Thursday, December 27, 2012

Going To The Movies

I received a holiday gift card from my employer.  It was either the dollars or a ham but you cannot turn a ham into a visit to Middle Earth and that is what I did with my greatly appreciated gift - I went to see The Hobbit.  Though I have been inwardly wincing over the cost of admission to the new movies, I have decided to consider the ticket price as a personal donation to one of the greatest art forms the world has produced so far.

Of course, Peter Jackson is only filming characters channeled by an author a long time ago.  No modern film character will ever have the staying power of characters who came to earth through the printed page.  A cynic might say our admission price also goes to make actors rich.  That is fine with me, too.  Imagine how dreadful it would be if the beloved characters were portrayed by inept actors!  (Remember Brad Pitt as Louie in Interview With The Vampire?  He ruined the movie with his dismal lack of skill, though he certainly looked good while doing so.) 

One can also argue that a $5 plastic cup of carbonated corn syrup and carcinogens is a big rip off.  But consider the number of teenagers entering the workforce via movie theaters.  It offers a safe and fairly pleasant place to begin their participation in the American system of capitalism. 

Then you have to consider what the cost of the ticket gives you, how utterly enchanting it is to visit in full technicolor splendor the Shire and Rivendale.  When the Lady Galadriel made her film appearance as the guardian of Middle Earth, I BELIEVED.   She appeared exactly as an Elven queen of great wisdom and powerful magic.  If Gaia herself were to incarnate, she would be no more breathtaking.

I am saying it is a win-win-win-win situation.  Movies are worth the price of admission to Middle Earth... or into space... or war.... or back in time... or to hell... or wherever else we can imagine.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman...

It is Christmas again, so soon.  The years do roll on.  Christmas has become mostly a non-event in my immediate family.  I still have great memories of the few Christmas morns before I realized my parents were lying about Santa Claus, and the memories when my children believed my lies about about Santa Claus.  Why do we lie to our children about such a thing?  It is antithesis to Christmas. 

If lying about Santa is not enough to give you a lifelong series of winter blues, there are the adult years of Christmas excess, commercialism, and people being trampled to death at Walmart and Best Buy.  Actually, this year I did not hear of anyone being trampled to death but perhaps I was not listening because all that was in the news was the big gun "debate".  I had to turn it off. 

I was once a Christian, if believing in Jesus with all of your heart makes you a Christian.  But that too has been stripped from Christmas by all of the lights and needless expense and the fact that our retailers can only stay in business if they do well between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Bah.  Humbug.  Now I know that Jesus was one of many ascended souls who came to earth in an attempt to teach us we do not need the NRA telling us what to do.  The thing is, I look for Jesus in others the year 'round because he never existed in Christmas and he never intended to exist in Christmas.  Like a lot of other things, Christmas is something we just made up, probably to make ourselves feel better about the long nights and short days.  Thank goodness Jesus can still be found in such people as Barry Feaker of the Topeka Rescue Mission, and all of his brethren across the entire world who truly feed the hungry and shelter the homeless.

As is the custom in my empty nest, I honor the day by doing something small and special for my companion animals.  I am not attempting to contaminate them with the horrible abyss Americans have made of the idea of Christmas.  It is for nostalgia's sake, and because it is as good a day as any to acknowledge how much I truly love and appreciate the ying-yangs.  Ginger and Wally are receiving brand new lime green buckets that hang on the fence so they can eat their morning oats with ease.  I will have to tie the buckets to the fence but even then I do not expect them to last long.  The horses will only care about those buckets exactly as long as there are oats in them. 

The dogs Duke and Jake get two milk bones for breakfast.  I will sneak the old Dukenator a couple of extra because, even though he is old and cannot get around on his four legs any better than I can get around on my two, he still stands in the middle of the driveway barking to warn me when Dan and his crew arrive to work on the new house.  For all Duke knows, those trucks might be driven by meth addicts, not carpenters.  Jake runs to hide.   

Later in the day I am going to meet with the real Ying-Yangs, my adult children.  We are going to spend the afternoon together thoroughly enjoying ourselves despite the fact that all three of us are entirely broke and cannot afford a horrible American Christmas this year.  We are not so broke that we are spending the day with Barry Feaker, so we have much to be thankful for.

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

So, the World Did Not End After All

The world still exists today, December 22, 2012.  People were hoping for the end of the world because they do not want to face the consequences of our collective actions.  The problems faced on a global scale seem too enormous and impossible to remedy.  The problems faced in our own country seem insurmountable.  The world requires a new mindset from humans, her most problematic inhabitants.

Faced with the escalating slaughter of innocents by deranged men, the gun "debate" becomes a psychotic argument in the theater of the absurd. The NRA's solution to post armed guards in our elementary schools is, in a word, insane.  Anything to perpetuate their own argument and avoid their responsibility for the mounting terror and civil tragedy of gun violence seems reasonable to the NRA.  They actually believe humanity can be divided between the good guys and the bad guys.  If only the world were so simple. 

