our tents on a dubious beach spot and got a bit of a fright when we thought the tide would wash us out again.  But, it didn’t and we had a BBQ and celebrated the week as the sunset on Skye with a bottle of cinnamon schnappes.

We were all brutally awoken by Ali shouting, ‘CAN EVERYONE GET UP SO WE CAN LEAVE THIS HELL HOLE!’ at 7 am. My eyes snapped open it was wasn’t even patches of black this time, no my tent was entirely blackened with midges.  Not wanting to even think about moving I shouted back, ‘Have you tried asking them (the midges) nicely to leave?’ No one thought that was funny and with panicked screeching we packed up and got the heck outta Dodge.  However, this was not before Erling became the next victim and if it wasn’t for his socially acceptable male leg hair, he would have looked like not just a pox victim but Patient 0.

Ellie B drove in silence back to the pub carpark and I didn’t blame her in the slightest.  I even forgave her a bit for almost murdering me in my sleep.  *Apparently* I snore and the only way to stop it was to hold my nose until I woke up.

That afternoon, Ellie B drove Tuva, Erling, and Alven back to Edinburgh and Ali returned to Aberdeen.  I swapped into Ellie Leigh’s car with Oonagh and Ben and we all drove to Torridon.  We spend the rest of the time in Torridon before Ellie Leigh dropped me in Inverness and I caught the train back Wednesday night, just in time to go to the pub and see friends again before they all left for the summer.

But back to Torridon, it was finally windy and the midges met their rightful demise.  The highlight of my time in Torridon was scrambling across the Liathach Ridge.  With just the four of us in Torridon and with limited rack and ropes Ellie and Oonagh split off to do an eight pitch route while Ben and I completed the ridge.  (I’ve linked the route description above if you want to check it out because I’m a little too lazy to retype it here.)  But basically, at a few points, while clinging to the side of a rock I cried to Ben (he offered no sympathy, mind you!), why I, a meager Kansas farm child, had ever thought leaving the flat of the valley floor below was a good idea. Jokes aside, it was actually fine and I’m glad for this view.

 

 

 

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Some scrambling.

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The next day all four of us drove to Diabaig for some climbing but after a while we bailed and went for a swim instead.  Then it was off to Inverness to drop me at the train station for my train back to Edinburgh.  I left early so that I could make it to the RBGE Volunteer BBQ on the Thursday.

 

And that’s the trip.  I’m back now and I spent today at the gardens helping the education team with school groups aged 5-6.  I need to start some research, pay a few bills, and answer a few emails before heading off on excavation in July.  I keep telling myself to do things and I probably should get started.