Within Reason

A day and night spent in the forest, always inspires me to think more clearly. I write this post after one such excursion. Anyone who knows me, understands my mind is always searching for examples to further explain my personal principles. Mother Nature never disappoints me in that endeavor.

I align myself with conservatives. Conservatives have a healthier respect for caution and personal responsibility in the greater number of decisions made directing our futures.

At this point, you may be a thinking human being and want further proof or you’ve decided I am a toxic source and therefore, could not impart any wisdom that would apply to your situation. Since, my blog is mostly a medium I use to inform my kids, grand kids and loved ones, I care not whether you read further.

It is important to mention that I do not espouse caution as an instrument to impede change because I also believe in the natural principle of “evolve or die”.

I’d like to share an actual event where caution and careful consideration saved the day.

A group of friends and I were fishing in a river in upstate New York. We had fished our native areas, elsewhere, long enough to recognize all fish species that were native to our area. It wasn’t long before, one friend squealed with delight that she had a BIG one on the line. She landed an eight pound catch. Right away, the fish seemed odd. We had not seen one exactly like it before. There was an undeniable similarity to catfish. We knew catfish! I grabbed her arm, as she reached for the fish, warning that we should not be too hasty. We examined its wide “catfish-like” mouth. The group thought my reluctance a bit maddening. I picked up a nearby stick and pressed down on its lip which revealed large jagged teeth. The group gasped. Those who almost stuck their hand in, thanked me for slowing down their approach. Never once, did I tell them not to keep the fish. No doubt, slowing down the decision on something that was new to us, was annoying and time consuming but ultimately saved us a lot of grief. The fish, by the way, was a Bowfin.

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Bowfin

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A Bowfin Skeleton

I’ll detail other reasons for my conservative leanings in future posts. All I ask when discussing any philosophy with others, is that they have reasons and are willing to share them.

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Labels are for Canned Goods

A can of Koo baked beans.

A can of Koo baked beans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We use labels, and need them, to organize and keep track of things. Ever have an unlabeled can? I have. Once when the label fell off of my green beans, I just put it on the shelf with my vegetables. My cupboards are subject to much shuffling. OK, I’m pretty unorganized and put things in my cupboards in order to stash them away from little kids (I do child day care.).

After awhile, I couldn’t remember if the beans were french style or whole. A small detail but something that I had thought I’d remember.

Then much more time went by. Yes, I was sure the unlabeled can was a can of beans but they were “hanging out” with my baked beans. It didn’t take very long before I was convinced the unlabeled can contained baked beans.

When putting together a meal, I avoided the unlabeled can. I like sure things and began to wonder what brand and flavor the shiny metal mystery held.

Finally, a day before doing my groceries, I was in need of something to accompany hot dogs. I felt adventurous and could see the time stamped expiration date on my mystery beans was rapidly approaching. Why not? I opened the can.

Carrots. What the heck?

I cannot explain what happened. In the imperfect world where labels come off, I had lost track and was operating under an assumption that I would have wagered money on. I was a victim of the old “shell game”.

As amusing as my untidy can goods cupboard is, I thought it held a lesson.

People don’t only use labels on can goods. We try to organize most everything…even people, into categories. The current state of politics has my head reeling. Liberal, conservative, libertarian, tea party, democrat, republican…Yikes. So many labels and, quite frankly, I don’t know which are green beans and which are baked beans anymore.(They might even be carrots!)

Every time I think I know the definition of these political labels, I find they don’t fit the individuals that I want to stick them to. Certainly, none of those labels describe me.

Even the one label, American, has its little asterisk. I read an article about the proposed Dream Act in Time magazine. It was written by an “illegal alien”. I must admit. The label Illegal Alien reminds me of short video clips of Mexicans rushing our borders which then brings the subject of drug cartels to my mind. “Hold on!”, my inner self said. “Read the article first. There just may be carrots where you thought were beans.”

The writer of the article was originally from the Philippines. He was brought here as a kid, has paid taxes, has gone to school, and has said the Pledge of Allegiance (and meant it) . Most of his family is “legal” and upon asking government officials how he might become legal they just plain don’t know how to answer him. You see, the immigration system IS and always was a mess of bureaucracy that they themselves cannot navigate. Kinda like our IRS by the way.

This cover story opened my eyes to one of the human issues involved with “illegals” and how the system is our greater enemy. I’m not in favor of an open border policy, by any means, but I’m glad I took the TIME to check my labels. 😉

Falling Down…Bouncing Back

Stairs

Stairs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I fell down my cellar stairs on Friday.

I’m just fine now. But I think it’s funny what goes through a person’s head when something sudden happens.

