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Rumilluminations January 2012
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, January 01 2012 - 11:38 am

January 31, 2012                               Valparaiso, IN

Another warm day - January is going out like an unsheared lamb.  Now only February remains.  One of our neighbors cynically predicts a winter lasting into March and April.

The weather in Las Cruces was so balmy, though, that on our last complete day my partner and I decided to try to walk from the hotel to my son's house.

Sunny!  Sixty or so degrees!  We took a wrong turn and got more of a walk than we bargained for.

We had the Organ Mountains telling us we should be moving closer rather than farther away, and that we should be looking at them from a slightly different angle, but we couldn't interpret the message.

Later I realized where we took a wrong turn.  Somehow it never occurred to us to go the other way.  Maybe it was the old pull of the easy way out - downhill.

While my son was driving out to rescue us, I asked him how far off we were.  "Er, - you'll see."  Tactful as always.

And we saw.  Embarrassing.

But a wonderful dry walk in the sun in January!  It was the life.  I hope February is wimpy this year.

January 30, 2012                                Valparaiso, IN

Well, boo and snow to you.  Us, I mean.  Home.

On the 27th of January, though, we had a wonderful experience in Arkansas.

Going on one of our beloved smaller highways in the eastern part of the state, we saw an unassuming state park called the Louisiana Purchase Monument State Park.

We entered it later than we expected, having suffered a mysterious flat tire in Brinkley, but the delay turned out to be fortuitous.

The park had a small parking area and a boardwalk going who knew where into a densely treed swamp a few feet deep.  We figured the boardwalk would lead to some kind of trail so we followed it.  As we started on the walk, some people drove in and parked behind us.

My partner and I were at one stopping point, four men maybe twenty paces off, when we were all startled by an owl call - quite close - followed by another even closer!  It sounded like the Great Barred Owl, "Who cooks for you?" but I was still scanning the trees at my eye level when I heard my partner speak and saw one of the other party point at the same time.  "I see it!"

Then I saw the back of a great striped owl, too, about twenty feet above the surface of the water.  I couldn't believe it.  I haven't seen owls more than half a dozen times in my life, and never one this big.

Even our conversation didn't scare this guy.  He stayed right where he was until we wandered on down the walk.  It ended at a monument that marked the Initial Point of the survey team that surveyed the Louisiana Purchase.  What a place to start an expedition!  A headland swamp that is always at least damp, muddy and puddly.

But as we talked to our fellow naturalists, the sun sank lower in the west.  Each shaft of light reflected off the water took on a different hue - gold, pink, lavendar, blue, green.  Literally every wedge of reflected light looked unlike every other.  It was mesmerizing, but not so much that I didn't peer at the surface to see if it was an oil slick.

I asked one of the strangers, and he said no.  It was just the compounds created by the leaching of chemicals from the organic life - mostly cypress and tupelo.  I had never seen anything like it, and I would travel many a mile to see that again!

On the way back we saw the owl still hanging out until hunting time.  On a whim I let out an attempt at a mouse squeak.  He turned his head!  It was a very satisfactory sighting.

Uh, what's that you say?  Today?  Oh, laundry and a long walk to the post office to pick up two weeks' worth of mail.  A glorious warmish windy day, though!  Only one month of real winter left.

January 27, 2012                                         Russellville, AR

On the road?

Sick of looking at the backs of trucks and automobiles that park in front of you after finding it a matter of life-and-death to pass you?

Sick of boring medians, no wildlife but roadkill and vultures (soon-to-be-roadkill?)

Sick of road hazards in over-abundance?  (Not to mention hyphenated words, heh heh.)

Try the by-ways.  Yesterday we took Highway 16 through the Ozark Mountains north of I40.  Well, sure it took a long time to get through there - but mostly because it was so damn beautiful we didn't want to drive fast.  It might be a route more impressive in the winter than the summer for views.  The lack of leaves on the trees made the far vistas of the mountains visible.  That layered effect of mountains upon mountains is stunning.

To get to Sixteen we went up Highway 100 along Tenkiller Lake and visited the Oklahoma state park there.  This is also a lovely setting although we didn't get a feel for the existence of extensive walking paths.  Maybe they are there.

The only thing marring the Ozark drive was the number of trees that had large broken branches drooping down from their tops.  We were speculating as to the cause of this disfigurement.  I was championing the idea of ice storm damage, while my partner has seen similar damage to trees in the Adirondacks from very high winds.  But hey, that's nature, and she always has to be beautiful, right?  Not.

