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Rumilluminations December 2010
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, December 01 2010 - 11:06 pm

December 31, 2010                          Wichita Falls, TX

Fast away the old year passes, so I'll try to give a hasty review of where we have been for the last few days.

On the 28th five of us went up to Santa Fe and saw the Santa Fe Railyards.  My daughter is the ED of the Railyards Stewards, so she gave us a tour.

We, biased as we must be, loved it.  There were many more elements to this park than we had realized.

Sure, there are native plantings.  Timely and attractive (even in December!) but not unusual.  There are many features we had never seen in a park before, though.  A dozen slides of varying heights provide fun for impatient children of any age (including a couple in our group in their thirties!)

There is a "labyrinth" for people who need to work on focus, and a whole circle of porch-style swings for those who need soothing.  (True, right now the swings are pretty tethered, but the designers have a plan to make them more mobile and still safe.)

Rope "webs" are mounted for kids who want to crawl or hang or climb, and gardens have been provided for people confined to wheel-chairs and those who want to grovel in the dirt.  Right now experiments in cold-weather vegetable-growing are quite literally green.

We loved the railyard park.  What used to be a weedy ugly dry patch I had to trudge through to get home, tripping over weeds and avoiding ragged discarded (I hope!) sleeping bags is now designed to educate and entertain.

There are more attractions than I have described above.  I can hardly wait to see the railyards in warm weather!

On the 29th my partner and I headed southeast from Albuquerque and stumbled across the Gran Quivira mission and pueblo ruins.  It was fascinating to see the stone walls built and mortared by women and children.  (The men were supposed to have felled and worked timber for rafters, but I didn't see any of those - must have been burned by passersby throughout the centuries.)

Too bad we didn't see the other two National Monuments of Abo and Quarai first, because although our curiosity to see more was piqued, we did not want to backtrack so soon on our return trip.  Meander, linger, yes.  Backtrack, no.

On the 30th we drove from our overnight abode in Roswell, NM to the Bottomless Lakes State Park.  These are really collapsed underground caverns, but they are impressive for their steep reddish rock sides and extreme depth.

I'm told you can go scuba diving in one and come up in another, which could be really scarily disorienting!

It is a great place for hiking on a sunny winter day, and even the high wind didn't stop us.  It occurred to me that it was my last day in New Mexico and I hadn't seen a roadrunner. (We saw quail coveys in the almost-dark Las Cruces arroyos, though.)

On the drive out of the park, there went one of my best roadrunner sightings yet!  He went running across the road, then leapt (or hopped) over obstacles on the other sight.

Beep beep!


December 28, 2010                             Albuquerque, NM

Yesterday we drove up to Albuquerque from Las Cruces.  As on the way down, we stopped and looked around Socorro for a while.

It is beginning to look as if Socorro might be our home someday.  It is located conveniently between Los Cruces and Albuquerque/Santa Fe so we can visit my grown children without driving for days.

Socorro has an institution of higher learning, it hosts an international folk dance festival every year, it has a festival of cranes in November, and it has access to the bosque (the ecosystem along the Rio Grande, which is also a flyway for migrating birds.)

It is small, but I hear it is a great place for biking and walking, and the library seems great.  It has at least one really good restaurant (Socorro Springs), and others to look forward to trying out.

Socorro means succor or help, and is replete with o's!

Who could resist the temptation to live there?

December 26, 2010                                Las Cruces, NM

What a chance for storytelling are the holidays!

I have heard stories about people's careers, a prime story about poetic justice (well, kind of) and Biblical divination via the stars.

I have seen my son's teenage (in dog years) black lab do tricks, and his "pretty lady" collar (which I mistook for miniature Santa hats) bedecked with jingle bells.  He loves prancing around in it, whether because he loves the attention or the sound I could not say.

We have heard people longing for cold weather and snow (really?) and stories of dangerous icy crossings and accidents from this safe and sunny clime.

I've been having weird nightmares, perhaps because of the unaccustomed fullness of our days.

I'm worn out!  Relative solitude beckons.  But first, we are going out for dinner at a Thai restaurant tonight - something unavailable at home.

Merry second day of Christmas! 

