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Rumilluminations September 2017
By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Fri, September 01 2017 - 8:46 pm

September 30, 2017
Madison IN

Fizzeley doodle.

I can make a long day go longer, I can make a short day go shorter.

Big plans? Cool.

No plans? Well, whoop.

Electricity on? Technology fun.

Electricity off? Candles lit, star spangled sky.

I live by a river. I live by a woods. I live by a Main Street. I live by some dust.

I can entertain myself.

I'm from Indiana!

September 28, 2017
Madison IN

We took advantage of this cooler day to explore a place - not far distant - we had never been before - Lake Hardy. This is a reservoir created in 1970 with a highly irregular border which maybe provides more solitude and quiet than your average getaway.

Of course we were at the main park, which was probably only quiet because it is a Thursday in late September. We disturbed a great blue heron, which we got to watch take off, legs waving, and fly floppily away. We collected persimmons - a first for me - and I look forward to trying a ripe one. On our hike through the woods we saw a very diminutive little toad.

We're hoping to go back and camp someday at the Wooten Campground, which has a couple of sites right on the water.

September 27, 2017
Madison IN

Today is the anniversary of my Dad's birth almost a century ago.

Looking at the way U.S. customs have changed since I lived as a child in my father's house, I think I understand him better. He kept up with the times pretty well, but he and my mom both grew up in homes with very stringent rules about human behavior.

In many ways I grew up to be more like my friends' parents than like my friends. Don't get me wrong. My parents were liberal socially. They believed all people should be equal under the law, at least. Of course we call that liberal now. Back then I would have considered it merely normal.

My parents had a very strong sense of what was moral behavior, though, of which I now think that many Americans have no clue, including our President among many others.

The other day I saw an article shared on Facebook about spiritual techniques that would help us look forward to the future. At first I thought, I don't need help looking forward to the future. I'm still able to look forward to the future!

Later, though, I had second thoughts. My optimism was a habit and maybe a little outdated.

The state of the Union and the world itself (thanks to my fellow citizens, my erstwhile governor and present president) is sorry.

To what are we looking forward?

No one knows, and quality-wise the general trend seems to be downward.

And now it's not just the neighborhood that's going downhill.

Hmmm... now I'm thinking it's time to re-read the tale of Rip Van Winkle.

September 26, 2017
Madison, IN

Sleepiness overrides neediness, hunger, creepiness, freakiness.

Old people sleep in the afternoon, some think. I slept over my books in college of a quiet afternoon. It's hard for me to convince myself that age has anything to do with it.

Now I sleep whenever - except sometimes in bed in the middle of the night.

Why is midnight called the witching hour? I used to think four a.m. was the worst - far more evil than jolly old midnight. Now four a.m. is just prelude or coda to someone's workday -or worknight.

I've offered this space as a way for interested observers of mental diminishment to contemplate the nature of the progress of dementia. I've begun to wonder, though, if my slowing down might be simply a laziness about writing at all. 

Silent, empty white-page days, maybe.

Not very helpful to people searching for patterns of thought or language.

It is Fall. The light is receding.


September 24, 2017
Madison, IN

As I had feared (and vaguely recalled), the tea industry - at least in Assam, India where some of my favorite tea comes from - is servitude for the employees, who have a deplorable standard of living.

Still, for obvious reasons, the workers don't want their product to be boycotted. They want us to become advocates and activists - much harder even than boycotting.

At the risk of being hopelessly trivial and silly, I am turning from the word boycotting (wherever that came from - I'll have to look it up) to girlcotting. (?) Sounds obscene, doesn't it?

Boycotting, as it turns out, is the name of a victim of such action in Ireland. The term has outlived general knowledge of the man it was named for.

So a girlcott doesn't exist, thank goodness.

Makes you wonder about other words, doesn't it, like the word lynch, also from the name of an actual man who ran some kind of illegal court, ostensibly to keep order in Virginia a couple of centuries ago. Originally the word indicated punishment outside the legal system, often tarring and feathering. Its meaning only narrowed in the 1880's according to the online etymological dictionary.

