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Rumilluminations January 2021
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Fri, January 01 2021 - 5:54 am

January 31, 2021
Madison, IN

It looks white outside. Today I took a walk to the 3rd Street park and saw a congregation of robins and a couple of nervous white-bellied squirrels.

Yesterday I saw big groups of Canadian geese, no longer endangered, I guess, although if Americans are as hungry as they are reported to be I would expect some poaching to be going on.

I also saw a cluster of black vultures yesterday, doing nothing.

Why is there so much prejudice against humans doing nothing? All the other critters do it - nothing, that is.

Come to think about it, how do I go about doing nothing?

Yawn. What a corona virus question. I better go find out if I can smell peanut butter.

January 30, 2021
Madison, IN

Jefferson County deaths remain reported at forty-two. I would like to believe no county residents have died for weeks, and maybe it's true.

The argument to explain the phenomenon of fewer deaths in spite of more cases is, in an article about the U.K. from The Conversation, that more testing exposes more cases among the younger population.

The younger population is just not likely to die from the disease dreaded by their elders, it seems. If you are older than one and younger than twenty, you're cool.

It sounds to me as if the country is begging for businesses run by and for the teenage set.  Let them rock and roll! - or dread-dance, or whatever the latest fad is.

Institute a new check at the door - only those under twenty admitted.

This would help keep the economy going and be a tremendous opportunity for young folks between the ages of thirteen and twenty to support not only themselves but their middle-aged parents.

Hell, in the first century of the Industrial Revolution in England the children of the family were often the only ones who could get work. They were the support of their parents. (No wonder Dickens was so bitter.)

Six- and seven-year-olds did it then. Why not sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds now?

When they get home from work, their parents can refuse to hug them.

January 28, 2021
Madison, IN

The day before a colonoscopy is not usually one to celebrate, but this also a day to walk in the first real snow of the winter.

The trees still have their highlights of snow and the geese with their white bellies were flying overhead as I walked. The big fear with snow is that there will be treacherous ice underfoot, but I didn't even slip! There weren't others walking along the river, though.

One family had reason to celebrate the rerouting of Highway 56. They were out sledding down the hill that is now mostly their driveway, hollering with delight. Surprisingly, I didn't see anyone coming down the even bigger hill closer to the river.

Who knows, maybe children are out there now, tobogganing as I write.

Even reporting might be as transient as a photograph.

January 27, 2021
Madison, IN

Watching the Parler videos about what happened at the U.S. Capitol three weeks ago, I can't help musing on the probability that the same people who felt free to trample public property are the same folks who would feel perfectly justified shooting anyone who set foot on theirs.

I'm afraid, though, that the insurrectionists are going to win folks over to their side by whining about getting tear-gassed.

The same people who are touting their own right to freedom of speech are the ones standing around a pile of photographic equipment ripped from the hands of people who are trying to exercise their own freedom of speech and the press.

Members of the mob are yelling that these reporters ("cowards") "won't be able to walk down the streets."

Gee. The outrageous unfairness of their stance is obvious, but what's more - their own videos bear witness to their criminal behavior.

Ironic, no?

January 26, 2021
Madison, Indiana

I have been reading a little about consciousness - what it consists of and how it can be defined.

The issue reminds me of a lecture I heard years back in which the professor said that the difference between two states (or situations?) was not qualitative but quantitative.

That's how I feel about consciousness.

Planaria can distinguish between light and dark. That may not seem like consciousness as we know it, but it is an ability that allows it to find food - and survive.

No matter how enlightened  and conscious we feel we  are, we congratulate ourselves to our own peril if we  dare to downgrade the level of awareness of other beings.

We are in awe of animal behaviors that seem to indicate consciousness. Well, aren't other species capable of learning and advancing?

It's only a matter of willingness, exposure, and time.

January 25, 2021
Madison, IN

A discussion with my partner this morning made me aware that one of my obsessions in life is: what is real? Or was it, what is reality?

