Here's a site that is just so spiffy for a history freak like myself: Early British Kingdoms. This site concerns itself with the little-known history of the indigenous Celtic population of Britain between the time of the withdrawal of the Romans (around 400, more or less) and the time of Anglo-Saxon domination of the island after about 650. In other words, the time period generally known as the early Dark Ages. It's comprehensive, extremely well-researched and organized, and a sure time-sink for me in the next few days (following our move, of course ...) It also includes an excellent section on historical Arthuriana.
Geneaological research has strongly suggested that at least one line of my descent comes down from the Welsh aristocracy and part of my enthusiasm for reading this kind of stuff is the possibility that I may be reading my own ancestors' histories. In any case, many of "my people" came from England, Wales and Scotland so some of my ancestors (at least) lived in this place, at this time. Perhaps my imagination is childishly overactive, but reading these histories I feel a real connection, as opposed to reading, say, Japanese history. Which is very interesting by itself, but I read with detachment because it is a culture whose connection to my own is very recent, very little understood and therefore too shallow for me to explore to greater depths. It's largely this greater-than-normal connection I feel with what I understand to be my ancestors that has meant that I embrace pagan religion.
OK, now I can write a proper blog posting! As I said before, I really am grateful for mobile blogging technology. Even though you're limited as to how many characters you can post at once, and typing on a cell phone keypad is unbelievably tedious, it's still a decent way to keep in touch and to pass the time while riding for hours in a car. Geez, today I was dying to get home to see to my kitties. We stopped for a good square meal in the northern metro Atlanta area and then went and rented a DVD; if we hadn't done these things we would have gotten home around 6:30 CT.
Since we had planned to visit Alex's grandparents on the way back, we took our time on the first day of the drive home (Thursday.) Driving through northeastern Wyoming (gorgeous, wild, weird country BTW) we decided to detour off the interstate to see Devil's Tower, a site that has a held a deep fascination for me even before the 1977 release of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." It was really great; being the offseason, there were literally no other tourists in the park while we visited. We were in a hurry but we still drove up to the visitor's center and did the short walk to the summit. I have plenty of pictures which I will post very soon.
Other things happened on the trip that I will no doubt recall as context allows. Foremost in my mind is seeing magnificent wildlife that I never have encountered before. I saw a beautiful lone grey wolf on ranchland just off Badlands National Park in South Dakota; antelope (not a big deal for Westerners, but definitely a big deal for Southerners); various kinds of birds of prey that I could not identify by sight (and since I am used to seeing and being thrilled only by Southeastern red-tailed hawks, that was a big deal); and finally, three bald eagles. We also saw white-tailed deer and some mule deer, different from the deer here in Georgia.
If I were able to spend more time there I would be able to look more closely at the flora and fauna. I am no arborist but I have a decent vocabulary about the local trees. I'd love to be able to compare the trees in Montana with the trees here. One thing I did notice is that Montana has the kind of pine tree that we down here refer to as "scrub" although I'm positive it isn't the exact same kind of tree. First cousins, perhaps.
Visiting Alex's grandparents was another highlight. I only met them once before, very briefly, at our wedding, which isn't a good time to get to know anyone. They were very quiet there, but the afternoon spent in their beautiful north Iowa town got them talking and laughing. More visits are definitely required because they - Mrs. Kunz especially - seem to be treasure troves of history and stories about the family, which is precisely the sort of thing I die for. Next time we visit, it will be for several days and I will bring an audio recorder of some sort. One tiny story Mrs. Kunz spilt is that her great-grandfather - Alex's great-great-great grandfather, I suppose - marched in Sherman's army all the way to the coast. When he got back he stuck his rifle in the ground, and it became part of the fence of the family farm. Of course I had to joke about her great-grandfather burning down my great-great grandparents' homes and towns. Amusing now, but all too real in actuality. It was interesting talking about the Civil War with them. They are my parents' age, and my own grandparents were of the age to be their parents. I want to talk more with them. They are wonderful people.