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Rumilluminations November 2011
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Tue, November 01 2011 - 5:52 pm

November 30, 2011                           Valparaiso, IN

I feel swamped, swapped, slandered and stranded.

I feel wanting, waspish, wounded and withered.

Blitzed, blundering, blank, blistered

Clamped, cramped, crowded, clouded

Funky, festering, faded and jaded.

The sun came out today and you could almost feel it slicing through the cold subfreezing air,

But it wasn't enough, November.

It wasn't enough.

November 28, 2011                           Valparaiso, IN

Recently I sold my wedding ring.  I lost track of it for a while, and a line from a Denise Levertov poem kept running through my head, "A gold ring lost in the house!"

When I found it, I decided to see if it would bring enough to make it worth while to let go of it.  After all, I was divorced eighteen years ago, and married twenty years before that, so it was high time.

Well, gold is very valuable right now, so I figured I might as well see what my ring was worth.  (We bought our rings for $10 in Mexico City in 1973.)

My eighteen carat gold ring brought $100!  I had to sign a statement that it had been in my possession for 38 years and put my thumbprint on the paper as well as my signature.  Interesting.

I have mixed feelings now about not having it.  I always figured it was a resource - something I could sell if I really was broke.  Now that little treasure is replaced by what?  Just some plain old ordinary money.

Still, it is good to know that I could help my daughter pay off her student loan with it, or party with it, or give it to help provide food for someone hungry, or....

As with my potential powerball winnings, I already have spent it, in my imagination, five times over!

November 27, 2011                            Valparaiso, IN

Sometimes I feel as if our current attitude towards marital relations is spreading into other aspects of our lives.

These days, when a married couple can't reconcile their differences, they get a divorce.  It is relatively simple, and relatively easy.  It might wreak havoc on the family, which is bad, but it might be better than a hateful union.

It makes me uneasy, however, to consider that this attitude might be too influential in, for instance, our government.

The House of Representatives and the Senate are not husband and wife.  One of them cannot say, "I've had it!" and relocate to another State.  A failure on the parts of these legislative bodies affects not just a family or community, but the entire stability of the U.S. and the whole world.

Sometimes I have an image of a divorce court with Obama in the role of judge trying to effect a reconciliation.

Grow up, Representatives and Senators!  Read some history and find out how far our country would have gotten without some people being willing to sacrifice ideas and conditions they passionately held to be of the utmost importance.

And here we are!

Nothing is so deleterious and dangerous as passive impasse and paralysis.

There is no divorce court for the United States of America but civil war.

Only nutcases want that.

November 26, 2011                            Valparaiso, IN

Balmy day.  A neighbor or two were raking up huge piles of leaves a week after I thought I had taken advantage of the last good day for yardwork.

Flower count:  pink chrysanthemums, fuchsia honeysuckle, forsythia, violets, day lily.  This is unbelievable.

Do we really need to move very far south to get away from the winters, or should we just sit tight and wait for the bad weather to retreat to the north?

Even cheating winter out of one month feels like immortality.

I could be a teenager again!

November 25, 2011                             Valparaiso, IN

We were so busy yesterday we didn't take our annual Thanksgiving Day walk, but today we made up for it.

It was sunny!  Not too cold.  October weather, and we walked further than usual.

November has not been cruel this year, and now it only has five more days for a turnaround.

We had Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch, and we will have more for supper, and I haven't yet tasted turkey.  This year's feast was truly royally medieval.  We had twenty dishes for ten people.  (Really! Not counting the wine!  About the only thing we haven't had is blackbird pie!)

I haven't shopped on Black Friday for years for obvious reasons, but today we went to resale shops, which weren't mobbed.  My sister got two woven pillows for $2 and I got a used belt for 99 cents.

The economy must be in an upturn!  I didn't spend a penny on black Friday last year.  If everyone spends one dollar more, what a boom year it will be.  Er, except maybe thrift stores don't count.

ZZzzz.  I'm tripping out on skipping out, or on tryptophan from pigging out.  Slipping out of consciousness, zzzzzzzzz. 

November 24, 2011     Thanksgiving      Valparaiso, IN

Just read that George W. Bush started a tradition of pardoning the turkey given to the White House each year by the National Turkey Federation.

Kind of ironic, isn't it, since Texas is one of the worst three states when it comes to pardoning men on death row?  I guess George W. is one of the "I love animals more than people" crowd.

