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Rumilluminations December 2015
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Tue, December 01 2015 - 8:42 pm

December 31, 2015
Madison, IN

Time for the final sign-off of the year. Winter weather finally arrived today.

Yesterday my partner stood on the blue metal platform over the high river - and heard a strange melody being played by the wind, water and the structure itself. I hope I get to hear it someday!

I said a few days ago I couldn't limp through the year's end, but truth to tell, that is exactly what I'm literally doing thanks to a knee injury.

I'm trying to reduce the inflammation by dietary adjustment, so I guess I have a grudging New Year's resolution this year - starting tomorrow, that is.

I'll let you know how that goes.

December 30, 2015 
Madison, IN

One of the biggest things that slow us down as we age, I believe, is our tendency to mistrust ourselves.

Second-guessing takes a lot of time - especially if you can't remember quickly and resolve the question. This morning I remembered picking up a bottle of pills but couldn't for the life of me remember swallowing one down. They are big pills - if one went down smoothly for a change I might not remember.

When I was younger I don't think I would have thought twice about it. Of course I took the pill! This morning, though, I suffered some distress wondering about it - I wasted at least a minute or two.

Ten minutes later, after I resolved not to second-guess everything, I wondered if I had cleaned the coffee grinder well enough. Of course I had!

Not. Joseph had to unstick it.

Luckily he is not parental at all about this kind of stuff. No lectures or admonitions, even.

Truth to tell, he's just grateful I enjoy making coffee.

This is one thing that, at least in the morning, I never forget.

*Listen Up, Philip!  Ponderous, humorless, depressing, unsympathetic, charmless. We may not bother to finish it. Maybe tomorrow.

December 29, 2015
Madison, IN

I'm wondering if reading pace is analogous to traveling pace.

If so, I guess my reading is comparable to walking or bike riding.

When I was very young I read faster, I know. I got the story, but how much did I miss when I couldn't hear the words?

No doubt driving is quicker than bike riding which is quicker than walking - obviously.

What doesn't seem obvious to many people is that speed isn't everything. Sure, you can get the gist at warp speed. You get the idea.

But what about cadence, rhythm, time to look around?

Well, no doubt many roads are not suitable for walking, and I'm sure the same is true of books.

When it comes to books, though, I guess I feel that a book best speed-read is a book best not read at all.

*These Three  1930's movie inspired by a play by Lillian Hellman. Not badly done, maybe, but why watch a distorted version of the work when you can see the later (unbound by censorship) more faithful version of The Children's Hour by the same director?

December 28, 2015                                       Madison, IN

Woosh I've gotten lazy. Can't limp out the old year!

My sister told me something yesterday I never noticed. Sure, the light begins to come back after the winter solstice - but not in the morning!

The sun keeps coming up later for two weeks after the solstice. The lengthening of the day all comes in the afternoon. No wonder the return of the light seems to take forever! I'm a morning person. You'd think I would have observed that for myself.

This a.m. Heavy cloud cover, late sunrise. At 10 minutes to eight it was just beginning to get light.


My sister thinks us amazingly persistent in our movie-watching. Actually we enjoy them for the most part. I guess she includes my commentary as part of the abovementioned persistence, so I will allow her remark to spur me into catching up a little - even though she herself does not care for films. She prefers reading because she controls the pace.

Ha! So do we - with the pause and rewind functions. Hardly fair to the creators, most likely.

*Queen of Earth  We couldn't stomach more than twenty minutes of it. More over-privileged young people sniping at their so-called friends.


*Starlet  Surprising portrait of a young po... oops! I don't want to give anything away. No spoilers here. An interesting premise leads into a slightly strange surprisingly engaging story.

December 26, 2015                                       Madison, IN

I can't imagine living in the same house for an entire lifetime. In any one place I've lived, the time seems to blur.

Sure, the years in which a new member of the family appears stand out. I can, if I think about it, say the months and years of my parent's deaths. Major surgery and major life changes like weddings of my children I can generally calculate.

Other things are a little harder for me to place. What year lately did Lake Michigan freeze over? A Facebook friend today said it used to freeze over every winter. Did it really? That's not what I remember, and we lived fifteen miles away.

What year did the tree hit the roof?

I won't remember unless it occasioned my own relocation!

December 25, 2015                                       Madison, IN

Well, I'll greet you with some new ones I've heard:

Holly Jolly!

