The Power of Bacon and Dolly

I have been remiss in my blogging.  I have many good excuses:  I have been fighting a bad cold, trying to finalize my lease of an apartment that took me an epic 5 months to find, and as I have mentioned before, I have commitment issues.  What do you expect, people?! In my life, procrastination can wage a wily campaign. It’s a battle, and often it wins. Also, there has been little to report. I am sorry to say that my victorian-styled personal ad has not as yet secured me a suitable suitor. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a plethora of gentleman showing interest in my shapely ankles and love of bacon.  Oh, indeed there has! Most recently, one gentleman who emailed me wrote,”u needed a little zep in your life”.  I am not even sure what that means. Another simply wrote, “bacon, bacon,  bacon….BACON!”

Surprisingly my Victorian ad, which says really nothing about me as person, and has only the mysterious image of me from this blog, where my face is completely obscured, has in fact generated considerably more attention than my “real” personal ad that outlines my many interests and showcases images of me in various daily life scenarios.

At the very least it has been an interesting social experiment in what men on dating websites really find interesting. Clearly a little mystery goes a long way. But who knew what magic could come from the mere mention of bacon? I would have to say, about 95% of those men who have messaged me through my Victorian-styled personal ad have commented (at times salaciously!) on my mention of bacon in my ad. Somehow, I must try to work bacon and a little mystery into my “real” personal ad and see if this improves traffic to my profile.

Traffic or not though, I am not convinced, despite my many, many years of commitment to the on-line dating strategy, that this is how I will actually meet my Mr. Darcy. Recently I came across a bus stop posting that I thought might prove more promising.   It was an invitation to a Jane Austen era inspired dance by an organization called  Jane Austen Dancing.  I was amazed that such a thing exists, but even more amazing was that the event was sold out! They have a Christmas ball coming up however, and I just may see if I can cajole some friends into going with me. It could be fun or weird and painful, but undoubtedly there will be SEVERAL Mr. Darcies to choose from there!

Still there is also no harm in keeping my two internet ads up and seeing what happens.  In fact, just the other day, I emailed someone from my Victorian-styled ad who is “looking for someone who still believes in chivalry”. Well, Stookie, likes to have doors opened for her! Sure, she may trip across the threshold,  red-faced and uttering some non-sensical thanks that sounds more like an apology, but she loves it just the same. So who knows. It’s worth a shot, right?

I know Dolly Parton would agree. She once said: “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.”   Beside the likes of Amelia Earhart and Lady Gaga, I think I would be remiss not to add the name of Miss Dolly Parton, to my growing list of interesting people. Sure lots of people make fun of her, but I’ve always really loved Dolly Parton.  She has an unwavering sense of purpose  and commitment to that purpose that’s hard not to admire. She recorded her first song at the age of 13.  She has since composed over 3,000 songs, and remains one of the best selling artists of all time. She’s approaching her 50th wedding anniversary to her husband Carl, who she met at the Wishy Washy laundromat the first day she arrived in Nashville to pursue her music career at the age of 18. So I think there are some things I could learn from Dolly about commitment and purpose and certainly, about being interesting! In an effort to learn what I can, I have started reading her autobiography .

In case you’re skeptical , or have forgotten just how great Dolly Parton can be, I have a little exercise for you.  I want you to rate how you are feeling right now on a scale of 1 to 10 and then I  challenge you to watch this video of  one of her most famous duets (and now a Karaoke favourite!)  ALL THE WAY THROUGH, and rate yourself again on that scale after you’ve watched it.  I will be amazed if you don’t feel a little cheered after.  That’s the power of Dolly! I’d like to hear how you found this little exercise!

In terms of the re-education exercise of posting a personal ad in the Victorian style, I think its important to note that I have certainly learned a good deal.  Let’s review:

(1) Mystery and bacon can take you far.

(2) It’s useful to move out of your comfort zone sometimes and connect with yourself in a new way, like when you decide to wear the dress that’s been at the back of your closet for years. Tapping into myself in the Victorian way allowed me to open up to the possibility of people I otherwise might not have approached or considered as a match….and I also learned, that probably that’s for a good reason!

And so, while I am not abandoning my internet dating efforts, I think it is now time for me to turn my hand to something new….What will it be?? Stay tuned.  Once I have moved into my new apartment (this weekend – Yay!), I will refocus my re-education efforts, bringing renewed energy to whatever new learning lies ahead for me!

Netherfield Is Let At Last!

