Musings

Happy Birthday to my friend, the bridge

Posted on May 30, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Travel |

It IS amongst the most recognizable symbols of human habitation on the earth. In the United States of America, the East Coast has the Statue of Liberty; the West Coast has the Golden Gate Bridge. This notable structure had its 75th birthday this past weekend. I had relatives that remembered a time BEFORE the bridge, when one had to travel north of San Francisco on a ferry. You drove your car onto the ferry-boat and drove off on the other end.

San Francisco is on the tip of a peninsula. You can travel north and east of there by traveling south first and then driving east, and then north again, but it’s always been faster and much more efficient to travel over the water to get…well almost anywhere that wasn’t due south.

For the history of the bridge, along with some great photos, you can go here. I won’t repeat all the interesting facts there, such as that the bridge is constantly being painted. I met a man once that told me his job was to paint the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s it. Not just an industrial painter in general; his job was to be constantly painting the bridge in its signature vermillion color. (OK, so I shared ONE interesting fact…go see the above link; it’s all really quite interesting. Also the official 75th anniversary site is here.)

The picture at the top of this post is the view I had of the bridge from the football field at the high school I attended in San Francisco. There are actually even better and closer views of the bridge from the school. Being able to see the bridge from school is one of the few things I liked about high school…but I digress.

The bridge was always a part of my life; my neighborhood. From early childhood, I accompanied my parents across it in the car, usually when we went on brief weekend holidays to a woodsy cabin camp north of the city. It was always lovely riding across the bridge in a car. The views were spectacular: sailboats in the sparkling bay; the incredible mountains; the jaw-dropping San Francisco skyline view looking back towards the city. Even on those days of dense fog, where one couldn’t see a thing (and there were many) the bridge in the mist had an ethereal, other-worldly quality I valued just a much as when the days were clear and sunny and I could see forever.

It was when I was a young teenager–thirteen or fourteen years old–that I became “intimate” with the bridge. I had known for some years that people walked and bicycled across the bridge, not just drove. I had never walked across the bridge, but a youth group I was in was planning a bridge walk, and then a picnic “on the other side” That “side” was Sausalito, an absolutely charming town on the water, with elegant shops and eateries; houseboat communities and a yacht harbor, right down the hill and a lovely walk along the water from the bridge.  The first time I walked across the bridge, I carried a bowl of potato salad! We each brought something for the meal we’d share in the little park at our destination. I met my friends at the entrance to the bridge walk, and was almost in a trance all the way over. I’m surprised the potato salad made it intact. :)

I discovered that I could easily walk to the bridge from my home! I hadn’t really thought about that before the first time I walked the bridge. I could leave my cramped bedroom and walk, walk, walk all the way to Sausalito! My friends and I didn’t walk back from there; instead we took a ferry to downtown San Francisco, and then the bus home. The ferry ride itself was almost as magical.

One time, after I had moved to the magical land across the bridge from the city, I was driving on the bridge in my very lightweight car. A rare high wind came up and actually blew my car into the next lane! Fortunately there was no one in the place my car landed. I decided in the future to check the wind reports before driving, if the wind at all seemed out-of-the-ordinary. (And since then, I’ve driven heavier cars, too!)

I went on this walk a couple more times with friends, and then once or twice on my own. It is the most incredible walk, far above the sea; the boats; the world. The salt air and the feeling that I was one step further on the path through the universe was sometimes overwhelming. I felt the blood, sweat and tears of those that built the bridge (some had died from accidents during construction); and of those that had died by jumping from its heights. I did know a young man, a little older than me, that had jumped to his death from there, after his girlfriend broke up with him. I knew his mother quite well; she was never the same after this happened.

In spite of all that, the beauty and hope of this place; this bridge; this arc of welcoming to one of the greater cities on earth, held me in its sway. We became friends, the bridge and I, and it has never let me down, in or out of sight. Happy Birthday, dear friend!

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GONE

Posted on May 20, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Spirituality |

I had gone.
I’d Been before,
one foot out
the door;
the other laden
with burdens
and guilt,
memories, and love.

I had gone.
When you said
we’d better
join our souls
but mine
was not mine
to give.

So much
left to do you
said over cornflakes
Wait.
Just ten minutes
one
hour one
year one
lifetime Just
’til it’s right.

Look. tonight.
A total eclipse
of the sun.
We can share that.
We can share that.
The natural underpinning
of society’s angst.

Sun had gone.
You and I
wait that starstruck
minute.
Always before,
had reappeared.

You were talking
to me
for twenty minutes
before
you realized
I had gone.

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Oh, quail!