December 25, 2010                             Las Cruces, NM

Here we are where we were heading, on the day we were aiming for, and a wonderful sunny convivial day it has been.

We only sang one Christmas song, while we were walking.  I couldn't manage to sing and walk at the same time, though.  If Las Cruces has any central Christmas displays (besides three crosses we saw in red, green and white lights) I didn't see them.

We walked at sunset, and the organ mountains lit up pinkish-purple by the evening light is one of the more spectacular sights I have ever seen.  We found what we think is a good-sized fossil that was part of a good-sized long-ago critter!

Today the high was in the fifties.  This is the kind of weather we dreamed about when we left Valparaiso.  Who says dreams don't come true?

December 24, 2010                      Las Cruces, NM

Oh, the shame!  How could I let four days go by without saying hello?

Being in a town that I lived in for twenty-eight years for only two days is how.

Santa Fe, which I did not report from, is experiencing typical cold winter weather for the area, going up and down around the freezing mark.

When reminded at the end of the 21st that it was the shortest day of the year, I suffered no curiosity as to why I had forgotten.  Four meals out in two days with four sets of old and new friends explains why I did not care if the days were long or short.

Day before yesterday I had enchiladas at Atrisco's which were what I expected.  I was perfectly happy with them, but I have to say that the red chile that covered one of my chile rellenos at a restaurant here in Las Cruces was the most wonderful I have had in years.

As my daughter commented, you can really tell we are closer to Hatch, the chile Mecca of New Mexico!

We are being relatively subdued in the area of gift-giving this year, but whether that translates into a less materialistic Christmas remains to be seen.  I think my son's wife and her mother have been cooking for days!

Between Albuquerque and here, we stopped in Socorro to look around.  High bird-consciousness there, and you couldn't meet a friendlier librarian in what seems to be a great little library.

Don't forget to include music in your holiday celebrations! 

December 19, 2010                        Van Buren, AR

Spent night before last in Nashville - a twenty degree improvement from our last morning in Valparaiso!

The drive through Tennessee was clear in sky and crowded of highway.  We passed through some places where we saw some colorful names - cities, parks, whatever - I couldn't always tell.

The first that grabbed my attention was Buck Snort, Tennessee.  How picturesque and humorous!  Can't imagine a name like that in Indiana!

Mouse Lick was what?  A park?

About Toad Snort I have no idea, but it is one of the funniest names I have ever encountered.  Fun Internet surfing material for a homebound, rainy day!

Ate Italian at Frank's Restaurant, where we had delicious food and loveable service.  Really.  I should have tipped more!

Last night we decided to splurge on comfort and spent the night in a Hampton Inn.  My partner likes crisp sheets, I like soft.  The Hampton Inn sheets are the perfect combination of both.

I could rave on - but we gotta go! 

December 16, 2010                          Valparaiso, IN

Here we are, in the U.S.A., in "Valparainsnow" (I heard it called for the first time today - thanks, Priscilla Telschow!) in the snow.

Actually, it has been two days since it has snowed, but many people haven't cleared their walks.

Yes, I know, you've heard it all before, ad nauseum.

But churches don't clear their walks!  Many businesses don't clear their walks.

The Valpo police have snowy sidewalks, for Pete's sake!

Today we walked by a home with a double garage, the large driveway of which was meticulously cleaned of snow.  The sidewalk, obviously untouched since the snowfall started several days ago, had two feet of snow on it.

We were forced to walk along a busy street on our walk to Ogden Gardens.  Not even the main walk to the Gazebo was cleared.

Pedestrians - old people, people out for exercise, kids too young to drive - we are second-class citizens, evidently.

All the sidewalks in this town - many of them brand new - might as well not be there.

Where is our civic pride? 

December 15, 2010                             Valparaiso, IN

If there can be a false Spring, can there be a fallacious Fall?  Or should a false Fall be a spurious Fall?

We usually talk about four seasons as if they were equal, but when I try to think of a fake summer or a deceptive winter, I cannot think of something that is like those leonine springs or Indian summers (which, remember, are fooling Falls.)

Summer and winter are the seasonal poles; spring and fall are the transitional seasons.

