Thursday, July 19, 2018

Not a "Murder" of Crows

There is a small flock of crows that live in my neighborhood. I will not say it is a murder of crows. That is archaic terminology from the time when my European ancestors, my tribe, began to actively war against one another and against the earth. The term originates from the time of our true fall from grace, when we entered willfully into the human endeavor of subjugating one another through war and enslavement - when we lost our reverence for the earth to began destroying the living planet that gave rise to us as a species, our own mother.

As a tribe, we have learned a few things in recent decades. We recognize that crows have a highly complex family and social structure, that they are keenly intelligent and share important information with their familial group. We might have rediscovered this about crows but it has done nothing to stop the persecution of them. Luckily, they are smarter than we are and continue to survive.

When I first noticed the crows in my valley there were only a few of them. Now their flock seems to fluctuate between eight to ten. I think they live here permanently but I am not certain whether I see the same group. They make life much more difficult for the red tail hawks. Sometimes the crows come winging past, cawing and making a loud racket. If I wait, a red tail will soon appear coming from the same direction as the crows. I think that not only are the crows warning that a hawk is on its way but they are indicating his location by the direction of their flight. Maybe the crows are warning any other crows that might be in the vicinity but it could be that any potential prey understands their warning - if the prey species is smart enough, that is.

I have never seen the crows in my yard. They keep the trees along the creek between themselves and my buildings. I think they hunt in a very large area because I do not see them every day and even less this year, probably because the pasture was scalped last fall. I had no idea that the guy was going to cut everything in the pasture down to the ground. I had to start feeding the horses their winter hay two months early and ran out before spring. It also meant that no wildlife had any cover whatsoever. Someone driving by shot a coyote and left it to rot in my pasture.

I was born and raised in Kansas, born to farmers and ranchers. I was raised to despise coyotes, to think it was acceptable to kill any and all wildlife that stole crops or carried disease or were simply a nuisance. That meant kill everything. Even if you did not have chickens, hawks were shot on sight because they stole chickens. The government paid a $2 bounty for every pair of coyote ears a man turned in. In the winter the hunters, including my own father, hung the coyote carcasses on the hedge fence posts along the roads. They were hung upside down and left to rot. Scores and scores of them. The bison, eagle, elk, deer, antelope, cougar, wolves, turkeys and bears had already been long persecuted to extinction from Kansas by then but no one seemed to get the message.

Since my childhood, there have been so many other species that have fallen to our particularly deadly human concoction of arrogance and ignorance. Jack rabbits were once more plentiful than cotton tails. I have not seen a jack rabbit since I left home. I have not seen a scissor tail fly catcher for decades. They were plentiful when I was a child. I loved seeing them start up from the fences when we drove past, their long elegant tail feathers scissoring as they climbed up and away from the noise and danger we presented. Meadow larks once inhabited the roadsides everywhere, their melodic song would seemingly travel in the air with us as our car blasted past at highway speed. Spraying and mowing has decimated them and I have not seen nor heard a meadowlark in ten years or more.

When I was young there was a bird that lived along the river but I never knew what it was called and I never saw it. Its calling, the singular cry of a solitary bird, meant it was summer. It meant I was at my grandmother's house and that I was probably riding the horses, or fishing, or swimming in the river. No one ever paid attention to that bird except me. I have never again, in my whole life, heard that calling, ever. I do not even know who to ask now what that bird may have been but what does it matter? It is gone.

We have ignorantly cut the ties and destroyed species after species. We have allowed the sophisticated marketing of giant corporations lull us into believing their product is necessary and safe despite ALL evidence to the contrary. Yes, clinical trials might "prove" something as acceptably safe in the laboratory, but once it is put into practice and everything dies it means is is not safe and we should stop. Immediately. I woke up this morning with a sense of despair and loss, the notes of a meadow lark's song fading from a forgotten dream. If I only knew what I could do to change things... anything.

"If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows." - Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Dogs!

It is July in Kansas so of course it is hot - as in triple-digit heat index. When I open the front door the heat is immediate and unpleasant, like a blast furnace. The table scraps in the trash rot immediately and that odor can be detected quite a distance from the trash bin. It is another reason I do not enjoy summer as much as the other seasons. Worst of all is to step out into the cool of the morning (cool being relative) to get a nose full of something dead and reeking in near proximity to the front door.

