Thursday, October 29, 2009

Loving' the Drummin'

The cymbals are laughing, the drums are a euphoric thumping in my ears, the beat is fast and furious, and I'm lovin' my son's drummin'. The sound is organic; it has a life of its own. It is frantically happy and joyously alive. It insists on celebrating.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cultural Bird Droppings

Many things are strictly American; bumper stickers may be right at the top. They are an interesting phenomena: pithy statements that give insight into the values, interests and loyalties of the car owner. The subject matter varies widely, and the number a single vehicle sports gives a clue to the vehemence of the driver's opinions and passions. They range emotionally from humorous to in-your-face aggressive insistence. Sometimes the combination of numerous ones on a single bumper reveals the thoughtfulness (or lack of it) in the person's views. Some never fail to irritate me for their sheer superficiality--like COEXIST, written in all different religious symbols, or VISUALIZE WORLD PEACE. Of course, a very clever person followed that one up with VISUALIZE WHIRLED PEAS--what a hoot.

The one thing about bumper stickers that I find most curious, it that they happen to be on car bumpers. You may ask, "Well, where else would they be?", but that is not what I'm getting at. There is a quasi-anonymity to posting something on your car. You get to have your say, and no one can talk back. Other drivers only get a brief moment to read them, and then the opinion-expresser has turned the corner, never to be encountered again. Yet, there you are, with that person's opinion splattered on your brain, as messily as a bird dropping on your windshield. You can't retaliate if you disagree, so it just sits there and annoys you till you wipe it off.

Rude and profane ones only reflect back on the person posting them. Somehow it doesn't make me want to introduce myself. One is always wary with a person who intentionally and belligerently lays it out there. It is my observation that in the political realm of bumper stickers, the Democratic/liberal/rude/profane ones seem to out number the Republican/conservative/rude/profane ones by a ratio of at least ten to one. (I'm really being generous to the Dems by using that ratio, because off the top of my head, I can't recall any rude/profane conservative bumper stickers.) It makes sense--a liberal isn't as tied to traditional polite manners. A conservative by nature is more reserved. Each time I encounter a disrespectful, slanderous, or vulgar political bumper sticker, the feeling of getting pooped on returns, and that, my friend, is probably the exact intent of the individual who posted it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Armed But Not Dangerous

A few reflections I had while praying at Planned Parenthood this morning:

Planned Parenthood's maple tree leaves have black spots on them, about the size of a quarter. I couldn't help but think of Long John Silver's wrath when he found someone had dared to tear a page out of the Bible and put a black spot on it... Of course, lots of maple trees around have black spots on them, but I didn't notice any others before I saw them at the abortuary.

The maple tree closest to the sidewalk is starting to lose its leaves. I noticed a bird's nest high up in its branches--now revealed because the foliage that hid it is disappearing. A few feet below the nest something else is revealed: a paper hornet nest the size of a basketball is just over the sidewalk about three feet above the heads of anyone pacing and praying there...

I had a close encounter of the civil kind with a staff person at Planned Parenthood today. I recognized the man right away from an incident several months ago. It was just after the abortionist Tiller had been murdered, and since it was a first Friday, I had my time slot to pray outside the PP facility. With the national news making headlines about that event foremost in my mind, I warily arrived at the clinic and began my usual pacing back and forth between their yellow lines, praying my rosary. At a certain point this man, who could pass for Santa Claus if he grew his white beard a little longer, came out of the building, got into his car, and drove off. Not five minutes later he was back. Instead of going into the parking lot he drove around the circle closest to the building and then backed his car up onto the curb and parked. He was positioned so that as he sat behind the steering wheel he could stare straight at me. It was intimidation, I'm sure. I stared back and continued to pray, hoping that his intentions were only to keep an eye on me. It was a bit unnerving, but I finished out my hour and then left.

Today, the same man arrived and parked in the same place. However, he didn't just sit and stare. This time he got and out began to examine the perimeter of the PP building. Once he circled the building he began walking towards me. I continue to pace, but stopped as it was clear he was coming my way with me on his mind. When he got to the yellow line, he began to clear the fallen leaves off it with his foot. I said hello, and informed him that I was aware of the line and would respect it. He answered me very civilly, and although I couldn't pick up everything he was saying, the gist of it was clearly about the line. I told him I would write a note and leave it with our materials to let other volunteers know that they were wanting us to not cross the line. Then the encounter was over.

It felt odd. Clearly here was a person actively involved in an evil industry, and I just had a polite chat with him. When he was approaching me I had been walking with my hands in my pockets to keep them warm from the chill. We were both wary. Did he think I was armed? The thought certainly crossed my mind about him. And was I armed? I thought so. I was fingering my rosary: a weapon of Mass construction in my pocket.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Absolutely, Absolutely, Absalomy!

