I admit that I spend a lot of time indoors, but I do get out of the house once in a while. And thanks to my friends, primarily Mother Goose, but now also Anachronon the Alchemist, I can travel a bit more widely, and certainly with a lot less concern about Homeland Security.
You may recall that I introduced you to Anachronon some years ago, when I told you about the cart he uses to sell his wares at Scarborough Fair. Well, I saw him again in person recently!
I feel a bit uncomfortable talking about this, because I can't really explain how the process of my getting to his laboratory, and then getting back to El Paso, actually works. It has something to do with physics, I think, but I have never understood since our first meeting - the result of his unfortunate tendency to make errors when he does certain experiments - how he manages to get himself, and me, back and forth like that. Anachronon's favorite expression is Seize the Present, but somehow he doesn't always do that in the way he intends. Time travel with Anachronon's spells is always a risky business, and he insists that I keep my will up to date.
Anyway, there I was, once again in his messy study, bringing some books that he had wanted to borrow from my personal library. The first thing I noticed was his coat of arms hanging on the wall.
Underneath it was another plaque with the Family Motto: Daring, Accomplished, Meangingful, and Non-Accurate, or D.A.M.N! for short.
I recall when we first met that he told me after one trip back in time that the sight of an apple core made him want to wear fig leaves. Another time he created a beaver coming out of a hat, insted of a hat made of beaver skins. Nevertheless, he was never one to give up, he assured me.
"Oh, it's thee, Mistress Wanna," he said, looking at me over his glasses. "I had forgotten that thee were coming today, or was it yesterday that thee were supposed to be here?"
"Well, I THINK it was today," I stammered. "Frankly, this time travel is a bit unnerving and I never know for sure ...."
"Yes, yes; I understand. I have definitely found myself in the strangest places at sometimes the most inopportune moments," he agreed. "Nuntius sursum."
"So why are thee here?" he asked in a bemused fashion.
"Well, when you accidentally landed at my house not long ago you told me you would love to read some of the books in my library, and I brought them today." I looked around. "Um, where shall I put them?"
He waved vaguely to his left. "Oh, just put them down there on the floor; I'm in the middle of something but I will look through them later."
I placed them on the floor, under the watchful gaze of a very strange cat, who hissed when a couple of the books toppled in my nervous haste. I drew back a bit, startled, never having seen a cat with flowers seemingly growing in his fur.
"Do not pay any attention to Claudon; he has been very cranky ever since he went along on my last time journey. He has not caught up with his cat naps since; methinks the process may have messed up his metabolism. I am still a bit discomfitted myself," the alchemist commented, yawning.
"What are you working on?" I asked, fascinated by the globe apparatus in front of him.
"This is an orrery," he said. "It is a means of demonstrating the relative positions of the planets and moons and so forth.
"This is a simple one, showing ... forsooth, I am not sure what yet, but it doth work."
"If one lights yon candle ...
"The heat and/or light from its flame bounces off yon hammered metal reflector, and creates just enough air current ...
"... that it causes the moon to rotate around the earth.
"... or is it vice versa?"
My eye was drawn to some heavy gold coins on the table in front of him.
"I have always heard about how alchemists experimented with turning base metals into gold. Have you actually succeeded?" I asked.
"Oh surely thou dost not believe such old wives' tales?"
He looked down at a ring of large keys hanging from a heavy chain around his neck.
"Suffice it to say that I need to take these coins to yon vaults," he commented, without further explanation. (Boy, what I wouldn't give to see what's in those vaults!)
What do you think? Is that a human skull, or maybe some other primate? I was just dying to ask, but didn't.
At this point, I heard a sound from behind his chair and noticed some papers sliding down to the floor. (Everything seemed to be moving at some point or other in that room!)
"I see you have a wide correspondence and lots of reading material," I commented.
"Oh, thou dost not know the half of it," he nodded. "Forsooth, I need an assistant."
"What about Elspeth the Ambitious?" I asked. "Wouldn't she help you?"
He looked at me with a frown. "Oh, no, not Mistress Elspeth. After she rid herself of all the dragon possessions left from her late husband Impetuous the Dragonslayer, she has put all her efforts into her Deli. She sends over a lunch for me occasionally, like today's," he said, gesturing toward a plate about to tip off the edge of his table. "But I have heard that she has been seen in the company of another wanna-be alchemist who is naught but a charlatan."
I smiled at his clever use of the "wannna-be" term, since it's something I've heard all my life, my middle name just being the initial B., and all. But it apparently was not intentional, since he only looked at me with confusion and perhaps some irritation so I quickly assumed a serious expression.
