Wednesday, August 25, 2010
There are the other vehicles and their wacky duct taped mirrors and garbage bag replacement windows. And the odd things other cars are hauling like three different kinds of barbecue grills on a trailer. And the weird things you can see through their windows like a office chair upside down in the backseat.
There are the things being hauled on trucks like giant machines with 'wide load' signs whose purpose you cannot discern and huge rolls of plastic tubing and many many nested truck bodies and layers of crushed cars and different sizes and shapes of lumber neatly shrink wrapped on pallets and wind tower blades that look elegant compared to the other riff raff on wheels.
There is the terrain. And the ecosystems. Flatter than flat land with no natural nature whatsoeveratall of Illinois give way rather abruptly to evergreens on steep hills in Wisconsin, followed by deciduous trees on rolling hills then fewer and fewer trees and flatter and flatter hills in Minnesota to hardly any trees at all that are not in straight lines in South Dakota.
And the fields. Corn. Corn. Oh, look more corn. Oh, soy beans. More corn. More corn. More corn. Ah, some baled straw, was that wheat? Between corn and corn? More corn. Again corn. Still corn. Corn as far as the eye can see. A pasture with cattle. Corn. Corn being chopped between corn waiting to ripen and dry to be picked much later.
And old landmarks like the rock formation and the army base at the same exit in Wisconsin and the truck-on-a-stick and the first Wall Drug sign a couple dozen miles before Sioux Falls.
And new landmarks like the cool nifty Minnesota visitor center that looks like a hybrid of an old grain elevator and a red barn and the increasing numbers of wind farms with their graceful sweeping motion and their classy white with silvery grey shadows.
And road construction zones and the variety in road construction marking devices and road construction equipment. Some of that makes you wish you could pull over and watch, but I bet that would piss off other drivers since there is often one lane each way and not much in the way of shoulder in either direction.
And the weird stuff that happens at gas station pit stops like conversations overheard about domestic fights and peoples' operations and the woman who was having a cell phone conversation from inside a bathroom stall while she went about her noisy business and I mean all versions of bathroom noisy business. Didn't ANY of those sounds carry through the phone to the other participant in the conversation? And with no hint of irony, at one point, she said "That was a really shitty thing for her to say to you. She is such an asshole."
Then there is the Groton speed trap. Really, does it do anything for the actual speeding rate to have a speed limit sign indicating a drop of 10 miles per hour at a curve? If people miss the sign because of the curve, isn't is just plain MEAN to make it a speed trap? Sure, the locals learn, but those of us 'not from around here' seem at a disadvantage. Would it not make more sense to move the sign a bit more out of town so that people see it before they begin to deal with navigating the curve and actually slow down on their own? Okay, the nice officer gave me just a 'warning' which I get to keep and use as a nifty book mark souvenir, but still. It took probably 4 minutes longer to get here because of that inconvenient stop.
All in all, I saw many interesting things and learned a few things too on my field trip with no theme today. I think I'll do it again in a week or so.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I, for one, am glad to press 1 for English if it means that new immigrants and recent immigrants and long ago immigrants get better service with banks and stores and utilities and better access to health care and to get tax questions answered as they fill out the forms to pay their share of taxes to city, county, state, and national governments.
There is a myth out there perpetuated by bigots that their ancestors assimilated faster than the current Mexican immigrants. That is simply false. A higher percentage of first generation Mexican immigrants uses English than previous waves of, say, German immigrants and Polish immigrants and Irish immigrants and Chinese immigrants, and an even higher percentage of second generation immigrants uses English, usually nearly exclusively. And contrary to bigot belief, there were multilingual services and multilingual schools in nearly every language all along the way.
Another ugly myth out there in bigotland is that bilingual schools delay assimilation, while the opposite is true. Kids who are taught with both languages in school learn English faster and more thoroughly, because it is used side by side with their first language, so that the differences in structure and grammar are obvious with daily exposure to the languages in use in real situations, and the kids taught in bilingual classrooms are more likely to be performing at grade level than those forced into English-only classrooms.
In all waves of immigration from all lands, it has been the young that learn the language of the land and served as interpreters for older family members, a burden that is not fair to them and not effective, asking children to interpret adult issues that they might not understand. And believe it or not, English only at the driver's licence department or the bank or on the phone to the electric company would result in longer lines and longer wait for YOU as other customers had to talk through their own family-member interpreters. Having Spanish available for those that can better understand in it keeps the country running efficiently and effectively for everyone.