Why, I wonder? Was it being falsely accused as a child? (Isn't everyone falsely accused as a child?)

Was it being lied to? (Isn't everyone lied to?)

This morning we were talking about the health benefits of filtering coffee and I ran across a new word (which I guess my e-editor didn't believe exists because it disappeared) diterpene.

Diterpenes in coffee are not good for you for cholesterol reasons. Okay. But in attempting to find out a little more I am confronted with the information that there are twenty (20!) different diterpenes (so far?)

That is not even to mention monopenes or another substance in coffee with a real woo-woo sounds made-up-by-a-fantasist name.

Kahweol. (which my e-editor tried to change to kangaroo, so maybe a kangaroo made up the name.) Or an Australian. I guess I should probably look it up.

Oh, for the good old days, when looking up something abstruse meant a trip to the library after a relaxed guilt-free moment at home with your cup of coffee - filtered or not!

No wonder people turn to religion. How wonderful - what magic - all you need to know in just one book!

January 24, 2021
Madison, IN

Supposedly we have had no corona virus deaths of Jefferson County residents since the first day or so of the year after climbing rapidly up to 42.

That is a pretty precipitous plunge in numbers which I find suspect, especially since the number of obituaries listed in the local paper remains high.

What should bring joy only occasions suspicion.

Tsk, tsk, what a state our nation is in - and what a nation our state is in!

January 23, 2021
Madison, IN

When I wake up in the morning is usually when I have my best ideas; today I thought of a really creative one. Oh, the profundity of insight! (Heh) The creativity and poetry of its expression! (Double heh)

It had warmth, color, insight! I'm sure.

Now it is lost, but that's okay. If I see it written or portrayed on a screen, I will still think it was mine. And the gift of  my aging memory makes certain that I will never know for sure.

Having great ideas feeds your self-esteem; the knowledge that there are others out there that have had the same insights keeps you humble.

It's perfect.

January 22, 2021
Madison, IN

Living on a big river is different from anything I have experienced before - except for a relatively brief few weeks in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Directly across the Ohio River are clifty wooded hills (as well as roads and trailers) that do not really provide a significant contrast from the geographical features on our side, but without the Milton/Madison bridge those hills seem unattainable. Believe me, I know - because for a while during the replacement of the bridge we literally could not get directly across the river without driving for miles. We had no boat.

Now there is a bridge and I walk across it every week or two. It takes an hour.

But to get directly across the river and walk along the road directly across the river from our home? I have done that maybe twice. I'm sure I would stroll in that direction more often if the river weren't there.

When you live with a mountain range visible on the horizon you accept, perhaps unconsciously, its inaccessibility. You know climbing into those mountains is going to  take monumental effort.

Living on a wide river, though, can be downright tantalizing. Imagine that freedom were just on the other side.

January 21, 2021
Madison, IN

It is quiet -  too quiet. Jefferson County deaths are reported at 42 - still.

Really? I'm not sure I believe the reported statistics here. My partner tells me there are still double-digit corona virus patients in the hospital. Have they gotten better at not dying or are they from other counties?

As of yesterday I couldn't find an estimate of how many people gathered to hear Trump's speech in D.C. on January 6. (His interminable, inciting speech which sounds even more aggressive than the excerpts of the worst parts make you realize.)

From what I saw of throngs of people, fewer than a third of them wearing masks jostling shoulder to shoulder, yelling and chanting, this country is going to experience another bout of Covid 19 - a big one.

Crowds don't seem to have been a problem in D.C. during the inauguration, probably because people were, as I was, watching it on TV.

So far, so good. Many of us have hope again for the causes of environmentalism, race and sex equity, and the quality of life that everyone should have the right to maintain.

Still - it's awfully quiet.

January 20, 2021
Madison, IN

Did hierarchy evolve among humans as an adaptation in the struggle for survival?

On this inauguration day in the USA, it seems the transfer of the highest position of the land is more fraught than it has ever been.