Wandering is one of the easiest things in the world to do, especially through the vagaries of language from the comfort of an armchair.

The Assam state of India, productive of tea and silk, has also been in the news this year because of severe flooding.

Assam has an area of 30,285 square miles, which means it is bigger than ten of our united states. 

It outranks every state in the  union by population except California.

We drink Irish Breakfast tea, which has as part of its blend Assam tea, yet most of us Americans have probably never heard of Assam.

Mind-blowing, huh?

September 22, 2017
Madison IN

The news that the growing and trade of both coffee and chocolate again (still?) depends upon the slave labor of poor, starving children has thrown me into something of a quandary.

The guilt now induced in me by indulging in these pleasures makes me feel as if I am drinking and eating the blood of innocents.

In the past I have resisted feeling too bad about eating the flesh of animals on the rare occasions I did it, and I never gave up chicken and fish completely. I was not a committed vegetarian, only married to one. Keeping down consumption of red and cured meats was good for the planet and my health. It seemed only reasonable to do so.

This is much worse! We try to at least sometimes buy free-trade coffee if the quality is good, but chocolate that convincingly claims to be made without harming the workers involved in its production is outrageously expensive.

And what are we to believe? Is what is effectively slave labor worse than no work at all, possibly no livelihood at all?

We are not wealthy people by U.S. standards. Drinking coffee and having a couple of squares of chocolate a day seem to us pretty modest, humble pleasures.

Surely the CEOs of corporations that set up the supply chains (chain gangs?) of these products could take these conditions into their hands more easily than we. (Although Cadbury had to send internal espionage agents into their own suppliers' businesses over one hundred years ago to find out that effective slavery, was, indeed occurring.)

What to do? Even if I stopped using these products I doubt that enough others would to make a difference to the workers in the trade and honestly? I don't really see even strict vegetarians giving up their morning coffee.

Hmmm...what's going on in the world of tea these days, I wonder?

September 20, 2017
Madison IN

The process of my disillusionment continues.

When I first went to college in 1965 I saw in the bookstore a little paperback with the title Sister Carrie. I bought it on impulse, read it, and loved it. Maybe I had read An American Tragedy from a reading list for college prep, but I don't remember noticing Theodore Dreiser's authorship. I was just touched by Carrie's story.

I read it once again in succeeding decades - a rarity for me, to re-read anything.

When our book club talked about possible reads, I brought it up. I thought it was a book people should enjoy, and it wasn't too long.

I almost chose not to read it a third time. I felt I remembered it pretty well. As the book club meeting neared, though, I had second thoughts. Sister Carrie is worth reading again.

When I got to the library desk, the young woman clerking asked about what edition I wanted. "Oh, I guess whichever has the largest type." I really didn't think it mattered at all.

When I got home and opened the surprisingly thick volume, I had a rude awakening. The print is small, and the novel is 560 pages! What on earth...???

Turns out that everyone who read Theodore Dreiser's wonderful first novel before 1980 got an expurgated version due to concerns about its sexual and moral content! We didn't get to read it as he conceived it at all.

I'm so glad I stumbled upon this edition, which was published thirty-one years ago, unbeknownst to me. 

And I am as angry as I was when I found out how Gulliver had "by expenditure of great effort" really put out the fire at the castle in Lilliput. Damn you, prudes and censors!

And welcome, Sister Carrie! I will now discover secrets of your story hidden from me for fifty years.

September 18, 2017
Madison IN

In recent months I feel as if I have been eating more but still not getting what I need somehow.

I saw an article about how the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is great for plants but maybe not for the animals that eat them. Plants have more carbohydrates than they used to, according to this theory, and proportionally fewer trace elements.

Other studies have disagreed with these findings and blame the soil for reduced nutrients.