And you know and I know how very difficult it is for an adult, especially an older adult, to learn a new language, once our brains are all firmed up and all. And think of how hard it is to find time for exercising or reading and you know how hard, especially when there is so much to do keep up with daily life, it would be to take a language class. And you probably know that if you had to move to France tomorrow, that you might pick up some words just from daily living there, but instead of massively re-educating yourself to speak French at the ripe old age of whatever you are, you'd probably just find some English-speaking folks to hang out with in some English-speaking neighborhood. But even then, it'd be easier for you because so many of the French over there have had the polite good taste to learn English. Maybe that is the answer: Make all English-speaking Americans go to school in the evenings to learn Spanish. Yeah, I like that. Free Spanish classes for those that can't afford them and at a fair cost to those who can. Then when we go to the Mexican restaurant or the Mexican bakery or the Mexican grocer, they won't have to put up with us trying to share their culture in English.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I don't have an issue with 'quonset' but I still dislike cuticle. It is the 'ik-llll' part that I despise. The abrupt change from 'ik' to the guttural 'lll'. The same unpleasant sounds appear in words like 'particle' and a similar shift occurs in 'municipal' and 'principle'.
Other words shift not into a guttural 'lll' but into a similarly nasty 'rrrr' such as in 'rectangular' where the pleasantly spelled 'lar' is pronounced with an ugly 'lrrrr'. Appearing also in 'spectacular' where the contrat between the meaning and that icky sound are profound, it is not nearly so annoying as when heard in 'nucular' which isn't even a word, but a bad bastardization of 'nuclear'.
Then there are the 'awwwww' words like 'mauve' and 'gaudy' and 'Maude' and 'tawdry' which at least ends in the upbeat 'ree' that perks it up and takes away the nausea caused by the 'awww'.
Is it odd to dislike the aesthetics of the sounds of a word? Is it a symptom of some deep psychological maladjustment or merely a sign of someone who wants all the world to be of pleasant sounds and shapes and colors and textures?
I wonder if he still hates the word 'quonset'? And if he has forgiven me for the little prank packet of words I sent so long ago?
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Then somewhere along the way, we got the idea we should shut ourselves away in separate homes, separate business locations, even separate offices within a larger business. We spent our evenings being entertained by a box with moving pictures and distracting sounds rather than with each other. Something was lost. That connection to the larger whole of society was weakened and that knowing how we as individuals were aligned with the larger group via that constant feedback was lost.
We got privacy but we lost connections and membership in an association of others.
Now we have FaceBook and Twitter and MySpace and email where we can send to a group and use reply all to answer to the group and we have some of that back. We can live tribal again.
We might be having a hard day and we can post that and friends will jump in with support. We might notice a beautiful sky and announce that and others will share their own observation or a memory or ask more about it. We might need ideas to solve a kid problem or be looking for a place to repair the car or need a product to remove a stain on a certain fabric, and someone out there is likely to have an answer or at least amuse us while we find it ourselves or console us if we can't. We can express an opinion and see who agrees or disagrees. We can learn from their responses.
It's the best of both worlds: We can leave the computer off and enjoy our privacy while we eat ice cream sandwiches in our underwear, or we can log on and chat and post and socialize with the tribe.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
First we didn't know each other. We were miles apart in every way. When we met, we didn't think we liked each other much. We thought we knew each others' "type" and thought we didn't like people like that. We got to know each other and found common ground in kids and a certain irreverent joy in life. We grew closer when we joined forces against a shared adversity. We learned to depend on each other for certain kinds of support, the kind you turn to when things seem out of control and all crisis-ey, when you need someone to feel sorry for you while at the same time spinning the thing into proper perspective so that you know what you knew all along and that is that you will survive this too. She needed so much after the accident and I had only so much to give without damaging myself. But I wanted to save her. I wanted to make her whole again. Once, I asked about her at the nurses station and I thought from the look she gave me from behind her computer screen, the nurse knew what I didn't what to admit yet: She would never be whole after this. I did what I could. But in the end, I lost her to the damage. I miss her. Sometimes not for days or weeks and then, sometimes, really hard. You do what you can but sometimes, even your best isn't enough.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I listen to popular music and look around at society and what we do with our time and what we value and how we motivate ourselves and what we care about, and I am left agreeing that yes, humans have an insatiable desire for conflict that will always lead to war somewhere and at some time. I don't like that answer, but I can find nothing to justify any other opinion.
We love to rally ourselves together into a larger force and that rallying usually, in order to be FOR something, needs to be AGAINST something else. We are not just FOR a cleaner environment, we are AGAINST big oil and cancer causing chemicals and litter and suburban sprawl. We are not just FOR better health, we are AGAINST cancer and influenza and mental illness. We cheer on sports teams even more energetically if they are battling a long time rival that we can be clearly against. The more succinctly we can put a label and a cause on the thing we are against, the happier we are and the more 'good' we think we have done against it ant its 'evil'.
