By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, August 03 2014 - 7:47 am
August 31, 2014 Madison, IN
Yesterday on our walk we saw a kingfisher along the river not far from home. It was the best sighting of a kingfisher I've ever had.
I think I have seen him around once or twice, but he never spent so much time in the open before.
Meanwhile the herons haven't really returned - I've only seen them once or twice. Makes me wonder if the kingfisher moved over because the herons have left a niche for it, or whether they can live in each others' territory because they are after slightly different prey. (Herons go for bigger fish and rodents?)
At any rate, just because we had a good sighting once doesn't mean we will see him again. He flew back and forth a couple of times and then we lost him against the sparkling waters of the river. It looked as if he might have flown all the way to the other side.
Maybe that less populated area is where he lives.
P.S. Whew! I just saw some videos of herons and kingfishers hunting, one of which showed them both hunting in the same area, so I guess it does happen. In a way they have different niches, because the kingfisher hunts from looking through the water from above, while the heron stands around in or near the water. Also, the kingfishers could not handle some of the fish that the herons tackle (and swallow - a rather horrendous sight!) Maybe only a desperate heron would bother with the small fish that are a kingfisher's usual prey.
August 29, 2014 Madison, IN
Today I went to pay the rent.
As I was going into the good-sized apartment building I passed a fellow fiddling with his motorcycle. I got kind of a weird vibe from him, but just went about my business, going directly to the office door and putting our rent check through the slot.
Coming back upstairs to ground level I was noticing that the relatively new rug needed cleaning, when BANG! the outside door swung in violently. I was just beginning to wonder if I should have been more concerned about the man outside, when he came barreling through the door carrying a big pack of bottled water and lowering his foot, which he had obviously used for a horizontal strike.
The door missed me by maybe three inches. If it had hit me, I would have been knocked back down the stairs (lucky me, carpeted!) and/or probably broken a bone.
He goggled at me happily and exclaimed, "Gee, I'm glad that door didn't hit you!"
"Me, too. Use your back."
So here I am, saying what I never thought I would ever have to say to anyone, child or adult:
Do not kick your front door in like a SWAT team member unless you live alone and you don't give a damn about your door. Even a dog or cat is vulnerable to that kind of surprise - especially when they are in welcome home mode.
In an apartment building with umpteen units?
Maybe that wasn't bottled water he was carrying. Maybe it was bottled gin.
August 28, 2014 Madison, IN
Years ago I rather flippantly suggested in my website that militant Muslims who attack the West to save the planet were right: our production of greenhouse gases was out of control.
To me it was obvious that no one would take such a comment seriously, except maybe as a jolt to awareness of our own human responsibility for what is happening in our environment.
Lately, however, I have begun to wonder just how seriously some people might take a comment like that, particularly if they read no other of my entries.
So at risk of overestimating the possible importance of my minor toad-trillium contribution to anyone's attitude towards violence: I'm against it.
I'm all for gatherings in the desert being about finding ways to catch all that wonderful potential healing sun-energy and turning it into a force to improve people's lives. From what I have heard of the technical savvy of some terrorists, they have the intelligence to tackle the challenges of the globe's energy problem if they would only turn a larger proportion of their brains' activity to problem-solving rather than people-killing.
Oh - and as for killing off Westerners to save the planet, it's too late. The West is trying to clean up its act. The major polluters are now India and China.
Of course I never believed that religious fanatic terrorists are motivated by desire to save the planet. That would be a little bit of wishful thinking of my own. If there were rational grounds for their actions, a reasoned deflection of attention might work, right?
How about this for a reasonable comment: an omnipotent God doesn't need you or anyone else to defend Him.
August 24, 2014 Madison, IN
"Never complain, never explain."
Well then what kind of plaining am I allowed to do, I ask, plaintively.
Superplain? Well, no one would ask for that, except maybe an overzealous Quakier!
Unplain in describing a woman would be almost as bad, damning with faint praise. And rating minimalism it would definitely have to fall in the category of insults.
Deplain means something, but only if you spell it deplane, and even then it sounds like corporate sillytalk anyway. Does anyone say it?
Replaining and surplaining don't exist either.
Why are some words so resistant to prefixes?
To relate positively to plain, I guess, I'll have to travel west and sing some plainsong!
August 22, 2014 Madison, IN
In a Joseph Conrad novel I saw the French word, blague, and in context and not knowing how the word is pronounced, I thought it might mean "journal" or something similar.
