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Rumilluminations September 2014
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Mon, September 01 2014 - 6:20 pm

September 29, 2014                                Madison, IN

Saturday and Sunday we had what I would call two New Mexico sunrises.  They were both glorious, but the one on Sunday lit up the river pink.  Even in New Mexico, dry as it has usually been around me, I never saw anything like that sunrise.

Later in the day I mentioned them to someone at Chautauqua and he responded it happens every day.  I don't know if he was being spiritual or what, but I couldn't respond.  Where I have been in Indiana (Valparaiso and here) it happens very rarely - in Valpo because of the trees in the neighborhood around the house (and clouds) and here because of fog (and clouds).

In fact, I hardly see a sunrise worth raving about all winter long in Indiana.  Gray skies, gray days are much more common.

The Chautauqua arts and crafts fair was, on the contrary, very colorful.  It is our favorite park-located festival because the musicians play different kinds of music on different street corners and we don't get our ears blasted by amplified sounds while we are in our bedroom trying to sleep.  We like arts and crafts, and evidently lots of other people did too.

Some of my favorite items for sale this year were traditional brooms with the natural bristles dyed with different colors.  What a great way to brighten up household chores!  I for one think that they work much better than those dinky plastic brooms which are ubiquitous now.

The fair was blessed this year with the best weather possible.  I hope it was as financially successful for the participants. 

September 27, 2014                               Madison, IN

Silly me.  When I wrote about written laughing expressions I forgot one of the most memorable and recent, "bwah hah hah".
I have not seen this in literature, but on Facebook several times.  Explosive very much "lol", I gather, which I thought stood for "lots of laughs" but was informed by my son meant "laughing out loud".

An older but still used laugh is the "tee hee hee" (or some variation thereof) which I associate with descriptions of nervous feminine "tittering" and elves and Cinderella mice.

Now, since I am out of laugh words for humans, I'm supposing  robot manufacturers have sounds they give robots to make, either something like "ha, ha" (although how could that not sound sarcastic?) or maybe blip tones.

Part of a robot's service could be an automatic polite laugh in response to an obvious jest.

Ah, but how would you program a robot to "get" a joke?

My efforts are becoming laughable!

September 25, 2014                                 Madison, IN

How many ways can we express a laugh in words?

Ha, ha - outright and straightforward or sarcastic and ironic; gotta get it from context, I guess.

Heh, heh - sheepish and self-deprecating

Ho ho - a big deep round Santa laugh - he never laughs any other way

yuk yuk - the laugh of the yokel, buck teeth protruding

mpph mpph, or hmpph hmpph - suppressed, with lips closed.  Hmm... what does that convey?  The rueful unwilling laugh of the taciturn, perhaps.

Har, har, har - the laugh of the mocking bully (variation, hardy-har-har-har)

There are lots of words that convey the meaning of a laugh.  How would you write down the sound of a chuckle,  kind of like a hmph but with a smile.

We've all heard peals and shrieks of laughter not to mention gales.  I think that last might require multiple producers.

Why, there may be more ways to laugh than to love!

September 24, 2014                                 Madison, IN

It has often been noted in the texts I have read (heh, heh, my way of avoiding mentioning which particular ones because I have forgotten) that when Darwin talks about the survival of the fittest he is talking about whole species.

Humans!  He is talking about populations as a whole teeming, interbreeding mass.

Stop thinking that Darwin's "survival of the fittest" is talking about you, the individual, and puffing yourself up (or beating yourself up, as the case may be.)

For the individual, survival is often about survival of the strongest - or maybe the weakest.  It could hinge on the courage of optimism or the wimpiest caution.

A tsunami is no respecter of varieties of mere human attributes.

When it comes to individuals, survival is often the condition of the dumb luckiest.

I think the biggest thing that makes us human is our ability to sense the pathos of the individual experience.

Hopefully this rare quality will help us survive as a species.

September 23, 2014                                 Madison, IN

Herons have returned.  We can see them almost every day now.  I'm hoping the kingfisher, which has made an appearance to me only once or twice since we moved here 2.5 years ago, will hang around for a good long while.  We didn't see it today, probably because we went upstream to look at the bridge.

Today the railing for the bridge walkway (which had to be specially ordered and waited for) looks almost complete.  Maybe the construction workers have to wait for yet another shipment before they can complete it.

I'm hoping the pedestrian walkway is finished soon!  I want to be able to say off-handedly, "We walked to Kentucky this morning."

The wonderful thing about living near a body of water (or is a river not a body?  Well, then a large flow) is that every day is at least a little different from every other day.

