Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be.  
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dr. Horrible

Maybe you've already discovered this, but if not it is definitely worth a download. I just watched all three acts and definitely think Joss Whedon has a great idea. With a little more character development and a few more quirky supporting actors, it could be a new Little Shop of Horrors, not to say that it isn't great as a online phenom. Enjoy! (By the way the Joss Whedon link goes to his recent interview on Fresh Air.)

Just, Margaret

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I've been reading Rumi.  Some of you out their may already know that if you pay attention to what's "in my carryon." [smile] My parents gave me the book along with some candy hearts for Valentine's Day.  And the night that it arrived (which was actually several days after Valentine's Day) I just so excited to flip it open to a random page and just began reading.  Everything I had heard of Rumi up to this point was kinda shrouded in mystery.  The people I knew who really enjoyed reading his words, often said I should read him, but never really why.  I'm coming toward an understanding of what they meant.  I always find it remarkable when I connect with an author's words, especially words that were written thousands of years before.  There is something that feels so personally relevant in every passage I've read out of the book so far.  I find myself continually feeling like the words written on the page are ones that I have always intuitively felt, but never able to express.  A real union of souls... 

In the midst of reading Rumi on Sunday during some Sabbath time, I began to think about the coming of Lent.  (Let me illuminate the whole picture:  I was also listening to some music through my faithful Macbook- a mix tape with a little of this and that.  Anyway Matthew Sweet's song I've Been Waiting came on and I thought of Lent.)  And without beginning to sound so preachy (I can't deny that it is in the genes, but I can choose not to indulge [smile])... I thought about how Lent is about waiting, anticipation of something, i.e. Easter, to come.  Its also associated with a time of self-denial, but thats really the part of Lent I can never quite master.  I don't mean being committed to giving up sweets or some TV show, ect.  I mean that I can't master the feeling of self-denial, which I usually think of as being quite negative. 

I've had a lot of experience with waiting.  There are some things in my life that I feel like I've been waiting for for 25 years.  And I guess I could, after all this time, fall easily into doubt... believing that because it (falling in love or figuring out what I'd like to do with the rest of my life or finally finding a place to live for longer than just a few years at a time) hasn't happened yet it never will.   I just can't wait, even in Lent, without looking toward what is to come, Easter, with hope.  Some may consider this optimism to be naive, but I feel blessed to be able to look at life this way.  Hoping and trusting God to guide me through all these experiences is very exciting and it helps me to live more fully into the present.  That brings me back to Rumi, who I feel must have also felt this way waiting for those moments of epiphany, fulfillment of hope, for little Easters.  He writes, "The Most Alive Moment":
The most living moment comes when 
those who love each other meet each

other's eyes and in what flows
between them then.  To see your face

in a crowd of others, or alone on a
frightening street I weep for that.

Our tears improve the earth.  The
time you scolded me, your gratitude, 

your laughing, always your qualities 
increase the soul.  Seeing you is a 

wine that does not muddle or numb, 
We sit inside the cypress shadow

where amazement and clear thought
twine their slow growth into us.    
Just waiting, Margaret

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras!!!

After four hours of watching yeast rise, shaping it, then watching it rise again, I finished making a king cake from scratch.  Although the whole process may sound a little daunting, it was actually a lot of fun and easier than it appears.  I think I might make it a Mardi Gras tradition.  It would be a fine tribute to my love of Louisiana.  I couldn't have managed it without the help of Josephine who helped me with the first phase of making the dough.  Now I'm so ready to eat it not all by myself of course.  [smile]

Just, Margaret 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Add oil.

Check this link out.  Scroll down and you'll see that my paper on Hurricane Katrina landscapes was accepted by the Association of Social Anthropologist Conference to be held at the University of Bristol in April.  Be excited.  I am and to be honest a little freaked out.  I've presented papers before, but never at a professional conference with international participants.  But I'll leave freaking out for a little later and just be all smiles today.  

On that note: I want to express a quick thank you to my friends in Louisiana.  You were totally my inspiration... you a people of vibrant resilience and life.  I just hope that this paper can help continue to bring awareness of the devastation that still exists in some regions of Louisiana and Mississippi now almost 4 years later.  Thank you and Happy Mardi Gras!

