Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Memoriam

Benazir Bhutto has been killed.

A courageous Woman of great abilities, who could have done so much for Her nation, Pakistan, who could have helped restore peace, stability and democracy, has been killed by some brainwashed fanatic, may he rot in some foul hell for eternity.

God help us all, for Pakistan has a nuclear bomb.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Name something that typically smells foul, is made from decayed food and that almost everyone alive, even small children, love.

It is cheese, of course.

I did some research a while back on how to make my own, since it seemed absurd to me how much cheese costs.

I got as far as learning that it takes 11 gallons of milk to make a pound of cheese before I realized one reason why the stuff is so pricey.

Check out this article by another brave soul who went a lot further than I did:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A resolution

Somewhere on the Internet recently, I read a fellow man's declaration that a man's Wife should never have to clean their toilet.

I realized that for all the years that I have been married, I have left that to my Sweetie, though She has never complained.

I hasten to add that I do the outside work, help with laundry and do the cooking and vacuuming, for reasons that are specific to us.

But She watches over and carefully pays the bills and does many other important chores. And up until now, She has cleaned the toilet.

I told Her tonight that She will never clean the toilet again. She laughed at me. She said I was silly. I said I was serious.

And so, under Her watchful eye, following Her instructions -- for She is utterly meticulous -- I took up this unpleasant chore for the first time in our life together ... and survived.

Darlene has been found

She has been found.

She has been thanked, for all that She did, for all that She was.

Rarely in life is one given such a chance, to fulfill such a dream, a simple but yet challenging dream, after 20-plus years.

I wanted Her to know that She is, and always will be, remembered as an angel, as a Goddess indeed who deigned to smile at a silly, awkward, foolish mortal boy -- to talk to me, to befriend me, even to take me up in Her "chariot" one blissful day.

Burned into my memory is virtually every detail of that event: Her parking spot in front of the big banyan tree, one space over from the left, behind the art building, the sun upon me bright and strong, the Debbie Gibson song that played as She turned on the ignition, Her request of me as we drove away to hand Her Her cigarettes from Her purse, my clumsy, shaking hands that dropped them on the floor, the sweet smoky perfume that filled that car as Her cigarette burned and Her lips spilled Her exhales, my inane attempts at conversation, during which I asked like some kind of moron school counselor what She planned to do with Her future, Her gentle, patient response that She wanted to be a nurse, and so on, and so on.

Darlene was and is and always will be a Lady, a fine, fine Lady indeed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Grinching again

Let me be clear at the outset: Mannerly, creative, intelligent, thoughtful kids I love. I delight in their company, in listening to them read, observing their play and helping them to make fascinating discoveries about their world.

But the other type -- the nose-picking, sarcastic, clueless, perpetually whiney kind -- these should neither be seen nor heard. I know every good kid has his or Her occassional bad days or meltdowns but some seem to have cultivated the fine art of being horrible until they are masters of it.

I went to a Christmas performance today at one of our local schools. I went specifically to cheer on a mannerly, creative, intelligent, thoughtful kid who was in the play.

Beside me sat a squirmy little brat who repeatedly nudged me with his dirty sneakers, made obnoxious and quite audible comments about his dislike of the play and came quite close to jabbing me in the face with a spyglass that he made out of his program.

A hug from a loving child is a blessing from heaven. A poke from a pestilent child is simply annoying. And I became aware today, thinking back to all the time I spend at that school, in my job capacity and as a volunteer, just how many of these kids communicate with me by poking and jabbing -- and how they do it to each other, too.

Adults, except for the occassional freak, respect each other's space. If we must make bodily contact with a stranger, say, on a crowded bus or in passing by someone in the theater,we do it with an apologetic and determined stiffness that communicates our apologies for the indignity. Kids, at least the poorly trained ones, think nothing of banging, bumping and sometimes even stepping on the toes of others around them.

Perhaps it has always been this way and the epidemic of pathetic parenting whose fruits I seem to see everywhere, is but a figment of my imagination.

Plate cracking

According to a recent study, which I hope was not paid for with public funds, my state of Virginia has the highest number of personalized automobile license plates, per capita, in the entire United States.

I thought of this today on the commute to work when “luvmusic” tried to cut in front of me. Sorry, luver, rare is the driver who can pull that move on me.

In an incredible coincidence, the car in the next lane over proclaimed “luvtpls.” Love to please? Love topals? Love topless?

I decided the latter was the most likely option. It wasn’t a family friendly message, unless the driver was declaring his/her adoration of convertibles.

I passed “ardiff” next. Boring. Is that really the most creative use of your ten dollar vanity plate fee? Is that your legacy to the world?

“heartpoet” was my last sighting of the morning. How sweet.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Flintstones would beg to differ

Perhaps the fascination that so many of us have with those departed beasts that we label dinosaurs, is that they represent an entire world that rose, prospered and then vanished before any human walked on earth.

Enormous, bizzare and even terrifying, they challenge our egocentric pretentions: a world of life can exist, and that quite comfortably, without a single human in the picture.

(photo by dictybloke)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Picture of the Day

You bet She is.

Know this

Yeterday, at our district Christmas party, I saw a man save a life. Someone was choking and he performed the Heimlich manuever. He was very calm, which is important, and he knew what to do and all is now well.

Know how to do this. Someday, you may be the only person in a room who does. And you may save a life.

You ask the person to stand. You stand behind them. You tell them
calmly, that you know the Heimlich maneuver. You place your arms around
their waist. You make a fist, thumb towards the person, and place it just
above their belly button – beneath the rib cage so as to not break any
bones. You grab your fist with your other hand. You push your fist,
upward, five times into their abdomen, hard enough to be effective. You
save a life.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Feeling grinchy

You know what really made that green Grinch gripey about Christmas? I have it on good authority that long ago, in his youth, the Whos in Whoville had put him in charge of the town Christmas party.

As a real life person in charge of a Christmas party for nearly a thousand people, I feel so Grinchy today that I can barely stand it. The logistics -- uggh! The financial procurement -- arrgh! Whatever can go wrong probably will, and people will overwhelm the food table leaving nearly nothing for the poor schmucks behind them in line.

I just want it to be over. Over. Over. I want to go back to my cave on the mountaintop and escape all the noise, noise, noise.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Inexplicable misogyny

If you were walking down the street one day and saw a man striking himself in the head with a hammer, cursing himself by all the gods and smearing his body with feces, I am sure that you would agree with me that he needs professional help.

What then, of men so ignorant and mentally unbalanced as to take pleasure in demeaning and oppressing Women, his Sisters in humanity?

Isn't it so much more pleasurable, my fellow men, to uplift and cheer on these divine beings -- to rejoice in Their every success, to stand with Them and assist Them to achieve Their unfathomable potential?

I went to a website the other day in which some lowlife was trotting out the usual misogynistic stupidity and I upbraided him, far more gently than he deserved. Of course it's true, as he stated, that much of the world's architecture and achievements have been made by men. That only stands to reason since men have spent most of history overtly or covertly suppressing and destroying the achievements of Women -- from the public burnings of the poems of Sappho to the centuries-long attempts to keep Women from gaining an education or voting.

Under such conditions, it is amazing and wonderful that we have as much from the hands and minds of Women as we do.

Today I discovered another gem of Womankind, whom I will blog about later, Hildegard von Bingen.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Worthy causes

Perhaps some people have pockets stuffed with cash, legally earned one would hope, and can give it away until their arms get tired, to anyone who asks. The rest of us have to be more judicious. That poses a problem, since there are so many good causes: eliminating AIDS, about which Chase March recently blogged; muscular dystrophy, diabetes, wounded veterans, disaster relief, the Special Olympics, homeless shelters, Girl Scouts ...

But you know something? What looks like a problem is in one way a wonderful, wonderful sign. All these organizations have at their heart people doing good. In other words, millions of people are doing good in the world. Doing good -- a topic that LayDdee blogs on, one of my favorite subjects on Her blog.

I have just learned about another great idea. It's called Teachers in need of supplies for their classes can submit a wish list to this website and donors can then peruse this list and pay for an item.

I will soon post a permanent link on Isis for this site. After all, without education, where would any of us be today?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Hanukkah (and some thoughts on Judaism)

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate it!

I am not Jewish. But I recognize the huge contribution that this people/culture/religion has made to the history of civilization.

Christianity began as a movement within Judaism and owes the so-called “Old Testament” of its scriptures to that faith, as well as its basic concepts of a loving Father-God and other theology. Its founder and its early leadership was utterly Jewish, a long-ignored or suppressed fact. The Catholic writer Carroll goes so far as to assert that even Jesus and Paul considered themselves Jews, wholly Jews, from birth to death.

Islam owes much to Judaism as well, however much some within its ranks might wish to deny that. And the prophet Mohammed didn’t lift off to heaven from the site of the Dome of the Rock just from happenstance or because it was a convenient high place along his journey. It was a holy place where, like it or not, a sacred Jewish temple once stood and to which that sacred aura still clung in his day, and to which it yet clings today.

The old physical stereotype of a Jew is patently ridiculous, because Jews today are of many backgrounds and cultures. I have known Jews who are black, blonde or sporting bushy red beards.

This blog is no place to go into great detail (and I am not qualified in the least to do it anyway!) but the history, philosophy and contributions of Judaism to humanity are worth the study of every intelligent person.

