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Rumilluminations February 2021
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Mon, February 01 2021 - 7:58 am

February 28, 2021
Madison, IN

It's a rainy day, and it's supposed to stay that way all day.

Good thing I chose to walk up the old Hatcher Hill Road yesterday.

I saw an owl ball on the trail, although I've never seen or heard an owl there. I come at the wrong time of day. Several bird calls would have been identifiable by my ornithology prof (ha, ha, my electronic editor wondered if I meant "orbit poof." Is that a big thing these days? Orbit poof? Bigger than ornithology?)

But I digress. I identified flicker, blue jay, and cardinal. My professor would have announced the presence of half a dozen species, and identified them, too.

The only animal wildlife I saw was a small gray skittish squirrel. Makes me wonder where the folks I know who hunt squirrel hunt squirrel.

If you can't be squirrelly while you're talking about squirrel, when can you be?

Now even the word squirrel looks squirrelly. Is that really the way it's spelled?

It looks like a foreign language.

February 27, 2021
Madison, IN

The thing - no one of the many things - that angers me about contemporary technology is that it has taken the maxim "small is beautiful" to the extreme.

It takes my perfectly acceptable Kindle screen size which is paperback novel size, then, when I try to access an article, gives me a column no wider (less! I would wager) than a newspaper column and considerably shorter, for me to read.

I suspect it has to do with cellphone compatibility and it makes my blood boil. If I wanted a cell phone sized screen I would use my cell phone.

Yesterday on our drive it was so stimulating to have a multiplex screen of windshield and side windows, which is obviously pathetic compared to being out in the open landscape, but you know, everything is so owned.

There might be wonderful paths along the hills on the south side of the Ohio River, but they are privately owned. We content ourselves with car window views.

Once in a while I have walked along country roads, but they are so narrow I don't really even feel safe driving them.

To return though, to screen size. Our young seem perfectly happy to immerse themselves in screens to the detriment of the physically larger one - what we have long - perhaps laughably - called the "real world."

Silly us, to care about knowing an oriole from a gold finch or a calf from a goat. The real now is virtually the virtual.

Maybe the human race will enter that world and never come out.

February 26, 2021
Madison, IN

We finally went on a drive on the Kentucky side of the river today, along Cooper's Bottom and Burkhardt's Bottom and up the incredibly steep and twisty 1256 up to Highway 421.

It looks as if more trailer parks are going up along the Ohio River. I'm sure many people were no happier to see the apartment building that we happily live in when it first was erected. Oh well, we all have to live somewhere.

The construction we are delighted to observe is the renovation of the old cotton mill on Vaughan close to the bridge. For the very first time since we moved here it has almost all its windows and is obviously being improved rather than in a state of disintegration.

People will be much more likely to stop in the town with a beautiful rather than derelict edifice visible from the bridge.

The sight of it brought joy to our hearts.

February 25, 2021
Madison, IN

My sister and I were talking about a chrysanthemum my partner bought last year and we have managed to nurse through the winter.

She cautioned me that often plants whose blooms have been forced might not give such a good display the next year.

I proceeded to plunge into the process we used to control the timing of chrysanthemums in the Oregon nursery where I worked, thinking I was describing a different process.

Of course it was not. What I thought of as mere trickery goes by the term "forcing" as well as "photo-manipulation" and other more euphemistic expressions like "blooming" or "flowering" which tends to keep the gardner's hand in the process hidden.

Various websites I looked at described the process as "coaxing," "encouraging" "fooling" and "inducing" plants to bloom.

This certainly seems to me more pleasant as well as more accurate terminology. All the force in the world isn't going to persuade a plant to bloom. No amount of gun-pointing, knife-wielding, or verbal threats will make your paperwhite narcissis bloom.

So where does the expression come from? I haven't found out yet.

Personally I suspect it was overcompensation on the part of some nurseryman who felt that occupying himself with flowers just wasn't very manly.

He was going to work his will on those overly delicate obsessions of his - and he did it very well.

We did it on the chrysanthemums at work by completely covering with sheets of black plastic metal arches that were placed over the plants on a daily schedule that triggered their blooming mechanism as well as lengthening their stems.

It was a lot of work. We forced ourselves more than the mums!