First, the whole incident was caused by my rushing to get ready to go to camp. I keep my elderly cat in my cellar because she seems to think my whole house is a litter box when I’m away. The water bowl from the previous weekend was still quite full but I wanted her to have fresh water and sloshed a bit on the stairs as I rushed to rinse and refill it.

Needless to say, wet stairs, hands full and worn sneakers sent me bopping down most of the stairs upon return.

First thought…”Hey, I didn’t drop the glass bowl!” (Most of the water was all over me though.)

Second thought…”I didn’t hit my head, so I’ll live.”

Well, I knew I was going to have some beautiful bruises but my mission to get ready moved along.

The car ride took about 45 minutes. When I arrived, there was the usual age related stiffness and then I tried to walk to my campsite. My left leg would bear none of my weight. I have had broken bones before and this felt oddly familiar. Strange thing was, I had fallen on my right side. What was my left leg doing when I had fallen? Why was it working, until the ride, then stopped?

My husband rushed up and asked if I had hurt myself?

“Yes, I fell down the cellar stairs just before leaving the house.” I laughed it off. “Didn’t hit my head, I’ll live.”

It took me an excruciating 15 minutes to hobble 50 yards. I used my leg as little as possible but was pretending to take my time as I went.

The pain wasn’t in the joint, it was from the bone.

I sat on the swing and had a Twisted Tea. Thought some booze might loosen me up. I couldn’t remember what my left leg had done when I fell? My mind was on those accident victims who walk away from car wrecks to find they had broken bones after all.

That night, I took aspirin. My concern was a blood clot from damage that I was not aware of.

I could not use my leg, at all!

As I prepared for a night on the couch, I imagined myself in a cast by the end of the next day. Gosh, to move it was very painful!

When morning broke, I found that my leg wasn’t. I had function again. I hobbled a little. Not one bruise decorated the area that had hurt the most. Go figure.

Today is Monday…I only remember the fall when my bruised right thigh gets knocked by the kids, even then, it isn’t too bad.

I will never take those stairs at lightening speed again.

If an autopsy is ever done on my poor battered body, I think the Medical Examiner will wonder what truck had hit me and when?

Integrity for my Birthday

A Trivial Pursuit playing piece, with all six ...

A Trivial Pursuit playing piece, with all six wedges filled in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The noun INTEGRITY has 2 senses: 1. an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting
2. moral soundness

The word of the day is integrity.

As my mind wandered (it’s never home), I was enjoying the anticipation of this Monday’s Trivial Pursuit Tournament. My sister and I have the day off in celebration of our April birthdays. (2 days apart)

As luck would have it, I had found out that a few of my friends have the day off too. Donna and I would have fun playing Trivial Pursuit alone, but a tournament with Chinese take-out and Twisted teas, on the side, sounded even better.

So it’s set. Monday we’ll be having a real party.

My next thought, there will be 5 of us. I would propose that the “Birthday Girls” take on the “Guests”. As the home team, we will play with the game that my sister and I have used about 3 other times.

Thought: There may be a question that I have already had in a game played before. What will I do? With hardly any hesitation, I’d reveal this to the guests and ask for a different one.

Thought: How many other people would do the same if the predicament was theirs?

Thought: Why do some people play fair and others “cheat”, especially when they won’t likely get caught?

Integrity is, after all, a selfish thing. Yup, it is a good feeling that we give ourselves. Nothing more, nothing less. The lack of it in society today seems to support those alarming statements. Somehow, people have lost the ability to feel “good” about being moral, not all of them, but an alarming number of them. What we do when no one is watching is ultimately our true measure. My grandfather told me that when he operated the telegraph office, alone, at the railroad, his boss would stop by and profess his visit was to, “keep an honest man, honest.”

We all like to think we are moral and “good”. William J. Bennet (The Moral Compass) so well stated, “Integrity comes with practice. By making moral choices, over and over.”

So, who really benefits from integrity. The person who has it reaps the biggest reward, therefore, it IS selfish.

Definition of SELFISH

1
: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
2
: arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others <a selfish act>
3
: being an actively replicating repetitive sequence of nucleic acid that serves no known function <selfish DNA>; also : being genetic material solely concerned with its own replication <selfish genes>
self·ish·ly adverb
self·ish·ness noun
Okay…I’m trying to be thought-provoking. In all honesty, isn’t life about self.
Doesn’t the hero who charges into a burning building do it because he/she needs to, in order to live with themselves?
They ultimately choose the lesser of two evils: Cowardice and nightmares OR burns/death and freedom from guilt.
It seems to be like the scientific principle of every force being a push. Even when you think you are “pulling” the Radio Flyer by the handle, aren’t you really pushing on the inside of the handle to move it?
SO, You have wandered awhile with my mind. You are on your own now…I have dishes to do. 🙂
BTW- Isn’t it fun when you press spell check and the message “no writing errors” pops up? A good feeling that we, once again, usually only experience alone. Have a good day!