Posted on May 1, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy |

  I was typing away at my computer keyboard–my most frequent activity–when I heard a loud “BANG!” on the window next to my desk. I first thought a rock (or small meteor?) had somehow managed an unlikely trajectory, but it didn’t have that sharp sound, nor did the glass break; or perhaps a child’s ball was accidentally thrown against my window.

But the immediate neighbors don’t have children. I looked, of course, and on the ground near my window lay a quail on her back, blood on her chest. Her legs twitched for a moment, and then were still.

Oh, quail! How did you come to fly into my window pane? I’d seen the ads on television for a window cleaning product, that got ones windows so clean that birds fly into them and knock themselves out (hah hah!). While the ad didn’t amuse me the first 30 times I saw it; it just seems cruel, now. Besides, my window is not squeaky clean, I have a screen on it, and curtains inside. It’s not as if it looks like empty space.

“I’m going to have to go out there and do something,” I said to myself. “Maybe she’s just stunned.” (but it was a VERY loud bang…and she is bloody…) As I continued to look, I noticed her mate. He strutted nearby, making a curious, anxious chirping sound. And then, he stopped near her body, as if assessing the damage. Was he saying “goodbye”? He gave a little shake and began to walk; then run; then fly. Would I see him again? Their children must be grown, as they were not nearby. Desert Quail mate for life, and I’d seen many pairs nurture their adorable chicks, trying to keep them safe from the many predators here.

Oh, quail! You’ve made your mate a widower. Has he gone off to mourn?

He did not return. Quail are bold birds, and he would not have let the sight of me peering out the window drive him from his mate’s side, if there were a chance she could be helped. I finally went outside. I gently nudged her with a stick. I did not touch her; we’d been warned of several unpleasant diseases from wild animals lately.

I will not bury her. It will be dark in a few hours. I will leave her to a passing coyote–the small ones can get through my iron fence–or a swooping hawk. It is the kindest thing, I think, to let her feed others.

Her eyes are still open. The blood on her chest has already started to dry and congeal. It is 92 degrees out there, but she is in the shade. Hawks like to catch their prey alive, but they will pick up carrion. Coyotes will eat anything, but I haven’t seen a small enough one lately to get through my barrier. Perhaps an owl or a roadrunner will come by.

Tomorrow, if she’s still there, I’ll have to do something respectful.

Oh, quail!

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Administrating Myself

Posted on April 25, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy |

  I have celebrated my Birthday on my Blog each year since its inception, and I continue the tradition today.

I’d been thinking about various “holidays” this week. A few days ago it was Earth Day. Today, in some parts of the world it is “Administrative Professionals Day”. It is also my Birthday. It’s nice having a birthday the same week as our planet’s, and I AM an administrative professional. It’s what I do. Administrate! Administrate! The administrators holiday was created (I had thought, perhaps, by the greeting card or floral industries) to acknowledge “support personnel”.

I had thought, without doing any research whatsoever, that this holiday was meant to throw a carrot to those that are often taken for granted in business. But…I was wrong. According to Wikipaedia (which is always right…right?) ;) the holiday, originally called “Secretary’s Day” was formed partially as a recruiting tool! In the 1950s there was an apparent shortage of office workers. That has NOT been the case in my lifetime; it has been my experience that office work was hard to come by. 

The original objective was to recognize “the secretary, upon whose skills, loyalty, and efficiency the functions of business and government offices depend,” and to call attention “through favorable publicity, to the tremendous potential of the secretarial career.” (from Wiki)

I still think there is tremendous potential in administrative work, but somewhere along the line, this career path did not get the recognition it deserved. When I was just starting out in the working world, the holiday was still called “Secretary’s Day”, and on that day, one of my “bosses” gave me a gift, and said “Happy Secretary’s Day!” I appreciated the recognition, but I wanted to scream “I am NOT a secretary!” (I was an assistant bookkeeper and receptionist at the time.)

Now I look back on that, and wonder why I wanted to disassociate myself so much from that title. I was not, technically, a secretary, but I did do many of the things that one would do, including typing the occasional letter. (We were not a very communicative company, so there were not a lot of those. I did prepare invoices, though, so that was sort of similar.)

Now, I am a self-employed administrative professional. I administrate myself, and I administrate FOR others. I support but I also lead and direct. The word “administer” has many meanings from old French and Latin, such as: “help, aid, be of service to, manage, control, guide, superintend; rule”. I do all those things (well…”rule”?) so “Administrative Professional” is the right title for me.

On the other hand, the derivation of the word “secretary” is the same as that of the word “secret”. Hmmm, keeper of secrets, presumably for Kings and the high-born. (c. 1400). That’s an interesting gig too! :)

  Happy Birthday to ME! Happy Administrative Professionals Day to ME! … and to you. If you have ever supported, managed or guided, you get to celebrate today too!

