Rainy Day Writing

Writing, Reading, Inspirations and Aspirations

Smart Phones, Wonder Bread, Crack Cocaine and Commie Plots

Smartphones are as ubiquitous these days as Wonder Bread was when I was growing up.

Turns out they might be just as over rated when it comes to how helpful, or healthful, they actually are for keeping us all “connected”, especially for kids.

But back to Wonder Bread for a moment for some context.

Open any cupboard door or breadbox lid back in the sixties and you would find a loaf of Wonder Bread. You would know it by the dazzling white wrapper and the bright primary colored dots and bands. What an eye-catching design! Hard to miss on a grocery store shelf or in a pantry.

My favorite sandwich on Wonder Bread was peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. But mostly I ate bologna sandwiches with mustard, because even way back then, we knew that marshmallow fluff was a little over the top. But bologna sandwiches–health food, no doubt about it.

And Wonder Bread did promise from the start to “help build strong bodies eight ways”, and later, twelve ways, as we became more educated about nutrition.

Never mind that this was actually a reference to all the added nutrients it contained. Or that these were practically necessary for Wonder Bread to even qualify as food, because the basic ingredients of white bread in the sixties:  refined white flour, sugar, water, yeast, etc., really don’t have much nutritional value.

Brilliant Marketing. And we fell for it.

Of course, this is old news. We all know this. Now.

But let’s face it folks, we are talking about the Tang generation here, so it’s easy to see how indoctrinated we were by marketing claims.

Tang was science, and space travel.

Tang was the future.

It was almost an American duty to drink Tang. And we did so, gladly, in service to our country.

It was what the Astronauts drank for crying out loud, plus, it tasted awesome. I pretty much drank it everyday for like twelve years.

The only reason I have any teeth in my head today is because they fluoridated our water back then too.

And of course, now we know that Tang was to orange juice what crack cocaine is to Budweiser.

And fluoridation was really a hard core commie plot, just in case you didn’t know that either.

And yes,  at the time, we thought we were geniuses. Turns out all the geniuses were writing ads for Tang, Wonder Bread, and Oscar Mayer.

Now, back to Smart Phones.

Last night, in a segment titled Screen Time , Sixty Minutes reported that the National Institutes of Health are doing a study of the brains of kids to see how cell phone usage affects brain development over time.

The results are not complete, and won’t be until they can study the children over a number of years, but already, they have observed that children who spend more time on their phones show changes in brain development, a slowing down of development in certain parts of the brain, as compared to children who don’t spend much time on devices.

They have also discovered that babies are more sensitive to the addictive effects of screen time, in particular as it relates to smart phone usage over tablets and other media delivery systems, than their older counterparts.

Other research revealed that while babies might appear to be learning from their screen time, much of what they learn does not cross over into the real world. They described how a baby who learns to play LEGOS on a screen cannot then play LEGOS off screen. In other words, if they want to play LEGOS in the real world, they have to learn to do it in the real world. So stop screen timing your babies and get out those LEGOS.

Generations of parents have limped around for days after stomping on those little plastic demons, and what makes you think your so special that you shouldn’t have to?

Another finding the NIH reported was that while young smart phone users say that they feel more connected to friends and family because of their smart phone activity, they are actually experiencing more depression, loneliness and feelings of isolation than they have in the past, translated, before wide spread cell phone usage.

This got me thinking about those genius marketers.

The question that I’m begging to ask young users is “If you have grown up with a smart phone since childhood, how would you know if it improves your connection to others or not?”

It might just be that you believe this because you have been told it for as long as you can remember and you are told the same thing nearly every time you look at your screen.

There is always some new app that you must have right now, right here in order to stay better “connected”.

There is always a new phone coming out that will out perform your old one and that you won’t want to live without because it will improve your quality of life and your social media game and everyone you know will have one and how could you possibly connect appropriately without it?

And as one industry insider reported, apps are constantly monitoring your phone habits and adjusting and updating the marketing messages that you receive on your devices, so that they seem to be responding to your needs, but what they are really doing is cleverly manipulating you into developing the needs that they want you to have.

