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Rumilluminations August 2010
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, August 01 2010 - 7:08 pm

August 31, 2010                                     Valparaiso, IN

What place names I would have had to write from if I had written here every day!  Mackinaw City, Taquamenon Falls (or at least Paradise!) Grand Marais, Minisung!

Well, we "sailed" into Grand Marais, the great harbor on a real surfaced highway, anyway.

I asked an old-timer if there was a good place to spend the night and he pointed out an American-flag-bunting-bedecked gray motel within easy sight.  Speaking to the proprietor was not so easy.  First I tried telephoning the two numbers on the door of the motel.  Didn't reach him.

We threw reticence to the winds and tracked him down exactly where he said he would be (what detective skills!) a block away at the Sportsman's Restaurant.

This was my favorite motel of the trip, because not only was it clean ("Excellent!" according to a white-haired lady who claimed to have spent the better part of her working career cleaning motels) but it was right across the road from Lake Superior.  Maybe that is why it was called the Beach Park Motel! 

We didn't swim, though.  Too cool, and I only swim when I'm hot.  Unless the water is.

The main beach is an easy walk from downtown, and a lovely beach it is.

As I recall, the public library is open a few hours on a few days a week, what you would perhaps call a twig library.

Across the street from the library is a cool little rock shop called Giche Goomee Agates which for some obscure onomonopoetic reason offended me until I remembered that was the Indian name for Lake Superior.  This little rock shop has awesome prices and is chock full of fossils, minerals and educational information about rocks.

After our stroll we ate camp food and went to bed.  The rain that fell during the night didn't rouse us, but the next morning when we woke up there were significant puddles outside the hotel which we congratulated ourselves were not on the floor of our mini-tent being sopped up by our sleeping bags!    

August 30, 2010                                     Valparaiso, IN

Travels with Jester:  Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Whew!  Trying to keep track of all these dates is crazy!  Next time we travel I'll try to write almost every day, instead of toggling back and forth between weeks.

Tuesday morning we broke camp from Taquamenon Falls and headed toward Grand Marais.  Eventually, after we went the wrong way first.  Oh, well, this way we got to see Paradise!  Paradise, Michigan, that is.  If its population is any indication of that of its prototype in the hereafter, there aren't very many people saved.

We decided check out a state park (Muskellonge, I'm pretty sure) with camping on the way to our next destination.  There was rain expected that night so we didn't stay, and it was awfully early in the day, anyway.  We decided to head farther west cross country on a dirt road that seemed to parallel Lake Superior's edge to Grand Marais, on the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  It ended up being a kind of dusty, headachey drive.  It took much longer than we thought it would and was nothing to write in here about!

After a seemingly eternal drive there was a sign saying, "Grand Marais" pointing left, but Jos steadfastly refused to take the branch, because it was obvious the main road (which had turned to blacktop at the county line) was straight ahead.

Sure enough, his instincts and conclusions were correct.  We "sailed" into Grand Marais on a real road, and found ourselves right on the edge of the southern shore of Lake Superior.

What pitfalls await the unwary traveler who follows the sinister sign, we don't know.  We escaped them!

More tomorrow!

August 28, 2010                                Valparaiso, IN

If I had to choose between psychic pain and physical pain, I would choose psychic pain any day.  For one thing, I am more used to it.  For another, making it go away seems way easier to me.  I have spent many years working at it.

So the question is, why do so many people have so much difficulty at getting rid of psychic pain?  Does psychic pain have neural pathways that shoot off automatically all the time like the habitual firing of neurons that creates some physical pain?  If so, it would make sense to use drugs at least for a period of time to get the psychic pain neurons to cool it.

Is psychic pain a tenacious habit of guilt or association?  Any ideas on the matter?

Travels with Jester, August 17, 2010:  When we left Mackinaw City and crossed the beautiful Mackinac Bridge, we went west on Highway 2, on the advice of a lovely park ranger named Susan at D.H. Day Campground.  She said there was likely to be a good deal of construction on the road that shoots straight up to our destination, Taquamenon Falls.