I continue to learn new things all the time. One Jewish commentator on a blog that I visit, discussing a hypothetical Christian conversion, helped me to realize how little I still know about the aforementioned thought process of Her faith. Unlike Christianity, in which most sects are mild to hyper-aggressive in seeking converts, Judaism not only does not proselyte, in many ways it discourages converts. Seems counterintuitive, at least to my Christian-raised mind. But there are reasons, thought-provoking reasons, for this difference.

In addition, the concept of a rewards-based heaven, even of a specific afterlife, is a totally Christian construct from which such a prospective convert must divest him or Herself, She wrote -- certainly no easy thing to do.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Personal hygiene in hell

As I lay shivering in my living room on Friday, wrapped in a blanket, wondering what the hell was wrong with my internal thermostat, I turned on a program that I like: Man vs. Wild.

This episode should have helped, if anything could, to warm me back up. The survivalist hero, Bear Grylls, jumped out of a helicopter into the scorching sands of the Sahara Desert, where he proceeded to survive for several days by eating raw lizards and spiders and by licking rocks for water.

Now Mr. Grylls does take pains to inform the viewers of his show that “he is occasionally [deliberately] presented with situations” in order to demonstrate to said viewers how to survive them. But otherwise, we are supposed to believe that we are witnessing reality -- no snacks slipped to him on the sly, no moleskin dropped in a care package for his blisters if he forgot to pack any.

For example, a cobra that popped up at some point was dropped off in his vicinity, he said, so that he could explain how a person stranded in the Sahara should behave in the presence of such a beast.

True it is that all of us manly men in the world like to think that such a situation is entirely possible in our lives, whether we bag groceries in Cleveland or fix trucks in Texas and that of course we need to know how to respond in a cool, manly fashion. In this, we differ from Women, who are quite cognizant that They will never encounter a Sahara serpent, and who wish that Their damn fool husbands would watch some other show instead, that doesn’t involve a guy chewing on a raw lizard and remarking that it tastes like blood and guts and scales.

As the episode wore on and Mr. Grylls continued his agonizing stumble across the sands of hell, I began to wonder about something. Now I am not the world’s most hirsuite guy but I do have dark hair and even after just a few hours away from my razor, I’m sporting a pretty noticeable facial shadow.

But Mr. Grylls, who was so desperate for water during the trek that, as I said, he licked rocks and squeezed damp sand through his tshirt, day after day, never seemed to grow a beard. Did he carry an electric razor with him? Or did he just shave dry, in a most incredible, manly way?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Been sick, sort of

I realize that I haven't updated this blog in four days. I was planning to do some major blogging over the weekend, but then I picked up some strange bug. Chills and sort of a fever but nothing else. Strangest thing. No blurpy stomach, no drippy nose.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The native connection

The book referenced in this link is about Delaware but the concept applies to anywhere.

Do you want native birds,butterflies and other wildlife to visit your yard?

Plant natives, not exotics.

A sad day

Three children died in a house fire today in the city where I work.

It has been a very sad day.

Please be careful as the cold days and the holidays begin, my friends, with your heaters, candles and electric cords.

Monday, November 26, 2007

And we point fingers at the Brazilians?

How is it that if I gather garbage in my yard, I cannot burn it but rather must pay to haul it away somewhere, but some money-grubbing land developer can set ten acres of forest on fire within city limits and force his neighbors to breathe the pollution for a week or more until his apocalyptic hell-hole has finished smouldering?

I hate land developers. I really hate them.

Someone wrote recently that only a fool hopes for zero growth or stagnation.

I wonder how it is that we became locked into the ever-escalating cycle of consumption and destruction as a good thing, how we have given up on the possibility of anything better.

Said the yeast in the beer barrel to his fellow concerned yeast globule: Of course we must convert this sugar into alcohol. It's called progress. It's the only way to live. You need not concern yourself, young do-gooder, with what will happen when all the sugar is gone and only alcohol remains. This barrel is big enough to last forever.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Six legs to heaven

I have learned today that the ancient Eygptians believed that the souls of the deceased could take the form of a grasshopper, and hence such insects have been found -- long dried-up, of course -- in their tombs.

It was because no other animal, not even a bird, seemed to possess such an amazing ability to transcend space, to go in an instant from crouching upon the earth to riding the sky. Grasshoppers also have a relationship to dawn and dusk, the only time when their eggs will hatch, and can still produce their song even when their sound organs have been destroyed, according to the author who enlightened me on this subject.

Perhaps in that mysterious connection of mythology, the same concept was known in ancient Greece, and lies behind the myth of Tethonis, a mortal granted immortality but not youthfulness, who ultimately vanished except for his voice.

On this cold November night, I am thinking back to a summer morning when I chased a grasshopper through a tall meadow in the middle of the woods, trying to take its picture. It vaulted a thousand times its height to the safety of some pine boughs, then into the air again just as I got the camera close.

Perhaps it was the soul of a celebrity and saw me as the paparazzi that had hounded it in its human phase.

I make no sense to me

I found a tamarind seed in the block of supposedly seedless tamarind pulp that I bought a few weeks ago from the Asian grocery store.

I tucked it into a soft little bed of soil in a little round pot. And now it has sprouted.

I do not live in southern Florida, the only region of the continental US where this tree is successfully grown outdoors. This little sproutlet will have to live in my house and will probably never produce tamarind fruit.

But I simply could not cast out the seed to die.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pixie Dust muses on herbs

I haven't visited Pixie Dust in a while, so it was a true pleasure to wander over to Her blog tonight and discover that She is blogging about that tiny but succulent herb, thyme, that no garden or kitchen should be without.


“Undulating relentlessly from one side to the other of the [microscope slide].”

That is how Deborah Hayden, author of “Pox,” describes the actions of the tiny, snake-shaped bacterium that causes the terrible disease syphilis.

It is a book at once horrifying and amazing, about a creature that is also both. Her words aptly conjure up the notion of a determined and ruthless predator – a Great White shark churning in a petri dish.

Most diseases cause a few specific symptoms. Few if any produce the huge and devastating range of ailments as this one: from sores and a rash to terrible aches, heart damage, paralysis, birth defects and even insanity.

I am caught up in the spell of this book, describing a deadly beast that has stalked and captured some of the best and brightest or notorious of mankind – from Nietsche to Beethoven, Columbus to Al Capone.

And indeed, only mankind does it plague – riding the waves of our carnal desires.

I don’t know much more about this subject, syphilis. I do know that most bacteria or other parasites debilitate or kill in four ways: by secreting toxins, consuming tissue, consuming the host’s food supply or by blocking lymph nodes or blood vessels.

I’m not sure at this point how syphilis does its gruesome damage – maybe Hayden’s book will explain it for me.

Penicillin, for now, controls it in modern society.

Having not exactly lived the wild life in my youth and having as my life partner a Woman of similar background, I have been spared this terrifying experience.

Ms. Hayden

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Linus Van Pelt: "I thought little girls were innocent and trusting."
Sally Brown: "Welcome to the Twentieth Century."

-- From "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."

I am feeling better about the options available for the little fellow that I mentor. He has a resource period that I will start attending every week.

In discussion with a school counselor, he has confirmed what I have seen a time or two: a couple of girls in his class pick on him. I don't know how badly or how often, or how much this is affecting his behavior this year. I don't know how much he may have brought upon himself. But I do know, in spite of my strong faith in the glory, beauty and divinity of Woman, that She can be capable of cruelty; and so, too, can the little flower that grows up to be a Woman. This is the hardest, most awful fact that I think I have ever had to face and I would give anything to make it untrue.

The cruelest words that ever stung my childhood pysche came from the lips not of some hideous boy but from a girl -- though I learned to fight with boys and defend myself, I had no defense against the verbal sucker-punch of a beautiful but thoughtless young lady. I never did understand why: we were total strangers. She could have asked me to carry all her books all the way home for the rest of the year and I surely and gladly would have. Why be so senseless, so mean?

And I remember a few years before that, being amazed when a school chum of mine, a guy whom I thought of as tough and cool, began to blubber and cry when a couple of girls from our school stole his hat and called him names.

Thought for the day

If you are currently breathing, thank a plant.

If your lunch today consists of anything other than gravel or ice cubes, thank a plant.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Legless Larry and the Lipstick Lady

A very intriguing, unusual youtube video, which, tragically, the owner has declined to allow to be embedded.

Check it out by cut and paste, and tell me what you think:

Darlene, Part IV

Somewhere in the world, an absolute angel named Darlene Tsue lives and breathes.

I just got an email from indicating that She has joined my high school class list posted there.

Can You say electrified?

I hope that Her life has been sheer bliss and that in these 20 years since last my eyes beheld Her, She has attained Her every dream.

Thinking out loud ...

I've talked before about the little fellow that I eat lunch with once a week.

We are very different. I am Caucasian and he is African-American. He is from a single parent home while I was blessed enough to have a father in my life. He lives in dire economic circumstances. I'm hardly wealthy but I get by. Today he told me that his family's hot water has been off for months.

In regards to that last statement, I am troubled. His teacher and others have informed me that he lies. And I get the feeling that he tells me what he thinks I want to hear. So did he make that up, too?

I don't know what to do. He gets in trouble at school, sporadically -- but how long until little boy outbursts become teenage rages, how long until the trouble becomes serious?

I've never been a father, although I would have liked to have been. All that I know about kids I've had to learn from watching others interact with children. That's like trying to be a good driver just from being a passenger.