To change the subject, I looked around while he kept trying to light that candle on his orrery and spotted a large book lying open on one of the book stacks.
I can't help it; I am nosy. I gently turned the book to face me so that I could read what it said.
Hmm; admirable, I thought, nodding to myself. I am glad he keeps this open as a reminder.
Especially because of the nature of some of his experiments.
What IS that? Is it more than one, or all one thing? I shuddered. Well, whatever it was, it kept swishing around in there the entire time I was visiting.
You know, at the same time that THING was swishing in the jar, I could've sworn that green vines were growing up and around the table! Good grief! What one's imagination can do at times.
Potion bottles! Wow! Wonder what their contents were distilled from?
And that urn looks suspiciously like one that I saw at a memorial service recently. Oh, my; do you think ....?
I noticed that he had a bunsen burner. (I recognized it because my husband was a science teacher.)
Wonder what dripped out of that flask?
Oh, my goodness! Some things we are better off not knowing about.
I really don't have any credibility when it comes to talking about someone else's clutter, considering the state of my own, but ....
Some of the scrolls in that bucket looked extremely old. Oh, and did you know that the origin of the term "red tape" is because official documents were once tied with red cord tapes?
After all those wonderful Harry Potter movies, I have been extremely curious about crystal balls. I surely would've loved to see one in action, but time was short ....
My goodness, this fellow loves books about as much as I do.
Wonder what's in that leather "bottel"?
Oh, this explains that weird sound I kept hearing, a sort of blup, blup, blup, as if something thick were bubbling in a pot.
I guess this ladle was used for dipping things out of a pot like that.
I must've squeaked or made some noise as I watched that froggie thingy trying to get out. Anachronon said over his shoulder, "Do NOT touch anything that is in the pots, Mistress Wanna. I cannot guarantee that thee will not be affected."
Well, he didn't have to tell me twice about THAT.
I would have sworn those faces kept moving, but every time I looked directly at the table they froze up!
At this point, something happened to cause some of the books to start toppling.
I looked in time to see a rat heading for a chicken leg.
Hmm, hmmm, good! First the chicken, then the cheese. You can't beat a lunch from Elspeth's Deli!
Hey, I see she has served him a pickled jalapeno! Anachronon took a great fancy to local El Paso peppers when he accidentally set himself down in the middle of a Downtown El Paso Street Festival several years ago. I brought him a bagful of jalapenos, habaneros, and chile pequins on my first visit, and he must've given them to Elspeth to preserve. I tell you, traveling through time and space with a bag full of peppers is no fun! My hands and eyes burned for days!
At this point, despite the scrabbling and munching noises from the little rat visitor, I noticed my host nodding off. Poor fellow; he had apparently messed up his metabolism just like Claudon the cat, and needed to sleep, I would guess.
So, since I wasn't sure what else might be trying to come out of a pot or a jar or from underneath all those books I decided it was time to leave. "It has been so nice visiting with you again, sir."
Anachronon startled himself awake, thanking me again for the books.
"Thou hast an intriguing collection in thy library, Mistress Wanna," he said. "I am almost through with the book on Gorgons that thou gave me when last we met."
"Well, I am looking forward to reading some of your scrolls sometime," I said. "But not right now, as I am trying to finish some of my miniatures projects and don't need to get distracted with anything else. I read those Diana Gabaldon Outlander books and that took up weeks of my time."
I thought for a moment. "Hmm, you might be interested in reading them," I added, "because those characters do time traveling, too!"
"Perhaps," my host said wearily, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. "Methinks I also do not need something new to distract me, either, since I am still trying to figure out how to get to the Sunspot Solar Observatory in the Sacramento Mountains near Cloudcroft, NM, that thee told me about. To get a close-up view of the sun would be the answer to so many of my questions! But I don't know if my skills alone will permit me, since I don't have current academic credentials recognized by your government ...."
"Well, you can hopefully set down in the common area for visitors, if not the actual scientific areas. Be sure and stop by when you do," I said. "And better yet, maybe you can stay with us at our place in the mountains for a day or so before you return."
He nodded. "Thank thee, and I bid thee goodbye, Mistress Wanna." And with that, he said something and did something and I was whisked back home before you could say Jack Robinson. (I wonder if that really dates me; does anybody ever say that any more?)
Well, I hope Anachronon woke up enough to eat Elspeth's deli lunch before the rat finished it off!