Then I looked it up. No, the word blog doesn't come from blague - except maybe mine! Blague means "joke." Since I write a "blahg" (as in blah-blah-blah) and the only unifying factor in it all is me, maybe I should Frenchify what I call this website and make a pun at the same time and call it my "blague."
The only trouble is, I'm not sure I could pronounce it!
Well, back from the online dictionary. Blague sounds kind of like blyguh.
I stumbled upon another meaning, too: "blunder."
August 21, 2014 Madison, IN
There have been three deaths in our apartment building since we moved in 2 1/4 years ago. I did not shed a tear. Sure, I only knew one of the people who died more than a little, but I did not even get to the sobbing into a handkerchief stage when my parents passed away.
I give myself the excuse that my folks were pretty old: my dad died at 86 after years of gradually worsening dementia and my mom died last year at the age of 94. Neither death was completely unexpected, and there was no reason to mourn that they never had a chance to live a full life.
Of course I don't want to blame myself for my lack of emotional response. Yet when I watched Into the Wild yesterday at home I made a grab for a Kleenex and even sobbed aloud once or twice.
The inconsistency of my behavior bothered me until I realized the lesson inherent in it. Art really does arouse the emotions. It was not emotional attachment for the character who not at all unexpectedly dies that brought out my tears. It was Art.
My partner generously gives me the credit that my sorrow is that of a bereaved mother. Well, yeah, by empathy with the parents of the young man who put himself into desperate circumstances - whom I was determined not to pity.
It is more than that, though. It is the creative artists who made the film manipulating my emotions in the same way a salesman or religious charismatic leader does.
Think about that the next time you go to an auction, political rally - or a church!
August 19, 2014 Madison, IN
Why do brand names sometimes seem to undermine what they are supposed to be flaunting? Organix shampoo, which I like just fine, seems to be, in its name, denying that it is organic at the same time as its descriptions talk about mint, tea tree oil and coconut products. Maybe not health food organic, but definitely the emphasis is on the organisms that have provided the experience (not including animals, which have not been used in testing - maybe that's why the denial.) Maybe if it seems to be saying, "Nix to the organic!" it's just gimmicky spelling.
Green Mountain sounds like a really environmentally conscious brand name. It probably predates the use of "green" as something good for the world, but with a name like that you would think the company would be ashamed to market serving-sized individually packaged coffee portions which require a special coffee maker and lots and lots of plastic waste (not to mention zinc, is it?) for a preservative. Weird. I guess in their case, the green would refer to all the money they are making, which I understand is plenty.
Does Farmers Bank lend money to farmers, or is the name supposed to evoke growing green? Does Farmers Insurance intend to evoke the harvesting of it? On the face of it, using the name of one kind of specialist to identify a business in a wholly different field seems contradictory.
Maybe, after all, it is about getting and holding attention. I've just, intentionally or not, just given all these folks publicity!
August 18, 2014 Madison, IN
There were tens of vultures around this morning in the aftermath of Ribberfest. Although we don't mind seeing them along the river, we don't much like seeing so many so close to where we live.
I noticed one big turkey vulture sitting on one of the brick posts of the Bicentennial Park. He was being heckled by two mockingbirds, but wasn't budging.
I thought I'd play hero. "You want to get rid of him?" I asked the mockingbirds. "I'll get rid of him for you!" and started walking straight at him.
The vulture smirked (I swear!) and lazily flew to the roof of the very nearby restrooms where he knew very well I couldn't reach him. Why are my heroics always lame?
A little later we saw him perched even closer to our house on a telephone pole across the parking lot. One of the mockingbirds was still dive-bombing him.
Just now, from our balcony there was not a vulture in sight.
August 17, 2014 Madison, IN
I have worn my new mother-of-the-bride dress twice now: once for my daughter's wedding and once for the wedding of my niece.
I was wondering about selling it after all the festivities, and my sister said, "You could wear it to cocktail parties."
Ha, ha! I responded with extreme skepticism, "Now when am I going to be going to a cocktail party?"
She came back with, "Your life might change."
Well, yes, I guess I can imagine that.
What I can't imagine, anymore, is wanting to go to a cocktail party.
August 16, 2014 Madison, IN
Let's see: Red Rock, Orange County, Yellowstone, Greencastle, Blue Ridge, Indigo ? Violet ? We lose interest, energy, what as we near the end of the rainbow?
Go to any telephone book. You will see a plethora of names in the ABCs, not so many XYZs. Ditto words in general. Try to treat X, Y, and Z as equal in word games with other letters of the alphabet.
