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Rumilluminations December 2020
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Tue, December 01 2020 - 9:32 am

December 31, 2020
Madison, IN

Today for our seventh day of Christmas walk on old Hatcher Hill Road, we got the best waterfall series I've ever seen in the creek there.

I heard the rippling when I couldn't even see the water, and that by itself was wonderful. The rain may not yet bring flowers, but falls are good enough for me!

December 30, 2020
Madison, IN

Ruminating about the effect of artificial organs and high-tech body parts on our humanity, somehow I segued into the impact of transplanted organs on our personalities.

Here's a short story for you - or maybe even a novel?: a serial killer who has signed on as an organ donor (is that likely?) is killed in an accident and his heart given to someone who subsequently starts getting conflicted or even starts acting out.

It might be fun to elaborate on what consequences could follow from the receipt of one of his kidneys or liver. Gee, what else are they transplanting? Skin, eyes, nerves?

I don't understand the disinterest in so many of our citizens in science. It's way more fascinating to me than, yeah, even George Clooney!

December 29, 2020
Madison, IN

For the fifth day of Christmas I got the good news that the walkway straight from the bridge to Fillmore Alley and First Street is now open. Options are wonderful, and though I had planned to walk to the Milton Post Office, once out on the bridge I realized had forgotten water. Loved having the choice of  walking back through town without trudging back up a hill.

December 28, 2020
Madison, IN

Today I walked to the top of the hill on the Heritage Trail  for the first time in quite a while.

Maybe I was spurred on by a new little sign stating the distance to the top was .8 mile. How could anyone not achieve such a dinky distance? Of course, the walk to get to that point takes over half an hour from home.

This time, too, I played the game of crunching leaves under my feet even though "crunch" is probably not the right word for the slightly soggy noise they made under my feet.

I saw a few birds, including juncos again and a bluebird, but the only mammals I saw were human. Whereas the folks I see these days walking along the river and through town usually are accompanied by a pooch, not today on the trail.

Happy fourth day of Christmas!

December 27, 2020
Madison, IN

On the third day of Christmas, the universe (via gave me some information about some of my ancestors. Turns out my great great grandfather was a farmer in Ohio! Well, no surprise there, really, but learning his and his wife's names is kind of fun.

Also fun to see you can see him in my grandfather. The two men have definite facial similarities.

Ironic that learning about people long dead opens up my world.  It's a kind of exploration!

December 26, 2020
Madison, IN

The first day of Christmas, some people gave spite for free, bombing downtown Nashville, Tennessee and knocking out communications for many, including 911 services, for hours.

For me personally, Christmas meant a wonderful walk in twenty degree windless weather. I dressed for it, and was not troubled by the cold which evidently kept everyone else in town inside. I did not encounter another soul on the street, which must have been a first!

Or were they still inside opening presents?

Too bad I forgot about the Audubon Christmas count, or I would have counted the geese that I saw hunkered down on the grass along the river. I did notice about fifteen juncos flitting around the back driveway of the Hillside Inn. I don't remember seeing them there before.

Other than that, I only saw one squirrel trying to eat something as fast as possible so he could, presumably, get back to where it was warmer. My partner did the same soon after.

Oh yes, I did see twenty or so vultures sulking in the upper branches of a tall tree along Highway 56.

I tried to look very lively!

December 25, 2020
Madison, IN

What kind of creature specializes in touch and visual discrimination, but is less sensitive to auditory sensations?

African musicians (in my humble experience, and from anecdotes I have heard) are culturally very attuned to rhythms. Rhythmic complexity is child's play to them.

Indian musical scales that encompass our octave have not 12 tones, as in western scales, but 23. I'm sure many sitar players think our musical achievements with guitar and harpsichord are relatively primitive.

A Chinese traditional scale, if I remember correctly, has five tones, going up or down from one octave to the next in whole tone steps. I used to be able to sing it.

As a Westerner listening to Japanese or Chinese music for the first time, I wondered just how universal the language of music really is.

Is that inability to relate to sound in any culturally universal way part of what makes us so oblivious to auditory assault?

Leaf blowers, jackhammers, wildly dissonant calliopes and church bells, obnoxiously shrill music and sound effects bother me; my partner is about one second ahead of me in this regard.

Well, okay, it is probably just a continuum in six dimensions that I am enmeshed in.

Maybe I have seized upon church bells on this Christmas morning to avoid thinking about another significance to their tolling.

Jefferson County, Indiana: three corona virus deaths between May and the middle of September, three more reported Christmas Eve.

Does the word toll have a positive meaning in any context?

December 24, 2020
Madison, IN

It's Christmas Eve, so I should be writing something warm and cozy and inspirational, but corona virus deaths are up to thirty in Jefferson County alone.

In the U.S.A. we are up to almost a third of a million!