Anachronon existed in my imagination for a long time, but when I first created him in January 2011 I was quite disappointed. The kit included fabric for a blue robe and wizard's hat which did not work for me at all. I deliberately re-made him in more subdued colors of brown and black (the robe's trim and his hat are made of black leather and suede). A bit of color was added with his shirt which I made from a piece of decorative ribbon. He was originally wearing a different necklace, but when I came across the keys and the gold coins in my stash, I knew just how I wanted to use them.
I felt a lot better when I made the Leonardo Da Vinci type hat, but I could not get his porcelain parts to look as natural in posture as I wanted. I put him away for quite a while and when I got him out again, he didn't look so bad, after all, and with the addition of glasses he finally became real for me.
I used a smallish (about 7 inches) old cheese board with feet (a real Cheap Thrill!) as a base. I printed out a nice old-fashioned map of the world on cardstock to use as a floor. When I discovered that one of my larger domes would cover the entire base, I created a bit of extra display area by making a new cardstock circle to cover the circular groove and go all the way to the edge. Fortunately, I remembered to leave him a little room to move in when he got up from his chair, but by the time I got everything glued in place you can't even see that map! lol
The orrery table was a WalMart purchase many years ago that I repainted. The table rug was in my stash and it added a bit of needed texture and color, but if I had had any idea it would be so diffult to manipulate I would never have used it. I would glue and glue and press it in place and think it was okay, and then the next day it would have sproinged back out. Too bad my Super glue was all dried up! Unfortunately, I already had other things glued on and around the rug, so it would've been a real chore to use something else. Oh well; I guess it's not too unusual to have a rug go awry, considering how many of Anachronon's -and my - other projects do.
The vine and faces tables were great finds at a comic book shop in Northeast El Paso once. The chair was an old cheapie purchased in the 80s which I heavily sanded to get rid of its too-shiny finish and gussied up a bit with a fabric cushion and fringe trim. I toned down the fabric by going over it with a Golden Oak stain pen!
The jar with the swimming thingies was a purchase at the Three Blind Mice Show in Chicago in 2009.
There are at least 101 books in this setting; possibly one or two more as I forgot to count the actual number under the table, not having realized they would be concealed by the rug on top.
In my quest for reducing my stash, I decided to use as many of my oldest leftover books as possible, dating back to my earliest days of bookmaking. This was before computers, when I used magazine advertising pages for both print and solid covers, and advertisements and pictures for the graphics.
Oriental rug advertisements made great book designs, as did foil gift wrap papers. I used eye shadows and chalks, even a stain pen, to tone down the shine on these papers. I did add some of my recent books to the scene, placing them so they would partially conceal the older ones that still looked too shiny. These are old books, after all ...
Some books have wood inserts; others cardboard, foamcore, whatever I could find at the time they were made.
I purchased the wonderful orrery from the late Mel Koplin at the Chicago International in 2010. I am so glad I have one of his pieces. He was a very creative, fun, imaginative and energetic person, and added so much to our lives in the miniatures world. He is greatly missed.
This leather "bottel" is one of a pair made for me by the late Beth Lane, a dollmaker who was one of my earliest mentors and a good friend for well over twenty years. I made her a tub of eels for her castle as my part of our swap. Losing her was very painful.
This Rules of Wizardry book was made by my dear friend, Lorraine Heller. You can see her product line here or contact her by email: MiniDelLor@aol.com
I am not sure where I got the skull candle. I believe it was from a swap, but unfortunately I don't have its creator's name.
The letters and most of the other papers and paper scrolls throughout the setting were made by Suzy Q. I won a contest on the MiniDolls list and received as my prize a fabulous collection of scrolls, letters, open pages, maps, etc., from her. I STILL have a few paper items left that I can use in future collections. What a fabulous contest win that was!
The crystal ball held by the pewter talons was actually part of a necklace that I picked up somewhere; frankly it was so heavy I couldn't imagine anyone actually wearing it. When I removed it from its chain, it wouldn't stand up on its own, but did tuck nicely into the bucket with the knobbed scrolls, a Christmas Nativity piece that I toned down with chalks.
The rat was a Chicago purchase (I LOVE that rat!) and the dish holding Anachronon's lunch was a concave button. I made a roast chicken for another setting once and then cut it into pieces; the chicken leg is one of those pieces. The other food items were in my stash or contrived.
The strange cat was made by Charles Claudon way back in 1982; I purchased him recently from Dick Tabor. The peculiar little frog without a nose or mouth is crawling out of a pot with boiling bubbles made from beads. The metal pots, Anachronon's mug and the ladles were in the stash for my medieval kitchen.
I keep thinking I am going to make Elspeth's Deli, but I guess she will come out of my head in her own time, so to speak ...