February 24, 2021
Madison, IN

So for our book club this month we read a novel almost one hundred years old.

We cannot have a club discussion about books under six months old, because libraries are not supposed to obtain books until after a six months waiting period after publication. Is that even legal, that kind of control? Maybe it has to do with the use of public funds.

Some authors hate libraries, I understand, because it means fewer book sales.

I'm not so sure. People who can't afford new books just won't buy them, but sales resulting from word of mouth promotion might be higher than they would have been without libraries.

The results of policy are not always simple to predict.

February 23, 2021
Madison, IN

For a long time I have been suspicious of novels that purport to be about real people, especially insofar as they create actions and happenings that don't have any grounding in the person's actual history.

If you're going to make something up, make it up about your own imaginary character!

I read in an intro to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Galloway that Woolf detested writers who were personal.

Ha! All writers are personal, especially Virginia Woolf. Read any of her work and you can learn a lot about who she was.

Read anyone's work and you get a real big hit of the scent of their life.

February 22, 2021
Madison, IN

Which is worse, an empty paper page or a blank e-page?

No words of wit or wisdom or felicity or folly.

No words at all. At least with paper and pen I could doodle.

I've done chores and errands today and now I'm spent.

February 21, 2021
Madison, IN

Indolence is underrated. Actually, proof of that is in my device's e-editing, which tried to substitute the word "insolence" for my lazier word "indolence", ignore its very verbal existence.

There were not too many indolent people in the January 6th insurrection, although I admit there probably were a few.

You could argue that the pastor sitting along the side of a wide corridor inside the Capitol languidly talking about how he would probably be fired after this, but he didn't care (this father of two!) was being indolent.

I'm sure everyone would agree he could not be accused of being part of the energetic vanguard of the attempted coup.

Personally, I think he was making a bid for a divorce -from his wife, not the government, that is.

Indolence doesn't leave bodies in the street. You can't be a revolutionary and be indolent - unless you're the backing money of the enterprise, of course.

And with that kind of money, why a revolution?

What's wrong with a little indolent philanthropy?

February 20, 2021
Madison, IN

The dream went on, though - yesterday's dream. After I decided it was not going to be feasible to paint the picture I was messing with, I decided it would make a good play, and I could write a play.

The closer I got to waking, though, the more unlikely that appeared to me to be. Even if I could remember all the stories I would want to tell, what about the structure? How do you go about putting together a stage piece?

One time someone told me Ghosts by Ibsen was the ideally structured play, but I never studied its structure. I read the play. Maybe I didn't know how to go about analyzing it, or maybe I got so caught up in the ideas and content that I was deflected.

Laziness? or was I too easily discouraged - again.

Maybe laziness is just terminal discouragement.

At any rate, it doesn't write a play.

February 19, 2021
Madison, IN

Last night I dreamt I was trying to paint a picture. It had several elements and several people in it. At some point I realized I am too old to master the necessary technique. The eyeglass frames of the woman in my painting had too much gray in them, I realized. That says something.

Why are we not supposed to tell our dreams before breakfast? Does this rule of manners exist because we are not supposed to bore others with such personal fantasies, or because dreams are all too revealing and we are still too sleepy to realize the dangers of such self-exposure?

February 18, 2021
Madison, IN

The death toll from corona virus for our county alone is hovering around seventy now.

We are so used to hearing the numbers climb that no one is surprised any more, although we should be. Six months ago the number of our victims is recorded as being only two.

How did this happen? After all, we had fair warning.

Now that I am a couple of weeks away from my second dose of the preventive vaccine, I am reading about new, hairy combo mutations that will still pose a danger to all of us.

Well, I was planning to wear a mask for the foreseeable future anyway. Why is the fashion industry not jumping on this new opportunity to enlarge the must-have collection of hip with-it accessories?

Or is denial the new avant-garde?

February 17, 2021
Madison, IN

13 degrees Fahrenheit outside for my morning walk, during which I encountered no other mammals, except for a few in cars and trucks.

The footing wasn't bad. There wasn't much visible ice and between my new snow boots and the treadmarks of the snowplow they use along the river walk I could walk pretty fast.

When I heard about the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers freezing over because of the polar vortex I looked eagerly out at the Ohio River to see if it had frozen. Not at all - it is moving, although it seems to me a little sluggishly.