Cheek and Merriment!

...and a creative twelve days of Christmas to all!

December 24, 2015                                       Madison, IN

Walking along the river this morning and again this afternoon, it was warmer than the average Thanksgiving Day walk.

No jacket even, this afternoon.

What is wrong with this winter?

No ice no snow no freezing winds no aching teeth no numb nose no slippery sidewalks no chilly drafts no cumbersome gloves boots hats layered sweaters clouds.

No clouds!

Pretty weird that I should write about the light coming back on the solstice when this winter it has hardly even gone!

Some Christmas Eve!

....We're lovin' it.

December 23, 2015                                                    Madison, IN

This winter it is very easy to believe in global warming. Of course I have believed in its reality for years, but lately scientists have been reported as saying the world has only 2 degrees more centigrade to warm up and then we are in real trouble.

Some might say, "What's a degree more or less matter?"

Think about what a degree means to your own health. We usually start feeling pretty rotten when we warm two degrees above normal.

The world has been warming already for some time now. Just as our bodies, when we get up to 104 degrees F begin to shut down, so the world will start undergoing some major changes. These might not destroy the world; they might only destroy us and a few million other species.

But oh well.

The changes we have wrought may help keep the world safe for cockroaches!

*Swing Shift    Drama about women in an airplane factory during World War II. What doesn't work for characters - but no, I don't want to ruin it for you!


*War Room  Oh Lord, why didn't you save us from this movie? It did have a good five minutes, though. The jump-rope competition! Awesome.

December 21 or 22, 2015                                           Madison, IN

The more I think about those calendar signposts, the solstices and the equinoxes, the more I appreciate their significance.

Fall and Spring are volatile, changeable seasons. I myself am most restless during those times. What could provide more balance to the switch between winter to summer (and vice-versa) than having even time between light and dark?

On the other hand, winter can seem like endless affliction (discouraging!) and summer an endless ease and abundance, bestowing a false sense of security.

The knowledge that the very longest day of celebration is also the turning point towards darkness and cold is a note of warning that abundance is transitory. It tempers summer revelry.

Conversely, the holiday celebration of the imperceptible return of the light and hope for better times is the consolation prize offered by the winter solstice.

That is truly a sacred gift.

December 20, 2015                                           Madison, IN

Here we are on the shortest day of the year. This morning we got a little walk in before the rain came down too hard.

Yesterday's bread in the form of cinnamon currant rolls is already given away or gone, but we'll make do with posole and potatoes and sweet potatoes to accompany our holiday food.

Wish I could remember some of the smart ideas I was planning to write about, but writing when you are my age is a lot like photography: "a friend of the moment."

If the moment comes when you are walking outside or in a sleep-induced fog, the inspiration may just evaporate never to revisit. The confidence that you'll remember it later remains as strong as ever. "How could I forget that?"

Why can't my memory be as strong as my confidence?

Oh well, as my sister says, "People who are incompetent don't know they're incompetent."

If my lost thought comes back you will definitely hear from me.

Unless, of course, my short-day sleepy-brain darkness obscures it again.

Happy solstice to you all, whether winter or summer! Just as the equinox gives us balance, the solstice invariably gives us something to be ambivalent about.

*Dressed to Kill   Comic detective show painted with a very broad brush. We laughed and got a wee bit bored

*Leap Year  We loved this one. Ireland!

December 20, 2015                                     Madison, IN

I was thinking about my partner's young niece writing a short story on the Internet. When I complimented her on it, she said, "I only did it for an assignment."

At first I wondered about the wisdom of such an assignment as opposed to a creative urge that comes from within. Then I realized how silly such a concern is. Of course we require our children to learn all kinds of skills that they don't care about learning.

We have to do it while they are young, while we are still in a position to get them to learn.
Yep, it's a power play, and no, the children may never use the skills we have taught them when they are adults.

At some point, though, what a child learns when he doesn't have much choice transforms into a source of power for his own creativity. Maybe a disinterested little girl who writes a story for school becomes a woman whose need for self-expression can flow into a creative form that requires a wider audience than her class in school.

Most of us are not particularly rebellious as children, thank goodness. I pretty much soaked up everything that was offered. If anything, I wish I had been offered even more at an early age.

Some of us are pretty clueless about ferreting out opportunities for ourselves, or once we are teens, too complicated in our response to what is on offer.

