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Rumilluminations May and June 2014
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Fri, May 02 2014 - 9:52 am

June 30, 2014                                           Madison, IN

What's in a name?




June 29, 2014                                          Madison, IN

The Bald Eagle is our national bird.

Ben Franklin thought it should be the turkey.

think it should be the turkey vulture!

June 27, 2014                                          Madison, IN

This morning I told some of the men who hang out near the Ohio River about the mockingbird's attack on the black vulture.

One told me about the mockingbird he saw tormenting a squirrel as soon as it came out of a tree in the Bicentennial Park.  He chased the squirrel until it hid next to the curb, where the mockingbird couldn't reach it.

Another (both these men live in my apartment building) told how he was dive-bombed by a mockingbird in another corner of the same park as he was checking out the rose bushes there.  He's pretty sure the mockingbird was the proud owner of a nest in the big tree on the corner.

A woman who lives in my building has seen a couple of mockingbirds scrapping in the parking lot.

Looks as if we have at least one real feisty, sassy, little bird here - one that would rather fight than sing!  I don't think I'll be forgetting to wear my hat and glasses when I go out walking for the next few weeks.

June 26, 2014                                          Madison, IN

Every so often we see smaller birds bedeviling larger ones.  Here in Madison I have seen small birds pursuing hawks and crows.

It usually seems like a brief encounter, but today was different.

We were finishing our walk along the Ohio River when a black vulture (the smaller kind with white wing patches and some white feathers under the tail, I noticed as he swooped by) came unusually close.  As I continued to watch him, I realized he was being chased by a mockingbird.

The black vultures are smaller than turkey vultures, but you don't realize how large they still are until you see a mockingbird so close to one.  That mockingbird was significantly out-sized.  Still, he did not cease paying attention to the vulture once it had settled on one of the big rusty cylinders sticking out of the water.  He kept diving at it again and again.  The vulture acted as if it was trying to ignore the smaller bird, hunching over and not budging.  The mockingbird didn't quit.  Once or twice he launched a direct attack towards the side of the vulture that seemed to make contact, but he always swerved off.

The vulture finally flew a few feet away to another, higher, cylinder.  The mockingbird wasn't content with his success.  He flew around the vulture, making feints at his head over and over again.  He really just seemed to be pestering just because he could.  He sure looked like a teen-age mockingbird to me!

Finally, forced back into the air again, the vulture shrugged and raised its wings as if to say, "Get the hell off me!" at which point the mockingbird left it alone at last.  He flew off to occupy the top of a light post in the park across the street.

What was the motivation?  Beats me, but I'm going to keep a lookout for those two for a possible repeat performance.

June 24, 2014                                           Madison, IN

The news about the Mormon woman who has been excommunicated from her church and won't accept it is sad.  As far as I am concerned, any excommunication from any church that wants to excommunicate you should be listed as one of the many happenings that should be labelled

Blessings in disguise! 

Of course, in my usual inimitable slip-style, at first I wrote Blissings in disguise.  Yes!

It is sad but true that many of the qualities that we consider essential to our sense of self are just qualities (or beliefs) that we have been told since early childhood we ought to have.

Part of growing up is the power to evaluate our early childhood absorptions and rid ourselves of stuff that is more harmful than helpful.

Hey, I never said I have completely grown up yet myself!

June 18, 2014                                           Madison, IN

On my walks I approach nature in such a spirit of anticipation that I am often fooled.

A plastic bag perched swaying in a branch looks at first like some big exotic white bird.  Stumps are bear cubs, birds, and foxes.  The other day I went towards a stump shaped like a turkey with a similar light brown patch on its wings.  I knew from its stillness it was probably a stump, but still.... I went off my usual route to see what it was - and startled a deer into crossing my path.

A deer, I might add, that I had looked for a few seconds before in vain.

These animals are evidently as much on the lookout for us as we are for them.

If they only knew to stay put, I would never see anything at all.

June 17, 2014                                           Madison, IN

Two years we have lived here, and I have never before spotted a critter I saw on the sidewalk today - a leopard slug - outside of Oregon.  Turns out they are all virtually all over the place.  This particular specimen may have been hung up in the middle of the sidewalk, which of course occasioned in me a moral crisis.

Did it need saving?  Should I save it?  A thought for the owners of the garden made me think not.

Now that I look in Wikepedia, I'm not so sure.  Evidently there are lots of pros and cons about leopard slugs.  They eat ragweed, which I am pretty sure I am fiercely allergic to.  Plus they eat all sorts of other rotting and nasty stuff.