Somewhere a dead critter's enticing decay beckons to Jake's canine senses. He brings it home, to the front of my house, where he can leisurely enjoy consuming it while maintaining his watch dog duties, which he does quite poorly. He brings it home to share with Mattie and, whether he intends to or not, with me as well. I get the fun job of clearing it away.

At least once a season, I step out the front door to be greeted by the rotting carcass of some mortal creature. There was a small mass of bone and unbelievable stench on the front walk yesterday. It contained some flesh and what had to have been a portion of a skull. The distinctive jaw bone and teeth of a opossum was grinning up. Retching and cussing silently, I scooped it into five or six plastic grocery bags nested together. I was hoping no germs could fall through the gaping molecular holes of that much plastic but I think they could and likely did. The whole mess was wadded up and thrown into the trash bin. Easy enough solution but there is nothing to be done about the stinking dogs. It takes a few days before that horrific smell wears off of them. This is the main reason why I do not like dogs to lick me. I know that at some point in their canine life they have consumed part of a rotting dead creature - not because they were hungry but because it is in their omnivorous genes to scavenge like jackals. Bleah.

So, no dog is currently being petted. Mattie does not get to play fetch. Upon pain of death no dog is allowed to lick my hand or arm, or even put his or her nose close to my person. I was thinking the gruesome dead-carcass portion of summer was already behind me but this morning I found the tail and spine next to the car.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Fun Project

The Sketchbook Project is an ongoing art project originating in Brooklyn, New York. For a small price you can purchase a 5 x 7 sketchbook, fill it with whatever art or design or thoughts you wish, then return it. It will then live in Brooklyn for some unknown amount of time - reluctant to say "forever" because that is not likely. At least for the foreseeable future it will reside with thousands of other notebooks submitted by artists from all over the world. I paid to have mine digitized so it is available on-line.

You can safely follow the link provided to view my book. If you scroll down once you get there, there is a link that allows you to skip to another random notebook. You can continue to skip to another random notebook to your heart's content! There are children's books, and fantastic artists, and designers, and all manner of work from everywhere. I find it delightful and amazing.

My sketchbook can be viewed here.

I chose the 2018 theme "A Long Story with a Short Ending". That brought to mind the beautiful landscape where my home is located. I have often thought of how incredibly long it took Nature to produce the tall grass prairie. I continue to grieve that my people - the European ancestors who stole this land - destroyed it in considerably less than 200 years. There truly is no longer a functioning prairie biome in Kansas. There are no apex predators. Countless species of plants, insects, mammals, fish have all been extirpated or made extinct. Invasive species are finishing what our greed and ignorance did not. All that is left is a tiny echo - to our everlasting shame.

Of course, I did not want to commit such grief and negativity to my contribution to the Sketchbook Project. I simply included a nod to the forces of nature that created the land where I live, and how exceedingly short my life is in comparison. It was fun.

Pay a visit to my notebook. Maybe you will want to order you own sketchbook to participate in the 2019 edition! Happy sketchbooking!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Appropriated

Coffee is one of the many things our government once told us was harmful - along with eggs, milk, butter, marijuana, video games and wearing short skirts, not in any particular order of importance or seriousness. Now we know that coffee is full of antioxidants and is actually good for us, even possibly increasing our lifespan. Eggs, milk and butter are whole foods, far better for us than artificial foods. I tried smoking the devil's weed in college but that only lasted a short while because I simply did not appreciate the effects, especially the side effect of federal prison for possession, and worse. Long before the government discovered coffee was good for us, I gave up my daily habit for a serious Stash brand Chai Spice tea habit. Stash's recipe is not the traditional chai but has been Americanized to be bland and homogeneous, to appeal to the highest number of people with the least amount of expensive spices possible. Profit margin and all that. It is my favorite tea.

Tea is one of the oldest beverages known to man and is of such value to human beings that it has very long, mysterious history including food, drink, medicine, ritual and ceremony. Once you find a gateway tea, you are sure to become addicted and move to the more powerful and exotic forms. Green tea is apparently the most beneficial for humans. Being a Kansan - living Kansan, speaking Kansan, thinking Kansan my entire life, there has been little exposure to the highest quality tea, the connoisseur levels of tea consumption that I was always certain existed. A few moments of research on the internet revealed sources for the best quality teas, all of which were incredibly expensive. I never spent the money. I was content to simply visit the different sites and daydream. That is where I first learned of matcha green tea. It is used in the Japanese tea ceremony. I have come across mention of the Japanese tea ceremony many times in my decades of reading. It was always a simple cultural reference and never an in-depth explanation of its significance. Though it still intrigues me, it does not matter because elements of the Japanese tea ceremony have now been appropriated by the West, thanks to the proven health benefits of matcha tea.