My Victorian styled personal ad has now been up for a week.  Given the feedback I received from my readers, and in the hopes of luring not only a gentleman who is gallant, but one that has a sense of humour too,  I went with the following posting:

Genteel Spinster with bad knees, an increasingly unreliable memory, and yet who still valiantly hangs on to her sunny, amiable disposition (and her illusions), AND who has reached the elevated age of two and forty with nary one matrimonial offer, seeks an acquaintance with a gentleman, with a view to matrimony. Any gentleman will do. All responses will be considered and GREATLY appreciated. 

I also added the following details based on readers’ feedback:

WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?     Only the most lady-like of activities, to be sure!

I AM REALLY GOOD AT: Dancing and fanning myself at social gatherings.

THE FIRST THINGS PEOPLE USUALLY NOTICE ABOUT ME: My red hair….and shapely ankles.

FAVOURITE BOOKS, MOVIES, SHOWS, MUSIC, FOOD: I’ve been told I should mention that I LOVE bacon, and anything by Miss Jane Austen.

THE SIX THINGS I COULD NEVER DO WITHOUT: A good cup of tea, my knitting needles, a favourite book, friends, family, and bacon.

YOU SHOULD MESSAGE IF: You are a good-hearted, gallant gentleman, with an adventurous spirit.

Within the first ten minutes of posting my ad, I had a visit from a guy from Salt Lake City, Utah (A Mormon, I suspect, that found me using the keyword search “matrimony”), and from a guy, with a long grey beard, standing on his head. I was also messaged by a fella from Florida who “liked my picture”. It’s a portrait of Jane Austen, but I think he actually thought it was a picture of me.

Portrait of Jane Austen

Unfortunately, as I suspected, OkCupid, the website where I posted my Victorian styled personal ad, has already eliminated my “photo” as it was not a true representation of me.  True, but I’ll be damned if I am going to attach a real photo of me to this particular ad! So, we shall have to see whether the added element of mystery of “no photo added”  is a help or a hindrance. So, far I have been surprised by the number of hits my ad continues to generate.  In addition to those already mentioned,  I seem to be very popular with people from the State of Washington, which I can’t explain at all, and with women, which makes much more sense to me.  Likely, the women are doing a keyword search for “Mr. Darcy“. Oh,this legacy of so many unrequited Mr. Darcy love yearnings!  Surely, it would make Miss Jane Austen, herself, feel faint if she were alive today!

For those of you who have had the good fortune to avoid the use of dating websites, you might not realize that there are literally hundreds of these kinds of sites on the internet to choose from.  I wanted to find just the right home for my Victorian-styled personal ad, and so I researched a variety of options. After realizing that the Gothic dating sites were not in fact for lovers of Gothic fiction, as I had hoped, but for modern-day Goth subculture lovers, I looked at other options that might be a better fit.  Thinking about my love of bacon and how nice it would be to live in a sprawling Victorian country estate, I next perused the country dating sites, and found http://www.countryconnections.org/.  But, this didn’t seem quite right either.  Then I recalled that in Jane Austen’s books the women always aspired to wed a wealthy, well-bred gentleman, so I looked for dating sites featuring wealthy men and found this site – http://wealthymen.com/. In the end though, Jane Austen’s characters always married for love not money, so I continued my search, and found a staggering number of prison dating sites, which, out of curiosity, I contemplated briefly. Finally, I started unearthing some dating sites that had real potential – dating websites for book lovers! The best one I found (that was free) is called http://alikewise.com/, where people list their favourite books and connect with others based on book preferences.  So, I posted on alikewise.com, however, it turns out there aren’t very many Torontonians on that site.

In the end, after taking a rather circuitous route, researching all my online dating site options, I chose to post on the website I am already using – my ol’ standby – OkCupid.com.  OkCupid is one of the biggest free dating websites on the net, but what clinched my decision was the discovery of their “Jane Austen Heroine Test”! I can report, with an appropriate amount of humility and just a hint of rosy pride in my cheeks, that I am most like Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine from Pride and Prejudice.