It's clear to me that just seeing this child once a week at lunch is not helping him very much.

But he lives in the city where I work; and I live far away in the county. I can't just casually drop by his house and say, "Hey, 'Timmy,' wanna shoot some hoops?" Or can I?

Perhaps I need to do more to befriend his mother. But how to go about that?

His teacher suggested today that he needs a mentor. I thought I was being a mentor. There's a group in the city, "Concerned Black Men of [my city]," she said, who could help him. So should I turn him over to them and admit defeat? Can they relate better to him than I have been able to do? Doesn't it smack of racism to suggest that people always do better with their "own kind?"

The only thing that I know for sure is that I do not want to see him make choices to ruin his life like the last child I tried to help, years ago.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures

Now if that doesn't sound like the title of a dull and dreary discourse!

But truth is, whether we are a student in school, an invitee to a party, a watcher of a political debate, or even out on a date, we will be hearing speech and we ought to know the virtue of being a good listener.

Plutarch wrote nearly 2,000 years ago but his words are still gold today. He warns against one who waits impatiently to jump into the conversation or interrupts incessantly; and against believing that a young person is better off hearing no speech rather than being taught to distinguish for themselves what is bad speech and what is good (the endless attempt to ban books from libraries and schools springs to my mind).

Admire but do not envy a good speaker. Learn from his flaws how you may improve your own speaking skills. It is easy to criticize, harder to excel. Beware the empty pleasure of a flowery speech that does nothing to improve one's mind.

Do not lead the speaker to digress. Pretentious contempt should not be mistaken for dignity. Discourse demands graciousness.

Every lecture has something in it of merit. And every listener has a certain role in the speech, a part to play as the audience.

Inflation of adjectives, abuse of superlatives, seems to have been a problem then as it is now.

Don't pretend to understand, nodding assent to avoid the shame of your ignorance. Don't be as a fledging bird, expecting the speaker to regurgitate knowledge while you put forth no effort of your own to learn and study.

And finally:

"The mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth."

Save a Bird

Since the talk on Isis today is about birds, I thought I would recommend this site I found, which features a highly successful way to prevent one of the top causes of bird deaths: flying into windows.

I'll add more to this post later.

Thanks, Lone Grey

Lone Grey Squirrel has tagged me with the Wise Bird Award.

I am flattered. But as I told him, I am not wise. I am just curious. And I take as my hero – though his end was unfortunate – Jude of Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure.” He was an ordinary guy who refused to believe that the classics of the ages, the knowledge, the great languages, belonged only to stuffy, high-born intellectuals. It annoys me when people whom I know are smart, just let their brains gather dust once they have earned their high school diploma. Why the hell shouldn’t a plumber be able to recite Shakespeare, or a custodian be conversant with Plato? Why shouldn’t ordinary folk gathered around an office water cooler be able to have a conversation about St. Augustine or Sappho?

So I read big books, even though I have to go through them rather slowly and sometimes repeat a paragraph or two. I am a human being and therefore I have the right – even the obligation – to commune with great human minds past and present.

I'll pass this award along later today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where bad folk go when they die -- the developer's hell

If I were Dante, author of the famous "Inferno," I would add a chapter on the fate of the loathsome wretches who will someday have to stand before whatever Being created this planet and explain why they spent their lives trying to destroy it.

That would include terrorists, dictators and land developers.

The latter is my subject this morning.

Hell for such loathsome souls will not be a realm of flames guarded by shrieking demons. Flames and noise accompanied their work on earth and would simply bring them undeserved joy.

No, instead they will wander eternally through verdant valleys and lush forests -- without the power to destroy them. They will have to listen to the songs of birds and watch deer nibbling the grass, frogs and turtles luxuriating in wetlands and there won't be a damn thing they can do to them anymore.

Imagine their misery: all that prime, wooded acreage, all that luscious waterfront land, just crying out to be cleared and graded and sold -- but nobody's posting "For Sale signs, nobody's holding rezoning hearings, no farcical county governments are pretending to listen to the concerns of citizenry while secretly salivating over the bribes the developer's lawyers have ready for them in the back room -- and nobody has the key to the bulldozers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

First steps

There are so many things to consider when planning a business, even one on such a small scale as I am.

What permits will I have to get? How much will they cost? How many herbs do I need to plant in order to be able to sell enough to make it worth the trouble and to keep enough on hand through the entire growing season? How often can each herb be trimmed without asking too much of it?

How will I keep up with the extra demands on the soil without resorting to chemical fertilizers? I use cow manure in my home garden, but would that create an e coli liability risk for the public -- we've all heard the horror stories.

Should I first try to create a partnership with a farmer's market regular and then approach restaurants after I've gotten more established? I don't want people coming to my home, especially during the day when I am not there.

I think I will begin with chives. I have a clump already that is about the most undemanding plant I have ever seen.

I will put together some attractive cards to go with them that talk about the history and uses of chives, as well as other facts, such as that they are the only member of the onion family that is native to the Old World and the New.

Monday, November 12, 2007

November daydreams

I have a crappy old deck by my house that needs to go away. I have never been a sit-on-the-deck sort of person so I haven't given it the loving care that it needs.

I think I want to replace it with a little greenhouse, one that I could build myself. That in turn would be perfect for getting an early start on another daydream I had today: clearing out another big square of boring lawn grass and planting rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, sage, etc -- enough to start a small herb business.

What would I need? Some lumber, sand, glass panes, an electric heater (greenhouses don't stay magically warm at night -- they need help with that).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Burying Bulbs

"Crimson and clover," sings the radio overhead as I wait in the Walgreen's line, which is moving very slowly for 10:30 at night.

An incredibly voluptuous Girl flows by, sashaying down Aisle Such and Such. Look but don't touch is the rule of the married man, I remind myself. Well,it's my Sweetie's fault that I am in here tonight, buying Her a certain something that She needs.

I switch my mind to other things. To bulbs. Today was a day to plant bulbs. Today I dug my fingers into the cool soil and buried crocusses, tulips, daffodils and allium.

It is a curious tribe or two of the flowering family that make bulbs. While more timid bloomers are still safely snuggled in seeds below the cold sod, waiting on serious sunshine, plants that grow from bulbs are already stretching forth their leaves, soaking up the stingy light of late winter.

Daffodil bulbs are big and rough, with a sort of spouty looking thing at the top, like a badly made Greek amphora. Allium are tiny and smooth, like pale acorns without their caps. In between in size are tulips, beloved sign of spring when they raise their proud heads.

As I turned the soil, I disturbed a few lethargic earthworms, which I reburied; and a few white grubs, bad for roots, which failed to win mercy at my hands.

Pondering Peru

There are two ways to learn: like a carnivore, tearing off great chunks of knowledge and gulping them down; or like an herbivore, chewing slowly and deliberately and ruminating at great length.

Lately I favor the latter. I like to take one concept, even a sentence or a word, and mull over it all day, while I am driving or waiting somewhere, not forced to use my brain for something else.

Today it was this:

Callejon de Huaylas.

To any knowledgeable Peruvian, it is probably quite familiar. To me, it was unknown until Marie Arana wrote of this place in the October National Geographic, as part of Her lucid and beautiful essay on the great South American continent.

Callejon de Huaylas, She writes, is a verdant canyon that cuts through two mountain ridges ... and is the cradle of one of the earliest known civilizations of Peru, the Chavin.

If I had a magic lamp, I might be a nice guy and wish for world peace but I would also wish for a thousand years of life and a wallet that never emptied, so that I could travel to every country in the world, from the tundra to the burning desert and see every city, every forest, every beach, every mountain and every canyon.

I would walk through Callejon de Huaylas, too, and meditate on the Chavin, and enjoy the South American sunshine on my face.

Above is that beautiful place, from

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rebecca is back!

To anyone else here who is a fan of this wonderful Lady, She's back posting again.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What man hath built

Blogger Kat has gotten me thinking again about architecture, the science and art of building.

I love the natural world and I hate so much of what man has done to it -- yet I am not so narrow minded as to loathe everything about my own species and to despise everything that he has created, some of which is breathtaking in its beauty.

We are fortunate that despite thousands of years of war and nature's own destructive hand, many of the great buildings of history still stand -- the Pyramids, the Parthenon (though we almost lost that one), a myriad of medieval cathedrals, Taj Mahal, Angor Wat, etc.

I returned tonight to my reading of James Carroll's "Constantine's Sword," which examines the historical relationship and antagonism between Christians and Jews. Tonight's chapter discussed the Jewish temple, destroyed almost 2000 years ago by vengeful Romans.

What a building that must have been! Carroll alludes to Josephus (Ant. Book XV, Chapt. 11, verse 5):

"For while [the adjacent] valley was very deep and its bottom could not be seen, if you looked from above into the depth, this further vastly high elevation of the cloister stood upon that height, insomuch that if anyone looked down from the top of the battlements ... he would be giddy ..."

When I read Josephus a few years ago, I read that passage but failed to appreciate what it was trying to tell me.

This blog is certainly not the place to go into any great detail about the Jewish temple, its significance, its history. But consider that there is evidence that the spot has been considered sacred since the Stone Age; consider that a shovel cannot be thrust into the ground there nor a ramp repaired today without inciting a riot.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

CMA thumbs down

I watched the Country Music Awards with my Sweetie tonight. A complete waste of time. A bunch of lame, tuneless performances, except for Reba McIntyre and Alison Krauss. The man who should have won, Tim McGraw, was barely there.

