It’s late at night and I should be asleep, but staying up at all hours is one of the luxuries of being retired! 🙂 And my last post left things in a rather forlorn way, which I want to rectify here.

2016 was a pretty amazing year, all told. I met some wonderful people, went back to university, got to see lots of far-flung family, visited my best-friend-forever in LA, had some great times volunteering with kids and also at festivals and got inspired for the future, too.

To take things one at a time, but not in chronological order, in the summer of 2016 I met my great friends, Juhi Banerjee and Amol Agarwal from India.

Juhi and Amol happened to stop in the building where I was volunteering at the Comfest Museum. Comfest is a Columbus Ohio institution of alternative music, arts, and social justice organizations that runs for three days and nights every June. It’s put together entirely by volunteers and is totally free to the public, with something like seven music stages running continuously throughout the days and evenings. It started back in the early 70’s, with many of the same people working to organize it today who founded it back then.

One of my remits as a Comfest Museum volunteer was to chat people up, and Amol, Juhi and I had quite an enjoyable conversation that led me to inviting them to dinner with my sons, one of whom turned out to work in the same building in downtown Columbus as Amol! What a fortuitous coincidence.  Ever since that time, Juhi and Amol and I have been great friends.  They are getting ready to move north a couple of hours for Amol’s new job, and I will miss them so much. But I’ve already set a date toward the end of the month to visit them, after I attend an SCA event.

That’s another great thing that happened this year.  I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism at the beginning of September. The SCA is a medieval re-enactment organization started about 50 years ago in California that has since spread around the world, with numerous Modern-Middle-Ages ‘Kingdoms’ sprouting around the globe. Wearing authentic costume, or ‘garb,’ is one of the fun aspects of it, and indeed many, if not most, SCA folk create their own garb. I’ve been to three events since I joined, and would have attended more except that illness prevented me from some of my plans. But here I am in my garb as it was in the fall (but I’ve got some new stuff coming–oh boy!):

My name in the SCA is Unn Olafsdottir of Tirnewydd, and I’m a 10th Century Icelandic Viking woman! With me in the picture above is Mistress Halla of Mugmort, whose instrument, a strange flat-backed travel lute, I’m holding.

Mistress Halla is another great new friend from 2016. She has really given me a lot of knowledge and insight into the workings of the SCA–indeed, she is our Kingdom’s Minister of Arts & Sciences, which takes in just about everything that everyone does outside of the martial arts. But the martial arts are one of the big things the SCA is known for.  Teri McCarthy took these exciting shots of combat at the event called Red Dragon:

One of my favorite combat shots, taken by Raven Haraldson, shows her gigantic husband dealing a major blow to the relatively petite Baroness Constanza de Mendoza:


Here are Raven and her husband, as well as the Baroness Constanza, helmets removed:

There is a lot of pomp and circumstance at the Court, which is held at the end of the day’s combat and other activities, as shown in these photos by Teri McCarthy:

January turns out to be a surprisingly active month for SCA events. This coming weekend is Kingdom 12th Night up in Michigan, which I’m going to along with Mistress Halla. I’m going to help her pre-judge the contestants for the King’s Arts & Sciences Challenge. Although I’m also tempted to enter the competition myself, which would of course mean that I wouldn’t take part in any judging. But I doubt that I’m good enough yet on my purple lap harp to hold my own against the entire Kingdom’s-worth of competitors.

That’s another great thing about 2016. I gave my Celtic harp to my niece Kaleigh in the summer because I could no longer play it. But Mistress Halla loaned me her little travel harp, and after trying it out, I decided that if I could find a cheap, easier-to-play lap harp, I’d spring for it, which I did, and here it is:


Halla has really inspired me to take up my music again. I’ve started to play the lute again, something I thought was lost to me forever. Here it is, my prized Hirotaka Watanabe 7- course (13 string) Renaissance lute in the key of E, which he made for me in 2000:

I’m going to be playing it, and singing, at an SCA event up in Cleveland, which six months ago I would have said to be impossible, due to the bad arthritis in my hands and fingers. Well, I am definitely not as dexterous a player, nor as fine a singer, as I was in my heyday, but I like to think that I make up for it now with more subtlety and emotion in my interpretations.