We set up camp at the Falls, and were periodically visited by the most beautiful little chipmunk.  I thought it was totally unfair that he could live in the wild all the time and yet still be perfectly groomed!  He was in great physical shape, too, jumping from the ground to the picnic table bench in an apparently effortless lift.

The gutsy little guy came right up to me.  I pretended not to see him and didn't crane to keep him in sight, and he nudged my ankle!  I moved my foot away ever-so-slightly, and I didn't see him again for a while.

Okay, so I didn't see him actually touch me.  But I guarantee you that contact wasn't made by an extra-large mosquito or an extraterrestrial being!

We decided to go for a hike to the upper falls (the campground is by the lower falls) and accidentally walked the wrong way.  We're just as glad we did, though, because here again we had a miles-long hike with no encounter with another human.  It was good to go walking in the far North with wild blueberries on the bushes around us!  Even though they were tiny and pretty tasteless and not bursting with sweetness, Jos reports.  (I, more timid than a chipmunk I know, wasn't even positive at the time of the hike that they were blueberries at all!)  Where was all the wildlife (including humans) that should have been eating that harvest?

We hold our book about Upper Michigan responsible for getting us lost.  (Have you noticed we always find somebody else's lack of clarity to blame for our lack of direction?  Hey - why should we be any different from the rest of the human race?)

August 27, 2010                               Valparaiso, IN

Travels with Jester

Monday, August 16th, after a night of listening to the surf, we decided to go to Mackinaw City and see the sights - maybe take the ferry.

Mackinaw City is very close to Wilderness State Park - a half an hour's drive or so.

We had breakfast at Cunningham's, surrounded by pictures of the owners' family and friends holding up big mongo fish!

This town is a tourist mecca with more fudge shops per square mile than Key West has Key Lime Pie.

We couldn't resist a little shopping.  I got two pairs of linen/rayon pants (fashionably cut) that were similarly cut from $38 to $9.75 a pair.  I have been on the lookout for linen casual wear for years, since my linen/cotton pants I got from LLBean twenty-odd years ago are kind of clunky (and maybe just a little dirt-ridden from gardening?)  This was a steal!

I do have to hem them up, though, being of a generation that doesn't want my well-worn tattered look to come from standing on the hem of my pants.  (That's what I say.  Some people would give that statement a skeptical look, having seen me push the limit pretty close.  Let's put it this way:  I don't want my getting-old bones to break because I tripped over my teen-age jeans!)

My partner found a hat just to his taste.  It has the date 1779 on it and looks just that worn!

I had salad for lunch across from the ferry with a view of the harbor, and we went for dinner to a place called Audie's, which was supposed to have vegetarian fare.

No, correct that.  We had dinner at a place called the Chippewa Room, which is owned by the same person as Audie's, is in the same building and right next door, internally as well as externally, but is not the same restaurant.  We didn't find out until we were looking at the menu and I couldn't find the vegetable platter for which we had chosen the restaurant!

After lemonade, we switched to the Chippewa Room, where we encountered a gentleman who was standing in puzzlement, unable to explain his lack of reservation for Audie's!

There is some definite confusion there, and it ain't just us.

Having sat down in the correct place, we finally got to order.  I ordered the vegetable platter, which was a whopping $17+, while my partner chose the salad bar for $12.99.

We enjoyed the food, and I took half my platter home for lunch the next day.

Never did take the ferry.  We stumbled across Fort Michilimacinac from the back, which was kind of fun.  Ignorance has its pleasures, even if it is not always blissful!  From there we walked along the park, past the lighthouse and a strange architectural curiosity that looks as if it should be a bed and breakfast but isn't.  People were taking pictures and wondering, but we didn't hang around town long enough to research the house.  You always have to leave some sights unseen, some mystery to solve the next time you visit!

The Court Inn was fine and not unreasonably priced.  Some bikers checked in next door and at one point during the night the noise level outside reached a pitch that made me afraid there would be a fight, but the folks dispersed before I was even tempted to call the police.  (That is not an idle threat coming from me, either.  If I think someone is in physical danger, I will call it in.  Better before than after an assault, I figure, especially if the partiers are too drunk to tell which door is theirs.)

