Sunday, January 30, 2005

Eat to live…. Or live to eat..

My half-cousin Jeanie (we had the same grandpa) is a very intelligent and perceptive person. We only met a couple of years ago via the Internet. I was not even aware she existed until she and my sister happened to connect on a genealogy Website. She is an anthropologist, did field work in Papua New Guinea (, and was a college professor until she retired a few years ago. We have exchanged many e-mails, and I have had the pleasure of meeting her twice, the last time in November when she came to meet my father and his sister for the first time.

In one of the fascinating conversations we had during the week we spent together in Los Angeles, she was talking about the differences in the attitude toward food between the US and PNG. She says the isolated villagers in the interior of PNG have a very boring diet, consisting of yams, manioc, various dark green vegetables and fruits, no grains, certain grub-type insects, and little meat. If I remember correctly from my own anthropology classes in college, pigs do play an important role in the social life of the rural people but are eaten only occasionally at ceremonies and such. At any rate, the people eat only to survive, not for the sensual pleasure of it. And, not surprising, although they have pot bellies because of the large amount of fiber they must consume, they don’t overeat. And as a result, there is little obesity, and very few of the food-related illness that plague Westerners, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. The women don’t get osteoporosis, the girls hit puberty very late (sometimes not until they are 18). Course they may have other diet-related health problems because of low protein (anemia, and so forth), but at least they aren’t fat. Along with that, they must work very hard to survive. Very strenuous physical activity is part of everyday life – especially the women..

And then there’s us. We, on the other hand, live to eat. We live for the sensual pleasure of consuming food – far more food than we need. That coupled with our general lack of physical exercise has meant…. well, just LOOK at us. No. On second, thought, let’s don’t.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Why you Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

I’m almost positive I have heard that, or a similar epithet, in an old western movie, but alas, searches of both Google and the Internet Movie Database came up empty. In any event, I’d have to say if that epithet had been uttered in some movie dialogue, it was very unfair to the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Blue Jays are “showy, noisy” (says Peterson's Field Guide) and the most aggressive birds that come to the feeder. Some of the smaller birds are also aggressive, but they are not very big and the other birds don’t pay them much attention. Blue Jays are like the school bully: large and intimidating, full of bluff and bluster. A Blue Jay arrives and the rest get out of its way – it doesn’t play well with others. Except today I watched a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, a bird that gives the impression of being a rather mild, easy-going sort of fellow -- and certainly not aggressive -- stand its ground when a Blue Jay approached the suet cake it was eating. Not only did it not give way to the larger bird, it jabbed at the Blue Jay, sort of lunged at it. The Blue Jay immediately gave up and flew off. There must be a life lesson from this, just not sure what it is.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hangin’ in thin air

I have observed an interesting phenomena a few times since we moved here when the conditions are just right. Frequently, when its supposed to be winter, the weather will warm and we’ll have a terrific thunderstorm and lots of rain – in fact, last week a tornado cut a small swath of destruction through the countryside just south of here – and the wet-weather spring in the woods behind the house will begin to flow (as it is doing right now). Our driveway turns into a mini-pond at the bend where all the runoff from the field collects and it trickles out across the driveway into a channel that flows eventually into the Eleven-Point river system. And after a few days of 50ish weather, winter will return again in full force and the temperatures plummet into the teens and below (as it has, in fact, done). The wet-weather spring will continue to flow for a week or so after a heavy downpour, but eventually it peters out. If the conditions are right, the surface freezes, but underneath, the water continues to flow until the spring finally quits. This leaves a sheet of ice suspended in mid-air. It’s quite lovely to see, but there is also an immense sense of satisfaction walking down the channel smashing the ice and hearing it tinkle as it hits the ground. As already noted, it has gotten very cold since the torrential rain a few days ago, and I’ve got a stick ready.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh oooouuuuuuuuoooooooo

No, it’s not a werewolf in London, it’s just me, howling at the moon, which is about the only action I can think of off hand that makes any sense. (Humm, do I use this as a segue into the interesting vocalizations of the coyotes in the area -- although I never actually heard them howling at the moon? No, another time). I have been trying to post at least once a week (on Sunday) but thought better of it so soon after our son’s 3-day visit ended last Saturday. R and I were just numb—emotionally and every other way—by the time he left. One minute my heart was breaking (Mom, I just wish I could be normal like everybody else and Mom, you still love me, right?) and the next minute I was so angry I wanted to kill him, which was my state of mind as he backed down the driveway. Just before he left, we all went to the clothes dryer so I could help him sort the last of the clothes he had brought with him to wash and had gotten mixed in with ours. R reminded him not to forget his toothbrush. Much to our dismay (we should not really have been surprised by this, of course), we then learned that he had not bothered to bring a toothbrush with him. We have had several conversations with him in the past about the importance of bringing personal hygiene items when he comes to visit, but it seems not to have sunk in. So I asked the obvious question:
Me: You mean, you haven’t brushed your teeth for 3 days?
Him: Oh yeah. I just used one of the extra toothbrushes in the bathroom.
Of course, there are no extra toothbrushes in the bathroom. He used R’s toothbrush. What threw me for a loop was that he said nothing about when he arrived, such as Mom, I forgot my toothbrush, do you have one I could use? and that he had every intention of leaving without having said a word about it. Maybe ignorance is bliss. R seemed to take it in stride, but I was furious. I let him know it too, but it won’t do any good. He simply does not think like everybody else (I hesitate to use the word normal here). In any event, our son now has his own slightly used special toothbrush in the medicine cabinet. This is not a phase he will outgrow. It’s never going to get any better… aaahhhhh ooooooooooo.