I have planned to post this for a couple of months. With all the uncertainty of where and when it’s safe to travel, and what places are open, this seems a good time to compile my posts of some opportunities for enrichment and inspiration.
Please note: I have not revisited most of the links, and some things have undoubtedly changed. Also, I hope people are able to find ways to get outside that are safe and healthy for themselves and those around them.
Click here for virtual travel to:
Fantastic worlds and their soundscapes
Click here for ways to experience:
Old Time Radio
Audiobooks and storytelling
Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Sessions of world music
More arts and music
Click here for mostly off-screen adventures, like:
Coloring pages for adults and kids
*Update for April 23rd, celebrating Shakespeare’s Birthday:
*Stratford, Ontario’s Stratford Festival is starting StratFest at Home, a series of twelve Shakespeare plays to watch at home for free. It starts on the Bard’s Birthday, April 23rd, with King Lear, and continues a week at a time with Coriolanus and Macbeth, with more to follow.
This deeply generous offering is joined by the UK’s National Theater. They have been streaming performances a week at a time starting April 2nd. I watched both Jane Eyre (now over) and Treasure Island which ran until this afternoon (2 pm EDT, if my conversion is right). Both were excellent, with great filming and powerful performances. Jane Eyre was the great drama you would expect; Treasure Island was a wonderful adventure. And I’m particularly looking forward to Twelfth Night, streaming 4/23 til 4/30. More will follow. Do keep in mind the difference between UK time and your local time.
If you’re a fan of Shakespeare like me, see below.
There’s a wealth of more plays highlighted on Playbill. The plays stream on a variety of platforms, some on more than one.
For drama of a different sort, try out some Old Time Radio productions. I have very fond memories of listening to some rebroadcasts as a kid with my family. VT Dorchester has made an excellent post featuring ten golden-age radio shows. Personally, I can’t wait to listen.
For a different sort of audio storytelling, Audible is offering free stories, “for as long as schools are closed.” There are different age levels from very young to adult, fiction and nonfiction, from classic to very modern – e.g. Pooh through Harry Potter to Pride and Prejudice.
A neat thing about both of the above is once you get started, they’re screen-free. But there’s something special about seeing the reader when you’re being read to. Of course, you can read aloud at home. And for youngsters, Barnes & Noble is hosting online storytimes. Also check your local library and even indie bookstores for story times.
Viking TV (not about Vikings, actually) is hosting “Arts and Music Wednesdays,” along with all kinds of cultural offerings on different days.
That’s all for now. Great thanks to all the artists and institutions making these uplifting and mind-expanding opportunities available to all of us, and to the friends who alerted me to these wonderful offerings.
Check back soon for an interview with VT Dorchester.
What do you call a unicorn with wings? The Oxford English Dictionary blog once posed that question. As a word nerd with a passion for mythical beasts, that fired my interest! The blog, sadly, was taken down, but it gave several possible answers. Since that venerable and wide-reaching source gave no one definitive answer, I have to conclude there isn’t one.
A search of the web similarly brings up lots of possibilities, including pegacorn, unipeg, unisus and other portmanteau combinations of unicorn and pegasus. I have to say to my eye and ear these seem rather inelegant and clunky, conjuring up images of flying pigs and peg-legged unicorns. Cerapter is a clever alternative, from the ancient Greek keras for horn and pteros for wing.* To me it has a sort of dinosaurian flavor, though.
He traces Alicorn back to 14th century Italian and later Arabic; he uses the term to mean the horn of a unicorn,** a most precious, almost sacred object. It was the sovereign antidote to all poison, and it could heal the sick, even of the dreaded Plague.
In the dark corner of a museum, I once had the privilege of seeing an Alicorn. Well, at least its mortal cousin.
This is the skull of a narwhal, found in a whaling museum. I’d never seen one before, though I’d read about them. It gave me a shiver of pleased recognition to lay eyes on it.
Alicorn is a word of both elegance and substance to my mind. But since it already refers to something other than a winged unicorn (or horned pegasus), I’d suggest a slight variation. My proposal: alacorn, from the Latin āla for wing and cornū for horn. (Like cerapter, only without connotations of velociraptors and pterodactyls.)
Now for a somewhat related question: what do you call a sea-going unicorn?
It is called a Hippicorn, and since that name was given by its creator, there can be no more fitting title. Hippicorn is a doubly hybrid word, a portmanteau of hippocampus (from Greek roots) and unicorn (from Latin). More on that later.
Some might wonder what a hippocampus is.*** I’m so glad you asked! (Pretend you did, even if you didn’t.)
A hippocampus is a mythic seahorse, the equine equivalent of a mermaid. Sometimes it has a dolphin-like tail, sometimes a fishy one. Here’s a fine one found on Cape Cod. It seems to have a fondness for jewelry and scarves.