That night we lay in luxury and listened to the patter of rain on the roof.

August 26, 2010                              Valparaiso, IN

Travels with Jester

Sunday, August 15th - We woke up at D.H. Day Campground in Sleeping Bear Dune National Lakeshore astounded at how quiet the camp was.  During most of the night, you could have heard a pine needle drop.

It was tempting to stay and hike or swim, but we wanted to keep going and get to our next stop early enough to score a berth.

We drove along the Lake up to Wilderness State Park, just a vehicular hop skip and jump from Mackinaw City.

We saw a lot of wildlife on the way.  Unfortunately it was all dead - roadkill.  We saw raccoons and darling little baby skunks.  We saw deer and coyote.  We saw a kitten.

This was not exactly the wildlife viewing we had envisioned when we left home.  Most of the life we had seen so far was herring gulls and crows and vultures.

Fortunately, our minds were turned from these morbid thoughts by fruit stands.  We bought luscious peaches and apricots at low prices and managed to keep them good for days.  When I questioned the beautiful young (Native American?  Hispanic?) clerk about why peaches and apricots could grow so far north, hoping to hear an explanation about the lake effects of all the nearby bodies of water (or some such), she smiled and said they had been growing peaches all her life. Ah, youth!  She thought that I was asking about an unseasonably warm summer!

We reached Wilderness Park in time to set up camp, have a swim, and eat before dark.  Our site began to get breezy.  It was right on Lake Michigan, and the waves, instead of beating regularly on the sand, sounded as if they were fighting their way to the beach.

After watching the sun set over the point of land that covered the southwestern horizon, we ourselves emulated the waves and crashed.  All night long, whenever I woke I heard the white noise of the water and had to reassure myself that it wasn't going to flood us.  This is not hurricane country, I kept telling myself.  It felt like the water was four feet away.

My partner has since observed that I seem to sleep better the more turbulent the outside conditions, but I do remember waking him up at least once that night, fearful of rain because of an isolated spatter.

Next morning we decided to see Mackinaw City.  It was overcast, there was more rain in the forecast, and we wanted to experience civilization.


August 25, 2010                                   Valparaiso, IN

Just as well I skipped a day in recalling our vacation adventures, because I had forgotten to include a very impressive road!

On our first day's drive up the Michigan Coast, we went off the main road looking for a restaurant and saw a lovely drive lined with what might have been river willows or narrow-leaved cottonwoods.

I remembered this as being in Eastlake, MI and looked up the village to be sure.  There is a photo that looks very much like what we saw.  Highway 55 goes right by Eastlake, but try as I might I can't figure out why Eastlake would be west of that highway.  My memory has us turning East.

Well, these are Travels of Jester, modeled after those of Christopher Columbus!  At least we knew where we were aiming, and actually got there, and know where we were!

(er, except for Eastlake.  How many Eastlakes could there be in Michigan?  It boggles the mind!)

Anyway, if you are driving near Manistee and you see a road with trees on either side that give that arching cathedral feel, let me know what they are!  Follow that road around, and there is a small camping area down by the water.

The Internet may be the information highway, but I didn't see anything about Eastlake that would tell me what those trees were.

And don't wait twenty years to go exploring.  These are very mature trees and might not be there decades from now! 

August 24, 2010                                  Valparaiso, IN

Strangest thing happened last night.  I started getting a splintery feeling in the ball of my left foot when I walked on it.

I craned to find it, couldn't find the problem.  My partner looked closely at it - saw nothing.

Remembering a friend whose son got a splinter of glass in his foot that traveled up his leg and had to be surgically removed, I got a little concerned.

One of my aunts once talked about a painless way of removing splinters that I have used ever since:  you take a bandaid, slap a chunk of butter on it, and put it securely over the splinter overnight.  Voila!  The next morning the splinter can be found on the buttery bandaid - or at least much closer to the surface.  Something about the splinter moving towards the path of least resistance.