To satisfy my curiosity, I recently ordered matcha with my last order of Chai from the Stash company. It came in a tiny little can - one gram - and cost $20. Wow. I have had a cup of matcha tea every morning since. It has made a difference in how I feel, taking the edge from all the inflammation and pain in my joints. I hope it has a cumulative effect and that my condition continues to improve. Amazingly, it took about a month to consume a gram of matcha. It is green, like algae, and is so finely ground that it wisps away like jade-green smoke if I am not careful.

To prepare, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of matcha in a bowl or cup large enough to allow for vigorous whisking. Bring water just to boil, and then let stand for 3 minutes before pouring over the tea. Whisk until a consistent creamy froth covers the surface. It is not for sipping but to be consumed in about three swallows. If allowed to stand for any length of time, it settles to the bottom and that last drink is bitter and unpleasant.

I assumed that being Stash tea, my first matcha was of reasonable quality but surely not the top of the line quality, and I assumed correctly. I researched for the best quality and decided to order from the Encha company. I do not know how authentic their processes are but they certainly have the best marketing for Americans - at least for a Kansan. I can get organic ceremonial grade matcha on a subscription service, so that is what I did.

I started using the Encha tea this week and I am most pleasantly surprised. There is no bitter aftertaste in the Encha product. It is not sweet as one expert advised excellent matcha should be, but it is not bitter at all. I also indulged myself and purchased Encha's "authentic" Japanese tea ceremonial kit, which included a beautiful ceramic water bowl. It is lovely despite it being decorated as an interpretation of their company logo, I think. There is a little bamboo "spoon", which works a bit better than the plastic measuring spoon I was using. Best of all is the handmade bamboo whisk. I found a wonderful video showing how the bamboo whisks are made. It takes a couple of years to grow and collect the correct bamboo. Then it is aged and finally, it takes hours of hand labor! I used mine only once then put it up because the whisks are not long-lived. I keep it as a tiny, traditional work of art, I guess. I use a small wire whisk to prepare my tea each morning. It probably puts the incorrect type of chi into the tea, but this is Kansas after all. Chi is not one of our concerns (though perhaps it should be).

I assume the Japanese Tea Ceremony is a specific way to honor particular aspects of life. Even if I knew exactly how and why and when to perform the traditional ceremony, it likely would not translate into Kansan all that well. Some things are simply best left in the hands of those who created them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Ten Glorious Years!

July 3, 2008 was the inception of this blog, the compendium of my mundane life. For ten years I have been writing about nothing and truly enjoying it. My small, humble life. Sometimes it is difficult to think of something to write about because, you know, it is the same old stuff. The most important things I may want to write about are too personal to share with the wide world of human beings, or webcrawlers and other cyberspace "creatures" of nefarious intent and purpose.

Many people earn money with their blogs, so Google provides metrics, statistics of referring websites and country of origin of every visitor. It also tracks the number of page clicks each individual post has received since inception. It compiles a list of referring sites so if someone reading another blog with a link to mine clicks to my blog, I know which site "referred" to mine. There is absolutely never any personal information, just high level statistical metrics I could use to market more successfully to my audience or customer base if I were selling something.

Sometimes the referring sites have mysterious names. Once or twice I have clicked on a mysterious link, curious what that site is and why a link to my blog is included there. Oh. My. God. NO, those porn sites do not have a link on their web pages to my blog! Through the dark magic of the internet, somehow there is technology that crawls my blog and deposits a "referring" site link in my statistics precisely to lure people like me to unknowingly click on their link. After a time or two of that nonsense, I stopped caring about referring sites. Bloody hell!

Google also provides a map of the world with each country highlighted if a computer in that country has clicked on one of my pages. Though surely 99.9% of them are web crawlers up to no good, I like to imagine that at least one person in China or Russia might have stumbled on my ordinary blog and found it mildly interesting to read about a normal person whiling away her life in the heartland of America.

Google has changed something on the comments section, removing open-source ID, whatever the hell that means. I have not received any comments at all since that change happened. My old friend and roommate from the haunted apartment recently read that post and was thrilled to revisit old memories and receive validation of his experiences in "haunted Kansas". He tried to leave a comment but could not. I wish Google would fix that!

