Thursday, January 28, 2010

Left Behind

The weather being what it is, it was not exactly the sort of day one would normally chose to go get an ice cream cone, but that is what we did. After our healthy low-calorie lunch, we headed off to the new ice cream parlor in town for a treat. The success rate for new businesses in this town is dismal, so we don’t hold out too much hope that this one will succeed, but the ice cream is good. Really good.

And seeing as Richard had errands to run at the markets and at the post office, I had him drop me off at the library so I could read the newspaper and perhaps prowl the stacks for something to leap out at me and beg me to take it home. The book I am currently reading,

is wonderful, but I have to read it in small bits because it such powerful things to say. All sorts of light bulbs are going off as I get a better understanding of the relationship we had with our dog.

His parting words to me as I hopped out of the truck were...

“I hope I don’t go off and forget you...”

We both laughed. Ha ha ha...

So I discussed with the librarian the impending winter storm – we now supposed to get 12 inches of snow tomorrow – and we hunted down the most issue of the community newspaper, which ate up a few minutes. And then I sat and read it. And then I checked out the  “new book” shelf... and then I wandered by some of the nonfiction books – picked up and put back one on the Navajo code talkers in WW II... and one on nurses who were trapped in Bataan...and one about a railroad through India... and a really old edition of an even older book by Alexis de Tocqueville...  and then I wandered back into the lobby just as Richard walked in the door.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he said. “Do you remember what I said as you were getting out?”

“Yeah." Pregnant pause. "Did you forget me?”

“I got all the way to McDonald’s....”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Unseen Connections

Back in the early 1980s, the woman's group I met with discussed Hannah Hurnard's book Hinds Feet on High Places, an allegory in the tradition of John Bunyon's Pilgrim's Progress. Hurnard wrote several other small books, one of which is God's Transmitters,

 which was part of a boxed set I bought.  She says:
It seems terribly possible, indeed almost certain, that our minds are broadcasting stations, and that all our thoughts are being broadcast all the time, touching and influencing the thought waves of others for good or evil, just as their thought waves influence ours....

We are thinking spirits, and our spirits appear to be separated from each other by our material and temporal bodies. But it seems possible that our thoughts go out into the universe of thought, over distances beyond our conceiving, touching and influencing others...
And no, she is not off into psychic stuff, although some of her later writings did stir up quite a lot of controversy in theological circles. What she has to say in in this book, and in context is ultimately about prayer. It seems OK to me and is quite profound.

At any rate, that there might be something going on in the unseen realm that we can't exactly explain probably does not come as a surprise to most of us, even if we don't believe in the paranormal psychic stuff that seems to be so popular now on the "small dish." In particular in my case, there have been a number of occasions when I have been thinking strongly about a woman I know, that I should write her, and have sat down to e-mail her only to find an e-mail from her has already arrived.

So, last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I suddenly found myself thinking about Rudyard Kipling's story Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, about a mongoose in India. I had no idea why that particular story out of the thousands of books I have read over the years might have popped into my mind other than I loved it and read it many times, but then I got a little frisson -- an "oh wow!" moment  -- when I turned on my computer much, much earlier today (like at 5 a.m.) and beginning downloading yesterday's e-mail.

My computer, Porky, is running on borrowed time, a "wing and a prayer" so to speak, and sometime in the near future,  I fully anticipate he will catastrophically crash  (our computer guru is currently building my new and improved computer). So, I give him a day of rest on Sunday: one day he isn't running means one more day that he will run.

The fact that I did not see the e-mail my cousin had sent yesterday before I went to bed makes it all the more interesting:
We have this mongoose that lives in between the old burn pile a ways from the house and in the palm trees just outside the fence line. This mongoose runs from one to the other. Mmaybe he has a girlfriend or something hanging out in one of the piles. Well, on Thursday, Joane and the dogs were walking in the yard, and the mongoose was doing his visit. George got it in his sights; Lola also, and the pursuit started.