I kind of wonder about our hierarchical tendencies. From the time of the Old Testament, anyway, people have claimed Divine Right over animals, but long ages before that humans had lives intertwined with domesticated animals as well as the wild creatures they hunted and caged.

How did it happen, though, that humans felt the need to create such a hierarchy within its own species? 

If heirarchy stems solely from a desire to survive, why would people risk their lives participating in war unnecessary for their survival?

Why establish a pecking order at all?

I'm thinking that in humans it's just a really bad habit.

January 19, 2021
Madison, IN

Imagine a life full of horses and goats and cattle and chickens and smaller, for-decoration-only birds and mammals and greenery to eat and shade under!

We didn't used to appreciate that kind of life, I guess; it was really something we seemed to want to get away from as a species in general. Why would that be, I wonder? Laziness? Fear of the diseases and poisons natural objects carry?

Or was it always the life we wanted but had to abandon to physically stay alive? The jobs were in the cities.

Gradually multitudes of us have parted from natural life; we have gotten a divorce, and now we want to control visitation as much as possible. We go on hikes and journeys to experience nature. We enjoy pets and zoos and videos of pets and wild animals.

And when nature comes to visit us?

We enjoy either a magical moment with bird or beast not typical of our daily hours - or get Covid 19.

Is our refusal to wear a mask against the disease some sort of desperate attempt to get back to nature, like climbing Mt. Everest?

Sometimes, maybe, we just want Nature to have her way with us.

January 18, 2021
Madison, IN

Reading about 14th century monsters like Arundel (such a beautiful name, so unlovely a man!) who allowed his archers and other supporters to occupy a convent and use the nuns and resident widows sexually as they chose; then take them aboard a ship and, when a storm arose, throw them overboard to lighten the load in an attempt to save the ship; I have to confess we have someone just as monstrous in power in the U.S. today.

The 21st century has wasted no time exalting the U.S.'s first megamonster. Hopefully he will be rendered as powerless as Arundel.

If you want to discover more of the happenings of another century in the throes of a pandemic - and the fate of Arundel - read Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror. It's only taking me a year or two! 

Reading her book, and history in general, actually, we see clearly that people haven't changed.

History may be a distant mirror, but it is a big one!

January 17, 2021
Madison, IN

Just now, as I was typing the date, I had some vague memory of changing 2021 to 2020 at some point recently. I scrolled backwards and found that from Jan. 2 - 4 I had dated my rumiobfuscations (I should called them) as if they were written last year!

That's one for the people tracking dementia, but I don't blame myself a bit.

Wouldn't you love to have a do-over? (Ha, ha my e editor tried to change do-over to dog over.)

What I'm wondering, though, is whether we can do better this year. I, for one, would like to try.

I did have the awful thought that the reason some folks are threatening the state capitols starting today is so they can still get away to Washington, D.C. to wreak havoc there on the twentieth.

Here's hoping these predictions of general insurrections do not come to pass.

May we have peace and health in 2021?


January 16, 2021
Madison, IN

The path of reading is strewn with flowers, pebbles, and every once in a while a boulder - an obstacle so big one has to contemplate it a little - or a lot.

(Ha, ha, I just realized "one" is used not only to avoid attribution to the reader (you) but also to avoid owning it myself. Surely it cannot only be me that feels this way (ha, ha, lobbing a common little pebble into your path). It must be an attempt to universalize one's experience.)

The boulder I have to contemplate this morning is a phrase I read in a novel this morning. In a conversation between two people, one says to the other: "Surely you don't think I am going to discuss to you...."

Discuss "to" you? Who would dream of saying something like that? A lecturer, perhaps, but I've never heard it.

"A typo," you might say. Well, maybe.

I say a new twist of speech that scares me to death because it is more threatening to me than the loss of accountability: to me it means a loss of mutuality that is becoming commonplace in our society. I think.