And so, let’s hope that my rather bold/potentially creepy-weird move of posting a Victorian styled personal ad on a modern-day dating website will help my own Mr. Darcy find me among the 3.5 million registered users on OkCupid, and that he too will feel compelled to say to me:

In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Genteel Spinster Seeks Gentleman

Okay, sure, I missed my deadline for posting my personal ad in the 19th century style. I will confess to being quite reluctant around completing this particular reader suggestion. Truth is I am not sure whether posting a personal ad in 19th century style will make me more interesting or just more weird. While many people who are interesting are so largely because of their weirdness (Tim Burton, Lady Gaga), it is easy enough to accidentally slide from lovingly eccentric to creepy-weird. Take, as an example, Paul Reuben‘s Pee Wee Herman character, a once beloved and brilliant comedic character. It is now, years later, almost impossible to see his image and not still feel a little creeped out by it. I fear that my placing an on-line personal ad in 19th century style may put me in the “creepy-weird” category too.

Still I have been doing a little research in preparation for posting my “lonely hearts” ad. Over dinner one night, as I recounted the trials and tribulations of my re-education project to a friend, she suggested that I read Jane Austen to get into the 19th century romantic mood. I thought this was a great idea. I love Jane Austen, and from who better to learn the ins and outs of 19th century romance. At yoga class the next day (yes, see, I still do go to yoga class!), she brought me a beat-up copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a book that I have never read. It is also very appropriately about a woman, just like me, seeking love “well past her first bloom”, except that I am wellhellya past my first bloom. I have also found a few books written specifically on the subject of 19th century personal ads and the history of the personal ads:

                       

I also stumbled on-line upon a blog by a woman who recently completed her PhD on 19th century personal ads! She has decided to blog about the “funny, strange, poignant and just plain bizarre personal ads” she’s come across in her research. You can find her fascinating blog at http://www.advertisingforlove.com/ .  It has proven to be a goldmine of good (and some very bad) ideas for my own personal ad. Here are some examples that she has cited on her blog:

A gentleman of refinement, education, and high-toned honor, belonging to an excellent family, a stranger in this part of the world, would be happy to begin a confidential correspondence with a well-bred and accomplished young lady, 18 or 20 years old, of find personal appearance and beautiful face, and occupying a good position in the best circles of society, with a view to matrimony. Good and satisfactory reasons can be given for this address to the ladies of New York; and he hopes that the honest impulses of his heart will inspire confidence in his honor and elicit proper responses from sincere parties. Address [?] Van Berg, New York city Post office.

An American gentleman, thirty years of age, wishes to form the acquaintance of some American lady (an orphan preferred), not less than 18 nor more than 24 years of age, with a view to matrimony. She must be of the highest respectability, prepossessing and genteel in appearance, of good education, accustomed to good society and of a loving disposition. Any lady answering the above can do so with the utmost confidence, as all communications will be strictly confidential, and letters returned when requested; for this means just what it says, nothing more and nothing less. Address for three days, giving real name and where can be seen (none others will be noticed), Knickerbocker, box 164 Herald office.

Clearly, not unlike today, finding a mate in 19th century society would be easier for me, if I was about 20 years younger. By 19th century standards (and possibly by 21st century standards too), I have reached the age of spinsterhood. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the term “spinster”:

A spinster, or old maid, is an older, childless woman who has never been married.

For a woman to be identified as a spinster, age is critical. A “spinster” is not simply a “single” woman, but a woman who has not formed a human pair bond by the time she is approaching or has reached menopause and the end of her reproductive lifespan.[1]

“If someone is a spinster, by implication she is not eligible (to marry); she has had her chance, and been passed by,” explains Robin Lakoff in Language and Woman’s Place.

Jesus, that’s harsh! It is disheartening to say the least, and more like utterly crushing. It is, in 19th century speak, a dastardly definition! DASTARDLY!!!!

I first started to think about myself as entering the vile spinsterhood last year, while I was in Scotland. Interestingly enough, if you believe Wikipedia‘s siting of the Oxford Dictionary, the origins of the term Spinster began a mere 3 kilometers away from where I was staying in Scotland, in a little village called Tranent: a place, it should be noted, that also has a bit of the old maid vibe about it. Let’s just say, Tranent is definitely not a place listed on tourists’ dance cards. Apparently, the term “spinster’ was first used in Tranent during medieval times to refer to women who earned a living spinning wool, and who were thereby less in need of a man for financial support.

Anyway, dastardly as it may be, I think there is no escaping it – I will have to identify myself as a “spinster” in any 19th century personal ad that I create.