Since I couldn't even see my personal foreign object, I took a big sports bandage, put a teaspoon or two of butter on it, and secured it over my mystery pain.  Then, to hold it in place and try to save the sheets from oily stain, I put on two clean old lightweight socks over the bandaid.

This morning I could still feel something in my foot.  I went out to the back porch (it's very light out there) and removed the bandage.  There was something visible now, like a photographic image arising magically from a polaroid print.  It looked like a hair, but wouldn't scrape off.

My partner came to my aid.  He saw a free end, and pulled that brown whatever-it-was out with his fingernails.

Irritation gone, now I'm kind of wishing we had saved the hairy splinter to see if we could discover if it was animal, vegetable or mineral.  Stinger?  Hair?  Ovipositor?  (Hope I'm not going to have eggs hatching in my sole!)

Whatever it was, it is now just one of life's little mysteries.

Remember - add butter on a bandaid to your list of home remedies for no-tears splinter removal!

As for Travels of Jester, I guess our August 15th report will just have to wait until tomorrow!

August 23, 2010                               Valparaiso, IN

Back from a nine-day vacation, made possible by one of my sisters and her family, I feel like the mom after Dad had the kids for the weekend.  Sure, my mom seemed happy to see me, but I can't help but feel she is returning to humdrum.

Well, so she is, and so are we.

Travels of Jester:  August 14, 2010, five a.m.  We woke up in the seedy little motel (no offense to the proprietor - maybe he will be able to improve it in coming years.  You got the feeling it was the best he could afford to buy into) and had to GET OUT IMMEDIATELY!  For the sake of our health!  No wash-up, no nada!  OUT!  The parking lot, which had been almost empty when we checked in at 12:30 a.m. that morning, was now almost full.  Well.  Lesson learned, we hit the road.  We would bid for accommodations earlier in the day henceforth.

A leisurely drive up the coast brought us, by 11:30 a.m., to rangers' headquarters in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore west of Traverse City.  This place was scarily mobbed, but for some reason the crowd cleared (maybe we smelled like petrified cigarette smoke!) and the line dispersed.  Anxious about our night, we asked a ranger if he knew of any openings in nearby parks.  He said there were still spaces at D.H. Day, a rustic campground, but that we should get right over.

We did, and got the last available space.  This is one rustic campground, and it had no reservations.  Maybe spaces opened up later, but by late morning it was full for Saturday night.  Be warned!

After setting up camp we went swimming in Lake Michigan.  The beach had very coarse sand and many rocks on the bottom.  My Chaco sandals stayed on my feet and I had a wonderful swim!  (Well, I do a little sidestroke, anyway.)  The water was crystal clear.  The sunlight danced on the perky little waves and kick-ups created by the breeze so that the surface looked like an op-art design.  From four feet up you could see the bottom just fine.

We swam.  We hiked on Alligator Hill, and still have no idea why it bears that name.  The top of the hill had a lovely view of the lake and the Manitou Islands, though, that are part of the park and reportedly reachable by ferry.  On the way back to camp in the dusk we heard a Great Horned Owl, but couldn't spot it.  As for humans, we shared that path with nary a soul.  Maybe it was the cougar warning posted at the head of the trail!

Utterly fagged, we went to mat in our sleeping bags in our little backpacking tent.

We failed at my objective of getting to Charlevoix to see Pat Custer Denison (maker of a piece of art I bought in Chicago forty years ago for my mom and still find delightful (although I guess my mom never did.  When I returned to Valpo six years ago I found my old Christmas gift still in its original plastic tucked between my parents' dresser and the wall!

I took it back, had it framed and put it on my "kitchen" wall, where it continues to amuse or irritate everyone who looks at it.  No neutral responses to that one!))

The Denisons have a studio open only on Saturdays, and this Saturday it would be closed because they were doing a Charlevoix art fair.  Their place borders on Sleeping Bear Dune National Lakeshore, where we were sleeping, but we were too insecure about our night's accommodation to risk the further drive up to Charlevoix.  Just one of those things! 