There are lots of grammatical errors becoming commonplace that disturb me because they cause confusion, and confusion in communication seems to me to be an obviously undesirable event. Most people seem to either be oblivious to them or understand them. I have become so used to them that I perceive them as mere pebbles.

If you come up to me, however, proposing to "discuss to" me anything I would turn my back on you, get my coat, and leave. Unless you were my boss. Or it was nighttime.

"Discuss to" is a boulder. It means an imbalance of power intolerable between two people in a free society. It means the kind of imbalance of power I feel when I have to negotiate through the Internet with the local legal system re (jury duty) or healthcare system (corona virus vaccine). 

Come to think of it, "negotiate" is definitely the wrong word to use here. It, like "discuss", implies mutuality.

Mutuality is becoming a thing of the past in our society, I fear.

I think there are lots of people walking around who don't know what it feels like.

I must sit down on this boulder and contemplate for a while.

I wish you could join me.

Talk about the absence of mutuality!

Gee, maybe I can let the author know how I feel about this instead of howling into the universe. Does he/she have a website? Would she care?

Do I? Or do I just enjoy howling?

January 15, 2021
Madison, IN

Reading is my cure for negative thinking. (Kind of ironic, because it also can add fuel for a pessimistic outlook.)

Nevertheless: reading can be salvation.

It is no wonder that Christians swear by - and on - the Bible! In some households the Bible still might be the only book in the house, as it so often was in past centuries.

Reading really is salvation from at least one's own problems unless they are overwhelming.

The Bible, which admittedly has everything - travel, tragedy, treachery, love, ecstasy, prophecy - isn't the only Good Book!

January 14, 2021
Madison, IN

My partner gives me credit for being accurate in some of my seemingly paranoid predictions about what was going to happen in U.S. politics recently.

This throws me into something of a dilemma, because I tend to be unrealistically personally paranoid.

Can my perceptions be correct so inconsistently?


January 13, 2021
Madison, IN

I just heard, a couple of minutes ago (say 5:33?) several sirens in town and the major honk of a fire truck. In fact, I am hearing at least two or three sirens right now. (5:39)

Normally I would turn over and go back to sleep, feeling a mild concern and regret about someone else's possible misfortune but not enough to agitate me.

I'm not (I think I just heard that horn again) really agitated now.

But the idea that civil unrest (CIVIL UNREST!) could hit our couny seat does not seem fantastic considering that some of our state capitols have been marched upon and invaded within the last few months and all of them overtly threatened with armed violence.

After all, people are dead because of the temporary takeover of the national capitol in D.C. merely a week ago.

Could corona virus deaths be making us callous about the deaths and possible carnage that such revolutionary behavior causes?

The sirens didn't wake me up this morning, but they sure are (though inaudible for twenty minutes now) keeping me from going back to sleep.

Is anybody else getting as jumpy as I am?

January 12, 2021
Madison, IN

Yesterday I was sitting in the living room when I heard some raucous cawing outside - just loud enough to make me look outside. By the river were three or four crows and a very big bird - black with white fore and aft - an eagle, I'm sure! It flew downstream along the near riverbank. The last I saw the single crow still pursuing it gave it up.

Pretty symbolic of the times, huh? I wish the insurrectionists in our country would give it up, but I guess they are planning more trouble. Such a sad time.

Now I know two people personally who have received their corona virus vaccination. My partner has had both doses and an elderly vet - a friend who lives in our building - had his first shot yesterday. He is in his nineties and getting it through the veterans' administration; I cannot imagine my demographic will qualify anytime soon.

January 11, 2021
Madison, IN

There are all sorts of reasons for horrid mental conjuring, these days.

Can you imagine an inauguration, even if in an undisclosed location, subject to attack by drone? What are the limits of Trumpian behavior? I'm not sure he has any.

With forty percent of the population seemingly willing to overlook his bad actions and ready to do his bidding, none of the rest of us can have much confidence in the smooth functioning of society at any level.

Trump seems to have a genius for surprise unprecedented bad behavior. Let's not underestimate him yet again.