Is it a human quality that we like the beginnings of things better than a thorough follow-through?
I remember someone recommending biographies as good reading for young people, "but only read the first two-thirds."
Is that because the last third of a person's life doesn't seem to warrant what they went through/achieved in the first two thirds, or is it because we older folks are just plain boring?
Do older folks rest on their laurels, or collapse under them? Do we humans in life just have a habit of vigorous beginnings and slacker endings?
Don't look to me for an answer. It's too late in the day.
August 15, 2014 Madison, IN
I have put literally hundreds of hours in to various organizations as a volunteer. I'm not patting myself on the back here. I am very aware of the personal and social benefits of volunteering.
Nevertheless, I feel as if my efforts have usually been, most importantly, for others. Stuffing and stamping envelopes for fundraisers, writing newsletters and fund-raising letters, keeping track of the accounting of organizations (depositing and writing checks, paying bills, etc. etc.) has never exactly been my idea of fun. Ditto shelving books, moving books around for and after book sales, watering plants and cooking for the multitudes.
In recent years, however, I seem to have lost the knack of having people come to me for help. Au contraire, it seems as if I am constantly being put into the position of having to apply to them for the privilege of helping.
This has happened more than once, and I really used to pay little attention. They had their reasons, I figured - security issues, maybe. More, and more, however, I am finding myself resistant to the idea that I have to beg an organization for the privilege of helping them in the form of filling out an application.
In fact, I'm probably not going to do it.
I have plenty of wonderful ways to fill my time. I do love the social part of volunteering (mostly, not always!) but there are other social avenues available to me that I don't have to ask for permission to enjoy.
Do these organizations need volunteers or not? Are they just, like some business organizations, posing as people constantly needing help?
And of course, it causes me to do some soul-searching. Does my unwillingness to play "Mother may I" mean I'm getting more grown up, or signify I'm just getting more and more old and cranky?
One thing is for sure. If they don't need me, I don't need them!
August 14, 2014 Madison, IN
I remember an episode of House in which House tells a coworker that he thinks getting a sperm donor through a sperm bank is not a smart idea. "You are making a man the father of your child whom you wouldn't go out with for a cup of coffee."
Good point! I never thought of it quite that way, although, come to think of it, relationships are pretty much of a permanent blind date anyway.
It made me think about the way so many corporations hire now, though: they force applicants to apply via computer. That is kind of the same thing as choosing the father of your child from a written interview.
How's that working for you, Mr. Corporation, sir? Hired lots of good employees lately?
August 11, 2014 Madison, IN
I read an article today which says comedians are funny because they have such low self-esteem that they are depressed. They use humor to disguise their true feelings.
That would go along with Freud, I believe it was, who said that the things that make us laugh in dreams are the things that are the most painful.
Sometimes I am funny, but have never been funny enough to be a comedian. I suppose my consolation is that I am, evidently, not depressed enough to be funny all the time. (Of course you also have to be terribly clever!)
Jay Leno said his motivation in being funny was to try to make his sadly resigned mother laugh. I guess that could be enough to make him feel bad about himself, though: a mother who couldn't be made happy without him putting out that incredible effort. Leno doesn't seem depressed, but then we mere viewers might not have known Robin Williams was depressed, either.
George Burns is another comedian who did not strike me as depressed. Maybe some of the comics of my childhood were old enough to have come to some terms with existence.
I have read that this happens to most depressive people by age fifty or so, so maybe the suicides of older people are more complicated and thoughtful and deliberate than simply depression-driven acts of desperation.
My own health issues have brought me down in the last year or so; how much more so if I had had open heart surgery before the age of sixty? Reading about the deaths (and sometimes really untenable) lives of my contemporaries makes me spend time considering when, for me, enough will have been enough.
August 10, 2014 Madison, IN
Since walking is supposed to be good for your emotional state, I think there should be walking therapists who walk with you as you converse. That would be good for the therapists, too, who are sometimes famously as disturbed as their patients!
August 9, 2014 Madison, IN
One thing I forgot to mention about our campsite at Harmonie State Park was a tulip tree riddled (or more accurately regimented) with row upon row of perfectly spaced holes from within inches of the ground all the way up into the branched part feet above our heads.
I read that sapsuckers make holes in trees that they revisit to get the trees' sap, but I didn't see any sapsuckers. The only bird I saw visiting the scene of the crime was a white-breasted nuthatch.