August 23, 2010                                       Valparaiso, IN

Back home again in Indiana.  Well, as you may have noticed, I took a vacation from my website as well as from home.  Not wishing to deprive you of some local Michigan color, however, I think I'll relive some of the last week of the Travels of Jester (portmanteau word for Jos and Esther, ha ha how appropriate) here in my Rumilluminations for you folks who might be considering a trip to the North Country.

Since it is now evening, I'll start our recap with the evening of Friday Aug. 13, when we left home and headed north.

Well, we learned something right away.  Trying to get a room in Southwestern Michigan on a weekend night in August during blueberry festival time is not easy, and it's not smart.

Hotel #1:  No room at the inn.

Hotel #2:  One more vacancy for $179 per night.  No, thank you.

Hotel #3:  One more room, with a jacuzzi.  Relief!  But the hotelier is only asking $109 instead of much more because it smells of cigarette smoke.  I go for a sniff.  No, thank you.

Hotel #4:  It is now 12:30 a.m. local time and we have reached Muskegan.  (Don't ask why it took us so long - we thought we would avoid the stress of freeways.)  We saw a really crummy little place with a few spaces in the lot and asked about a room.  $50.  Price is right!  And the cigarette smell didn't seem quite so bad.  At first.

A funny phenomenon seems to be occuring in Michigan.  Since cigarette smoking is now outlawed in all hotel rooms, scofflaws smoke in any room they please.  Laws that are supposed to protect the consumers seem sometime to be backfiring.  The smoke had me wheezing slightly before too long. 

The next morning - but no, the next exiting (er, exciting!) episode will be here tomorrow!

August 13, 2010                                   Valparaiso, IN

We had a one-hundredth birthday party for the house today.  One of the guests asked, "Do we get to take a piece of the house home?"

Earlier today, tempers got a little frayed.  A piece of that dialog:  "Don't get testy with me, or I'll get quizzical with you!"

The neighbors with the European name learned that their house is not known to us by their name, but the name of the Turner sisters, who lived there fifty years ago!

Gotta run, we're leaving the house tonight.  Poor thing, feted and abandoned in the same day!

But not really.  Sis and brother-in-law and mother remain.

August 12, 2010                                   Valparaiso, IN

Well, I finally did it.  I sacrificed many of next year's black raspberries to the pruning shears.  They were growing over the sidewalk and my sister's imminent visit is a strong dose of reality.

I made a big bouquet with the phlox I had to cut, and it was a pity to chop down some six-foot stalks of goldenrod which didn't even get a chance to bloom.

Two four-footers of goldenrod were growing out of cracks in the sidewalk, along with blooming primroses and ambitious young weeds of all kinds.

I left two huge piles of cuttings on what would be the curb, if there were any cement left, and for the first time lately my offerings are still there eight hours later.  The maintenance people will probably come around tomorrow morning.

That is also when I intend to cut back the trumpet vine, which used to be coyly draping itself over the front steps.  Now its advance is more like an assault.

Ah, nature.  Even here in a small town where people feel more responsibility to mow their lawns in summer than to shovel their sidewalks in the winter, there is just too much of it!

When I first moved here, I had a five-year plan for the "realm," quickly expanded to fifteen years.

Now I have no plan at all.  Evidently, the green growing stuff out there has plans for me!

August 11, 2010                           Valparaiso, IN

Sure, I could rant.  Who couldn't?  Well, from what I understand, some people think it just takes too much energy to speak.

Well, not to me.  I can speak for hours.

But who has a minute to do it, right now?  On a website, that is.  Who has a minute to call their own?

Well, me, two nights from now when I head out to the Upper Peninsula (ha, ha, I almost typed penisnula.  Well, peninsulas are kind of like penises, aren't they?  Ha, ha.)

Michigan!  Northern coolth!  I can hardly wait!

Oops!  Here, I am prematurely ejaculating!

August 10, 2010                                  Valparaiso, IN

Of course I remembered what I wanted to talk about as soon as I hit the save button, but enough is enough.  That would have made a ridiculously long intro!