The seasons are not really equal at all.  The depths of winter are seemingly neverending.  Summers seem to last a shorter time, but that is only because we would rather they would stay forever - the heat entrenches itself, but it is a temporary polar state (ha, ha!).  My, language can be confusing!

The poles of the world are both cold.  The seasonal poles are not.

The equator of the world is the most seasonally consistent and warm;  the equinoxes of the year are the most meteorologically labile.

Oh, this confusion is so much fun!

December 14, 2010                             Valparaiso, IN

The word "special" comes from the word "species" which is definitely not personal.

But now we use the word "special" to denote departures from the norm for our species, Homo sapiens

Is anyone else confused?  Personally, I would find someone not confounded by this migration of meaning to be special, which should mean typical of our species.

Instead, it means not typical of our species.  My opinion is probably fallacious, anyway, which should not be confused with anything having to do with faces, which are special or personal or special, depending on your point of view.

Is my look one of personal puzzlement, or one of special ordinariness?  Are my wrinkles the result of fallacious reasoning, or normal special aging?

One thing is certain.  After screwing up my features in word wonderment, I'm going to need a very special facial!

(A personal one, of course.)

December 13, 2010                              Valparaiso, IN

I did my Christmas cards early.  There was no line at the Post Office.

Yesterday I drove my mom out in the rain so she could choose her cards from a handy discount store.  (No letting her drive an electric cart to the far corner of Target bumping into customers all the way this year, thankyou, and no trying to find parking where my Mom had to negotiate a foot-high curb, either!)

Today I marshalled all the cards, addresses, and courage I could find and sat Mom down to sign the cards.  Do I sound cruel?  Not at all!  Believe me I would not have pressured her into doing something like this!

Mom signed the cards.  I addressed and return-addressed them, stuffed them into envelopes.

Next I take them to the post office, because when I did my  own stamp-buying and card-mailing Mom gave me no clue that she was interested in doing likewise.

In fact, now that I think about it, I did make an offhand comment that if she wanted to, she could always send cards from my sister's house.

That put a bee in her bonnet because she "wanted to get something done" before she went to Nashville for Christmas.

Well, er, she will have, as soon as I have taken the cards to the Post Office, bought stamps, remembered to deal with the one heading for China needing an extra postage and the one heading to a nearby town needing a ZIP code.

Maybe if I go today, braving the snowy blizzard, there will still be no line at the P.O.!

December 11, 2010                                Valparaiso, IN

My partner and I had a disagreement last night.  He said that the comment about "Americans clinging to their guns and religion" was made by Obama.

I thought it was made by Hillary Clinton.

It turns out that Clinton criticised Obama's comment.

I usually have a pretty good memory - have been complimented on it, do well on tests, and so forth.

To me this lapse of mine stands as a cautionary tale - not only about my memory, but also about criticism.

Guilt by association may apply to more than "birds of a feather!"

December 10, 2010                          Valparaiso, IN

I used to be mystified by the government's (in this case the Senate's) promotion of hypocrisy in relation to sexual orientation in the armed forces.  Why not let openly gay people serve?  They have proven themselves worthy in every way to do so.

Now that I have been doing a little more reading about our government's actions, tactics, and habits abroad it does not mystify me at all.

Our government does not promote democracy here or abroad, really.  In the end our government stands for one thing - its own interest.  Why should it trouble the individuals in our military that the gays have to lie about their personal lives when the whole ostensible purpose of our military - to protect our lives and our existence as a democratic nation - is a lie?

I admit that I'm not a revolutionary.  Too many people die in wars.  More and more, however, I'm thinking that our lives in the U.S. are designed to keep us so busy and distracted by our own personal concerns and survival that we don't have time (or the inclination) to learn about the reality of what our government is until we are too old and tired to care.

Of course, as we age (if we are not wilfully oblivious) we learn a good deal about life that we don't want to burden younger people with.  Why destroy their idealism?  Why damage their ability to respond in a new and fresh way that might mitigate and transform the way we (our society) deals with the outside world?

I can't help but wonder, though, just what classes in high school and college teach their students about how our government (including and especially the military) really operates in places like Haiti.

