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Ruminotions Sept. - December, 2019
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Mon, September 02 2019 - 6:46 am

December 31, 2019
Madison IN

True confessions: I am not unhappy to see the end of 2019.
It hasn't been the worst of years or even a terrible year.

I am, however, hoping for a better 2020, and hope the same for you, no matter how wonderful this year has been.

Is there really any limit to how great life can be? Has anyone ever really died from joy? I've never seen it.

My New Year's resolution is to try it.

Just kidding. My real New Year's resolution is to behave in ways that will keep me out of doctors' offices and the hospital.

Happy seventh day of Christmas and New Year's Eve, too!

December 30, 2019
Madison IN

I have not reported my sightings of December 28 as I promised because I ended up in the hospital and just didn't want to deal with technology.

My body and my phone are acting up, why should I even try to deal with anything else that could give me problems?

Scheduled for testing in a while but maybe I can remember some of the birds I saw.

This time I went downriver. I saw four geese on the wing low over the water. In the woods along the Heritage Trail I saw glimpses of songbirds but nothing I could identify. I heard nuthatches, a woodpecker drumming, but without binoculars my powers to identify were limited.

Walking across the meadow I saw what might have been two crows above, and from the road at the top I saw a hawk with a barred tail. My guess is a coopers hawk. He looked black until the light hit him directly. Cloudy days are not the ideal for catching detail.

Happy sixth day of Christmas! I'm pretty sure I will be going home this afternoon, so it makes a happy day for me.

December 28, 2019
Madison IN

I went on a walk upstream on Christmas Day and did my own personal bird count. For what it is worth, I saw twenty-one geese, two crows, and four indeterminate small perchers. 

Further on, in a tree a block away from the river, congregated a flock of maybe thirty starlings. As I watched, a lighter bird flew into the tree and all the starlings departed. It didn't seem much bigger than the starlings, so I think it may have been a sparrow hawk. Would a sparrow hawk have frightened them all away?

As I was trying to spot the hawk, I heard a scrambling behind me followed by a substantial thud. I turned in time to see a squirrel pick himself up and climb back up the same tree. I thought a branch bending toward the ground had broken, but maybe it was just a little too flexible and wimpy to take his weight. I have never seen a squirrel fall like that before.

Turning away from the river, I went up the Riverboat Inn's driveway. On the other side of the inn, near the edge of a wooded ravine were three sparrows. I think they were swamp sparrows.

Walking past another woody long-unused lot were three cardinals. From a house nearby I heard the lusty song of a Carolina wren. Great voice!

Tomorrow I'll tell you what birds I saw today - the official day of the Christmas count at Clifty Falls. I missed the event because of ambivalence and/or seniority. At least, I don't think I would participated - even if I hadn't slept until fifteen minutes before the start time!

December 27, 2019
Madison IN

It's time for a new political party. I floated this on Facebook the other day and got NO response, so I will broach it here where I can't expect one.

The aims of the party should fall into place right under its name: the Golden Rulers. The ideals of the movement should be obvious, but at the same time it seems to invite success. After all, it embodies the idea of high quality and well-off leadership. At this time of year it makes me think of the three wise men.

Admittedly, in the past I have talked about the inadequacy of the golden rule because it requires a subjective judgment of how people want to be treated - what they would consider fair.

On the other hand, I believe there are very few oligarchs who would really want to be treated the way they treat those who they consider their social inferiors - including their employees. Deep down they know this.

Most of the rest of us believe in the golden rule, don't we? Or has the concept disappeared with the horse and buggy and the ideal of ecological diversity?

Happy third day of Xmas!

If this is too bitter and dry, have a nice cup of hot chocolate!

December 26, 2019
Madison IN

Now that I am older, it seems as if it is forever morning and I am forever getting out of bed.

I got sick of my ritual breakfast. It is oatmeal, which I consider preventive medicine, so now I have it with egg one morning and fruit the next. That eases the monotony a little.

Instead of having coffee every morning now we alternate coffee mornings with tea mornings. We have several kinds of each, so mornings are a little more interesting now.

Time goes by so quickly that I am reminded to have more compassion for the very young, for whom one day is ETERNAL!

One thing I can't figure out. Why does the time between meals seem so unending? 

December 25, 2019
Madison, IN

Christmas Day. Early this morning we had a white Christmas - not of snow but of fog. Now at almost nine o'clock the only white left is a little frost. My partner and I celebrated our Christmas yesterday; today he is at work.

