Tuesday, September 13

summer solar, smelling of lavender

Well, this is totally an experiment. I was daydreaming in my weekend class and drew pictures on my syllabus, of a tall, wide tower with a solar at the top, and it was obviously a ladies' hall.

I've also been looking at medieval costumes and recipes, which are very cool. Veils and wimples don't seem so strange when you look at the funny hairstyles we have around today.

Am also trying to figure out dialogue in period style, but I'm really no good at it yet. Practice, I suppose.


The ladies' summer solar was at the top of the most southern tower, a wide unpanelled room with many windows cut in the round walls. During the summer months, the room was used commonly by all the ladies as a resting place. Wimple and veil could be unpinned and put aside, crying children were not glared at, and the topics unfit--or all too fit--for the company of the men could be discussed at leisure and without the semipolitical reserve required in a very political court.

But it was very much a room of women; only small children were allowed, and no men. Not that many men would have relished the experience of being confronted with an entire room of tired women in their stockings and without even a veil to cover their hair . . . most men steered clear even of the door to the tower, for the guards there (all of whom bore resigned looks on their faces) often left their posts with a lingering scent of perfume not their own.

Coming down the wide, even steps of the stairwell, she stopped at the lowest window to put on her wimple and veil over mussed hair. It was a hot day--not warm but hot--and putting on a head covering in addition to two layers of linen dress seemed doubly hot when she descended from the cool of the summer solar.

The world outside that small window was turning brown with the dead heat of summer. Soon it would be autumn, at least, and the death of the world would not seem so unexpected. The houses in the city looked so small, so far away, and yet she could pick out her favourite chandlers' shop, the best silversmiths' building apart from the crowded streets in a green of its own, and the cluster of alleyways devoted to making musical instruments. Tucking the hem of her wimple into the collar of her dress, she thought idly of picking up the lute again.

She turned to the door only to see a messenger waiting, watching her arrange her veil. Slightly annoyed at his silence, yet too hot to be upset, she gave him formal leave to speak. He looked slightly flustered.

"Ye smell of lavender," he said abruptly, and stopped.

"I see. Is that all ye came to say?" she asked, reaching up to affix a second pin to her veil.

"Well, when I was a child I used to--" he cleared his throat."My mother was a fine lady--the Queen liked her to spend time teaching girls how to sew in the afternoons--and when she came down, she always smelled sweet, like that. So I thought it was something special. All mothers smell like lavender! Methought maybe it had something to do with being a mother--one of the best, nicest mothers. She always came down from the solar rested, like that, I so always assumed that lavender was equated with goodness." He paused a moment. "That and the smell of--" He smiled, remembering. "I don't even know what it's called . . . "

She grinned. "Is your mother known as Lady Ellen?"

"Indeed! Do ye know her?"

"She taught me to embroider." Suddenly conscious of her embroidered shoes and various hems, she was glad Lady Ellen was not present to see the loose stitching on her slippers. She made a note to mend them as soon as possible.

"Ah. Tis' no wonder you smell like lavender."

"Well, there may be more to that than you know. Young girls usually sew lavender pouches for their first project."

"Oh. I had rather hoped it was something more glorious than that, but pouches will do."

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