Anyone, whether gay or straight, might decide that the U.S. military, the aim of which is, if you look at history, to support the one big fat lie that we care about democracy for others, is not a worthy institution to serve.

Individuals in government may be trying to transform our goals and behavior from within, but try to do it from inside the military and you might wind up dead.

So maybe the Senate is being loving and paternal in its approach to our gay soldiers, in effect saying,

You care about reality?

Want to be honest, true and loving towards your fellow man?

Then don't sign up for the military at all!

Solve your own personal dilemma, and you will only confront a bigger, very bitter, societal one!


December 9, 2010                            Valparaiso, IN

If you're going to name a coffee shop after a character in a novel (Starbuck), why not name it after the title character, Moby Dick?

Then instead of having a cup of morning Joe, you can have a cup of morning Dick!

You could advertise about having a whale of a good time, although the kind of time Moby Dick gave people was anything but.

You could light your shop with whale oil lamps, and your customers can sit around chewing the fat and blubbering over their problems.

Instead of offering frappuccinos, you could sell spermacetis!  Frothy!

December 8, 2010                              Valparaiso, IN

Last month I took my mother to a salon where a hairdresser named Krissy did a great job with my mom's haircut.  She took time and care and gave her the best cut she has had for a while.

Today my partner and I went back to the same salon for haircuts and I asked for Krissy.  Aside from saying that I still wanted my hair to look "long" and giving some idiosyncratic instructions about my bangs, I left the hairdo up to her.

Krissy said, "Goody!" and went to work with enthusiasm.  I was surprised at her response and asked if most people did not give her such a free hand.  Regretfully, she said, "Not many."

Well.  She performed a technique or two I had never heard of before, and gave me a great cut!  The best cut I have had in years, actually.

So consider giving your hairdresser the power to use her own vision in making you beautiful.

She may give you a pleasant surprise!

As for my partner, he got a good haircut, too.  But as for what transpired between him and his stylist, only his hairdresser knows for sure!

December 7, 2010                          Valparaiso, IN

Recently we have watched a DVD about whaling and another, Moby Dick, with Gregory Peck.

They got us ruminating about the name Starbuck, the first mate in the movie (and the novel.)

Is the name Starbuck from Moby Dick,  I wondered.

Yes, my partner thought.

No was my opinion.  Probably just the founder's name.

So I looked it up.  My partner was right.  The founder of Starbucks wanted to name the business after the ship in Moby Dick, but an associate said no-one would want to drink a cup of Piquod.

They bandied the subject about a bit and came up with Starbucks, named after the first mate.

It's a great name, easy to remember, but I wondered if they really followed the associations through.

Captain Ahab was obsessed with getting revenge on the whale Moby Dick.  Starbuck eschewed such motivation, saying that the captain was behaving illegally, immorally and insanely.

So when it came to the moral test related to vengeance, Starbuck passed with flying colors, and thus lends a righteous glow to his namesake.

And indeed, Starbucks has been very upright in many respects with regards to its employees, instituting profit-sharing and other worker-friendly policies.

But in the end (of the movie, not of the book, I read in Wikkipedia) the first mate Starbuck himself took a turn towards insanity due to a profit motive!  Is this the image Starbucks really wants to project?  Greed conquers all?

It didn't work for First Mate Starbuck!

And for folks who stole a name from another venue, Starbucks is certainly harsh in protecting it from the predations of others!

Maybe we should start a coffee company called Moby Dick!

December 6, 2010                              Valparaiso, IN

When I was in college I wrote a paper in which I said that even though electromagnetic theory was an operational one, scientists damn well better come up with an explanation for it.  (Well, not in quite those words!)

One of my teachers said I hadn't lost my innocence yet.

Well, haven't they come up with the mechanisms for magnetic fields by now?  I think they have, and have gone way beyond!

Talking about electromagnetism, we used to have a factory here in Valparaiso that made powerful electromagnets.  When I was growing up, we lived a quarter mile from it.  Less.

When I returned a few years ago, I noticed the building seemed to be empty.  Now, my sister tells me she saw on some news show that the factory, which was very scientifically advanced and a big deal, was bought up lock stock and barrel by a Chinese company!