Pals in a Place and Time

Shadow Rough Collie

Shadow Rough Collie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Buffy rolled back his upper lip and grinned. It was the collie in him. He smiled when he was excited and when our car pulled into the dooryard, he was very happy.

I loved him in spite of his lack of kindness to the feral cats. He’d sadly ended the misery for a few who had gotten in his face. I luckily had never witnessed that. This was an oversight in his upbringing that I could not reverse but, as a playmate, he was the very best. He would have given his life to protect me. This I was sure of.

When my parents ended their visit with grandma and grandpa, I would be staying. Buffy and I would have many hours to ourselves.

The chores on my grandparents’ farm, waited for no one. After a very early breakfast, I was left alone to play, while the adults did the morning milking.  Sometimes, I would spend  the first hour among the cows at the new milking “parlor”, but more often, opted to play with my pal and my imagination.

It is only now, that I realize how much my company meant to Buff. Unless the cows got out and he was asked to herd them back, he was overlooked. An occasional pat on the head was the most he could hope for when I wasn’t around.

The sound of house sparrows brings me back to, the two of us , sunning ourselves on the steps. The birds would flutter in the dusty driveway to ward off mites in their feathers. Buffy would lean into me so very hard as I wrapped my arms around his neck. The smell of dust, hay chaff and grease ( from lazing around beneath farm equipment) greeted my nostrils when I buried my face in his fur. A combination that would have been repugnant had it not been the smell of my pal. I’m sure that I will be moved to tears should I find the same odor again. What a bitter sweet surprise that would be.

Then off we’d go. I’d be a master dog trainer and he was my willing pupil. I made up hand signals for him to follow.  I’d wave and he’d jump a bale of hay and follow a maze that I had created. It took many hours and a lot of sweat to manage the hay bales alone. But, I had all day and very friendly company by my side.

Sometimes we’d just sit in the grass on the hill overlooking the barn. Buffy would whine with pleasure as I rubbed his belly. We enjoyed the breeze that that spot always had. The squawk of red-winged blackbirds and the fragrance of  phlox, each bring me right back to those moments. My grandmother’s house was surrounded with phlox of every color and the “crik” below had a marsh where the red-winged blackbirds nested.

Once in awhile, I wish Buffy  could have known what it was like to be a family dog. But, It just would not have fit him somehow. He was a dog of his time.  Instead of wondering “what if ?” , I’ ll  cherish how we belonged to each other, back then, and shared a place and time, where we needed a pal.

Power Doesn’t Look Good on Women

I’ve been wondering why there really haven’t been any exciting women candidates for president. Hillary Clinton was very qualified but “came off” as cold and unfeminine.  Michele Bachmann was an “easy on the eyes” (I know it’s a sexist term but it’s used for both genders.), ball of fire, but came off as a dimwit.

I started to consider the women who impress me most. The qualities that they share are wit and humor. Might we need to turn to comic women in order to fill the presidency?

Erma Bombeck certainly was wise and womanly, with wit. I imagine a President Bombeck offering her best wishes to another world leader over a successful heart transplant. She’d be able to imply, “He was always a heartless creep and this doesn’t change a thing.” while maintaining diplomacy. Americans would love her for the “inside joke” twinkle in her eye.

Yes, I want a funny woman to be president!

All kidding aside, the first woman president of the US will have to come from outside of politics.The political arena just doesn’t produce appealing candidates. Our country isn’t ready for women who appear powerful.  Sorry folks, appearances do matter quite a bit. Getting there is half the battle. I propose a sweep. Let’s search through the Women, Humorist, Writer and Scholar arena for presidential material.

 A woman can carry the sea shell that her 20 month old randomly handed her on his first trip to the beach in the green Ford that she bought for $1,900.00, in 1972, from the neighbor and always know exactly where it is. About time we give her a chance at managing a nation. Lord knows, she already manages everything else.

Join the celebration of International Women’s Day !

The Stocked-up Feeling

The roads are a little slick today and snow continues to sugar-coat the area.

When you live in New England, traveling at all in the winter is not a guarantee. This winter has been very easy on us. The series of alternating freezing and balmy temps have kept accumulating snow at bay. (I am worried about my perennial flowers though. Snow cover is much better for them.) Anyway, there is a feeling that most New England dwellers may identify with. I call it the “stocked-up feeling”.