I'm thinking of the Christmas bird count of the past. Now it seems not to matter what day it is scheduled. At Clifty Falls State Park it is scheduled for Saturday the 28th. In the Pacific Northwest some are scheduled as late as early January.

I thought the whole point of the count was to get as much territory as possible covered at one time to avoid duplicate counts of the same populations. Maybe science has found better ways to estimate numbers and the count endures mostly for fun.

When it warms up a little I will go walking and record what I can see and identify, which isn't much these days.

Yesterday on our walk in the park we saw several birds, blue jays, a sparrow which I could not positively label, and a red-tailed hawk. It is the species of hawk I see around here most often, but it still excites me.

For what it's worth, I heard geese this morning.

Merry Christmas!

December 14, 2019
Madison, IN

A few weeks ago I realized that we had a mold problem in the toilet. I scrubbed, lined the blackened calcium deposits on the inner upper edge with paper towels soaked in vinegar, scrubbed some more, and put a cup of vinegar into the bowl and another in the tank. The article I had read on the Internet suggested that a cup of white vinegar in the tank weekly would be a possible way to avoid recurrence of the problem.

Great! I did it for a couple of weeks and the problem seemed to go away. It worked! Yay! An easy solution.

Except then one week I forgot all about them - the problem and its easy prevention. Forgot about them until the black stuff reappeared, that is. So I had to go through the process all over again.

Now, at the risk of being obnoxious, I am going to universalize my experience. Why are we humans so adverse to an ounce of prevention? Are we allergic to it? Is our willingness to undergo unpleasant experiences again and again some form of repetition of trauma attachment? Are there just so many ounces of prevention we must remember to practice that it overwhelming us, like a tsunami of little water droplets?

Psychologists have long said that forgetting is intentional, but I have trouble believing this in relation to putting a cupful of vinegar into the toilet tank every week.

It's a cheap, easy, nontoxic solution to a nasty toxic problem. A lot easier than brushing and flossing twice a day, which I do religiously.

Which cause of forgetting is responsible for my Freudian slippage? Is it the same one that causes me to ignore the kitchen faucet drippage?

Wait: no, that's the clock. The one that's ten minutes behind.

December 5, 2019
Madison, IN

It's time to lay the whole idea of the generation chasm to rest. Sure, I've heard of the Lost Generation, which I believe refers to the generation that suffered World War I, but the only reason my generation was called the Baby Boomers was because of the post World War II overrunning of our parents and schools by record numbers of kids. Of course we were going to be more peer-oriented!

The idea that we are all the same in any other significant way, though, is silly, and I believe the only reason succeeding generations have been named is because the labelling process had begun. (Don't bring up the Greatest Generation - that was only named decades after my generation was given a name. It was part of the new game.)

The real generation gap occurs all the time - organically - as people age and acquire differing perspectives on life at a multiple of different rates. People are born every day, and "generation" is as arbitrary as the January 1 New Year.

Generation Xers are already experiencing the fact that their children were born into a different world than they were, and that world is changing now faster in ten years than it used to change in fifty.

What should not change is that we should accord other humans as much respect as we afford our dogs. We should realize that every "generation" has had both people who respected the world around them and those that did not care at all about anything but themselves.

So let's just quit falling into the non-existent generational divide. It is caused by unhelpful semantics, and is a game that was never very much fun to begin with.

Okay, Millennials? (Heh heh, just kidding.)

November 30, 2019
Madison IN

In spite of the prevalence of disaster films, most changes in the world and our way of life are not cataclysmic. Horsedrawn vehicles did not disappear as soon as the automobile appeared. Internal combustion engines did not start running around the terrain the next day. The takeover of motor vehicles took decades.

The results of the invention might be deplorable to some, but the invention itself is here to stay - until something "better" comes along.

The poisoning of our food and water might be increasing, but not enough to make most of us do anything about it other than try to avoid the toxins as best we can. Flint, Michigan is the canary in the coal mine, but I wonder how many citizens talk to their city councilors about exactly what is coming out of their faucets - and what action is taken if they do?

People are already being made aware that robotics and artificial intelligence are replacing us - "ME!?" - but do they realize what it means for our future?

The people who invented the telephone and the personal computer certainly did not imagine that in 2019 the cellphone would be so ubiquitous it should probably be illustrated on anatomy charts as a part of the human body. An external organ, if you will.