I just commented to someone that Santa Claus will always find a way, but this year, I'm afraid a lot of people will be getting coal for Christmas. Lots of people in 2020 have been very naughty indeed.

And getting a lump of coal is even more symbolic than ever in these days of global warming!

December 23, 2020
Madison, IN

We may be starting a new tradition this year. We bought a humongous turkey for Thanksgiving, shared it with a few neighbors, and ate it for days.

On the fourth day my partner pulled it apart and made stock. Since there was still so much turkey left that he froze it for later - in this case Christmas! That did not stop me from eating classic Thanksgiving dinners every day for almost a week. 

What with turkey-stretching dishes like turkey and dumpling noodles and sandwiches, he predicts that we will have gotten forty meals out of that turkey - which cost under eight dollars!

The goose is safe from us this year, skinny or fat.

December 22, 2020
Madison, IN

This morning my partner, looking out over the river from his easy chair, said, "You can see the conjunction again this morning. I'm looking at it right now!"

I said, "It's only supposed to be visible for two hours after sunset."

He said, "Get the binoculars and see for yourself. I saw two stars!"

Of course I began to doubt myself. Maybe my sources never mentioned visibility in the early a.m. because only a few of us weirdos would be up then.

I got the binoculars and went out on the balcony. Sure enough, there were two stars! As I looked, I saw two more stars on either side! Huh? Could I actually see a couple of Jupiter's moons?

As I watched, the unbelievable image resolved itself - into an airplane.

My partner had to see for himself.

It was a very exciting few minutes!

December 21, 2020
Madison, IN

The other day I wondered if a big shining light barely coming over one of the hills might be the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction. Without watching for long, my partner and our neighbor and I decided it must be an airplane.

Last night two of us went on a quest to see the big star. We drove up to the hospital parking lot and saw a beautiful fiery sunset, but no star. We drove over to the west side of town to try see it from a different vantage point, and the drive was closed off.

I said, " Wouldn't it be strange if we saw it after we gave up on it? That happens to me sometimes." Driving home I saw a star that I thought was the evening star. By the time we got into the parking lot, I could see that what I thought was one star was really two  - our long-awaited planetary conjunction!

We were so lucky  to see it at all! It was cloudy all day until about four o'clock, then partly cloudy. In fact, probably the reason we couldn't see it at all at sunset was because of clouds and haze.

Today I plan to go all the way to the balcony to see if I can see Jupiter and Saturn in their closest conjunction from an earthly point of view in hundreds of years!

There is hope - my telephone weather predicts the best chance of sun today during the hour of sunset on this shortest day of the year.

December 20, 2020
Madison IN

For some reason I am panting with anticipation for the shortest day of the year, as if it will help me psychologically even though the depths of the emotional winter usually arrive in February.

Maybe it's because the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is supposed to be closest tomorrow. I want to see The Star!

So silly. I don't even believe in religious specifics. I kind of resent the time of my childhood spent learning mythological details. I could have been learning more about so many other things!

I believe my mother would have encouraged any legitimate activity that would have gotten us out of the house and given her some peace.

Ha, ha, the peace that passes all understanding.

December 19, 2020
Madison, IN

I wonder. Where is the closest spot from which we could see the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter one of these next few evenings?

If the rings of Saturn happen to be oriented at right angles to the moons of Jupiter, would the "star" we see look like that big four-pointed star we often see in artistic representations of the three wise men, (who should also probably be enclosed in quotation marks)?

Why do we have such a cultural bias towards fantasy? The "Star of Bethlehem" is not really more real and exciting, is it, than two gigantic planets bigger than Earth, one with glowing rings of dust(?) and the other with four moons instead of merely one?

Well, maybe, since we can only conceive of such an immense, mind-blowing reality in our fantasy!

That must be the real magic (ha, ha, ha - a tautology or an oxymoron?) of Christmas - the greatest gift of all: light - and the understanding that the marriage of our expectations and the casting of light brings to us.

Wow. Maybe we did come from a distant planet whose sun was dying in the sky.

Light. Light light light light light.

December 18, 2020
Madison, IN

Wow! My partner got the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine before Sanjay Gupta!

How awesome is that?

Another awesome thing is that people are getting it on TV. Hopefully their example will allay some fears about its safety. An amazing number of hospital workers are refusing the opportunity, which is hard to understand.

If the majority of Americans follow their example, we will have corona virus killing people for a long time to come.

There's a lot of talk about herd immunity, whatever that means.

People! We immunize our cattle and our sheep!

December 17, 2020
Madison, IN

Today my partner is getting the Pfizer vaccine against Covid19. He did get one check, finally, to partially compensate him for the hazards of the last six months of working in a hospital.

I figure it will almost pay for the trip to Jeffersonville, where he has to go to get the vaccination. We are guessing we have to take the hour's drive each way because not every facility has the capability to keep the vaccines cold enough to be effective.

