Youngblood Blog

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Barons of Scotland Pave Way for Declaration of Independence

Seals of Scotland’s bravest & finest: crests shown: Cheyne of Duffus, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, and Gilbert de la Hay, Baron of Errol in Gowrie

BARONS OF SCOTLAND PAVE WAY FOR DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
700 Years since Declaration of Arbroath 1320: Food for Writerly Thought in 2020

For so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent or subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honours, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life
Barons of Scotland, April 6th, 1320 Aberbrothock

Arbroath, former Aberbrothock, is an historic royal burgh (town), North Sea fishing port, and holiday resort in the county of Angus, Northeast Scotland. Dundee, home to RSS Discovery (Capt.Robert F Scott’s frozen Antarctic vessel),jute, jam and journalism, lies 15miles south. Aberdeen 50 miles north.

It is famous today for Arbroath smokies—or smoked haddock ‘kippers’. And for its mediaeval Abbey, once foremost (richest) cathedral church and chief Benedictine monastery in the realm.

Founded 1178 by King William the Lion for Thomas à Becket, Arbroath Abbey served by 14thC as both secular parliament and most revered religious hub


Arbroath Abbey, the richest and most influential religious center in the North, was founded in 1178 by King William I, the Lion, of Scotland, who chose to be buried there. The Declaration of Arbroath, asserting Scotland’s independence from English rule, was a letter written 700 years ago this week to the (French) Pope by Bernard de Linton, Abbot of Arbroath and Chancellor of Scotland.

It is one of the great icons of the Scots, written in Latin to the Pope in Avignon, and signed by eight earls and 31 barons of Scotland. They plead with him to rescind excommunication—which the Roman Catholic church had just imposed on the King of Scots along with his earls and nobles, based on claims by the English king Edward. They ask him to acknowledge Scotland as an independent nation—which eventually he does.

It has been claimed to serve as model for slave-owning American landowners in their 1766 Declaration of Independence, but history may dispute that.

It was signed by Nobles and Parliament at Arbroath Abbey—richest and most elite religious and secular center of the land. Those nobles unable to attend sent their seals by messenger to the Chancellor to be affixed to the final document. The Declaration was then sent by sea from the small fishing port to Pope John XXII at his court in Avignon. It left the harbour—looking much as it looks today—in a small fishing vessel on April 6th, 1320, headed for Provence and the Mediterranean coast.

By then, as the nation’s supreme cathedral church, the Abbey was enlarged through 14th-16th centuries inkeeping with its grandeur. The Abbey church at that time boasted the nation’s largest known stained glass windows—in the south transept. It replaced nearby St.Vigean’s (Pictish 8thC heraldic/religious stone center) and was briefly home to Aberdeenshire‘s Monymusk Reliquary, believed to hold relics of St. Columba, now housed in National Museum of Scotland.

Cancelled Celebrations and Call for Loyalty in 2021
It is no surprise to learn that the City & Burghers of Arbroath have announced cancellation of their long-awaited “700 Years” Festival for this year, but have rescheduled festivities for 2021. Hurrah for the smokies!

Signatories included the Earl Marischal Robert Keith, Gilbert de la Hay Constable of Scotland, the Earls of Mar, Fife, Ross & Sutherland, & Lords of Brechin, Kincardine, Lovat & Saltoun. No seal represents the Comyn Mormaer of Buchan

Scots, wha’ hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gorey bed,
Or tae victorie

Now’s the day, an now’s the hour:
See the front o’ battle lour,
See approach proud Edward’s power
Chains and Slaverie

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn an’ flee

Wha, for Scotland’s King and Law,
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw?
Freeman stan’, or Freeman fa’,
Let him on wi’ me…
Robert Burns, 1793, recently used as SNP anthem