I myself will be venturing into the great unknown shortly, with all my body parts, I hope, including my cell phone, adequately protected by my ancient but hopefully still effective raincoat.

November 26, 2019
Madison, IN

Maybe a decade ago my partner got some flatware with plastic handles - used, I think. One day recently he noticed a significant gap between the metal and the plastic on one of the forks. It started to prey on his mind, all the possible guck that might be breeding down in there and contaminating his food. Maybe that was why he so often didn't feel too good.

He decided to explore the hidden secret depths of his utensils and was shocked by the amount of yucky stuff all along the metal which ran the full length of the plastic handles. Moist black stuff. Mold? Bacteria? Both of the above?

Nasty! But the handles themselves, without the plastic, could be sterilized and had a clean utilitarian industrial look.

Now he has a "new" set of flatware.

Pretty cool, don't you think?

November 16, 2019
Madison, IN

Recently my partner read that pistachios were high in melatonin. That's interesting, I thought. A decade or so ago I bought melatonin tablets to help with my insomnia, but stopped taking them before the two weeks stated as necessary for the effects to take hold. I'm leery of pills.

Pistachios are another matter entirely. Who needs a medical reason to indulge in pistachios? They are delicious!

I decided to observe my sleeping patterns. It seemed as if pistachios worked! When I ate them in the evening I slept for maybe six hours straight (with, admittedly, some tossing and turning which still permitted me to return quickly to streamlined. (Now see what my electronic editor just did? Is streamlining really more important to our society and our everyday lives than "dreamland" which I promise you I keyed in correctly? How dare it! How DARE this stupid unsentimental "insentient" skinny little glory ("glowy") book change my nonsense to its nonsense! And sometimes my actual not at all archaic words to something completely irrelevant and meaningless.))

Well, now I have completely lost my train of thought. No wonder I don't write much anymore. I must warn you folks, though, that artificial intelligence might not get you where you want to go. Sure, it occasionally keeps you from going where you shouldn't go, but that is not exactly the same thing, is it?

Long story short - the pistachios didn't coax me into six hours straight sleep tonight. Here I am -been awake since 5 a.m.

The two weeks aren't up yet, though. Maybe the few weeks to take effect are just a medical ploy to give you time to forget about whatever problem induced you to take action in the first place.

Every medicine a placebo? Hmmm...

November 14, 2019
Madison, IN

Just a few odds and ends...

Years ago I remember writing that I didn't think there was much in the U.S. to guarantee that one President could be counted upon to honor another President's agreements. It is kind of good now to see that the U.S. does try to maintain some continuity through the State Department. Otherwise, what would all the fuss be about in recent news about the Kurds and the Ukraine? I really don't know what I could have been thinking when I wrote that, because whatever we were doing had been working for a long time. And of course I knew about treaties. On the other hand, I knew about contracts, also, and how often they are breached!

Another thing that has been on my mind is social media and its inclination to divide and polarize people. I wonder if that is because people take what they read much more seriously than they take what they merely hear. How seriously do people take what they hear said on a device. Does the device itself emphasize reality in the way a printed page seems to? And how about the effect of typos? Automatic editors change things and sometimes we don't notice, and what about when we mean to say one thing and somehow the negative gets written in? As in "I've made no mistakes," when in my mind I mean to be saying, "Oh, I have, I have."

Today I was on my walk and a silly squirrel kept running away from me along the river walk which was obviously (to me) my path. He had something quite bulky hanging around his mouth, and I wondered what it was. He had come from a pile of what looked like black nut casings but what he had in his mouth was too floppy. I kept staring at him until he crossed the street. It sure looked as if he had some of that tissuey pink river birch inner bark in his mouth!

Do squirrels eat that? Maybe it is like cotton candy to squirrels! Or maybe he was just blowing his nose.

That's what I do with the stuff, if I have forgotten Kleenex on a chilly day.

November 10, 2019
Madison, IN

Twisting around in bed at 4 a.m. I got a scary stitch in my side. I got up and straightened out. Everything is fine, but I realized that I, agnostic, had said internally to myself, "God will help me."

Followed immediately by the old adage, "God helps those who help themselves" followed just as immediately with the belief of the Quakers that God is within each of us.

Ha, ha, that makes perfect sense!

So where did that sentence about God helping those who help themselves come from? I wondered for the first time in my seventy-two years.