We love to have heroes and heroes have to have a foe and that foe has to come from within an enemy camp. Sure we can have a teacher as a hero, but often even that hero is most known for fighting AGAINST something like gangs in the school or a certain learning disability as opposed to just teaching more and better.
We tried team building in corporations but if the team was FOR a better product, the concept did little to motivate. If the team was placed in opposition to come competitor outside company, or if internal teams could be challenged to excel in come metric against internal teams, the concept lead to harder work and better quality. The 'enemy' had to be in place for the team to rally!
We love to insist that there is a 'force' of 'evil', but often the things we describe as evil are just the same things we do or reward in others. The Muslim terror bomber is giving their life for their God that wants them to act out against what they perceive is an evil of a world gone too materialistic, i.e. US, and yet, we see THEM as evil. At the same time, we revere the 'good' saints who give their lives literally as martyrs for their god or give their lives over to the service to their god. Maybe there is not evil at all, but just an exaggeration and perversion of normal human desires to accumulate goods, to accumulate territory, to protect turf, to protect family. The desire for power in the business world or in a service organization is called ambition and drive and is regarded as a good thing, but the desire for power in some sort of anti-government group is given other labels. But when the same mechanism is at work for something we do not agree with, how can it be called evil when it is admired in another context?
It is easy to think of a world divided by good and evil, but it is more difficult to accept that maybe the person we label evil is doing the same things we are but due to different motivations. It is easy to bomb and shoot, but it is more difficult to find ways that we can peacefully coexist over mutually desired outcomes. Can we find ways to convince the 'enemy' to disengage in behaviors we don't like by finding motivations for other behaviors?
When you get right down to it, most forces we call 'evil' are doing what they are doing for reasons that look and sound a lot like ours, to improve a situation for their people, their families, to glorify or defend their god. In fact, sometimes, they see us as the force of 'evil'. It hardly seems like violence is the answer in that case and it hardly seems like there will or even should be a clear 'winner'. Perhaps tolerance and conversation and more tolerance and more conversation would lead to a discovery of more in common with each other and less judging and labelling?
We somehow think our bombing and shooting is 'good' but can it ever really be?
Peace is hard work and I am frankly not sure we as humans really want it. We love a cause, we love our heroes, we love to have an enemy, we love to have things we can label 'evil' in contrast to the 'good' that we believe we possess and which possesses us.
Maybe if we ADMIT we love our war, then we can work harder to not use it? If we keep insisting we hate war, will we just keep allowing ourselves to justify using it in yet another 'exceptional' case, this one last time.
Do we indeed love war, and at what cost? Young lives lost, young bodies mutilated, young minds scarred. What will it take to make our love of the cause, the hero, the glory of victory, be outweighed by the love of our own individual people? What will make us give up our warring human ways?
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
But giving something up is an entirely different matter. If you are going to stop eating salty things or stop drinking caffeinated beverages or quit smoking or give up a drug or cease a gambling habit or stop watching television or end your nail biting, you have a thousand thousand times a day to get it wrong. Even if you forego the morning coffee for a nice orange juice, the pot is still brewing when you get to work and even if you refuse to give in then, there are the multiple offers by the waiter at lunch and the drive past a half dozen Starbucks and Caribou's on the way to everywhere and the coffeemaker on the counter top when you get home. If you manage to get into the shower without that first cigarette, there is the drive to work and those poor souls smoking by the back door that would be glad to share one with you for the sake of your company and each time one of your friends takes a break and invites you along and the after lunch smoke you have to resist and at some point, you are sitting at your desk and every minute is one more minute you have to say no to getting up and going out for a smoke.
If you do that one in a thousand chances at the good thing, you have succeeded in your positive "do something" resolution, but you have to say no a thousand times each day to succeed in your "stop something" resolution and one of one thousand where you give in counts as failure for that day.
Making a "do something" change is a walk in the park compared to making a "quit something" change. And after a few days, the new "doing" starts to kick in as habit, but if you crave the thing you are quitting 10 fewer times each day, it is a hundred days before you have a single crave free day and even then, there are countless triggers in the world to pull you back.
The force of habit is an easy thing to make and a terrible hard long long road to break.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
What was it? Was I getting more attention than she was or was I just too over the top and it irritated her calmer demeanor? Was I really offensive in some way? It does not matter. It is not right, and certainly not kind to shut someone down like that.