(In the midst of reading Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner)

What was not expected in this novel adventure was the extreme longevity of rather rambling and sometimes incoherent thoughts and impressions of a person yet to be clearly identified, since the opus is written in first person, and the individual speaking often seems to change, depending on whether a new chapter is beginning; yet it all seems to flow one thought into another, till you've quite lost your way and are wondering where the beginning began, if there was one, and who was there and how they were feeling--whether it was the older woman urged on by the lateness of her life and the stirrings of her conscience to reveal dark and bitter past events, events that were unlawful to be spoken of, events that shamed perhaps or scandalized--that is yet to be revealed; or whether is is the young lad who comes as some sort of scribe to lay down on paper the troubled memories of an aging spinster, who may be wanting to clear her conscience or clear the names of long dead relations or clear the air of pollution from wickedness, treachery and deceit--it isn't clear. William Faulkner certainly possesses a vocabulary to be admired, an unlimited stream of thoughts, dreams, fears and anxieties, as well as revelations, ramblings and eccentric trivia that clutters memories and what really happened--if it can ever be known; and do we want it to be known, all the closed-door tragedies that have been sealed off so that wounds can heal, or just fester till death consumes what is left; do we want known even the tender intimacies that are no one's business but our own, the pointless mistakes that embarrass, the missed opportunities that we call regret; the lack of charity that if indulged in would have gotten us cannonized?

I struggle with Faulker. I am not nearly finished. I am not sure I understand what I have finished. I will keep you posted...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nothing Much

I'm working on a poem
As you can readily see
And it's not about too much.
Just non-thoughts from l'il ole me.

So perhaps we'll say this is
A shameful waste of good time
I'm not sure, though I can say
At the least I made it rhyme.

Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!

How did we get anything done, find anything out, get information disseminated, or fill odd moments before the Internet?

Today, I needed to get a science experiment to work, and it wasn't because my water wasn't hard enough. So, I did what everyone else does these days: I googled "how to make hard water", and voila, there is a recipe. Add Epsom salts--which I happen to have. My experiment now works extremely well.

Just before that, it was time for me to post my daily quote on facebook. The only difficulty was coming up with someone I wanted to quote. It has gotten to be a little bit of a challenge. Can I ever think of someone for whom google will have no list of quotes? Obviously it has to be someone well-known--not my next door neighbor. Today I quoted Winnie-the-Pooh. He has his own brand of endearing wisdom.

I'm teaching an animal taxonomy class. Ever want to blow an hour or two? Just go to you-tube and type in "animal videoes". Most of them are very cute or insane pets, but you can see a python swallow a small hippo, a stray dog rescue another stray off of a busy highway, and a tarantula eating a mouse. Sorry, John. Stay away from that one.

More and more the Internet comes up with new uses. Google calendar reminds me to water my house plants. Quicken pays my bills and balances my checkbook via on-line service. Letters are a thing of the past. I communicate by email, and miracle of miracles, caption telephone through an Internet service by Sprint.

Oh, the things you can think up if only you try! (quotation from Dr. Seuss)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where the Wild Things Go

OK. So I'm sitting at my computer typing away and using my mouse, and for whatever reason I happen to take a look for the first time at my mouse pad which has been there forever, but never been really seen. It has a James Bond type picture on it, and it says, "Max Payne--A Man with Nothing to Lose" and other things about a fugitive cop and New York City. It is pretty pathetic to use something like that and have its details so invisible to your notice. It is even more puzzling how it got there in the first place. Finally, I have no clue who Max Payne is, and not any interest to find out--not being a cop-show fan. Now a mouse pad is very utilitarian, but these days even the simplest of tools can come with personality. Since I use this computer way more than anyone else, it would be nice to have a mouse pad with something that better suits my tastes. Max could move over and make room for Jane Austen or flowers, or even a squid! My birthday is coming up. Hint. Hint. Max and the Wild Thing must go.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Too Cool for Comfort

I think I can honestly say I like all seasons, but there are reasons why some are less endearing than others. When the first chill of autumn hits, I have this regular epiphany: I don't like being cold. Perhaps that is why I have such a high regard and affection for quilts, fireplaces, and snuggling with another warm body.

Often the first cold days are worse than the deep-freezer frigidity of mid-winter. For one thing you aren't prepared. It is easy to get caught without enough cover, when you haven't had to cover at all for months. Most of us also have a cycle in our weight, and just like bears and chipmunks, it drops in summer and goes up as the temperature goes down. A little extra body fat is not always a bad thing.

Finally the effect of a blast of cold is much different than a blast of heat. Cold makes you want to ball up, to shrivel, to defend yourself. Heat makes you wilt, flail, and lie prone to whatever may hap to come along--hopefully an iced drink with a straw and a fruit garnish. With cold, you feel assailed, so you hunch over for the attack. With heat you feel deserted. All has left you: energy, will, and appetite. With cold you retreat to your den. With heat you escape to the beach and open, airy spaces.