This morning my husband dropped me at the supermarket as he ran banking errands. The slippery travel awakens a survival instinct to stock up just in case the weather worsens and you are housebound. Intellectually, I know we have provisions that could keep us easily for a month in our freezer but stocking the refrigerator and making sure pet food and toilet paper is abundant, makes me feel safe and cozy. There’s nothing quite as cozy as knowing you have enough coffee for a year.

So as I sit here at my keyboard, I am at peace…there’s bulk hamburger in my frig and 200 more q-tips in my bathroom. Mother nature can bring it on!

Natural Mysteries

As I’m sitting before this blank screen today, I’m listening to an occasional car pass by. There is a cat bird somewhere out there too. I was about 40 years old before I took an interest in birds and the sounds in nature. I guess everything has it’s time and, with so much to learn in one lifetime, we choose our priorities.

Catbird

Catbird

I believe it was the puzzle that enticed me to pay attention. I love puzzles and just don’t like not knowing things.It’s not to be a smarty pants. I realized how many folks had misinformation and felt it my duty to pass on the truth. I figured they hadn’t found their time to listen yet and I could be their investigator for “time-saving” knowledge.

My interest peaked about 12 years ago when we purchased 30 acres of woodland in New York State. That August, my husband had been clearing brush and reported hearing (what he believed were) tree frogs. This didn’t make sense to me. Frogs wouldn’t mate that close to Fall, would they? The sound was definitely foreign to me which I found really interesting since I had spent many years out-of-doors within miles of our land. I happened to be reading a book devoted to grasshoppers and katydids. (See, my nature interests stirred up just at the right time!) It was a journal from a naturalist and it described a sound that seemed to fit the mystery. My Mom had the first computer in our family. She was happy to bring up a site of nature sounds for me.( among them were katydids.) “That’s it!” I shouted. The mystery had been solved! After that, I told many locals who did not know what that delightful “creaking” chorus of the night was. I passed the knowledge on to those who cared. Some even argued when their misinformation was challenged. I stood firm and proud of my investigation.

Katydid

The next year, I found an amazing looking frog clinging to the side of my camper. He was gray and greenish with the cutest suction cup fingertips. I had wondered what he was and took him home to a terrarium that I had set up just for one week. He was a gray tree frog, a usually unseen inhabitant of woodlands. I say HE because,luckily, I had found a male. His blacken throat and awesome song provided those clues of his gender. Believe it or not, his trill was a sound that had puzzled me during the daytime. Two mysteries had been uncovered. I returned him to the place where he was found.

Gray Tree Frog

My granddaughter and I sit and listen in the forest almost every weekend. I am pointing out the correct information and she is an eager naturalist-in-training. Wouldn’t it be cool if she used this knowledge and interest to become a scientist one day? THAT will be up to her. At least, she’ll have a head start in that area!

Wishes, Expectations and Perceptions

I was sitting at my kitchen table with three friends. We were snacking on potato chips. A lull in the conversation inspired me to examine my chip.

“Is this a chip or a crumb?” I asked the group. They all responded, “Chip”.

Then I took a bite of it. “Well?” The group had a variety of responses and the discussion came to life.

We sat and pondered the criteria that each individual used to reach a conclusion. One member insisted that in order to be called a potato chip it had to have a roundness. I suggested that a chip was anything that could withstand dipping beyond my clasped forefinger and thumb. We all then agreed immediately that dipping rules can vary and it depended whether  the dipping were at home or in public. Everyone knows that “home dipping” allows the fingers to touch the dip and “public dipping” does not.

There are so many ways to consider things that it amazes me how people have such a close idea of undefined measurements. Society and experiences must be out training ground.

If you ask a four-year old about porcupines, they all tell you that the sharp quills are called “porks”. No exceptions! Their grasp of language rules and concepts is greater than their understanding of the world itself.

Our book club got together this month to discuss “The Next Thing on My List” by Jill Smolinski. It is about a woman who becomes the custodian of a list of accomplishments another woman has written and hopes to complete. The creator of the list is killed and the woman who feels responsible for her death, decides to complete it for her. Although the book is comical and enjoyable, the idea of keeping a list of “hopeful things” made our discussion personal. We each took turns reciting 5 things from our own list of hopefuls. While listening to others, I realized that hopes and wishes have a blurred, overlapping territory. I hoped to one day learn how to operate a backhoe. Another member dreamed of knowing that her kids were comfortable,settled and happy.

Our lists proved so very interesting, we learned about each other in ways we hadn’t imagined. Even after the meeting, people paired off to compare notes on specific items brought up from our lists.

This whole piece is dedicated to the varied and communal sides of our human experience. How we somehow know when a rock is a boulder not a stone and a chip is a crumb.