Friday, June 26, 2020

THEY ARE BACK!!

What's with all the moths? Miller moths a pest for people, but become a buffet for bears
Yesterday a miller moth flew out of my jeans as I was putting them on. I will not comment on the symbolism of that moment.

Later, another moth flew out of the glass I use to take my pills.

I know they are harmless. They do not bite. They do not chew holes in your clothes or curtains. But they are so rude! They hide in the shadows, along window moldings, on stair bannisters, and in paneling and window frames.  

They are small, dull brownish creatures that you would barely notice if they didn’t move.
As these insects migrate from the plains to the mountains, they seem drawn to my house and front porch and garage. It’s the wood. They like the wood on the porch and the west side of the garage.
And there are so many of them! 

One evening noises from the interior caused me to hesitate before opening the side garage door.  Fearing an intruder, I peeked in only to discover legions of moths flying into the garage windows. There must have been sixty of them hurling themselves against the panes. When I open the garage to drive somewhere, a cloud of moths rushes out over the alley.

Although they seem to be everywhere (little moth corpses pepper my carpets and floors) there are fewer than in years past.  When my two cats were younger, they loved to chase them, catch them, eat them . . . then regurgitate them. By turning off all lights except those in the upstairs bathroom, I would entice both the moths and cats away from other parts of the house then close the door, leaving the insects to their feline fate.

Now I have only one cat, who is old and totally disinterested.

This year’s gang seems, at last, to be diminishing. Those that are not dead have evidently made it to cooler altitudes. And I can put my jeans on without checking.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Getting to know you . . .

I walked around my block this morning.

That’s not a big deal. I’ve lived here almost 18 years. I know the territory.

But today was different. People were outside. We exchanged greetings and pleasantries [from CDC-approved distances]. And in some cases, names [which I will probably forget because I tend to do that].

It was all cheerful and friendly. I learned more about my neighbors. About the kids with amazing bicycle helmets. About the sculptor setting up a new studio, and his wife who created their garden and took their daughter on bike rides. About the retired gentleman fixing up his front yard. Even about the woman re-re-planting a corner of her property where plants seemed never to flourish.

And all it took to ignite this flurry of friendliness was a global pandemic.

Why?

Friday, April 17, 2020

beauty in the time of Covid19


In the middle of a pandemic, there was a heavy snow that transformed our world.
 Even locked inside

Or standing on the front porch






Or walking through the Sculpture Park













We could see how the snow cushioned the trees with beauty
Yes, it battered tulips, but they will probably survive.

And so will we.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

connections

“No man is an island…” Nor woman either. Even though many of us feel stranded in a fearful sea, none of us is.

Legions of people are working on our behalf. We have water in our faucets and electricity to illuminate and in myriad ways facilitate our existence. The Internet keeps us quasi-connected , which is better than nothing. I’m still getting my newspapers and the mail delivery people still bundle my mail so I can bring it in with one hand (my left wrist still healing from a break). And a therapist works to make me functional.

Farmers and clerks are still managing to provide sustenance. Television still provides both essential information and diversion. My old cat provides comfort and my vet still provides the special food and medicine to keep him going. My pharmacist conjures needed medication. Texts and telephone and occasionally Skype help us keep track of each other. And new developments, like Zoom, promise new forms of connection.

And do not (ever) discount the wondrous benefits of sunshine and emerging tulips and trees pregnant with thousands of new leaves.

And chocolate.

I have long loved John Donne’s poem, written more than 400 years ago. [And now forgive its myopic gender focus because this particular time and circumstance calls for our acknowledgement and celebration of human connections.]

No man is an island, 
Entire of itself; 
Every man is a piece of the continent, 
 A part of the main. 
 If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, 
As well as if a promontory were: 
As well as if a manor of thy friend's Or of thine own were. 
 Any man's death diminishes me, 
Because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Caramel Sun


On January 30, the New York Times published a remarkable photograph on its front page. It had nothing to do with the nation’s politics, the Middle East or the corona virus. In fact, it looked like some kind of popcorn ball. Perhaps a caramel popcorn ball. 

What it really was, was a closeup of the sun. Each of the ‘kernels’ is about the size of Texas. Each carries heat from the inside of the sun to the outside. When the hot gas cools and sinks, it creates the dark lines separating the cells (or popcorn kernels).

The remarkable image was taken from the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope atop Haleakala. This ancient cratered volcano is sacred to native Hawaiians who named it House of the Sun in their language.

The photo reveals that the bland yellow orb we in this hemisphere so welcome this time of year is actually a seething cauldron. The solar rays seen during eclipses can reach a million degrees Fahrenheit. Every second, thermonuclear reactions in the center of the sun turn 5 million tons of hydrogen into pure energy.

That energy makes its way outward through boiling gas pocked with magnetic storms that crackle, whirl and lash space with showers of electrical particles and radiation.

Never assume that what you perceive is the whole of reality.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Louisiana State Penitentiary


Why on earth would a vacation tour stop at a maximum-security prison? I suspect that the state of Louisiana encouraged Road Scholar to include a visit to Angola to burnish the state’s reputation. It worked. 
   
I do not believe that we were shown all aspects of the Louisiana State Penitentiary.  Looking online, I saw reports and images that were more like what one would expect. Still, what we did see was encouraging, giving me a little more hope for our species.

The prison sprawls over 18,000 acres, housing some 5,000 male prisoners, most of whom are serving life sentences with no possibility of parole. At one time the prison had the reputation of being a bloody and dangerous place – the worst in the country.    
Now, not so much. The prisoners work: on the rich farmland and in cottage industries. They have their own television station, broadcasting throughout the complex. They have places of worship for most religions. They even have service clubs. And an annual rodeo. They have created a sort of alternate universe where they can have almost normal lives while incarcerated.

Our tour had come up the Mississippi from New Orleans on a paddlewheel boat. We disembarked and boarded  a bus that took us into the  vast prison complex. Our first stop was at the stables where we ‘met’ some horses. We drove through fields brimming with produce then we stopped in front of what looked like a chapel. 



Entering, sitting in the pews, we saw two men, each holding the leash for a dog. It turned out that the men, both prisoners, were training the dogs to be service dogs for veterans. Dogs are rescued from shelters and the offenders work with them over the course of a year until they are ready to help veterans restore their physical and emotional independence.




Wow.   
                           

Friday, November 15, 2019

Amazing Grace

During any trip there are moments that are indelible. Something happens that is so special that you want to remember it forever.

Recently, I participated in a Road Scholar tour that included a visit to the Antioch Baptist Church outside Natchez, Mississippi.

When we entered the modest sanctuary, I was a little disappointed because there were only about a dozen congregants standing in the choir loft. Then the music began. Beautiful, rich voices, singing in terrific harmony.


Then they invited us to join them. The songs were songs like “Amazing Grace” which everyone knew. I hesitated, unsure of my ability to climb into the loft, but went as soon as I saw there was a railing I could use. I made it up and joined the performance. It filled me with joy.

Before I climbed into the loft, I saw a woman from the tour who had proceeded me and who was singing with her whole soul. She and her husband were a couple I had ‘connected’ with – often sitting with them at meals. I think her husband was a judge and she was a Chicago matron (possibly Jewish). I used my smart phone to take a rather dim photo of a stunning moment – one that I will treasure for a long time.



 ‘Amazing Grace’ indeed.