Words put in the mouth of Robert I Brus, self-proclaimed king of Scots, on eve of Bannockburn, 1314. Reason for papal decress: Bruce, a west-coaster claiming royal lineage, had murdered last Pictish Earl and Mormaer, John “Red” Comyn of Buchan, 1306 on the altar of Greyfriars church, Dumfries. His army of followers subsequently put torch to all Comyn hunting lands in N.E.Scots landmass: Buchan——modern Aberdeenshire——and the people spoke of the Herschip o’ Buchan Caledonian hunting forests,”burning for 30 years” i.e. fires were still smoking during Bannockburn; Comyn’s descendants did not sign the Declaration, above left; no signature represents Buchan or half the landmass of NorthEast Scotland on the document.
[caveat:In 242 sq.miles of Buchan ‘Broch loons’ and ‘Doric quines’ still feel this way aboot R the B]

The Round O and Reid Lichties
We sympathize with all Scots at this time, particularly celebrants in the coastal town—so-called Reid Lichties*—for their temporarily-suspended Festival because of Corona virus precautions. Councillors and festival organizers have proposed April 2021 as the month they will be “ready to roll” once again.

Distinctive round window high in the 15thC south transept, top, was originally lit up at night as a beacon for mariners aiming for the North Sea port. It is known locally as the ‘Round O’. From this maritime tradition inhabitants of Arbroath are colloquially known as *’Reid Lichties’ (Scots reid = red). Not to be confused with any other red light district.<3

Earth Week now Earth Month
April, as we writing fanatics know, is A-to-Z Challenge month—2020 Challenge sign-up closes April 5th. So my writing cohorts, Insecure or otherwise may forgive me for sidestepping our usual first Wednesday blog-hopping ritual—and daily wordcount—in order to give precedence to Scotland’s historical milestone. I feel Arbroath deserves the mention. There are many American descendants of those noble families whose seals deck the document who may feel inspired to visit the great Abbey after all this medical stuff has blown over. I hope they will.

And we writers KNOW—when the Muse speaks, we listen. We ignore her at our peril. So what’s a few missed sentences between the centuries?

Post scriptum: On Christmas Day 1950, the Stone of Destiny—used in recent centuries for royal coronations—was removed from Westminster Abbey, London. On April 11, 1951, the missing stone was found lying on the site of the Abbey’s altar at Arbroath.
©2020 Marian Cameron Youngblood

April 1, 2020 Posted by | blogging, culture, history, sacred sites, traditions, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clinging to Mother Earth or Exploding to the Stars—the Writing Option

CLINGING TO MOTHER EARTH OR EXPLODING TO THE STARS—THE WRITING OPTION
April—Busy Month for IWSGers and A-to-Z Challenge Writers

East Island French Frigate Shoals atols and seamounts in Polynesian Pacific ocean, with levels rising

One WORD after another WORD after another WORD is POWER
Margaret Atwood

Somewhere amid Pacific Ring of Fire shaking last night—two Mag.6.2pointers in Aleutians & Solomons, Mag.5s in Baja and Peru—a mother Humpback whale with last year’s calf in tandem, swims into spouting distance of the black sand surfing beaches of Big Island, Hawai’i.

No seagulls, no hummingbirds, but Big Island has Hawai’ian Green sea turtles and…

She will not be disturbed. Neither will the pool of Hawaiian Green sea turtles doing swim relay within yards of a famous surfers’ beach.

The Hawai’ian chain has no native species of terrestrial reptiles or amphibians. But loads in the ocean.

On land lizards, geckos, salamanders and Coqui frogs were introduced—in contrast to marine reptiles—green-sea turtles and sea snakes—that are native. Offshore vast schools of whales, dolphin, orca roam. The Islands are pitstop and mating grounds for hundreds of Humpbacks every winter; babies returning to visit the following year.

Indigenous to the islands is Nene, the Hawai’ian goose and national bird, along with Hawaiian Monk Seal and Hoary Bat which live nowhere else. Geographic isolation has triggered their evolution here as endemic—wildlife not seen elsewhere. The absence of hummingbirds is striking—importing them is banned—but multicolor treecreepers and honeycreepers are vivid and acrobatic.

From Whales and Turtles to Lava and Myrtles
Tragic errors were made by colonial benefactors. An example is the 1883 effort to reduce (introduced species of) rats, mice and larger rodents by allowing predation by the Indian mongoose.