So don't you do that to me. Don't ask me to be less than I am. Don't tell me to keep it down, don't tell me to relax or calm down. If I want to be over the top happy and joyful, you can either join in my delight or shut up and let me be. If I am sad and carrying on, don't dismiss me and tell me I am over reacting. You don't know how much it hurts me because you can't feel what I feel, so don't tell me it is not as bad as I am making it. Maybe it is a terrible big deal to me. Support me and care about me but don't put me down. If you can't be there with me and share the drama, the ups and down, then get away. Don't tell me to be less, feel less, express less, love less, care less, feel less joy and less sorrow. Don't make me be less of the whole me just to suit your comfortable blandness and social decorum of calm and polite. Let me be all of me or get out of my way.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Instead what we seem to have gotten is a motley crew of disgruntled rabblerousers hell bent on bashing Obama and blaming him for everything, including often contradictory things, that they see wrong with our nation.
But let's just go with one of their basic premises from whence they get their name: The concept of taxation, which they seem to be claiming is without representation or without adequate representation or just plain too much or something like that. And their solution seems to be that government is wrong and the process of government is wrong and they refuse to participate. So they get together now and then and insist they are not a political party for the purposes of putting forth candidates and they wave signs and yell and then they go home and brag on blogs about how many of them there were in attendance and write inflammatory pieces on the various concepts that were summarized in their misspelled signs.
But okay, I am sorry, you are NOT taxed without representation. Just because you LOST the elections does not mean you are not represented. No one guarantees everyone gets THEIR candidate in. If you are too lame and discombobulated and fractured to find GOOD candidates, well, it isn't OUR fault you lost. And WE didn't bitch about taxation w/o representation in the 8 years your guy was in the Oval office and your guys had majority rule of congress and senate. We got to work and found some good people to run.
So, we have a SYSTEM and the system works and the system represents all of us all the time even though the balance of whose side is in power may shift, so you ARE represented within this system and unless you are proposing some fixes, well, please shut the hell up.
I mean, unless you are really hoping to over throw the current government and displace the elected officials and replace the current system with your own, the only way to CHANGE anything about the system is to USE the system to change it from within. So no amount of rallying and bitching is going to fix anything. The way to end your alleged taxation without representation is to get down to work and define some platform issues that are real and honest and have broad appeal to traditional Republicans and to edit OUT the junk trash that has corrupted and tarnished and ruined your party, and by that I mean the constant references to religion and the constant attempts to intrude religion into government and the silly Obama bashing starting with the birth certificate nonsense and ending with harsh critiques of every single thing he does. And then find candidates that are willing to run on those core less-government less-expensive-therefore-less-need-for-taxes more-visible-government values and get to work getting them in office, and once they are there, don't let them waste time protecting your oil interests and your war interests, but get them to work on paring out silly laws and simplifying and restructuring and making the government truly representative of the people.
To review, the only way in this country to implement change is to work within the system to change the system. And your silly Tea Parties do nothing to that end. While I support your freedom of expression and to gather, until you get it together and start to work the system instead of rejecting it with silly anti-everything signs, I also support the right of the entire rest of the world to laugh at you.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
That is all you need to know, that one person loves you and will be on your side when you need it.
Soon, we grew a bit bored with the books and a little curious what was going on back at Grandma's house, maybe a little hungry for the lavish banquet of holiday foods, so we set back off down the path. And having established such lovely rapport with the reading, we chatted all the way and were still chatting when we walked in the kitchen door to find the family engaged in the usual chatter and laughter and banter. The cousins who had wanted nothing at all to do with me previously now realized me for the valued celebrity that I was and wanted to know where we had been and what we had been doing and suddenly wanted, needed desperately to include ME in their games and activities.
All was right with the world and I hope I gave my mother one last smile of thanks before I ran off to play with them.
Monday, April 26, 2010
While I appreciate the friendly efforts to console and cheer me, I cannot really relate to that advice.
To me, part of the joy of nature IS the joy of capturing it in a photograph. To me, there is joy in seeing a beautiful scene and in the process of deciding to frame just a certain part of it to convey a specific message. When you see, you see whole panoramas, you see objects in their situation and in their relationship to all the things around them, but in making an art image, you must edit out much of that and make a conscious choice of what to include and what to exclude. Those decisions determine what message the viewer will take away from the art. Sometimes, there is more than one message, such as the beauty of an individual tree in fall foliage, the beauty of that tree surrounded by others of different shape and color, the separate beauty of the relationship of the reddening leaves to the red rock that gives our Lake Redstone its name, the shape of the individual leaf, or even the vein pattern on part of that leaf. Sometimes, the plant covered in flower is one message and the individual flower with pollen drifted onto its leaves is another and the visiting bee, with its leg pollen sacks stuffed to overflowing is yet another. Ferns say one thing from this angle with the leaf litter under the fronds and another thing from another angle where they rise up to the sky. Lit from behind, the leaf is a glowing bright green that stuns while photographed from the same side as the light source presents a more solid earthy sheen to the surface. Photographing the nature is a way to look at it more deeply, in more detail, to explore the relationships among the parts of the natural world, and to enjoy far more about it than would be seen at first glance. Photographing, or rather the looking and the deciding what message to convey, make nature a richer experience for me and allow me to see more deeply into the relationships and more precisely into the details. Quick, how many lobes on a maple leaf? What is the back side of a white oak leaf like? Where are the legs attached to a bee's body? In taking the photographs and viewing them later, these sorts of things can be studied and learned.
