Friday, December 31, 2010

Odds and Year Ends

The first decade of the twenty first century is sailing into history with a final surprise: seventy degree weather Thursday, and now in these early morning hours, a thunderstorm! I welcome the Thunders even though they are quite likely bringing ice and treacherous driving conditions. Some form of precipitation is falling against the house, probably sleet, but I refuse to be dismayed. This too will pass, and rather quickly. The weather radar indicates this storm front flying through the county, and nothing coming behind. The sleet has already stopped though I hear some rumbles in the north yet. Farewell Thunders, until Spring of the new year.

It has been a very short year, flying by as quickly as this weather front. The good and bad news is that I am another year older. While my spirit feels 17 years old most of the time, a look into the mirror always comes as a shock: who is that old woman? Why, it looks like Great Aunt Ruth! No! Oh, no!

I admit I have been depressed and uncommonly sad this year, coming to terms with lost youth, and facing the future in the last half of my life. Right on cue, Bob Dylan has a song for what ails my spirit. Every day on the way to work, I listen to "I feel a change comin' on and the last part of the day is already gone..."

But, it is not a sad song. Bob never writes sad songs.

"Everybody got all the money
Everybody got all the beautiful clothes
Everybody got all the flowers
I don't have one single rose
I feel a change coming on
And the fourth part of the day is already gone"

Bob has a ton of money, and could wear beautiful clothes if he wanted, and he knows it is all good. So, of course, the very next song is: "It's All Good", a song about all the bad things.

I just love ol' Bob, and I am looking forward to another album in the new year.

Another good thing quite likely to happen early in the new year is another horse coming to Spirit Creek. Saturday I am going to see a lady about a horse, and not just any horse, but a gorgeous palomino. She is golden and beautiful, with no white markings. She has an impressive American Quarter Horse pedigree and I can buy her for next to nothing because she has a blemished ear - and because she is not trained to ride - and because it is winter. I hope I have the same connection with her from the moment I see her as I did with Annie. Though it will be that beautiful girl's lot in life to live with Ginger the Horrible, I will try to make it up to her.

I received another stellar Christmas gift from my children this year: an e-reader. It is one of the coolest things in the world! (It is even better than the headlamp they gave me two years ago, so you know it is way cool!) It is about the size of a very thin paperback book, and right out of the box, it has enough memory to hold as many 1500 books! I can play chess against it, play music, read the newspaper, and if I so wanted, I could publish this very blog on it. I can go to the bookstore and read any e-book available for free for one hour a day. With a valid credit card, I can purchase any e-book I so desire by just walking into the store. When I drove into the parking lot last night, the WiFi connection was already downloading the first two books I had purchased. Some books can be lent to others to read. I can change the font size. There is a small touch screen at the bottom and I can even turn the "pages" with a swipe of the finger across the screen, as if turning actual pages. Oh, it is cool alright. And if my electronic library becomes too large, I can buy more memory! My Grandma, born in 1898, saw a lot of changes in her long life, from the horse and buggy to men on the moon, but she never saw anything as amazing as an e-reader.

I feel happy about the new year and the future. As long as I can listen to Bob Dylan - as long as Duke and I can look after the horse(s) - as long as I can pay my bills - and my children are safe and happy - then everything is going to be just fine, even if I do look more like Aunt Ruth every goddamned year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Wii Christmas

Everyone who claimed they wanted to travel to my daughter's home for Christmas declined at the last minute, so it was just my own little family: my daughter, her new beau, my son, and myself. I prepared a non-traditional pot roast with golden potatoes. It was a hearty, nutritious meal and my son, a bachelor among bachelors who surely live on fast food and beer, stuffed himself to the maximum.

In the afternoon we fired up the Wii, the game console I purchased for myself two years ago for the express purpose of playing the greatest game on earth: Zelda! The system came with "Wii Sports" which is bowling, golf, baseball, boxing and tennis and only one controller, so we had to take turns, but it was fun. Really fun. Each person builds an avatar to represent him or herself in cyberspace, and everyone's avatar looks just like their human creator. You have to move the controller, and your body, as if you were boxing, bowling, playing tennis or playing baseball. (We did this at Thanksgiving, and my stepfather was bowling at age 88 and cussing too, which made us fall down laughing.) Those Japanese software designers are so clever.

My son and I made a bet over who would score the most points. I was sure I would win. Twice the group's game was wiped out. An attempt to turn on a light using the bewildering and confusing space age motherboard attached to the wall inexplicably shut off the television and the Wii game, losing our game scores. The wager was left on the table and we started over. Then someone, (I will not mention Bob's name), accidentally "Quit" the game, erasing everyone's scores again! No one won the bet, but we had a great time. (Those Japanese software designers are so clever!)

It has been many years since I enjoyed Christmas as much as I did this year. Maybe it was the magic of the Wii.

As is my custom, though belated, I offer my traditional season's greeting:

Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward (Some) Men
From the Critters and the Crazy Woman at Spirit Creek

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Winter Solstice

Wonder over the nature of the universe has always fired my imagination. Though the memories are faded, a fluid and magical imagination shaped my childhood days, from my imaginary horses to the effortless, endless shape shifting of clouds. Stars were the most immediate and most beautiful of all childhood mysteries. This fact will not come as a surprise to my family and friends, but I began speaking at six months of age. 'Stars' was one of my first words.

As I grew, the mystery of the universe deepened. What are all those stars? Do they truly stretch away into infinity? Attempting to imagine forever or infinity is a game played as a child and sometimes I still play it. I have never successfully imagined infinity. Our best theoretical scientists say there is a limit to the universe. Perhaps it is that they cannot imagine infinity either.

Sometimes, when I still my mind, answers to mysterious questions will arise, whispery and fleeting. It is nothing magical or strange. Everyone has the ability to tune into this source for at least a fleeting moment. Some people tune in for extended explorations, like Einstein and Mandlebrot. Most often, there is too much noise in our lives and in our minds to hear, or we mistrust what we are given. It is not voices, but a silver spark of insight that arises. If you are not still, you will miss it. Answers match a person's ability to understand. The spark that led to E=MC2 would never have hit a person like me, for instance.

One day I was contemplating the nature of the universe, allowing my imagination to extend the inquiry far out into the reaches between the stars when an answer was returned. The universe, at its most simple, is a time piece - a clock. In a flash, I understood time and space cannot exist separately, they are the opposite sides of the same coin. Like a magnet's poles cannot be separated, time and space cannot be split. If a magnet is cut in half, instead of one positive piece and one negative piece, another whole magnet is formed. If time was cut from space, another fully formed time/space continuum would arise.

Then, I began to consider the spin of galaxies as the powering of time, the orbits of planets as gears in a given sun's clock. And that led to the mystery of the earth's moon being the precise size, and the moon, earth and sun being spaced precisely to allow for solar and lunar eclipses. We take this phenomenon for granted, but the idea that such precision is mere chance is too staggering for even the most skeptical of thinkers. The moon is also the perfect size to stabilize the weather, protect the oceans, and slow our orbit around the sun.

While I was thinking along these lines, I realized that astrology, entirely dismissed by science as ridiculous, actually contains a kernel of truth. Traveling from the Great Void to inhabit a physical body on earth takes cosmic timing. It is true - the stars must favorably align.

There is power available at the summer and winter solstices, and magic in the four quarters of the year. The equinoxes evenly divide day and night. There is inherent balance between the longest day of the year opposite the longest night of the year. We have TIME to live, space to slow down for a lifetime under the benevolence of the sun. We examine things at our leisure and dream. We can imagine horses that speak and watch fables unfold in the theater of clouds. We can cast our astrological charts, and celebrate another birthday spinning here amidst the ticking gears of the Universe.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Imagination

In the late 1970's, a wonderful magazine, Omni, was first published. I saved every issue of it for the first few years or so. I moved the heavy boxes of magazines wherever I went until I finally tired of it and gave them to a used book store.

