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Monday, May 28, 2012

Building A Nest

Our resident bluebirds are busy hatching their second brood of the season. This particular pair chose a nesting box my husband hung on a pole at eye-level, thus making it convenient for us to keep an eye on progress.

We took turns peeking in earlier this spring. Through the entrance hole, we watched as four pale blue eggs morphed into baby birds. When a great-nephew came to visit a couple weekends ago, I took him to get a look. By then, the babies were already covered with blue feathers so we knew their launch into the world was imminent.

Once vacated, my husband cleaned out the nest's used materials so the parents would be encouraged to return. Sure enough, yesterday he announced there was another clutch of eggs snuggled in new nesting material.

Which got me to thinking. How much alike the birds are we humans? Are you someone who prefers to stay grounded in familiar surroundings? Maybe do a bit of rearranging or re-decorating when you feel the need for a change? Spiff up the place with new towels or pillows? Or do you get the itch every once in a while to put on your traveling shoes...try out new places to live...new situations to experience?

My husband and I have occupied our farmhouse for over thirty years. He's perfectly happy working with his farm equipment and barn full of tools. Maybe he'll consent to a trip to town once a week for a restaurant meal but has no desire to leave the place.

 I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed traveling. I like going to new places, seeing different parts of the country, talking to strangers. Although the possibility never came up, I think I'd adjust to a change in location if the opportunity arose. Even so, as I age, my venturings don't seem to happen as frequently as in the past. And when I do hit the road for a bit, I'm always glad to get back to familiar surroundings.

Seems like unchanged surroundings are what I find myself most satisfied with these days. Oh, on occasion we've done things like slap a new coat of paint on the walls, or maybe invest in a new sofa when the original wore out. We've done a couple major remodeling jobs over the years to make life easier and more comfortable. But all in all, we've pretty much settled among our long-acquired familiar things.

Maybe the fact that we no longer have the demands of raising a family to contend with.has something to do with it...it's just the two of us now. And that's okay. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Monkey No Hear, No Say, No See

Most everyone is familiar with the pictorial image of the three monkeys. One covers his ears, another covers his mouth and the third covers his eyes. This vivid proverb dates back to at least the 7th century and is part of the Vadjra cult that if we do not hear, talk or see evil, we ourselves shall be spared all evil.

In the 8th century A.D., a Buddhist monk from China introduced the three wise monkeys to Japan. I came across this grouping when on a visit to the Japanese Garden in Ft. Worth's Botanical Gardens. Still would like to get some for my garden.

Some contend it is nothing more than a reminder to not be so snoopy, so nosy, and so gossipy. Others say that it is a warning to stay away from places where immoral acts are taking place. Irregardless of the degree of warning these monkeys impart, in the present world we live in, how does one avoid seeing no evil. hearing no evil, or speaking no evil?

The Oxford American Dictionary--which I prefer to use because it retains many words no longer in common usage--defines 'evil' as both a noun and an adjective, with the adjective definitions being more explicit.

The shades of meaning for evil range from something very unpleasant or troublesome to something considered morally bad or wicked. Sometimes 'evil' merely denotes something harmful or intended to do harm as in the superstition of "an evil eye." That is to say, someone accused of having an evil eye is said to have a gaze or stare that could cause harm to others.

No matter how you personally interpret "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," It's impossible to hear that phrase used without thinking of three wise, but very cute, monkeys.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Considering The Color Blue

I've noticed, for many folks, blue is their favorite color just as it is mine. A google of the word turned up some interesting facts.

Did you know blue is traditionally associated with royalty? It was the Spaniards who gave the world the notion that an aristocrat's blood is not red but blue. In ancient and medieval societies of Europe, the veins of the upper class appeared blue through their untanned skins. An obvious contrast to the working class who were mainly agricultural peasants. A nobleman would hold up his sword arm to display the filigree of blue-blooded veins beneath pale skin to prove his aristocratic birth.

Northern Kentucky, regarded as bluegrass country, is famous for its horse-raising  farms, thoroughbred horse racing being considered the "sport of kings." This region of the US is characterized by fossiliferous limestone, making its rolling hills highly fertile for growing pasture.