Texas is suffering widespread power outages and we, much farther north, are doing just fine.

This time.

You never know.

February 16, 2021
Madison, IN

As of October 2020 there were 614 billionaires in the U.S.

Don't you think some of them could nail themselves to the cross (sacrifice their ambitions to be the richest man in the world, that is) and donate to the Federal Government to reduce the national debt?

I'm thinking even a billion or two from the multi billionaires would take the national debt down a trillion or more.

What is the definition of an oligarchy, I wonder?

No matter what the definition of our government pretends it is (democracy) it fits the description of an oligarchy - a few families in effect governing the rest of us.

Even a few hundred families are proportionally few in a population of three hundred plus million.

If it keeps up, the cry will become Overthrow the Oligarchy!

Better watch out, overly opulent overlords!!

February 15, 2021
Madison, IN

Last week after the biggest snow in years (a mere 6 inches?) I hiked up to the top of the Heritage Trail just to prove I still could.

On the walk downstream I tore my eyes away from the trees and was startled by a diminutive snowman on one of the brick pillars. He was only about fourteen inches tall, including the short sticks protruding from the top of his head. So cute! It looked as if maybe he was supposed to portray a space alien. First time I've ever seen a snowman on a pedestal.

On the way home along Third Street I saw a snowperson family of five lined up in a row, facing the camera - me. I'm willing to bet a family of five live in that house! I'll never know, though, because I don't remember where it was, and the sculptures were temporary. Although it has been very cold... maybe they're still standing.

The other day I saw another snow sculpture that I'm unable to identify as a snowman. Was it a snowfox, or maybe a snowdog?

It had a pointy nose with a substantial dark stone end and it had ears. On second thought, maybe it was a sheep, because it seemed to be finished with snowballs, creating a lumpy woolly effect.

Of live critters of all sorts I have mostly seen tracks and bootprints lately.

Fresh snow last night will allow me some more tracking practice. Unfortunately it was probably too scant for snow sculpture.

February 14, 2021
Madison, IN

Judging from some of the history I have heard, maybe we should all celebrate Valentine's Day by being martyred. Come to think of it, Jesus was supposedly martyred for love of humanity, so why shouldn't another martyr be associated with love?

Happy Day of love, everyone! May you feel not like a martyr, but full of love! A big bright red throbbing heart.

February 13, 2021
Madison, IN

Popular music is the pits. I know that judgement will raise some hackles, but even avid popular music lovers these days have got to admit that popular music relies a great deal on visuals.

If you're walking down the road listening only (oh, wait a minute, right - nobody walks anymore if they have a choice) or driving in a car, you must admit rhythm and rap predominate over melody.

Patricia Lockwood's ecstatic musings about the power of song on the spirit make me inclined to hold the decline of music education in the popular schools responsible for the literal monotony of popular music today. (My opinion, not Lockwood's.)

If I am right, then there is hope for the future of popular music evolving into something a little more lyric and tonally wide-ranging than the chants of today; I've been reading that more schools offer music education than twenty years ago.

And I sing: that is a good thing! For our spirits as well as our voices and our breathing and our sense of pitch.

February 12, 2021
Madison, IN

I do not understand the government haters. They sound as if they want to tear the whole society down, but they enjoy societal perks.

Complaining about tyranny, they drive their sometimes costly vehicles on expensive highways constructed and maintained at least partly by federal funds. They send (some of them) their kids to schools maintained by governmental taxes on the public. When they get sick, they get help with medical issues with solutions developed in Federal programs. They go hunting on Federally maintained lands.

I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that some of those storming the Capitol were on Social Security Income. (You do know that there are vets on SSI for mental issues like PTSD?)

I once knew a conservative guy who applied for aid with his electric bill even though if he had been a legislator he would have voted against a bill for aid. (He quoted Buckley as his apologist for that irresponsible stance.) Of course, the same charity case would object to the designation "guy." He, though unemployed, called other segments of society "riffraff". I suppose that was a code with a meaning I couldn't divine.

Do all these people really think they would survive in a completely dog eat dog world?

They are the real Dreamers!

February 11, 2021
Madison, IN

Trump really ought not to be eligible for office ever again. It is obvious that if he is not a knave he is a fool.