They almost got the mongoose; and in the process, it got inside my greenhouse under the shade cloth and in between the pallets that I use for tables. Male mongoose have anal scent glands that they use for marking their territory. Somehow, our dogs both got covered in this horrible, horrible scent from the mongoose, it was oily and so stinky.

Of course the dogs thought they were in heaven with the smells, but it took Joane and I both to give them their two baths to get rid of the smell. Joane had gone into the green house after letting the dogs inside, and then she had to deal with a screeching mongoose and two barking dogs going crazy.

The "goose" is still alive and George sits on the deck upstairs and looks for its movement every day, tries to run and catch it, but always comes up short. Some day...

The dog with its nose to the ground is Lola, the Dachsund. She spent the night with a Jack Russell Terrier and along came her son, George, who is on full alert.Good luck Mongoose. Being stalked by 2 little dogs bred to be tenacious hunters? He's gonna need it. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Bit of a Vent

I try not to get worked up by stuff that annoys me, but every once in a while something gets under my skin and festers a bit. Sort of like what happened a couple of weeks ago when I grabbed a piece of dead gooseberry bush and ended up with 5 or 6 microscopic thorns in my thumb. I had to sit there with a 40x jeweler's loupe and dig them out.

So I'm still stewing about something from yesterday and am going to vent a bit.

I worked on an Op/Ed piece that bugged me. A lot. To bolster the arguments that were being made in the article, the author included a discussion of the accidental death of a young woman that came about because of human error. He began by describing this as "The tragic death of [her name], a beautiful....."

Yes. Her death was tragic, it shouldn't have happened. No doubt about it. Her grieving father was furious, and he launched a crusade that had far reaching effects. A law was passed because of it. A major change was made in the way some things are done because of it.

But was her death any more tragic because, as the author put it, she was "beautiful"? What if she hadn't been beautiful? What if she had been homely? News flash: Her death would still have been as tragic.

I thought about deleting the word, but I didn't. Out of curiosity, I found her picture on the Internet, and the girl really was attractive. Copyeditors walk a fine line sometimes. We are supposed to fix errors in grammar and punctuation and that sort of thing, and not necessarily edit to our personal opinions.

And to borrow shamelessly from colleagues

on the Copyediting list group...
Grant me the serenity . . .
to recognize the prose I should not change,
the ability to improve the prose I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.
So, I let it stand as the author had it. I wasted about 20 minutes trying to insert a query to the author about whether her being "beautiful" was relevant, but I couldn't figure out a diplomatic way to say what I wanted to say. I came very close to venting in an e-mail that might have come back to bite me in the butt had I clicked the send button. Fortunately, I didn't. Ya'll get to hear it instead.

Thanks for listening. And now I feel much better.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To Eat, or Not to Eat?

Judy announces that Aldi has pineapples on sale for 99-cents each. The mind boggles a bit at the idea of a fresh pineapple for 99 cents. Judy announces that she is going to buy one. Because there is no point in two of us driving 50 miles round trip to go to Aldi to buy a pineapple, I give her $1 and ask her to please buy me one.

She does and hands me the pineapple on Friday when we meet up at aerobics.

The pineapple comes home with me and I sit it on the counter and eyeball it.

Pineapples have eyes. They stare back at me.

I am not actually sure how to tell if a pineapple is ripe.

It sits there for several days. I am reluctant to cut it open. What if it is not ripe?

This fellow usually shows up at my house for a while each day, and if anybody would know if a pineapple is ripe, he should, because after all he lives in one under the sea....

but he isn't telling.

So I fire off an urgent e-mail to my precious cousin who lives on the Island of Hawaii to ask her how to tell if the pineapple is ripe. I get her answer on Monday...

Pineapples with any green on them tells me that they are not ripe yet. In the past I have tried to help a friend in Colorado with this very subject and realized that I am not the greatest source. Our pineapples are allowed to ripen on the plant and I actually gave her wrong information. So, I went on the Internet and did a copy/paste for you to help out. I am so afraid that our way of checking this out will cause yours to spoil and that would be a shame.
So I read through the advice she found and decided to let the pineapple sit another day or two.