It's fascinating when you become aware of how the word "blue" has woven itself into our language. "Once in a blue moon" refers to something absurd, unlikely or near impossible. Or how about "a bolt from the blue" - another phrase that alludes to surprise or unexpectedness.

Bet you're familiar with "blue chips"? The term got its start when Oliver Gingold of Dow Jones noticed several trades at $200 or $250 a share. He commented about "these blue chip stocks" perhaps remembering that in the game of poker, the blue chips have the highest value. The term stuck.

So when did the word "blue" come to be a pejorative word? The term "blues" or "blue funk" became associated with a depressed state as early as 1228. Ah! And you thought it was a modern connotation of the word "blue." 150 years later it was commonly being used to describe someone who was down and inconsolable. Then in the late 1960s and 1970s, a version of this expression, "funky," came to mean something enjoyable and cool. "Funky" described a type of popular music that combined jazz, blues and soul that produced feel-good and groovy feelings.

So...a "blue funk" can mean both a state of paralyzing sadness and a style of music. Something to remember when you feel yourself wallowing under a "blue" cloud. That's when you need to put on James Brown's "I Feel Good."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Appreciating The Simple Things

As I considered what to write about today, I began to recall some of the quiet joys I'd experience the previous day. There was that warming cup of coffee as I swayed on the front porch swing, watching the sun climb into the sky.

I felt again that deep satisfaction of bending over a garden bed, pulling persistent weeds. Later that evening, I caught the sight of a pair of mourning doves as they splashed in the birdbath's water. Although we've heard their soft cooing from nearby trees for years, this is the first year a pair has made the habit of visiting each evening about the same time.

Earlier that day, I looked up from the kitchen sink just in time to see a rabbit scoot across the open area in the far back yard. We don't see them as frequently as we used to when we had a vegetable garden. One morning a couple years back, my husband returned with the announcement he'd just seen five rabbits enjoying the fruits of our labors. Oh, I know they are still nearby--the lettuce plants I set in planters by my office door showed visible evidence of their nibbling.

Dusk is usually when the chattering of bluebirds becomes most pronounced. My husband built several nesting boxes constructed to their specific needs and mounted them on scattered trees about the property. One hung on a pole at eye-level and it's been fun to peek in and watch the progress of four babies. Another box, according to my husband's report, has been taken over by flying squirrels. Since they are nocturnal creatures, I just have to take his word for it; I've never been bold enough to wander out after dark to see for myself.

As you may have guessed by now, it doesn't take much to make me happy. Perhaps, as they say, it's true--the older you get, the wiser you become.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Coming To Terms

I find myself moving deeper and deeper into the stream of internet book marketing. Resisting doesn't seem to have any effect on those encouraging this step.

Attended a terrific workshop last weekend given by Stephen Woodfin.Since then, I've been investigating the ins-and-outs of Twitter-Worldom.

With several shorts about to be published in Ebook form, I'm following well-intentioned advice and spending lots of time getting familiar with this form of marketing. As the need for concentration increases and my attention-span lessens, I can feel my frustration gathering steam. At times it feels like one step forward, and two steps back.

But so what if my coffee grows cold as I stare at the screen for long minutes, trying to conform those black marks into something comprehensible?

It's been often said you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But, if I persist, then eventually I'll be able to disprove that old saying.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Family Genes