Hmm... edit that to every hour!

Ha, ha, kind of reminds me of my hair.

September 21, 2014                                  Madison, IN

How come I can say a lumberjack has felled a tree but not that Fall has felled that tree's leaves?  Well, fell Fall fells me!

The Fall Solstice slices my soul in half, along with the day.

Autumn, which used to be my favorite season, now seems too short and not colorful enough to mask what comes after.

My goodness, I have spent half of September thinking it was still August!

October is fine.  November, however, with its gray skies and tentative flurries fails to numb me to the fact that there is no room for denial in December.

All the "ember" months are appropriately named.  September still has the ember of summer, and the sun in November and December is a mere ember, a pale chill promise of its return in Spring.

September 20, 2014                                   Madison, IN

I remember years ago reading that one should not have houseplants in your bedroom because at night they give off carbon dioxide rather than oxygen.

Since then, I have read and commented on the fact that levels of carbon dioxide above a certain value tend to keep us from thinking clearly.

Since being in nature (e.g. sitting under a tree) during the day is supposed to be both calming and energizing, I wonder whether the same environment at night could be the opposite.

Maybe the forest at night can be terrifying and have such an evil reputation not only because of nocturnal predators but also because all that fulminating carbon dioxide tends to make humans anxious and irrational!

September 18, 2014                                    Madison, IN

Was Shylock bald?

People don't use padlocks to lock their pads.  What were they developed to lock, I wonder?

If dreadlocks are dreadful, why do so many people wear them?  And even affect them?  Are they dreaded by the person who has to undergo the hair-dressing or by people who have to look at them?

Is a stalelock... no, that's stalemate (ha, ha, is this about a boring spouse?) ... I'm thinking of deadlock.  Was a deadlock originally a grip that ended only in death?

Is a forelock on a man styled after the forelock of a horse?  Is it meant, in describing a person, to imply anything of the wearer beyond the nature of the clump?

Speaking of horses brings to mind fetlocks.  I can't even dream of why that word arose.  Does that poor horse's ankle fetch a lock in the form of a rope?  (No, I just looked it up - it comes from old English foot via middle English and supposedly literally means foot-lock.  It is about the tuft of hair that part of the horse bears - so it relates to hair, not confinement.)

Now why do we use the same word for hair and security or confinement?  Maybe the first rope was a lock of hair.

And maybe padlocks were used to lock a horse's pad - that thing called a paddock.

Oh, the English language is something to get locked into forever.  Beware!

September 17, 2014                                    Madison, IN

Years ago I read some South American writer who wrote an essay about what he called the Spanish obsession with death.  (My half-Italian partner says he thinks it is Catholic, because he says Italians have it too.)

At any rate, at the risk of being politically incorrect, I'm going to try to make a point about it.

Anyone who has ever lived in New Mexico has seen the roadside shrines where people have been killed in accidents.  I used to think they were very quaint and different.  Not any more.  Now you can see them in Indiana!  This is, in my mind, definitely the result of the Spanish (via Mexico) culture.

Another very Spanish (Catholic, if you will) cultural phenomenon is the emphasis on family.  Family is all-important.

I'm not saying it didn't used to be important in America, but I don't remember family being so much a "my family, right or wrong" kind of value.

Now in our culture, we are obsessed with death (just watch TV and the movies if you don't believe me) and passionately-held family values.

I think at least part of this increase is due to the Hispanic influence.  In New Mexico, at least, the Anglos who had lived in New Mexico for generations seemed a lot more Hispanic in their modus operandi and values than people I have encountered elsewhere.

So why, oh why, if we are adapting some of the culture's important values, are we trying to keep these people out of the country?

September 16, 2014                                     Madison, IN

I don't like the way the world seems to be going.

Corporate jobs and workplaces seem inhuman to me.

Many Internet businesses, especially, no longer want to do any business over the phone (a former generation's nemesis) let alone have a physical presence reachable by the customer.

If they don't get your order right the first time, good luck getting it straightened out.  They would evidently rather lose the order than put any manpower into getting it straight.

They have their reasons, and they don't care if you, the customer, don't know what those might be.

Forget "The customer is always right."  They don't seem to know that the customer as an individual even exists.

We are, to them, as the sands on the shore or the stars in the sky.

I choose stardom!

September 15, 2014                                     Madison, IN

Why are people so intent on ranking technologies and arts as opposed to other technologies and arts?

Sure, I rank the washing machine higher in my life than the scrub board, but there are many people in the world yet who might appreciate a scrub board in their lives.