The first issues were marvelous with fine science fiction stories, and fantastic art work. What I loved the most were the articles on the interesting edge of real science. I discovered the Rubik's Cube and its brilliant mathematician creator in the pages of Omni about a year before they were in stores. When the cubes hit the shelves, I promptly bought one and tortured myself trying to solve it. I could solve to the point of one cube being out of place - so close! My husband was equally intrigued but he eventually solved the puzzle by purchasing a book that demonstrated the sequence of steps required to solve. He memorized the steps, then wowed everyone with how "smart" he was. (I never did entirely solve Rubik's cube. Like a chicken, there is just so far my logic can travel in certain directions.)

I read a small but wonderful Omni article about the Game of Life, an exercise the really big computer wizards at the time, with access to Cray computers, used to "race" their computers. Life is played on a grid. Each cell that is On, (contains a dot), is living. Each On cell with one or no neighbors dies in the next generation. If an On cell has four or more neighbors, it dies in the next generation. An On cell with two or three neighbors survives. An Off cell with three On neighbors turns On in the next generation. It starts with several dots you randomly place on a grid, then you map the generations according to the simple rules of On or Off. It theoretically replicates the engine of generations of evolution, creating new shapes, some going extinct, some replicating themselves, some blinking on and off across the generations. For something so simple, it is fascinating, as Spock would say. I played this game on engineering grid paper for years, and sometimes I will still graph out several generations while killing time. Computers are accessible to everyman now, and any one can play the Game of Life online. Game of Life.

I first read about fractals in Omni magazine. It was many years before I saw that word in print again. The Omni article explained that by using fractal mathematics, a coastline could be more accurately measured. Of course, I had no clear idea why that was so, but the shapes generated by fractal mathematics were intriguing and beautiful. I intuitively understood that fractals were closer to natural patterning, and was intrigued to learn many years later that Jackson Pollock's paintings have fractal properties within them. This week on the local PBS channel, a program of the discovery of the mathematics of fractals, the development, and the eventual acceptance of fractal geometry as a genuine branch of mathematics. It includes a layman's explanation of fractals, and some real world applications.

Benoit Mandelbrot, building on the earlier work of others, is the man who brought fractals to the world. He explained that he fell in love with geometry while a school boy, and soon realized he could visualize the formulas. I thought of Einstein's ability to imagine what he would see if he could travel the speed of light. I do not believe the human race needs alien intervention to progress. We do not need to reverse engineer crashed alien spaceships to discover new sciences. We have been given everything we need to progress within our own imagination. The right minds ask the right questions in the right timing. Though Benoit Mandelbrot had the theory well in hand, it was not until he went to work at IBM, with access to the power of computers to rapidly compute the infinite iterations of mathematical replications that fractal geometry came into its own.

Cosmic timing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When You Live in an Empty Nest

I googled my name this morning and had to laugh when I visited the first selection on Facebook. That person is very conservative with interests in life that do not match mine in any way. I am fairly sure that neither of us is an axe murder nor a crack addict, so at least we have that in common. She might be dismayed if she is ever mistaken for me. Her ladies groups might be quite shocked to discover she rides a Harley, and at her age!

When you have an empty nest, and you are not too particular about keeping a spotless house, you have a lot of free time to google your own name and waste time playing Spades on the internet.

I asked my daughter last night if she and my son feel burdened by me in anyway, emotionally speaking. I am still earning my own money and usually get to work dressed appropriately, so I assume I am not a burden at this point. I was checking if they held emotional resentments, or if their relationship with me was tiresome, or if they dreaded spending time with me. (I was also probing for clues that they might be planning to bump me off for the life insurance.) She only admitted they worry that Mom has gone down at the farm when they do not hear from me for a while.

I never want to burden my children with any of my emotional dysfunctions. I hope my physical well being never becomes a problem for them. I dread the day just spending time with me becomes tiresome, or that they should begin to feel obligated to spend time with me out of duty only. Right now they are the beneficiaries of all my worldly goods and the pitifully small amount of money I have managed to save despite my entirely inept financial skills. It is not enough money that I worry they are scheming to put me in a home - yet.

I am fine living alone. After the first 17 years of my life as a target for just about everything under the sun that irritated my mother, of being the bane of her existence, I escaped. I married young, was a young mother and not surprisingly, my marriage skills were not up to the challenge. After the first failed marriage, I continued to find the same man. He may have looked different and went by a different name, but he was the same guy, alright. After the disappointment of failed relationships, of which I accept half the blame, I settled for simply raising my kids. I worry that choice burdened my children with lasting emotional damage. It was not always easy, but much easier than being married to a charming lunatic. Now that my children are grown, fully adults, (though I still worry a little about my son the Unabomber), my life is peaceful. I like it this way.

Which is why my daughter is in danger of losing her inheritance! Last night she asked me why I did not want to go out with a local business man who is not attractive, not charming, not interesting, not my type. She must assume that I am a desperate old woman willing to settle for just any old dude simply because he works! Wow. She needs a spanking.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Round of Significat Events

After two days of roaring winds and falling temperatures, the sun is blazing in a cloudless sky. I know it will be cold when I step outside, so I am postponing it, practicing sloth. I have not assembled all of my winter gear: the old ripped work coat - the spider infested fur lined boots - the long knitted scarf. I have yet to find a good pair of warm work gloves. I threw out the expensive dress gloves this summer because they had shriveled to unrecognizable shapes and dried into stiff lumps of abused leather. They were originally purchased to wear to my civilized job in the real world, but they were so warm that I wore them to do chores. It only took one trip to the barn to ruin them for society. Do the glove industry mavens not understand that in some backward sects of America, people still work outside in the winter and need warm, resilient, tough gloves to keep their fingers fit for posting to their blogs?

So, while I am planning a trip to the big city this afternoon in search of warm work gloves, I am considering the recent string of strange events that ran through my life last week. How in the world can these things happen all together in a tiny nexus of time and what does it all mean? Does it mean anything at all?

First, I was rudely jolted awake from an innocent and peaceful slumber last Thursday with frightening, wrenching pains in my chest and stomach area. After enduring about an hour with the escalating pain, I decided I might be having a heart attack and headed for the hospital at 50 miles an hour, the fastest speed I could withstand. I had to pull over on I70 to be sick. I was hoping no law enforcement type would stop to hassle me for "drunk" driving.

I made it to the emergency room the same time my daughter arrived. Though the front clerk got all the information and hooked me to an EKG machine right away, there was no bed available, so I had to sit upright in those torture devices known as waiting room chairs for almost two hours. I reasoned if I was having a heart attack, they would have at least found a cot for me, so that was comforting. Ultimately, I decided that if I was going to be suffering like the proverbial bastard anyway, I should be suffering at home and left. I paced the floor at my daughter's house for the next four hours in such misery that I truly regretted leaving the hospital. Perhaps they would have given me something for the excruciating pain. But then, pain management is never a concern with American doctors. They prefer their patients to suffer as much as possible, deliberately torture them, and then expect to be paid handsomely for it.

Sometime in the black, lonely, early hours of Friday morning, the pain suddenly went off the charts and I truly, truly, genuinely and humbly regretted not staying at the hospital. I became violently ill but then a miraculous thing happened: I was free of pain! I was cured! I did not want to go back to the hospital but my daughter had been scared to death. There was no way I was going home at that point. She took me back to the hospital and called in two of her friends to make sure I stayed there. Though I told the hospital staff flat out I did not want another EKG and I did not want them to inject some sort of lethal dye into my bloodstream, they did anyway. I should have run away but I was wearing a hideous nightgown. I doubt if I would have had any success catching a ride home.

The final diagnosis is gall stones. My own doctor said "Gallstones - stoneZZZZZ." He emphasized the plural for me, glaring over his reading glasses. He has recommended I get that troublesome gallbladder removed several times. I sort of like all my parts, even the ones that give me trouble. I really do not trust any of my working parts in the hands of people with deadly drugs, sharp instruments, and outrageous torture devices. I genuinely do not want to turn over any of my money to these sadists, either. But it looks as if I have to. Though I have medical insurance, these costs will certainly indefinitely delay building my house. Oh well. I would rather not find my old self vomiting on my shoes along the highway like a drunken frat boy ever again.