November 23, 2011                           Valparaiso, IN

My partner is preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year.  He has been preparing it for days.  I think he has put more time, creativity, and energy into planning this dinner than I put into meals for my entire married family life, and I was the kind of person who would read cookbooks, slathering all the while.

Of course, it is easier slathering over recipes than executing wonderful variations on them.

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner, glad that this is a feast year, not a famine year.

There are years I was alone at Thanksgiving.  One year I went to a Chinese restaurant, thinking it would be immune from Thanksgiving celebration, and found it chock full of families.  It was the only time I have ever almost cried in a restaurant for self-pity.  Better off to stay at home.

I knew one man who, finding himself alone on Thanksgiving Day, ate a turkey sandwich on a park bench.  I have had brunch with another single person and spent the rest of the day alone.

I have worked at a whopping three times the hourly rate on one Thanksgiving catering, and another time borne a roast turkey with me to work.

Vegetarian Thanksgivings, Cornish hen Thanksgivings, duck Thanksgivings, no-official-Thanksgiving-at-all Thanksgiving in Mexico, where I was provincial enough to be surprised that I couldn't get turkey.

Restaurant Thanksgivings, communal Thanksgivings, home-cooked Thanksgivings.

The thing that I am most thankful for, now that I think about it, is that there have been so many Thanksgivings, so bountiful and full of food that I had to learn to just not eat so much.

This year promises to be one of the best Thanksgivings ever, and I think what I will enjoy the most (next to eating his food) is watching our Thanksgiving chef and our guests enjoy the fruits of his labor for at least the next three or four days!

And happy Thanksgiving to you, whether you are having a medieval style feast or a TV dinner!

November 22, 2011                            Valparaiso, IN

All you need to do if you want to know the range and depth of what Americans are like is watch reality TV.

Last night I saw something that I will not recover from for a long time.  My chin is scraped from dragging it around on the ground all day!

We saw a Monsters-In-Law show that featured a family that had only been able to pay rent because of help from the couple's parents and from their church.

They could not pay their own way in life and had to ask for help from others, even though the wife possessed over $20,000 worth of jewelry!

Now I don't know about you, but I'm not donating my widow's mite so some greedy lady can keep her $26,000 watch, not to mention a houseful of expensive electronic equipment.

I think my jaw is permanently dislocated.  What church do they go to, the Palace of Mammon?  Or that one run by that weird guy named Jesus that thinks it makes perfect sense to grab whatever anyone else is foolish enough to give you?

I would get on a soapbox and preach against this willful oblivion of the poverty in this country, let alone the world, but all that would come out is gibberish.

November 21, 2011                            Valparaiso, IN

In the Charles Mackay book I am reading (and almost, pant pant, finished with) he recounts a tale of a Christian in Spain who wants to settle the issue of which is the truer religion, that of Christ or that of Mohamet, once and for all with a duel.

The prelates of Spain, Charles Mackay wrote, did not want to put the strength of the Christian to the test and risk the reputation of Jesus thereby, so they forbade the contest.

Gee, isn't that too bad - and here the question could have been settled once and for all time and for all of humanity hundreds of years ago!  Dang!

Ha, ha, ha or should I say, HAHA?

November 20, 2011                             Valparaiso, IN

Living in a relatively small city with a relatively great abundance of Christian churches, I am dismayed by how little social structure exists for those who don't "have" religion.

Our contradance group is not religiously affiliated, although it does meet in the YMCA.  Whether this is enough to put off hard-core agnostics, atheists, and people of other religious faiths I do not know.

There are city programs in the parks.  There is a senior citizen center a block away from us in the old Banta School building that affords a good deal of social contact for those who want to avail themselves of it.

The Friends of the Library, though it offers up a prayer at its annual volunteer luncheon, otherwise does not seem to care about the religious affiliation of its members.  (I object to the prayer, but don't feel obliged to make a big deal out of it.  Maybe I should.)

Still, I just feel that there should be some social support group for non-religious persons.  Agnostics Anonymous?  AA?  Oops, that's already taken.

Besides, why do we feel that we should have to be anonymous?  Why do I get the feeling that my fellow citizens think I should be ashamed of my lack of religion?

Is it the way the politicians talk, invoking God all the time and speaking of our Christian nation?

When I was in my late twenties I felt the need for a spiritual community and found myself among the Quakers.

Now I want a spiritual community of nonbelievers.  SCON?  Sounds too much like a con or a scam.