Too bad that if you live there, you probably can't work there.  It seems something of a depressed area.  Most people probably commute.  Lots of logging going on, though.

An unusual large patch of conifers made us wonder how managed the forest is.  A planting or accident of nature?

All these years later we still see the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in our public-owned parks and recreation areas.  These contributions are varied, creative and often beautiful.

Now that was stimulus money well spent!

January 26, 2012                                        Okema, OK

Yesterday was quite magical.  On my way to graduate school in 1969, my family and I stayed at Quartz Mountain State Park in Oklahoma.  I think we got there after dark because I have no memory of the surroundings.

During the night a mysterious big wind blew up.  It felt as if the gale would pick us up, tent and all, and carry us into oblivion.  It did not, and we staggered out of our bedrolls for the last lap of our journey to Albuquerque.  Still, I had no memory of the setting that morning.

We must have been in a campsite close to the entrance and seen  essentially nothing, so I've always been curious to see more of Quartz Mountain.

Finally, yesterday, I did.

These mountains (part of the Witchita Mountain Range which is the second oldest in the continental U.S.), and this is a beautiful landscape!  Not only are there nonthreatening almost toothless (but very rocky) mountains, but there is a lake which under cloudy skies had color to rival Crater Lake in Oregon.

Okay, okay, maybe I was just water-starved after a few days in New Mexico.  That's how I felt about it, though.

It is January now.  Maybe this park is overrun with people in the summer, but it seems neglected now.

Quartz Mountain should definitely be on your list of campgrounds not to miss!  Just don't go there at night and leave in the predawn of the morning.

January 20, 2012                                       Las Cruces, NM

According to the weather map, the place we escaped (Valparaiso, IN) is expecting snow.  Here it is supposed to be 70 degrees and sunny.  This is the opposite from Christmas here, which was white while northern Indiana was green.

Of course, it is never green here, and that is the trade-off.

We are busy busy with driving and baby.  Grandbaby.  First grandbaby.


Not seeing much - too much family going on.  Later I might reconstruct the journey a little, with at least one interesting tidbit for each day.


Until then, enjoy whatever you can find an excuse for!

January 14, 2012                              Valparaiso, IN

I think that pronouncements like, "You have to become as little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven" are brainwashing techniques.  (Sorry, Jesus.)

On the other hand, that comment could be a technique to try to handle failing elders.  It would really help me if my mom would become a little more like a little child - i.e. trusting.  Having to persuade, argue, cajole, or lay down the law (depending on my mood) is so exhausting!

It's not fair.  (Said in a very petulant, childish tone.)  My dad became very childish and obedient during his last few years when she was taking care of him.

Why can't she do the same for us?

Ha, ha.  As if.

January 13, 2012                               Valparaiso, IN

Confused should mean "fused together with."  But really it means scattered and disorganized.

Judge Judy, though, said, "I'm confused, and when that happens it means that someone is lying to me."

So maybe the confusing thing is having ideas fused with the ideas of someone else who is lying to you, or at least speaking mistakenly to you.

One of the big things that happens to religious people is doubt.  That leads to confusion.  But isn't the big conflict between all the contradictory things everyone else is telling you about religion and about God?

What is your personal observation?  I believe that without a bunch of brainwashing people wouldn't have visions or revelations at all, unless they are doing drugs or starving for food or oxygen.

When did Jesus have revelations?  During his forty days in the desert.  When did Joseph Smith start having revelations?  During his starved adolescence.

Maybe revelations are a combination of hormones and physical factors.  How many "saints" were bipolar?

Well, one can speculate endlessly about this stuff, but I believe that as people get older they get tired of obsessively picking at the wound to their perceptions that is religion.

Then they either give up and believe, give up and disbelieve, or give up and get comfortable with not knowing.

Ah, glorious peace!

January 12, 2012                                Valparaiso, IN

I should start an article called Aester's Aetymologies.

It is so much fun to play with words, that sometimes I don't even bother to look up the real history.

My latest obsession is with co- words.

If someone is complacent, are they still connected to a maternal placenta?

About religion I no longer have a placenta.  I have a tent, though.  I'm content not to know!

Do conspirators inspire each other?  Or just breathe into each other's stale air?  Do they share the same breaths?

Why do people only compile abstract things?  I think a pile of real people (as I experienced once at a dance in my youth) is a lot more fun than a list of them.