On the third day after this horrendous adventure, I received the very sad news that my son's father had fallen into a coma. The decision to remove him from life support had been made and there were only hours left. No place to run with that acute pain, no medicine, no procedure, no hope. Nothing could be done to change anything, past or present. It was hard to feel sad for anyone except my son and the man's mother , two people whose love was unacknowledged and unrequited for decades. It was a mystery, and the secret went to the grave. I bear no ill will toward the father of my son. I once dearly loved him, and still hold him dear in my heart but my son may have a different measure. Farewell and god speed toward peace and wholeness and respite from the plagues of this world.

The last event in this strange week of suffering and sadness was one of triumph - pomp and circumstance - victory over the forces of darkness and despair! My daughter walked across the stage in Bramilage Coliseum to accept the honors of a Masters Degree. I shed a few silent tears, silent because my son and brother were there. I could not cry freely unless I wanted to be teased mercilessly for the rest of the day. It was absolutely wonderful, and my daughter is more brave and more kick-ass than Princess Leia AND Queen Amidala combined.

It was a small but jubilant party - my daughter and her boyfriend, my son and my brother. We lauded our smart girl with presents and cards and hugs, and we ate like kings and queens.

I never know what to expect from my son. I called him early in the day, afraid he would oversleep and not make it to the ceremony in time. He was already on the road, and I was impressed, but not for long. He said he was not dressed up and wondered if that was going to be a problem? When he got up that morning to take a shower, he found the water service had been terminated. Three college dudes, not one of them has a serious girlfriend right now, so paying the water bill is not a high priority. I said I doubted anyone would notice, but I did wonder how LONG he had been without a shower...

When we met, I was relieved that he appeared as a normal college student, except he had a beard, the product of the "No-vember, No shave" policy he and his roommates implemented. He normally has short, tidy hair but due to the lack of water, he was wearing a damn stocking hat and a hoodie. He looked like a terrorist to his sister when she spotted him in the crowd taking photos. She told us later she did not recognize him at first, thinking to herself as she walked off the stage "Wow, that guy looks like a terrorist!" I called him the Unabomber the rest of the day.

It was a strange grouping of events that took place in the space of one week. After suffering and loss, great victory and good food. That is the way life should always go.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Winter's Turn

We have the daily illusion that our physical lives go on forever despite all evidence to the contrary. The illusion permits us to waste time watching television, delaying difficult chores, avoiding emotional confrontations, and wasting away in a job simply for the income. If the Buddhists are correct, it does not matter how much time we waste. We are drawn here again and again and again until we tire of suffering and become enlightened. How many lifetimes before I am enlightened, I wonder. How many more turns around the galaxy on this little rock before I stop creating karma, I wonder. Perhaps the Dalai Lama is the most enlightened person on the planet right now, and even he will be reborn. It is not looking good for me.

Sometimes I am enormously tired of the drama in my life, especially when I examine how boring and insignificant that drama is. In fact, it does not even qualify as drama. I have spent two years posting about "nothing" in my blog. That is how dramatic my life is. Not that I intend to tempt fate into sending a flood or a tornado or a plague of grasshoppers to my house by whining over how boring and wasteful my life is! No sir, no one needs that kind of drama. I am certain I am enlightened beyond the need for that particular suffering.

I wish I could reach enlightenment through the path of great riches and luxury and sensual pleasures.  Alas, it is sloth, considered a sin by Christians, that is my chosen path toward enlightenment this time around. I am committed mightily to that particular path.

So, here I am on my slothful path, avoiding heavy work and needless drama, dutifully practicing procrastination, when winter descends again and I am not quite prepared. I do just enough to get by. Annie's constant pawing and standing in the old water tank had split the side and cracked the bottom. The cost for the same tank increased $35 since I purchased the same model a few years ago. A factory leak is cleverly included in the higher price, but it is too late to return it now.

The temperature was well above freezing yesterday, so I hurried home in order to fill the new tank to the brim while the hoses were not frozen. A storm is on the way, with very low temperatures and several inches of snow predicted. On my way to the barn in the dark, wearing my trusty headlamp, something glowing brightly in the grass stopped me in my tracks. It was the eye of a spider reflecting as brightly as a cat's eye in the beam. I aimed more carefully and found two tiny eyes staring directly into the light. The spider emerged all the way from its den, and squared off toward me. All the times I have seen these tiny glowing spheres of light in the grass I thought they were mice eyes. Now I know better.

I stood watching the spider, marveling over the intense reflection of its impossibly small eyes. I felt pity for it knowing a snowstorm was on the way. Quite likely, the snow will mean the end to its life.

I spoke quietly, "Grandmother, you should go back into your warm nest. A snowstorm is coming."

The spider disappeared into the earth.

I made sure the water tank was filled to the very top. I attempted to pet my horse, scratch behind her ears and under her belly, but I have been demoted to an even lower status than usual and was not allowed to touch the Queen of the Universe. Ginger impatiently moved away from me, so I bribed her with extra hay. I could pet her as she sorted through the hay for the most delectable bits. I realized then that her path toward enlightenment must include belonging to me, a dolt and a dumb ass. Good luck with that, Ginger.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Horse Riding in a Cadillac

Everything can be found on You Tube!

Here is a video of the white horse riding in a cadillac with his two cowboy bud's. But it is even worse than I thought! They feed the horse CHEESEBURGERS!

View it and weep!

Insanity On All Levels

It remains to be seen if a new home will ever be built at Spirit Creek Farm. I have been taking each next step since early this year, and now it is almost December. The building permit has not even been obtained. Who had any idea of the insurmountable details, regulations, permits and bureaucracy requirements a person has to navigate! I have only just now started spending money, and that was for the first survey to prove to the county I am not building in a flood plain. I am not sure this is going to be worth it.

If I succeed in actually getting all the permits, various forms and proofs, and having all the money needed just to get permission from all of the government agencies to build, then I will have to tackle removing the old house and the dilapidated garage. I can foresee a horrible road block and an intense level of frustration and anger when I run into the environmental protection agency bureaucracy and expense, and the Catch 22 of not being able to get the final mortgage until the old buildings are removed.

Would you not think the various governmental blood-sucking vampire entities would want people to build new, energy efficient homes? They are allowed to suck even more tax money once a home is built!

How did we allow ourselves to descend into this bureaucratic hell - for something as simple as building a home? I am ready for a clean slate, in so many areas of my life! Where on this earth can I possibly go to escape the weight and insanity of rules, regulations, oversights, permits, ordinances, inspections, fees, fees, more fees and then taxes and more fees, and signatures and snooping by the mortgage companies and banks? I can choose to become homeless. I could forgo being a property owner, give my chicken flock away, sell Ginger, then Duke and I could become a pair of smelly, ragged travelers hitching across the country, following the warm weather.

I talk to myself now, just not always out loud.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sad Little Chicken And Forest Gump

Nothing is more sad than a chicken without at least one best friend. One of the babies I saved by bringing indoors this summer, the last of the year's babies, has not a single friend in all of the flock. He or she must roost all alone at night. Everyone else has bonded with one or two other chickens, except for this youngster. I guess I will have to intervene and select one of the other chickens to be a friend with this little orphan. After the two of them have been penned together for a week or so, then they will become friends.

Each night I go out and stuff the lonely chicken into a cat carrier that has hay stuffed in it, so the baby can have shelter and protection. I guess the big chickens prevent the orphan from roosting with them. It is very sad, indeed. After all, they are all related.