Photography to me is NOT an obligation but a joy, and a way in which I experience more fully the joy that is out there in the world. It is also a reason to linger. Someone might think me a kook if I just stopped and lingered too long in front of their house to look at their magnolia tree buds or their rose shrub thorns quite closely, but if I have a camera in hand, I can inspect and peek and stare and study and no one calls the police or yells at me or send their dog after me. They just smile at the crazy camera lady and leave me be to my joyful soaking in of the details of the world.
And then there is the sharing it with you. I NEED those images to show to my kids and to my spouse and to my mom and to my sister, to email around to friends. to post on this blog, to post on Facebook, to share my story. "I went for a paddle today" is some news, yes, but accompanied with a dozen of the finest shots, it makes other people smile a little bit and hopefully inspires them to get outdoors for a paddle or a walk on a trail or even just around their neighborhood, and maybe the pictures of the things closeup makes them walk a little slower and look a little harder and notice things of beauty that might have been missed. Maybe it makes them love nature a little bit more and support the conservation efforts of some local organization or vote for the candidate who has a 'green' record.
A walk or a paddle with no camera is just me alone, but with a camera, I bring you all along and share it with you in that little way and it is not just me alone anymore but all of us loving nature and our surroundings together. Yeah, it really it that big. I need my camera!
I stared at the bubbles, stunned. I cussed. I tried to look down into the water to see if it was visible. I stuck my paddle straight down in to see how deep it was: about 4 feet. When you can't swim, four feet under water might as well be fifty. There was no way I could go into the water along that shore of rocky boulders to ever try to get it back, especially not when out there alone. The lake had my camera as though in a steel trap, as though buried a dozen yards underground, as though on the surface of the moon. I would not be taking any more pictures with that one or even retrieving from it all the wonderful shots I had taken so far that day. I cussed some more. I cried. I called my husband on my cell phone, daring the risk of the loss of another electronic devise. He said it was just stuff and to enjoy the rest of my paddle. I cried some more. And paddled away, after one last look at the unphotographed pretty little plant growing in the tree root. And I paddled resolutely down the middle of the channel to the lake. With no camera to photograph it, I chose to avoid the shoreline with its taunting spring wildflowers and fresh green mosses and ferns and rock shapes and sculptural tree roots. I stayed out farther in the deeper water and paddled continuously, testing my stamina and my fears of the deeper waters. I paddled one landmark past the farthest I have paddled alone and then turned around to head for home. It was about then, in that last half hour before sunset, that the light wind diminished totally, and the clear bright light of the low angled sun made the shoreline trees glow warm and brilliant. The reflections in the water were perfect, rippled slightly in a uniform pattern, much like looking at a mirror made of antique rolled glass. I could read the words of the shoreline signs in their reflections, I could see individual catkins on the reflections of the birch trees, I could count the five individual needles that identify the shoreline trees as white pines in their beautiful perfect reflections. Ah, the photographs I could have taken. But I just paddled slowly, cognizant of the limited daylight left in which to make my way back to the home dock. I stopped now and then to drift and soak in the beautiful perfect views. It occurred to me at one point that the views were so perfect that it was as if there was no surface to the water and I was suspended above a perfect upside down world. I decided not to dwell on that thought too long, lest it rouse my latent fear of heights to combine with my suppressed fear of water which might come to bad result in my heightened emotional state of loss about the camera and joy about the beauty around me. So I paddled and drifted and enjoyed the amazing reflections of the beautiful nature of the lake.
And in case you are fond of details, I ordered a replacement camera last night. It was a $215 mistake.
Friday, April 9, 2010
And I did treasure my kids. I held my babies more than the books said you should and I took too much time off from work to hang out with them and sometimes I left work early to get them out of daycare just because I missed them. I tried to remember to take them special places on days off and weekends and in the summer. I tried to remember to take them with me on errands as often as they would agree to come with me and I tried to talk to them in the car and at dinner and whenever I got a chance. Sometimes I am sure they were rolling their eyes, thinking, Jeeze, Mom, get your own life.
