Vol. 2, Issue 16
September 1, 2007
Greetings to all our friends! After another long summer hiatus, Schola classes are back in session and Scholegium is back in your inboxes. I've been tremendously busy this summer, conducting the week-long Latin In A Week session in four different cities, a three-day Schola Summer Academy in Lancaster, PA, and the second annual Hill Abbey (a two-week reading course in the early church fathers here on our farm in Idaho), as well as speaking at several seminars and attending Credenda Agenda's annual Trinity Fest. See "Upcoming Events" on Schola's homepage for links to all these.
But that's not all. In the middle of August, my two oldest daughters got engaged in the same week! They and their respective afianced are planning a double wedding on December 28 and I hope you all will think congratulatory thoughts for their sake. God bless 'em all and grant them happy marriages.
I hope you enjoy this bouquet of musings.
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) SCHOLA NEWS -- upcoming seminar, tee shirts and mugs, overseas travel
2) COGITEM -- Late Summer Melancholy
3) DE ASTRIS -- The Summer Triangle
4) ANNO DOMINI -- September
5) SIC LOCUTUS -- Nicholas Breton
If you live in the Moscow, ID, vicinity, please consider attending a seminar on Four Great Cities of the Ancient East (we'll have a better name shortly) conducted jointly by Evan Wilson (The Big Haus) and Wes Callihan of Schola Classical Tutorials on Saturday, November 10, at The Big Haus. More information to come soon.
Schola offers tee shirts and mugs and will soon have polos and hoody sweatshirts as well. Be the first in your neighborhood to have one. Be the envy of all your friends. Or just pull them out when no one's looking.
We are working on next year's overseas tour and we think we might have some very exciting news in a week or so. Don't touch that dial!
COGITEM -- Late Summer Melancholy
The high ridge to the south of our farm dominates our view of that horizon. It's called Moscow Mountain, though it's not really much of a mountain if you've seen the Rockies. It runs in a long blue line from east to west, and in the morning and evening when the angle of the sun's rays is low the smaller ridges and draws running down from the main line stand out as though they were magnified and shaded. During the summer the air is clear and hot and the mountain shimmers, dark green and solid and the sight makes me happy though I rarely think about it.
But in late summer, in September, a haze creeps into the thinner blue air of noon and early afternoon and the Mountain is less distinct and less solid, more temporary and tenuous, and it shimmers as though it's about to vaporize; it's a perfect symbol of a world heading toward Fall. Normally, I like the word Autumn better, especially when I'm enjoying Autumn, but when I think of the coming season from the perspective of late summer, it's not Autumn, it's Fall -- and it feels like one is coming.
That haze over the mountain in mid-September, and the slow appearance of a subtle yellow in the woods reminds me that summer is ending, and everything about summer is ending, but it's no conscious reminder. The haze and color touches something in my gut and makes my heart ache before my brain realizes I'm thinking anything at all. There's a hollowness deep down that can't be filled, so deep down that it can't be found -- only felt -- as I see, in the haze, the end of warm mornings in June and of sprinklers ticking into the night and of potatoes breaking through the soil and of green fields pushing up new green and of the dusty smell of hot dry pine needles in the open Ponderosa woods below the house, and I know that all those things are gone for another year. Dying, dying, and gone. The air is still blue and the noon sun is still bright but it's somehow less substantial, more hollow, and the hazy, blue noon air over Moscow Mountain feels to my eyes like it's already looking away and not interested anymore.
All I can feel is the end. I can't feel next summer; it's so far away that it doesn't even really exist. It's no good saying, it's just a season and there'll be next summer-- no, stop. There is no next summer. It's just an ethereal thought, a vague one at best, a suggestion that I can't grab onto with any of my senses, and so my insides can't feel it either. It's just a thought. But I can feel the end of life, the end of green, the end of hot fertility, the end of the warm, lazy evenings and early bird mornings and sprinkler-wet lawns. The year is dying, and I feel it in my bones.
I can't even feel the Autumn yet, just the sadness of no more summer. I know this melancholy will pass, and with October will come the sharp delight of cold mornings and sweaters and caps and boots and evening bonfires and the furnace rumbling on, and the piercing pleasure of the deep change of forest colors, and the stomach butterflies in the darkness of the first morning of hunting season, and the loud World Series arguments after dinner while the radio blatters self-importantly, and the cheer of the lights of the distant football field on Friday nights where all the pickups are parked with blanket-wrapped families watching the kick-off, and the self-absorption of all our planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and readying the house and yards for snow, and then the white glee of the snow itself, at least up on the mountain ridge if not down here in the fields and yards. The melancholy will be long gone then and I can enjoy Autumn the way it's supposed to be enjoyed, and I will, all of it.