Another niece of mine got married in the summer of 2016, which was a joyous occasion for the extended Townsend clan. It was an outdoor wedding, and simply lovely:

the newlyweds, Anna and Jeremy, just after the vows
my sons Jason and Nick get framed during the reception

Another great thing about the summer was Juhi and me volunteering with the kids at Freedom School, which you’ll find explained in my post Freedom School 2016. Here are just a few photos from our amazing time helping six-year-olds learn to read:

Another summer festival where I volunteered was our local Pride Festival, which is the fourth largest in the US, with over 600,000 people in attendance.  Our church had a booth there and also was in the parade with the Blessed Bedazzled Bathtub, from which our pastors sprinkled blessings on the parade onlookers and in which folks had their photos taken later:

Other events from the year:

My younger son Jason, my niece Kaleigh and my only nephew Ben at a belated Christmas celebration, which was also a celebration of my 65th birthday 😛
My friend from Turkey, Yasemin, 3rd from right, two of her three kids, as well as her mom and dad who were visiting from Ankara Turkey. They all took me out for brunch on my 65th birthday!

My cat Ophelia was lost for 6 days, but then a stranger who saw the online ad I placed about her, saw some boys playing with her almost a mile away from home and brought her back two days before Thanksgiving:


Her return was truly one of the greatest gifts of 2016! 🙂

I had several enjoyable local hikes and did lots of birding in 2016. I even got some binoculars–now I’m officially a birder!


Two of the most memorable happenings in 2016 have no photos to commemmorate them: my week in LA in March visiting my best-friend-forever Josie.  See my post Childhood to hear how we met, when I was age 5 and she was 10.

The other thing I really enjoyed in 2016, but have no pictures of, was going back to school at The Ohio State University. In Fall Semester I took Intro to Medieval Literature, which was superb. In a week, I’ll start the class Gothic Paris: 1100 – 1300, which I’m really excited about.

Looking a little farther in the future, one of my biggest excitements is my upcoming trip to Iceland in May. I’ll be spending most of my nights at the Loft Hostel in the capital city of Reykjavik, which is the most northerly national capital in the world:

I’ll also be staying at a couple of AirBnB places, this one southwest of Reykjavik on land formed by an ancient lava flow that strays down into the waters of the North Atlantic. I’ve gotten to know the hosts there, Bjorg and Olafur, through their kind correspondence with me, as well as the YouTube videos they post about their home and Iceland:

Another AirBnB where I’ll be staying is on a horse-farm in a remote spot of western Iceland:

Hopefully it won’t be this snowy when I’m there! The farm is on a gravel road that is an offshoot of another gravel road. It will remind me of growing up on the farm in southwestern Ohio. At this Icelandic farm, not only do they have prized Icelandic horses (which, although small, are not ponies, but rather horses, and ones with a unique gait), but it will also be lambing time when I’m there!

I’m also going to spend a night at another hostel on a fjord in northern Iceland. It’s too bad their photos are too hard to reproduce here, so let me instead give you the link so that you can look at them there. They are rather fabulous. Saeberg Hostel photos

One of the places in Iceland I cannot wait to see is the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, which forms the southern coast of Breidafjordur Bay. This is my favorite photo of it, so far. I hope to take a few good ones myself in May!

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Here is a map of Breidafjordur Bay:

Image credit: Another Side of This Life

Here is where Breidafjordur fits in with the rest of iceland. It is in the west/northwest:

map of Iceland.jpg

Why am I so interested in western Iceland, especially the areas around Breidafjordur? It’s because that area is where the Saga of the People of Laxardal (also called Laxdaela) is set. And I have been totally immersed in the Icelandic Sagas and Eddas, and especially in Laxdaela, for the past two years, first on my own and then in university as part of my medieval literature class. So I want to see where the events in Laxdaela took place. I have imagined the events, people, and relevant places in such detail that I really need to see those places firsthand.

Now you know for sure, in case you had harbored some doubts before, how much of a medieval nerd I am! 😛

In sum, 2016 was awesome, in the original sense of the word. Now I’m looking forward to the rest of 2017. Great things lie ahead, I’m sure! 🙂