Search engines are my subject of choice, and I have updated my choice of search engine.

Right now I am confused about what deal Google and Verizon have cooked up.  First I hear they are plotting an internet highway, then I hear they have made a plan securing net neutrality.  I hope one of my favorite news programs goes into depth explaining this one.

As far as I can tell, Google has made inclusiveness in search results a high priority.  The other day,I entered "screech owls" and the address of my website and got 46,000 references, which an admittedly impatient and quick scan informed me did not include my website, which should have been the only one!  That is like sending a letter to a living person, like say President Obama at the White House and have the post office answer "address unknown! - but we will serially forward your letter to every white house we come across."

I tend to want specific.  If I want more general, I know how to do that myself.

Well, anyway, I used the Yahoo search engine next, and what do you know, I found the reference I was looking for (to date it - FYI, the last time I heard a screech owl was around Sept 23 last year).  It was the only reference they gave, accurately enough.  None of the other thousands of entries Google gave me could give me that fact.

Just to be fair, I tried Dogpile.  I was fourth out of four, as I recall.  Should have been first, but hey, that wasn't bad.

I told my daughter about it and she said, "You should try"

So I did, and they, too, gave me exactly what I asked for.  They should be called Bingo!  (I know, I know, one more stroke takes one more nanosecond, and besides, the "o" can be inferred from the "Oh" you say when it gives you exactly what you want!)

Yay, Yahoo!  Yay, Bing!  My two new favorites!

At least, when I'm aiming for specificity or an index to my own "volumes!"

August 9, 2010                                    Valparaiso, IN

Nothing ever stands still.  There were times in my life that nothing seemed to change.  I wanted change desperately, but it didn't seem to happen.

It did, though.  There were internal changes in myself and everyone around me that ultimately wrought changes in my outside circumstances.

A word of advice - if you want change that badly, you better do it yourself.  You have more control over what happens that way, and if you are well-meaning, that might be the best thing.

At any rate, my point was, nothing escapes change.

Unfortunately, that is also true when we want things to stay the same.  They may appear to for a very long time, but things are moving all the time, even the water in the most stagnant part of the stillest pond.

When I started to write this, my whole comment about change was supposed to lead up to something else.  It was just an intro.

Now, my mind has changed.  I didn't change it.  It has just moved on like some out-of-control spring river, and I have, flailing downstream, missed the branch connection.

Ah, and alas.

If the connection comes back to me, maybe I'll write about it tomorrow.

August 8, 2010                                      Valparaiso, IN

Correction to Aug. 7th blahg:  my childhood playmate fell down the stairs because her fashionable red leather loafer had run-down heels, or because it fell off.  Or something.

How could I, who am always giving politicians a hard time for lying (an occupation as futile as grousing because clouds cover the sun) play so fast and loose with the truth?

If I were younger and more conscientious, I would be scarlet with embarrassment.  Since I'm older and more devious, I'll pretend it was poetic license.

Still not an effective excuse, since in this case the truth makes a better story.

Just chalk it up to anti-GOP fear of elephants memory loss!

August 7, 2010                                       Valparaiso, IN

My partner is out of town visiting family, so I'm trying to catch up with work that is all-too-easy to put off when you have someone to share coffee with on an indolent summer morning.  Day before yesterday I wrote about pulling weeds and mowing.  (Oh, did I never get to the mowing?  Verbally, that is.  I did physically!)

I weeded and mowed on Thursday.  Then on Friday I mowed and weeded and sawed down trees whose trunks got an inch too thick for the pruners.  I dragged bins out to the street and they were picked up by maintenance within an hour twice!  Twice!

I'm beginning to feel as if I am being watched.  The watchers keep hoping empty bins will inspire me to cut back the phlox spilling over the sidewalk.  No can do.  They're still gloriously blooming.  The phlox inspire me to put in another sidewalk parallel to the be-jungled one.

My reward for all my gardening, I figured, would be going to my class reunion.  (Actually, I don't know how long the practice has been going on, but they had reunions for three consecutive years of classes.)  I saw as many familiar (well, hardly!) faces from my grade school as any other school level.