As if the political countdown to inauguration weren't bad enough, we have the countup of corona virus deaths, which don't seem to be diminishing.

What forms of discrimination and violence are going to emerge in the course and wake of this disease, besides the already existing horrors we regularly hear about and see with our own eyes?

Trains, planes, clubs and restaurants open only to people who have proof of vaccination against Covid-19? Black market in vaccines that gives the richest most protection?

When it comes to hopelessly outlandish scenarios, the movies these days don't have anything on my imagination.

January 10, 2021
Madison, IN

It will be interesting to see what happens when corona virus masking protocol bumps up against vaccine administration.

Will people who have received the vaccine feel free to move through society unmasked, thus creating more anxiety for the folks who have not yet been vaccinated?

Will the unmasked - both vaccinated and not - claim that they have been vaccinated, possibly creating false security on the part of those who might believe untrue claims?

My partner, who works in a hospital, intends to continue wearing a mask when he goes grocery shopping precisely because he does not want to inspire any undue stress in the folks he encounters.

Compared to the long hours he spends (sometimes uncomfortably) masked on the job, wearing the mask for thirty minutes in a grocery store seems like no big deal.

January 9, 2021
Madison, IN

Waking up from dreaming about participating in a massive cleaning and reorganizing job, I realize how deeply I was affected by the picture of black custodians cleaning up the Capitol building after the invasion of mostly white big babies.

The custodians aren't the only ones who had to clean up. I imagine the sorting and replacing of important papers is still ongoing.

The "right" to make messes that other people have to clean up is the prerogative of the very young, the very old, and the very ill.

Otherwise our society frowns on it - or should.

Oh - I forgot - the very rich can get away with it, too.

The most egregiously sinning insurrectionists will pay for their behavior with either money or their (hard) time or both.

The rest of us will pay in taxes, fear, uncertainty, unnecessary labor and bad dreams about cleaning up the messes of others.

January 8, 2021
Madison, IN

On my walk yesterday I passed a pro-Trump neighbor's house. She has a flagpole that angles upward from her front porch.

It had a black garbage bag covering the end, and the open edge was tied tight around the pole.

!?! Is that supposed to mean something?!?

Speaking of flags, did you see the footage of the Capitol occupation in which some invaders' U.S. flags had Trump banners fused on the reverse side? I couldn't see what, if anything, was written on the Trump side other than his name.

Other flags represented were the yellow "Don't Tread on Me" and the Confederate Flag.

The  defenders of the U.S. Constitution and the Union better start taking their jobs seriously.

January 7, 2021
Madison, IN

Last night was scary. Maybe I was just imagining it, but the occupants of the building seemed a little more restless than usual for a Wednesday night. I heard some angry expostulation, which is unusual.

When I woke up around 2:30 a.m. I checked the Internet to see what was happening in Washington D.C. Had Congress ratified Biden's election?

We had no service. The Internet was dead! The idea of living in a permanent blackout inspired in me all sorts of horrid imaginings, including ones involving roving bands of armed insurgents - and Russians! - I risked waking my partner, recently returned to bed himself, to inform him of the situation.

He got CNN on his telephone, including recent news updates, so I got on mine and was somewhat reassured. But the House was still in session!

Luckily the election process seemed to be continuing to grind slowly and almost peacefully, so I read myself to sleep - again.

Doesn't mean the same kind of thing won't happen tonight. What a long two weeks this promises to be!

January 6, 2021
Madison, IN

So, this year Epiphany has given us armed insurrection - the takeover of the U.S. Capitol building being attempted as I am writing.

2021 shows every sign of being just as crappy as 2020 was.

Am I surprised? No. Am I afraid there is more to come?


January 20th cannot come too soon for me.

January 5, 2021
Madison, IN

On this twelfth day of Christmas it would be nice to give the gift of optimism.

And we can! We can at least try, because of course we can hope that by the end of the year the corona virus will be on the wane.