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Is it true before you know about it?

Posted on March 21, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy |

ella's pie

Today I received a message from a blog friend. It was concerning another blog friend. It made me realize, once again, how strong and magnificent our community here is, and filled me with regret for not participating for a while. I don’t think regret, on its own, is a bad thing. It gets us—or at least me—to think about priorities. Regrets can stifle our growth, though, if we hold onto them, so I am letting go some of them here.

This message informed me and few others that our blog buddy ellaella had passed away, nearly a year ago. ellaella had a blog called From Scratch: Food Plus Politics for some years. Her writing was witty, terse, and full of recipes! Now, I am no cook, myself, but, ella’s charm, sophistication, and political acumen won me over so that I read her posts about food as well. I got to know her as I have my other blog friends, by exchanging comments on our blogs. We discovered we had much in common, and I developed an affection for her that non-blog people find hard to understand. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t meet in “real life” (whatever THAT is).

As I’ve said in other posts about her, we exchanged emails, and took the dialogue to a more personal level. She was living in a house in New England at the time, with a partner that was becoming increasingly impatient with her health issues. She didn’t like the winters there, and was getting tired of her partner’s attitude, so she decided to move back to Washington D.C., a city that she loved, and where she’d had the bulk of her professional career.

It turns out that the woman I knew for several years, with whom I’d shared life observations and biting humor, had been a broadcast journalist! She never mentioned this on her blog; which was about food; with political commentary mixed in from time to time, as its name suggests. In addition to being a journalist, she was a musician, poet, and, of course, an excellent chef.

I waded through her recipes to get to her wit, and it was well worth the travel. I knew, from vague references, that her health was quite challenged, but didn’t know too many details. ella, like many bloggers, was fiercely independent, and just as fiercely private. She was frugal with what she shared. She got to know and trust people slowly, with small bits of personal information at a time. I can understand this, as I am that way myself. It is my perception that she enjoyed this type of online friendship; that she found it refreshing as she could be thoroughly who she was, without the scrutiny that a public figure such as herself would have, or from a family who had known her forever!

It strikes me, after reading what I just wrote, how many bloggers I’ve come across that would rather not have their family read their blogs. This is a place we can feel safe to express, without the microscopic examination that families can sometimes provide.

Before her blog disappeared over two years ago, ella had posted, and had sent me emails, about how happy she was to be in D.C. again. She had found a lovely townhouse to rent, with a big enough kitchen for all her pots and pans! She hoped to find some work in her former career there (I still didn’t know what that was then). She had been experiencing some medical issues. I didn’t know how severe they were. She wrote of the shopping in her new neighborhood. She knew I didn’t like to cook nearly as much as I liked to eat, but she sent me a message that she had thought of me she she discovered a Trader Joe’s near her, a specialty market we both loved, but she’d not had in her old location.

She’d thought of me! While shopping! And had to let me know! And that was the last I’d heard from her. The final post on her blog was one of holiday wishes, in December of 2009. She said she’d look forward to “seeing” us in 2010. We did not see her in that year.

Several bloggers became concerned about ella as the months passed. They posted comments on her blog, asking her to get in touch. She never commented there again, nor did she answer any of my emails. A former colleague of hers tried to get in touch as well, and he’s the one that let us know that she had serious congenital heart disease. He had not been in touch with her for years, but spoke to her on the phone just once, when ella was seeking to renew her broadcast license.

And now, a year later than that, I have the news that ella passed away in April of last year. This dear person died alone, without family or friends, in a homeless shelter. She did HAVE family, but apparently was too proud to, or perhaps an aspect of her her illness caused her not to get in touch with them. The only reason we know this is because a shelter caseworker had discovered another former colleague’s number on ella’s phone, and called to let him know the sad news. This man had called her too, and emailed, but never got a response.

I was left with wondering how her physical life could have ended this way. She had been a good, lovely, intelligent, charming, talented person, with a successful broadcast career. She had family that cared about her (fortunately, one of her several cousins did claim her body, and make funeral arrangements for the family). She had old friends within a short distance of where she lived. She had us blog friends who certainly could have done something to help; I’m sure of it.

And yet, I only speculate, ella’s health must have deteriorated quickly after her move. She couldn’t find work because of this, and had to give up her townhouse. She (knowing her) probably felt great shame in this, even though some of her friends knew of her predicament, and did not look down on her. They would have been very willing to help.

We’ll never know exactly what was going through ella’s mind towards the end, and as a another blog friend said “It was her own path, and no one could walk it for her.” This does not keep me from feeling sad, and a little more alone, but it is good to share, and at least have the knowledge of her physical fate. It was very hard not to know for these two years.