I cannot listen to his latest song, If You're Reading This, without getting chills.

So I have embedded it here. Please excuse the incorrect "your" -- I'm not sure it will upload properly if I change the youtube contributor's title.

34 links and they're gathering dust

Having completed a huge work project today, I now have time to breathe again, to be me. And, I hope (but don't dare promise) to blow the dust off some of my blog links. Pixie Dust, Lone Grey Squirrel, Carmen, Leslie and Nadiyya, especially.

I value all of you, I really do. I wouldn't have linked you if I didn't. Thanks for your patience.

To know a soul

Several years ago, I watched a movie – I think it was Mel Gibson’s “Man Without a Face.”

The protagonist, at first with great reluctance, was mentoring a young boy. Then word of this fact broke in the community and it turns out that the man had been involved in a car wreck years before in which another young boy had been killed. The community suspected that the man had been molesting the boy before the accident.

This poignant line I remember: the young boy, upon hearing the gossip about the tragedy, asks the man: Did you do it (molest the boy)?

The man looks at him very hard and says something to the effect of, “You’ve known me for a while now. Decide for yourself.”

In other words, the young man is denied the easy satisfaction of a yes or no answer and is forced to make his evaluation of the protagonist solely on the basis of how well he knows the man’s soul.

That is not so easy to do. That is what makes that movie remarkable, to me. The boy must decide for himself, based on his gut and his experiences with his friend, and nothing more.

Today I was asked about a friend of mine – whether it was possible that they might have written some rude and thoughtless statements on a certain blog. Now, tis true that all of us can be rude and thoughtless at times. But I know the soul of this my friend and I told the inquirer that I was confident that my friend was not to blame.

Later, I received the equivalent of the “yes or no” answer as craved by the boy in the above movie. But what if my friend had said, “ECD, you know me. And that is the only answer that you are going to get.”

Burning brownies

They say that a person has to perform a certain amount of exercise (ten laps, for example) to burn off the calories from a certain portion of food, say, a brownie.

I wonder if any studies have been done to compare the efficiency of the human engine to an automobile engine in this regard. How many calories does it take for a human to travel one mile, compared to the "calories" of gas burned to propel a vehicle one mile?

I'm just curious.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sunday, November 4, 2007



That's the transliteration of the Hebrew word most often rendered as "heaven."

Berosheth bara Elohim shamayim ... When God began to create the heavens ...

When the Russians first entered space, so I am told, they looked around and said they did not see God up there, in the shamayim above our blue planet. But it had been many centuries since the heirs of monotheism pictured God floating in the vaccuum where satellites and lost space suit gloves now hover. God, the modern theist says, is transcendent. His personal shamayim is somewhere beyond mortal comprehension.

The third book on my shelf is a collection of ancient Mesopotamian poetry, from the people who gave us beer, bread, the wheel and probably the first alphabet.

The most famous of them is the Enuma Elish, the creation hymn.

Before the gods were the elements: Apsu and Tiamat, the two primordial seas, and Mummu, counselor to Apsu. (There may be some etymological kinship between this Tiamat and the tehowm, the "deep" mentioned in the Hebrew creation hymn of Genesis.)

There was no land to block their mingling. Within their depths were created the silts, Lahmu and Lahamu, then Anshar and Kishar, the horizons.

To Anshar was born Anu, the sky; Anu begat Ea, the Earth. The noise of these gods tormented the ancient elements. They counseled together and proposed to destroy them. The gods battle against the elements.

In the depths of the sea, Marduk, son of the god Ea, is born. He is appointed king. He attacks Tiamat and defeats her. From her body is made the sky, the stars, moon, sun and the earth. Then man is created, to serve the gods.

This bloody beginning is similar to the earliest Greek mythology, as described by Hesiod in his Theogony. But I'll get to that later.

Shamayim. Not cold space but a blissful paradise do we long for. Mythology, apocrypha and scripture, is full of tales of men who were caught up to it, or tried to build towers to reach it. The passport is immortality and that is the subject of the other famous Mesopotamian book on my shelf, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which I will discuss later.

Visit LayDdee -- that's an order!!!

LayDdee has posted a very moving video on Her blog this weekend, about the effort to save dolphins from fools who kill them deliberately as competitors in fishing.

Her awesome blog is always, always, always worth a visit, especially today.

People have millions of fishing boats dredging up every possibly edible creature in the ocean by the billions of tons -- and a few beleagured pods of dolphins are the problem?

Makes me glad I can't afford seafood.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The passing of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger

I saved a clip from August on the passing of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.

I have always found the phenomenon of religious conversion to be fascinating. It is almost always an act of great courage, for the repercussions are often severe.

Christians become Jews, Jews become Christians, Christians switch back and forth among their myriad denominations. Atheists, like the son of the late famous secularist Madeleine O'Hare, become Christians, Christians become atheists, etc., etc.

The late Lustiger presents a very interesting case. He was born Jewish, of a mother who died in Auschwitz. After his conversion -- and what wrestlings of soul he must have had! -- he "rose to become one of the most influential Roman Catholic figures in France." According to the article I read about him, "he appears to have perfectly synthesized his Jewish heritage with his chosen faith, [saying] 'Christianity is the fruit of Judaism.'"

I wonder what he would have thought about a book that I am reading, "Constantine's Sword," which contemplates the long and painful struggle between Christianity and Judaism, particularly the painful Christian insistence on their faith being the supercession of Judaism.

Friday, November 2, 2007

While bombs exploded ...

I saved this fascinating clip from September and I finally have the time tonight to share it with you.

It's about a luthier -- a violin maker, in a most unusual place.

I've tried to embed the link but I'm not doing something right so I'll just have to ask you to paste it into your browsers:

Interesting Site of The Day

An excerpt from, relating to etiquette when one's Lady smokes (mine doesn't by the way, in case you wondered):

1.0 Summary
The Urban Gentleman must make a fundamental decision with respect to his attitude towards the lady's tendency to smoke. Should he decide that the behavior is offensive and/or intolerable, he will enjoy the smoking lady's presence from a physical and emotional distance. Should he, on the other hand, see the practice as little more than an element of the lady's consummate radiance, he will embrace the smoke as a well choreographed and precisely orchestrated activity, and will be the lady's accomplice in all of her smoking efforts. If the gentleman is among a group of smokers, although generally he will be generous with flame and product, the gentleman will tend to his lady's needs primarily and with greater care than will he tend to the rest of the group.

2.0 Logistics
The gentleman will first and without fail ignite the lady's cigarette, for he knows that the lady's pleasure does not derive from her opportunity to light her own. The gentleman will anticipate the lady's need for a flame and time his movement to her cigarette such that his lighter reaches her before the Light has sat unlit betwixt her lips for so much as 3/4 of a second. Further, the gentleman will acquire and maintain a lighter that is fit for his lady. It will be of a finer metal and will have presence. It will be a highly calibrated instrument such that with proper maintenance it does not fail to work. (The gentleman may head swiftly to Cartier following his read of this material to purchase this said lighter, discarding his Zippo along the way.) The gentleman will opt for matches only when his lighter is inexcusably unavailable, first making use of wood matches, then cardboard.

2.1 The Gentleman Maintains An Inventory
The gentleman will keep a supply of the lady's cigarette with him at all times. He will draw from this supply when the lady gives him an indication that she is ready for him to do so. In short time, in fact, the gentleman will be expected to anticipate the lady's urges so that the lady and the gentleman will no longer have to count smoking among topics they discuss.

2.2 Ashtrays
If he is in such a place where the lady is expected to make use of an ashtray, then the gentleman will ensure that the lady is provided with one and that it is a clean ashtray.

2.3 Smoking Bans
The Urban Gentleman has of late been forced to come face to face with laws commonly known as “smoking bans.” Like laws that prevent him from entering taxis in traffic, the gentleman knows that smoking bans are a mixed bag. If the lady does not smoke, then the ban is an asset; if she does smoke, then they are a challenge to the Urban Gentleman. If the lady smokes, the gentleman will have in his arsenal of venues that throw caution and fines to the wind and continue to allow smoking. He will make it his business to show the lady these venues. In situations where the lady has no choice but to leave the venue for a cigarette, the gentleman will ensure that the lady smokes accompanied – either by himself or, if in a group, by one of the lady’s friends.

3.0 The Gentleman Smoker
Just as the gentleman enjoys watching the lady as she dances with her cigarette, the lady enjoys seeing the gentleman’s performance. The gentleman, therefore, will handle his own smoking habit with grace and a touch of panache. He will not fail to light his cigarette on the first attempt; he will not fumble for his smokes, nor for his lighter; he will make use of a silver cigarette case that is not short on patina; he will take the red to and from his lips with character, but not flamboyance; he will exhale knowing that the process of exhaling should not be conveyed as a process in and of itself; he will not smoke a cigarette that is better suited for a lady, nor will he smoke a Newport.

Should the gentleman smoke and the lady abstain, the gentleman will service his habit only to an extent with which the lady is comfortable.

4.0.Advanced Smoking Etiquette And Flirtation
Especially if the gentleman himself smokes, he will light the lady's cigarette first between his own lips and then delicately place it between hers. The gentleman will use these opportunities to show the lady that he thoroughly enjoys servicing her. He will make use of devices such as eye contact and a gentle touch of her cheek to convey his pleasure. If it is the case that the gentleman is able to form rings as he exhales, he will do this sparingly – but he will do it – because he knows on occasion that the lady enjoys in him such random acts of masculine brouhaha.