I had a friend once who blamed it entirely on hormones.

She was probably right.

*Standby  Romantic comedy worthy of the name. Very enjoyable.

The other day

*Some Kind of Beautiful  The actors are beautiful but the movie insults our intelligence. It has its moments but they are few and far between.

December 19, 2015                                     Madison, IN

Cold sunny morning. We walked upstream towards the bridge. A flock of geese (gaggle?) was hanging out between the walk and the river. All except one, which was standing at the river edge of the four-foot-wide walkway.

As we got closer, the goose didn't budge, so I walked behind my partner and went into the street to put more space (and my partner) between the goose and me. I'm that way about dogs but to be more afraid of a goose than the bird was of me? Who's the silly goose now?

My partner walked stolidly on. The goose stood calmly, neither giving any quarter nor displaying any fear. What was that all about?

We had heard gunshots earlier this morning. Maybe it's hunting season and the geese know they are safe within city limits, or maybe that goose lost a mate and was in a state of shock.

Later we ran across a brown bag containing garbage, also on a sidewalk. "Thank you, Santa Claus," my partner muttered sarcastically.

That wasn't Santa Claus. That was Santa Rat!

December 18, 2015                                     Madison, IN

So delighted we have gotten so close to the end of the shortening of day length without suffering bitter cold - I can't believe it! Winter solstice is almost here. Today our daily walk will be chilly, but winter is definitely taking baby steps.

Last night I tried to write about yesterday's movie and we couldn't get onto the Internet through our handheld devices. Rather than deal with the problem we hoped it would be better in the morning.

It was! Problem resolved! How or by whom is a mystery I feel no need to solve.

Anyway, in addition to movies we have been watching The Roosevelts: an intimate history by Ken Burns and all his talented resource people. Wonderful!

Yesterday we started a new detective series, River, which is a great combo of anguish and humor. We have seen two out of six episodes and are definitely hooked.

Later went on a walk in winter weather - cold, windy, with snow flurries! (well, one or two at least). Sigh. Bound to happen.

*The Visitor was our movie of the day. We loved it. Shows the big big morally gray morass that is immigration. Here is one huge area in which the difference between legality and a more inherent sense of morality collide.

December 16, 2015                                     Madison, IN

Today I have a double-edged message to impart, so either stop here or read it all!

To foreigners living within our borders: you have my sympathy - my limited sympathy.

As a twenty-something honeymooner in Mexico in 1973, I, innocent blond that I was, received lots of dirty looks and hate stares. (That had not been my experience travelling in Mexico two years before.) I make the word honeymooner singular because my brown-haired, darker-skinned husband did not get such a negative response as I did.

For some reason there was a lot of anti-Americanism in Mexico at that time, and I guarantee this was not because citizens like me were coming into Mexico and plotting a mass murder against the citizens of that country.

So, yeah, granted: it is hard being on foreign soil at the best of times - there are always people who will view you with suspicion and mistrust. Give the citizens of this country a break for being distrustful of innocent you!

To the citizens of the United States: you appear to others to be heartless and xenophobic and even a little silly when you react so strongly to those who are different from you.

Maybe if you would travel outside the country once in a while (hell - travel outside the county!) you might understand a little better how it feels to be immersed in a culture which speaks a native language not your own and looks very different from you.

Travel! Give up your six-packs of beer or your extra thousand square feet of housing or your twentieth pair of shoes or your premium tv service (or all of the above) and sacrifice the boundaries of your comfort zone for a while. Who knows, you might even expand them.

Failing all else, read books by people who have sacrificed their comfort to the experience of other-culture immersion. Thanks to public libraries, that costs nothing.

Ha, ha, have I succeeded in making you uncomfortable?

Just consider it my holiday gift to you - and you are very welcome!

December 14, 2015                                     Madison, IN

Went on a walk all the way to the top of the Heritage Trail yesterday - longest walk in a while. I saw a deer about a block away, and blurred my eyes. I could still see it. I was just musing about how once you spot them you can't unseen them, when from twelve feet in front of me a heretofore completely invisible deer bolted. She made a couple of graceful leaps broadside to me, and I had to laugh. I was blind to that close-by deer even though I had deer on the brain.

Further up the trail I saw eight turkeys. Some of them spread their wings. I had been doing that a short time before myself. We're they sweating under their arms, I wondered.

That's how warm it was!