My chicken flock has morphed into a rag tag of pirates and rouges. The late Mrs. Peckins' son, Junior is now the alpha rooster. He is beautiful with a green tail, magnificent comb and wattles, and is easily twice or three times the size of the other chickens. He takes his duties seriously, but he has never attacked me or even spread his wings and lowered his neck as a warning. I never have to fear turning my back on this rooster. He is too much like Mrs Peckins and not at all like his father, the Evil Roo'.

Cherokee has matured into a beautiful Japanese rooster, with snowy feathers, and a gracefully curving black tail. He acts like a dope and no one takes him seriously. Junior chases him off every single day and Cherokee runs for his life squawking like... well, like a big chicken.

Tenzing Norgay, the very first chick I selected for the farm, is still here. Nobody messes with her. She and Junior rule the chicken kingdom of Spirit Creek. Junior affords her his finest gentlemanly behavior and she leaves him to his king career. If anyone else does a single thing she does not like, she goes after them growling and angry, and everyone clears out. If Cherokee thinks he is going to do his stupid rooster dance for Tenzing, she lines him out in no uncertain terms. Of all the chickens, she is easily the most expressive, determined and certainly the most convincing. If Mama ain't happy, ain't no body happy!

Then there Tenzing's two half grown babies. They inherited a high status in the flock from their mother, and continue to eat by her side, getting the best of the food. There is Black Girl, a Weird Sister/Junior chick, and White Girl, the only pure D'Uccle baby and the last one. White Girl might be White Boy... hard to tell yet.

That leaves the two Weird Sisters. They have never truly integrated into the flock. Not only are they physically different, they are from Back East. They know they do not belong out here in red neck country. They are flighty and nervous and fly into the red bud trees. Though the other chickens could fly into the low branches as well, they never do.

I believe now my chickens were killed by owls in the early mornings this summer. It was the crack of dawn and I had just seen Cherokee scratching beneath the tree before any of the other chickens were up. I saw something large angling through the front porch, past the windows. I rushed to the door, certain Cherokee was a goner. He did not even seem to be alarmed. That is why I believe it was an owl. Their feathers are silent, so Cherokee did not even realize he had almost been served for breakfast. He was contentedly scratching at the remains of the previous evening's meal. Lovable but dumb, his name should be Forest Gump, oblivious to the cruel realities of the world. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Lie

The beginning of the holidays always brings on a slight depression for me. It has its roots all the way back to realizing Santa Claus was a hoax. If I could start over with my children, I would never tell them that outrageous lie. When I told the truth to my son, his wounded words were "You lied to me! You lied to me." He was right. He and his sister deserved far better than a nonexistent man flying around the world leaving "good" kids prizes and games. They were good and deserving from the moment they were born.

When you actually believe in Santa Claus and he comes through for you, it is indeed magical. Never again in all of your life will Christmas provide such magic, but you always wish it would, even when you are old. The lasting disappointment of children whose parents can not provide all the things wished for at Christmas could be easily avoided by simply dropping the lie of Santa Claus in the first place. There is something terribly, terribly wrong with an economy that relies on the annual spending glut of a single holiday to carry it the rest of the year.

As an adult you can wish for the existence of such powerful magic, for transformation, to ward off evil, for healing, and great happiness that lasts from one December through the next. We could restore the world with such magic. Too bad that magic is wasted for a lie. Too bad it is sold to us whether we can afford such a lie or not. Too bad we break our children's heart with that lie.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My List and the Sublists and the Side Lists...

Like everyone else, there are a few things I hope to do or see "someday". There are gradients and sub-categories within my list. For example, if I ever just happen to find myself in Egypt, I would certainly like to visit the pyramids. Seeing the Great Pyramid with my own eyes would be spectacular but not as important as finding another horse so Ginger will have someone to boss around other than me (and Terrie the farrier).

One burning desire harbored since childhood is entirely possible though unlikely: bring a horse into the house. Ginger may not be the best candidate for this project. It will have to be a horse in the future. Through the miracle of television, I once saw two old cowboys who owned a Cadillac convertible. They opened the back door and their white, full sized horse stepped into the back seat and sat down on his haunches. Then, all three of them went for a ride. I also saw a couple who reinforced the floors of their home so their full sized gelding could come in to eat spaghetti (with tomato sauce) from a plate at the dinner table. My desires are much less flamboyant than horses riding in convertibles or horses eating Italian.

There are a few things that look impossible at this point in my life. My knees probably would not hold up if I tried to ski in the mountains of Colorado. Unless someone invents the skiing equivalent of the "Hoveround", I likely waited too long to check this off the list. But then again, somewhere, sometime I read about a man who owned a coon dog, the best one he ever owned. The dog was too old to run any more, too old to hunt. The man fed the dog a big helping of his moonshine then took the old hound out hunting one glorious last time. I have never tasted moonshine so I could scratch two items off the list at once: moonshine and skiing. I may want to fact check that moonshine story. It might be a hillbilly myth. (Can we still say "hillbilly"?)

At this point in my life, well past the midway point, even if I live to be almost 98 or almost 100 like my dear grandmothers, there are some things I have to accept as impossible this time around. I will never, ever be able to sing like Janis Joplin, but then, neither can anyone else. I also will not be getting high with Hunter S. Thompson - unless he managed to bargain his way into Heaven with a stash. But, hey, that gives me a brilliant idea: weed in my pocket when I take the skiing moonshine trip. There is a high probability that I could kill three birds with one stone, so to speak.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An American Thanksgiving

Depressing news this morning. The Wall Street boys are set to get millions in bonuses for their hard work this year while a charitable kitchen providing a Thanksgiving meal to the less fortunate served 8000 people last year and expects to feed twice that many today. Most corporations are doing well for their stockholders but not hiring. Employees cost a lot of money. God bless those hardworking all-Americans raking in the big dollars up on Wall Street. And God bless those American corporations who now have citizen rights under American law.

I changed the channel. I watched a revisit of Edward R. Murrow's 'Harvest of Shame' about the migrant farm workers of 50 years ago. The news was that nothing had changed. Then an amazing thing was reported, something that should have made the news every night in America the moment it was discovered: authorities found farm workers in Florida who were virtually enslaved. Seven different slavery rings have been investigated and successfully prosecuted in that state, freeing thousands of workers.

From the St. Petersburg Times: "A major shame is that Florida's leading lawmakers, not to mention ordinary citizens, have rarely expressed outrage over such abuses, and even fewer have raised a finger on behalf of farmworkers. Former Gov. Jeb Bush and his labor emissary openly criticized the coalition for its work, and Gov. Charlie Crist has yet to show real interest."

"Farmworkers are and always have been excluded from U.S. fair labor standards and are prevented from unionizing. The overwhelming majority of farms hire contractors, or crew bosses, to employ, pay, house and transport workers, thus freeing the growers of culpability for wrongdoing."

God bless Americans privileged to purchase the cheapest food available on the planet.

There was some good news for the migrant farm worker in these modern times: a coalition of about eight or ten American corporate giants have agreed to pay one cent more per pound for tomatoes. The generosity is staggering. God bless those corporate citizens.

If you must watch television today, I recommend only watching the Thanksgiving parade or football. Everything else is a buzz kill.

Monday, November 22, 2010

From the 'Why Bother' File

The National Geographic Channel is free this month with my television satellite subscription. I usually enjoy the programs on this channel but sometimes disturbing information is shown. Yesterday I watched a program about three people who are each convinced they are Jesus returned.

One poor guy has no followers whatsoever. No one believes him. One guy is a former Christian minister from the Philippines who claims millions of followers around the world. He flies around in the sacred helicopter and lives in palatial surroundings and apparently all of his followers are beautiful and whole. The original Jesus never had it so good! The third guy wears white robes and seems terribly angelic.

Do we really think Jesus would have to announce to the world he is back? Would he have to wander the world barefoot without a single follower, or fly around in a helicopter and accept tithes in the millions of dollars? Would he really wear white robes and walk around like a ghost?