4.1 Smoking in the Home
In the case of the lady's and gentleman's respective homes and/or apartments, the lady and gentleman will together determine the extent to which, and the locations in which, smoking is appropriate. In the home especially, the lady and gentleman will share their lit cigarettes, especially the gentleman's with the lady. The gentleman will stock his apartment with dignified ashtrays, such that the lady feels significantly lady like and luxurious using them. (There exists further reading for the gentleman on this topic in Chapter 8.)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Quote of the Day

"His wish is not to seem,
but be,
the best,
Reaping the deep-sown furrow
of his mind
In which all goodly counsels
have their root."

-- Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes

It is not always what it seems

"And the cradle will rock ..."
-- Van Halen

Today I read about an odd request that Van Halen (rock group)would make upon reaching all their concert venues. They would demand a bowl of M&M candies be placed in their room, with all the brown ones removed.

At first glance, it appears to be just another petty and senseless demand by spoiled rock stars.

But Van Halen recently explained the method behind their madness. If the people in charge at the venues were consciencious enough to get this little request right, then they could probably be relied on to get other, more important details right.

Foolishness thus turns out to be wisdom.

In Plutarch's "Moralia," the old Roman speaks of Odysseus (The Iliad) being put ashore somewhere by Phaeacian sailors, taking the time while standing alone on the beach to inventory his possessions -- it would seem, to determine whether the Phaecians stole any of them. Such an inventory seems a petty and useless action. But Plutarch sees it differently: Odysseus is actually convinced of the goodness of the Phaecians and takes this odd action to provide tangible proof of it.

Two thousand years separate these accounts, yet they teach us the same lesson.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The dark side of brilliance

We prize and value intelligence but I had a disturbing thought watching a special on monkey-hunting chimps last night.

The purpose of intelligence in nature, at its most basic, is to kill.

Whether it's a dog or a dolphin, a monkey or a man, nature's purpose for a better brain is to improve the odds of a successful hunt.

Sure, people now use their brains to paint pictures and erect skyscrapers, but we only have time for such diversions because we have become the most effective killers on the planet, having eliminated our every natural rival and enemy except disease and having learned how to keep our meat on hand in a stockyard until we're ready to chop it up for the table.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mom's journal

Sweetie and I read a few pages in my mother's old journal last night.

She (my Mother) describes Her earliest memories: a chilly house where a person dressed in a hurry around the wood-burning stove; Her own Mother's struggle with polio; riding horses around the neighborhood.

Such are memories of an age that has gone forever; the first two, thankfully; the last, sorrowfully.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A day of death

My aunt-in-law called this afternoon, asked if I would dig the grave for her cat tonight. It died at a good old age, 18.

So I carved out a hole in the cold clay of her backyard and gently lowered the little box into it.

I drove home through the darkness, thinking about the old saying that nothing is sure in life except death.

In my front yard lay the body of a raccoon.

I don't know what happened to it. Nobody could have hit it with a car way back here and no cat would survive a fight with a beast like that. At least it will not have to face the cold winter that is blowing into Virginia.

I carried it into the woods and, for the second time this day, dug a hole in the ground and lowered a small body into it, into the earth that accepts all things that have come from Her, at the end of their brief lives.

Sunday, October 28, 2007



From the Latin root aevum, an age - i.e., ageless.

Hebrew equivalent: olam.

What is eternal? The material substance that forms my body today, was shaped ages ago in the furnace of a star and a billion years from now, might again be part of a star or perhaps make up a few molecules of some planet's atmosphere, perhaps a billion light years from where I now sit.

Will my consciousness or some kind of soul persist in some other realm, some heavenly sphere, long after my mortal components have been recycled? Of what substance, if so, will it be formed?

The Greeks did not believe their gods were eternal: they had a birth from an earlier generation of elemental beings. The Judeo-Christian God, however, is decisively aeveum, olam, without beginning of days or end of years.


Yet the scientist who smiles condescendingly at such a conception, must also admit that there are limits to his or Her own understanding, what has been, what will be, what science knows about eternity.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thought for the day

Submitted in a letter to National Geographic, published in the November 2007 issue:

"The suffering will not begin to end until we treat the living world with the humility necessary to bring all our knowledge of its subtlety and intricacy to bear on these problems."

-- Attributed to Rachel Carson, by letter-writer Marcia Phillips.

What do you think this means?

Return from oblivion Part II

I finally got to escape into the woods today -- I have been craving this hike for weeks.

I checked the holly by the wood's edge for berries -- I'm trying to see if its a boy or a Girl tree. Then visited the log where I found oyster mushrooms a few weeks ago. Nothing on it but slime.

No flowers in bloom, not even any asters. The forest is closing up shop for the season.

Every year I check the little fringe tree on the slope by the creek to see if it will finally produce the blue berries that it's supposed to. Still none.

Something hard beneath my shoe, upon examination, looked an awful lot like a hickory nut so I searched around and finally had my first glimpse of a mature hickory tree -- all I've seen in this woods before were saplings.

Tried to get a picture of a little orange spider who posed very patiently for Her portrait but my camera wouldn't focus.

Tonight I made friends with tamarind. I've enjoyed the juice before but never tried it any other way. Found a Balinese recipe for marinating chicken in tamarind sauce. Thought I would try it out.

Finding tamarind was tougher than I thought. My neighborhood redneck grocery of course didn't have it -- but neither did the fancy grocery store up by the mall. So I went to the Asian grocery a few miles away.

"Tamarind?" I asked, not sure how much English they would understand.

"Fruit? Or candy?" the Lady asked. By fruit She meant a big dark block of compressed tamarind. That looked fine so I happily carried it home and went to work in the kitchen. You mix it with boiling water, crushed garlic, pepper, coriander and salt. Marinate the chicken in it for an hour, then deep fry.

Sweetie won't normally eat a whole chicken breast, not being a glutton like I am. But She ate every bite on Her plate this time and licked the bones. I think She now likes tamarind chicken, too. It was good with a scoop of garam masala seasoned rice and some spiced banana bread for dessert.

A good meal took the bitter edge off the news this weekend that we have to replace the whole damn furnace. Probably have to take out an equity line to pay for it.

Return from oblivion

Hello, dear blog, I am back. I have missed you. I know, it's only been three days but it feels like forever. I hope my job will ease up and let me have some of my evenings back, sometime soon.

I needed a Saturday like today. Took Sweetie to the local mall. Been so long since we've been there that we both got a shock: Her favorite store was missing. Or rather, had been relocated to a different section. My bookstore and my hot sauce shoppe were still where they've always been. I tasted a sample of "Scorned Woman." It was wonderfully hot but the flavor behind the heat was just bitter. Maybe one of these days I'll fork over the 18 bucks for that evil-looking Black Mamba sauce -- it has a great flavor and the little bottle is just so cool.

If it weren't for those three shops, Her Hallmark and my two favorites, that mall would be a worthless place to visit. Nothing else but clothes and jewelry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Had enough whine

The skies opened up over Virginia today and gave us some rain.

I've had time to visit LayDdee, Chase and Ian in blogworld, if no one else.

I bought a pink camelia bush on my lunch break, although I went there in search of white pine.

I'm still tired and stressed but life is good and I have had enough whine for a while.

A bright light on Youtube

Last night, before I gave up on staying awake any longer, I flipped over to Youtube and encountered the work of a young man who really impressed me.

He seemed to be in his late teens or early twenties. But his video was not about clubbin' or hotties or pranks - the usual annoying obsessions of a male of that age range. It was a documentary -- as good as any that I've seen on Animal Planet -- of the various amphibians and reptiles that live in his state.

It was so refreshing to see a young man so respectful and passionate about nature, not flippant or cruel.

Here it is, my first attempt to "embed."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some cheese with my whine

I like feta. Jalapeno pepper jack, too, or muenster.

I could use some good cheese with my whine.

It's only 8:23 p.m. and I can barely see this screen and I'm ready for bed.

It's been like this all week, 12 hour workdays one after the other. Today we had an "incident" in the school district where I work and I was literally talking to media on the cell phone while the office phone rang off the hook with parents calling in. As soon as I hung up from one, the other rang, and that annoying recorded voice was busy all day telling me, "You have ... xyz ... new messages."

And when I wasn't answering the same questions over and over again on the phones, I was standing in front of tv cameras repeating my mantra. "The district has blah blah blah."

And so I am tired, very very tired. My head has throbbed for two days. And I realize this is a depressing, useless post, but this is why I haven't visited any of my blog friends today except Lyn.

I need a weekend, a real weekend, not another one in which I am sucked back into the job whirlpool again. I need a vacation. I need some nice, salty feta cheese with my whine.

The first tree in my East Coast forest

I should hate botany.

I took a class on it back in college and did horribly. The final exam consisted of examining a heap of twigs, leaves and such, piled upon a table, and then deciding what were the scientific and common names of each specimen.

But I love botany – the science of plants -- even so, even if I am a mere amateur.

Plants, in such yummy forms as corn, potatoes, strawberries and beans, feed me.

Orchids and roses inspire me.

Rafflesia and coco de mer makes me smile.

Chocolate, vanilla, hot pepper and cinnamon make me happy.

And what of trees – the giants, the gods of the forest?