I think of the “old days” before the internet; before telegraph, telephones, or even reliable mail service. I live in a country of immigrants, and when many of them set off to come here, they would be bidding goodbye to their families for the last time. The only communication was the mail, and a letter could take months to reach their old homes. People would write of a friend or family member’s death, but the recipient might not hear about it for a very long time. In her or his mind, the person was still alive, until getting the news. It did not alleviate the grieving to know that the event had happened, perhaps, last year.

I feel a bit this way now. My dear friend, one I only knew through this blog, has been deceased for nearly a year. That is a fact, but the news is fresh, and I grieve for her. Her absence from the blog and lack of communication for the prior year, I will admit, had angered me a little. Didn’t she know we cared, and had wondered what had happened to her? Was it too much trouble to write to at least ONE of us, so that person could tell the others? Apparently it was. She may have been afraid of saying too little, or too much.

In my disgruntled state, I emotionally withdrew from the world of blogging quite a bit. I was angry. I had invested emotional energy in this person, and I had no recourse when she decided not to respond! I’d always known this was her right, and did not begrudge her that, but I became jaded. Blogging had lost its magic; its glow for me. I note the irony that I reacted to her withdrawal by withdrawing. It wasn’t the only reason, but it was a big one.

Now, I feel differently. With this news, and the ability to communicate about it, I am rejuvenated in my sadness. I realize how precious is every soul I meet and share with, in whichever medium the meeting takes place. I also realize that, should I continue to be blessed with blog friends that care about me, I would not want them to wonder, were I no longer around. I am thinking of ways to ensure this won’t happen, but for now, I don’t intend to disappear!

It’s been good to see you!

R.I.P. ellaella, a.k.a. Donna
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And another holiday leaves its stamp of approval

Posted on December 28, 2011. Filed under: Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

 Tweets and Blogs;
Clear the fogs;
Drink the nogs: good cheer.

Resolution;
Constitution;
New solution? New Year.

I wrote the above with reference to my state of mind for the last few months. I haven’t blogged or tweeted much, both activities I used to enjoy. I have always been introspective, but blogging was a way to get my introspection “out”. During times of challenge, though, I tend to go ever MORE inward. My blog, I had thought, was generally uplifting, as I wish to be…but how will this post turn out?

As usual, I enjoyed Halloween very much (in my pagan sort of way) and my American Thanksgiving at the end of November. Then I wanted to skip right to January 2nd. I want this every year! I don’t ever get that wish. ;) This time of year, I hear, primarily, two kinds of comments: “I LOVE Christmas!” (not me) and “I loathe Christmas!” (pretty much me.)  When I really look at both those sentiments, not only do they seem extreme, but they don’t make a lot of sense (to me). After all…what IS this “Christmas” that both kinds of people speak to?

For those of us that grew up in western culture, and for many more, as well, there is the religious aspect. I can’t really speak much to that, but, basically the word “Christmas” or “Mass of Christ” is a time of year when Christians believe that the “Christ” (Greek for “anointed”) or “spirit of God” incarnated itself in a specific human, namely Jesus of Nazareth. There are many controversies about the traditional stories, but I won’t get into those here. I think that, though, when very religious people say they “love Christmas”, what they “love” is the celebration of what they see as that historical event, and the hope for the world that the “Christ spirit” will live on in us…peppered by the specific beliefs of their branch of Christianity.
That aside, though…there are many that say “I love Christmas” who mean, really, that they love the spirit of giving and receiving; the bright and colourful decorations in this time of less daylight (in northern time zones), the special music, and the festivals and parties to cheer us. Many of the more religious enjoy those aspects too, but the rituals have taken a secular turn in our culture for many years now, albeit most of the symbols and rituals are of pagan origin.
When I was a child, we spent part of each Christmas eve with my parents best friends. They had cake and coffee and egg nog for us. They had a beautifully decorated tree. They gave us presents! But I’d ask my parents: “Why to they celebrate Christmas when they don’t even go to church?” I found it difficult to reconcile all the different things I’d been told by various “authority” figures.

By the time I reached a tenuous adulthood (I’m still working on that one :)), I had lost most of my beliefs in what I saw as inconsistent fairy stories (I like my fairy stories to be consistent! ;)) and began to loathe the “hype” and commercialism. I did enjoy sharing a special meal with friends or family. I liked all the music, even the overly religious kind, because I believe that songs spring from the heart of the soul, which has no words, but which we humans translate as best as we can.