I came home and made an herb bread with some herbs of Provence and a little fresh rosemary. I highly recommend the fresh rosemary - that was some of the most aromatic and tastiest bread I've ever eaten!

*In the Heart of the Sea  on the big screen! 3D! Back story of the writing of Moby Rick, more or less.  Watery and fiery thrills.

*Monkey Business  As silly as the title and I almost gave up on it at first, but the last hour was madcap funny. Early fifties black and white.

December 13, 2015                                    Madison, IN

Here it is Sunday morning in the middle of December and I have not decided what kind of bread to make yet nor written anything about Christmas yet.

Well, what right have I to write anything about Christmas? I can really no longer call myself a Christian.

On the other hand, I really believe in the Spirit of Christmas! It celebrates all the good stuff of life that we are afforded by the wonderful world and the human race.

My mom said that Santa Claus was real - that he was "the Spirit of Christmas."

I believe, I believe!

I believe in Santa Claus! Maybe I should call out the holiday greeting, "Merry Clausmas!"

Or "Merry Nickmas!", no. That doesn't sound quite right.


December 11, 2015                                    Madison, IN

Foggy mornings, mild days. Winter has yet to arrive. Almost always we manage to get a walk.

It's amazing how much less the loss of light bothers me when the weather is so much warmer than usual. I've only used my winter jackets once or twice.

Today I saw an ice plant blossom, rose and chrysanthemum still  blooming.

Did some laundry. My favorite spot removing agent now advertises 50 times more powerful formula on the container.

What on earth can the manufacturers mean by that? I can assure you (and them) that I am not using only one-fiftieth of what I used to need to get chef jackets clean. My assurances are even more confident that our clothes are not fifty times cleaner.

If the makers of this product are using 50 times strength agents in the new product, however, maybe it is fifty times more toxic. Sobering thought.

One thing I wish were fifty times less powerful - my electronic editor. I am sooo over being told I mean recognize when I type recondite until I educate my dictionary. With no warning bell or anything!

And I could swear it edited my negatives out of my comments just now about my usual spot-removing product.

I've been wanting thing to make a list of these most recent behaviors on the part of my accursed editor, but my memory is worse than its vocabulary.

Woe is me!


*The Butcher's Wife  Charming movie - wonderful to see actors that were unknown to me when I saw this movie on the big screen in 1991 that are now familiar faces. It is a very romantic comedy. Mary Steenbergen is priceless.

December 9, 2015                                     Madison, IN

I wonder why people tend to say. That the East and West would never meet?

Sure, it is dark there while it is light here, but aren't the differences between North and South even more pronounced?

It is winter there while it is summer here! That is surely a bigger difference.

Maybe that is just the point. Why should we go halfway around the world for weather similar to what we have at home, while we can go one half or one-quarter of the distance and get some relief from winter snows?

*Long Walk Home  Social changes and conflicted loyalties in Montgomery, Alabama, create a crisis in a young white family.


*Amy  Wow! We had never heard Amy Winehouse before - never knew about her amazing talent in jazz. Tragic story about how strange ideas of love and unfortunate choices can destroy even highly gifted people.

December 7, 2015                                     Madison, IN

Ha, ha the media keeps telling us we're afraid. An insurance company (Prudential), however, is advertising that our brains are hard-wired to think things will go our way in the future - thus (presumably) instilling in us the desire to distrust our instincts and buy their "product."

I'm getting mixed messages, here. Am I afraid or am I not?

This dynamic of opposite messages makes me think of religions. "Fear not!" is so often the message.

But ha, ha! In general we are not afraid!

So what religion does is instill fear in us by suggesting (since the unconscious does not recognize the negative) that we be afraid.

Having succeeded, perhaps, in making us afraid, religion then offers to take care of us. What a joke.

Well, I wonder why our brains are hard-wired to think things will go well. Maybe, just maybe, it is because belief in the benificence of the world is a more successful strategy for survival.

Maybe an optimistic acceptance of uncertainty is exactly what keeps us on our toes.

(If you don't read anything else on my site, read this.)

*Stir of Echoes  Kind of a hodgepodge, which admittedly we watched to the end. 

The other day:

*A Walk on the Moon  Events in the life of one family the summer the astronauts walked on the moon.

December 6, 2015                                      Madison, IN

Today I baked millet corn bread and it was good!