Turns out it predates Christianity, coming from the ancient Greeks, as far as we know, although the ancient Greeks  came into contact with many other cultures.

The point is, the sentiment is old, originally dating from the days when the word God might have been said in the plural, and that is all right with me!

I'll take all the help I can get.

October 22, 2019
Madison, IN

Yesterday (the first truly rainy day in weeks) we drove to Fishers, Indiana, a drive which on the Interstate is supposed to take maybe two hours. 

I hate the Interstates, so I researched a route that avoided them. I had a set of instructions I got from studying maps on the internet.

Of course it took longer than I thought it would. On top of that, since we didn't go to the center of  Newcastle, Indiana we missed one of our connections. Connections within cities have always been my map-reading Achilles heel. I didn't look closely enough.

And I had forgotten our real, paper map of Indiana! (Don't ask about the cellphone. Connections are rotten.) So we overshot.

We entered our destination into the GPS and it sent us, of course, to I69 past Fortville where I had planned to make another connection. I speculated we could still get off the Interstates and... my driver and by now silent partner flew on. No more back-country mazes for him. We were only about ten miles away from our destination!

Then we encountered Traffic. Caused by an accident. The guardrail on the left was ripped off its posts and twisted up and around like a contemporary sculpture. New? Or old news? A five minutes crawl later and we saw a tow truck coming out of a ditch with a muddy grass-encrusted sedan. Presumably the driver was no longer inside. We hoped the poor unfortunate was okay.

The Interstate delay? Twenty minutes. People coming the other way wouldn't be gloating. They had their own delay maybe half a mile away when one of their neighbor sped up a tall embankment. Three of its four doors hung open as we passed.

We finally got to our destination in the four hours it would have taken us to drive to our visitee's former home of Nashville, Tennessee! (Via Interstates without accidents, of course.)

Our trip home was destined to be I65, since we somehow missed our connection to I74. I'm blaming construction although I can't be certain.

We only saw one accident on I65, but it was a doozy. My partner saw a helicopter by the side of the road. I missed it. I must have been too busy searching for human forms. Damn mechanical stuff got in my way.

The Northbound traffic was stopped for miles. Someone was walking his dog along the median. My partner just reported a two-hour delay for those drivers.

Some of those unfortunates were probably fuming. Why, in this amount of time, they could have driven up from Nashville on the scenic back roads!

October 8, 2019
Madison, IN

The intense strong love of so many people for animals these days is almost enough to make me believe in reincarnation. After all, we have more humans living on the earth now than in all the past of the earth.

Where have all the souls come from? Maybe from animals.

This idea has perhaps been inspired by a book I am reading called The Good, Good Pig, whose author confesses to preferring the company of animals to that of humans.

I am not one of that number, nor do I necessarily believe in reincarnation. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

There are stranger explanations for the nature of our internal worlds.

And what a fun pastime it is, speculating as to whether human predators have the old used souls of eagles or tigers or cobras and where their spirits might go from here.

Not to mention mine. Maybe next time round I'll go hang out with the horses.

Not the dogs. No way.

October 7, 2019
Madison, IN

The other day a young man of my acquaintance held up his phone and said, "We don't need politicians! We have these! We could vote with these!"

Yay! True Democracy, I respond.

And then, ever the contrarian, I think, but what about hackers? Of course, that is happening already in our elections.  Cheating of all sorts.

And still later I am ruminating. The vote is not a magic genie. We would still need administrators. Someone (many ones) would have to make real the desires of the American people. How could the people who wanted managerial positions not be, effectively, politicians?

As for those who think all governments are evil: governments are set up partly to protect us from scofflaw anarchist bullies like you. Too bad so many non-humanists manage to infiltrate and pervert its proper function.

Come to think of it, it's kind of like religion that way.

Oh, but my friend holding up his phone that way reminded me in the middle of a night of dead batteries that I could use it in spite of its despised small screen to Google wonderful stuff.

What did I discover? One of Alfred Steiglitz's Reflections photographs! Mesmerizing!

I'll vote for that!

October 2, 2019
Madison, IN

A week ago today our town unexpectedly lost its mayor. I had met him a few weeks before and would have guessed he was in his midfifties, but no. He was sixty-six. Still, sixty-six is young!

I felt bad for him. He had not been planning to run for reelection and now he would miss his retirement! I wondered if the stress of his job had gotten to him.