The question is, which do they prefer - the stinky stuff or your ornamental flowers?

It may, now that I am home from my walk, be a moot point, because some critters love to eat the leopard slug.  That poop-like morsel on the sidewalk would make great turkey bait, evidently.  For a robin it would be a banquet for four!

Yum, yum.

June 16, 2014                                           Madison, IN

We were in Indianapolis for a wedding last week and stumbled across an Indian eatery on Meridian, the Haveli Restaurant, which offered a luncheon buffet for only $6.99!

We loved it!  The food was good and there was great variety.  My sister and I ate there three days in a row, and they offered different dishes every time (aside from the usual chicken masala and spinach with goat cheese - saag paneer - which you see in almost every Indian buffet every day.)

On our third day my partner joined us, and he also pronounced it good.  I sure wish we had an Indian restaurant in Madison - especially if it could be this good!

I read one review which pronounced the food too spicy.  Another said they went too easy on the spices!

Hey, you can't please everyone.  I eat my meals pretty bland normally out of laziness, and the food at Haveli didn't taste too heavily spiced to me.

Haveli has only been there for two months.  Go quick before they raise the prices!

June 15, 2014                                           Madison, IN

The other day at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis we got to see some of the mastadon bones excavated outside of Hebron several years ago.

At the time Mom saw an article about it in the newspaper and we went to see the dig.  A huge leg bone and a large lower jaw were being inspected by the workers as we stood there watching.  A few days later it was reported that seven skeletons had been discovered, so I got the erroneous idea they had found seven complete skeletons.  I fantasized about a huge exhibit room with occupied by seven huge critters.  Not highly likely, I knew, but still....

It turned out that there were only parts of seven animals, but several jaw bones from the site were on exhibit.  I think they only found one hip bone.

There have been many mastadons and a few woolly mammoth remains found around the state of Indiana.  The exhibit rises in drama as you make the circuit of exhibits.  This alone is well worth a special trip to Indianapolis - a dream come true, for me, and it just happened to be showing right across the street from our hotel.

June 13, 2014                                           Indianapolis, IN

For every action there is an equal and reactionary opposition.   

June 11, 2014                                            Indianapolis, IN

Here in a Best Western, which seems to be one of the few hotels with a computer in the lobby.  Am I wrong?

Here killing time until checkout, which is 11:00.  At that point I'll relocate until time to meet my sister, who is flying in today.  Tomorrow we will take a pilgrimage to the grave of my mother on the first anniversary of her death.  She and my dad are buried in Valparaiso.  (Indiana, not Chile.)

The softening of time has begun to work its magic on my thoughts about my mom.  I tried to be an adult in my dealings with her, but she did pride herself on being "ornery," and, being more docile like my dad -

(My sisters have fallen off their chairs and are rolling around on the floor laughing now - just ignore them)

- I have little patience for such rebellious shenanigans.

My mom was a rebel all her life, thank goodness.  If she had obediently died when she was first told she would, my sisters and I would never have been born.

The hospice nurses meant well with my mom, but they just didn't know her.  A few days after she entered hospice a nurse examined my mom and reported that her heart and breathing seemed fine.  My sister leaving, told my mom, "See you later!"

My mother, true to form, proved her wrong.

Five minutes later my sister and the nurses were in the hall consulting when my mom passed away.

Makes me a little concerned about this trip.  What could my mother have up her ghostly sleeve, now?


June 8, 2014                                               Madison, IN

My partner, upon reading about the supposed date of the creation of the world as propounded  by the Creationists, discovered that there is quite a lot of disagreement among them about just how old the universe really is, with a good deal of dogmatic posturing and claims of superior calculations.

Scientists are known to dispute theories and details, also.

It occurred to me, though, to wonder whether Science, with all its errors and blind alleys and disputes, doesn't ultimately lead to more consensus than Religion can possibly achieve.

If the purpose of religion is peaceful accord and, as far as possible, unanimity, then maybe Science is the best religion of all.  Ultimately, science gets us in touch with physical reality better than religion does.  If stewardship of the earth is part of our religious calling (it is in Christianity, at least) we should revere science and scientists as the best potential Stewards.

I myself value operational success very highly.  "Whatever works" works for me!

Science, as a discipline that crosses cultural and religious lines to ultimately attain a higher level of consensus and understanding, deserves our support.

Maybe scientificliness deserves second place to Godliness!

(Er, or vice versa.)          

June 7, 2014                                               Madison, IN

Some musings on Descartes',  "I think, therefore I am."

me:  I think the world is real, therefore it is real.

my partner:  I think, therefore I am, therefore I should think.

me:  You think, therefore you are, accepted.  But are you who you think you are?

