Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Completely unrelated comments on The Marsh King and Vitamin D

We’re reading The Marsh King, as I mentioned before (yes, we’re still reading our October books in December; c’est la vie), and Friday we read the chapter “The Battle of Kynwit.” Kynwit is a fortress being held by one of King Alfred’s men and during the night a band of Vikings sail up and attack. I had the hardest time at first, kept stumbling over the words until I realized what was happening. Up to this point the narrative has been a simple, straightforward style, but just listen to this (do, do read it aloud so you can hear it!):

Brightly the moonpath shone upon the sea, widely seen from high Kynwit wall, the stone fortress where Odda, Helmund’s stark son, stood watching. Hands gripping stone wall stood he there proudly. As a ship’s prow the wall was to him. Moon-swimming clouds above him breasted the sky, and he felt the fortress as a ship moving, traveling the shadowed sea.

On the dark sea eastward no ship moved that he saw. On the high sea cliff westward no warning watchfire gleamed. Men slept in Odda’s hall; the clustered shields slept on the long walls, weary with waiting. Odda therefore went weary likewise to his bedplace. The sentry alone now on the high wall watched nothing, saw nothing but the crowding shadows of clouds on the face of the moon-gleaming sea. On the high sea-cliff by the watchfire the sentry slept, and did not see the dark ships creeping that way, close below the cliff.

It’s prose but it’s written very much like Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry – it feels like reading Beowulf. There’s the alliteration, the parallelism, and the kennings. The whole chapter is like that and it’s a wonderful chapter.

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A few months ago when my doctor ordered a battery of tests for me, one of the things she tested was for my Vitamin D levels. I was pretty low – about 25, when she wants me to be above 60 – so I’ve been taking 1000 mg of D3 every day for about twelve weeks now. I get bloodwork done again this week to see if things are improving, but I can tell you that they are. Usually some time in the middle of November I start feeling like if the sun doesn’t come back soon I’ll die. When I get that feeling, I go get my globe and look at the analemma, finding the day’s date. (Click the picture for a close-up to see what I’m talking about.)

Then I look straight across the figure-8 to the date on the other side. That’s the date when the day will be just as long as it is “today,” only the days will be lengthening. Then I tell myself that I really can live until that day.

Well, it’s December 6th today, and it hasn’t happened yet. I’m happy.


  1. Oh, that excerpt is beautiful. Thanks for teaching me about what kennings are. The word sounds pretty as well.

    I also hope your vitamins work and you get to feel good.

  2. In August my Vit-D level was at 19... which surprised me. Now taking 1500 IU daily and hoping to have labs drawn in the new year.

  3. Thanks, Silvia.

    Dana, that really is surprising, knowing how much you're outside.


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