We are also seeing our national psychosis succinctly demonstrated in the current congressional dysfunction to avoid a needlessly self-inflicted financial crisis that threatens not only the recovering American economy but the world economy as well.  Want to argue one side or the other?  Convinced you are right and the other side is wrong?  We are our own government.  This is what our insanity looks like, feels like, and what happens when the pandering and posturing claims the human ego.  Apparently we have not had enough of this immersion therapy into crazy.  We want to ride it to the utterly asinine conclusion and suffer like the bastards we are.

I am not encouraged nor inspired by the news "in these generally wretched times".  Somewhere many years ago I read that phrase but do not know to whom it should be attributed.  I have never forgotten it because it perpetually sums up the current state of the world.  There is always something horrible occurring that humanity must face on the grand scale:  disease, ignorance, intolerance, inequity, injustice, inequality - the plague, Inquisition, slavery, the Holocaust, world wars, climate change, natural disasters, monumental political stupidity, ignorance, Fox News.  The list is endless.

I assume "we" are heading in some general direction as we collectively learn from our horrific and tragic mistakes.  Though there are still instances of slavery in this world, no government sanctions it.  We still need a lot of work learning not to imprison and torture our fellow human beings for ideological or philosophical differences.  It appears that women are rising up all over the world at last.  If we learn to grant one another respect and equality, we can perhaps grant the earth the same respect.

Cheers to social evolution.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


This single flock of migrating geese extended far past the view of the camera lens in both directions.  There were thousands of birds!

When the geese were disturbed by other photographers, their wings and their alarm calling made an enormous sound.  The photos cannot convey the numbers nor the experience of witnessing thousands of large birds take flight as one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Long Island, Kansas

I recently had occasion to visit the fine town of Norton, Kansas located in north central part of the state.  Driving there on a fine winter's morn, I passed a sign that read "Long Island 9 Miles North" with a bold arrow pointing the way.  In the clear sunlight, it caught my eye and piqued my curiosity.  I had never heard of Long Island, Kansas. 

When people settled the West they surely named the new communities for the places they had left behind, places they were likely to never see again.  I assume that most were named with tongue in cheek.  Pittsburg, Princeton, Oxford, Assaria, Alexander, Everest, Delphos, Washington, Jamestown, Lebanon, Manhattan - all Kansas towns but by no means is it an exhaustive list of famous place names scattered across the state. 

On the way home Sunday, I made it a point to see what had become of the settlers' dreams in the place they named Long Island.

The settlers may have left this relic behind.  It is the only one in all of Kansas, I think!

Puts me in mind of Honolulu...

Looking north, from city limit to city limit.  Bet New Yorker's cannot do that in their Long Island!

The settlers sense of humor seems to have survived as well. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Great State of Kansas

At the break of day.

The last of daylight on the Kansas River

Sunrise means breakfast is on the way.  Even though standing at the fence does not inspire their servant to move any faster, they can always hope.
The great state of Kansas will not attract anyone based on beauty alone.  You likely have to be born here to appreciate the subtle beauty, or what remains of the natural beauty, that is. 

Regardless of the extended drought and the double curse of winter, the prairie retains a vibrant color, signaling life force safely stored fifteen feet beneath the soil.  It is what sustained the buffalo hunters then the invaders and now the descendants of both.  This is the fading beauty that causes me such grief witnessing its gradual dissolution into the American worldview of pollution, genetic tampering, chemicals, land development and destruction.

The Kansas River, ranked as the 21st most polluted American river by one source, is still beautiful.  The sand bars are treacherous, claiming lives when they collapse, and the water claiming lives when the foolish try to navigate a flooding river.  Unless we turn the Kansas into a flood canal, the river will survive us.

I have no answers for the problems of so many human beings on the planet - how to feed and clothe them all.  I have no idea how to stay the avalanche of change and progress that has claimed almost all of the buffalo and the buffalo hunters.  The invaders will be next to fall away into history.  The sun will continue to rise and set over this place presently known as Kansas long after the Americans are long gone.  Hopefully there will always be a patch of tall grass somewhere, glowing red and handsome in the early light, but all things seem to have their time under the sun.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mt. Home

The descendants of the Hunter/Gatherers can do this with opposable thumbs and electric saws.
Friday evening as I drove the final quarter mile toward home, I could see that the walls were standing in the new construction.  It was too dark to take any distance photos, so I gave up until Saturday morning.  But I did not wait to go into the shell of the new house.  Because I was a professional draftsman in the first half of my career, it was easy to visualize the house from the drawings.  Reality packs a much more emotional punch than imagination!  As I walked through the future rooms, exactly as they were laid out on paper, I was overwhelmed.  I looked out the windows and doors and walked through the closets - tried the place on for size, you could say. 