June 6, 2014                                                Madison, IN

A local librarian once asked me if I minded people reading my website.  "So intimate!" she said. 

Well, yes, in some ways it is very intimate.  I bare my own soul with regularity in these pages.

But compared with what I could be writing about myself and others, it really is not so very intimate at all, and I really do try to be careful not to bare others' souls for them, although I could occasionally be accused of it.

I am always astounded, actually, at how reserved so many other people are - especially if you consider how much failure to communicate costs them and everyone around them.

It seems to me over-reserve causes as much trouble as silly lies.  What on earth is everybody so up-tight about?

No, I don't mind people reading my website.  How could I?  That's what it's for.

June 5, 2014                                                Madison, IN

Walking up the Heritage Trail yesterday, we saw a doe on the left side of the trail - not an uncommon sight, but a welcome one.  We kept coming, but slowly.  Then Jos spotted a small fawn on the right side of the trail, its hind end towards us.

We approached more slowly yet.  What would the deer do?  The fawn acted as if he might want to cross the path, so we stopped dead.  He was very small and spindly and wobbley.  His long hind legs looked too tall for the rest of his body.  He was uncertain on his feet and seemed to almost topple.

He didn't though.  He made his way safely across the path to his mom.  We turned around and came home.

This morning as we walked along the river we saw a few black vultures on one of the big rusty cylindrical towers provided for vessels to moor near the edge of the water.

A short distance away, a smaller bird was lurking nearby, also on the top of... ha, ha!  It was my partner who noticed he was atop a cylinder of orange fencing material.  The scene was like a miniature copy of what the vultures were doing, as if the sparrow were saying, "I can do this, too!"

Reminded me of Snoopy's wannabe ways.

June 4, 2014                                                Madison, IN

My partner and I are shaking our heads over the fact that in the States the TV show Breaking Bad has been exceedingly popular, while in the UK, we read, the show Call the Midwife has been the most popular.

Is it that we are so well-off in life that we feel we can afford to titillate ourselves with often bloody stories of law-breaking and drug addiction all coming down to, basically, power struggles, while the British population, having gone through earlier economic difficulties, needs feel-good fare that affirms that human nature is really usually good and loving?

Are we like basically secure Scouts sitting around a campfire spooking ourselves with imaginary evils?

When I was in college I read novels about angry young men who complained contemptuously that all the older generation wanted was to be entertained.

Maybe the older generation had seen quite enough of hardship, deprivation, and blood-shedding, thank you.

When will the U.S. have had its fill of bloody fare?

Not yet for a while, perhaps.  I myself like my steak bloody rare!

June 3, 2014                                                Madison, IN

Age is its own argument.

June 2, 2014                                                Madison, IN

Googled "St. Francisville il toll bridge" a little while ago and saw a U-tube video of what it looks like to cross it - also a whole blurb on the history of the bridge, which was formerly a railroad bridge.

The day before the memorable bridge crossing we crossed almost the whole state of Oklahoma through the middle of the panhandle on a secondary road.  So much more relaxing than the Interstate!  (What am I saying?  Interstates are not relaxing at all - except in the far West.)

In New Mexico the day before, we took I 25 to a secondary road that branched off to Clayton, NM.  Saw small groups of antelope and lots of geographical features.

In Clayton we stayed at the Best Western - Kokopelli Lodge - which had a great complimentary breakfast.  In addition to the usual offerings it had fresh eggs and grits with a choice of red chile with beef or green chile with pork sauces.  Spectacular.  There was also pottery for sale.  I don't know how I resisted the temptation to buy some - little miniature pieces for $10.

Back in Madison, I'm worried about the herons.  When are they supposed to turn up, anyway?  They stayed deep into the Fall, when it was really cold.  Now here it is almost summer, and we have seen none.

June 1, 2014                                                Madison, IN

Back home again, in Indiana.  We were out of state for two weeks, and as we approached the eastern border of Illinois I planned to sing the song.  It is not often (if ever) that I have been anywhere near the Wabash River upon returning to Indiana, and, although it was broad daylight, I wanted to imagine reminiscing about the "moonlight on the Wabash."  (This was two days ago - I have taken my longest break from this website in its history.)

Anyway, we had been plying our GPS with the names of small towns to keep ourselves away from Interstates, and I decided we were bound to hit an expressway to Vincennes eventually, so we entered the name of that city and trusted to our virtual navigator.