Everything considered, it does not matter who, or how many times, or when, or where someone might read my blog. I simply love to write, even if it is about nothing. My adult children honestly have little interest in reading my stuff. My daughter is usually too busy and I think my son is embarrassed by my "lame" blog. I am absolutely fine with that. A child cannot hurt a mother's feelings over such immaterial things. I know that someday, after I am long gone from this realm, most likely burning in hell for calling my cell phone a m---------er, my kids will miss me. They will wish they had paid more attention to my stories when I was droning on for the freaking 100th time! If they miss me too much they can visit here to get another big helping of Mom's particular brand of bullshit. They will be able to "hear" my voice again, reminding them of who I was, and where they came from. You know, in case they forget why they are crazy. (Crazy mom, crazy kids!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Summer Solstice Eve Skies


A small thunderstorm between me and the sunset.

As nearly as I can tell, this is pouring rain on Alma, Kansas.

The colors of summer:  red, yellow, orange, blue and green.

These spectacular rays did not show up in the photo very well.  The mystery is that they are in the east - at sunset!
Color enhancement shows the anticrepusclar rays much more clearly.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Confessions of a Human Bein'

For the last several nights I have fallen gratefully into my bed and slept like the pious old woman I am (in my imagination). I have slept on the bare mattress and the bare pillows because the clean sheets are laying atop the dryer, on the other side of my enormous mansion. It would take safari preparations to make it all the way to the utility room - just steps from the refrigerator where I can be found throughout the day and oft times in the night. My mother would NEVER have slept on a bare mattress.

Truth be told, I think the mattress is beautiful. It is red and very fancifully embroidered in pink, lavender and silver. I do not mind waking up to the art nouveau busyness of it. Most of the time I make the bed the same day I wash the sheets but sometimes I do not. Sleeping on a bare mattress is not a habit but it happens and I always feel guilty. Just a tiny twinge of guilt regarding the lesser sin of sloth. It is a gram of guilt on the scales of my life. (Disclaimer: I will not discuss the metric tons of guilt of my life here so do not be disappointed.)

Everyday there are small things that get added to the dark side of that scale, like cussing around people who do not cuss. Using politically incorrect words as terms of endearment to my children... and the dogs, and the horses. The darkest, most vile PIC words are reserved for the machinery that fails when I am trying to get work accomplished.* Well, that's a lie. I do not believe I have EVER regretted cussing - even when I got my mouth washed out with soap. Cussing is the rhythm guitar of language. It is not essential but it is necessary.

I allowed my young son to keep a one hundred dollar bill he found on the street but I never made the effort to return the money. That one bothers me enough that I need to make amends for it but have not decided how to go about it. Maybe drop a hundred dollar bill on the same street? I should have taught my son by example but he was so excited that he found it. (Who wouldn't be?!) It was next to an older man's foot and my little son said, "Excuse me, sir, but is that your money?" My daughter was there. She said the guy would have lied and claimed it if my son had been alone. After a brief visible internal conflict, the guy admitted it was not his money. I could have turned it in to the police or advertised in the local paper but I simply let my son have the money.

I did not take my faithful and beloved old dog in to be euthanized before the end. He was eating and drinking and getting around, but visibly declining in health and suffering. I cooked special food for him for the last four months of his life. I had it in my head that if he stopped being able to get around, then I would take him to the vet. He was clearly determined to stay on his feet. Maybe he knew that was the metric I was using to make my final decision. The last day he was not doing well at all when I fed him supper. Later in the evening I called for him to go into the garage because it was going to rain. He came one last time, but then he could not walk any longer. I tried to lift him so I could get him to shelter but I saw that he was dying. I stayed with him where he had fallen, my heart broken, guilt and regret crushing me. I will always be sorry and I will always be guilty for that... and for an entire lifetime of decisions and actions and other stuff but I know I am not the worse human being on the planet. I am not even in the bottom 50% in this lifetime. Guilt is a good teacher and a mighty brake on the human ego and willful spirit but oh, it is burdensome.

On second thought, sleeping without sheets sometimes should not even be on the scale of guilt and regret - not even a gram's worth! Fuck sleeping without sheets.


*How could I fail to mention the monstrous cussing technology elicits?! I will probably go to hell for that.