Here is a personal ad I could have responded to, if I was alive in the 19th century:

—“I hereby give notice to all unmarried women that I, John Hobnail, am at this writing five-and-forty, a widower, and in want of a wife. As I wish no one to be mistaken, I have a good cottage, with a couple of acres of land, for which I pay 2L. a year. I have five children, four of them old enough to be in employment; three sides of bacon, and some pigs ready for market. I should like to have a woman fit to take care of her house when I am out. I want no second family. She may be between forty and fifty, if she likes. A good stirring woman would be preferred, who would take care of the pigs.” ~Blackwood ~True Sun | London, Middlesex | Thursday, February 02, 1837 | Page 6 1842 (The Lonely Hearts of Yesterday: Love & Mischief in 19th Century Personal Ads, by Laura Schaefer).

I do like bacon!

Also seemingly important to highlight in my 19th century styled personal ad will be my “genteel” temperament, my good education, my good position in society, and my ability to keep a nice home. I will have to make it clear in my ad, that I have “a view to matrimony” as well. Well, okay then. In truth, I imagine that no woman in her right mind would post a personal ad in the 19th century. It would be considered very unladylike to do so. As it happens I also think that no woman in their right mind would post a 19th century personal ad today either. But, I will anyway….and VERY anonymously.

Here are a couple of options I am considering posting. I will await your feedback before I post:

Genteel Spinster seeks Gentleman: A lady of good education with an untarnished reputation seeks the acquaintance of a gentleman of equally good character to pursue a correspondence, with a view to matrimony. She is very handsome in appearance with auburn hair, maintaining a healthy, attractive rose in her cheek and possessing a youthful, engaging energy. She is equally adept at hosting dinner parties and keeping a comfortable, well-appointed home as she is at creating a homey campsite in the wilds. She is amiable with many respectable social connections, and enjoys the many social opportunities these connections provide her with. Being a good stirring woman, well-travelled, with an agreeable disposition and a curious mind, she is accomplished at many things, and seeks a companionship that is adventurous and stimulating. Responses from all good-hearted, gallant gentleman will be received in confidence and with warmest sincerity.

Or:

Genteel Spinster with bad knees, an increasingly unreliable memory, and yet who still valiantly hangs on to her sunny, amiable disposition (and her illusions), AND who has reached the elevated age of two and forty with nary one matrimonial offer, seeks an acquaintance with a gentleman, with a view to matrimony. Any gentleman will do. All responses will be considered and GREATLY appreciated.

Let me know what you think. I will also attach this portrait of Jane Austen as my profile picture:

Portrait of Jane Austen

Om My Darling, Om My Darling…

Okay at this point you must be wondering, “So, did Stookie do it? Did she complete the 30 days of yoga, or what?” Let me put you out of your misery: No, I did not.

I know, it’s disappointing, but what can I say? I was chataranga-ing along with it pretty well, actually. For the first two weeks, I didn’t miss a day and I was feeling stronger and more connected to my body. One of the most satisfying changes I noted was that, in and out of yoga class, I was more specific in all my physical movements, bringing a certain, dare I say, elegance to my actions (meaning fewer coffee and food spills).

During the third week of the yoga challenge, I was vacationing in Prince Edward Island. Even there, without a gym or internet connection, I still managed a daily yoga practice up until the last three days of my trip, when I was too relaxed even for yoga. Sadly, when I returned home, between searching for a place to live (I currently reside temporarily in my brother’s basement – pathetic at my age), and preparing for a canoe trip the following weekend, and then going on said canoe trip, I completely fell of the yoga wagon….well not completely, I suppose. I managed to go twice during the last week of the challenge.

Despite not completing the yoga challenge, I still had some very valuable insights and learned a lot about myself:

(1) I have a great capacity to withhold – see previous blog re yoga and farting.

(2) I do not like to be vulnerable – not even a little bit. While others in the class happily walk their legs up the wall and stand on their heads or flip themselves backwards into “The Wheel” with their heads dangling precariously mid-air and upside down between their arms, I choose “Child’s Pose” (it’s like the fetal position only you are on your stomach, curled up into the earth).

(3) I have commitment issues – That is not to say I don’t commit. I love to commit! I commit all the time. There is nothing I want more than to be that person with a hungry man’s platter full of commitments. It’s more that I commit poorly. Often it’s that I commit to activities and people with a low return rate. Like when I started up a small business with a friend sewing bags, when I don’t like sewing. There is no satisfaction with this kind of commitment, and success is highly unlikely. But, did I see that? No. See, that is committing poorly. Or, like the weirdly high number of times in my life, that I have dated a man who takes a trip away somewhere, and is then never heard from again (Twice in this past year alone!). Once is just sad and odd, but twice and it is definitely an issue of committing poorly. Alternatively, I might commit to something I love and that has a great return rate, like a 30-day yoga challenge, but at the wrong time. That was definitely the case here. Committing to a 30-day yoga challenge when you are essentially homeless, and out of the province for, like, half of the time is also committing poorly.