At home I have been thinking more in terms of too much time between the field and the table.

The idea that the plants themselves are creating more sugars is a science fiction horror story, though, isn't it? It's bad enough that food and beverage industries are trying to woo us with too much sugar, and, failing that, to secretly inject it into our diets, without the plants ganging up on us, too!

Having said that, my neighbor gave me permission to pick sprigs of marjoram out of her herb plot, and I have combined the fresh with some dried marjoram from the spice shelf for two days in a row in a tisane.

My aching back feels much better, and my sleep seems better, too.

There are ways and ways to get good out of the plant world!

September 17, 2017
Madison IN

Today I realized all of a sudden there is no one else around!

Nobody downstairs, nobody next door.

Perfect time to break out one of my favorite Jethro Tull albums and play it as loud as I want.

This summer of monster hurricanes is the perfect time for Stormwatch.

I have always loved this album, but often used to listen while doing something else. What do you know? This CD addition has a little booklet with the words! Before I just listened and misheard a lot.

Lately I've read a quote from Shakespeare in which he says that if you talk about nature - use natural imagery - in your work you gain an audience in all humanity. When I read that, I immediately thought of Ian Anderson. One reason I love him is that he is so much in the natural world. Plus his lyrics are interesting! I don't understand why Jethro Tull is not at the top of more people's list of favorite bands.

Jethro Tull tops mine.

Whenever I hear this album I admired the genius especially of the drummer. Well, what do you know. It seems that Ian Anderson agreed. In the notes at the end of the booklet of lyrics he says, "Some of Barrie [Barlow's] best performances are to be found on this record...."

Now on these weekends when my favorite movie-watching partner is away working twelve, thirteen-hour days and the neighbors all go visiting, I'll be able to indulge in an orgy of Tull!

It's been altogether too long since I have heard A.

September 15, 2017
Madison IN

Okay, okay, okay. I now see why so many of you love Interstates instead of blue highways. We traveled to Pittsburgh PA, stayed a day, and drove back in about 52 hours. The trip each way took about 6 hours plus snack breaks instead of two days the way it has in the past, with us meandering along West Virginia creeks or the Ohio River.

The one incident that almost ended the journey with a bang, admittedly did not happen on an Interstate. A truck bearing a modular home, coming way too fast around a curve on Highway 50, left its lane and almost hit us. Luckily my partner moved over enough that we didn't get creamed, and we made it home safely one-half hour after the most perilous moment of the seven-hour trip.

It always freaks me out - the number of close calls we survive and then go on our separate ways as if nothing had happened. Sure, Jos and I expostulated about it. It shattered our peaceful mood. Maybe the truck driver (and hopefully his guide vehicle driver) learned a lesson about hill driving. One can only hope.

Ah, back home again in Indiana.

Southern Indiana.


September 14, 2017
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Here for a sad occasion - the death of one of the nine moms celebrating a Mothers' Day I wrote about years ago - but oh, the beauty of the new lives beginning and blooming at the same time!

The woman who had passed away said that the heavens weep when good people die. Today there were a few showers but more gloomy clouds.

We arrived yesterday and leave again tomorrow, so there is not much to say about the city other than its green hills make for some charming neighborhoods. Many of Pittsburgh's citizens are fiercely loyal and it's easy to see why.

September 12, 2017
Madison IN

Well, the hurricane watch is over.  Irma is now a rainstorm at best. I think the rain we are supposed to experience for the next couple of days was brought up by the storm.

The aftermath of the storm will last a long, long time. I met a couple of refugees from Katrina in northern Indiana, so I expect to meet some Floridians here in the coming months. Some people will be kept from home for so long that they will build lives elsewhere and perhaps never make their ways back.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico decades ago I met people who had weathered a hurricane in the Virgin Islands and were not planning to return.

Still, there has been precious little loss of life, as compared with the thousands lost in floods in India and the deaths in Mexico from the Pacific earthquake.