The first tree that I see as I step into “my” forest is a humble one – a thin sculpture of sticks with a few sparse leaves to alert me that it’s actually alive. It’s more of a bush, a pathetic little bush, than a tree. And yet, when it flowers, and when it proudly hoists its brilliant, scarlet fruit, suddenly it stands out. I posted a photo of it here a few weeks ago.

It is strawberry bush, Euonymus americanus, in the staff tree family. Also called spindle tree. Unlike the completely unrelated strawberry that you plop into your cereal bowl, this plant is not to be munched unless you are Bambi.

The website,, explains that:

“The plant’s bark & fruit contain the glycosides evobioside, evomonoside, & evonoside, which adds up to a powerful laxative that can at the very least cause dehydration which can alone be deadly. At worst it may have a harmful impact on the cardiovascular system. Nevertheless, Native Americans used it for sundry medicinal purposes, & deer love to browse Strawberry Bush, suffering no ill consequences.”

One of the first principles of botany is that all plants fit into certain families. Those families are typically based on flower similarities – and often, even among plants of strikingly different appearance, that family relationship leads to other similar characteristics. Poison ivy, cashews and mangoes are in the same family. All three contain certain similar oils to which many people are very allergic. Members of the rose family, such as blackberries, apples and of course, roses, have a typically reddish cast to their new growth.

It also fascinates me how within a plant family, just like a human family, “siblings” can have vastly different “personalities.” My strawberry bush, if you will forgive the anthropormorphism, is a meek little thing that struggles to rise above the tall grass at the forest edge. But it has a sibling in the family that is wild, aggressive and generally hated: Oriental bittersweet, a non-native vine, grows thickly enough to girdle and kill even the tallest trees. Do not be a fool and buy this from your local nursery, if said nursery is irresponsible enough to stock it.

Another “sibling,” Celastrius paniculatus, is used as an aphrodisiac in its native India.

Yet another sibling furnishes the African drug “khat,” which is illegal in the United States.

None of these are actually trees, even though the family goes by the Staff Tree name. Very strange.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Saga of a dirty rag

I was north on I-95 and had just inserted Bach into the CD player -- no easy task since many a schnitzel und bier has fattened him up these days -- and was being treated to a glorious crescendo of organ music when it hit me:

A dirty rag gone a-journeying slapped the front of my car.

Perhaps it was a shred of magic carpet past its prime. Or maybe the wing of a horrible harpy.

It twisted and writhed but remained astride the front of my hood. I slowed down but it did not let go. I sped up to 85 mph, just for a moment, but though its gyrations became a frenzied blur, still it stubbornly held its position.

It is hard to enjoy good music and a blue-sky afternoon when a disgusting piece of garbage is dancing in front of you.

Now I began to consider ethics. Had I now become the legally responsible owner of this gross thing? If I were to stop and pry it off my grille, would I be liable for littering? Would I be obligated to deposit it in my own home trash can, teeming with whatever filth or toxic chemical saturated its fibers? If it broke loose on its own and someone saw it escape from the region of my car, would I see blue lights flashing behind me?

I pulled behind a huge truck loaded with I-beams. The mighty lorry must have sent a great gust my way, for finally, after twenty miles of unhappy companionship, the rag took leave of me and hit the pavement to await a new victim.

Perhaps it will continue traveling like this all the way to Chubb Crater, Quebec, annoying countless hapless drivers, for years on end. Sacre bleu!

Saga of a dirty rag

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tale of a tree

Just beyond the warped ruins of my backyard fence, reminder of a hurricane's wrath,grows a sapling. I think it is hickory.

I'm not a tree expert but the leaves, pinnate and large, suggest that.

Today, after cyber-visiting Kat's lush Georgia forest, where She seems to know every frog, every insect and every flower, I resolved to better know my own East Coast forest.

I might as well let slip a harmless fact, a little bit of my identity. I live in Virginia.

That wasn't so hard.

So anyway, although my time was short tonight, I stepped into the Virginia forest for a moment and contemplated that possibly-hickory sapling.

I'm not a tree expert but I love trees. And there is much to love about a hickory.

Like most members of the walnut tribe, it bears nuts and its foliage is very fragrant.

Most species in the genus, Carya, produce edible nuts, including the famous pecan. I learned tonight that the Native Americans made a delicious cream from the nut oil, which was used in most of their cookery. Their word for this delicacy gives the tree the name by which we know it.

To figure out which kind of hickory this little tree is, I'm going to have to count the number of leaflets in each leaf, observe the bark as it grows older and pay attention to the way its leaves bud out in the spring.

Hickory, along with oak, elm and chestnut, was a king of the primeval American forest, but like them, suffered heavily at the hands of my European ancestors. However, it's not OUR fault that this genus,which once ranged as far as Africa, long ago receded to just the American continent and the eastern edge of Asia.

Update: Whence the genus name, Carya? It derives from Artemis Caryatis, an epithet of Artemis, that was derived from the city of Karyae in Laconia; there an archaic open-air temenos was dedicated to Carya, the Lady of the Nut-Tree. The particular form of veneration of Artemis at Caryae suggests that in pre-classical ritual a Carya was a goddess of the nut tree who was later assimilated into the Olympian goddess Artemis. [Wikipedia].

A nervy question

Why do people speak of someone "having a lot of nerve" when they do things that are rude, stupid and/or likely to lead to pain and suffering?

Wouldn't someone with an excess of nerves be more inclined to avoid pain-producing scenarios and hide under the bed?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Welcome, Ian!

I haven't linked anyone in a while. Just been too busy. But Ian of "Or So I Thought" has visited here several times now, and I love his witty blog and so it is high time to make the connection.

Just an aside: I grew up thinking that name was pronounced Ee-yan. Even today, I have to catch myself and remember that the I in this case is pronounced "sh." Such were the pitfalls of an avid youthful reader, whose first encounter with many words was on the printed page, not in my ears. I pronounced all sorts of words the way that seemed logical to me, until I actually heard them spoken for the first time.

Carbon question

Been reading about this element in my encyclopedia this week.

We all know that common graphite and uncommon diamonds are both forms of carbon. Allatropes.

We know that carbon is the building block of life, the carbo- in carbohydrates -- sugars and such.

But I am wondering how "solid" carbon appeared on our planet in the first place, with the Earth never having plunged to the temperatures required to solidify most other gases. Other solidified gases are not found in elemental form on our planet, such as oxygen, only as components. You've got to really cold planets like Jupiter to find them in that form.

And how does a solid, tangible, visible measure of carbon, combine with some other gas to become invisible, such as in carbon dioxide?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chocolate and germs

According to the Associated Press, a study in the Journal of Proteome Research finds that "people who crave daily chocolate show signs of having different colonies of [intestinal] bacteria than people who are immune to its allure."

This study raises several questions:

What the hell is a proteome?

Where did these researchers find people immune to the allure of chocolate? Did it involve shovels and a cemetery?

And since the Western world has only known the delight of chocolate for 500 years, what did that germ do in our tummies before it was introduced to the stuff? Make us crave mead and barley cakes?

Or did Europeans get this germ from kissing Aztecs?

A Lady indeed

Always readable.

Always interesting.

Always a blend of wisdom and humor.

This is the Lady LayDdee, whose gift is coverage of celebrity culture. She is neither a hater nor a drooler.

Today She has covered the recent Women in Hollywood awards -- textually and photographically.

Check out Her work at

Monday, October 15, 2007

A memory and a lesson learned

From my journal, twenty years ago this week, in high school:

"Today, something happened and I have to tell someone. I was at the bus stop, watching this Girl across the street smashing Her pepsi-bottle on a rock, so I missed most of the conversation, but I turned around in time to see Maile on the verge of homicide. She was almost crying with fury. This little wise guy Michael was cringing on the ground. Terrence grabbed Her and prevented Her from killing Michael. Apparently Michael had chucked this major insult at Her about being “easy.” It really hurt Her.

Anyway, the whole thing scared me, cause I used to think it was funny to insult people like that, but now I see how much it really can hurt."

And then, they were gone ...

"We sold them," he said.

"You sold them?" I repeated stupidly.

"Yep. No one was checking them out," he said.

So now they are gone, that whole row of weighty tomes, the Cambridge Ancient History. I have been driving the extra ten miles to this library several times a year for a decade now, checking out each volume in turn, working my way from ancient Mesopotamia to the Augustan Age.

My neighborhood library, as I've mentioned before, is worthless for such things.

The only ones left on the shelf, ironically, are the volumes that I have checked out, probably, as the librarian said, because I had checked them out, proving that some human being actually found those volumes interesting.

Nobody but me ever cared to check them out but when they were put up for sale, some lucky bibliophile snapped them all up, probably for a buck a book -- a steal of gargantuan proportions.

I gave the man my number and he promised to call me if they decide to evict the rest of the collection.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I've got to stop making blog promises

This was the weekend that I was supposed to catch up on blogging. To answer all the comments to my posts and then go visit my favorite sites.

And I was going to make bread, too.

I didn't do any of that. Bad ECD, bad.

I did, however, finally clean up the huge pile of newspaper clips on my study room floor -- which will now be a fruitful source of writing ideas. And I weeded and mulched the garden.

I don't dare make any more blog promises. Time just slips away. I will write when I can, comment when I can. Gotta be honest.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fun in the forecast

The weekend is due in just a few hours. No work commitments, no family obligations -- I shall enjoy it. I don't get to blog much during the week, or read or do anything except work and sleep.

