My old friend M from college sent me a huge package of goodies — more than a pound of strong tea, crystallized ginger, cake, baking mixes for exotic goodies, candy (which the boys immediately fell upon with glad cries, because we don’t usually have candy around here), garlic basil linguine, and her local folk scene paper. What a gal!

Now, I live in a town where there is one commercial newspaper and the Free Weekly, so a specialized newspaper for the folk music and dance community seems as luxurious as the food and drink.

Back when we were students together, M and I both played folk music and danced folk dances. We were part of the little groups of people with stringed instruments who gathered at the campus fountains or whatever and played informally together. Of course, in those days, boys and girls, college students wafted around in flowing draperies and hair down their backs, so the whole thing was pretty picturesque.

M has continued in that tradition. I now sing classical music and hymns, and lift weights. I still know a lot of ballads, though. Perhaps some day I will be walking along and encounter a group of people with folk instruments, and sit down and join right in.

Last night in class we sang hymns full of blood. “O, precious is the flow, that washed me white as snow!” We never sing these in the churches that I attend. “Nothing can for sin atone, nothing but the blood of Jesus!” Brian Wren, in Praying Twice, explains that singing about blood fills modern people with disgust, and distracts them from the message of the song. “There’s wonder-working power in the blood!”

Partygirl, when I passed this along to her, hooted with scorn. Though they do not sing about blood in her church, either, she feels that the squeamishness of modern people is from our squeamishness about sin, not about blood. And not squeamishness about committing sins, just about identifying things as sins.

M and I often sang songs about blood. “There was blood in the parlor, there was blood in the hall, there was blood in the kitchen, where my lady did fall.” Those good eighteen-stanza ballads invariably have blood. My son is partial to “Matty Groves,” in which a high-born woman picks up a young man at church and takes him home. When they are surprised by her husband, Matty responds to his questions with remarkable sang-froid, but the husband kills them both anyway. “And with his sword, cut off her head, and kicked it against the wall.” Those ballads weren’t squeamish about sins or blood, either one.

People of the past were not less violent in their amusements than our modern movies and video games. They just didn’t have screens to put it on.

We are trying to come up with some local delicacies to send off to M in the big city.

Tonight at midnight is the deadline for entering the Knitting Olympics. The Yarn Harlot referenced this amazing advice for knitting olympiads. Were you wondering about the best position for sleeping during this event? Why knitters should also play the piano? You will know. Seriously, if you intend to spend more time than usual knitting and want to avoid sore hands and wrists, check it out. And Natalie is hosting the UFOlympics, where participants will finish their UFOs instead of starting something new. Sensible.