Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My first meme

After politely putting off doing one of these meme things forever, I have finally succumbed, to the lure of the Lone Grey Squirrel. So,here it is: I will compel no one else to follow but feel free to do so of your own free will.

FIVE FAVORITE SONGS:
1. I Will Always Love You – the Dolly Parton original.
Dolly’s voice could induce global warming on Pluto.

2. All Love Can Be – Charlotte Church.
Another Woman with an angel’s voice.

3. Concrete Angel – Martina McBride
An achingly powerful indictment of child abus and those who abet it by looking the other way. If this song didn’t put a lump in your throat the first time you heard it, you might check your pulse.

4. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
Hey, not every one of my favorite songs is serious and/or sung by a Woman!

5. Jesu, the Very Thought is Sweet -- Bernard of Clairvaux
A sweet, elegant, simple hymn.

FIVE FAVORITE FILMS:
1. A Beautiful Mind
Powerful. Poignant. Leaves you wth a new perspective on dealing with mental illness.

2. Grease
It’s a stupid movie. The moral is deplorable, as well: Take up smoking and dress like white trash to catch a man. But I saw it when I was seven and it wrapped certain tendrils around my personality that I cannot escape. A guilty pleasure.

4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Soooh funny! John Candy earned his place in heaven with this classic comedy– and if you don’t cry at the ending, once again, you are probably dead.

5. Cinema Paradisio.
An old foreign film, a bout a boy and an old man and their unlikely friendship. Saw it in college and its sweet memory lingers in my heart.

FIVE FAVORITE BOOKS:
1. Charlotte’s Web: One of the first books I ever remember reading. How I loved sweet, gentle Fern, goofy Wilbur and of course, Charlotte.

2. Lucretius: On the Nature of Things. A surprisingly good read for such an old book. Probes into the nature of the universe, from the mindset of a brilliant Roman of the first century of our era.

3. The Collier’s Encyclopedia. I get teased for reading this, but I have found fascinating details of history, biography and world culture in its pages that I would never have otherwise learned.

4. The Egyptian Book of Breathings and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Two ancient books that remind us how long humanity has hoped for immortality – and which express that hope in beautiful prose.

5. The Hardy Boys series. I had to include these because I read about 170 of them as a kid and if I have developed any vocabulary beyond the level of Homer Simpson, these books are the reason why.



FIVE FAVORITE CRUSHES:
1. Laura Ingalls Wilder, aka Melissa Gilbert. I loved that spunky little pioneer in my earliest childhood and vowed to marry Her, long before I was old enough to understand that the original pioneer was dead and the actress who played Her was not likely to show up at my school or accept my proposal.

2. Audrey Hepburn: What is not to love about this enchanting, playful, elegant Goddess of a Woman? She was a Star who never let us down.

3. Daisy Duke. Yeah, I was a typical young man of that era who greatly appreciated Her, umm, taste in dress.

4. Andrea Parker. From the Pretender television series. Beautiful but tough as nails on the outside – not hard to imagine Her bringing you down with a boot to the groin and then grinding out Her cigarette on your face – but if you watched the show long enough, you glimpsed the real Woman behind the fa├žade – a Woman who actually did have a heart.

5. Oliva Newton John. See Grease, above. A beautiful Woman. Even in trashy spandex smoking an ugly corktip.

FIVE FAVORITE RANDOM THINGS:
1. Wildflowers.
2. Foods I have never tried before.
3. Swimming in real water (i.e., rivers and creeks, not chlorinated pools.)
4. Toads and hedgehogs.
5. Interesting people.

Monday, June 22, 2009

And you thought being a teenager was tough in your part of the world?

From Wikipedia:

The Satere-Mawe people of Brazil use intentional bullet ant stings as part of their initiation rites to become a warrior. The ants are first rendered unconscious by submerging them in a natural chloroform, and then hundreds of them are woven into a glove made out of leaves (which resembles a large oven mitt), stinger facing inward. When the ants regain consciousness, a boy slips the glove onto his hand.

The goal of this initiation rite is to keep the glove on for a full ten minutes. When finished, the boy's hand and part of his arm are temporarily paralyzed because of the ant venom, and he may shake uncontrollably for days. The only "protection" provided is a coating of charcoal on the hands, supposedly to confuse the ants and inhibit their stinging. To fully complete the initiation, however, the boys must go through the ordeal a total of 20 times over the course of several months or even years.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Back in touch

If I could have just one wish ...