Why would these three people deserve a National Geographic program about them? I guess it is true that you get what you pay for.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Ideas On 25 Years of Marriage

Right away I want to clarify that I am genuinely impressed when two people can remain married for twenty five years. Consider that in the last twenty five years of my life I have been married twice and divorced twice, resulting in a net sum of six years of holy matrimony. I hardly had time to memorize my married name(s) before I was at the courthouse signing divorce papers. A quarter of a century is an overwhelming amount of time, relatively speaking. Is it natural for people to remain married that long? Is it even possible without some sort of coercion?

I have seen photographs of couples who have remained married for fifty or sixty years, sometimes much longer. Their anniversary picture is often shown beside their wedding photograph, so it is plain to see what decades of marriage do to people. I have also observed that people tend to resemble one another after years of marriage. Women need to seriously consider this.

Raising a family might be a good reason to remain under the same roof for more than a few years. Buying food in bulk saves a lot of money and there are the family discounts at popular tourist attractions. If one or more of your offspring begin exhibiting a number of your spouse's disagreeable traits, would those savings really be worth it?

I have known some couples who remained married apparently to continue tormenting each other. Now that is an excellent reason to stay married in my mind. It is a reason I can understand, one I can whole-heartedly embrace. Think of the satisfaction twenty five years of daily irritants like hogging the remote or being forced to hold her purse.

There may be some secret to remaining married for two and one half decades, something I have yet to consider. Maybe separate controls for the electric blanket and the solemn agreement to not hang wallpaper together. I once read about a woman murdering her husband after a dispute involving wallpaper. I passed that information on to my daughter when she married, but in reality, what woman needs a lame excuse like that? When the time comes for my son to marry, you can bet I will warn him about wallpapering.

There could be biological reasons why people remain married. Maybe after a certain number of family vacations taken together in the family car, a genetic mutation occurs and people are then biologically compelled to remain married. I believe that is what happened to my own parents. When I think back, it was probably the year all seven of us went on vacation to Arkansas in a Rambler station wagon.

It was the Sixties. No seat belts, no air conditioning, and 80 mph was the minimum traveling speed. One of my brothers dropped a beebee into my youngest brother's ear, sending him screaming over the front seat in a panic. All fathers have a sex related gene behavior that prevents them from stopping for any reason on vacation. Either my mom mutated or simply lost her will at that instant. No way to really know what happened but my parents are still married.

Originally written for friends celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shoe Dispersion Rates

It is not much of a mystery how a single shoe might come to be discarded along the pavement of any street or highway. The genuine mystery for me is the number of shoes, boots, high heels, athletic and baby shoes I have noticed over the years.

Maybe the work boots and heavy shoes fall off tool boxes or running boards when they are left by absent minded working men, perhaps after a few too many cold beers? Baby shoes might be thrown out by the babies themselves, or their bored siblings, or maybe they blow off the dash and out the window when Dad gets the family Ford up to speed.

The biggest mystery is how someone can lose a single, size 13 Air Jordan along the Interstate. While I have sometimes witnessed bare feet hanging out a passenger window, I have not seen nearly as many bare feet as I have seen single lost athletic shoes. Does an angry girlfriend throw out half of his footgear? Is the first guy to pass out on a road trip penalized by losing one of his shoes?

I have seen high heels the least often, but they too fall on the pavement, to lay abandoned and forlorn. There is always a fleeting fear that a woman was being transported against her will, but most likely a high heel is lost for the same reason all the other shoes are lost from vehicles.

I also wonder why humans lose shoes out of their cars more than any other item. It seems a shirt or a hat would be the most likely to blow out of a window. I have seen far more shoes along the road than hats. When you think of the number of American feet and multiply that by the five or six pairs of shoes a person has at any stage of life, that makes a huge number of shoes traveling with us in our vehicles at any given time. While we might travel with one hat, we always travel with two shoes. But, a pair of shoes is far more necessary than a hat. It does not add up.

It is a true mystery.

There is probably a scientific explanation for this, maybe a dispersion theory that addresses the rate of lost shoes. When the number of shoes reaches a given density in a population, the rate of shoe dispersion across miles of highways is equal to the sum of disposable income divided by the rate of alcohol consumption, where X is the national rate of carelessness.

This does not begin to address the urban numbers of athletic shoes seen hanging from wires.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cyberkit provides this link to a wonderful web site dedicated to lost soles: here

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Algebra = Chicken Feed

The rains arrived at last and all things are washed free of the thick burden of many weeks of dust. The prairie, now radiant in her red gown, is dressed for the winter. These timely, natural events wheel in with the turn of the season and I deeply appreciate them. I never know what lesson the natural world holds out for me. It can be as simple as chicken feed.

The chicken flock was decimated this summer by mysterious death and unfortunate predation, leaving only three experienced and wise chickens alive: two of the Weird sisters and the matriarch Tenzing Norgay. The other chickens are babies, one season old to just a few months. Essentially, they are the surviving of the fittest. They must be fairly smart.

The babies only know that I throw their scratch under a certain tree. Yesterday morning in the pouring rain, I attempted to show them I was throwing their scratch under the front porch deck. When they saw me, they knew it was time to eat. They came running, chuckling and murmuring in anticipation. When they saw the bright yellow cup, they began sorting out their pecking order because the feed was about to fall. When I called them a short distance away so they could see the feed fall on the ground beneath the porch, they stood looking at me, muttering worriedly among themselves.

Then Tenzing arrived on the scene. She is the smartest chicken I know. She understands that scratch can be tossed just about anywhere on any given day. Surely Tenzing would understand and lead the others to their dry breakfast, but she was stumped, too.

It was simply too many steps in the algebraic equation for them. It exceeded their logic capacity. I well know that feeling. It is not painful to exceed the limit of my working brain capacity. There is only a roaring silence as I wait for the universe to serve up something I can handle.

Given N + 2 = 4, I can solve for N. Confronted with: 6<=a+2<=-8+10, I am exactly like my chickens: uuuuh?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Winter Friends


Orion

The winter constellations slowly wheeling above a mild November night are truly the most beautiful sight. Past midnight, mighty Orion stands upright in the south, flexing his eternal bow toward the West, and Sirius the dog star, the brightest star of all, follows faithfully at his heels.


Pleiades

High in the tree tops along the west bank of Spirit Creek are the Seven Sisters, daughters of Atlas, glowing in their blue gowns.

Nearby, Cassiopeia, the beautiful but vain queen, sails silent and sorrowful, eternally repenting the boast that her daughter Andromeda was more lovely than the nymph daughters of the sea. Poseidon condemned Cassiopeia to be tied to a throne in the sky.



Opposite Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper pours abundant blessings down from the northern sky. This time of year it hangs vertical in the sky.



Images by Jerry Lodriguss, Astrophotographer. Visit his website here.

Pleiades from Astronomy Picture of the Day. Visit the website here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bare Trees


Sunrise

Since I moved to Spirit Creek, I have noticed that the trees in this valley are much later to bud in the spring than the trees in Topeka, and these leaves fall several weeks earlier. Whenever I have mentioned this rather remarkable discrepancy - after all, it is less than thirty miles as the crow flies - some people insist it is due to the sheltered lives of city trees, that they are shielded from the ravages of the wind.

I do not agree with that argument. Only tornadoes and extreme straight winds blow leaves off their trees prematurely. Whatever natural mechanism that binds leaves tightly to the trees changes much earlier here then in town. The weather this fall has been relatively windless, but my trees began shedding their leaves far ahead of the city trees, as usual. I think it has more to do with the artificial light in a city than it has to do with wind. There are also many different species of trees in the city. Different trees might lose their leaves at a different rate than the ones growing along Spirit Creek.

It always takes a few days to adjust to bare trees. Their leaves provide almost complete privacy from the road. They hide the view of neighbor's buildings and soften the noise of power tools or hammering, which are thankfully infrequent. The profusion of mature leaves dresses the land in the look of generosity and abundance. Once the leaves are gone, and the prairie plants have diminished, it seems empty and lonely and cold, except for the tall russet covering of big blue stem, Indian grass and the other hardy tall grasses.