Sweetie groaned when I picked up a book at the bargain store tonight.

"Another cookbook?"

But this book was special. It was a big, fat, glorious, full-color book all about bread -- bread from Britain, bread from India, even bread from Australia. A history of bread. Bread recipes.

I like making bread. I'm pretty good at it. And I intend to use this one.

I followed a quick German cornbread recipe tonight,from my old book. It was a little dry. I added nearly a cup more milk than it called for and the dough was still dry. Well, Germany isn't known as the land of cornbread anyway, so perhaps I expected too much.

Sweetie says it will be just fine with a little raspberry jelly for garnish.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rant about plastic

What chokes baby albatrosses and sea turtles, is imported from rotten countries whose leaders use the profits to run their murderous regimes, produces poison fumes if overheated and is EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING today?


I hate it.

I am aware that plastic jars and bottles are safer than glass. They bounce, but don't break. Plastic wrap keeps germs out. But is a plastic shield really necessary for a Barbie doll?

I wonder if the number of people visiting emergency rooms thanks to broken glass on their kitchen floor might be roughly close to the number of people visiting emergency rooms because they slashed their hands trying to cut open plastic.

Last night, I saw a commercial for yet another brilliant use for the stuff: individually plastic-wrapped prunes. Do these people get payoffs from OPEC? Do they care at all that our oil payments go to lovely people like Putin, Chavez, Ahmednijani or whatever the hell his name is, and the thugs running Myanmar?

Save yourself, child, before it's too late!

It is a pivotal moment in the life of a human being.

There they are, wobbling on fat toddler legs, reaching for the junk piled up on your desk. A sticky paw swings widely – will it grab the calculator or the pen?

If the calculator is seized, chances are the child will do well in math, become a banker or an accountant and live a pleasant life as a member of the Rotary Club, the Country Club or some other genial organization. People in banquet halls will clap politely as his or her accomplishments are listed. He or she will grow pretty petunias and have neatly trimmed hedges and a well-fertilized lawn.

But woe to the poor child who grabs the pen. He or she will suck at math and thus hate school, where math, like the flu, must periodically be endured for no apparent reason. He or she will live a wretched life, forever expressing opinions at which others take offense, collecting enemies like some people collect stamps and constantly worrying whether his paycheck will cover the cost of toilet paper for the month.

Insane people will call her, expressing bizarre theories about the local Freemasons or the corruption in the sheriff’s office.

“This will make a great story,” they declare. “It has everything to do with what happened to Kennedy! You’re just the one [translation = damned fool] to write it!”

And he will grow strange and wild plants, if anything at all, and a lawn speckled with dandelions to which the neighbors will take great umbrage.

Darlene, Part III

She was my original Isis. Smart and so very beautiful.

I've blogged a couple of times now about Darlene Tsue and I have tried, in vain, to conduct Internet people searches for Her. The closest that I have come is a traffic court listing in Mesa, Arizona, that may or may not be Her and a eulogy to a Darlene Tsue who passed away several years ago, who I pray is not Her. Today, I'm happy to see that Isis is the number one result that pops up in an Internet search for Her.

Maybe She will find this place if, God willing, She is still alive. Who knows what can happen in 20 years? She would be about 37 years old now, a few years older than me, still so very young.

I just want to say "thank you" to Her for being who She was and for what She did for me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ela's new blog

Ms. Braveheart Ela, whose blog, Time Particular, intrigues and captivates with enigmatic, symbolic paintings, has just created a new blog, Time Recorded.

Her first entry is about a lush, beautiful West Coast forest. Worth a visit.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A fool who said no

It was a warm evening in spring, on the beautiful island of Oahu, where I spent my teenage years. She came to me, a dark-haired beauty with mischievous eyes and that unforgettable Polynesian complexion.

She took my hand and asked me to dance.

I would not go. I did not know how to dance.

She tugged some more, beckoning me to join Her. I held my ground.

She dropped my hand sharply and disappeared into the dancing crowd. I never saw Her again.

I do not give in to peer pressure. That is one of my virtues -- and one of my flaws. The harder that you cajole, the more I will dig in. But She was not asking me to shoplift or to smoke pot. She was asking me to dance and I was a fool to say no.

That was more than 20 years ago but I remember it to this day. We were all kids, none of us dance experts. Nobody would have cared at all if I didn't know how to groove like John Travolta.

I would have had fun. I might have made a new friend.

But I stood there and watched Her walk away.

LGS tagged me to report on a dance in my life and I pass this tag on to Leslie, a master storyteller if ever there was one.

Living Room Visitor

Pretty little thing, isn't it, in spite of my amateur photographic skills. I really should take a class for this.

Fear -- an unfinished post

What do you fear?

I fear typical things: icy highways, hypodermic needles, extreme heights, being cut with knives.

People who do not share one's fears can be extremely annoying as they ridicule you or offer misguided advice -- utterly failing to understand that fear observes no rule of logic and is an extremely powerful force.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pondering salt

I am a strange duck, a weird little crumpet. Since I first learned about the elements in the universe, back in school,they have fascinated me ... helium, barium, uranium, etc., etc., the building blocks of the universe.

Tonight I am pondering sodium, one of the crucial elements of life. We all must imbibe of this metal to keep our cells humming happily.

Sodium marries carbon and creates soda. Not the brown fizzy stuff in a bottle that people drink because they like dental caries. Rather, the white powder that sits in a box in the back of your refrigerator absorbing the stench of onions and old fish.

Soda once led a more glamorous life. For the ancient Egyptians, it served as soap. And it was a vital part of sacred purification ceremonies, for the living and for the dead.

"Thy heart is pure, cleansed is thy front with washing, thy back with cleansing water, thine inward parts with soda and natron ..." (Papyrus Louvre N. 3284, Book of Breathings).

It may seem odd and grotesque to our Western minds, but the Egyptians believed that this soda was the saliva of the gods -- and that, to them, was not a bad thing.

I think about Jesus, next door in Israel, some years later, using saliva in some of his miracles without the recipient or witnesses apparently being horrified, and wonder if similar concepts were at work ... but that is digressing.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

"Just" a Girl?

Sometimes, For Love of Woman, Sisterblog to Isis, overflows -- points are made that I want to share here.

I have begun to read a very important book, by Denise Linn, The Glory and Pleasure of Being a Woman.

Obviously, I'm not a Woman, so why should I care?

Because I am blessed to have the friendship and love of Women in my life -- my Mother, my Sweetie, my Sister, my colleagues.

The book opens with Linn's anti-epiphany -- discovering to Her hurt that She is "just a Girl," in the words of some boys in Her neighborhood.

So we discussed this on FLOW and Kat, who blogs there and here and on, shared some great examples of how She has found personal empowerment.

She shared unmistakable evidence that a Girl/Woman can be compassionate, brave, quick-thinking, resolute, heroic and In The Right Place at the Right Time.

This is what we must resolve to teach the young Girls who pass through our lives -- our Sisters, our Daughters, our Nieces, our students, our friends.

When She stands at that pyschological crossroads, having been hit to the heart with Her first dose of misogyny -- just a Girl! -- I pray that we will be there to lift up Her chin and clear up the hurt and confusion in Her eyes.

To say: Yes, You are a Girl -- and what a great thing that is!

Because You are a Girl, You are blessed with gifts and strengths that no boy will ever have -- things You can't even begin to comprehend at this time.

Because You are a Girl, You are part of a universal Sisterhood -- and Your friendships with Them will be deeper and more intimate and wonderful than any bonds ever forged between men.

Yes, You are a Girl -- and thank God for that, because You are needed in this world, with all the magic and joy that You will bring to it!

Someday, that boy who tried to insult You today, will be begging for Your friendship and more -- and if he hasn't gotten any smarter by then, walk away from him with a smile, because child, he ain't worth Your time!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Monster management

It is of course impossible to know the thoughts of people who have vanished long ago, especially if they did not write them down.

The program that I watched last night attempted to do just that, though – ascribing the extinction of the Australian Giant Ripper Lizard to a methodical extermination campaign by Aborigines tired of being snacked on by the beast.

It’s easy to feel a pang for the loss of the moa bird, the eastern bison, the Irish elk or tropical frogs. It’s harder to feel sorrow at the extinction of a horrific, slimy-mouthed monster that could eat a man for lunch and still be hungry. Especially if it roamed the very lands we roam, rather than lurking in the ocean depths or in some swamp, where a man ought to be more cautious venturing and in which a fool hath no business to be.

Here’s an interesting hypothetical. Suppose that somebody out exploring the Outback of Australia, discovered that a few specimens of the Giant Ripper Lizard were still hanging on, say in some remote forest.

Suppose that after this discovery, it was learned that the beasts were reproducing and, with most of the Aborigine hunters eliminated or occupied in other tasks since the arrival of the Europeans, were beginning to spread again across the continent.


Conservationists, presented with this scenario, should the ancient extinction campaign be renewed? After all, you are not talking about a beast that stays in some swamp for the most part or that can be controlled by even the bravest, toughest crocodile wrestler. You are talking about 900 pounds of land-roving, man-eating lizard also packing a mouthful of deadly bacteria.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Nightmare neighbors

Eh, my neighbors are okay. They make noise now and then, and I'd sell them for a nickel to passing Martian raiders, but even the nastiest neighbors pale before the beasts that menaced the childhood of humankind.