And now, now the oldest one has been at college for three years and I still miss him every day and the youngest one is deciding which college to go to in the fall, an especially mean trick of life since having him be my only child has made me get to know and adore and enjoy him more than ever.
And so, there is this thing I do. When I am out in public places, I smile at kids and I smile at their parents and sometimes I even tell them something good about their kids. "Aw, even when he is tired and a little cranky, he still cracks a beautiful smile" or "Your kids play together really well!"
Today, at a cafe in a big department store, a tiny boy was crying and having a fit as his grandmother was trying to watch him while the mother got their meals. But the grandmother gave up and took him to his mother, so when the mother got to the table with all their meals stacked on one tray in one hand and the boy in the other arm, she set down the tray and roughly plunked him into his seat. He was at the edge of crying all over again. I looked him straight in the eyes and smiled my biggest goofiest smile. He smiled back. His mother noticed and I smiled at her. She said "Oh, aren't you a pretty boy!" and went from angry and frustrated to delighted in her beautiful son again.
It's a small gift I can give to remind tired and cranky parents what a joy their kids are and it takes some of the sting out of how grown up and independent my own boys are.
Yes, I miss them as they move on to their own lives, but it's what we have them for: To enjoy and shape and send out into the world to make their own ways. My success at raising them to be competent and confident was due to involvement that makes it all the more bittersweet for the connections we share.
If you are a parent of young kids now, take a deep breath and reach for the joy: Appreciate them as much as you can every moment of every day because the DO grow up so so fast.
If you are a parent whose kids have grown up and moved on, take the time to share a smile with somebody else's kids and to remind them to enjoy their beautiful children who will grow up oh so much too fast too!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
and physical therapy students.
Talk of injuries and recovery,
grants and sponsors,
strategies for getting credits to graduate,
the fate of an absent student,
the challenge of learning a new dance assignment.
In front of me to the right a bit,
engineering and science majors.
Passing a calculator across the table,
a golf game being set up for tomorrow,
the cost of tickets for a dance,
which problems are included in a certain homework,
advice to avoid a certain difficult instructor.
Very different people, very different areas they study,
very different conversations,
so it goes for a while as I read my book,
both tables are talking about
inertia, momentum, movement in time,
using the same words with the same meanings.
One experiences it in their dance,
the other studies it in their equations.
What they have in common are
the forces we all move through
known and unknown.
We all share
Care for each other.
Another student arrives,
I offer them the extra chair at my table,
they thank me with smiles
and for a moment
we are all one people,
sharing one moment,
dancers, engineers, visiting mom.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Only when architectural historians visited the island in later years was the true origin of the flat roof uncovered. In much earlier historic times, the population of the island worshipped Vol, a god that was thought to reside inside the volcanoes. When Vol was angry, legend said, the earth would shake and tremble. If Vol got angrier still, a dome of one of the island mountains would begin to swell and bulge. If Vol became even angrier, ash and fire and lava would spew from the dome and cover fields and roads and houses and towns and kill wildlife and livestock and people. At the first sign of displeasure, the people would hold meetings and attempt to figure out who among them was displeasing the volcano god. If someone had plowed a field the wrong direction, and had pointed the rows directly toward the volcano god, it was decided that Vol was angry that the person did it to mock him, and that person could be declared the source of the trouble and killed at the base of the rumbling dome. These 'trials' escalated as the volcanic activity escalated, with sometimes whole villages sacrificed to appease the god. In early times, shelters consisted mainly of a ramada type architecture of post supporting beams that supported thatching of reeds and rushes and grasses to shed rain. One village higher on the slopes, where snowfall was prevalent, had adapted a peaked shape to their roofs to more effectively shed the snow. This shape for houses was becoming popular when the volcano of that peak began to show activity. The usual violators were sought out and sacrificed but the volcano erupted one day in late summer anyway. The first thing to light on fire from the burning cinders blasted from the volcano were the peaked thatched roofs. Coincidentally, as the lava flowed down from the dome above, this city was engulfed and a nearby village that had not adopted the peaked roofs was spared. A swelling in the land above the village diverted lava flow to either direction around it, but it did appear from the village as though some guardian hand might have caused the flow to go to either side. This was the origin of the prohibition against peaked roofs. They were for many centuries seen to offend the volcano god because they were thought to be an image of his shape and therefore a mockery of the god himself. Eventually, when Christian missionaries in the 1890s converted the Vol worshippers to Catholicism, the beliefs in Vol and the sacrifices to him were ceased. But still, when the village wrote up its 'modern' building code ordinances, scientific reasons were offered up for various dangers and disadvantages of sloped roofs, and flat roofs were mandated by law. To this date, the cities and the state still mandate flat roofs, and manage to find various engineering data sets which they cite in order to support this preference.