And is a compost pile a list of posts on the internet?  Stinky!  (Well, maybe not virtuously - er, I mean virtually.)

Do collaborators work hard together?  Their labors (whether working with the enemy or creating a theatrical production) are not the kind we refer to when we speak of the working poor.

When we conduct commerce are we being merciful together?  Or mercenary?  Ha, ha, we all know the answer to that, so we are very right together!  Correct!

My, this is fun!  I could go on and on!  Coming (short for commingling?) with me?

We can collaborate and create great nonsense together!  Not to mention explanation points.  (Er, you know what I meant.)

What a commission!

January 10, 2012                                 Valparaiso, IN

Ha, ha, ten o'clock insanity time has come.

Abandonment - the separating from the donning of the band.

I guess I'm thinking about abandonment for several reasons.

A senator was questioning a long-ago polygamous Mormon about why he couldn't continue to support his wives and children without being sexually involved with more than one of them.  The Mormon replied that refusing to have sex with a wife would be an abandonment of her.  Wouldn't any wife feel that way, he asked.  I agree, unless the wife didn't want sex either.

A daughter who lived in the same town (maybe in the same house) with her mother married and, informing her mother that she and her spouse were moving, invited her mother to come with them.  The mother accused her daughter of abandoning her.  On this one I disagree.  An invitation to come along, even if undesireable and ultimately refused, does not constitute abandonment.

Does order and/or nature of the abandonment matter?  If someone essentially abandons you emotionally, is your physical removal from that person abandonment?  Is emotional abandonment more reversible than physical abandonment?

Gets complicated, doesn't it?  If abandonment has to do with a wedding band, (yeah, yeah, I know it doesn't, but indulge me my image) it must be one of those three-in-one rings that can be un-entwined but not separated.


January 9, 2012                                   Valparaiso, IN

I'm tired of my job.  Elder caregiving, even of an elderly parent, has a shelf life, and my freshness has expired.

When I came here I kind of assumed that I would be here for the duration, and my parents would be able to stay home until they died.  My dad startled me by the quickness of his passing, and my mother has surprised me by her endurance.

Well, more power to her!  May she last as long as she can!  But her stamina has outlived my enthusiasm for my job.

I've read that caregiving is very stressful, and I don't have to believe it:  I know it from experience.

But I don't blame it on my mom, much as I have complained about her.  I think that caregiving for any one who is contemplating (or refusing to contemplate) their imminent mortality is difficult.

It doesn't really matter whether they are paranoid, or trusting.  It doesn't matter if they are trying to strive for independence, or overly needy and dependent.

They are humans who need help whether they want it or not, and that is a difficult position for all concerned.

Do I want my mom to die?  No - but I want out.

Luckily I am in a position to make the change.  I'm sorry if that involves my mother in changes that she doesn't want to make, but that is not entirely my fault.

This is a testimonial for all you caregivers out there.  Good for you!  Great job!

But when it is time to save yourselves from burn-out, save yourselves!  It is the only fair thing to do for your elderly caregivee as well as yourself. 

January 7, 2012                                    Valparaiso, IN

Today I had an epiphany that I missed Epiphany.  I think I wrote yesterday under the wrong date. 

How could I have done that?  Epiphany is one of my favorite uncelebrated holidays!  Three wise men, dripping with luxurious fabrics, traveling hundreds of miles to see a baby?  How rich in drama is that?  Especially with the successful evasion of the wicked, insecure King Herod it is a tale for the ages - and all stages of life.

My only gold, my wedding ring, is gone.

Frankincense is reportedly now a somewhat endangered substance.  I wonder if the little stash I bought forty years ago is still in my possession or if it was sacrificed in a move.  I think it is gone.  Why did I not burn it?

I never have had myrrh.  To offer kingly gifts I must demur.

What would queenly gifts be?  Diamonds, lotions, and... chocolate!  Chocolate!  Rich dark chocolate rich dark chocolate - have some!

But a boy (like Amahl) might prefer licorice.

January 5, 2012                                    Valparaiso, IN

I think the reason that religion holds so much power over many who live simply and poorly is because that is the only excitement in their lives.

In the mid-nineteenth century in the United States the itinerant preachers were one of the few shows that came to small towns, as far as I can tell.  Free community gatherings!  Free entertainment!  (Free at least at first.)

When I was younger I might have thought the simple life was a good thing.  I still think it might be okay, but not if it leaves a person too vulnerable to religion.