Just, Margaret

*By the way the title of this post may seem a little strange, but "add oil" is a phrase used in Hong Kong to say "keep up the good work" and my friend Josephine has gotten into the habit of reminding me to keep going when the pressure of our studies gets to be a bit overwhelming.  Don't worry I make sure to say it back to her too.  [smile] 

Saturday, February 21, 2009


With the weather we are having it is hard to believe that just 15 days ago there was snow on the ground.  The sun today was just so awesome.  As I was walking to the library (yes even on the most beautiful day I had to go to the library... don't worry I found a really sunny corner to sit [smile]), I wished I could transport some friends from the States to Bristol today.  It would be the perfect day to give a tour of all the places I've discovered since moving here.  A bit of explanation for the photo above:  This is the patch of grass right outside my window.  I've observed several people stop a moment to look at the blossoming of wildflowers that have popped up over the last week.  Isn't it beautiful?  The small white flowers are snowdrops and I have no idea what the purple/blue flowers are.  I feel so blessed to such a beautiful personal window-scape.  

Just, Margaret

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

1:6.5 billion or 1:2500

The subject of this post is slightly out of date I guess, but as I just listened to the This American Life Valentine's Day episode it fits what I was thinking about today on my walk to campus this morning.  Anyway the show was all about "finding love" in some capacity "somewhere out there", including a story about children finding friendship in the midst of a really difficult situation, a love story across language barriers, and a really funny selection from one of Mike Birbiglia's comedy acts.  My favorite bit was the very first story about a bunch of Harvard mathematicians who work out the formula for the possibility of finding girlfriends.  I, a romantic at heart, felt such a serge of contradiction while listening to their highly rational process and seeing the reason in their approach.  And my heart went out to the poor woman who with all her added qualifications for her possible mate was reduced to 1:0.  It made me think of this article I read in some newspaper supplement here that advised the reader to write out all the qualities she might expect in a mate and all the qualities that really would turn her off.  Then it said look at each list and set out with the goal in mind of finding someone that will most likely possess at least one of the annoying bits and lack at least one of the crucial bits.  It does seem like a pretty realistic plan and would probably open up the woman's possibilities who was mentioned in the piece.  Maybe she could then at least hope for 1:50.  [smile]  This American Life is always thought-provoking and this episode was great.  If you missed listening to the show, make sure to follow the above link or download it from iTunes. 

On another note, the English spring seems to be emerging over the last few days.  Warmer weather, sun, and lots of flowers beginning to appear through the earth so recently covered in snow.  It almost feels like I'm in Georgia.

Just, Margaret

Sunday, February 15, 2009

King Cake Query

I'm looking for a good and fairly easy recipe for Mardi Gras King Cake. I'd really like to try making one for my international housemates and share another part of my US Southern culture with them.  Too bad I didn't bring any of my Mardi Gras Beads with me.  Any suggestions for the cake would be very welcome. 

Just, Margaret

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

As promised on Valentine's Day an excerpt from a love letter written by my great-grandfather to my great-grandmother while he was serving in the US Army during the First World War.

I am crazy to see you. You dont know how often I think about you. I love you with all my heart and hope I can soon be with you again. Well I better ring off[,] be good now and Please dont worry I am always yours[.]
                                             love & kisses
                                             5 oclock

And now for a little fun, check out this silly love song from the Barenaked Ladies and one of my new favorites by The Weepies.  

Just, Margaret

Friday, February 13, 2009


Meant to blog today about some of the things other than research I've been doing this week (it was Islamic Society Week at the University), but I am absolutely exhausted after a field trip today.  So needless to say no post of any merit today.  My plan is to stop by the Fish and Chips place on my way home, then shower and bed.  

Just, Margaret

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Archival Fun

I spent close to 6 hours in the Bristol Records Office today going through the archives for my course on Standing Buildings. I've chosen my building to write about and so I was trying to make a dent on the primary resource material. Continue reading at your own peril I'm going to lapse into archaeological/historical nerd mode. [smile] I'm researching "a Mansion on Great George Street" in Bristol and that is literally the best address I have found so far for my site. Why research "a Mansion on Great George Street"? Well, it has what I think is an interesting contemporary history. In 1861 it became home to the Clergy Daughters School (later called St. Brandon's, but can't you guess why I like this place). More importantly in 1939, the School was conscripted into government use during wartime, specifically it became the site of an American Red Cross Service Club for African Americans. So it fits in with my MA dissertation too - exploring the recreational life of American GIs in Bristol during WWII. I've thought all this out! [smile] A day at the archives was fun, but really tiring so tonight's downtime at the Archaeology and Anthropology Department's weekly evening seminar was much needed and dinner out for a change with a few of my fellow North American colleagues was just what I needed.