…and exultant fire turtles exploding from neighboring volcanoes in active flows

Hawaiian crow, Hawaiian goose, and other endemic birds of the archipelago have been lost to this predator. Unlike hedgehogs beloved of motorists in Britain, these spiny omnivores are illegal in Hawaii—where the mongoose—not a rodent but an (Herpestes) Ichneumon akin to a shrew—has taken over the territory. Original reason for importing Mongooses to the islands is not clear. They are famed for killing large snakes in India. Kipling made sure children read and made friends with Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in Jungle Book. There are feral cats, dogs, boar, goats. Miraculously, no rabbits.

Coqui frog—Eleutheradactylus coqui—can climb trees and serenades at night

And there are no snakes in Hawai’i. No monkeys either.

Indigenous wildlife groups guard the islands from ‘invasive species’ like the (right pic) onomatopoetically-named Coqui. I find his mating nighttime frogsqueak charming, and his consumption of mosquitoes a blessing; but he is considered a ‘pest’. Mosquitoes hitched a ride from Asia.

Unlike the inhabitants of Easter Island who cut and burned their own trees to extinction, Hawai’ian tradition has cherished and nurtured successive forests of a miracle hardwood—Ohi’a—itself under threat from within. Indigenous, multi-tasking, adaptable in elevation, from sealevel, jungle to volcano peak, it has served as lumber for sacred structures, roof-tiles, fencing and fuel. Its flower is the Lehua, below.

Sacred Carving, Weaponry and Ritual
Volcano goddess Pele became jealous because she asked the handsome warrior Ohi’a to be her consort and he refused, saying he already had a lover, Lehua. In her anger Pele changed Ohi’a into a gnarled and twisted tree. Lehua was heartbroken, as she and Ohi’a were inseparable. The gods took pity on her and turned her into a flower on the tree.

Sacred Hawai’ian hardwood Ohi’a tree with red Lehua pompom blossom, unique in creating its own subsoil on fresh lava, is under threat from within

Ohi’a hardwood was used for canoe decking and seats; for house building, cooking bowls, poi/pounding boards (traditionally beaten with a volcanic basalt pestle), furniture, spears and tools. The Lehua flowers and buds are used for ritual lei-making.

Folklore has it that if you pick the sacred flower, separating her from her tree lover, it will rain.

The tree grows in crazy places—tolerating a range of soil conditions, rainfall and temperature. At sealevel, in jungle, marshes and rainforest, all the way up to the treeline at 8,200feet on Mauna Loa—the world’s highest stratovolcano—twice the height of Mile-High Denver. There it forms a straggly succulent creeping plant, beloved of bees, unique in burrowing into fresh lava, establishing its own compost, root tendrils breaking down subsoil, creating new ecosystems.

In May 2018 lava emerging from under the cinder cone of Pu’u O’o several miles east of Pele’s Mauna Loa and Kilauea, completely submerged Leilani township in fresh basalt. The human residents left. But almost twelve months later the magic myrtle Ohi’a-Lehua has found cracks, created a new existence where nothing else could.

What do these ocean creatures and spirits have to do with writing, you may ask. Our fearless starcruiser Cap’n.Alex and #AtoZ Challenge Chief Arlee Bird might be busy bloghopping, but I think they’d agree—all of us—writers or readers—are going to be affected fairly soon by ocean rise, plastic absorption, mammal and fish death and by the need for clean water. I am the first 2nd.Lieut-in-writing to applaud their tenacity in reaching for the stars. Writers Rulez forever!

Thing about crises on a planetary scale, we writers-bloggers-A-to-Zers mostly just thank our stars we’re still breathing, turn back to the keyboard and…
Write on.
©2019 Marian Youngblood

April 3, 2019 Posted by | authors, blogging, calendar customs, culture, earth changes, environment, fiction, nature, novel, ocean, popular, publishing, rain, seasonal, weather, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fishing for Compliments—or a Living

INSECURE WRITERS’ MONTHLY SHARING CORNER or
EMPATHIZING with the UNSUNG aka Fishermen

Crescent City, CA marina April 2016 without boats, photo courtesy Tom Lesher F/V Jumping Jack

Crescent City, CA marina April 2016 without boats, photo courtesy Tom Lesher F/V Jumping Jack


Crab Fisherman’s Lament 1991-1992 & 2015-2016
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the hall
all the fishermen sat at the Conference Call.
Their boats, they were nestled all snug in the Bay,
in hopes that tomorrow would be opening day.
Bud with his checkbook and Vince with his pen
were just sitting down—they had done it again.
They had to come up with some new kind of story
“Well you know guys we’ve got way too much inventory.
“The most we could possibly pay you’s a buck.
“If you want more than that, well, you’re just out of luck.”