Yet it doesn't have to be either/or. It seems to me this is one of those both/and situations.

Hey, so call me a fool for saying that about Trump. That's okay - at least this fool ain't the President.

And now, thank goodness, neither is that one.

February 9, 2021
Madison, IN

I woke up in the middle of the night and saw it had snown. ( Ha, ha, since "shone" seems to be disappearing from the language I think we need a replacement.)

So okay, it had snowed. But not the three expected inches, but more like six. Six! That was significant. A light powder inch or three I was able to fantasize my partner could blow away - no trouble at all.

Six inches, though. That was something I could not in all conscience let the man who does virtually all the cooking face alone.

I put on my almost unused new snow boots etc. over my pajamas, grabbed the broom, and went outside. That the balcony had not so much as a drift cheered me on.

Sweeping down metal stairs about the consistency and surface of bicycle pedals is not problematical: what sweeps off easily, does, and what doesn't sweep off is impossible. Ignore it.

Alas, the landing was not virgin snow. Someone had already trod this way. Still, mostly sweepable.

The wooden steps, except for the one set of footsteps, were easy. Wow! I had already gotten closer to the car than I expected. I even did the railing.

Cleared some sidewalk, then started in on the car. The snow wasn't sparkling as it sometimes does, but I didn't notice.

It was when I started dragging the roof clear of snow that I got my aesthetic reward for nobly volunteering some wee hour time in the cold.

Every sweep of the broom was awarded by the sound of the softest, gentlest thud I have ever heard in my life. And it was repeatable - I must have heard it a dozen times, softer than the landing of a small cat.

That snow was so easy to dislodge I kept going and swept a while longer. Not the whole walkway that traverses the front of the building but enough to justify dressing up for the elements in the first place.

It's so easy for some of us to imagine ourselves heroes intrepid!

February 8, 2021
Madison, IN

 St. Paul had a vision.

George Washington had a mission.

Albert Einstein had an idea.

Martin Luther King had a dream.

Mary had a little lamb.

I had a nap.

February 7, 2021
Madison, IN

We went on a walk at the coldest hour predicted during daylight today, 9:00 and 19 degrees, although it might be a little warmer here along the river.

I saw three crows, three or four starlings, and, instead of the usual flocks of geese along the riverbank, only one pair. Admittedly I saw a dozen or so small birds perched on telephone wires a block or so away, but I couldn't identify them - probably assorted sparrows and more starlings.

Does the amount of electricity running through telephone wires make them incrementally warmer places to hang out on a cold day?

We only encountered one other pedestrian - on Main Street. He had thought he would encounter no one.

Although I had seen a trio walking upstream a couple of hours before, I was surprised also. Who chooses the coldest hour of the coldest winter day yet to take a stroll?

Later: I forgot to mention my best bird sighting of the walk - downy woodpecker (usually not seen by me, anyway, so close to the center of town.)

February 6, 2021
Madison, IN

Splendid is a word I feel like feeling today. Splendiferous is splendid with some iron in it.

Oh, don't go getting literary and literal and etymological on me.

I say the mesiversary of epiphany deserves some celebration, and since Chinese New Year doesn't come for another week I proclaim today a day of splendificity!

Gee, I wonder if the word city itself has anything in common with the words that use it. Is felicity a city of happiness? Is specificity a metropolis of precision? Is grandiosity an aggregation of grandness, but spelled with an "s" for sarcastic?

The world of words is full of verbosity.

Oh. That makes me sad.

February 5, 2021
Madison, IN

Well, what do you know, the truth is out. Practically overnight the official corona virus death count for  Jefferson County residents jumped from 42 to 65.

So where was the hangup? Why were the reports constant and then for a period of four weeks nonexistent?

That would be a good job for The Madison Courier to tackle, if they didn't report it already.

Who knows, maybe they put out a community service report that said their would be no reporting of deaths for a month because somebody was on vacation,, and I missed it because I don't read the paper.

Except crouched down in front of the nearest newsstand.

February 4, 2021
Madison, IN

If there is a God, it is the Internet. On the other hand, if there's a Devil, it is the Internet.