Undoubtedly, part of what makes interesting people so appealing is the level of commitment they bring to whatever it is they do as well as their ability to take risks, and their openness (even to farts). Take for example, Amelia Earhart, a woman famously interesting, for flying a plane.

Amelia Earhart came from a family that struggled with finances, alcoholism and eventually family breakdown, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, she had a drive toward adventure and independence that was exceptional among women of her era. She found her outlet in flying planes and she became the 16th woman in the world awarded with a pilot’s licence. While this is no small accomplishment at a time when flight was still quite dangerous, she was certainly not the only woman flying planes at that time, so something else transformed this female pilot into an icon and household name.

Whatever it was that would later make Amelia Earhart extraordinary and notable must have been cast very early in her life, if not right from her birth. One of her childhood friends said this about Amelia: ” We always waited for her to decide what we were going to do….All I knew was that Amelia was more fun to play with than anyone else – I admired her ability, stood in awe of her information and intelligence, adored her imagination, and loved her for herself – and it held true always.” (East of Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler)

Her unwavering, fearless commitment to push the boundaries of flight would lead her to break many distance and altitude records and to eventually becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1928. Earhart’s life ended tragically and mysteriously when, in 1937, she, Fred Noonan her co-pilot, and her plane all disappeared during an attempt at being the first to circumnavigate the globe along the equator. Still to this day though, she and the life she led continue to fascinate and excite us.

Earhart and "old Bessie" Vega 5b c. ...

Earhart and “old Bessie” Vega 5b c. 1935 (original source: http://e-archives.lib.purdue.edu) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certainly, a half-completed 30-day yoga challenge really doesn’t hold a candle, does it? As my cousin pointed out, there isn’t anything particularly interesting about doing yoga for thirty days (ouch!). I would need to up the commitment level quite significantly in order for it to really be remarkable. Like, I could train as a yoga instructor, and then decide to take my yoga on a road trip around the world, on the back of Ewan MacGregor‘s motorcycle (why not), with the mission to bring yoga to the politicians of every country we visit and thereby bring a calming “om” to international relationships throughout the world. That would definitely be interesting. Alternatively, perhaps I could combine my love of yoga and my love of the ukulele in one, and travel the world singing yoga inspired songs. A lot would need to happen before either of these two plans could be hatched though, and I do have commitment issues.

So perhaps the yoga challenge was a bit of a failure, or as a colleague of mine pointed out, “only a half failure”. Still, I got a lot out of it personally (a deep love of yoga that I will continue to nurture on an un-daily basis), and I developed a keener sense of what makes people interesting.

Another co-worker gave me some particularly curious feedback. He said that not completing the yoga challenge made me “more human”. This is something you hear a lot, and beyond puzzling over what he must have thought of me before the challenge, it also made me wonder: Does this mean that somehow failure to achieve our goals is more human than succeeding at them? Are those interesting people who succeed at what they do less human? Are they unhuman? And what does it even mean to be human? And how do those like Amelia Earhart, who are interesting, at least in part because of their failures, fit into that equation? Is she interesting because what she did made her more human? What is it we are striving for anyway?  This is something for all of us to ponder and discuss.

Finally, Amelia Earhart once said, “Never do things others can do and will do, if there are things others cannot do or will not do.” With those words as inspiration, I take on my next exercise in becoming a more interesting/better woman and human being (whatever that means):

Hmm… Looking at the list of readers’ suggestions, the only one that would fit with Amelia Earhart’s advice would be “to place a personal ad in the style of a 19th century personal ad and see what happens!” This is unfortunate, but what the hell, it is not as if placing ads in 21st century speak is working for me. I will see what happens, and let you know. First, though, I will need to research and see what 19th century personal ad would have looked like: Next stop, the Metro Reference Library!