Interesting to see how one's values can be turned upside down over time.

I had a psychiatrist when I was in my twenties who said that people usually end up with the values they were reared with.  That may be true, but does that include religion?

Not in my case!

Of course, I don't think I'm "ending up" quite yet.  But I don't think a senile descent into childhood counts, either!

I still believe firmly in ethics.  But a higher power besides natural ones?  I don't know.  It is easy to acknowledge the greater power of tornadoes and hurricanes.

Greater spiritual power than what we humans can exert for and upon each other is something else.

That belief only confuses things.

January 4, 2012                                      Valparaiso, IN

Spells and incantations, spills and exclamations!  Why do we like magic so must?  (Sic, and intentionally thus.)

Rust and rush!  Thrust and thrush!

Eleven pipers must be piping because it is the eleventh day of Christmas, but I strongly suspect one is a piccolo.  Or a pecadillo.

I can only stand one stanza of that song per day.  Sufficient unto the day are the grifts thereof!

But day after tomorrow is Epiphany!  I have always loved Epiphany - the last refuge of the late gift-giver!  It is not too late to redeem yourself, thus becoming the Redeemer.

It's interesting that the song ends with the twelfth day, however.  Never give thirteen of anything!

That would be bad magic.

Hmmm...but what about the baker's dozen?  A malicious cozen?

Maybe the chief comfort of maturity is not believing in magic of any but the scientific kind.  Can any kind be unkind?

I better hope Epiphany brings a return to rationality!  My magic mentality is messing with my epistles! 

January 3, 2012                                       Valparaiso, IN

"Hello!  I'm a mellow fellow.  My favorite color is yellow.  I'm eating jello in the bordello."

"Au contraire!  You're in my lair!  Get out of my hair!  It's not fair, but I don't care!  I don't care, I swear!  Fare.  (I won't say well)."

"Well, giggle hee hee!  You folks are up a tree.  Come down from there - wheee!  You'll suit me to a "t"."

"Where did that expression come from?  How come I don't understand nothin'?  (You're giving me a poke.  Was that supposed to be a joke?)  I can't laugh - all I know is I'm broke.  I'm supposed to go soak.  Croak, croak."

"Ha, ha, ha!  Tra-la-la!  What happened to Pa?  Where is Ma?  Do-re-mi-fa and la-di-da!


January 2, 2012                                        Valparaiso, IN

I think one of the reasons atheists are so distrusted is that people feel atheists must be really arrogant to fly in the face of tradition and even God.

An agnostic doesn't do that.  She just shrugs her shoulders.

An irreligious person doesn't do it, either.  She just goes shopping a lot.

Nonreligion?  Nature is a good place to worship that!

Yet I can't believe that, say, a Satanist wouldn't be more anathema than an atheist.

Is it worse to set yourself against even the existence of something someone else believes in, or to be a positive enemy of it?

I know what I think the rational response to that question would be, but if we know anything about people and religion, we know that rationality has nothing to do with the case!

January 1, 2012                                         Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday I noticed a statistic in The Week that was profoundly disturbing.

According to this article, 61% of Americans would have trouble voting for an atheist for President.

So I would like to ask you folks this:

Who do you trust more to be in charge of "the dangerous knob" that would start a nuclear holocaust - someone who believes in an afterlife, or someone who believes that this life and this world is the only one we've got?

Or, an American atheist or, say, the President of Iran?

Do you think human behavior is based more on positive thinking (call it hope if you must) or on fear?

Or, would you rather have someone who is primarily God-fearing, or someone who believes in a positive approach to thoughtful problem-solving as your President?

I know this latter either/or does not have to be either/or.  Someone can be God-fearing and positive-thinking.

So give atheists similar credit.  They can be wonderful, creative, supremely ethical beings.

Most likely you just don't know they are atheists (or agnostics - how do they fit into all this?  Are those who are truly humble enough to say they simply don't know so beneath consideration that they don't deserve their own category of belief?)  You won't know they are non-believers because this society is, in general, so damn hostile to us.  We aren't part of the big, fat, feely, God-fearing club.

Well, to be fair, I'm getting a quote from a quote.  I'll look up the original source of that particular statistic and if that article gives me any more insight, I'll let you know.

That doesn't change how I feel about the prejudice and real fear out there towards people like me.

And I assure you, it is really silly.  I am one of the nicest people I know!

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