I wish TV had spent more time on other subjects than the hurricanes in Texas and Florida. Maybe everyone was just relieved to have a break from reporting the hurricane in the White House.

September 8, 2017
Madison IN

Last night after about a week of Bicentennial Park preaching and music (which have been softer since someone was inspired to complain about the decibel level) we (from inside our apartment) heard a speaker proclaiming, "I have to be loud to be louder than the drugs and the evils around us." (Er, that's a paraphrase.)

I guess we neighbors are lumped with society's evils.

After the preaching we got to hear some more well-amplified long songs composed of four-note phrases repeated ad infinitum. If this is our taste of a little bit of heaven on earth I think I'll pass.

Shouldn't there be a limit to one group's use/dominance/occupation of a public park? It seems to me this interminable gathering is setting a precedent that might lead to some very unfortunate consequences beyond what this neighborhood has suffered already.

Now I am afraid that this gathering is going to bridge another weekend.

September 7, 2017
Madison IN

I forgot to look for the aurora borialis last night, but it is supposed to be visible tonight also. I don't know - we are in town and the hills and hilltop lights are between us and the lights. It does seem like a long shot.

Sometimes, when I was young, I used to hear low-level shifting chords sometimes, outdoors at night. One time, in Santa Fe, New Mexico I heard a similar almost subliminal sound. At the time I remembered my childhood experiences. Then the next day I heard that the auroras borealis was visible the night before.

I've written about this before, but I haven't heard anything about this music of the spheres (which is how I like to think of it) since.

Our perceptions change. We now experience the color blue, yet we have lost refinement of our sense of smell and hearing.

Now I have tinnitus. Am I still even capable of hearing the music of the spheres?

I do not know.

September 4, 2017
Madison IN

We were up early this morning. At about 5 o'clock I heard what sounded like screaming outside. High, piercing, childlike screams. A child in trouble? Heaven forbid, maybe in the Ohio River? Or just messing around? I went out onto the balcony to try and see something.

Nothing, but there was no word formation. Maybe animal, not human. Then I was certain; after the scream, a very birdlike one-toned warble (if such a thing is even possible.)

The closest guess I can come to is a barn owl. First time I've heard that from my kitchen!

Now, tonight, the fire-and-brimstone preacher is back.

Excerpts heard from our living room:

"In the last few weeks we've had five exorcisms...." 

"...the Devil wants you..." (screaming).

I don't know if this is the same fanatic we heard screaming about Jesus's love a couple of years ago. This is, if possible, worse.

I'm exorcising this unwanted sermon from my living room with Jethro Tull's Crest of a Knave. It's working for me!

Let's see if the neighbors complain. 

September 3, 2017
Madison IN

We have paused the movie we were watching and now we can hear the passionate fire and brimstone rhetoric of a revival preacher from some kind of gathering at the Bicentennial Park which occupies the block west of here.

I feel as if I have been transported back 180 years. Too bad the group isn't limiting itself to the technology available at that time. If it were, I wouldn't be hearing the sermon while innocently sitting in my own living room.

Poor Americans. We are more beset by temptations than ever. We have more power to do more damage to more bodies, including our own, than ever, yet some of us can find no better salvation than to listen to a screamer ranting the same old cant that was popular centuries ago.

I feel like opening my apartment door and yelling back.

"Shut up, already! You're disturbing the peace."

September 1, 2017
Madison IN

Right now it's hard to believe we will get another hot spell before Fall. The remnants of Hurricane Harvey are besogging us but good.

Would people be able to read that in 100 years and understand it? Could they now?

Why not? The word besogging is almost parallel to the word besotted and everyone knows what that means, right?


Er, well, maybe not.

At any rate, people far south of the equator are beginning to be able to smell Spring, and we in the temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing the converse.

Much as I enjoy a break from the heat, I am still not ready for the annual fall from the Garden of Eden.

Not ready for Fall, at all, at all.

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