It was fun.  I haven't seen some of these people for forty years!  It is interesting to hear what other people remember.  I do not, for instance, remember when my erstwhile playmate fell down our stairs because her red sneaker fell off, but I sure do remember the time I fell down those stairs!

I don't remember playing Tom Sawyer with another classmate, but I do remember that she was the best tree-climber in the neighborhood!

I had some wonderful conversations and left the party hoarse and deafened.  The only trouble with these get-togethers is that they bring up more questions about my old classmates than they answer.

Oh - there is another problem with them.  Afterwards I always feel like I made an ass of myself.

Well, I better steel myself for another round of ass-dom.  I always feel like I have a mouth full of foot after book club meetings too, and another one is scheduled for this Tuesday noon.  (Gardens of Water by Alan Drew, if you're interested in attending.  Please do.)

As for feeling like an ass, well, Hee-haw!  It's a good thing I'm a Democrat.  These reunions make it very clear I lack the memory of an elephant! 

August 5, 2010                                     Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday I noticed that the front sidewalk had become overgrown with clematis, vinca, and dirtless sod.

Today I decided to tackle it - twenty minute job, certainly!

But the little walk up to the front door seemed to be shrinking also.  Not to mention the trumpet-vine creeping across the stoop made the house look abandoned.

Except for the living plants in the pots lining the walk, our poor house looked as if nobody cared.  Well, when it comes to work, nobody does, but we can't have our house screaming out the fact to the whole neighborhood.  After all, it celebrates its one-hundredth birthday this year!

I decided to weed and clear the small walk first.  Er, or no - the bottom step has lambs' quarters and violets growing between it and the walkway. In the Spring I thought those violets were too charming to pull out.  Now I am quite certain they are not!

Giant primroses too bug-eaten to bloom must be removed from in front of the porch, as must the mulberry trees and walnut trees and prickly lettuce and the Virginia creeper that has leapt not crept out over the sidewalk.

After a while I turned the corner onto the big sidewalk that caught my attention in the first place.  As I'm pulling the clematis that is literally crawling over and around everything, I'm feeling the piercing thorns of the wild black raspberry that also does not want to give up residence in our front yard, and I'm hoping that the poison ivy I have tried very hard to eradicate is not making an unseen comeback, camouflaged by all the other green.  Our yard is taking this going-green thing way too seriously!

An hour-and-a-half after beginning work, I am dripping sweat.  My long hair which I left down to prevent sunburn on my back and neck is sticking to face, black raspberry stems and itself.  I am beginning to think that this is an unhealthy activity, and besides, my weeding bins are full.

I drag them, flushed with pride and heat out to the edge of the lawn and put away my tools.

An hour later, I notice the bins are empty!

God, the street maintenance people in this town are awesome!  Now I can do some more of this work tomorrow morning!


August 4, 2010                                    Valparaiso, IN

This is supposed to be the age of communication.  We can communicate by all sorts of means.  I'm not twittering yet.  I still can't keep up with my email.  I have two email accounts, one of which became so deluged with stuff that I almost never log on, and a second which is coming dangerously close to being in the same category as the first.

I try to call people on their cell phones and their voice mailboxes are full.  (Busy people, admittedly, but still!)  And what about the messages that don't even register on their voice mailboxes for a couple of days?

Well, hell, you might as well send an email to an overloaded emailbox!

I would like to speak with Danika or at least send her an email, but my system is outdated and for some reason only allows me to reply to an email someone has already sent me - unless I clip an attachment.  That seems awfully pompous for a little old one-sentence question.  (Besides, I don't know how to do it.  Don't tell me it's easy!  I don't care!  I don't think I should have to!)

I'd write her a snail-mail but I don't know her address.  I guess that's the next step - looking up her address.

But that seems so uncool.  What if it isn't current?  That would waste a lot of time!

Almost as much time as I waste attempting, failing, and especially stewing about getting in touch with Danika.