The name is from ancient Greek, hippos for horse, kampos for sea monster. It is, I think, a close cousin to the campchurch, which is another kind of sea-going unicorn, but rather different from Sarah Minkiewicz’s wild hippicorn. It has no tail, but webbed hind feet. Here it is where I first encountered it in one of my favorite childhood books.
Here the marine cousins are together:
And here is another close relative, found in the same whaling museum as the alicorn, carved out of whale ivory.
Because I am a word nerd, I wondered where the “church” in campchurch came from. Webster’s Unabridged dictionary was, alas, no help. Even the massive Oxford English Dictionary was silent on the matter. Liddell and Scott’s Lexicon of Ancient Greek vouched for the antiquity of hippocampus, but had no trace of campchurch.
An online search brings up a lot of opportunities for worship while camping, but very little about sea-unicorns. I found one woodcut image of a campchurch from 1575 – walking flat-footed on dry land!
Could the “church” of campchurch have come from the modern meaning of house of worship? It seemed unlikely, but Webster’s and the OED do agree that “church” is derived from the ancient Greek kyriakon, and ultimately kyrios, lord and kyros, supreme power. Could campchurch mean something like the lord of sea monsters? I’m left to wonder…But Sarah’s hippicorn is certainly a lordly beast!
I also wonder what else might one call a horned hippocampus or marine unicorn? What about mericorn? (I think I kind of like that).
The truth is, if I should ever be so fortunate as to see any of these mythical beasts, I’m certain I’d be unable to call them anything at all, being struck dumb with awe and wonder!
If you, too, like mythical beasts – one of these creatures lurks in the pages of Running Wild Anthology of Stories V. 3! I won’t tell you which one, but the title gives a clue. Why not go explore? You’ll find several supernatural creatures hiding among those excellent stories.
Check back in a couple of weeks for another interview with one of my anthology colleagues!
Now for a brief journey into the wilds of word exploration, on the trail of a unicorn. Along this path are two very talented women artists.
The unicorn’s name is Hillingar.
This fantastic beast is a sculpture you can hold in your hand, the work of the greatly gifted Sarah Minkiewicz.
Sarah creates amazing equine (and equine-related) art; I’ve been very fortunate to have been given a number of pieces from her Zazzle store.
This post is meant to be about word exploration, but I must spend a little time on the unicorn himself. Hillingar is an incredible creature, most definitely not just a horse with a horn, nor even a horse with horn, cloven hooves, and a lion’s tail. No, this beast is very much his own creature. He is sinewy, powerful, fiery, somehow almost dragonish. Kudos, Sarah!
I got to hold this magnificent animal because my dear friend, Susan Bensema Young, was one of the fortunate few who possesses one of this limited edition. Sue, herself a very gifted artist, is a miniaturist who builds exquisite model horse tack. On her blog she wrote about receiving and unwrapping Hillingar.There you can see more views of this remarkable unicorn. You can also find posts on many things, including how she builds her tack, and a link to her website full of her own beautiful work. I hope you’ll explore some of these.
To return to the path of words. It was Sue who told me that Hillingar’s name is Icelandic and means “a mirage, a fata morgana.” I pondered the mirage part. It fits in the sense this unicorn might leave you wondering if you can believe your own eyes. But on the other hand, this sculpture is so vibrant, so vivid, so present, it does not seem like anything diaphanous or ephemeral.
But fata morgana startled me. I thought the phrase meant “Morgan le Fay.” Here I turned to one of my trusty guidebooks for adventures in word-tracking. Not exactly a pocket fieldguide – it’s Webster’s Unabridged (Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged, to be precise). Webster’s led me true: indeed, fata morgana is defined as a mirage. Webster’s further illuminates the mystery, especially online: ‘Fata Morgana is the Italian name for Morgan le Fay (meaning “Morgan the Fairy”), a sorceress of medieval legends… sister of the legendary King Arthur…Among her powers, say some versions of the legend, was the ability to change shape, and she has been blamed for causing complex mirages over bodies of water, especially in the Strait of Messina. Today we know that such optical illusions are really caused by atmospheric conditions, but we still sometimes use “fata morgana” as a synonym of “mirage.”’
Aha! Revelation. (And this is particularly fitting as Sue has meteorological connections). This led me to wonder, as I have before, why Morgan le Fay translates as Fata Morgana in Italian. Trusty Webster’s to the rescue! It traces fay (meaning ‘a fairy; an elf’) as the word winds its way back in time: through Middle English, back to Old French, and ultimately to Latin: “fata, a fairy, fatum, fate.”
Wow. So Morgan le Fay (or Morgan le Fey) is distantly related to the Three Fates, at least etymologically. (I had wondered). And as Sue says of Hillingar, “What an amazing creature. The word that comes to me is fey.” Which brings us around full circle. And it makes perfect sense to me, that this unicorn connects to a being of powerful magic.
Thank you to both Sarah and Sue for allowing me a glimpse of this fantastic beast!