Another vaccine from Moderna is up for emergency approval by the FDA today. It will be interesting to see what the statistics say about the comparative effectiveness of all the different vaccines that will eventually be available.

I wonder how long we will have to wait to get that kind of feedback?

December 16, 2020
Madison, IN

Wow. I had just begun to calm down, thinking we can have a peaceful transfer of power after all, when I heard about a website called God Bless Trump which, in a vacuum, would just seem laughable. It's one big joke.

Except - there are people who are sharing its memes on Facebook who are deadly serious. Declarations of "It's Not Over Yet," "It's Biblical" (under a picture of Trump), "Martial Law" (also under Trump (in this case black and white)), "Nothing Can Stop What's Coming" with a picture of Trump that along with those words in caps, is really terrifying to those who don't worship him as the Second Coming.

I'm not exaggerating. These people are blatantly declaring Trump to be the second coming of Christ.

Along with the surprising quietness of many former Trump supporters (which was already making me uneasy) these sentiments are reviving my fears.

Instead of pledging allegiance to flag and country, Trump followers are promoting loyalty to one individual - Trump himself.

The rest of us don't count for much of anything.

December 15, 2020
Madison, IN

Today I saw little furry buds on what I think was a magnolia. Made me a little worried for that plant in the spring. How will it make it through the winter?

Then I thought, what winter?

We shall see if there even is a winter.

December 14, 2020
Madison, IN

Aargh! I was curious about when the electoral votes for President would be announced. Anxious, even, to hear the final word today. After all, electors might be unpredictable.

But I just read that the electoral votes have to be counted in and by the Senate?? In January??

Is our agony to be drawn out forever?

The very party which has challenged the election results at every turn is going to control the final official count??

Tell me it isn't true.

December 13, 2020
Madison, IN

It's as of the turn of the century turned all kinds of values upside down.

The Millennium didn't make all the computers stop as so many feared, but maybe some worse stuff happened.

Conflict of interest, for instance. Why, how, could so many people overlook or pretend to believe that Trump's (or should I say the Trumps') business interests wouldn't prove intensely prejudicial to the interests of the United States?

It wasn't that long ago that Carter felt the need to divest his interest in his peanut farm when he became President. Compared to Trump's light fingers in multinational pies, Carter's farm was, well you know - peanuts! 

December 12, 2020
Madison, IN

Deaths from corona virus are up to 22 in Jefferson County, Indiana. From what I understand, people working in grocery stores get hazard pay while hospital employees do not.

Does this make sense? Cleaners at the hospital have to go into the rooms of corona virus patients, which seems much more dangerous to me than working in a grocery store.

Hospital employees have to use the same elevators that corona virus patients use, and have to go two directions in the basically the same air space, spending twice as long in the same elevator.

It especially annoys my partner, who works in the hospital, to see grocery store employees (getting hazard pay) with their masks below their noses or no mask at all. If they get more pay, they should at least mitigate the danger they are being compensated for by wearing the mask, and wearing it properly.

This pandemic is a real education in citizenship, and it is appropriate that it be named (coincidentally) the same as the Peter Pans of our society.

The Pandemic has come to their Neverland.

December 11, 2020
Madison, IN

Strange how some folks are trying to bring back an awareness of the sentience of animals and plants. We have spent so many generations denying that the beings we want to use have feelings about what is happening to them.

Even if we acknowledge that they feel pain, the argument goes, they don't have feelings like ours (about our feelings, presumably - is that where "consciousness" comes from? Feelings about feelings? Thoughts about thinking?)

The same phenomenon happens in a way when we see people as obstacles for some reason or another. Their feelings become less legitimate, less real, less human than our own.

It makes us more comfortable when we step all over them.

Hell, we don't even know they're there.

P.S. Serendipitously, a Facebook comment by Carol Lorraine I just saw about giving painkillers to an unconscious, dying patient is relevant to the above: "Unconscious does not mean pain free."

December 10, 2020
Madison, IN

Something something something, a little less, a pause, a space, a punchline!

I something something more than ever and you should something or other about it! Nothing could be better!

When you write every day even when you have nothing to say, this is a possible format.

Expletive followed by irony. Haha haha!


December 9, 2020
Madison, IN

This morning while it was still dark I went to look at the lights on the Broadway fountain and surrounding trees.
Maybe mystical experiences are triggered by light, but these multicolored lights are more about joy and delight, I think.

Later I saw a holly plant with little white flowers as well as bright red berries. Maybe Christmas colors are taken from holly. Makes me want to go looking around at the few big hollies I know to see if that particular tri color is common.

Happy Advent!

December 8, 2020
Madison, IN

There aren't many "men on the streets" these days, but I have to say I am hearing NO political talk from anyone except in my own home.