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Yoga’s Gifts

I am now a little over a quarter of the way through my daily yoga challenge, and so far so good!  I am pleased with my progress so far, in that I haven’t yet succumbed to a horrible injury or a bout of bronchitis as would normally be the case when I take something like this on.  Of course, contemplation and reflection are an important part of any yoga practice. As yet, my thoughts and insights aren’t as transformative as I might like, but perhaps that will come at week three or four.  For example, by day four, exhausted and in not a small amount of physical pain, I wondered if napping could be considered a form of yoga.  So much of yoga is about being restive, and allowing your body a chance to settle and recover.  I attended one restorative class last week that was essentially guided napping.  First we lay on one side of our bodies for a little while and then we very gently rolled over and lay on our other sides.  Admittedly, it was one of my favourite yoga classes. Walking home from that class I felt a kind of calm and an attunement to my surroundings that I rarely experience, and I thought, perhaps I should nap more. Maybe with some lovely yoga inspired music and candles, a nap might be able to provide me the same benefit at considerably less cost. For now, though, I plan to continue with the classes.

But, it hasn’t all been stillness and calm.  Yesterday, I was rushing to get to class.  I had stayed at work a little later than I should have, rushed home and quickly scarfed down some leftover pasta and chicken before running out the door to my Ashtanga class.  Perhaps it was the peppers in the pasta, but for much of the class my focus was not on my breathing, but on the building pressure of gasses in my intestinal tract. In such a quiet room, even the smallest of farts can be heard. Of course, it is a natural bodily process and all, and I know I should have been more zen about it, and just let it fly. I could tell though that it was going to be doozy of a fart, and vanity prevailed.  I just didn’t want to be the girl who farted during yoga class. Never before have I found the words, “allow yourself to release and let go” to be so antagonizing. It was like my yoga instructor was egging me on, and it took all my strength and determination to hold that fart in.

I was surprised to learn how common this is. A quick google search under “yoga and farting” garnered 1, 890, 000 hits! Clearly this is something many other people have struggled with too. One yoga instructor gave the following advice on her website, to her readers who might be worried about farting in the class: “Position yourself in a corner, or farther away from other yogis“.  Well, thanks a lot! What happened to acceptance and compassion?

At the end of class, lying in shivasana,  our yoga instructor asked us to consider what we had learned from this day’s yoga practice.  For me, I learned that despite contorting myself into positions that are highly encouraging of release, I have an incredible ability to withhold. Upon reflection, this is true in my life generally too. Not about the farting, but about the withholding. So, I suppose that though it was a horribly uncomfortable and distracting experience, my need to fart, was in the end actually quite instructive. The walk home following this class was pleasant in a distinctly different way from other nights, as the reassuringly silencing cloak of the city’s street life allowed me to enjoy a well-earned and satisfying “experience of release”, all the way home.

For those yoga warriors out there also doing battle on the mat with the yoga fart, here is a video you may find very helpful (and entertaining):

http://youtu.be/vaFRZuBw9JM

Fire’s Burning

Yes!  I did it!

I can now make a fire without the use of matches, as good, if not better than my Homo Erectus ancestors.  It’s just that in my case I need a piece of steel wool and a battery.

Friday night I met up with my friend Laura, and after a pitcher of Sangria and some Portuguese roast chicken, we enthusiastically embarked on our first fire making trials in Laura’s backyard. Our first method of choice was fire by friction.  Far from the only way, this is the oldest and most basic method for starting a fire, and if you were stranded on an island or lost in the woods, it would also likely be your only option. As such, it seemed like the right method to perfect.

Fire by Friction is in fact the only method discussed in the first edition of The Boy Scouts Handbook of 1911 (which I now own!) and in the 1953 Canadian manual Tenderfoot to Queen’s Scout.  It went even further saying that though difficult, “…when you can get your fire, you can call yourself a real Canadian Woodcraft Scout”.

I want to be “a real Canadian Woodcraft Scout”. Very surprisingly, Laura, eschewing her former punk rock ways, also seemed to want that Boy Scout badge of honour, perhaps even more enthusiastically than me. Though in her case, it might have been fuelled (pun intended!) by the Sangria…and the wine.

Together and with great gusto, we began to shape the dead wood I had collected in High Park last week into the essential fire making components for the “Fire by Friction” method. Operating by candlelight, I anticipated significantly more serious injuries, with a possible trip to the hospital by the end of the night, but our frenzied flashdance of steel and flying bits of wood only resulted in one minor cut and one swollen eye.

Here’s what we needed for the Fire by Friction Method of Firemaking:

(1) The Fire Board: basically a piece of wood not thicker than 3/4 of an inch and cut with a V-shaped notch with a shallow hole cut at the tip of the notch. There is a lot of 1/4 of this and 3/4 of that in the instructions for this part. We just cut notches and holes the best we could.