Now I have lost my innocence!  How did that happen?  How could we let that happen?  Didn't anyone care?

December 4, 2010                              Valparaiso, IN

This morning, going down the stairs, I held onto the banister and felt a twinge in my left knee.

I have been feeling this slightly painful twist a little more often lately, and now I think I know where it is coming from.

It's not coming from the new workouts I've been doing at the gym.

It's not from the hikes and walks we do several times a week.

I think it is from holding onto the banister!

The banister, which my grandfather built during one of his visits, has been wonderful.

For someone who occasionally miscalculates her center of gravity or gets lightheaded, it is a Grandfathersend!  It has kept me from falling more than once.

But today I realized that my light touch upon the banister for balance has evolved into putting more weight on it, as if I could not bear all of my weight myself.  This is ridiculous.  My own weight is not more than I can bear.

When I put weight on the banister, my knee twists just a little bit and that is enough, I think, to create a little bit of havoc.

No more weight on the banister!  A little bit of torsion is too much.

It has occurred to me that I might not be the only one who might be able to stave off knee problems by staying off the banister.

December 3, 2010                               Valparaiso, IN

Gawd, December has already been weird!

Lost my wallet at the library, patron returned it complete.

Lost a check endorsed to me, my sister's old boyfriend brought it to the door.

Lost my hat, found it sopping wet on the sidewalk.

Found someone's musical instrument at 2 AM - abandoned by some furtive folks in our front parkway (fancy name for the strip between the sidewalk and the street.)

An unleashed pit bull, in a harmless mood fortunately, accosted us in the street on our way to the gym.

Now here I am, listening to Jethro Tull's Stand Up for the first time in decades - something that was lost to me for decades.

Thanks to my partner, headphones allow me to go into the basement and do laundry without missing a note, dancing all the way.

This album is really good!  And I have also replaced my tapes of Stormwatch and Rock Island, which I haven't been able to listen to for months.

If somehow you missed Jethro Tull's early work, go back in time and hear what you lost!

December has been a very weird month, and it's only three days old. 

December 2, 2010                              Valparaiso, IN

This morning I left the grocery store tickled pink.

Usually - no, until now always - I pick the slowest line.

Today, however, events conspired to make me choose correctly.  I experienced grocery lineic justice!

With a very full cart of groceries, we went through the usual "this line or that?" decision-making process.

The fact that the express lane was closed made it more complicated than usual.

Should we take this lane, behind another full cart, or that lane over there, that has two or three people with mere armfuls of items?

Propinquity won out.  We're here, and we'll say "hi" to Renee!

A waiflike woman too old to be a waif approached with three items and a pathetic expression on her face.

Anticipating her request (to get in front of us) I told her about the line we had considered getting into - next to the aisle next to us.  I really did think it would move faster than ours.

She wandered over there, then came back and asked the woman in front of us if she could have a hand basket.  That woman, generous soul, offered to let her go in front of her!

Now, the number of people I have offered my place in line because they had few items probably numbers one hundred (literally!), and if I ever failed to look behind me to make sure I wasn't forcing my generosity on others, I apologize now.

Now certain the other line was better, we took our place in it.  Interestingly, it had hand baskets tucked into their usual places.

For once we chose right!

I don't know what the story was, but the hapless female was still at her chosen counter when we left, and the even more hapless woman who gave up her spot will probably never make that offer to anyone again!

I was still chortling as we walked out to the car.  I couldn't help it.

For once I chose the right lane!  Whoopee!  Giggle giggle.

It was almost as good as the first time I voted for a winning Presidential candidate.

December 1, 2010                                         Valparaiso, IN

Do you listen to your dreams?  Do you scream in your dreams?

Everybody dreams.  Why do some people think they are dreamless?  Are their psyches seamless?

At night, we're supposed to be problem-solving and log-sawing.  It seems to me my dreams are obsessed with self-critiquing.

If you keep losing your hat, gloves, bag, and phone, does that mean you are losing your mind?

If I lose my mind, can I manage to stop dreaming?  Will my consciousness stop streaming?

Will my hat, gloves and phone take over for me?

I can be nothing but seeming!

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