"Is the theater really dead?"  No, silly!  Of course not!  As long as there are people there will be theater.  If we don't have theater, we might just have to create our own drama:  witness the Salem witch trials.

I rarely listen to the radio, but even I might turn it on during a road trip to find out weather conditions or what's up in a certain area or even listen to music.

Apropos of all this, I'm thinking reading versus watching.  A picture is worth a thousand words, maybe, but some things are just not appropriate for the movies or art films.

Sir Walter Scott's description of the Scottish deer hunt is one of them.  The mass deer hunt, I'm talking about.  It is stunning.  Even if you see a movie entitled Waverly, you won't see that.

Sure, films may be more au currant than written descriptions.  TV is visual in a way radio could never be (you can always count on me to state the obvious.)

Have a favorite medium or machine, if you like - no blame.

But why does one thing have to be THE BEST?

September 13, 2014                                   Madison, IN

Our rent went up this month. Our automobile insurance went up this month, too.  Last month both our phone and cable bills went up (two different companies.)

The amount of money I have to put in the dryers in the laundry room has gone up twice in the last six months.

Many of the prices in the supermarkets have gone up also.  That may be offset by all the senior discounts on certain shopping days and coupons we keep track of to keep our food expenses down.

I haven't tried to calculate the net effect of food prices vs shopping "deals" on our grocery expenditures.

Why bother?  The calculations won't change our economic reality. 

The raises my partner has received (not without struggle) barely cover these added expenses, and I'm sure many Americans have had no increase in earned income at all within the last few months.

Maybe the booming economy (okay, okay, an exaggeration, but I want to make this pun!) is due at least partly to the boomers' improvident spending of their parents' legacies.

My dad used to say of his relatively respectable retirement income as he was donating his way into bankruptcy, "Oh, well.  It's only money and there's plenty more where that went!"

Consequently "provident" is not quite the word for my mother's spending habits.  "Penury" would be a more accurate description for them.

I'm grateful to her for leaving us something.  The extra money has allowed us to do and have things that otherwise we would be without. 

The trouble is, the money is all flowing out, and there isn't any more where that came from.

September 12, 2014                                   Madison, IN

My favorite times of the day are sunrise and sunset.  My favorite seasons of the year are Spring and Fall.

I seem to like times of transition.  Apparently I am not alone, because the changing of the guard (should I have capitalized that?) is a popular tourist attraction in England.

Do we like transition times because they possess more drama, or at least the possibility of drama?  Does change in transition times seem to happen faster?

Does living in a temperate climate make us predisposed to want variety?  Maybe I'm generalizing erroneously about what "we" like, assuming more of us feel this way than do.  My mother, in her later years, didn't want anything to change.  (I'm sure she didn't feel that way while we were growing up!)

Do people who live in almost eternal snow prefer things to remain the same?  It's hard to believe they don't love and welcome their brief summer.

What about those in the tropics?  Is their relatively unchanging climate to their enjoyment, or are they just more attuned to subtler changes?

And er, oh, right - there are hurricanes.

Come to think of it, part of my yearly transitions, if I had my way, would be to minimize the all-too-eternal seeming extremes.  North in the summer, South in the winter sounds good to me!

Maybe the appeal of transitional times is the appeal of moderation.  A revolution is transitional, though, and that is rarely accomplished with moderation.

Come to think of it, perhaps I'm not always so enamored of transition as I think I am.  All of a sudden, "eternity's sunrise" doesn't necessarily seem like such a great place to live.

September 11, 2014                                   Madison, IN

Why would anyone want to be a vigilante?

I think being a jubilante would be much more fun!

Being a jujubelante would be over the top, probably, although some might find it sweet.

How come someone can be bony or hearty, but not livery or gally?

For some reason, you have to possess gall.  And balls.  Have I heard any saying, "We had a bally good time!"?  I think not.

An experience can be heady, but a heady experience, paradoxically, is one very likely to make you lose your head.

Of course we can't call such an experience headless for obvious reasons, but why then can we call an event mind-blowing?

How come fingering and elbowing and kneeing are things we do, while legging is something we wear?  And heading doesn't even involve the part of the body the word evokes, except maybe internally to formulate the intention.  Oh, of course.  If someone heads towards something, she is precipitately walking head-first.  Except, of course, the head still comes third to the legs and arms.

But I must stop.  My eyelids are lashing my cheeks and I'm nosing a snore!

September 10, 2014                                   Madison, IN

I kind of get a kick out of some of the personality tests on Facebook.

Yesterday I found out I am a creative 23-year-old blue labrador retriever.