I like the late fall and winter on the prairie. No insects, no snakes, no suffering through high heat and humidity, and I have to work pretty hard to get poison ivy. I do not mind the winter months. But like every living thing, I welcome the return of the leaves each spring.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jack and the Blue Bicycle

I do not know why, but I have been remembering Jack the neighbor boy who was a year ahead of me in school. He was my nemesis in several categories. He asked fifth grade questions, confident I could not answer since I was merely in fourth grade. I hated that he was always right. Almost fifty years later it finally occurs to me that he could easily have been lying. No body is right ALL the time. I conceded to his older and wiser pronouncements whether I was right or wrong in his slightly mean-spirited Jack Jeopardy.

Though I was strong and tough from riding horses since I was old enough to sit up, Jack was a boy, and one year older, a worthy opponent. I wanted to win when we raced our bikes, or played tag, or war, or whatever game the neighborhood gang was playing. I do not remember losing foot races but I certainly remember losing when we raced bicycles. Jack had an old heavy metal bike, a relic from the last decade, maybe older, maybe even before WWII. I did not have a bike, so I had to race riding his bike, while he rode his older brother's "newer" bike. Though he normally won, I at least had a fighting chance.

Then, my mother ordered a brand new blue Sears and Roebuck 26" girl's bike for me. It had a battery powered light and white handle grips. There was a flat steel platform above the back fender, with white pin striping. I could beat Jack riding my brand new bike. For a short, glorious, euphoric stretch, I won every race against Jack, confidently hauling past him on my new blue bicycle, taunting him into a race to the end of the block, to the school, past Robinson's bushes. Those were sweet days of victory and vindication and outright gloating. I rubbed it in - deep.

But then, my mother, the woman who found a million and three ways to ruin my life at every opportunity, slammed a sudden and horrible handicap on my racing victories. There was only one reason money was spent for such an extravagant purchase: to help my mother. I walked to the little grocery store downtown at least every other day to purchase a few bags of groceries and cigarettes for my mother. If I had wheels, my mother could expect far speedier deliveries. My birthday falls a few days before Christmas, so getting a new bike in the summer was suspect from the first.

The full enormity of her diabolical plan was revealed when Grandpa showed up to install big, ugly wire baskets on either side of the rear tire. Now I could haul fifty pounds of groceries for my mother. I was the only kid in town with old-lady wire baskets on her bike. The thrill of whipping Jack at bike racing was severely diminished. It was difficult to be cool and fast when your bike looked like the Wicked Witch of the West's evil contraption.

My luck crashed even further for within a week or so of the wire basket installation, Jack and his brother and sister received brand new bicycles. They were made overseas of unobtainium, with narrow tires and sparkly paint. My big American steel roadster with wide tires and ugly baskets could not compete against Jack's racers. I clearly remember the depressing realization that I would never again win a bike race against Jack - not unless I could talk him into trading bikes. One time he consented to ride my old-lady bike and let me ride his golden Ferrari bicycle in a race. I won easily but it was the last time. After that, he would not trade bikes and I would not race him, no matter what he said to goad me. We were still friends, and we still rode bikes together, but there was no racing.

Several years ago for my birthday, my kids took me to a restaurant in Lawrence. In late December, in the dark and snow, chained to a light post by the front doors, where I could not miss it, was an old Sears girl's bike with a flat metal platform above the rear fender. It was the same color blue and had white pin striping. It had been restored. It was minus the baskets, but it was the very same model my mother had ordered out of the Sears catalog decades ago.

I was delighted and explained it was exactly like the brand new bicycle my mother had ordered for me one summer. My daughter said "It's Grandma saying happy birthday to ya, Mom." And so it was.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Well Spent Weekend

Janiva Magness came to town again, so Saturday night my daughter and I were in a bar - again. Listening to Janiva and her band - again. We had a great time - again. This could become a habit...

Sunday, we rode the motorcycles to visit my son. It was an almost perfect day for riding - cool enough for a jacket but warm enough to be pleasant. The three of us scheduled the afternoon together to see the movie Jackass 3 in 3D. I have to say, if you are going to spend good money to watch those jackasses writhing on the ground, clutching their crotches, it should be in a college town surrounded by young men who find Johnny Knoxville and his crew of nitwits incredibly funny. I admit there were several scenes that had me laughing so hard, I could not catch my breath. There is not a single socially redeeming aspect to those Jackass movies, except two hours go by and not a single worrisome thing crosses your mind. As the credits rolled at the end, we were treated to photos of each of the men as little boys. There was no indication in any of those cute little faces of their destinies as America's most famous full grown idiots.

Now it is Monday morning and I am faced with the same old grind. Maybe Knoxville has it right after all....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Photos for The Handsome Earth post

Cottonwoods


Tall grass


Across the valley


The End of Sunflowers this year


The End

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Handsome Earth

Farewell to the summer of 2010. It was terrible weather for human beings and best to have that suffering behind us. Every warm blooded creature suffered, especially me, and all who had to listen to my complaining. The prairie plants surely considered it a great season, resplendent now in autumn colors and newly refreshed with last night's easy rain. It was mild thunder and half-hearted lightning as if even thunderstorms are worn out and tired.

The fall weather has been uncommonly gorgeous, a reward for surviving the brutal summer. The prairie is red and gold and russet. When I see the hills covered in these rich fall colors, the word that comes to mind is "handsome", in the way a very attractive woman sometimes deserves to be called handsome. It is a word for her entire bearing, not a reference only to a single attribute in her appearance.

Dictionary.com defines the the word 'handsome' as:
1. having an attractive, well-proportioned, and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength; good looking.
2. having pleasing proportions, relationships, or arrangements, as of shapes, forms, or colors; attractive.
3. exhibiting skill, taste, and refinement; well made.
4. considerable, ample, or liberal in amount.
5. gracious; generous; flattering.
6. adroit and appealing; graceful.

The prairie is handsome in every aspect.

A woman falls in love with the spot upon the earth that provides her home, and that spot does not have to be beautiful, handsome, majestic, comfortable, safe, lovely, easy or extraordinary. We fall in love with the earth because it is our mother. We could not exist in physical bodies without the agreement of the earth to provide our bodies and all that is needed to sustain them.

If humanity had remained in matriarchal tribes, worshiping the feminine aspect of our existence, exalting the nurturing and abundant aspects of our great mother, every living thing would have fared better. Now we stand at the threshold of environmental apocalypse brought on by the greed and avarice of the worst of masculine attributes found in our collective human spirit.

In a singular act of aggression, humanity violated the moon in October last year, detonating a bomb on that utterly passive soil. Science was searching for water and claims the explosion was successful. Now science can proceed with its plan to colonize the moon.

I worry that when I reincarnate on earth in the future, the face of the moon will be defaced and desecrated by the same pollution, mining, greed and disregard with which humanity has ruined the earth. I see no redemption at hand for either the earth or the moon. There is certainly no redemption for the prairie. The remaining acres of untouched tall grass will soon be gone forever. I do not have to reincarnate to witness that tragedy.

For now, I love these handsome vistas, and give my heartfelt thanks for my chance here this time around.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Missed Opportunity

There have been a few times when I missed the chance at a great photograph because I did not have a camera. One memorable, regrettable instance passed on a beach in Hawaii. Visiting my daughter and her family for the Christmas holidays, one thing I wanted to do was spend the night beside the ocean. Thanks to my son in law's military service, we had access to a beautiful beach and camping area.

I was up with the sunrise in order to do some water painting, leaving everyone else asleep in the tents. For a while I had the entire beach to myself, but a few people arrived for an early morning swim. Even though I was comfortable with the cool morning, just coming from winter in Kansas, I would have had to toughen up to swim in the ocean that early in the morning!