I came to dislike “expected” gift giving, and gradually weaned my way away from that process. If you know me, and I give you a gift, you will know it’s because I REALLY want to have done so; not because it’s traditional or expected that we “exchange” gifts. (Hmm, “exchanging gifts”. Funny term. Maybe I’ll explore that more later too!) I even have mixed feelings about the commercial aspects. I grew up in a self-employed retail business household. My family’s business, like many others, relied on the Christmas shopping season for a good bit of the yearly income. This “season of gifts” put food in my mouth. On the other hand…behold the sales; the advertising; the endless not-such-great canned music in ALL the stores, even the supermarket? I can promise you that hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” at my local Safeway will NOT get me to buy more carrots!

I am well over all that by December 1st anymore, as for some businesses these days, it starts immediately after Halloween. “Here it comes!” I say to myself “…the long, slow descent into the ‘dark time'”…and I don’t mean the shortening of days, either! I breathe a huge sigh of relief on January 2nd. The world can get back to “normal” then. For another 9 1/2 half months, anyway. :)

I do take steps to make sure I am not alone on particular days during the last two weeks of December. I go to a few parties, concerts, home gatherings and dinners. I’m contrary, I know, but I’ve learned from experience that to sit home alone and grumble makes me feel even worse! Part of my snarkiness has to do with having fewer and fewer family members to interact with. The poem at the end of this piece is not meant to be sad, but to acknowledge that loss is a part of our path through life. I have concentrated lately on being of what assistance I can, to what remains of my family, and that is part of why have not been around the bloggiverse as much, as such things do make me want to withdraw. But I also realize that, in shutting off my expression, I’ve also cut myself off from a source of inspiration and joy, a fascination with the topics we cover, and the events in the lives of bloggers I have come to care about over the years. I didn’t mean to neglect you, and I hope you will forgive me. I expect the coming year will be interesting in many ways. I hope to refocus and renew my own spirit (in my own secular way) and I wish yours all blessings too.

Happy New Year! May it be bright with hope, soft with peace, and vivid with excitement.

Poem: "The Lure" by Muse, written upon learning the news of which I write:
 My sister is dying,
 I'm "X" decades old.
 My parents are long gone;
 It leaves me quite cold.

I have other dear ones
 but no one quite sure.
 My family comes first
 I am told; but no lure.

As I ride through my days
 in this human conveyance,
 the calendar duties
 keep thoughts in abeyance.

In the end; if it ends, then
 I'll find I'm alone.
 Must come to those terms
 with intent to go on.
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Time to forget? Time to let go?

Posted on September 11, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

 It has been my tradition to post something about the events of September 11, 2001 on the anniversary of that day. This may (I’ll have to see how I feel next year) be the last time. Read on to find out why.

In most time zones, an anniversary of an event that changed the world is here, or has come and gone. We can hardly keep from being aware of all the media and community events surrounding the tenth anniversary of of a terrorist attack on US cities. Before I go any further, I want you to know I do NOT intend this to be a reminiscence, or “where were you when you heard” kind of discussion. That is being done elsewhere.

Instead, I want to ask: “Is it time to let go of these yearly remembrances and media hype? During the past week, I’ve found myself deliberately tuning out when a “special report” came on the news. This surprised me, as during the first few years after the initial attacks, I had produced or otherwise participated in commemorative events. The most profound of these was on the one year anniversary, when feelings were still very tender.

My background is partially Jewish, and I grew up with relatives and friends, parents and grandparents uttering that phrase popular after the Holocaust: “Never Forget”. For my entire life, I’ve watched coverage of “Pearl Harbor Day” in December, commemorating what had been the biggest attack on our shores.

This year, I’ve found I’ve had it. While we have strong feelings about the victims of these horrors, and want to do all we can to prevent them from recurring, perhaps it is time to…if not forget, at least move on. There is something bothersome about “celebrating” these anniversaries every year. I realize I started moving toward this point two years ago, here. Last year, I was already wondering what and/or if I would post on this topic this year, as I am now speculating on next.

This year, I’ve heard things that contribute to this feeling in me. A good friend told me he and his family keep the particular anniversary day “very low key” because they lost someone important to them. I never knew anyone who perished in these attacks, only people who knew people. On that level, I really have no right to speak about this. But, events in May started to change how I thought, too. When the instigator of the plot was killed by US forces, I was embarrassed that the world saw people from my country dancing in the streets. Isn’t that exactly what our so called “enemies” do; the ones we feel so superior to?

Several days after that killing I read articles from reporters that tried, and sometimes succeeded, to interview survivors about how they “felt” about that event. None of the ones that agreed to share had been dancing in the streets. None had rejoiced. A few felt that, perhaps, the world was a bit safer after this person had been removed from it. But none of them celebrated his passing. Some expressed sadness that it had come to this; that our country had to resort to killing in revenge.