Humanist Association for Good?  HAG - hmmm, that hits too close to home.

Humanist Association for Hedonistic Agnosticism?  HAHA!

That comes closer to what I'm looking for.

Got any ideas?  No lectures, sermons or by-laws, please!

November 19, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

Decades ago, Apollo Creed, a boxer in the movie Rocky, exhorted kids not to go into something like boxing.  "Be a thinker, not a stinker!"

Now a would-be President named Cain is trying to cover up his ignorance by exclaiming, "Be a leader, not a reader!" thus setting up a false dichotomy.

Pardon me.  I don't want to be led by someone who hasn't read.  Between his horrible sexual history (alleged, yeah, yeah) and his deplorable anti-intellectualism (to put the best light on it) he is, maybe, trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator of American people.  It isn't going to work.

Let Cain be a negative example to you young'uns out there.  Study!  Read!  Learn as much about everything you can as fast as you can, while it is still easy.

Because, believe me, when you are working and/or have children or when you are sixty-something and getting either rusty or reluctant to learn (er, lazy?) it only gets harder.

Maybe if Cain had been more interested in the world when he was in his twenties (not to mention the issue of sexual harassment) we might be more interested in him.

November 18, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

Maybe we should start a new political party called The Ninety-Nine percent.

Might learn that a simple majority isn't so powerful after all in our so-called democracy!

Of course, even though 99% of us are part of the 99%, some of us don't seem to realize it.

What is it that makes us want to give so much power and financial resource to the few?

Do we not want to take responsibility?  Do we want to remain helpless and blame someone else?

Are we just plain lazy, as Obama did not say?

Ha, ha!  My partner says Obama didn't want to say it, so he will.

"Yes, Americans are fat-ass and lazy!  Jay Leno has been saying it for years!"

The germ of truth we hear about being at the root of humor sure isn't wheat germ!

November 17, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

This morning in bed I found myself thinking about the words of an old hymn, "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide...."

What was that about?  Was I thinking about death?  Does my unconscious know something my consciousness doesn't?

I always liked that hymn though, and when I was young I never once took "eventide" to mean the evening of the end of life.  It meant to me, quite literally, the end of the day.

That difference in perspective reminds me of the walk I took once with a grandmother and her little granddaughter.  We were in the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico in the fall, and the day was warm, colorful, and glorious.

My friend, the grandmother, said, "I wish these days would last forever."  Her precocious little one responded, "I know exactly what you mean.  I never want to go to bed!"

So, eventide has fallen on this cold but still unseasonably sunny day in this very unusually lovely November.

Abide with me.

November 16, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

I have been obsessed lately.  It seems as if the only thing I want is another bite of food.

It doesn't have to be a big portion.  Just... something.  Something more.

Is it the dark?  Is it the onset of winter and the primal urge to put on fat for survival?

Well, luckily Thanksgiving is coming with its socially permitted pig-out.

Leftovers for days! with dessert to follow (the consequence of the creation of four desserts for dinner.)

More fat to protect me from winter's wrath.

Or... maybe I should just put on more winter wraps and don my flannel-lined jeans.

November 15, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

My grandfather, and his father before him, were missionaries in Spanish-speaking countries (Panama and Chile, respectively.)

Consequently my grandfather advised my father to study Spanish in school.  (I think my dad was five or so when his family left Panama, so wouldn't he already have spoken Spanish?  How sheltered were these missionary kids in the years during and immediately following the building of the Panama Canal?)

My Dad took Spanish.  I never heard him speak it.

He said he would have found Latin more useful, poring over old Christian Church music.  He advised Latin.

So my sister and I took Latin.  I got three years of it in high school and could not ask how to go to the bathroom, even if it were a living and not languishing language.  I can, however recite "Veni, vidi, vici" - I came, I saw, I conquered, I came, I weeded, wicked me, I came... well I didn't do such juvenile stuff in high school so I have to make up for it now.

I'm glad I took Latin, but then I moved to New Mexico, so Spanish would have been a definite bilingual plus in the working world.

But really, could those of you who had Spanish in high school do much more than ask for a bathroom after three years high school Spanish?

And why did it take all this time for me to wonder why verb declensions almost always begin with the words "I love", instead of the words, "I need to pee"? 

November 13, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

In the unseasonably warm weather my partner and I took a walk this morning.