Communication implies a back and forth.  Isn't that what the "com" is about?

I like to think I am communicating in this blahg.  But I get very little response.

I am a voice sputtering in the wilderness....

August 3, 2010                                     Valparaiso, IN

I was talking with my sister about what Robert Reich said about the stock market crashes (see below and his article at ) and she said part of the strategy for getting out of the Great Depression was to lower the work week to forty hours.  Any more time worked, if the worker was not salaried, would result in overtime - an incentive for employers to hire more people working at the lower rate.

My partner observed that even a 36-hour week would result in more jobs.

Yes, as long as employers didn't just force their employees to try to accomplish in four hours less what they had been doing in forty hours.  Some jobs may still have that kind of wiggle room, but many do not.

I think a more drastic reduction - like to thirty hours - would be more effective.

The only trouble with that is that more people would have less money and more time to spend it in!

My sister says we all buy too much stuff anyway.  That is true.  Our favorite national pastime seems to be shopping.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to change that, and get back to gardening and snowball fighting and singing songs and storytelling and cooking up frugal but fancy dinners and reading and birdwatching and well, hell, even TV shows and DVDs can make for some fine cheap entertainment!

Think that sounds boring and stupid and unimaginative?  Well, you are creative!  I'm sure you can stir up some wonderful ways to spend your leisure without spending your money.  

August 2, 2010                                      Valparaiso, IN

A couple of years ago I started hearing accusations from the Right that Obama and his sort were waging a "class war."

I thought that was rather amusing, because Obama has securely ensconced himself in the upper class.

Now I am realizing that we are in a major class war, and as usual the far Right is projecting on to the Left exactly what the Right itself is guilty of.

There is a class war being waged, all right.  And it is a war of the upper classes against the lower classes.  Low or nonexistent taxes for the upper classes and wealthy corporations and low (or in the case of such legally-required compensation as overtime pay) nonexistent wages for the lower classes is just the visible and documented tip of the iceberg.

One rallying cry of the first North Americans wanting freedom from England was, "No taxation without representation!"  Unfortunately that is exactly what most Americans have.  Their representatives are being paid more by corporate entities and rich (Right-wing) individuals than they are by the People.

Of course they are going to represent the interests of their benefactors more than the interests of us lowly masses!

The truly sad thing is that eventually the unrepresented will revolt.  And if they can't successfully revolt in the polling booth they will revolt in the streets.

If that happens, in the same way as the greed of the rich ultimately defeats itself economically and everyone gets hurt financially, this time people will get physically hurt.  And  in a class war, believe me, the rich will not go unscathed.  Everyone will be hurt.

This is not a threat.  I am, at least physically, pretty much a pacifist.

It's a prediction.

Keep blaming the underclasses for the problems that you have induced, and eventually they will say, "Enough!" and throw off the blame.

I'm sick of the endless plea-bargaining we of the lower classes have been making with the economic powers that be.

And in my experience, if I am fed up or critical of something, others are also.

Only they might not be pacifists.

August 1, 2010                                        Valparaiso, IN

Some sage has said, "If there were no God, mankind would have been obliged to invent Him."

I don't know if I agree with that, but I certainly think it holds true for the Devil.  (My partner's idea, actually.)

People are passionately attached to the blame game.  If something goes wrong, most people immediately start looking around to see whose fault it is.

If they can't find an appropriate "guilty" human, they look for another cause.  Personally, I feel that one of the primary function of family pets is to assume blame that cannot otherwise be assigned to any obvious agent.

If the offense cannot be pinned on the family pets, ghosts or poltergeists or - ultimately - the Devil must be held responsible.  The Devil as ultimate First Evil Mover must be indispensible to the folks who cannot handle no-fault occurrences.

So central does blame seem to the human psyche, I wonder what evolutionary value it has to the human race.  My hypothesis is that the fact of blaming has induced a hell of a lot of responsible behavior.  Extreme rectitude and caution helps protect blamelessness.

Too bad, when society now has all kinds of constructive ways to induce responsibility, we still are so addicted to blame. 

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