In the last few days, when I have listened to media reports, they were from one source: public radio. I listened to the voices of many who were not planning to attend any of the public commemorations. One woman said she and her son would visit her firefighter husband’s grave, and then have a quiet dinner together. Another made sure we knew that he intended to visit a chapel at dusk, with just a few close friends, at a time he knew no one else would be there.

These are the voices of people who actually lost someone that mattered. There is none of the outrage, thirst for revenge, or hatred that “regular Americans” express in conjunction with these sad and misguided attacks.

Perhaps we should take a lesson from them, the ones that have a right to feel the most, and slowly (but as quickly as we reasonably can) let it go. let it go. and live.

THIS is a link to the preview of a radio show I listened to while contemplating this post. Some fascinating perspective there.
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PepperPorn: Still at it!

Posted on July 27, 2011. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

  This month, (on July 27) I celebrate my fourth Bloggiversary. Four years is not a lot of time in the scheme of things, but it’s a fair amount for online life. I’ve read quite a few comments from long-time bloggers recently, and I thought I’d consider them and how they may apply to continued blogging adventures.

When I first started blogging in 2007, most of the bloggers I encountered were very active; posting nearly every day. Perhaps I met them because I was very active too; it makes sense that if one is engaged with others, even through a personal, individual activity like blogging, that those participating would become familiar with each other.

It becomes a community like any other. Wary of, but friendly to newcomers, we have a history with each other. There are bloggers “older” than I that have tolerated my company, :) while I have welcomed newcomers, with, I hope, grace. Some of the “oldies” have remained while others have faded away, never to be heard from again. I realize I don’t want to be one of the “faders”! (although I have been giving a fair impression of one lately).

There is a peculiar thing with online families. They each develop their unique language and nuance, even though bloggers, for the most part, are writing to a general public, and closed references would be considered rude. Many of the bloggers I’ve known for several years don’t post as much as they used to. I am one of those as well, but I’ve found myself suffering from blogginess (loneliness for blogging). So, instead of retiring on my fourth bloggiversary, I’m looking into ways to “spice up the blog”, thus changing it enough that it becomes exciting again. I want to capture that ‘new-blog-smell’ sense of excitement I used to have, when the blog was young and carefree. Well, young, anyway. I do put things I care about here. In connecting again with my reactions to my caring, I hope to produce *PepperPorn for years to come.

* Title Explanation one: ;) For those of you with a sensitive nature, the title of my blog post today contains a typographical error. I meant to write “Peppercorn”, which, as you know, is the “fruit” or “berry” of the pepper plant, the part which, when dried, is then ground into a potent spice. Somehow, my finger slipped and the “c” became a “P” in the aforementioned title. Why would I call a post celebrating my blog anniversary “peppercorn”? Who knows? If you’ve read this far, I’ll just say that perhaps, to start fresh in my new blog year, I wanted to attract those who appreciate fine cuisine, and placing a spice in the title would help me accomplish that. This is not true, however. If you are sensitive about the “real” title, stop reading now, and thank you for reading my blog for 0-4 years! :)
 
“We are thus assisted by natural objects in the expression of particular meanings. But how great a language to convey such pepper-corn informations!” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
(Emerson muses that language may be more than a mere tool to signify objects. It might indeed transcend utility and embody in itself unheard-of regions of significance.) – The Columbia World of Quotations
 
OK, so, if you are STILL reading, this means you can take it! You HAD been warned! Read the next Explanation at your own risk!
 
* Title Explanation two: :D Actually (and don’t tell the people that aren’t reading this!) it wasn’t a typo at all! My finger didn’t slip; the use of the word PepperPorn was fully intentional! The truth is, after four years, I really felt the need to spice up my blog. It had been feeling a bit hum-drum; so much so, that I’d been staying away from it myself. I came close to letting my four year bloggiversary pass without any acknowledgement whatsoever. But then, I remembered how helpful has been for me to have this place where I express my thoughts, to commune with like others, and to take pleasure and share the pain of real people’s lives, expressed in pixels.
So here is the definition of “pepper”-the-verb I want to use for this explanation:  a. to season with or as if with pepper b. to sprinkle or cover c. to pelt with or as if with shot or missiles. (I’m hoping that, by injecting a bit of pepper into my posts, I will in fact recapture their flavour.)
 
“Such epithets, like pepper,
Give zest to what you write;
And, if you strew them sparely,
They whet the appetite:
But if you lay them on too thick,
You spoil the matter quite!” – Lewis Carroll
 
So much for the word “PEPPER”. We still have the problem of “PORN”.
 