I did see one other tree, also a tulip, with the same kind of holes, although it wasn't quite so uniformly drilled.
Ha, ha, I just looked up images of sapsucker damage to trees, and I have to say that the reason I didn't see the bird itself was because it was in treatment for OCD! The perfectly spaced holes (and rows of holes!) made most of the images I googled look like the work of wannabe amateurs.
The trees looked perfectly alive up top, green leaves and all, but I couldn't help being a little relieved that the weather was supposed to be gorgeous all through our stay there, with no high winds!
August 8, 2014 Madison, IN
(if I had written yesterday)
From the balcony I could see parts of a boat which, as I approached the river bank, revealed itself as the cutest vessel I have seen on the river yet.
It looked like a small two-story houseboat. It was freshly painted (with trim of a different color (white and ochre?)) and had hanging pots of flowers and ferns. Inside I could see the kind of lampshade you see in most living rooms. It was lit. Homey, and altogether a tidy effect!
The name on the boat looked like it might be Anon. How clever would that be? Promise for the future and a humorous commentary on boat names all in one charming four-letter word.
Alas, as I got closer I could see that the boat's name was Annie. I was consoled for that by the idea that someone had named the boat for a much-loved one. Better than being clever, I guess.
The front of the boat looked flat to me. A towboat renovated for a dwelling?
It remains a mystery. Later in the day the boat was gone.
August 6, 2014 Madison, IN
"Eat your dinner."
"I'm not hungry."
"Eat it anyway. The people in China are starving."
"Then give it to the starving people in China."
"I'm hungry. I need a job."
"Sorry. We gave it to the starving people in China."
August 5, 2014 Harmonie State Park, IN
(if I had written that day)
This day we spent entirely at the park. Took a couple of longish walks and saw a mongo raccoon in the picnic grounds along the Wabash River. Judging from roadkill, I never would have imagined a raccoon could be so big. (And no, it was not a dog!)
This park is very civilized. It is all electric, and you wake up at night when the RV neighbor's air conditioning goes on. I'm not complaining, exactly. Their air conditioner is a lot quieter than ours at home.
It's just that - we're not at home.
There are trails for hikers, trails for bikers, trails for mountain bikers. There is a swimming pool. (Swimming in the Wabash at the park is forbidden.)
Definitely a family-oriented park. Although it is twice the size of Madison's Clifty Falls State Park, it has a much tamer feel. My partner says if we come again, he'd rather camp in New Harmony's Murphy Park.
August 4, 2014 Harmonie State Park, IN
(if I had written that day)
Yesterday we drove into New Harmony and looked around. It is a pretty little town with a big park (where we also might have camped for $20 a night) with a list of the tree species to be found there. At least some of them are labelled.
We went to Sara's and had good coffee and a very exotic walnut lavender scone. We liked it, although it was a little on the sweet side.
Since it was a Sunday some of the museums and historical features were closed, but we went walking around the town and to the old bridge over the Wabash River, which is now closed, unfortunately even to pedestrians.
There are some amazing old houses there, and park-like grounds galore, and above all the air is clean clean clean.
With the big Wabash River with no power plants in sight and an interesting history, we may decide to move to New Harmony some day.
August 3, 2014 Mt. Vernon, IN
The month, like the year (like my life!) is running away with me.
Ha, ha - I shouldn't forget my mind. Just now I typed (do we still use that word?) Rumilluni yes, these are not just (ideally) light casting thoughts, but often lunar-light-casting thoughts - in other words, lunatic. What a joke. That could be another expression for obfuscation.
Today, though, not having written for three days, I will try to be sensible and understandable.
Yesterday we left for a weekend in the southwest corner of Indiana.
Right now I am sitting in a $58 dollar a night hotel, the Mount Vernon Inn, which is near the car-park intersection on Highway 62 east of Mount Vernon.
Among the sweetest hotel desk people I have ever met is here. Last night she brought me a second pillow with perfect good nature and called me darlin' with the sweetest of smiles. I loved it! If that is indicative of the help here it makes up a good deal for the undeniable seediness of the place.
The room needed a little airing when we entered, but at least we weren't assaulted by toxic cleaning smells or cigarette residues, which can make accommodations better maintained unlivable.
Breakfast is part of the deal here, but it is not quite seven o'clock in the morning yet. Waiting for breakfast guarantees fresh coffee!
P.S. We gave up on both breakfast and coffee. Who knows - maybe they didn't start making coffee until nine a.m. - too late for us early birds!
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