So here is my new house taking shape on Mt. Home, the only practical point on the original six acres where FEMA would allow me to build without buying flood insurance for the rest of my life.  Just a few feet of elevation put the house entirely out of the flood plain.  (I could have built beside the barn, but that would be a lot of horse manure right out the back door!)

When the old house is razed and hauled away, the view will be to the west, across the bend of the creek.  To the south, from my bedroom window, I will be able to see the running water of Spirit Creek (should it ever have water in it again).  I believe I will have to hire someone with a brush hog to clear some of the underbrush to capitalize on that view.  It does not compare to the Pacific Ocean from the cliffs of northern California, but it will suit me just fine. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Tuesday Night
Wednesday night.

Jake was missing again and where do you suppose I found him?
I direct your attention to the pink material to the right of Jake.  Imagine walking out on a fine sunny Tuesday morning to find two rolls of that material strung from hell to breakfast, shredded and chewed and glowing in the fine golden light of dawn.  Bad dog. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Embarrassed Dog

I did not get home until after 7:30 tonight and it was very dark.  It took a couple of minutes before I realized a dog was missing - the most irritating one.  Jake was gone.  There had been a lot of activity at the building site today - a lot of dirt work and more big equipment parked around in the dark.  I called and called for Jake but there was no sign of him. 

I drove up the road in both directions, calling for him.  The horses came running to the gate because if I come to the gate at night it normally means pears or apples or peppermints.  I was empty handed.  I told them they should blame Jake.

I could hear my neighbor's dog barking and wondered if Jake had left home due to all of the commotion and strange people here today.  I wondered if I had run over him in the dark and he had dragged himself away to die.  (I am such an optimist!)  I was beginning to feel very bad about the situation.  I was happy that my last encounter with him had been a kind one, when I actually petted his head and told him he was a good boy even though it was not true.  Despite the fact that every day I am irritated with that dog, I knew if he were truly gone, I was going to be a very sad old lady.

After a half hour of calling, I drove the car up to the barn so I could use the car lights to see if he was hiding in the hay.  He was not there and the horses behaved as if there were no animals at all in their vicinity.  I came in the house to check the phone for messages, thinking if Jake had been run over by some of the big machinery today, Dan the builder would probably have at least left a message about it.  No messages.  Then, out of the blue, I got the idea to check if the nitwit had fallen into the crawl space of the new house and could not get out.  Sure enough, when I called to him from the edge of the new foundation, I heard the tiny, faint whine of an embarrassed dog.  I had to get the car to have enough light to not break my neck walking over the uneven ground to the "window" in the foundation wall.  Jake was waiting for me.  I had to haul him out by his collar because there was just no other way but it did not seem to bother him.  He was ecstatic and I was greatly relieved.  Duke was not too happy about it but what could he do?  It was a round of milk bones for the canines and a big piece of chocolate for me. 

I hope Jake just fell in and did not follow some wild critter into the hole.  If there is a wild animal trapped in the crawl space, the construction guys will have to deal with it.  Hopefully Jake learned his lesson.

Even though it is a bad photo, you can see why I was sad Jake was missing tonight.


Tall Grass Prairie Reserve National Park Makes Me Grouchy

The only bird I was able to photograph with the telescopic lense - I was not quick enough for the others!

Fungus, growing in December?

My hiking abilities limited me to this single vista.

I thought I had photographed a little bird bathing in this crystal pool.  When I downloaded the images, it appears I captured a rock that looks remarkably like a domestic chick.

Have to give the Nature Conservancy brownie points for trying, but these signs made us laugh, right out loud.  The parking lot was tiny and this reward was so negligible as to make it not worth the environmental pollution required to manufacture the signs!
I finally made the trip to the Tall Grass Prairie Reserve National Park, though it is not the best time of year to view the prairie.  The verdant spring would be the most beautiful season to visit, but December is guaranteed to not draw many visitors.  The less people I have to deal with, the happier I am.  I still found cigarette butts and dogshit in the trails. 

"Tallgrass prairie once covered more than 170 million acres of the United States, from Indiana to Kansas and from Canada to Texas. Nearly all of it is gone, plowed under for agriculture or urban development."  All the more reason to let tourists toss their butts around and their dogs shit where the rest of us walk.  At least the dogshit will eventually dissolve.

As limited as I am by painful knees, I was still able to walk almost a mile and a half.  I grieved that I was not able to take the six mile hike in order to see the most beautiful part of the reserve but that is why we have digital photography available on the internet:  Tall Grass Prairie National Park

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Reign of Mice Draws Ever Closer to an End...

It took two big trucks and several men to set up this towering configuration of technology to pump concrete in for the crawl space floor.  I really wanted to watch but was too shy, so I left in my car after taking a few photos from a distance.

Tell me how a single stinking mouse will get into this concrete fortress, huh?!  Eat concrete, Rodents!

And then I spied this Achilles Heel... a virtual 16 lane highway for the little bastards!  This will be covered by something - a 1/2" steel plate - a hot, glowing layer of uranium - a maze of 1000 set mouse traps - something!