 
Porn” an abbreviation of “Pornography” from Greek pornographos  writing of harlots, from pornē  a harlot + graphein  to write]
 
(So, I must just have referred to myself as a “harlot” here! And lest you think harlots are “only” women, or really, defined by their common usage, so to speak, read on…perhaps I am merely a buffoon!)
 
Harlot: early 13c., “vagabond,” from O.Fr. herlot, arlot “vagabond, tramp” (usually male in M.E. and O.Fr.), with forms in O.Prov. (arlot), O.Sp. arlote), and It. (arlotto), of unknown origin. Used in both positive and pejorative senses by Chaucer; applied to jesters, buffoons, jugglers, later to actors. Sense of “prostitute” probably had developed by 14c. but reinforced by use as euphemism for “strumpet, whore” in 16c. translations of the Bible. The word may be Gmc., with an original sense of “camp follower,” if the first element is hari “army,” as some suspect.   (from the Online Etymology Dictionary)
 

P.S. I must admit I owe some inspiration for my title to a commenter on a blog friend’s floral pictures. The commenter referred to his “flower porn”, and I’ve never been the same since. Dave posts a lot of gardening pictures; he has lovely vegetables as well.

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Humanity in the Balance

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

 Picture this: You are walking along a ridge, say, 30 feet above the valley floor. The path is narrow, and, suddenly, as you make a turn you’ve taken many times before, a few stones become dislodged, and you lose your footing. You tumble down the side of the ridge, rolling down the gentle slope.

You would have picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, and rejoiced in the fact you weren’t seriously hurt. Except:

There was a large campfire, sheltered from the wind, near the place you landed, and you rolled right into it. The tenders of the fire were away for a short time, and didn’t see your fall at first. You roll right out of the fire pit again, but not before being rather badly burned.

At this point, the fire-builders come back, and the universe splits into several possibilities.

#1: They address you rather rudely, saying “Hey, watch where you’re rolling, you jerk! Can you move? Can you crawl? OK, then, move along; we’re trying to have a meeting here!”

#2: “OMG are you hurt? What happened? Did someone push you? No? Are you sure? We’ve been after the committee to make that path safer up there! Heads are going to roll for this! Let’s start an action group right now! …Oh, did you just moan? Sorry about that, maybe someone will take you to the infirmary”.

#3: “Hello, fellow human. While we take no joy in your pain, we do recognize that you are completely responsible for your circumstances in life. If we can render you immediate assistance we will; on the other hand, we don’t want to ‘enable’ you. Obviously, though, if we leave you here to just, sort of, die or something, that would mess with our own ‘karma’ so tell us what you need, but no whining or playing victim, OK?”

#4: “Oh, no, you are hurt! Let me check for injuries…can someone get the first aid kit? Can you walk? We’ll get you to the infirmary right away. Later, when you’ve had some rest and a chance to recover a bit, we’ll be by to visit to find out what happened, what we can do to help you recover, and, if you’re up to it, assess what to do to prevent future injuries in this area. Really sorry for your pain, but glad you weren’t more seriously hurt. They’ll take care of you now, please just relax and don’t worry.

Now, these are all rather overblown responses, but I think we can see that all of them “could” occur. This sort of situation came to mind recently as I participated in philosophical discussions on the topics of “offence” and “blame”. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer response #4 to any of the others. The first response would not be desired by anyone, but the middle two, #s 2 & 3, are common responses these days, and form philosophical extremes when we talk about social interaction and responsibility.

There is a large school of thought that goes something like this: “You create your own reality (or you are subject to the ‘Law of Attraction’). Therefore, anything you see and experience is because of how you are ‘vibrating’, and nothing I do can change your vibration, only you can. I am somewhat in this camp myself, by the way, even though I’ve just stated the position rather bluntly. Critics of this say it ‘blames the victim’, to which proponents reply that this is, in fact, the case, but they don’t like to use the word “victim”, as we are all really empowered to make changes. If one is feeling like a victim, that’s the time to look deeply within and focus on what is wanted instead.

Another group of thinkers takes the position that society’s ills govern unpleasant circumstances. I suppose they also think that progress in civilisation also contributes to our comfort. “Yes,” they’ll tell us, “we have a large field to play in, and many of our choices will better or our circumstances. But, what about the person that just can’t get ahead because the government has cut their program? Or people who suffer because of prejudice and hatred? If we care at all, we must do what we can for social reform!” I’m a little bit in this camp, too…with the caveat that it does NOT help us to talk and complain endlessly about societal ills. If we feel called to work for a cause, then by all means, let’s do so. A more worthy pursuit is not easily imagined. But keeping our thoughts mired in how awful things are, without either taking some action, or doing our best to focus thoughts elsewhere, is like slowly drowning in a sea of despair.