It is a certainly good thing that religion and ancient myth are never allowed to enter into the laws of the obviously much more advanced and civilized country that is the United States of America.
"I thought you weren't coming back," I said. He pushed his beak, still holding the beads, toward me. I cupped my hands under them as he let them drop. He shook his head and said, "I lied. You know I always do that." "I forget," I answered and walked toward the back yard. "AWWWW," he called, "Don't go away!" I kept walking. He tried to take flight from the tree but its branches got in the way of his wing feathers. He was forced to drop to the ground, waddle out from under it along the path to more open ground, where he could take flight. He flew out to beyond where I was headed, then circled. "You're mad I came back?" he asked in a pass near my head that made me instinctively duck and swerve a little, which only served to aggravate me further.
"I'm mad you left. What do you think?" I answered, turning away. "You know I can't live in a house and you won't live in a tree. Do we have to go over all that again?" he snapped. "Where did you steal the beads?" I asked, hoping to offend him. "Bought them. Mexico." he answered. "So you shifted to buy me beads?" I couldn't decide if I was touched or angered. "Fly with me," he demanded.
"No." I draped the beads over the branch of a witch hazel tree, longing to pause to smell the curled yellow blossoms. Instead, I turned and walked toward the house, feeling him fly past my head once and again as he made passes through the yard. I went inside and closed the door, leaning back against it for a second. I heard a loud long "Cah-aaaaawwwww" from high in the sky, then the branch by the window scraped the siding when he landed. I did not look out the window. I opened the basement door, pulled the chain to turn on the light, and stepped down into the musky space where I could not look out windows to let him catch my eye. I folded laundry, sheets first, drawing my arms wide to pull the wrinkles out, smoothing the fabric with each fold, then the towels, snapping each one crisply and creasing it slowly and firmly, perfect quarters, perfect thirds, a perfect stack. I looked around for more to do, but things were in order. I climbed the steps, my feet heavy. Silence. I paused and took a deep breath before I opened the back door. Only the beads were there, draped over the outside knob, swinging against the white paint as my hand shook on the inner knob.
I scanned the sky, the bare high branches of the trees along the property line. I pulled the shining beads from the doorknob. There were many shapes and graduated sizes, a carved glass flower in the center, leaf shaped beads to each side. It was beautiful, perfect. The glass beads felt cool in my hands. I held them to my heart. I could feel it pounding: Was he gone for good this time?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
She was working into the evening on a Friday, between Christmas and New Year's, a slow time for house sales, but you never knew when some young couple would get the hankering to take a look at the models, so she was there. She ran out for something, left a note on the door and took just her wallet, not even her whole purse or her coat. Cigarettes? A snack? Advil or eye drops? A magazine because it was that slow? Who know why she left the office, she certainly didn't remember. She was just going to zip across the street into the strip mall, apparently, and she didn't have her seat belt on, though reports varied as to whether that helped or harmed her. She probably looked both ways and then darted out in her little black car and SLAM! From out of nowhere, a big landscaper's pickup with snow plowing hydraulics on the front bumper broadsided her little car, crushing, bending, twisting it and plowing it along the street up onto the curb. It was dusk and witnesses said he did not have his headlights on, so it was probably in that period between light and dark where the shadows and lights play tricks and maybe she just didn't see him. Some witnesses said he was speeding, but they might have just been piling on because they were angry with him. They said she was thrown into the other side of the car and people helped her out of the passenger side and helped find her wallet for the police and ambulance attendants. They said she was out and walking around and talking. By the time the ambulance got her to the emergency room, her brain was swelling from the sudden impact and they put her into a coma to minimize the effects of the concussion. They found oh so many injuries, a broken pelvis and a broken ankle and bruises and scrapes and long later, after weeks in the hospital and more in in-patient rehab and many more in outpatient rehab, she was still having wrist pain, so they x-rayed and found a break that had never healed because it was never immobilized. The physical wounds eventually mostly healed but her brain never did. She could still sell houses like nobody's business, but she got the paperwork wrong. Or told them the wrong numbers. Or just didn't get the paperwork done at all. They gave her a secretary, but she gave the secretary wrong information or forgot to tell the secretary to do things. Or forgot to show up for meetings or appointments. In the end, they let her go. Too many angry customers who thought they had a deal in the works and didn't, or some detail was wrong at closing and so it fell through. She bounced from job to job, worked a while even for the dry cleaner who cleaned her fancy suits and blouses for years. And oh, yeah, she didn't have health insurance because she was supposed to be on her husband's as part of the divorce agreement many years before but about 2 months before the accident, he got tired of paying it and dropped her. So the medical bills bankrupted her. Oh, yeah, and while she was in the hospital and rehab, her sister went to pharmacies and picked up her pain meds 'for her' and kept them, so when she'd go to get them, they'd be gone. And she'd worry that she'd lost them or was losing her mind.