A young woman arrived with her three small sons in tow. She had a surf board, and each boy had a small board. The woman was beautiful, Asian or Polynesian, with a mane of shining black hair. Her sons were in stair steps, about eight, six and four years old, each dressed in the short wet suits that surfers wear. Their little boards matched their suits in color - red, blue or yellow. No arguing or mistakes over which suit or board belonged to which boy.

The little family entered the water together, the boys as sleek and as playful as otters. Soon, the boys came out of the water, stuck their boards upright in the sand and sheltered behind them. They did this so their mother could swim out alone on her board. The brightly colored suits and boards, with the three beautiful children crouched together was the missed opportunity. I hurriedly sketched the scene with pencil, but I deeply regretted that my camera was lying uselessly back in the tent.

Those little boys were motionless and silent, their eyes fixed on their beautiful young mother enjoying her few minutes of freedom in the ocean. There was no question of the boys sneaking back into the water while their mother was swimming. This was something the four of them did routinely. They knew to wait patiently for their mother to return.

Perhaps it is better that I did not have a camera because the entire experience is firmly in my mind and not confined to a small photograph. I imagine that those boys now, about fifteen, thirteen, and eleven, are old enough that they do not wait on the beach but paddle out with their mother at sunrise in the gold and turquoise waters of Hawaii.

Visit the same beach here, at sunrise.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Motorcycles and Weddings and The First Days of Fall...

I deleted all the messages from my phone last night, even though I knew I would probably regret it. I deleted important factual information. My speedster brother was at the track again with his snarlin' Harley dragster and turned in some impressive times and speeds - he seems to be hitting the 108 and 109 mph range regularly, and his times are improving to the 10 and 11 second range. He also has the timing tree figured out already and actually hit the green in .001 of a second. Not bad for an old man. Not bad at all. If I had not deleted everything from the phone, I would have the exact numbers.

My son and I attended a wedding together Saturday evening. It was a lovely wedding held in the beautiful area of Lake Shawnee that hosts the annual pow wow, though I hardly recognized the grounds without the vendors and tents and people. Rain delayed the wedding but it brought everyone together inside. The bride was lovely in a white gown embroidered with red cherry blossoms. The maids of honor were dressed in beautiful red dresses, and the men were resplendent in black tuxedos with red ties. I do not know when I have seen a more beautiful bridal party, ever.

I have known the bride since she was chosen, along with my son, to greet emissaries from Russia in a ceremony at the Topeka Historical Museum. The treasures of the Czars were to be brought to Topeka for public display. A small collection of children of various ethnicity were chosen from my son's school. I believe the children were also chosen for their beauty. The bride's family tree extends to Puerto Rico and she has the long black tresses and exotic eyes of a princess. Always a beautiful girl, as a young woman, she was a vision of great beauty and happiness Saturday. Hopefully, her husband will always know to count himself as one of the luckiest men on the planet. I wish much happiness and good fortune to the young couple for all of their lives.

The bride's youngest sister and her brother are both members of their high school drum line, and they performed at the wedding reception. It was outrageous and marvelous! The best thing is that we can go to football games and other events to catch their performances again and again, though nothing will ever match being crammed into a small building within inches of the drums and cymbals, celebrating with two hundred other happy people....

Saturday night was wonderful, in every way.

Sunday afternoon I noticed that while the prairie is still tall and blooming with sunflowers and grasses and butterflies, leaves were beginning to fall. The plants are already diminishing, heading toward the ground for the winter and rest. All is right in my world right now. For just this small moment, it is perfect.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Aldebaran and Little Sophie - Mice Executioners


Little Sophie.

If you have lived on a farm, or come from farm people, you know that a "good mouser" is a cat expert at catching and destroying mice. Little Sophie is a good mouser, the highest compliment for a working cat.

The new kitten Sophie resembles my former, late cat Aldebaran in physical appearance and in personality. Aldebaran was the absolute ruler of her universe. When my daughter's cats were staying with me, safely quarantined from Aldebaran in the back bedroom, she cornered my adult daughter in the hallway with vicious spitting, growling and attacks. Aldebaran knew my daughter was the one responsible for those two interlopers. A good monarch knows how to maintain order in her realm, including demanding respect from humans.

Aldebaran kept this house free of mice. They may have ventured in, but once here, their rodent hours were numbered. With stone-like perseverance, Aldebaran would wait motionless for a mouse to come out of hiding. Once in the open, mice were caught and executed with laser precision, their carcasses deliberately and disdainfully discarded in the middle of the living room floor. This was calculated to strike fear into her enemy's heart, and serve as a warning to all vermin, including humans.

In time, Sophie may be better at catching mice than Aldebaran. Sophie has already caught adult mice. I do not think she has killed them yet. I have not seen any dead mice, or found any severed parts. Sophie is still an inexperienced baby and the mice must take their miraculous second chance at life to leave the premises. Soon enough any mouse in here will be a "dead mouse walking".

No life is complete without a cat, so I am happy to have another cat. Thanks to Sophie the Mouser Extraordinaire, the quality of life at Spirit Creek has improved. Woe to the hordes of mice. A new Executioner has arrived. It is just a matter of time, Mice.

The late Aldebaran, viciously killed by King the stray dog. She fought like the warrior she was until the end.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ginger The Terrible

My horse Ginger was in a terrible mood yesterday. The farrier arrived early, so I did not have time to call Ginger up and have her calmed down with grooming, carrots, fly spray, and lavish amounts of love and attention.

Ginger still comes when called, but she is no hurry. When Annie was here, it was a horse race to see who could thunder past me first at break neck speed. Now that Ginger is alone, the entire universe revolves around her haughty fat rear end. She AMBLED toward the barn, easily slipped away from me when I tried to get the halter on her, refused to lead, refused to move until I slapped her rear with the end of the rope. What a snot!

Then Ginger did not want to cooperate with Terrie (the farrier) by graciously moving her left hind hoof. In fact, after a mild struggle with Terrie, she signaled her defiance by actually kicking. She did not kick at Terrie and she did not kick viciously, but it was a kick - a huge indiscretion. She got clobbered for it, but Ginger is the type of horse that a mere slap from a human is about as meaningful as the flies she swishes away with her tail.

I am not sure why Ginger was behaving badly. Most of the time she cooperates with the farrier. I guess, if you were born to be the Queen, and there is no one to rule, you take subjects where you find them, and human beings can be pushed around easier than horses. I was embarrassed and worried. A good farrier is a valuable commodity. Terrie might cross Ginger off The List.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Possible Factors As To Why The Masters Degree Took So Long...

First, gather course materials and meet with your study companions. It is essential that everyone is comfortable. Check that your crackberry is in working condition. Text an announcement to all 732 friends and colleagues that you are now commencing to study. Tie up loose ends with friends and colleagues before beginning. No distractions.


Study companions should be familiar with your method of study. Their interest and support is invaluable.




At some point, study companions will signal their interest for getting to the task at hand.

Proceed with study session already!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Nine Second Motorcycle

My crazy brother traveled all the way to Baltimore last winter to purchase a Harley dragster from another crazy man. It is a time machine that can cover a quarter of a mile from a dead stop in just over nine seconds.

Last Friday, my brother rode this drag bike for the first time. On the maiden run, he reached a top speed of 81. I was relieved. 81 mph is not even scary. Each time he took this monster bike down the strip, he was more confident. He and his entourage of about a dozen men tweaked the machine and the fuel/air mixture, and who knows what strange knowledge they were wielding in the moving parts of that motorcycle? On the final run of the night, my brother clocked a top speed of over 109 miles per hour but he is just gettin' warmed up!

When he gets the machine performing perfectly - when he is comfortable and entirely confident rocketing down the track - he will reach speeds over 145 mph. Crazy!

Watch one of the first runs here.

PS: 9.84 seconds in the quarter mile = 148 miles per hour. Randy has not achieved that speed or time, yet. Pretty fast for an old guy.

My Harley Davidson







My 2006 Harley Davidson Street Bob. Nice, huh?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Close of Another Story...


The Evil Roo - no longer handsome but still macho.