I'm back to archives in the morning to finish up looking into their files and hopefully putting a better picture together of what happened there. I've taken lots of photos and will try to post one of the building tomorrow night maybe (just so you can have an idea of what I'm working with, although I don't promise that it will seem very exciting as the building is fairly plain). Perhaps life as a historical archaeologist isn't looking quite as fascinating as it once seemed. The thing to keep in mind is that you never know what a day in the archives will turn up. Among the little treasures I found today was a letter written the morning after the School was evacuated (due to the increasing danger of being in Bristol in wartime and the order of conscription) asking that care be taken to boarding up the School's organ. I just thought that it was so poignant that the head mistress would have taken the time to leave such instruction in light of the danger from which she was fleeing. Something to think about at least.

Just, Margaret

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I decided...

against. I'd already really come to the decision to go back to the US for my PhD at Christmas, but with the prospect of having to close a door on continuing on in Bristol I felt mixed up... well "In a quandary." Anyway, I'm thankful for the experience of completing my MA in the UK, but I think with my interest in researching subject matter in the US and knowing that's where I plan to work someday I should really begin to build some archaeology contacts back home. Feels a little scary to make such a big decision in 24 hours, but then again I won't have to continue to think about it.

Just, Margaret

Monday, February 9, 2009

In a complete quandary

Do I want to do a PhD here? I have to decide today if I want funding.

I'm thinking not, but I don't know. It would be awesome, but I really want to research the material culture of Southern US culture and this is not exactly the place to do that or is it? I could do a year here and two abroad (at home) for research. Too many things to think about.

Just, Margaret

P.S. Remenents of the snow remain... mostly just melting snowmen that when toppled over make for a very wartime landscape affect which is quite ironic as I am currently sitting in on a class on the Conflict Archaeology of First World War trench, but outside the Archaeology department is a the melting remains of "Snow Henge." [smile]

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"If I loved you"

Last week I traveled with the Bristol Rotary Club to London to visit Westminster Abbey and see Rogers and Hammerstein's Carousel.  Although the day started off a little uncertainly (with all the snow of course), we all had a great time.  I have to say that I was pretty psyched about the whole trip.  I hadn't been to London since I arrived, plus last time I was there I missed seeing Westminster Abbey and I of course always love going to a musical.  Our tour of the Abbey was particularly great as we had our own private guide.  We saw all the highlights, Elizabeth 1's and Mary Queen of Scots graves, the coronation chair, Poets corner, grave of the unknown soldier.  We were a bit rushed and didn't have time to explore on our own, but I imagine that it would take a full day to see everything.  

Upon exiting the Abbey we walked the few blocks to the Savoy, past Big Ben and the House of Parliament, several of the international embassies.  We also happened to pass Number 10 Downing Street just in time to see the Prime Minister's convoy of cars arrive.  Really quite exciting (although I couldn't actually see into the vehicle to be sure it was him)!  We arrived at the Savoy Theatre in plenty of time to find our seats for the matinee.  Of all the musicals I've seen in Atlanta, London, and New York, I've never seen a Rogers and Hammerstein show.  The production was awesome.  The actor playing Billy Bigelo was particularly great, a very good singer.  The plot of Carousel is actually quite depressing (secret love, lost, and eventually love realized).  Everyone was in tears by the time for the curtain call.  Its one of those shows that makes you want to make sure you express your feelings to those who you care about.  The day ended with fish and chips at a pub.  

Just, Margaret

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Plans delayed, cathedral bells, and the cinema

I unexpectedly have had a free day.  The winter weather (that is in fact much better today with no active snowing) has put off the plans I had to visit a Rotary Club just outside of Bristol.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to revisit the club in better weather.  I was particularly looking forward to seeing the Gloucester Cathedral, the one used in the Harry Potter films as Hogwarts, and the tailor shop that was the inspiration for one of Beatrix Potter's stories.  I'll just have to make plans to visit the village some time later in the spring.  

My day instead included working a bit more on transcribing my great grandfather's journal (its not long I've just put it off as reading for class took over) and then a trip to the Central Bristol Library to do some research for another paper.  Interestingly from the time I arrived at the library to the time that I left, the bells of the Bristol Cathedral were ringing.  Over an hour of church bells pealing out an indistinct melody.  I'm not sure if they do this every day or every Saturday, but it seemed quite unusual (and quite lovely) to me.  Upon leaving the library I headed over to the Watershed theater for a matinee.  I saw Doubt... a great, albeit at times disturbing movie.  Anyway that was my day... sounds super exciting I'm sure.  [smile] I had fun.  Tomorrow may bring more snow, I'll let you know.   

