Friday, July 24, 2009


The spawn will begin fencing classes soon.  They've had a few lessons, but this will be more intense; five days in a row, 90 minutes a day.  They're excited, I'm excited ...

I don't know what it is inside me that resonates so strongly with swords, lace, leather, horses, chivalry, renaissance art, and romantic gardens; the trappings of western civilization a few centuries ago.  Maybe I never fully grew up, but I think it's more than that.  

I know that even during the renaissance, when so much knowledge and aspiration exploded outward and changed the world forever, things were pretty primitive.  The medicine usually made you worse, not better.  Wealthy young men and women dropped dead of poisoning from the lead in their makeup when they sat close to the fire.  (The heat opened their pores and softened the makeup at the same time, increasing the absorption rate to lethal levels.)  If the makeup didn't get you, the plumbing did, if you were so lucky as to have plumbing.  Your other option, of course, was to take a chance with public wells, river water, or to cherish the secret of a clear spring.  People who didn't have wealth or influence often starved, lived in deplorable conditions, and had no voice in their fates.  I'll just mention the judicial system and conditions in jails--that should be sufficient to give anyone a chill.  

So it's not the real renaissance that I connect with.  Or is it?  After all, despite numerous technological disadvantages, oppression, ignorance, poverty and crushing environmental and political pressures, I marvel at all that people achieved in that time, technologically, philosophically, artistically.  I guess I love the veneer, and the courage that formed the foundation beneath it.  From where I sit in my own flawed century, I look back and respect the ideal more than what people were as a whole.  I don't know if I would survive for long, never mind achieve anything, if I were thrown back in time, even with all the advantages I have in knowledge of things like germ theory, insulation, mechanics, physics, chemistry and all the other stuff that was a mystery to them but part of a high school education to us.  Anyway, I couldn't feel superior to the renaissance man (or woman.)  Our civilization is a veneer too.  Also beneath it we have courage, and perhaps a little something more--an odd hope that we will have peace and basic needs met around the world.  But we carry our flaws with us, just as our ancestors did, as individuals and as a species.  We aren't better than them.  I think the best of what we are is connected to the best that they achieved, and maybe it's that connection I feel so keenly.

Anyway, I'll always love the art of the sword, and the fashion, how they valued wit, and the image of a knight and his lady, the gardens, the fountains, the music, even the social niceties that often merely served as a means to deliver back-handed 'compliments.'  It's what I love, and what I write, and I'll be a proud and pleased mom to see my children raise their swords and salute each other before engaging in a traditional sport that speaks to my soul.  


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've always imagined the 'good ole days' fantasy group would get a real shock. Just to take an item in your list of 'advantages', you know germ theory. Ok, boil your water. That's after you work for a few years to buy an iron pot.

It's more probable that the superstitious would kill you as a witch for doing such a strange thing - and steal your pot! ;-)

My understanding of the main cause of death in medieval armies was sepsis from sword cuts that were 'minor'..