It=s funny how we can see our parents in our grandchildren. Looking at a photo of my granddaughter whom I see infrequently because she lives in Oregon, I am struck by how her mouth and chin identically resembles her father=s. He, in turn, received the lower part of his face from my father. It started me thinking about family likenesses and differences. I was destined to be short because both my parents had to stretch to attain a height taller than five feet, three inches.
I remember noting a niece=s body movements as we strolled the Mall one time, how much her walk resembled the way my father walked. It was a low, swinging-from-the-hips kind of walk. My contacts with my father=s siblings were few. Of those I have met in my father=s family of three brothers and three sisters, all shared the same small physical frame and high-energy personality.
My husband=s parents brought together a blending of English and German heritage. It revealed itself in the children by a brother and sister bearing the dark hair and brown eyes of their father. My husband, on the other hand, displays the light coloring and piercing blue eyes from his mother=s side of the family. My husband brought a gene for tallness into our family mix. Both of our sons have reached and topped the six-foot mark. However, the oldest inherited the energized, always-on-the-move behavior pattern of my father, while my younger son moves through life in the slow, deliberate manner of my mother-in-law=s family.
Although certain traits and mannerisms bring remembrances of someone from a past generation, I quickly acknowledge I am seeing only a suggestion of that older person in the one I=m observing. I smile at the resemblance, that reminder of another. The remembered image is displaced quickly because  the niece B the son B the granddaughter, each is a unique individual, unlike any who has come before. Each a person has hopes and dreams that are all their own.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cinco de Mayo for Franco-Americans?

 Found myself one year in a Phoenix, AZ park on Cinco de Mayo Day. Colorful costumes, lively music, lots of balloons and bright colors. Evidently this was a popular day of celebration. But I really had no idea what the celebrating was all about.

Seem the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Contrary to widespread popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day  which is actually celebrated on September 16.


I'm a New England-born, French Canadian Caucasian. My history's the furthest you can imagine from Cinco de Mayo. Relevant to my ancestors is the date June 22,1774. That is when the Quebec Act, guaranteeing civil, language and religious rights to French Canadians, came into force. Maybe I should give some thought to creating a special events day to celebrate it.


Why not? America is a melting pot...bringing together every nationality imagined and melding them into one cohesive unit. Yes, our diverse cultural history is part of what makes the United States unique. So...the Irish have their St. Patrick's Day, the African Americans have their Kwanzaa. Why not a day to celebrate the endurance of the French to hold on to their identity? 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More on Dragons


This is the Chinese year of the dragon and China is expecting a 5% increase in the number of babies born in 2012.

The dragon, considered the most auspicious zodiac sign in Chinese culture, is often associated with good fortune and intelligence and is believed to be the sign of those destined for success.
Some famed dragon babies include martial arts star Bruce Lee, Spanish artist Salvador DalĂ­ and President Bill Clinton.

People who are born in the Year of the Dragon share certain characteristics. These may include: innovative, enterprising, flexible, self-assured, brave, passionate, conceited, tactless, scrutinizing, unanticipated, and quick-tempered.

These to-be-desired characteristics do not, however, exhibit themselves in the real-live dragons that inhabit the world we live in.

Thriving in the harsh climate of Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands for millions of years, Komodo dragons are considered the dominant predators on the handful of islands they inhabit.

Komodo dragons are the heaviest lizards on Earth, reaching 10 feet in length and more than 300 pounds. They have long, flat heads with rounded snouts, scaly skin, bowed legs, and huge, muscular tails.

They will eat almost anything, even humans. Animals that escape the jaws of a Komodo can anticipate a short life span. Dragon saliva teems with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, the stricken creature usually dies of blood poisoning.

On second thought, perhaps Komodo dragons can be considered enterprising, self-assured, passionate, and unanticipated. Seems like these characteristics are desired in both the human and reptile world.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Deja Vu Versailles

When I was in my second year of high school, my family moved to a village called Versailles. It  boasted only a Congregational church, a combination post office-market, and a few hundred souls. Dominated by an empty  paper mill and its accompanying multiple-family housing units, my curiosity remained on who had the temerity to give this place such an audacious name.

  Surrounding towns reflected its Native American past and bore names like Mohegan, Uncasville, Occum, and Moosup and a river named Quinnebaug divided the village. The town's name, Versailles, stuck out like a sore thumb.

Fast forward thirty-two years. My family, including husband, two sons and eighty-year-old father, were on a touring trip of Europe. We'd spent the day in Paris, specifically at the Eiffel Tower, and were driving back to our auberge in Bordeaux near the coast of France. As we sped the highway, I sighted a marker indicating nearby Versailles--the original Versailles--and insisted on a side trip.

Short on time, we couldn't tour the grounds but we did take time to stop beside the large entrance sign long enough to photograph my father beside it--a high-light of his trip.