S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Notes from the 'zoo

Last night: The hordes descended on Bilbo's, the closest pizza and brew pub to the WMU campus. I ate a rather dull chicken club pizza and ate a delicious salad. To finish, the best part: a pizzookie, a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie in a pie pan with scoops of ice cream on top. The salad and the dessert may yet prove the high point of the week's food. I don't go to the Medieval Congress for the food; my diet here is all too often composed of prepacked sandwiches and fast food.

As we walked back to the dorms in the glimmer of starlight, a fox paused to watch us through the thin cover of the trees.

Today: I prepay for breakfast in the cafeteria because it gives me an incentive to be up and about earlier than I might otherwise. This morning, over pancakes, I found griffinick there, and we talked for the first time in months; she lives too far away now, so I rarely see her. My morning session was about accidents on Medieval roads, with histories and imagery and stories from Middle High German epics. One presenter had an overhead with a watermill; I asked her about it and she gave it to me, still a high point of the day.

After a non-entity of prepack turkey sandwich lunch, made better by a fruit salad, I heard three well-presented talks on aspects of Warfare in the Late Middle Ages. I know so little about military history, but feel as if I should. So often when I tell someone I work on medieval technology, their first reaction is to ask me about catapults or battles. Steve gave one of the presentations - as usual, he was entertaining and his talk was beautifully accompanied by slides. He spoke on just how much Medieval scholastic authors did not write about ballistics. But trust me - it was entertaining.

Back on the other side of campus, I hit a third session, Economics and Identity in the Late Middle Ages. The three papers were beautifully coordinated, even more by happy chance than by intention. I learned a great deal and, best of all, the session made me think. Now I want to read the poem of Sir Amadace.

Dinner was both reunion and introduction. cliosfolly, whom I hadn't seen in several years, swept six of us into her orbit, and we went downtown to another of Kalamazoo's brew pub collection, where several other tables were also crowded with Torontonians and Cornellians. We had some of each too, with double0hilly and saffronjan, among others. I had a wonderful time discussing obscure forms of textile work, weaving, and spare houses. The chicken-veggie cream soup wasn't bad either, the salad rather generic.

One of the best parts about quasi-yearly trips to the Medieval Congress is the way it serves as reunion for the greater field of Medieval Studies - graduates of institutions past, professors from all my schools, acquaintances and friends from previous congresses. They come from all over the world too - in the throng of tonight's Toronto reception, I talked to an Australian art historian who works on medieval Italian music. She was travelling on an around-the-world ticket. Yet, for all the good of seeing people I don't see nearly enough, by the end of the day, the silence of the air outside or the computer lab was welcoming. The Toronto reception was a soundscape which built up into pain in my congested ears, still not recovered from yesterday's flight. After all, I can have the fun of seeing them all again tomorrow.

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