I was trying to train the binoculars on a perching bird, when something cold dropped between my jacket sleeve and my hand.  "What was that?"  "Just water."

Well, no, I felt more cold against my wrist and looked up my sleeve to see something the size, color and texture of a reconstituted dried apricot glooped on my jacket, shirt, and arm.

Let's see, an apple fell on Newton and he discovered gravity.  What would a piece of rotten fruity stuff inspire when it fell on me?

"Gravy-ty?" my partner jests.

Apricot delight?

Or plain delight and sheer cheer and optimism?

At least it wasn't guano!

Sorry, I have no new scientific principles or physical laws to report.

Still, when we returned through the park on our walk home it did smell unusually... fecund.

November 12, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

There are all kinds of ambition, I guess.  Most people seem to want the adulation of other people.  Maybe they think money will get it for them.  I suppose sometimes it does.

If I have had any ambition since childhood, it had to do with writing.

But in my everyday ordinary life my ambition is to get out into the countryside and experience different forests, different bodies of water, different plants - different ecosystems.

Different cities and towns come next.  Interesting buildings, interesting architecture.

I got a hit from Lucknow, India the other day and searched it on the Internet.

Wikkipedia said that a journalist visiting the city in the nineteenth century said it was the most impressive cityscape he had ever seen - better than Rome, Paris, and London.

So now I want to hike in the Lake Country of England, see the art in Venice, and traverse the most exciting stretch of road, as cities go, in Lucknow, India!

November 11, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

No, I will not wear a pink ribbon or donate any money in support of breast cancer.

Nor will I in any way support child molestation.

What are these people in the media thinking of?

I know they are in a hurry, but why do people insist upon saying the exact opposite of what they mean?

And this is not just a couple of people, it is a lot of people!

I will give money to fight cancer.  I will support bringing to the public awareness the issue of pedophilia.

But I will not accede that it is okay to say the opposite of what you mean, because everyone will know what you mean.

Not everyone, especially the very young, will know what you mean.  People speaking foreign languages may also find it difficult.  "What!  Is this what you call, er, irony?"

"No, this is something else entirely, called "sloppiness."

My daughter, when she was very young, thought firemen started fires.  And to use the word fireman to describe those who fight fires is accepted form.

Please, can we at least try to create clarity instead of confusion?

November 10, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

What is a link?  A combination between a letter and ink?

What is blink - a b link - it's between a link of the lids.

What is a c link?  Oh, oh, a clink.  What links of a chain do.

Do d links delete ink?

We all know what e links do.  Unite!

Flinks sound like fairy flickers and glinks sound like a good reason to end this particular game altogether!

November 9, 2011                                    Valparaiso, IN

When I heard about ebooks like Kindle, I worried a little that there would be no more demand for used book sales.  If you could get old books cheap on Kindle, who would want to lug around or store real books?  Except maybe as a bit of nostalgia?

Now that I have an ebook, I am more aware that it is not going to erase the need for real books.  Many of the books I tend to read were written in the second half of the twentieth century, and can still be purchased for significantly less (if you can find them) at a used book sale than on the Internet or on Kindle.

My Kindle has come in handy when I needed to get a book quick and relatively cheaply, but mostly it is an incredible way to have a whole portable library available with no book shelves.

Imagine a roomful of old leatherbound books in some incredibly wealthy man's library of yore on your bedside table, in this one slim volume.

Oh, magic exists, all right - and its name is Science!   


November 8, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

How come the early Christians didn't just throw out the Old Testament?

Sure, the Old Testament can be considered history, and is considered such (at least in was in the sixties when we read The Judges as some of our history texts.)

But why isn't the Old Testament on the shelves with the history books?

Jesus basically threw out the old laws, and said the new law is Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.

So what does the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth thing have to do with Christianity?

There are other values and modes of viewing the world in the Old Testament that are just as unhelpful as Leviticus in today's world.

Could it be that the easy admonition to love those around us as well as ourselves is just too hard?

November 7, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

We went to the funeral of an old family friend the other day, and the preacher's little talk turned into a sermon.

It was odd, because our friend had been a scientist, so the speaker began with the comment, "Science is science..." but proceeded to ignore science and talk about death as "something that wasn't meant to happen.  Why is there death?  How can we explain death?"

Maybe in the very old and past days I used to ponder such questions.  Now, however, I thought, "Why is there death?  Because there is birth, duh."

After giving his lip service to science, the speaker went on to say, "The Bible says the span of man is seventy years."