Tuesday morning when I stepped out the front door to feed the critters, there were pieces of one of my chickens. A foot - the flight feathers of one wing attached by the merest of tissues - the head, neck and a few bones of the body, stripped absolutely bare of flesh. By deduction I realized the Evil Roo had met his fate here in the bend of Spirit Creek.

I cannot say that I will miss him. He attacked me on a regular basis. He had the last "word". The deep puncture wound he inflicted on the back of my leg a couple of weeks ago is still healing. He was brave and kind to his flock, and I am just a bit sad at his passing. I doubt if he weighed much more than 16 ounces but he was not afraid to fly at the back of my head, attack my legs, or whatever part of my body he could reach. As far as chickens go, he was pretty smart. He was also a true gentleman to his babies and ladies.

He was once the smallest chicken in the flock and was pecked and pushed around and chased off by all the other chickens, but he survived and became the King, at least for a little while. He fathered many sons and several daughters. I do not know if he went down fighting during the day, or if some hateful, sneaking critter took his life while he was slumbering. He was a tough little bird. He survived without food and shelter for over 24 hours in the coldest weather in decades. Though no longer handsome, he wore his scars like a grizzled old warrior.

He was a true warrior king.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Another Day in the Mines

Time to get up and slog off to work... ugh. I am very thankful I am not one of the millions of unemployed Americans right now, but sometimes getting up to go to work is like eating the thousandth bowl of oatmeal. Can... hardly... force... myself... to... move....

My life is more valuable than this, I swear.

I think of all the fears present in modern society. If I leave my job, how can I afford health insurance? What if I get sick? Every day I read that financial advisers recommend at least a million dollars in savings before retirement. If I work until I am 115, I will not have a million dollars in savings. Do I want to be an old crazy woman eating cat food and living without electricity? I like to think I have more power in my life than that, but everyone believes they are powerful - right up until doom descends, either quickly or slowly.

I always believed that since I did whatever I ever wanted in my life, I would avoid a mid-life crisis. But now I know a mid-life crisis has nothing to do with what has gone before, but everything to do with what lies ahead, what I still want to do.

As soon as I get my son's college education paid for, I could sell out, saddle up the Harley and head for places unknown. Wonder where I would ultimately arrive?

Welfare line.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Late Summer on the Prairie


The grasses are producing their seeds now, giving the prairie a late summer golden hue.


Here come the sunflowers...


windblown and beautiful!


This photo is included for scale. As I was photographing these sunflowers, they were speaking to me. They sound remarkably like Al Pacino. "They're just gettin' warmed up!"

New Faces at Spirit Creek

Sophie, the new kitten. She is very tiny but already she has started chasing the mice. Look at those claws! Meeeeeooowwww!



Cherokee, the Japanese rooster.



Bambi and Thumper
If only I had been faster, I would have caught the moment this young buck and the escaped flop eared bunny were almost touching noses.




Baby Sister and her successful brood of six peeps. They have all survived because she is a smart little hen, but none of them have been stricken with whatever agent was killing all the babies earlier this summer.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Good Stuff

I woke up this morning thinking about something good, but now I can not remember it. It was good stuff, though - something that feeds my spirit like leaning against my horse's neck, brushing her sleek coat shining like a new penny.

Rolling eighty on the open highway beneath a blue sky, all that Harley horsepower available at the roll of my wrist.

The comforting sound of distant thunder, as if the earth is murmuring to me.

Old friends, people who know my history and love me still. They think my jokes are funny.

Driving the country road toward home every evening, humble as it is, where the escaped bunny lives a free life and Duke, the great rabbit chaser, ignores her.

Good old Duke, that good dog - the good dog. He is good stuff, for sure.

Hot tea with cream.

Pay day.

Breathing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Road Trip

My motorcycle is for sale, so in case it was the last chance for a road trip, I took it on a quick visit to my family in the old home town. The journey started out in sweltering heat. Even though I knew better, I did not take a coat. There was a chance of rain by nightfall but I would arrive well ahead of any storm. When I checked, the weather front was far out in western Nebraska. I had plenty of time.

I have to say, the first 170 miles of the trip was not much fun. It was so hot that I stopped about every 30 or 40 miles to get a bottle of cold water and cool off in air conditioning. The heat rolling off the motorcycle and the road added to my misery whenever I had to slow down, but at highway speed it was tolerable. Instead of moldering away at a desk, where I sell my will to live by the hour, I was on the open road. No complaining allowed.

Late in the afternoon I could see a line of clouds in the west but they did not look like thunderheads. The blue behind them was the same color as the sky before them - just a thin line of innocent white clouds. I was not worried or in much of a hurry until the last fifty miles of the trip when it became clear those clouds were the leading edge of a storm full of lightning and coming in fast. I tried to remember if I had ever heard of a person struck by lightning while on a moving motorcycle. I rolled the throttle and rode hard.

Within seventeen miles of my destination, I had to pull over. It was not raining but the lightning was severe. The wind was gusting so hard that it was difficult to keep the bike in one lane. The final two towns on the drive home have no public places, no businesses where I could take shelter. I stopped in the driveway of a church with a tiny porch roof over a south door. No matter what, I was going to get wet. It was the possibility of being outdoors in 70 or 80 mph straight winds that worried me.

I waited at the church until it seemed the strong front winds had passed. It was not raining yet so I hit the road, riding as fast as I dared. Quite soon it was clear I was heading into a blinding rainfall. It was folly to stay on the road. An empty town that no longer has its own zip code was the last chance for shelter. I did not believe anyone lived there. I left the highway and headed for a collection of buildings. Amazingly enough, I turned a corner and there beneath the shelter of a sturdy porch roof, several people were relaxing in the cooling winds. I stopped and called to them, asking if I could take shelter with them. Even if they were ax murderers, they were a most welcome sight.

They were hospitable and apparently not practicing ax murders. I was warmly invited in and given a glass of iced tea which went down like the finest wine ever served. About forty-five minutes later, the rain passed and the western horizon lightened, so I took my leave. Though my boots were full of water by the time I made it to my stepfather's home, I was alive and well. I had not been struck by lightning, blown off the road , ax murdered or sucked up by a tornado. How lucky can a girl get?


The Last Town

Now, had I followed the original travel itinerary and left the next day at noon as scheduled, the fact that I did not have a coat would never have been an issue. Two of my classmates from the excellent graduating class of 1970 bc heard I was in town. Naturally, I had to wait until they got off work that evening. There was much to be discussed. I did not leave until about an hour before sundown. At least I would not be baking my brains in that helmet for the next four hours.

As soon as the sun went down, I was consumed by thoughts of my warm, snug fitting, tightly zippered, officially sanctioned Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket filled with a mysterious synthetic material that keeps a person's body heat from escaping into space. I could picture it clearly hanging in the closet where I left it the day before. Oh, I pined for it each time the road dipped into air temperature that felt to be 40 degrees! Mile after mile I rode through cold that was not pleasant, punctuated by brief spots of mild warmth. I stopped once to put on every shirt I had with me: a sleeveless shirt, a t shirt, and a long sleeved denim shirt. Even that much cotton was no match for seventy miles an hour through a cool Kansas night.

To distract myself from the cold, I began singing the Plastic Jesus song. At first I could not remember much of it but eventually recalled the two verses from the movie Cool Hand Luke.

Beneath a full moon on a windless night, it was a wonderful ride - not counting the cold. The prairie scents were rich in the cool air. Acres of domestic sunflower blossoms gave a rich green scent, wholesome and fertile. The miles of grasslands were clean, fresh, sweet. Something growing, maybe a particular tree, had a sharp peppery smell that lingered. I came across that scent several times and wondered what plant grew that possessed such a distinct, strong odor distinguished so clearly over all other plants. The corn fields smelled like sweet corn and summer, reminding me of my grandparents. The cool summer air itself was wonderful.

I sort of hope no one wants to buy my motorcycle.

Here's handsome Paul singing Plastic Jesus