In all of the ports there arose such a clatter
people jumped out of bed to see what was the matter.
“All right guys, calm down now, you’ve vented your spleen.
Perhaps we could gove you a dollar fifteen.”
“Enough of this bullshit—we’ve had it to here—
“We’re not goin’ fishing, we’re not setting the gear.”

Crab cemetery—dying to get in

Crab cemetery—dying to get in

So we tied up the boats, put away all the bait,
and we all settled down for a long season’s wait.
In Fort Bragg and Eureka, ‘Come hell or bad weather’
Crescent City and Brookings ‘We’re stickin’ together’
And even in Trinidad, Port Orford, too.
But we just didn’t count on that bad Newport crew—
“We’re not sittin’ around, nah, we’re setting the gear,
“The rest of you go stick a squid in your ear.”
Well, the wind it was calm, and the ocean was placid,
But then came those fatal words: domoic acid.
For some weird sort of chemical found in the guts,
They’re closing the season. Those guys must be nuts.”

We ranted and raved, but ’twas to no avail
‘cos the Feds and the bureaucrats always prevail.
After twenty-some odd days, we finally did go.
And over both shoulders some crabs we did throw.
But there weren’t too many—at a pretty poor price.
For a lot of us Holidays weren’t all that nice.

Well you knew things got screwed up. Now you know the reason.
So ‘tight lines’ to all—and maybe next season.
Tim Harkins F/V Maria Concetta, Trinidad, CA

Empty Marinas, Oceangoing on Hold

Rancho Chualar cropcircle December 30th, 2013, highlights the 1. 9. 2. and π 3.14159265359 ad infinitum

Rancho Chualar cropcircle December 30th, 2013, highlights the 1. 9. 2. and π 3.14159265359 ad infinitum

Pacific coastal fishing has been on hold since December last year. Ports in California and Oregon—Pacific Northwest—are hurting. Empty marinas everywhere—as in Crescent City photo, top. Bureacratic delay in decisions has affected a little-known segment of the food-provider chain—fishing boat captains and their crew—with their wives, families, dependents.

Government procrastination is only one aspect. Final pay-out—if any—of compensation to the fishing fleet is mostly eaten up in overwintering expenses, without income. Crew members are not covered by Fish & Game authority or Federal handouts. Generosity to deck hands depends solely on captains who have themselves reached near-crisis point.

In an election year, farmers with drought problems—e.g. Salinas CA last year—Chualar Crop Circle at left—and misfortunes of our Pacific hands-on fishing fleet in small coastal ports—may seem like small potatoes. Not high priority television news.

Business, Balance Sheets and the Biosphere
Tonight, however, and for two more evenings in the run-up to Earth Day and Earth WeekApril 20— Humboldt State university-influenced Arcata Playhouse will feature a presentation and film screening by EPIC of TREE-SIT: THE ART OF RESISTANCE followed by discussion with HSU environmentalists who may have found a way forward amid conflict with business, balance sheets and the Biosphere.

Survival of the human race may not be on our minds as writers who document or fantasize our way on to people’s reading list. But previous reminders by our ocean, our farming hinterland, our rising temperatures—80ºF today in NoCal—have been persistent—witness 2015 as hottest year on record.

And there’s more to come. I’m sure even our fearless leader, Alex, and his sci-fi acolytes would find a way to squeeze our plight into readable form, so we can pull out the stops together—even while we struggle with April A-to-Z challenge, we writers might make a difference.