Well, we all should know that these days the span of man in the U.S. is eighty-five years, and would be even higher without war, gang violence, and infant mortality dragging the numbers down.  So why talk about what the Bible says about it?

Am I being unreasonable to expect someone officiating at a funeral to soft-pedal the evangelism a little?

Do I let myself in for a sermon just because I try to respect the family of someone who has passed on?

I was offended and so was my partner.

On the other hand, the deceased was mostly my late father's friend, and I'm sure the sermon did not offend my mother, except she was probably wondering what she was doing in Church on a Saturday afternoon, when she never attends even if it is a Sunday morning! 

November 5, 2011                                      Valparaiso, IN

A few years ago I saw a movie, Failure to Launch, that had the supposedly comic thesis that if you are going against nature, nature, in the form of its animal life, will bite you back.  This because the young hero was still living in his parents' home.

Hey, I thought the film was as funny as everyone else (except, of course, for those who didn't) but it seems as if more and more (since the launch of the film) people think that if an animal bites you, it is your fault.

Well, sure, if you are harassing a bee hive with wet palms, or cornering a badger, or waving fruit leather in front of a subadult bear.

But what about the common ordinary canine?  Is it my fault if a loose canine bites me?

I am not going to bore you with the history of my dog bites, because I already have done so.  (Read back - waaay back.)

But the other day my partner was attacked and bitten by a dog because he didn't like the way we looked at him.  (We must have "looked at him funny.")

A couple days later it occurred to me that the canine assault took place within a quarter mile or so of the first dog bite I ever suffered (at the age of ???) right before its young owner assured me he wouldn't.  (I had made the mistake of putting out my hand in friendship.)

This latest featured pet seemed like a related or similar combo of mongrel species.  Ha!  Maybe the sins of the forefathers (forepas, haw, haw) are visiting the victims down to the seventh generation.

Anyway, I think the movie got cause and effect all bass ackwards.  If anyone over the age of eighteen is living with his/her parents for any reason, he has already gotten a big bad bite from society!  The pets and wild animal populations are just following suit.

A raccoon waddled down the sidewalk on the other side of the street in the early dawn this morning.  He displayed absolutely no interest in us, up in our second story window of my mother's house.

Maybe he was just casing the joint, though.  Tomorrow he'll probably try to break in - and bite me!

(and my mother will say, "Now what did you do to provoke such an attack?"

To her and all others who ask me what I did to deserve it, I will snarl:

"Bite me!")

November 4, 2011                                       Valparaiso, IN

The flagrant vagrant scatters vague fragments of verbiage into the sky.

The wind whips words amutter and aflutter amongst the whippoorwills and nightjars.

Flowers cower and bugs try to shrug off winter, which treats us all to a threat:

I'm coming and you're all going - inside, under wraps, undercover, underground, dead.

November 2, 2011                                       Valparaiso, IN

Today, another beautiful sunny Fall day.

When I was raking leaves I uncovered two violets.  November is fooling them, too!

April has nothing on November when it comes to fooling people and nature.  After all, the uneven warmth of April at least presages balm and the summer growing season.

November, on the other hand -

But enough of the coming winter!

Today I got free legal aid (for a will, if you must know!) at the Senior Citizen Center at my old grade school, Banta.  Very eerie.

You can also get free food on occasion (we got chestnuts for our Thanksgiving feast) and free lunch every day they are open (five days a week) if you are very needy.

Imagine that!  A thirty dollar year's membership could potentially keep you from starvation.

There are also free exercise classes and a lot of other attractions.

Don't be a snob and snub the Senior Citizen Center near you if they offer you anything that is to your advantage to participate in.  You only have to be fifty to join the one here in Valparaiso, and that is young

November 1, 2011                                         Valparaiso, IN

What a gentle first day of November!  Who would have guessed it could begin so mild?

But I don't trust November.  January is supposed to be two-faced, but it is nothing like November!

We decide to go on a walk.  Not much of a decision - we go on a walk almost every day.

But what a day!  Sixty degrees, sunny.  The best of all possible November days!  Better than any I thought possible.

A dog we passed wasn't fooled, though.  Maybe he was upset at not getting any Halloween treats last night because he decided to taste my partner's leg!

His owner called him in, disappeared into the house, and didn't even have the grace to lean out a window with apologies or expressions of concern.

So, November, we have your number.  I expect you will cloud over and snow tomorrow!

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