There is a prairie at the rehab center. I have always wanted to see it, and today, on my way to pick up drafting supplies for a project I didn't want to work on indoors, I stopped there. Wandered the prairie, listened to the dried grasses rustling in the wind, watched the birds dart about the seed heads of the dried prairie flowers. And remembered it all.
There is no lesson. It just happened. It was terrible. I did what I could for her, but in the end, no amount if visiting and running errands and supportive phone calls can fix a broken brain. I don't know where she is. She moved so many times because she could not make the rent and each time, she was embarrassed to tell me. We exercised at the gym together and kept having lunch and then she stopped calling or answering calls or emails. I miss her. I heard she is living with her mother. I don't know her mother's name. I have searched for her on-line. I have lost her. I miss her.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The first step is to put the soil into the terrarium container. Try your best to keep soil off the glass. Make a paper collar or paper funnel to gently drop the soil through. It is easier to keep it off the glass than it is to clean it off later! Use your tool to poke it in place.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Thursday, March 4, 2010
One of fifty two
In any given year
Where women come together
On the banks of a river
In a place so rural
It truly really is
In the middle of nowhere.
It's really just an hour
When the bonfire burns bright
Drawing us in
Voices raised in rhythmic sound
It's really just a moment
When you're handed o'er the drum
Your fear wants to say no
But you don't let it win.
You feel the power
That was always there inside you.
They saw, they felt, they knew
They drew it out of you
Into the air, into the night
Into your consciousness
Where it will sustain you the whole year,
That instant when
Made them dance!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Hearing my mother praise the community services of a local woman who volunteered for every this and that and baked and sewed and gave to every charity, I thought even as a child that I wanted to be good and kind and do things for other people like this woman. I was surprised in later years to learn that my mother did not actually like her all that much, and in fact, often found her annoying and aggravating! But still, did that in any way diminish her service to the community and the individuals in need? Not to me, and I often find myself inspired to do-gooderness by some remembered image of her bouncing into the church basement with a covered cake pan in each hand and sending someones child out the the car for more tins and dishes and casseroles.
Watching Dr. Seuss's The Lorax on television certainly was not the first I was introduced to environmental concepts, for our agricultural state taught us in science class from the very beginning about conservation of soil and water. Yet, the first I remember of becoming really riled up and motivated to DO SOMETHING about keeping nature natural was from the feelings of loss and then of power at being able to FIX THINGS that I got from that story. Nature needed ME to protect and preserve her!
Surely she was not the first or the only woman to participate in farming, but I remember my parents talking about her as though she were some rare and exotic creature because she didn't stay in the house in a supporting role but got out there and drove the tractors and the trucks. She went out to the barn morning and evening to do the chores. She helped the calves get born and actually did the artificial insemination! My one chance to steal a look at her as I invented reasons to pass up and down the hallway past the kitchen doorway was when the flying club met at our house. Not only did she farm like a man, but she was the only woman member of the local flying club, whose members shared interest in a couple small planes and jointly hired the services of a flight instructor. She was beautiful to me and her very face exuded power and I wanted that. No rules were going to tell me what a woman could and could not do just because of her gender.
Even as the conversations of parents and neighbors reflected a general suspicion of motives, I listened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio and just KNEW that the color of a person's skin should not be cause to treated them poorly, just KNEW that people were people no matter the color of their skin or the language they spoke or the type of clothing they wore or what they believed. Dr. King just made sense to me and it made me MAD that some people used those outward physical signs as reasons to treat other people badly. I found such racism to be especially counter to the 'love one another' message I was getting from the Lutheran preacher and my Sunday School teachers. I vowed to not ever treat anyone differently due to the color of their skin, and to fight for equality as soon as I got old enough to DO something besides sit on the floor and listen to the radio about it.
Never content to leave well enough alone, I often ponder my motives and the reasons I do the deeds I do and think the thoughts I think. I look back through my history for the influences that challenged or inspired or motivated me. Such reviewing is good for us. What if we look back and discover that some influence is not in sync with the values we now have? We should become aware of the power and effect of that influence and work to negate it. But if we look back and find people and personalities that are important and meaningful to us, we can rededicate ourselves to the values and actions embodied by those influences, and purposefully work to be more, do more, become more like them.