The weather was fabulous so I went on a walk, ending up exploring a graveyard which was much bigger than I had realized. Some of the gravestones are broken, buried, weathered to illegibility.

Makes me think maybe it is not to be regretted if there is no physical marker of someone's existence. They don't last for long anyway.

On the other hand, these poor remnants suggest so many tales of success and suffering and caring! I'm glad some people have erected them, even if I have no intention of doing so.

But what to do, what to do?

I like the less expensive incineration option, but we no longer have an acid rain problem and incineration adds to global warming.

Too bad we don't at present have a back yard.

Burial at sea would be a solution but I do not anticipate subjecting myself to journeys with probable seasickness, even discounting timing problems.

A creative new way of dealing with our dead is definitely called for.

December 4, 2015                                      Madison, IN

*The Hunting Ground  Documentary about sexual offenses on college campuses which everyone should see. I would maybe, after viewing this, I would recommend a small liberal arts college!

December 3, 2015                                      Madison, IN

I was remarking yesterday that mass murders have become a daily occurrence in this country.

I thought I was exaggerating, but no! I was understating the facts, as it turns out. It seems there are more than one mass murders a day with four or more victims.

A solution to this problem is not something I'm expecting soon, but it does not help to be in denial about it.

People stating that this is the first time domestic terrorism on the part of Muslims has occurred on American soil since 9/11/2001 are forgetting about the Boston Marathon bombings, the Fort Hood shootings and the machete attack in an Oklahoma factory. (That last might have resulted in one death only. (Only! Listen to me!)

People would like to think that this kind of behavior is rare, and maybe statistically it is (small comfort to the victims and their families) but whether religious terrorism, workplace disenchantment, or disappointment in love is the motive - the rest of us just don't get it. We understand murderous rage but not the narcissism necessary to inflict upon others. We might have felt religious fervour; even feeling it no longer, we can relate to its transformative power. Most of us, however, can't begin to comprehend why that should unleash such powerful destructive evil.

That makes me very very glad. Thank you, my virtuous neighbors, for your love and forbearance.

*Buen Dia, Ramon  Endearing Mexican youth emigrates to Germany with unexpected consequences. Highly unusual film.

December 2, 2015                                      Madison, IN

I guess Rudolph the Red-nosed deer is king of them all now, because instead of spelling those leathers used to guide animals "reins" it is more often spelled "reign."

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reigndeer! Looks like his kingship will last longer than his servitude.

Some impecunious people aren't described as "poor" anymore, but "pour." This seems completely counterintuitive, since liquidity implies riches to most of us. You can't help but feel sorry, however, for those individuals described as "pour." Talk about being in an unstable condition!

I'm also piqued by peek and peak. The use of peek for a peak is peaking, but pique is also
getting displaced. What's "a fit of peek?" A temporary obsession with spying? And I am sure I have seen a description of someone "stealing a peak" at an attractive woman.

The electronic editors aren't working, folks, but whining about it does no good. I think I'm the only one who cares.

Grammatical outrage is outmoded, and "pique" is doomed.

*Out of the Past  An old noir ex-detective story with an exceedingly slippery character to love/hate.

*Jenny's Wedding  We couldn't understand the low rating given by its viewers on Netflix streaming. Maybe the unfavorable reviewers ganged up statistically for diametrically opposed reasons.

December 1, 2015                                      Madison, IN

Today I walked up Hatcher Hill Road in weather that I imagined as being very London. It was rainy, but the water felt like a fine very gentle spray. I think the woods have been thinned between the road and the houses on the hill above. I don't remember the dwellings being so visible, even in the winter.

It would seem much less pleasant now than in the summer, but it really wasn't. It was kind of cool to see robins' nests that were hidden by a leafy bower of arcing branches in the warm months. The waterfalls were real cascades.

Best of all, my partner came and picked me up according to plan. We had some food shopping to do. I can't believe we can actually get organic and unusual Bob's Red Mill grains in Madison, Indiana. My bread for this Sunday will have millet in it.

I've been wanting that - the way I make it. I haven't had it for decades!

*The Assassination of Richard Nixon  Disintegration of a person's sanity is brilliantly portrayed and chilling.

*The Stanford Experiment Wow two really discomfitting films in one day. I had heard of this experiment and taken its message to heart, but it was another thing to endure two hours portraying in some detail what these boys endured.

Interesting - I suffered more during the former film, my partner more during the latter. Both definitely instructive.

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