If dreams are a collective unconsciousness of all of humanity (which I believe is so) can the Internet be a collective consciousness? (If so, what about the Dark Web? Is it our societal unconscious?)

And what about the Internet itself? Is it even universal yet?

Maybe not; I just heard the other day that some Dutch settlers were just eaten by some cannibals in some island where I will never go anyway.

When confronted with their deeds, the cannibals couldn't understand what the fuss was about. After all, they hadn't eaten any children.

(This tale cannot be relied on, by the way. I got it at least fourth hand. You can always check its veracity, though, by searching it on the Internet. Haha hahaha!)

The behavior of people familiar with the Internet cannot be relied upon as being of higher consciousness or even basically ethical.

Just like people call on the Internet for all kinds of assistance, all kinds of terrorists still call upon God.

I imagine even cannibals have a deity.

February 3, 2021
Madison, IN

Martin Luther wasn't the first person to break off from the Catholic Church, but somehow what he did became a movement.

He was pretty democratic in his argument that you don't need an intermediary between you and God.

It always seemed to me, though, that the crowning glory of his rebellion lay in the nature of salvation. Salvation is not paid for with money or good works but with faith.

The hierarchy of the Catholic church and the high-living of its prelates stuck in his craw. Let the widow spend her mite feeding her children. Why should a person have to buy his way to forgiveness by paying for indulgences?

My partner remarked in conversation this morning that in the evangelical churches these days tithing has become a big thing - again. This rings a bell with me. I seem to have a memory of hearing about a new movement to tithe arising when I was in my twenties.

I seriously considered it but decided it was impractical. It was hard enough for us to get by without giving away ten percent of our meagre income.

For the last five centuries war has broken into the lives of whole populations as a result, the Pope living high off the land the whole while.

So what have the Protestants created? Multiple televangelists who live just as high as any Pope (sans centuries of art and history) and who ask their flock to give give give.

Or maybe it's buy buy buy.

Joel Osteen's website has a shopping cart in the upper right-hand corner just like any other business.

February 2, 2021
Madison, IN

So I am reading this memoir called Priestdaddy and when I mentioned it yesterday I couldn't remember the author's name. When you read a genuine book made out of trees, the author's name is etched into the bark. E-books are different.

So I am reading this memoir by a nameless person of the female gender and she talks about writing a poem called "Rape Joke." How off-putting! - except you know the title is a sad joke itself.

Instantly well not instantly but as soon as I realize how recent the publication of this poem is and that I might be able to read it online, I search online for it.

Turns out there really are rape jokes. Have I not heard any? Have I really not heard any?

I must have heard some and repressed them. Laughed even, maybe. I don't remember them. No, I really don't remember hearing any.

But I assure you that now I will remember the name of Patricia Lockwood, author of Priestdaddy and Rape Joke.

And all that I learned this morning before I even got out of bed.

February 1, 2021
Madison, IN

In an effort to look at the bright side of modern day life, I would like to positively celebrate e-reading. This technology replaces the furtive flashlight under the covers and the sometimes awkward Itty Bitty Book Light with a whole, self-illuminated library.

During the day I usually read novels and non-fiction in hard copy. Why use electricity at all if ambient light will do the trick? Maybe varying my reading experience will be better for my eyes as well. Who knows?

The most recent e-reading habit I have developed, though, almost amounts to a guilty decadence: I am reading several books at once - often in the middle of the night! Can you imagine doing that with bulky, bookmarked hard copies?

Currently I'm reading a virtual tome about poverty and the industrial revolution, a comic memoir Priestdaddy, a James Watson Sherlock Holmes "memoir" and a book about grammar and its psychological effect on the writer. (Both the author, Lawrence Weinstein, and anyone who's writing - in other words, both memoir and prescription.)

The only trouble is, I can't check the titles and the authors while I'm writing about them. I can't keep them in a handy stack on my desk. Often the title and author are invisible to me as I'm reading. If I try to go back to my library, the book's image flashes on the screen so briefly I can't examine the cover! Honestly.

The benefits far outweigh the awkwardnesses, though. I can read what I am in the mood for! My Kindle keeps my place for me!

Between my daytime habits and my night time indulges I am juggling half a dozen books a day.

You might not consider this a good thing.

I think it's something to celebrate.

Yay, progress!

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