This is why I liked Universe #4, from the options above. It is a balanced approach. It doesn’t get angry at victims, outraged at injustice, or overwhelmed in trying to fix everything at once. It renders aid where it can, but also uses an incident to examine circumstances and see what can be done, should one choose action.

I think our feelings and emotions are a wonderful guide, if we will just consult them dispassionately (and I realize this is a contradiction in terms!) It’s when we get self-righteous about situations, whether as victims ourselves, or in “fighting for the rights” of those we perceive as victims, that division, angst, and even wars occur. Stepping back and assessing is always a good idea; so is allowing for the possibility that someone else may see a situation differently than ourselves. The only “winning” position is one where everyone, at least, feels heard. That is the least we can do for each other. Also the most.

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Three Spikes and You’re Sprout!

Posted on July 6, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, HowTo, Musings, Travel |

Subtitle: “Muse’s Tips for a Peaceful Summer*

I’ll get to the title and what it means in a second, but first! Here is tip #1
1. Do not wash a duvet cover in the same load as your socks!
I own two socks (from two different pair, of course) that I fear I won’t see again until winter (or what passes for that in the desert). In the summer, I don’t use the thick fluffy duvet, or its cover, so I launder and fold away the latter to keep safely stored through the hot months that make all us desert dwellers think we’ll never be cool again, but somehow winter does eventually come and we say: “Gosh it’s cold; wish I didn’t have to wear three pair of socks!” Honestly, I searched in all the corners and pockets of the duvet and pillowcases and such…but I guess these socks are not summer socks. I’ll put their mates with the duvet, and with luck we’ll all reunite in the winter.

2. Do not have three spikes on your Desert Spoon!
…it gets unwanted attention from the neighbors, and, perhaps from international reporters. This is not so much a tip as a warning. After all, you can’t really tell your plants how to grow, can you? Perhaps it would be better put: “If your main water line breaks in the spring, expect anomalies in the summer!+
I have written about my trials and tribulations with this ubiquitous shrub before (here and amazingly enough, again here.) I swore I would not do this…but, seriously, the Spoon near my kitchen window was getting so big it was about to push through and become my roommate, so I succumbed and had it trimmed up on the bottom. Yet another landscaper told me it would be more trouble to take that plant out, than to do that. Oh well.  It, in spite of the intrusive trimming, it has one spike. This is normal. Having TWO spikes is unusual, but common. Due to (I’m guessing) the large amount of water the huge, center, non-trimmed Spoon got during my pipe-bursting incident, I was not surprised to see it put up two building-high spikes. But, just in the last week or so, I see that a third spike has emerged! Do you know how rare this is? This is the only other one I’ve EVER seen! (photo credit: about-garden.com)    Perhaps we are easily amused here in the desert, or soft-headed from temperatures exceeding 105F (41C) each day, but I do see the neighbors stopping and pointing! Really!

3. When celebrating the American holiday “Independence Day”, decide ahead of time whether you want “natural” or “human-made” fireworks. Again, this will be only partially under your control. Quite recently, on the just-passed 4th of July, after enjoying various contributed foods and watching a spectacular sunset, it began to thunder. And rain. And loud non-nature-made booms ensued. And the sky lit up with spectacular lightning, while also hosting the colourful sparkles of created light this holiday is known for. Being out of doors, and a little damp, and a little anxious about the lightning, I nonetheless enjoyed this rare spectacle of nature and human creativity.  (This particular firework looks a bit like an exploding Desert Spoon, doesn’t it? hmmm :) )

Perhaps I’ll have other tips as the summer moves hotly along. We’ll stick with just these three for now. Happy Hot Days, for those experiencing them :D

* The actual title of this piece is a word play on a rule in American Baseball: “Three Strikes and You’re Out!” For those that DON’T know: A ball is thrown at a person holding a big stick in her/his hands. If the person fails to hit the ball with the stick (and therefore doesn’t get to run around in a square) three times in a row (or three “strikes”) they are “out”, which means they don’t get to play anymore. Until the next time.
I’m not really that much of a baseball fan, I prefer the sport of American Football (which is not “real” football, or soccer) but went to a lot of baseball games as a youth.
Why did I go? cuz my friends were going. Isn’t that why we do a lot of things? Should we give some thought to our motivations? …nah!
For more on the difference between American Football and American Baseball, see this video, which explains it kindly and sensibly (not really, but it’s funny as heck!)

+ The broken water line did in fact happen to me, and I lived in mud, but with no incoming water, for the better part of a week. Much landscaping and cash later, I have running water, new pipe and a better looking front garden, however the trauma caused the relocation of my favorite lizard, who had been living under the above-referred-to Desert Spoon for several years. :(

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