So now the cold is upon us. My fingers are stiff as I type, and goosebumps prickle the skin on my legs. My toes feel frosty and the draft up my back tells me I have to tuck in again. The kettle should be whistling (if I could hear it), and hot drinks have become a bi-hourly respite.

And yet, the sun is shining on golden foliage and the clear brightness of autumn invigorates. A gusty breeze wafts a dazzling shower of leaves in the air, to swirl and twirl and litter the ground with a tawny carpet. Autumn has its joys and beauties. I love thee, autumn, but spring ranks foremost in my heart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ode to the Jelly

I think the jelly-bellied cnidarian
is a respectable antiquitarian.
His longevity as a living phylum
Begs the opposition to give asylum.
Stinging tentacles give him the ascendance
over extinct but promising descendants.
To sting hapless prey is what those things are for
When you're a hungry Portuguese man-'o-war.
I could continue on to accentuate
the hollow-goo-intestined coelenterate.
Perhaps someday later I will follow up
by mentioning the cool groovin' child-polyp.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Packing My Bags

I am so tired I could fit a suitcase full of vacation clothes in the bags hanging under my eyes. The dark circles around them are reminiscent of day old bruises, and the effort to keep my eyelids open exceeds the gravitational pull on Mercury.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Rambling Viking Thing that I'm not quite satisfied with yet....

I'm beaten, I’m bruised, I’m battered sore
Beneath the blows of a raging Thor
Who raises hands with iron knuckles
And brings them down with brazen chuckles.
"I’m from the mighty Norse God of war,
I lust for battle, I lust for gore.
Bring me some heads to crush and trample.
Bring me some ale, I'll take a sample.
Bring me a fine horse to mount and whip
Bring me a longboat Viking ship.
I'll knock your heads about with thunder
Burn your village, rape and plunder.
Your life I'll take as a lowly slave
And you'll get blows if you don't behave.
And when I die, why you’ll come too--
To serve your Master is your due--
Aboard my ship--my funeral pyre
Made for sailing, made for fire."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wooden Head

I've got that blockhead feeling that comes with the common cold. Suddenly the front of my face feels full, and pressing on my sinuses feels good, but doesn't do much good. My nostrils are feeling sore and tender, even though I've only been wiping away drippiness for a few hours. It's a wooden head feeling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Rain in Spain

They say it falls mainly on the plain. Eliza Doolittle, in My Fair Lady, practices her vowel sounds endlessly. It seems she will never replace the "ow" with the "long a" sound. Henry Higgins ruthlessly drills her.

Writing teachers deal with similar issues. Today I drilled "they're", not "their"; "it's", not "its"; "too", not "to". And of course all the reverse combinations of troublesome homonyms. Accept and except are two word pairings that are continually confused. One could go on and on with all the regular words blunders.

I once had a student defiantly tell me in front of the whole class that there was no difference between "to" and "too". I respectfully told her she was welcome to her opinion about things that had some room for variations, but this was not one of those cases, and she was just plain wrong. Her defiance continued unabated, and so did her mediocre writing.

Become intelligently literate is as difficult as being able to perfectly enunciate language. So for now, I will continue with "here", not "hear" and "where", not "were", while the rain in Spain continues to fall mainly on the plain.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's a Jungle Out There

I often reflect when outdoors that the natural world is a savage place. I live out in the country and am blessed with lots of outdoors immediately at hand. I also teach an animal class, where we spend some time talking about survival, and watching one species make dinner out of another. Animals eating animals is part of the cycle of life. However, it is more vicious than that! Plants are dog-eat-dog viciousness in slo-mo. I often imagine Virginia Creeper vines slowly wending their way up a tree, preparing to block out the sun and choke the life out of its hapless victim that is this moment giving it a leg up. Weeds sprout up and devour all the space, water, and nutrients in sight. There is crowding and pushing and rough play everywhere you look.

When you think about it, a well-tended garden is like someone enforcing discipline and civility on plants. "OK. Tomatoes, stay in your cage. We're going to prune you up so you make some really nice fruit. Weeds, you weren't invited. Vamoose! Beets--we have a quota here. Only 25 plants per row. The rest of you are going to get thinned out. Sorry, we can't accommodate all of you. I gave you beans some nice poles to climb on. Use them and quit wandering into other plants' personal space. Now here's a nice blanket of mulch. It'll keep you cool and moist and slow down those weedy marauders."

Of course, if you wander far from the carefully maintained garden, you're back in the survival-of-the-fittest battle. There's more to watch out for in the jungle than jaguars. If you stand still long enough, a plant just might throttle you.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Do you display defiance
When subjected to learning science?
Are you full of wrath
When asked to do your math?
Are you prone to squirmin'
When asked to recite your German?
Are your teeth in a clench
When conjugating your French?
Do you find it unexciting
When laboring over your writing?
Let me just say it's prudent
To study if you're a student.