Just, Margaret

Friday, February 6, 2009

Snowed in

I'm sure you're getting tired of this, but once again I'm going to post a snow-related blog.  I do promise that this one will be short and as of yet I don't have any new photos to share... because lets face it how many photos of snow can I take and how many can you look at.*  [smile]  But since this is the major news story around here these days I felt I should keep you all well-informed of the my reality.  Let me preface this next statement by reminding you that it snows in Bristol just about as often as it snows in Georgia:  Today I woke up to BBC Radio 4 spouting that in Bristol and in particular the community of Clifton had experienced "blizzard-like" conditions last night and that our world was again frosted with a lot of the white stuff.  Then the radio cautioned that anyone who didn't have to get out during the day should not do so.  So of course I moved to the window to see the damage and what I saw was definitely more snow than we've had all week, but also definitely the results of a blizzard.  Still the advice to stay off the roads if possible is a pretty good one to follow as the rumors are partly true and fewer streets and roads today are being scattered with grit (salt and sand).  So effectively I'm snowed in and won't be traveling to the Rotary weekend event I was scheduled to attend this evening.  (We might still be able to go tomorrow.)  I do have to say that I'm welcoming this extra free time to prepare for next weeks courses and get a head start on some research.  I have seen a little snow falling already today and I think they expect some more.  I'll keep you up to date.  For now I'm going to keep warm while watching my African housemates have a snowball fight.  

Just snowed in, Margaret

*So just kidding I did remember that I had wanted to share the photo above on the last post, but it wouldn't load.  Helps you really connect with the rest of my post right... a picture is worth a 1000 words right. [smile]

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snow 2.0

Victoria Square, Bristol

Although around 5PM just as I was getting out of class a brief flurry of snow mixed with freezing rain began, Bristol's weather has been fairly clear today with lots of sun.  Consequently most of the snow has now melted and we're left with wet footpaths and a little grey slush.  Still it was fun while it lasted and probably would have been a little frustrating if it lasted much longer.  Who am I kidding? I could have stood the freezing temperatures and treacherous frozen sidewalks for a few more days if it meant we could keep the fluffy white stuff.  [smile]  Actually if the weather predictions are correct, I might get my wish.  Anyway, hope you won't mind indulging my "snowtastic" mood one more day with a few more photos.  These were taken on my way to university this morning.  I've been pretty lucky to capture photos during the best parts of the day in the early dusk yesterday and then this sunny morning.  

Just, Margaret
University Gate House, Bristol

Outside the Archaeology Building, Bristol

Monday, February 2, 2009


Clifton Cathedral, Bristol

We are having a proper snow. A beautiful white blanket to grace this already charming city. And even though we had warmer weather over the last two weeks it appears the population of Bristol has come out in force to participate in the event. Even though you wouldn’t believe it as Bristol is so much further north than Georgia, I’m told that a snowy day in Bristol is just as rare as at home. Walking back from ca
mpus bundled in my wool coat, gloves, and matching green scarf and hat, I felt so elegant, a player in a theatrical landscape, even with my rosy cheeks and nose. Snow always makes me feel like just about anything can happen. 

Just, Margaret

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A cold February Sabbath in Bristol

I had another one of those moments today, one of those "I can't believe this is actually my life moments." Well, really the whole day felt this way. I spent another Sunday practicing Sabbath and a la Blair's comment last Sunday I took sometime for self-care.  Worship this morning at the Catholic Cathedral near my house, then as I walked home for lunch I actually saw some flakes of snow... not a flurry, just flakes.  [smile]  (But even flakes of snow have always seemed somehow magical to this Georgia Girl... even after my North Dakota adventure.)  I spent the afternoon lounging on my bed reading a magazine, listening to podcasts I've been meaning to catch up on, and napping.  Throughout the afternoon I tried to take a page from Elizabeth Whitson's children's book The Casual Observer, be aware of the beauty of my surroundings and watch the sky through my window change from pale blue to a deep cornflower to an irradiance violet as dusk began to fall. Before the night settled completely on my neighborhood, I decided to take a walk around the village and I found myself along with a few other people willing to bear the turn in the weather drawn toward the bridge.  Looking out at cityscape and then glancing back over the rooftops nearby, my one thought was how fortunate I am to be living in a place so beautiful.  All the colors of my landscape seemed especially soft and precious in the dusk on this cold crisp day.  Part of me can't imagine not living here forever... something about this environment is just so stimulating and invigorating.  But I imagine that part of the magic lies within its "otherness."  Perhaps my best hope for the future is in somehow storing up these experiences so that one day when I'm settled somewhere I can think back to the charming chimney-scapes of my year in Bristol.  

Just, Margaret