At St. Francisville, Illinois, where I thought there might be a bridge across the Wabash but was not at all sure, the GPS sent us on smaller and smaller instead of busier and busier streets.  What had gotten into it?  It was definitely behaving atypically.

We saw a little sign:  St. Francisville Toll Bridge - on what was barely a lane.  It might cost as much as $8.00, I figured, but what the hell?  We were here, and so was the bridge.  We approached what looked like a food shack with a sign beneath a window manned by a little old lady.  Before I had a chance to read the charges, my partner asked her the toll.  "One dollar."

One dollar!  A steal!  We paid and after a long approach reached the bridge.  The low toll price was explained.  I have seen larger pedestrian bridges!  This iron (or steel?) bridge was floored by planks of wood laid perpendicular to our progress laid over on both sides (not in the middle) with planks laid parallel to the direction of the road.  It was only big enough for one vehicle at a time.  We pulled aside and waited for the car approaching with lights on.  It was followed by another car or two, but soon it seemed to be our turn.  We committed ourselves to the bridge.

It must have been an optical illusion, but I kept thinking my partner, who was driving, was going to slide off the left-hand track into the middle.  I was so mesmerized by the sight of the uneven, slippery-looking boards that I hardly noticed the Wabash River at all.  I managed a couple of glances.

The bridge was not too long.  After the scariest ride I had experienced for years (barring the Interstates at their more frightening moments) we reached the other side.  Ahh!  Big sigh of relief.  We made it!  We drove along.  Oh, no!  We were just traversing an island in the river.  There was another - longer - bridge of the same construction ahead.  We waited as three cars crossing the bridge came by us, not at all sure that they weren't going to hit us on the narrow road as they emerged.

Then it was our turn, we thought.  We entered the bridge, then saw a set of headlights ahead.  There was no turning back, so we really hoped they were waiting for us.  We couldn't tell for sure.  I had fantasies of an angry confrontation in the middle of this godforsaken bridge, both parties unwilling and literally afraid to back down (and up).

It didn't happen.  We and the car behind us managed to get across the bridge unchallenged and wind our way onto the far bank of the Wabash, safe and sound.

I was so relieved I completely forgot about singing, "Back home again in Indiana."  That $1 ride was more thrilling than a carnival ride, to which I have been unwilling to subject myself for years.  Yeah, yeah, I am a wimp, getting wussier with age.

Back on the highway in the Mark Twain National Forest later in the day, we ran into road work which required drivers to take turns on one-lane sections much shorter than that bridge.  The turns were regulated by stop-lights.

Evidently I'm not the only wimp around.


May 15, 2014
                                                 Madison, IN

So, what is it?  Are we feeling so helpless that all we can do is stand by and watch the progress of a search for a jet that has gone missing?  Is all we can do obsess over the stupid, insensitive behavior of a sports team owner?

Real political developments in the Ukraine I have a rough idea about, but how many other stories which really mean life and death for the people caught up in them are neglected while 90% of some channels' "news" coverage is about relatively minor issues?

I don't particularly like watching stories about a country descending into civil war or being taken over by a larger power.  Not only does it make me feel helpless, but I am made acutely aware that I do not know what would be the best outcome for all concerned.

No, I don't like feeling helpless either.

But I do not want to hear another word (no, not one more word!) about Donald Sterling.

May 13, 2014                                                     Madison, IN

Okay, let's pretend the Internet wasn't on the difficult side to access for the last few days.  I'll write the way I might have written on those days = a few days' retrospective.

May 11, 2014    (Mother's Day!)                            Madison, IN

Since we saw everyone last night, we were able to hit the road on Mother's day and head back home.

All three of the kids called me, so I'm a happy mom.

Joseph busied himself in the kitchen before I was even out of bed, making fruit salad and crudite for the drive home.

He's so enthusiastic about the health benefits of crudite that he is rechristening it cru-deity!

Ha, ha, good one, Jos!  That is funny on so many levels. 

May 10, 2014                                        Cranberry Township, PA

Today we took Jos' niece Jasmine to McConnell's Mill State Park.  We clambered downriver along a trail lined with white and red trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, ferns, mosses and lots of rocks!

There were a few people around.  Birds I did not notice much - concentrating so much on my footing that I did not have much gaze to spare on the canopy.

It was fun, but the mill was closed tight with no signs around telling us when it might be open.

May 9, 2014                                          Cranberry Township, PA

A suburb of Pittsburgh, if Cranberry has features which distinguish itself from other suburbs, I didn't notice.  I find the inaccessibility to wild places frustrating, but the trip to Pittsburgh was kind of a Mother's Day visit to Jos' family, and we managed to see all his brothers and sisters and mom even though everyone was crazy busy.