Today I received an e-mail from Judy in which she expresses some disappointment in the two pineapples she bought for herself.

It had white parts in it that didn't taste very good. I cut those parts out and the rest was pretty good. I cut the second one this evening and it was the same. We have not had this experience with pineapple we've had in the past. I hope yours was OK...

Well, at the time, I did not know if mine was OK because I have not opened yet. So I took another close look at the pineapple and...

decide it is mostly not green and that it's now or never....

I made a good choice. It is juicy, and sweet, and very good.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Be still my beating heart

“Bye mom,” he said as he picked up his lunch kit and headed out into the frigid early morning darkness for another day at the sawmill, “I won’t be home for dinner tonight because I am going to the archery tournament with Sam.”

Words to warm the cockles of this mother’s heart. Our Boy has such a hard row to hoe when it comes to relationships with people because of whatever it is that is wrong with him.* Animals seem to love him, but not people. The very few people who have tended to be involved in his life on an on-going basis in the few years since he moved back to town have are themselves defective in some way. I have never met Sam, a colleague of his at work, but what our son says about him, and how he treats our son, leads me to believe he is a decent sort of man who genuinely seems to like our Boy. Sam is involved in archery, and our son became interested in archery well. Sam sold him a used compound bow at a reasonable price, and he has been practicing. They entered a tournament, with 2 sessions held over a 2-week period, with a final session coming up.

I settled into my chair in front of the computer with a cuppa coffee and started working and eventually came to a manuscript that set my heart to beating just a tad faster when I saw the topic. This was a case report by a team of American surgeons who just happened to be at a regional hospital in Africa when a young teenager came in from the countryside after having been shot in the heart with an barbed arrow while hunting. The arrow was still sticking out of his chest, and it pulsed with each beat of the boy’s heart. I guess it was a shocking site. He was not in very good shape, mainly because it took him 3 days to get there once the doctors at the bush hospital realized they could not get the arrow out, but he was still alive. Had the doctors at the bush hospital removed the arrow, the boy would have immediately bled to death. The surgeons saved the day and the boy lived to hunt again.

So I thought about this some. When the Boy came back later in the evening, he was very excited at having had a good time at the tournament, and I was very excited to see that he had not, in fact, been shot in the heart and there did not appear to be any extra holes anywhere else either. One can always be thankful for the small mercies in life.

*For new readers of this blog, who don’t feel like slogging back through 5 years of posts to dredge out all of this (and I don't feel like slogging back through them either!), our son has behaves in ways that are often associated with people who have Asperger syndrome, the main problem being extreme difficulty with social relationships.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Screw Effect

Seeing that the thermometer was at a balmy 40 degrees this morning, we went together on the daily 2-mile walk that hasn't been so "daily" in the past week or so because of truly bitter temperatures and snow on the ground. The roads are now clear, and we were very careful to dodge the patches of ice that are still on the driveway.

One notes that the unintended consequence of combining a McDonald's restaurant with a convenience store-gas station at the confluence of the major road out of town and the intersection with the four-lane highway is that the rights of way are littered with trash. It's disgusting.

On the way back, just after we finished another one of many hilarious nonsensical discussion we have had while walking, this one about north and south and why there is still unmelted snow on the north side of the barrier which is on the south side of the overpass, we passed the on-ramp for traffic going south, and then suddenly the LOML stopped and turned around and went back a few feet and picked up a screw. He held it up for me to see.

This would certainly have given someone a flat tire.I have done my good deed for the day and no one will ever know about it.

Aha, I thought to myself, that's what you think.

I may have changed the course of someone's life. Supposing someone ran over that screw and it caused a slow leak or else the tire suddenly went flat while he was going down the highway and he got in a wreck and got killed. In fact, by this one act I may have changed the course of human history.
 He looked at me expectantly.
 Yes, I said. Yes! Yes!Yes!
 And then he said, "Not likely..."

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Pictures worth 1000 words...

In a relative sort of way, winter is probably a whole lot less serious in the Ozarks than it is across the Great Plains or in the Rocky Mountain states or in the upper Midwest, or Upstate New York or in New England or....