But right now summer is ending, and fall hasn't come, and all I can feel is the sadness of the ending; and the melancholy is very familiar because I've felt this way every year since I was 15. It's an ache that I expect all summer and now it's here, and I can only suggest it -- if you've never felt it then I can never explain it to you. I can only stand and gaze at Moscow Mountain in the hazy blue noon air and ache for the end of summer and all that we enjoyed in it.
Although this melancholy will pass, I hope it doesn't pass too soon; it's one of the sweetest pleasures I know. Don't rush me.
DE ASTRIS -- The Summer Triangle
At the end of April I described the bright star Vega and mentioned that it was rising just after sunset at that time of year. But now, at the beginning of September, if you'll go out about a half hour after sunset -- that is, at the end of civil twilight and the beginning of nautical twilight --when the first bright stars are beginning to show, you'll see Vega right overhead. Remember, Vega is the bright star in the constellation Lyra (the Lyre, or Harp) and the fifth brightest star in the heavens. Actually, the first celestial object you'll be able to see will be Jupiter, in the south; but after you've ogled Jupiter a bit, turn your attention right overhead and you'll see Vega.
Off to the east of Vega is Deneb, the bright star in Cygnus the Swan (or the Northern Cross, with the head of the cross being the tail of Cygnus). Deneb will show up a bit later as it's not quite so bright as Vega. And finally, quite a bit further south you'll see Altair, the bright star in Aquila the Eagle. These three make up the Summer Triangle, which you can see in this picture. The picture shows what you'd see if you first faced south then looked straight up to find Vega (and of course if the sky were much darker so that you could see the Milky Way). Aquila will be halfway down the sky toward the southeast. Cygnus the Swan is flying right down the Milky Way, which runs through the Summer Triangle and down into Sagittarius (the Archer), and which you can only see if the sky is quite dark.
Although the stars and constellations that make it up were known back in Greco-Roman times, the Summer Triangle itself is not an old asterism (star picture); it first shows up on early nineteenth century star charts as just an outline. Then in the early twentieth century the name "Summer Triangle" begins to appear.
ANNO DOMINI -- September
September gets its name, which comes from the Latin word "seventh", from the fact that it was the seventh month of the old Roman year which did not include July till Julius Caesar's reign or August till Augustus Caesar's. It was the beginning of the year for the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire from the mid-fifth century onward, and still is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year for the Eastern Orthodox church, which has been shaped by Byzantine history. In the temperate and northern regions of Europe and American it's in the middle of the harvest season and was in fact called "harvest-month" by the Anglo-Saxons. The full moon in September is traditionally called the "harvest moon", and poets like Edmund Spenser symbolize it with sickles, scales, and other harvest-time agricultural implements. For many people in the western world, the academic year has already begun by the beginning of September, and of course, the end of summer comes in late September, on the autumnal equinox (on September 23 in 2007).
"It is now September, and the Sunne begins to fall much from his height, and the meadowes are left bare, by the mouthes of hungry Cattell, and the Hogges are turned into the Corne fields: the windes begin to knocke the Apples heads together on the trees, and the fallings are gathered to fill Pyes for the Household: the Saylers fall to worke to get afore the winde, and if they spy a storme, it puts them to prayer: the Souldier now begins to shrug at the weather, and the Campe dissolved, the Companie are put to Garison: the Lawyer now begins his Harvest, and the Client payes for words by waight: the Innes now begin to provide for ghests, and the night-eaters in the stable, pinch the Travailer in his bed: Paper, pen, and inke are much in request, and the quarter Sessions take order with the way-layers: Coales and wood make toward the Chimney, and Ale and Sacke are in account with good fellowes: the Butcher now knocks downe the great Beeves, and the Poulters feathers make toward the Upholster: Walflet Oysters are the Fish wives wealth, and Pippins are the Costermongers rich merchandise: the flayle and the fan fall to worke in the Barne, and the Corne market is full of the Bakers: the Porkets now are driven to the Woods, and the home-fed Pigges make porke for the market. In briefe, I thus conclude of it, I hold it the Winters forewarning, and the Summers farewell.
--Nicholas Breton, Fantastickes (1626)