Ha, ha!  What would I do without Facebook?

September 9, 2014                                     Madison, IN

Oh, Lordy.

This morning while making coffee I was a mess.  The water filter indicator light was suddenly orangeish, so instead of not worrying about it (did you know you could use your Puro for a week or two after the light turns red? (according to a company rep)) I felt the need to change it.  This resulted in a rummage around and partial cleanup of the area below the sink.  (Why are those empty filter boxes still there??)

Once the water filter was taken care of, I put the coffee filter in its basket and put the package back into a cereal bowl instead of on the shelf above.

I sighed with relief when I opened the refrigerator door to get the coffee.  What else could I confuse?  I was home free.

Except I needed to open the freezer door to get the coffee.  No big deal - this particular false move happens all the time.  It could happen to anyone!

I calculated from the shrinking size of our French roast package I would need more beans to make strong enough coffee, so I threw in the random beans left over from grinding the last week or so.  (Does your burr grinder do that?  Every day a bean perches in a place where I cannot knock it off while grinding, so I save it.  What can I say - I'm part Scottish.)  Miscalculation - now I had an equivalent number of beans left in the bag.

What the hell, throw them in too and grind them up.  So much for husbanding resources.  Well, my partner says the coffee can't be too strong, so he won't mind!

Then I looked for a cup in the cupboard that I had already placed in waiting on the stove.  I almost put my cup of milk in the microwave to heat it before I had added the almond milk.  Then I realized I had just sterilized a dish cloth in there and my milk would be exposed to heavy garbage steam.  I hate that!

In the end, the coffee was great, but I was distracted by the thought that it was high time for a visit to the Alzheimer's Association.

I've been reminding myself to do this for two years now.

The only trouble is - I keep forgetting.

September 8, 2014                                      Madison, IN

More bl- words:  blink, blarney, neither of which can be seen as exactly positive.

The only positive bl- word I can think of is blithe, and to tell the truth I'll never have quite the same attitude I used to towards it.

I used to think of blithe as completely care-free in a good way.  "Blithe and bonny" and all that.

Now, considering its family, I cannot help but think that blithe is in some way suspect.  It is too carefree, maybe.  There might be something a little irresponsible about it.  The quality of being carefree might just be a little too throw-away and formless.

Ooh, I just thought of blend.  Neutral, really - unless you are one who likes to think in terms of black and white.

Hmm... white.  Whole who why where when what, my, wh- is a questioning sort of sound, isn't it?

Whale, whisper, whoosh.  Wham.  Whether.

Hardly seems like the opposite of bl -

Enough of this nonsense!   Bletch!

September 7, 2014                                      Madison, IN

Regarding "bl" words, I had forgotten one that struck my mind when I was first ruminating on them while walking:  blowsy.

Now that I think about it, blouses might have been meant for slightly blowsy folks.  I never really made the distinction in my mind between shirt and blouse today.  Shirts are for males and blouses are for females?  No!  Blouses are looser and puffier than shirts.

So maybe the next craze will be blouses for men, to hide their new, puffier shape.  What is going on with the fashion industry, that they are missing out on their great opportunity?  I'm sure men in the past have worn clothes that even in those days were called blouses.  Cheese makers, maybe?  Or an embellished aristocrat?

At any rate, blouses should be for both sexes in the up-and-coming generation!

I'm reading a book by Michael Moss right now called Salt Sugar Fat, and before you get bored and tune me out listen to this literally awesomely bad statistic:

Nearly one in four American adolescents may be on the verge of developing type 2 diabetes or already have it, compared with one in ten in the 1990's.

and this one:

In 2008 doctors who used ultrasound to peer inside the bodies of seventy children, many of them obese, found that kids as young as ten had the stiffened, thicker-walled arteries of forty-five-year-olds and other abnormalities that greatly increased their risk of heart disease.

No I am not going to tell you what page this is on.  Read the book!

Then go talk to your friends about the threat of Ebola.

September 6, 2014                                       Madison, IN

What is it about words beginning with "bl"?

So many of them are negative.

People feel blah or they are just blabbing instead of talking - worse yet, they might bluster, signifying much ado about nothing.

Blob, bland, blank - all suggest formlessness and certainly pointlessness - as witness blunt!

Blue is the color of the endless sky and black is the color of no- color.  No wonder blondes get a bad reputation - the pale color of their hair becomes representative of general vacuity.  (Don't bring up women with black hair - they are usually called brunettes, aren't they?  Maybe they are the exception that proves the rule?)
Black is a whole subset of its own:  Blackamoor, blackballing, blackmailing. 