It was wonderful tonight to a)not spray/drip/dribble nasal mucus every five minutes and b)actually have three delicious hours between work and bedtime to do nothing but lie on the floor and watch tv.

I think it's been a month since I last turned the thing on.

Telly, I've missed you so. Tonight, you taught me about horrible monsters that shared the world with my ancestors, long, long ago.

I already knew about saber-toothed tigers and even that terrifying eagle in New Zealand that could, would and did hunt the first people to settle there.

But I did not know about this bad boy:

Megalania, aka the Giant Ripper Lizard. The biggest lizard that ever lived. Makes a Komodo dragon look like a Chihuahua.

900 pounds of angry ugliness. And a mouth that drooled toxic bacteria in its sputum. Kind of like a guy with a bad cold.

On a sunny day, it was unstoppable and it ate people like a preteen camper eats marshmallows and beef jerky.

But it had a weakness -- the same weakness to which all its scaly kin are prone: its cold blood kept it slow in the morning chill. Set a wildfire in the early a.m. and even this monstrous beast was helpless.

Ripper rips no more. Neither does the short-nosed bear, that giant eagle or a whole bunch of other beasts that once cracked human skulls.

We burned them out, starved them out, speared them out, we, the naked ape with the big brain.

(Photo courtesy of the BBC, which must have faced some challenges in procuring it, since the Giant Ripper Lizard's demise predates the invention of the camera.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The last face many bugs ever see

Dawn makes me laugh

You simply must visit Dawn (now at and read about Her devious dog and an escapade with a sweet potato. It's the funniest thing I've read in ages.

First, be sure that you are sitting down, have recently emptied your bladder and are not in a workspace cubicle where chortles, chuckles and belly-laughs might get your fired.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The secret of lasting joy

What is the secret to lasting joy, to keeping a child's sense of wonder, to living the exultant life, to finding miracles every day?

It is embodied in this glorious statement by Kat (

"All my life my everything I most have loved and appreciated is this life this world this everything and its every expression everywhere with all that crawls and flies and creeps and leaps and bounds and runs and hops, their every voice, their every circumstance."

What a magical outlook on life.

Connections ...

About a year ago, I discovered that our local fine arts museum had acquired one of the sculptures upon which Nathaniel Hawthorne based his novel, "The Marble Faun."

So I went to the museum and then read the book. Visiting the museum was the easy part. Finding the book wasn't. As usual, the local bookstore had never heard of it and my county library --- pfft, I've seen auto repair shops with more books in stock than that place.

There appears to be some idea that Nathaniel Hawthorne only wrote one book, "The Scarlet Letter," then was whisked off into outer space by Martians, never to write again.

But eventually, I found it. And read it. And liked it. And I recommend it. It beautifully breathes the spirit of 19th century Rome.

Fast forward to this evening, when I took my Sweetie to get Her hair done.

I picked up an odd magazine in the lobby, "Garden and Gun." I kid you not. Only in the South would one find such a combo. I'm not much into periodicals about shooting things, so I don't know why I bothered even to crack it open, especially since I had Plutarch with me, on my designated reading list.

I am so glad that I did.

Buried amongst tales of bullet-riddled waterfowl was a gem of an article about the Elizabethan Gardens of North Carolina, USA. They have been planted on the very spot where the so-called Lost Colony was founded more than 400 years ago -- the first serious attempt of the English to settle North America.

In these gardens stands a statue. If I get permission, I will post a photo of it.


"This graceful statue is the artist’s version of an adult Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World. Sculpted of Carrara marble in Italy by American sculptor, Maria Louisa Lander in 1859, the statue spent two years at the bottom of the sea following a shipwreck off the coast of Spain. The statue was salvaged and shipped to Boston, where it survived a fire. In 1923, Miss Lander willed the statue to the State of North Carolina, where it was displayed in several buildings but was eventually sent to the basement of the old Supreme Court Building as some found her lack of clothing objectionable."

But from tonight's magazine reading, I have learned that Ms. Lander was a Salem native, who, like Her fellow Salem-ite, the aforementioned Hawthorne, left that city for the Eternal City, Rome, about the same time that he did. She stopped in London along the way and saw drawings by John White, Virginia Dare's grandfather. The story of that vanished child fascinated Her, and when She got to Rome, She created in clay Her vision of what the Girl would have looked like as an adult, then had an Italian carve it in marble. It is speculated that the statue's beautiful figure is based on Her own, of which She was justifiably proud.

Meanwhile, Lander had befriended Hawthorne and he based a character in "The Marble Faun" on Her.

What a fascinating web of connections. And to think that, for me, they came together in "Garden and Gun Magazine."

Monday, October 1, 2007

Isis does not burn witches

A friend of mine who practices Wicca has been slammed on Her blog today for that. How lame.

Do these same intolerant people freak out if a Hindu moves next door? Do they foam at the mouth to discover that the nice old Japanese gentleman down the street practices Shinto?

Wiccans (please be respectful enough to call them what they want to be called, not some derogatory old slur, same as you would like for your religion)do not huddle round cauldrons of newt eyes and bat wings. And they're not in the crop blighting business.

If you harbor some deep belief that they are lost souls on the road to hell, fine, you are entitled to your opinions. But do you really expect to win their souls back with threats, insults and imprecations?

I'm not Wiccan. But I will afford its adherents the same respect that I do adherents of Sikhism, Catholicism, Judaism, etc. There's too much hate in this world -- stop feeding it!

What October brings ...

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Thoughts: Mammograms save lives. They are not a luxury but a necessity. If You are a Woman, please get one. If you are a man, gently encourage the Women in your life to have one.

Be familiar with the Center for Disease Control's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which provides access to high-quality breast cancer screenings and treatment to uninsured or underinsured Women, with an emphasis on Women between ages 50-64.

More information: 1-800-ACS-2345.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hurting feelings

Remember when you were a kid and you grabbed a stick and played swordfight with some friend or a sibling?

Greatest fun in the world, until and unless one of you actually scored a point of pain, jabbing a tender place -- hopefully never an eye. Then the tears and the recriminations erupted.

I love words. I wouldn't be a blogger if I didn't.

But wordplay is swordplay, of a different type.

Every now and then, something that I write is going to jab a tender spot in one of my readers. It's happened four times now, with four different people. Usually, it will be absolutely unintentional. Unless You are a misogynist, a terrorist, a slow driver in the fast lane, an abuser or molester of children, a bigot or a fan of Charles Manson, I probably don't hate you and didn't mean to hurt your feelings.

I hope that we can always understand that. I don't link people whose blogs I don't greatly respect. And I write in sincerity. I believe what I profess to believe.

A smart bit of psychology

"So what do you do?" he said, bouncing the little ball up and down, playing the part of an obnoxious kid in the classroom.

I stood in a corner, looking over the room-full of new teachers, wondering what their answer might be, wondering what my answer would be if I were a teacher.

"Call security!" someone suggested.

What would you do, indeed, as a classroom teacher confronted with a ball-bouncing, directive-ignoring, will-testing little kid?

How do you overpower such a child pyschologically, how do you break his will and impose yours?

That was what we all seemed to wonder.

The facilitator wandered up to the front of the room, where a panel of experienced teachers was in place.

"What would you do?" he asked one of them.

"Hey, let me show you how to juggle," the teacher said, extending a hand casually for the ball and tossing it back and forth for a few minutes.

I imagined a class rapt with attention and surprise.

"Bring your ball in tomorrow before class and I'll show you some juggling tricks," the teacher continued.

Then he handed it back to the "child." And he bade him sit down so that the regular lesson might continue.

Heads nodded.

I came away profoundly moved. This veteran knew better, much better than I or these others had, how to reach the heart of a child. How to win by strategy, by friendliness, not by a battle of wills. How to proceed without fear or anger.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Happy Sukkoth

Happy Sukkoth (Jewish Harvest Festival) to any Isis readers who celebrate it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


One of my little pleasures in life (besides growing a garden where I can grow vegetables without a bunch of pesticides and a long ride in some truck to get to my table) is to find edibles in the wild.

Some call it foraging.

Euell Gibbons wrote the classic book on the subject back in 1962, "Stalking the Wild Asparagus." Now that is one guy I would love to have for a neighbor.

From his book I have learned the right way to enjoy dandelions - when they are young and tender -- and about other nourishing goodies such as candied acorns, daylily pods and (non-poison) sumac berries. From other sources, I learned about the edible bulbs of spring beauty and how to chew the stem of a sweetgum leaf for, well, the sweetgum. But I am still a novice.

And until today, I had completely ignored the last half of his book, on wild mushrooms.

My parents are into wild mushrooms but they live thousands of miles away and so their knowledge is hard to share.

Ela suggested that I had photographed oyster mushrooms the other day. And after three other experts looked at the photos and agreed, including my parents, I took the chance. Like Trisia noted below, deadly mushrooms tend to grow out of the soil, not out of logs. And they don't tend to grow in huge clumps either.

So I dabbed the alleged oyster mushrooms with a wet paper towel -- you're never supposed to rinse or soak mushrooms in water, it makes them tough -- then sauteed them with a little butter. I took one careful, little bite.

Absolutely, utterly delicious! Not like the store-brand mushrooms at all. A little gamey and with just a hint of bitterness that only added to the flavor.

I couldn't help myself. I ate almost the whole pan full.,

Five hours have passed. I am not yet dead.

I have entered a wonderful new world.