It’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting through this together.
©2016 Marian Youngblood

April 6, 2016 Posted by | culture, environment, ocean, seasonal, traditions, weather, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Editing one’s Way through Writer’s Block

Monthly IWSG

Self-explanatory; though some friends say there should be a time segment for beating-head-against-wall...

Believe me, I really didn’t think I’d get hit by the dreaded Block –the writer’s nightmare par excellence— only a few months into our fun bloghopping fiesta with Alex in his Insecure Writers’ Support Group. Part of the IWSG guidelines are, after all, that we can share our insecurites, without feeling vulnerable, but if we’re feeling strong (sometimes we are), we writers who ‘have been through the fire’ (Alex’s words) should encourage others who might be struggling, by sharing the lessons we’ve learned.

“When I write I feel like an armless, legless man, with a crayon in my mouth” Kurt Vonnegut

This month the only lesson I’ve learned–blah–is that the Block waits for no man-woman-child; it can pounce at any time and, unless we can lay culpability at the door of the Muse–for her being in absentia–there’s no-one else to blame, but ourselves.

Alex and his equally illustrious-and-prolific blogging buddy, Arlee Bird, don’t hang around. They both blog and read/comment on others’ blogs daily and, instead of allowing the ‘block’ to take me over, I should probably have signed up for Lee’s amazing April A-to-Z challenge. It is, after all, one of the best ways to ease oneself out of that frozen-can’t-cope stance, because the challenge makes you write EVERY day during April: self-evidently alphabetically sequential. I recommend it to those bloggers/beginners who have the gift of writing something interesting/meaningful every day in life. [I do write every day in life–I have always kept a journal, still do–but what’s going through my head at the moment is far from meaningful]. And, for those just getting into the blogging craze, it’s a great way to start; to follow and comment on other blogs; and to emulate other bloggers. If you check out the link, you’ll find their following is massive, and if you want to make new writing friends, both AtoZ and IWSG are the way to go.

There’s an added incentive to put–just a few–words on the screen every day, because, as we all know, words on the screen are basically what this (unblocked) writing’s all about.

All writers need encouragement, because what we have in common is our (strange) lack of self-confidence. It must come from all those years of being holed up alone, writing our magnum opus. So when the day dawns for the book launch, we seem to be surprised that we pulled it off. [I am being positive, here, you’ll notice].

But I didn’t sign up, because I’m–er–editing. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Nevertheless, my editing is coming along fine. I have just tightened up (again) chapter twenty-nine; only another sixty more chapters to go…

Feeling discarded, Muses waiting in the wings, until the left hemisphere departs

What it comes down to is this: while I may LOVE the sensation of being enfolded by my Muse (when I’m in the “zone”, right hemisphere), the editor in me (left hemisphere person) that insists on inserting commas, semi-colons and em-dashes in the correct places, has a valid role to play, too. I imagine countless Muses waiting in the wings, feeling redundant and discarded, while their left hemisphere counterparts tackle the job.

I admit to struggling with the switch-over. I tried, in one earlier blog, to summarize how it feels to have plot bunnies interrupt the editing process: almost as irritating as having them try to direct the creative flow, when the Muse is in residence.

I shall have to take my own advice and try to be a little more patient with myself. The best and worst of writers have good and bad days. Philosophically, we wouldn’t appreciate the one, without the misery of the other. And it is never productive to rail against the status quo. We all know in our hearts that it is the very contrast of what currently ‘is’ that, with a few gentle strokes, helps us change it to what we hope ‘will be’. And it’s never a good idea to beat the horse we’re mounted on, and even less clever to heap criticism on the rider. If we give ourselves a hard time about it, it will take even longer to resolve..


When it comes to edits, don't rely on your Muse to help, because she'll send a minion

So, I’d better get back to that edit: my inner taskmistress is a bully. But she won’t mind if I pause for a moment to add five pieces of advice which the great C.S. Lewis gave to a young writer: they are, after all, rather more editorially- than Muse-inspired words; so, when you wake up one of these mornings in bed with Rite R. Block yourself, you may find them worth re-reading.

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
C.S.Lewis

And thanks, Alex, Lee and my other talented writerly friends (you know who you are) for letting me sound off today.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

April 4, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, popular, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments