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Rumilluminations March 2011
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Tue, March 01 2011 - 9:04 pm

March 31, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

Squank and squarkel, swank and swarkel

April Fool's is fast approaching!

Advent fool and folly rapproching

Nonsense full and swelly broaching

No more boring sanely coaching

Ha ha light and laugh return!

Flight and windy fire burn!

March 30, 2011                                            Valparaiso, IN

One of my pet peeves is our societal meaningless, "How are you?" (which I admit I have broken down and adopted.)

My mother upped the ante the other day, and asked me, "Are you okay?"

I thought that this was a real question, and (I admit as a kind of test) I said "No."

Without a word, she returned to her reading.

So I have a few questions for you. 

When you are at home and your nearest and supposedly dearest asks you how you are, are you supposed to take them more literally than you would someone passing in the street?

When someone says, "Are you okay?" doesn't that seem to imply that they have some reason for concern - that is, that you might not be okay?

If you ask someone if he is okay and he says no, wouldn't that require some sort of response (preferably a question) to find out what's going on?

Or do you, like my mother evidently, never want a genuine answer to either question?

Enlighten me as to just how meaningless are our social mores.

March 29, 2011                                    Valparaiso, IN

When birds make nests, different species tend to make them in different sizes - size helps identify the nest you are looking at.

One thing that struck me about hoarders houses is that many of them are just too big for the number of people in them.

Domestically, these folks have bitten off more than they can chew.

If your house is kind of a projection of your inner self and you are trying to fill a void, smaller is better.

Maybe people are trying to treat themselves like royalty, but even royalty doesn't have these mammoth empty nests.

A castle would house many many people.  They might ostensibly be there to serve, but their necessary presence would also have to be endured.  (I use the word "endured" because many hoarders seem to choose cramped space, filth, and disorder over human companions.)

There are species of birds and animals that like mass disorder.

Most people don't, though.  They like to have functioning space though there are individual differences in what that means.

If nothing else, filling a small house to the brim provides less to clean up once the pathology is addressed!


March 28, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

Taking care of my elderly mother, I am beginning to feel the way I did with small children.

My world is narrowing.  I get out of the house.  It's not that.

But most of my involvement is within these walls.

Maybe I don't watch enough news on TV, but it seems like a dearth of information about Japan is coming our way.

I saw on the weather channel that the water they are using there to try to cool down the nuclear reactors is radioactive and lack of storage for it and leaks in tunnels below are becoming a problem.

This is like the slowest unfolding of a futuristic horror movie.

I know why I haven't been more proactive in catching up on this news.  I don't even like to watch movies about this kind of stuff, and this is real.

It is hard to fathom the idea of a quarter of a million people living in shelters.  For how long?

March 27, 2011                                   Valparaiso, IN

Ah, walking in a small town!

Along the edge of town:  "Oh, I think that's a slime mold!  Er, no, on closer viewing, it is a piece of asphalt with yellow center stripe paint on it."

"Look at that up there!  Is that a big bird of some kind?  Let's go look!  ...False alarm!  It's a plastic bag stirring in the breeze."

Along a sidewalk, I spotted what looked like maybe a violet.  "No, it's really not... why, yes it is!  My first violet sighting of the year!"  A pale lavender version of the flower, but the first of the spring.

As for birds?  "Robin, robin, robin, robin....."

They truly have taken over from the sparrows as the most populous bird in the U.S.!  Such pretty birds.  We would appreciate them more if they were rarer.

March 25, 2011                                   Valparaiso, IN

Today the squeegee zebra finch was making such a racket I was inspired to go and "talk back" to him with the doggie toy that makes a similar sound.

After my inspired and intimidating performance, he fell silent.

"Hmmm," I thought.  I should do that before we watch movies up here.  Then he wouldn't make such a racket that we have to cover him up for the viewing.  The birds could enjoy the action, too!

It occurred to me that the squawking Squeegee makes during the film is merely a response to my feeling of freedom to comment aloud on whatever I want.  He's only squawking because I'm squawking.  He's trying to tell me to shut up!

Well.  I think I took that flight of fancy a little too far for my own comfort.

I have no intention of being quiet during home-shown films.  If my partner doesn't mind, his pet the well-fed caged bird has no standing to complain!

March 24, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

I was going to brush and floss tonight, and my mind informed me, "Oh, what a bore," so I thought I'd try to make it a little more interesting for myself.

Since I've already noticed I tend to take a wide stance when I clean my teeth (steeling myself for a boring chore?) I made my stance wider and tried to do some squats.

The correct way to do this, I am told, is to stick your derriere out so that you can still see your toes as you go down.

I couldn't even imagine tilting my head forward to check my toes while brushing my teeth with an electric toothbrush, so I tried to go from kinesthetic memory.

So far so good, but then I started worrying about the window behind me.

I know the old loose-woven curtains were practically see-through, but I didn't rebel against my mother's partiality toward them until a few months ago, when they started to seem even more ugly and threadbare.

I put up some white curtains I had in Corvallis, which made the bathroom much brighter.  A good thing.

But I can still see a few forms through the curtains and wonder sometimes if they can see me back.

Can they see me doing squats while I am brushing my teeth?

Of course I lost track of my count.  Luckily the toothbrush keeps track of its working time for me.  All I have to do is hit all four quadrants.

Sometimes two boring chores equals something a little more complicated.  Add a dash of paranoia and time just flies!

Time to floss.  Sigh.


March 23, 2011                                   Valparaiso, IN

What is all this talk about editing the word "nigger" out of Huckleberry Finn?  Mark Twain would be turning in his grave.

The "n" word is unacceptable today, partly because of writings of people like Twain.  Why try to rewrite history or promote anachronism?  It only confuses people.

The idea of replacing the "n" word with the "s" word slave is not only inaccurate and therefore confusing, but even potentially more dangerous in implying that all black people were/are slaves.

Leave the literary work alone!  Talk about messing up someone's masterpiece!

While on the subject of obscene words, how about trading "murder" for "fuck?"  Even at its most pejorative, I'd rather be fucked than murdered.

Maybe if the word "murder" were met with white-faced stunned outrage, we'd have fewer of them.

On second thought, repressing the word "fuck" hasn't changed anyone's behavior, has it?  People who blanch at the word don't blanch at the action, so why the big fuss?

Makes about as much sense as banning the word "apple."  After all, isn't it the symbol of the sin that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden?

A is for apple.  An apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Applesauce and apple pie and Granny Smiths and Jonathans - yeah, go ahead and abolish the word.

Apples will still be on everyone's tables!

March 22, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

I wish there were introspectacles for introspection.

Somehow I feel that I am suffering from nearsightedness, not being able to see very far.

Or maybe I have a condition of astigma-introversion, in which the view of the inner self is distorted.

Or is it just murky repression and regression?

It is so hard to really see what is going on inside oneself.  Trying to allow the vision of internal reality to come to consciousness is like trying to pick a speck of sawdust out of the bathwater.

We have glasses for sun, glasses for nearsightedness, glasses for reading, even 3-D glasses for the movies.

I wish I had a pair of introspectacles. 

March 21, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday I wrote about addiction vs. obsession.  Well, duh.  It occurred to me this morning that obsession is just a kind of addiction - a mental one.  I've probably figured that one out before.  So, I guess, in answer to my own question, an addiction doesn't have to be a physical one.

Unless, of course, obsession does have a biochemical component, etc. etc., round and round.

This could get obsessive!

Reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor's perfume, Obsession.  I don't think I ever smelled it, but being (sometimes literally) obsessive myself, it always held a fascination for me.

Could that make it a signal of danger?  People who buy Obsession tend to be obsessives, so if you smell that scent - watch out!?

Gee, could that be true of other scents also?  Eternity for instance.  Just what will that scent say to you?

Maybe that is part of the popularity of Chanel No. 5 and the cologne 4711.  Not freighted with so much emotional baggage.  Nothing to push the "off" button.

Ha, ha!  An interesting experiment might be to name a perfume "Sanity."

It wouldn't be a success.  Sanity would probably mean wearing no perfume whatsoever.

Mustn't have too much of even a good thing!

March 20,  2011                                      Valparaiso, IN

Is an addiction physical and an obsession mental?

I think so, although a physical addiction can lead to mental preoccupation to the point of obsession.

I read a few blogs and some people seem to believe that obsession is more "independent" and controllable, but one of the definitions for obsession uses the word uncontrollable.

There are some indications that obsession can have a biochemical basis or aspect to it.

The more casual uses of the words are for humor or hyperbole, but really seem to me to confuse the nature of these conditions, which have an extremely bad affect on the sufferer's life.

I've read one doctor who says that people recovering from one addiction often develop another.

Maybe that can be done also with obsession.

Replace the addiction with a less harmful substance, replace the obsession with a less harmful thought grabber.

Maybe you can gradually segue from one addiction to another, one obsession to another, until the addiction or obsession becomes less harmful to the whole person.

Kind of like swimming at an angle to the shore to escape drowning, rather that trying to fight headlong against an undertow by swimming straight toward the nearest beach.

March 19, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

We had a first sighting on this property today.  I saw it from our second story window heading away from the house and across the street and called my partner's attention to "What is that?"

It was a fat and sassy brown mammal with a furry tail.  My mind kept trying to turn it into a raccoon, but it was no raccoon.  Nor a possum.

"It's a groundhog!" said my partner.  I confused that with prairie dog, although I couldn't think of the name.  (I wish I could say this was before we had our coffee, but I can't claim that excuse.)

"No, it's a marmot!  Or a muskrat!"  Then I realized it might not be.  We got out a book that identified eastern mammals.

What do you know.  A groundhog is not a prairie dog (I knew that!) or a muskrat (I knew that!  er, I think!)

A groundhog is an Eastern Marmot is a woodchuck!

I can just imagine three people with no field guide or computer wrangling for hours over morning coffee, then lunch, about what that mammal was.  And all being right!

That big fat healthy-looking beastie crossed the street to the neighbor's, traversed their front steps, and disappeared on the other side of their house.

Moments later he came tearing back (if you can call it that) through back yards to our side yard.

Maybe it went under our front porch.

Perhaps we have a resident we didn't know about! 

March 17, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

I'm beginning to think that every habit is a bad habit.

Does it really take so much energy to think about doing stuff we normally call "good habits" like brushing our teeth?

Maybe to the extent anything is habitual, it is bad, because it tends to cut off the possibility of a different kind of behavior which might be more virtuous, economical, creative and responsible.  And fun!

What are your habits?  How closely do you cling to them?  Do you find yourself doing them when, in the situation, they are insane?

Hmmm, examples, examples.  It's always good to have examples.

This morning I found myself bemoaning the fact that we forgot to buy applesauce when we had bagsful of fresh apples we could make applesauce from.  An more extreme example would be habitually buying applesauce year round when you have a tree with ripe apples in the back yard in late summer.

(Being too lazy to make applesauce, which can easily be made while watching a favorite TV show, would be a bad habit of laziness!)

If you have a habit of walking at the same time every day, that would normally be considered a good habit.

But if you could walk a little later in the winter and avoid ice on the sidewalk, or walk a little earlier in the summer and avoid heat fatigue or even extreme discomfort, wouldn't that be better than a habit?

Not the examples of insanity, perhaps, but you get the idea.  Notice your behavior, and I bet you will find some example of habitual thinking cramping what could be your wonderful style in a major way!

March 16, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

Articles about the minimum amount of exercise you should get every day (e.g. 1/2 hour of enough exertion to keep you a little out of breath) make me nervous the way calculating too close to a deadline makes me nervous.

If you run your work too close to a deadline, what happens if you encounter a snag?  What if the project takes three times as long as you think it should? (That is the amount of time I normally allot for a project, and then I leave an equal amount of dead time before the deadline.  (Ha, assuming the deadline is not self-imposed, in which case in the end I ignore it completely!)

If you only do the minimum exercise, what happens if you get sick for a while?  No reserves of strength to help you get back in shape.  Strength and muscle you build during one year of a few hours a week at the gym will stand you in good stead for years, even if you can't keep up the same regimen.

I'm not a person who spends half her day exercising, but the minimum is not good enough!

I don't buy toilet paper one roll at a time, either!

March 15, 2011                                      Valparaiso, IN

The other day I got my mother four biographies from the library.  They weren't large print, so I knew I was taking a chance of doing some unnecessary lugging, but I had hope that at least one of them would be readable by her.

No such luck.  Large print books seem to be my mother's only option at this point.  At that, she is luckier than my great aunt, who had to be read to when she was in her early nineties.  I used to read to her.  Not for long, because she would fall asleep.  Then when I would quit, she would wake up again!

My partner and I (remembering the frustration of that experience with my great aunt) tried to set up Mom with books on tape.  The hope was that even if she fell asleep, the voice would drone on, preventing her from waking. She didn't like it.  She's not so good at listening these days, and she can read at whatever tempo she needs to if she is doing the reading herself.  And of course, when she wakes up (because she does fall asleep) she is still on the same page.

Whoever invented Large Print books, thank you!  Now, will you publish more biographies?  Or is it you, Valparaiso Public Library, that needs to buy more Large Print biographies?

And I'll warn you right now, when we baby boomers hit Large Printland, we'll want more biographies that aren't of show business people, and more mysteries that aren't cosies!

Get ready!

March 14, 2011                                      Valparaiso, IN

For some reason I thought about Jeffrey Gutcheon the other day.  I have his Diamond Patchwork quilt book and used it once to do a quilt that was kind of a stylized mountain made of pine tree blocks (which might, come to think of it, have been designed by his then-wife, Beth.)

I don't believe I have ever recounted my brush with fame in the telephonic person of Jeff Gutcheon.

I was making a quilt for a friend and, when mail-ordering a lovely gray-lavendar cotton from his business, enclosed her check.

Some time passed, and I got a call from someone who identified himself as Jeffrey Gutcheon.  I was surprised.  "I'm honored," said I.

I shouldn't have been.  He was calling because my friend's check had bounced!

He was concerned that I was making a quilt for profit and that my customer would end up stiffing me.  Come to think of it, it was pretty sweet of him to care, so maybe I should have felt honored.

When he found out that the check was from a friend, however, he was shocked.  "What kind of friends have you?" he demanded indignantly.  I was rather non-plussed.  Doesn't everybody make mistakes?

The other day, reading his on-line bio, I see he went to MIT.  Well, maybe MIT graduates don't make arithmetic mistakes.

But I can't help but wonder now about his impossible standard for my choice of friends.  Does he have any banker friends?  He seems to have done well for himself.  Did he lose any money in the stockmarket in 2008?  Did he have a friend, as so many did, named Bernie Maddof?

Well, I'm just having a little fun at Mr. Gutcheon's expense.

But even for the nineteen eighties, doesn't a thirty-five dollar mistake seem like a pretty minor one?

Well, Jeffrey Gutcheon today is seventy.  He's looking pretty bright and energetic and chipper and happy.  And I sure like his quilting works!  It's kind of a surprise to learn from my internet search that he has been intensely involved with music for much of his life.  For a sideline or byway, he's certainly achieved a lot in the quilting world.

Maybe he'll see my day's writing about him, and give me another call.

And I'll be honored again - unless, of course, he asks me to delete my reminiscence about him - one of my treasured brushes with fame!

March 13, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

Mother Nature is the consummate terrorist.  Bin Laden should take lessons.

How to deal with such tragedy that we see on our TV screens every day?

We can no longer be genuinely innocent that this kind of awful stuff is going on in the world all the time.

Do we be constantly mindful of it, as some holy men have exhorted us to be mindful of God?

Can't do it.  I feel for the suffering enough to think about them a little every day (well, during what seems like the worst of what they are enduring!) and enough to write a check.

The check will do more good than all the sensitive suffering.

And someday, if I ever get swept up in a tidal wave or the debris-filled winds of the tornado, I hope I have enough time to think, "Well, I guess this is something I won't be able to write about!  My turn."

March 12, 2011                                       Valparaiso, IN

I hardly ever get colds any more.  At two per year for fifty years or so, I should have had every single cold virus available by now!

But for others at this time of year it can be a mystery.  Are their symptoms a cold, or an allergy to juniper or some other wind-pollinating spring bloomer?

Are their headaches the terrifying onslaught of a stroke, or a response to pressured, aching sinuses?

Well, I am suffering neither colds nor allergies.  I could feel very blithe about it, and usually I do that without any consequent strokes of fate.

But every few years the summer- and fall-blooming stuff showers me with itches and sneezes.

Then, when others are basking in the sun eating Baskin-Robbins and twitching in warm breezes, my only dialog is,

"Achoo!  Thank you.  Achoo!  Thank you!  Achoo, achoo, achoo!"

March 11, 2011                                   Valparaiso, IN

My partner and I were at a health food store the other day waiting behind an even older woman (ha I wish ha) who was buying about thirty bottles of supplements.

All I heard her say was, "I don't have time to take care of myself."  (My partner muttered under his breath, "You don't say.")

Uncharitable, maybe, but true.  Overweight, out-of-shape body, for one.

I reacted strongly in another way.  God save me from martyrs!  (Why I should express myself that way I could not say.  God didn't even save his martyrs!  What possible hope would I have?)

Martyrdom in the name of care for others makes absolutely no sense.  If you don't take care of yourself and you sicken or die,  you certainly can't care for them.   You owe it to your care-givee to take care of yourself - unless, of course, you feel that they are better off without your care.

If that is the case, don't take care of them!  By all means, save yourself!

March 10, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

I guess Mother Nature is preparing for a flowery Spring wedding, and is insisting upon using us for the wedding cake.

No sooner does the sun melt off her icing than she redecorates.

A very persistent lady, Mother Nature.

But then, mothers have to be.

We took our bikes to the bike shop last week to get ready for spring.  Nothing is more frustrating than finding you have to wait two weeks for a tune-up when the whether is gorgeous, so we were in the first wave of spring customers.

Snow and cold wind notwithstanding, the ride back was better for both of us than the ride out.  I was too lazy to fill my tires, and the short ride (about a mile) to the shop was ridiculously burdensome.

For my partner the ride back was winsom in spite of winter because he has smoother, narrower tires on his mountain bike.  They are still tough to resist puncture, but offer oh-so-much less resistance on the road!

It looks as if Mother Nature is going to have a couple of crazy cyclists on her wedding cake!

March 9, 2011                                   Valparaiso, IN

Gee, I always wanted to live in a third world country.

The class hatred, the rampant disease, the crappy housing, the filth.

Life must be so rich!  (Er, in every way other than standard of living.)

Now, as it turns out, if I live long enough, the third world country will come to me.

Michigan is approaching it, if Michael Moore is to be believed.

The Wisconsin legislature has just taken a giant step forward for mankind to go backward!

To think that I never got to go to the University of Wisconsin as I wished!  If I had, I might have gotten to live in the very first genuinely third world state.

Dang!  Such an opportunity missed!

March 8, 2011                                      Valparaiso, IN

We believe in celebrating birthday weeks around here.

Sure, you have a wonderful birthday - a great birthday dinner, maybe.  But why stop there?

For the whole birthday week, it is nice to ease the life of the birthday person.  Some dull daily chore could be lifted from his or her shoulders once or twice.  A downright nasty job could be performed by someone who isn't birthday royalty.

It increases your appreciation for the person you are honoring, to get a little reminder of what his daily life is like. That workload sometimes seems as inexorable as the loss of the sun every night.  Even if you can't give him a glorious trip to the Caribbean, give him enough of a vacation so his birth can be something to celebrate!

And if he (or she) works outside the home and never does any domestic chores?

Well, that is just wrong!

March 7, 2011                                          Valparaiso, IN

Alas, I am feeling a sad dearth of conflict - the kind that inspires thought and ideas.

Creative tension is lacking in my life.  Stress and tension, yes.

Creativity is in short supply at the moment.

Is it a dietary lack?  A dietary excess?

Yesterday we went to quite an orgy of meat at the Gaucho Steakhouse - I ate more red meat than I usually have in six months!

I told my son about our feast.  He said he went to one of those a week ago and the next morning he had a meat hangover.

Well, I may be brain-dead but my hair will acquire some needed gloss and maybe my fingernails will stop their irritating splitting.

March 6, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

My partner is discouraged with the History Channel.  Discoveries which should be interesting of themselves, he says, end up entering the twilight zone with speculations of past intergalactic visitations.

Why does the History Channel go into such fantasy realms?  Is it really necessary for ratings?

It is bad enough that people don't care about history.  "What do I care about what happened before I was born?"

This attitude astounds me.  Do you care where you live?  Do you care what kind of government you live under?  Do you care about the social mores you live with and that you don't have to live with?

Do you care about where the wind comes from before it reaches you?

You were conceived before you were born.

Do you care about that?  Or is it suddenly of no importance the moment you take your first breath?

March 5, 2011                                         Valparaiso, IN

We had a real thundershower last night.  Lots of rain and thunder.

Today we looked out the window and the snow was all gone.  Well, almost.  If humans hadn't piled it into big heaps, it would have been all gone.  As it was, it was almost all gone.

Notice the tense.  Was.

Today a cold nasty wind blew.  It started snowing, flurry-like.

No big deal.  It's March!

But now it is snowing in earnest, and what is worse, it is sticking!

After all those weeks of gradual melting and greening, two hours have turned us back into winter again.

My partner mentioned that he did not use to mind winter and snow so much.  He grew up in Pittsburgh and spent ten years in Vermont.  "I didn't know anything else," he reminisced.  "Now..." his voice trailed off.

"You've eaten your six pomegranate seeds and nothing can change that!" I said.  "Me, too."

I'm sure people of Northern climes find our pissing and moaning wimpish and wussy.  They are hardened and proud of it.

But really, once you know it can be warmer and/or dryer someplace else and you like it that way, wouldn't it be kind of perverse to submit yourself to cold and ice and mess and damp if you didn't have to?

Wouldn't a choice like that be considered just a little, well, - masochistic?

Or a lot masochistic!  Grrr and brrrr.


March 4, 2011                                    Valparaiso, IN

Saw my second Spring flower today - another pansy!

Poor baby, it's going to be squashed by more snow and cold tomorrow.

Me, I've got Spring Fever!  Spring cleaning fever, that is.  The warmer weather is spurring me to get the house cleaner and more organized so when the really fine weather comes, I will be able to indulge a genuine case of Spring Fever.

What moves someone to finally clean and organize closets and dusty disorganized shelves that have bothered them for months?

The windy roaring of the March lion?

March 3, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

Where does the word cagey come from?  According to the Internet sources I looked at, it is of unknown origin.

But the word itself sure looks like it came from the word "cage."

I never thought about that before.  I see definitions of cagey (evasive, reticent) that seem to fit the behavior of wild animals in cages.  They don't say much and seem to like to hide.

But a definition I did not really see explicit in the (admittedly) few places I looked, but that I would have included as part of being cagey, is "having a hidden agenda."

So.  Does a cagey person feel caged?  Does she feel she has to protect herself from being too easily displayed and known?  When being cagey is she behaving as if she were caged - a situation in which your forthright statements are ignored or worse, subject to attack?

Alternatively (or additionally!) does the cagey person cage his ideas and emotions?  The cage is not only to keep other people out, but to keep his plans in?

Any ideas?  What does the word evoke in you? 

March 1, 2011                                             Valparaiso, IN

Pant, pant, gasp, gasp.

The arrival of March has left me parched and without starch.

February took it out of me.

I'm no dope.  There is still no hope that spring is here - only near, with jays and cardinals singing and cranes wheeling north with yodeling warbles.

The "NO SNOW" signs aren't up yet.

Luckily, the pointed vertical spears of the scylla leaves have starch, and the ground isn't parched.

February went out like a lion with a thunderstorm, and today March was lamb-like.

Nope, March is still a wolf in lamb's clothing, waiting to pounce on us like nuns in mild wimples on a novice to teach us some discipline.

Wait.   Wait.    Just wait.

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