Bleak is not an adjective used to describe something wonderful, nor are the words blemish and blunder and blot evocative of joyful experience.  Not even the double "o" can save bloopers.

A blimp is fat, and fat people are often called blimps.

A block made of wood is not a negative, formless thing, but writer's block, blockage, and blockades are definitely obstructive and undesirable.

Bloating signifies discomfort if not death, and bleating is what weak little beings manage to produce instead of a resounding baaa (or bah! as the case may be.)

Blankets, are admittedly, something that can call up positive sensations, especially in winter, but they are alas, when it comes to "bl" words, in an extreme minority.

And a blast has got to be the ultimate in destroying form.

No, don't blame me.  Say what you will, even a large blanket can't cover up all the negativity which is the family of "bl".

September 4, 2014                                        Madison, IN

I think the first brand I really became aware of was Coca-Cola.  At first it didn't seem like anything special, merely a fact of life.

Not the drink itself, you understand.  The brand.  Pepsi-Cola ran a distant second in my mind to the signs that were everywhere and those big bright red Coca-Cola coolers.

We rarely drank it.  We never went out to eat and my mother never brought it into the house - until we were teenagers, and it was still only for my mom to help her digestion at the doctor's suggestion.  (Come to think of it, maybe that was the beginning of my mother's health problems)

I don't remember when I had my first Coke, but I must have liked it just fine.  My first memory of becoming a habitual user dates from when I waited tables at the student union at University of New Mexico.  Every day while cleaning up (after having lunch with two desserts) I would drink a Coke.  It made my shift!

Until climbing stairs began to get burdensome and I realized I had gained weight, that is.  Then I decided it wasn't good for me and cut out Coke and one dessert.  I've written about this before, actually - sorry if I'm repeating myself.

What I am finally going to get around to saying is that there is no doubt that Coke is the best.

I indulged in it occasionally as a fifty-something until I noticed that even half a can makes my heart skip beats.  My heart pausing made me pause, too.

  The sad fact is, all sweetened soda is swill.  Not swell, swill.  Really addictive and really, really bad for you, it's the perfect path to obesity and ill health and a supersized YOU.

But the brand, the brand!  That bright red and white logo!  That dashing white script!  I am still a loyal Coke fan.  It's definitely the best soda there is.

I just never touch the stuff.

September 2, 2014                                        Madison, IN

I'm celebrating the 1st day of no-school-for-me-this-year reading Michael Moss' book Salt Sugar Fat during which I am snacking on (mealing on?) lightly cooked broccoli and carrots (you put the veggies in the steamer over an inch of water, bring the water to a boil, then turn off the (electric) burner leaving the lid on.)

While I am at it, I am celebrating my very little saturated fat sugar diet (salt is a little harder to edit out) which is my attempt to be positive about my sky-high cholesterol blood test result this year.

For most of my life I have eaten pretty well, I think, but occasionally I have embarked on the slippery slope of self-indulgence.  The amazing thing is, I haven't learned yet, evidently, that I can't get away with it.

At times I have regretted not having TV for twenty years or so in the 1970s and 1980s, but reading Michael Moss makes me realize my husband and I just saved ourselves a ton of grief that would have been inflicted on us by the kids lobbying for sweet cereals and other "breakfast foods."

Of course they saw the ads at other peoples' houses, but not every day!

What my children now, as adults, have in their kitchens to eat for breakfast, I conscientiously fail to observe.

September 1, 2014                                        Madison, IN

Ah, Labor Day!  Vacation for the masses, supposedly, but it used to mean the beginning of school for us kids.  Picnics, then doom.

I often say I didn't mind school as a child, but now that I think of it, I used to cross off the days to summer vacation.  Hmm... you think maybe I didn't like it so much after all?

Our school had windows looking out upon green trees and grass and blue sky.  How must the children feel who have no "distractions?"

I went to a church whose ministers gave interesting sermons, but if they had an off day, you could always look at the stained glass windows.

What happens to those poor kids whose churches are store fronts?

Don't talk to me about how they have love and the spirit.

It's no wonder young people seem to have no dread of prisons.  Their lives are spent in windowless rooms and cars and cement-clad city environments.  If they are poor, they are in prison already.

I don't know what the inside of the schools around here are like, but they have already been in school for two weeks.  They are not likely to associate school too strongly with Labor Day.

As will many of the laboring classes; my partner, for one, is working.

Me?  I celebrated Labor Day by making tuna fish salad - an echo of long ago outdoor family picnics.

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