Maybe other people are having rousing political discussions among themselves, and I am seeing some crowing online about Biden's win, but aside from Trump posters, flags, and campaign signs lingering in some yards, there is nothing but silence from the Trump contingent.

Mostly all I'm hearing is a lot of coughing.

December 7, 2020
Madison, Indiana

I'm beginning to be excited about the approach of Christmas. It seems that for me it is an effective way to combat the late fall waning light doldrums.

The red of traditional Christmas colors takes over for the red of fall leaves, and the green takes the place of the green of summer and lawns hidden by the white blanket of snow.

We haven't seen much snow here yet, but even so I have seen the magical glitter and glisten of it once this fall - a reminder of the Christmas magic of old.

Let's have some fun this winter! We can look at the long darkness as being as big a reason to celebrate as a big night out on the town.

December 6, 2020
Madison, Indiana

Decided to walk across the bridge this early a.m., it being a Sunday.

Traffic was light, but oh, was it fast! People attained speeds usually not possible. One thing missing was trucks bigger than pickups. Only one went by, a modest Penske moving truck.

Did not encounter a single pedestrian. Either people are sheltering in place more, they don't like the cold, or they are like the guy that was determined to park in our parking lot last night even though there was public parking forty feet away on the street: they just don't walk at all.

 Or maybe this latest corona virus is affecting our brains - an as-yet unobserved side effect!

December 5, 2020
Madison, IN

Death toll in Jefferson County up to twenty. We have not been out of the state all year, but have gone west to New Harmony and east as far as Aurora.

There are many fewer people walking along the Ohio in the morning than there were a month ago. We see fewer gatherings.

In a way this makes me nervous. Are people really managing to keep more distance between them, or have the social meetings just moved inside?

The death totals in another month will probably answer that question.

December 4, 2020
Madison, IN

Yesterday we saw a documentary called Crime and Punishment made around events that transpired in New York City around 2013.

The title, which had absolutely no pull for me, makes sense after you watch the show: it positively shrieks irony.

For anyone who still doesn't get the enormity of the wrongs blacks suffer at the hands of white law enforcement (and I still didn't and probably still don't) this film is a must.

At risk of spoiling the narrative - but no, I can't do that. Watch it!

December 3, 2020
Madison, IN

The corona virus death count in Jefferson County is up to eighteen. There are still people gathering maskless and partying in close quarters. Didn't they read the story about The Masque of the Red Death?

It's funny how easy it is for citizens to see the dangerously irrational nature of the beliefs of others (e.g. Native American Ghost Dancers of the nineteenth century who thought that wearing special shirts would protect them from bullets), yet how hard it is for the same people to recognize they are in danger of getting a serious illness due to similar magical thinking.

The exact nature of their denial varies, I suppose. Some think God will protect them. Those same people will look both ways, however, before they cross a street. Maybe they figure God can save them from nature and not from man-made inventions? (Hmm... a possible rationale for opposition to vaccines?)

I believe some people think that their genes will save them or make them immune at least from the worst ravages of the disease. I guess they aren't concerned about those more vulnerable.

I hear reports of governmental leaders telling their citizens to stay home while planning large family get-togethers themselves. If that isn't elitist, I don't know what is.

We can only hope that this year Americans have big enough stockings to hold a respirator.

December 2, 2020
Madison, IN

Yesterday was a red letter day. I was walking in the expansive local downtown cemetery when I heard an unusual sound from the North. Then a single identifiable call followed by gabbling.

Sand hill cranes! I searched the sky, afraid that the birds were flying above the clouds and I would miss them, and there they were! Thirty of them!

Reminds me I had another red letter day last week. Walking along Second Street I saw two vibrant sets of shrubs juxtaposed in such a way as to look like a fire. It was warming, but it made me wish I could see a real fire. Hmmm... Is there a public place in town with a fireplace? We certainly don't have one in our apartment.

Within 10 minutes or so, on the way home, I saw a small beautiful fire in someone's yard. The real thing! No one was on the spot at the moment I paused to appreciate it, but it was definitely arranged for imminent cooking and/or hospitality.


December 1, 2020
Madison, IN

For the second time lately just after rising I have reached for the bread box we store chocolate in (of course) instead of three feet south southwest to the bowl that holds my pill bottle.

That's a little tidbit for anyone tracking dementia. Add to that almost daily ending up at a different word than I thought I was starting and my sometimes confusion as to exactly what time it really is when I'm looking at my watch.

I guess I can't count the disbelief I feel when I look outside and see snow. That's just normal. This year the freezing temperatures and the cold were so long delayed we almost believed they wouldn't happen, but here they are.

Calendar winter is here.

P.S. You can add that I pressed the tab to "Publish" half a dozen times with no response before I realized I had not filled all the required fields to succeed in adding this permanently.

So there it is! The march of time over my brain!

Or should I call it advent?

Happy Advent, everyone!

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