The next morning I felt a mild wave of envy. Mayor Welch didn't have to deal with all this anymore - this being the town's problems of the homeless, meth-heads, suicides and traffic - and Trump's America.

Then the weekend came, and Chautauqua, our wonderful arts and crafts fair. Why could not he have departed after what is  my favorite weekend of the year? He missed the best time! Of course, perhaps, being mayor, he did not feel the same way I do about Chautauqua.

I did not know the mayor well. Probably his death affected me so strongly because he was seven years my junior. It brought home to me the reality of my mortality in a way that the death of my parents did not. The possible immediacy of my own death. Creepy!

When I walked out this morning many of my fellow citizens seemed exceedingly cheerful. Here it is, the first week of October, and the sunny summerlike day is likely to be a hot record breaker.

It is definitely, as one of my greeters observed, a great day to be alive.

September 21, 2019
Madison IN

Ha, ha the other night I woke up in the wee hours and couldn't get back to sleep so I read a novel via Kindle for an hour or so. The read was pretty lively and my mind felt awake enough, so even when my eyes closed I tried to keep reading through my eyelids. It didn't work so eyes closed, I put my device down. That's a first in my experience. 

September 15, 2019
Madison IN

Yesterday was a special day in Madison. The folks commemorating the Pony Express came through. Due to an unfortunate accident in which one of their number was hospitalized only two made it to the Saddletree Factory where HMI was hosting free tours and hot dogs and sausages, but the horses were lovely and gentle. For the first time ever I had a horse drinking out of my hand (so to speak.) We had a couple of big galvanized bathtubs but when I took much smaller plastic replicas the horses actually wanted to drink straight out of those while I was still holding them. What gentle charmers!

Makes you realize how impossible it would be to bring elephants water like this. Imagine the thirst of those huge critters!

There would have been five horses if everyone had made it. We would have needed every one of those containers, metal and plastic both.

HMI hopes the best for the whole group of riders and hopes we can meet them next year along with those who delivered mail to our post office this year. The weather yesterday could not have been more ideal.

This morning I went on a walk around town and saw songbirds dead on the sidewalk in two different locations - I believe a warbler and a wood thrush. This is unusual enough that I'm wondering why, and not at all happy about it. Is it possible that they could have died of thirst this close to the river? I'm afraid pesticides and herbicides are more likely culprits.

September 7, 2019
Madison, IN

I ate my cereal sitting on the balcony this morning, looking at the Ohio River. The lights along the riverwalk, I notice, have all been changed to LED. They look a little bit blue. Even later on my walk, the closest they came to warm was a little greenish tint, probably caused by the old globes.

The switchover to LED light gives me a little glimpse into how people must have felt a century ago when electricity took over the world of lighting. How cold and static it must have felt compared to a live flame!

And before that, how small and insubstantial a candle or lamp must have seemed compared to a roaring fire. 

The young today probably don't feel the difference so much. They only know what is their world and they tend to accept it for what it is. After all, what choice do they have?

I must confess, though, that the one thing dT wants to do that I secretly want, is to not make incandescent bulbs illegal and eventually unobtainable.

I would like to warm myself by the fire just a bit longer, please.

September 2, 2019
Madison IN

Rumilluminations had to go bye bye because I am increasingly uncertain about illuminating much of anything.

Am I getting older and slower along with my device?

Ha, ha, dimmer?

I'm past it.

While in bed during the night I had a little play on words around that short sentence, but I've lost it now.

I used to write almost every day. Now I forget - or the grooves of common use send my tapping fingers first into Free Cell or Facebook.

F-words along with February fake fatuous fumes forgot flatulence frigid

Fewer must be a cuss word or maybe politically incorrect now, right?

I feel (oops!) as if using English the way I was taught may have become an insult to my listeners - an act of political incorrectness, if you will.

In the past I never bothered to change what I said or the way I said it depending on my audience. I felt it would be artificial and patronizing. Then when I was speaking to my children I learned that if I didn't pitch my voice higher I couldn't catch their attention.

Now I have come to believe that most of us are children and I sure don't have the smarts to speak the language that will engage the attention and acceptance of other merely humans.

Who am I to even try? Why am I so desirous of attention? Of self-expression?

At best I guess I hope to be of occasional service - like a grater. When you want it you really want it.

Ha, ha, a voice of grater america.

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