(2) The Spindle/Drill – a very straight, very dry piece of wood that is 9-10 inches long with a rounded end (to fit into the round little hole you cut in the fire board).

(3) The Fire Pan:  This can be anything, a leaf, or a piece of wood. It is placed under the fire board to collect the “smouldering coal” that you are supposedly going to produce.

(4) Tinder:  This can be dried grass, pine needles, leaves fashioned into a kind of nest. In our case, we used dried grass, leaves and some of Lucy’s fur.  Lucy is Laura’s dog and she happened to be sitting there. It was a very MacGyver move on Laura’s part, I thought.

And that’s it! The idea is that you rub the spindle between your hands very, very rapidly, while pressing it down into the hole of the fire board.  This action should generate saw dust that then heats up from the friction and turns into smoking coal and eventually turns into a full on ember that can be transferred to your tinder nest. Blow on that a few times and it should ignite. It looks easy on YouTube. It isn’t.

We put our all into spinning that spindle, for at least an hour, and we were literally dripping in sweat from our efforts. Our hands still hurt two days later and Laura’s relationships with her neighbours may never be the same. Despite our best efforts we managed to generate some heat, but nothing more.

And for those Boy Scout types out there, yes, we also tried The Bow Method, fashioning a bow out of a green branch and duct tape, and using this to spin the spindle. It was a total and utter failure. Actually, if there was a stronger word for failure than “failure”, than I would use it here.

To salvage the evening, we tried the Battery and Steel Wool Method which I discovered on YouTube. I tried it first, as Laura was afraid she might get electrocuted. A useless technique as far as survival skills go ( I mean how often do you just happen to have steel wool on you?), it proved to be highly effective, and I had a fire within seconds! Success at last!

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Sweaty, drunk, exhausted, and slightly injured, we decided to call it a night. But there are more techniques still to try: The Magnifying Glass Technique, The Fire by Ice Method, The Coke Can and Chocolate Bar Method, and the Condom Method.  Also, I haven’t entirely given up on the Fire by Friction method. The Tenderfoot to Queen’s Scout Manual warned me that likely my first attempt at making fire would fail. I spoke with my dad last night, a former well-badged Boy Scout himself, who wondered if it might be the wood I used.  Indeed the manuals all talk about the importance of choosing the right wood.  I just don’t know how to distinguish one type of wood from another.  Perhaps this is something else I ought to learn.

While I am not sure that any of this makes me more interesting, Laura and I sure had a good time trying to make fire.  So much so that it has motivated me to keep going with this re-education project of mine, and to involve others whenever and wherever possible. So, if any of you want to volunteer to try something with me, even if you are miles away, that would be great!

Next up: 30 days straight of yoga.  I started this morning at 7 am.  I already feel accomplished for having got up that early for a yoga class. Just 29 more days to go! I have another friend who felt inspired by this undertaking and has committed to also doing yoga everyday for 30 days, but in her home and not at 7am!

Keep tuned in, as there will be more things coming this month too!

A Slow Burn

Not for the first time in my life, it seems I have found myself in a weird place, of my own making. Saturday was a beautiful summer day, and yet I spent it in the library perusing Boy Scout manuals from the 1950s. Boy Scouts of the 1950s, as it turns out, really knew what they were doing. They had to pass multiple tests as they progressed through the Scouting ranks including things like: how to skin and cook a rabbit, how to spin a lariat, and how to send a message via Morse Code. Needless to say they were also experts on how to make fire without matches which is what had drawn me to the library in the first place.

On Sunday, another very hot day, clad in a lovely silk sun dress and with an iced latte in hand, I noted that several people’s gaze fell on me a little longer than I am accustomed to or comfortable with, as I foraged in the woods of High Park, for appropriate fire making supplies.  I like to think they were thinking – “What is that woman doing?  It must be something VERY interesting!” But, this might not have been what they thought.

It was without a doubt, an odd way for a gal to spend a weekend, and likely very pointless. Since embarking on this new blog with a focus on becoming more interesting, I have begun to worry that possibly, quite to the contrary, I am coming across as a much more pathetic individual than I had intended, or indeed think I am. Sadly, I fear this may have already resulted in a serious loss to the Stookie readership, not to mention the demise of few treasured friendships.  Still I soldier on.