(and it couldn't be for more wishes, world peace, prosperity for all, an end to all misogyny or a picnic with God)

...I might wish to be able to re-contact anyone in the world I have ever met.

I would find that little Girl, all grown up now of course, of whom I made fun in second grade for Her drab lunch box. I would beg Her forgiveness.

I would find the bully who tormented me in third grade -- and have a nice conversation during the visiting hours at his penitentiary.

I would find Kekulani S., whose every molecule I worshipped in eighth grade, whose footstep in the dust I would certainly have kissed given half a chance back then, and ask Her forgiveness for having tried to steal Her hairbrush as a keepsake of my juvenile idolatry.

I would track down Lara S., whom I wanted to love in college but just couldn't force the spark and whom I had to let go when I fell in love with my Beloved -- I would meet Her lucky husband and shake his hand and tell him to always be good to Her.

And I would render grateful thanks to a number of people who have been good to me in my life.

I don't know why this has weighed upon my mind lately. I fear that I have been wasteful in my life with the precious gift of human interaction. It is not titles or stuff that matter as the years advance: it is the gold of human intimacy.

Last week I googled the address of an old boss, my first real boss. I wrote a letter to him. I still haven't sent it. I intend to do so this weekend.

Facebook has been good for this. I am now back in sporadic contact with Darlene Tsu, as my longtime blog readers know, and other friends of whom I thought I had lost track forever ... my old buddy Jim B. (the B. is not short for Beam); and Heather from high school, too; and possibly I will be able to track down my one-time best friend Lawrence.

Just today, I Facebook-searched a former mentee from a writing class I taught years ago -- and it was great to re-connect with this brilliant soul, who now lives in Italy, vowing never to lose touch again.

Of Days



Friday.



Monday.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Garden Dreams

As I consider the lilies today ...

My yard needs so much work. I am rarely there, an absence not by choice.

I dream of colorful beds of flowers, a Thomas Kinkaide sort of fantasy. Reality is stubborn-as-hell wire grass everywhere and the never-ending struggle with Virginia's capricious weather.

I will be giving a clump of some very special daylilies to a relative this week, a unique cultivar that was given to me years ago by a couple who were passionate about hemerocallis.

Good gardeners are givers and thus they live on. In my little 1/4 acre, flowering almonds and apple trees were the gift of an old friend now lost in the fog of dementia. Fragrant thyme came to me from a friend who has now passed away. Honesty plant with its purple blooms and silvery seed disc, evokes the memory of my great Grandmother, who grew it out West -- my Great Grandmother who I have discovered this week was a player for Her turn-of-the-century high school Girls basketball team. Imagine that.

I will make room for lilies this month.

Reflections upon a Lily Show

I walked today amongst lilies
Of every size and color

I paused before a bloom of bold and brassy bronze
And then a bud barely there
demure and downcast

I almost wished to lift its petals
To face the sun again.

And then I realized as I drove away
This is metaphor for Woman
in all Her wonders
In the garden of our world.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A dimunitive beauty


When A.R. and I went hiking the other day, I was excited to find one of my old-time woodland neighbors in bloom. It only grows in two places that I know of in the entire forest behind my house. She wanted to pick it but I had to help Her understand that this flower is too scarce to do that.

The little beauty is called Chimaphila maculata (Spotted wintergreen.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nature Walk

My little Niece-in-Law, A.R., showed up to Sunday dinner dressed beautifully, as always, in a dress and fancy shoes. I reminded Her that we had talked about a nature walk for the afternoon, so She got Her PaPa to drive Her home to change.

I am a firm believer that for a child to be pyschologically healthy, they need to have times where they learn the importance of being dressed up,clean and mannerly; and they also need times where they are out and about in the dirt and the mud, or learning how to use basic tools to take things apart; or just reveling in being alive. That goes one hundred percent for Girls as well as boys.

I had so looked forward to this nature walk, especially since acquiring Rachel Carson's book recently about helping children to maintain their sense of natural wonder.

I was very honored to be trusted, I a grown man, by myself with the safety and care of this little Girl. That is so rare of a parent these days, with very good reason. You may know, and I certainly know, that I would select the slowest and most painful death possible for myself rather than hurt a child in any possible way -- but a parent cannot read a caregiver's mind. Trust. It was all about trust.