But we occasionally do have days here when we know it is winter! It snows. It gets cold...

And usually within a week or so it warms back up a bit so we think “well, this isn’t so bad...”

In summer you get the illusion
That life must be gentle and warm,
But wisdom comes to us in winter
When we have to stay home in the storm.
When the blizzard comes out of the northwest,
You cannot do as you would do.
So winter is when nature teaches
That the world is not here to please you.

Garrison Keillor, Hymn to Winter, APHC, Oct 12, 1996

And there are some things about winter that are truly breathtaking.

"It’s a Bob Ross Sunrise," the LOML yells. He happens to be puttering around the kitchen just as dawn begins to break.  Bob Ross was an artist who taught a “wet-on-wet” painting technique on a program we watched on Public Television. He gave the impression that just about anybody, without any art training at all, could paint some really nice landscapes by giving various shaped brushes certain twists and flicks of the wrist. We used to laugh at his rather lurid sunrises and sunsets. “That’s just not realistic," we would say.

Of course they were realistic.

If I was a sailor at sea, I would have been worried; as it happens, there was more snow on the way.

And this morning, the sun was shining at just the right angle, and just enough breeze was blowing, to shake down ice crystals that were clinging to the trees, and it looked like a shower of diamonds.

"Should I even attempt to take picture of  this," I ask?
"It's digital, honey," the LOML says, "it doesn't cost anything if they don't turn out."

As it happened, the pictures didn't turn out.

The flecks of ice are there (honest, they really are -- click on the picture), but the sparkle effect of them floating through the air is missing. A video would have worked, and my camera does take short videos, but I didn't think of that. Oh well, another time perhaps.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine and Overcoming Blogger's Block

There has been dead silence on this blog for almost a week. I feel like have been in the grip of blogger's block, a version I guess of writer's block or artist's block or the sort of miasma that grips any person trying to do something creative who feels like they have run out of ideas to write about or pictures to paint or everything is just sort of swirling around in there and the motivation to organize it and lay it out in a coherent way seems to be missing. It is like being swept along in the rapids of a river, sort of bouncing around and unable to get purchase with your feet and land and get free... and the days go by....

Part of it also has been a major project for work, and the fat lady is about to sing on that, and suddenly I feel a bit of an interest in getting back on track with writing. I was gonna say get "back in the saddle," but perhaps that is one too many cliches to toss out in a single post. And no, I am really not fat any more, but I have gained 10 pounds back since November, which will probably take me 10 months to loose that will put me back at Thanksgiving, to start the cycle all over again.

I remember within the last 30 years that chocolate has moved from being a horrible thing to eat -- do any of you remember when the health food people were pushing carob powder as the better alternative to chocolate  -- to a miracle food that everybody should be eating a little bit of every day.

Well, we should, right? Have you had your chocolate today?

And we all know that walnuts are very good for our health too. Right?

And recent studies have even shown that a little bit of alcohol has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. I know some might take a deep breath here to argue with me about this and whether it is appropriate to consume alcohol and I understand that. Abuse of alcohol causes untold suffering and the small health benefits of an ounce or two of alcohol a day are likely overwhelmed by the cost to the health care system of caring for people who have abused alcohol and destroyed their health in the process. I am not advocating alcohol - I have seen firsthand what alcoholism can do. The only first cousin I had on my mother's family destroyed his career, his family, and ultimately himself because of alcohol abuse. I had to say all that so I could proceed without a guilty conscience...

So why not put it all together - some chocolate, some walnuts, and a bit of alcohol -- and be really, really, healthy! We decided to do just that.

For a number of years, Mom used to order us bourbon fudge from the Trappist monks who run Gethsami Farms in Kentucky as a special treat at Christmas. We always enjoyed getting that fudge very much.

This year, of course, there was no bourbon fudge, and the LOML never got around to ordering any for us from the catalog. So he went on a quest to find bourbon fudge and he did. And I made it over New Year's weekend, using the recipe here, and it was good. Very good indeed.

And I feel so incredibly healthy!!