Though inane on so, so many levels, this weekend will hopefully prove to be invaluable reasearch and preparation, as I progress toward my goal of making fire without matches.  I now have 4 more days to do this.  I have made very little progress. But, today I was buoyed when a friend called to ask me how I was getting on with the fire making.  She offered to help.  She has an axe, and you know, that might be very useful.  So, I think some preliminary trials may take place at her place Friday night. Likely over a glass or two of wine.  It’s all very exciting.

Welcome to Stookie’s Classroom

A few years ago, I filled out a questionnaire for a popular on-line dating service. After answering what felt like a million personal questions, it came back that I was “UNMATCHABLE”.  Seriously. This coupled with the fact that a friend once suggested to me that I could benefit from lessons in how to have a conversation, and my recent realization that I am one of those people who others, often repeatedly, forget they have met, has led me to consider the possibility that I am not as interesting as I could be. And so, I have decided to embark on an active campaign of re-education.

To get the ball rolling, I asked the readers of my previous blog: www.stookiehavers.wordpress.com, to send me their ideas and suggestions for how I, Stookie, could become a better, more interesting woman and human being. Initially, no one responded.  After a pleading post, that verged on begging, my readers came through for me. Only one suggestion was deemed unacceptable. You can find their suggestions under the Page entitled “Readers’ Suggestions” at the top of this page.

Already some interesting conversations about what makes a person better or more interesting have emerged.  For example, one friend pointed out that learning to make beer won’t make me a better person.  No, that’s true.  But will it make me more interesting? Yes, she thought it would. Equally, sharing at a party about my newly acquired CPR skills probably won’t win me any new friends, but if some day I save a life with those same skills, well let’s just say, I don’t think I’ll be coming back in my next life as a worm!

Another friend said, “Okay, I will make a suggestion, but you won’t like it. There isn’t anything you can do to be more interesting. It isn’t about the things you do, being interesting comes from the inside.”  She suggested that trying to be interesting was in itself uninteresting. Certainly not the boost I was looking for, for sure, but still it’s useful input. I wonder if this is true? Does being interesting have nothing to do with effort? Is it really that interesting people don’t even try to be interesting? It could be. I kinda doubt it.  Certainly I agree that most interesting people are driven by an internal passion for something and that this is most likely what draws us to them. But you know that expression, “those who can’t do, teach”, well, maybe, “those that can’t be, do.”

Based on the suggestions thus far, and with the goal of becoming both a better AND more interesting woman and human being, I have decided to start with the following suggestions:

(1)  LEARN TO MAKE FIRE WITHOUT MATCHES – It’s just seems like the most natural place to start, given how important fire has been to the evolution of humans. Also, it was the first suggestion I received.

(2) 30 DAYS of YOGA – This just seems like a ridiculously challenging suggestion and frankly, anyone who knows me will tell you, it is unlikely that I will achieve it. But, it could make me a better person, so I will try it anyway. The start date will be announced soon, but will be after I have learned to make fire.

As I progress through this active campaign of re-education, I will blog about my experiences and insights along the way.  In order to keep things orderly and neat, suggestions have been categorized, and posts will appear under these same categories.

An interactive blog is the goal here, so please keep those suggestions and any comments or insights you have about becoming a better, more interesting woman and human being, coming.  There is page at the top titled Guidelines for Making Suggestions. Please read it before making a suggestion. Milestone dates will be listed in the side panel. For example, I am giving myself two weeks to learn how to make fire without matches.  I will also periodically post a page about Other Interesting People (thereby tackling another reader’s suggestion). Suggestions for this section are also very welcome.

In the future, look also for on-going posts that will combine several readers’ suggestions into one: to reasearch a topic of interest, and to write stories about it.  I will be researching and writing about the history of personal ads. Partly, because of my own on-again, off-again relationship with personals (see above!), and partly because of this little Edinburgh newspaper clip  which I have been carrying around with me for months now.  It indicates that personal ads actually date back to the earliest newspapers of the 17th century and that the first matrimonial agencies began cropping up in the 1700s. This intrigues me.  Centuries of lonely hearts: What’s changed? What’s still the same?  What were people looking for back in the 16oo’s and was it so different from what people are looking for now? What’s their stories?

I will also post links to sites, articles, and any inspirations I find along the way, on the side panel under Stookie’s Learning Resources, like this YouTube video of a song by Eytan and The Embassy, that I really like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMwyun2KUI8&feature=player_detailpage