So, finally, we meandered down into the woods. She was far too little to use my big walking stick, so we found Her one that was more Her size. I remembered what Carson wrote and just let A.R. explore and ask questions, rather than be subjected to a litany of botanical nomenclature.

I did point out and identify poison ivy and help her remember the tricks to identifying it: leaves of three; with smooth, not sawtoothed edges.

She found the skull of a raccoon or possum and insisted on bringing it home ... along with a handful of rocks, little freshwater clam shells and a sprig of wild ginger.

We reached the creek and She was a little reluctant to take Her shoes off and dip Her feet into the water -- but again remembering Carson, I knew that She needed that sensory experience. So I didn't press the issue. I dipped my toes in the water first and She eventually did the same.

I let Her clamber around on the creek boulders, ever poised to catch Her if She slipped, biting my tongue as She neared the edge where the water flows a little fast, doing my best to keep the difficult but necessary balance between over-protection and risk.

The hike wasn't all pleasant. She hit up at one point against a nasty branch of multiflora rose and it hurt -- but these experiences are needed, too, the development of woodland awareness -- one always watches where one's feet are going -- critical not just for avoiding thorns but also snakes and ankle-twisting loose rocks or holes.

She came home a little muddy, a little soppy, but full of excitement about Her day and the treasures that She had found. I hope we made some memories, the kind that I treasure from my own childhood.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A failure to help


I am a fast lane freeway driver.

Freeways are boring, especially when one is traversing the same one that one has traversed for decades.

So I do not dawdle.

There is a drawback to this, however. One, my view is invariably one of a long, grimy concrete jersey wall. The scenery two lanes over to my right is just a vague green blur.


Two, I like to help people. Just always have. Was raised that way. Going 70-ish on the freeway, by the time your eyes register someone on the side of the road hefting a spare tire and your brain beats down all the reasons that you shouldn't stop, you are a quarter mile ahead of said person and your chance to help is gone.

Today, I espied a young lady crouched in the most dangerous of places, on the freeway shoulder beside her driver's side tire, preparing to change a flat, or possibly already in the last stages of doing so.

Stop and help? A mere second or so of cudgeling my inner wimp into submission -- I'd be late for work, I might die, etc. -- and I was ready to be of assistance. But of course, I couldn't. I was too far left and too far ahead.

Nevertheless, I decided to turn around at the next exit and go back. I did, but She and the car were gone. She'd done the job just fine on Her own, which is entirely to be expected of a sensible Woman in the 21st Century.

I couldn't help but feel that my need for speed cost me this morning, the chance to dirty my hands but brighten a day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Water Willow


I was so excited this Memorial Day when, down at a certain wetland with my Sweetie, I discovered Water Willow in bloom.I have searched for this plant for years, ever since first coming across it in a distant location where I have not seen it since.

It is of course not related to true willows, which don't have flowers like this. It's in the acanthus family, whose more typical members are thorny residents in dry areas. Acanthus leaves show up on a lot of ancient Greek art, for example.

The genus name for water willow, justicia, comes from James Justice, an 18th century Scottish botanist. I wonder if he choose it in a proud moment of discovery or whether it was homage paid by an admirer of his work. Things to research, things to research.

I trimmed off a stem and am now trying to root it in a bucket of water for eventual transplant into the bog garden that I hope to build someday in place of the crumbling deck in my backyard. I'm just not a sit-on-the-deck kind of guy.

Now I have a new quest: to find the only other representative of this family that is native to my area: the so-called wild petunia, ruellia spp. Once again, it is no relation to actual petunias, which are in the potent nightshade family.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Word of the Day

Adaw: Daunt or subdue: Comes from the Old English "of + dagum," literally "out of days."

"Daunt" sounds so sissy and foppish, like two dandies dueling. Far more true to our hairy, barbarian, Anglo-Saxon past is the grunted vow, "I shall adaw thee, thou vile curr, I shall end thy days like the dog thou art!"

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Glue traps

From sad experience, I have learned the following:

If you ever feel compelled to use a glue trap to catch mice or rats, and something gets caught on it that you didn't intend, such as a little bird -- can happen quite easily in a crawlspace or shed ...

Use vegetable oil to dissolve the glue and release the captive.