To fit in my daily constitutional in Cranberry, I kind of loop-de-lood around blocks and up and down, enjoying people's ornamental flowering and Easter egg trees and avoiding autos on the sidewalkless streets.

May 8, 2014, later                                 Warren County, OH

Here, along the Little Miami River, is an amazing park which I may have seen as a girl visiting my Great Aunt Mary in Waynesville, Ohio.

I don't recall the name Fort Ancient Museum and Archeological Park (which may not have been at all the same sixty years ago!) but I do remember seeing some grassy Indian mounds kind of in the middle of nowhere.  Now I know where to go if I want to study the Hopewell Indians some more.

There is a good-sized museum at the site of these many mounds and a few trails to explore.  Even the quick walk through I had time for was illuminating.

On this beautiful day I chose to walk the stone circle path and the path down to the Miami River.  Today's was just a noontime visit, not a daylong adventure, although I do plan to ride some of that sixty-mile bike path along the river sometime!

We met some people putting up signs by the Miami River path.  A physically robust man with graying hair told us about a triathlon he has participated in a couple of times - bicycling, running, and canoeing.

When he and his friend Danny came into the parking lot three years ago to race, he reports, there must have been a thousand bikes belonging to competitors.  "Wait a minute!  How will we find our bikes later?"  Danny's response:  "Don't worry about it.  Let's go!"

So they went.  Their best event was canoeing.  They paddled so fast and so hard that they passed all their competitors but by the time they finished their seven miles, his feet were dead asleep and he couldn't move them to participate in the next event.

For twenty minutes he and Danny sat there while all the people they had passed on the river streamed by them.  Finally he was able to stagger out of the canoe and finish the race.

When they got back to the parking lot, there were two bikes left.


May 8, 2014                                                        Madison, IN

Is a screenwriter a reel writer?

Are people who don't like clowns the real clowns?  (Does anyone really like clowns?  They must or they wouldn't want to be one.)

Is the real point of Betty Boop's name the word "boob?"  It evokes the meanings of "boob" and "oops" and, with the repetition of B, "boo boo":  I read in Max Fleischer's granddaughter's website, though, that Betty's last  name came from scat jazz, boop boop de doop.  (Ha, ha they are nonsense syllables!  Don't expect me to spell them correctly!)

It amused me to discover that the word "boob" as a simpleton was first used (in print, anyway?) around 1907.  The use of "boob" meaning "breast" appeared along about the same time as Betty Boop in the early thirties.

So Betty Boop and the word "boob" are both products of the twentieth century!

The word is over one hundred years old and I still would hesitate to try to use it in a game of Scrabble.  (With reason.  Although the nasty word "zit" is in this little pocket dictionary we have, the word "boob" is not.  What is that all about?  Is "zit" included because there are so few z-words?

I'm reading Sir Walter Scott.  The Scottish dialect and the Latin are sometimes unintelligible.  Language changes all the time, for sure.  Why do we hold on to some forms, as India held on to Sanskrit, for so much longer?  Is it because they somehow have expressed the most universal truths, or is it simply because the authority which used them had the most power?

Ha!  The answer to that question is, "Boop-boop-de-doop scatta pow katta-walla bing-bong bowser!"

May 6, 2014                                                        Madison, IN

Last week on a walk up Heritage Trail, a vulture not only flew over me, he positively craned his little bald head peering down at me.

Okay, okay, maybe he was looking at some little mammal hole nearby, but have you ever seen a scavenger eye you with such a look as that?

I have, and it is a little unsettling. A couple before I had appendicitis a raven in my path gave me a straight-on look that I thought was unusual.  Usually they would just keep me in their peripheral vision.

Two days after my close-flying vulture gave me the evil eye, I was in the ER room at the hospital.  It was May Day, all right.

So.  Draw what conclusions you will, but if I were you and saw scavengers display undue interest in me, I would stay within easy reach of a medical facility.  Maybe what the ancients called omens were really biological signals - a kind of a word to the wise from Mother Nature.

May 2, 2014                                                        Madison, IN

We truly must love a mystery.

The people buried under mud in Washington State and killed by tornadoes and drowned in ferries in South Korea, though they number more in toto than the passengers of Malaysian Flight 370, have taken up much less news space.

At least I think it must be because what happened to the flight is a complete mystery.

Or could it be the glamor of flight - at least when not sponsored by a tornado.

And what does Toto have to do with it, anyway?

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