We can hope that this year we can see our families.

We can hope that the ravages of the Trump administration will at the very least not be perpetuated for the next four years.

We can hope that our fellow citizens will not resort to violence, realizing that the country will not be served by blood in the streets...

Can't we?

January 4, 2021
Madison, IN

On the eleventh day of Christmas, we are getting fog! Fog, fog, abundant fog.

It's one form of white Christmas, anyway.

You can imagine anything you want out there, and with the sun trying to break through it is definitely white.

The mystery man I live with is out food shopping, and he is likely to return with something yummy, although for him the holiday food binge is over.

Me, I celebrate the holidays through Epiphany - the historic day of earthly gift-giving.

I myself think it's rather odd that we give our worldly gifts on Christmas. We are closer to being wise men than we are to being God - and not even close to wise, it seems.

January 6th should be the day! Or maybe April 1, Fool's Day.

January 3, 2021
Madison, IN

On the tenth day of Christmas, I found a pair of wool socks in my sock drawer. I'll leave that error so that anyone studying dementia in the elderly can see it.

Where's the error there? you might ask. Makes sense to me.

The error was that to show reason was not my intention. I can't help suspecting that when I wrote that first sentence I was trying (unconsciously) to cover up the truth.

The truth is, this morning I found my twenty-five year old fuzzy white wool socks in my underwear drawer.

Maybe I put them there because, like underwear, they are small and often pale. Or maybe I'm trying to tell myself they are too worn out, too old and thin to be of use. (Oh no, am I projecting?)

(Am I trying to make the error seem understandable because if too many mistakes pile up people will stop letting me put away my socks?)

How sad would that be?

Is the above disorganized, confused? Well, there are more symptoms for you.

(Shaking my head... not yet essential tremor....)

January 2, 2021
Madison, IN

Jefferson County has now suffered 39 corona virus deaths since the onset of the pandemic. The young continue to believe they would only be inconvenienced by the disease if they were to contract it.

It's hard to know what the older folks are thinking. I see fewer people of any age on my walks than I used to, and I am not in communication with many. The older folks whom I like to call the anchors of our building are surviving so far.

One working man I spoke with recently maintained that the other diseases that have swept through this community during his lifetime have taken a harsher toll than corona virus. He mentioned SARS and influenza. I did a little research, and it seems to me he is mistaken.

SARS worldwide killed as many people as we have lost in Indiana alone to Covid19. 

I personally knew more people who died of AIDS than I know who have died from our current pandemic, but the numbers tell me that I just don't know as many folks in this community after living here only eight years. Just because we don't see it doesn't mean it isn't happening. People I knew in the past have died this year in communities I no longer live in. I just don't know what caused their deaths.

The man who was complaining about what he considered the extreme response to our current situation - closing restaurants, for one - has suffered severe economic loss because of our government's response to the pandemic. I feel for him.

I myself deplore the failure of my fellow citizens to take this disease seriously enough at its onset in our midst. We could have been through the worst of it with five deaths and less community spread had we had more respect for its power of contagion.

We have tragically underestimated our enemy.

January 1, 2021
Madison, IN

Happy New Year!

I bragged about spanking that old man (the old year) on his way out last night, but what we actually did was even more insulting - we zzz'd him out, and a very nice sleep we had, thank you! How was yours?

We heard nothing - no partying, no fighting, no fireworks, no gunshots. Well, early in the evening we heard the usual chorus of coughing from outside - which I  sometimes echo, if truth be told.

My partner had talked about breaking out some champagne to celebrate the passing of such a dismal year, but I didn't think about it until after I had brushed my teeth, and I'm not supposed to drink alcohol anyway, and he didn't mention it either, so the champagne will bubble either sometime today or on another occasion entirely.

Yes, this is what it is like to age, at least for me. I quite admire the elderly grownups who can party like the young, but do they really exist?

If so, I am not present to witness the phenomenon. I am dreaming of a better year on my properly fluffed up pillow.

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