Brilliant Marketing. And we are all falling for it.

Evidently, one of the things social media activity does for human beings is stimulate the production of dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter which operates in the reward centers of our brains. And of course anything that stimulates our rewards center–sex, drugs, amaretto cheese cake, can become a habit forming problem if we let it.

Which goes a long way in explaining my long standing love/hate relationship with Facebook.

I know it’s a terrible time suck, and I don’t even like it that much, but I keep going back.

Even after discovering that corrupt and hostile foreign entities used it as a platform to foment a deeper political divide in this country than most of us alive can ever remember.

Which just might be the real hard core commie plot of our time.

©2018 By Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It Starts with Remembering: A Christmas Ritual

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Christmas Rituals are everywhere right now. Lights! Trees! Shopping Sprees!

And decorating! It’s definitely at full throttle. I think I’m done though.

In the past, my Christmas decorating was very Martha Stewart-esse, with everything from homemade cedar garlands to red and green lights on the picket fence and rose arbor, to holiday themed soaps in the bathrooms and a reindeer throw on the couch.

It was lovely coming home on a dark December night, driving through the deep woods and up the steep driveway to those lights. As I climbed the stairs and unlocked the door, the front porch smelled like fresh cedar boughs. And the house was scented by clove studded oranges in a bowl on the dining room table and a live fir tree in front of the window.

Even Cody, our rescued Malamute, felt like Christmas, with his black and white mask, his thick fur coat and curly tail, and a couple of jingle bells on his red collar keeping time to his wiggling welcome home dance. Come to think of it, we did bring him home for the first time two days before Christmas.

BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER!

It was all quite wonderful.

But the older I get, the more pragmatic and less sentimental I am.

These days I prefer decorating that is pared down to simplicity: Indoors– some candles, a few baubles and greenery; Outdoors– white lights in select fir trees, and a wreath on the front door. I like the house the way it is already–light and bright and sparely decorated. Christmas clutter just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Or perhaps I’m just getting lazy.

I’ve got the Christmas spirit though. I really do. I just don’t feel I need to make a display of it anymore.

Sorry Martha, your icy stares and eye rolls won’t sway me. As a matter of fact, there are a few other traditions on the chopping block this year:

Christmas cookies–far too fattening for a couple of sexagenarians with symptoms of pre-diabetes. They’re out. Not that I won’t miss you kolachkes, but you were a bitch to make.

By the way, I love using the word sexagenarian and plan to do it a lot over the next nine years. It sounds so racy. And it’s so not!

Christmas shopping–over also, unless mailing a check to my sister to buy gifts for the grand kids and ordering a couple of small home appliances online qualifies. Who needs more stuff?

Certainly not this sexagenarian!

Christmas stockings–went the way of pantyhose, a long, long time ago. Filling stockings is such a pain. Not quite as painful as filling pantyhose, but close. They’re both dead to me. I thank God for leggings on a regular basis, because, like Him, they are so forgiving!

There are some Christmas traditions I don’t want to toss though. Like sending out cards. I love giving and receiving them. I just finished writing out my short stack of them.

There is something about a card with a hand written message that says “I’m thinking about you”, and this time of year, I want people to know that, yes, I am thinking about them.

Because I am–thinking about people. Remembering them. It’s not really considered a Christmas tradition or ritual, but it most surely is one. Why else would you send a card to someone you haven’t talked to for a year?

So I’m not some sort of sexagenarian Grinch. And I’m not a Scrooge, either, but since we are on the subject, consider this:

The spirits that moved on the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge began by showing him Christmas past. His renewal started with his remembering.

So for me, remembering is the most important Christmas tradition of all. I hope I will always have the where-with-all to practice it.

It’s the one ritual that has kept me going through the years. No matter how lonely, spare, lost or disappointing the year may have been, in December, I  look back at the wonders of Christmas past, and it does my heart good. Even while it makes me sad.

How do I practice this tradition?

Most years I pull out the family photo albums so that I, like Scrooge, can travel back in time.

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I can go all the way back to the very beginnings of my maternal family’s life here in America. Or I can visit my child mother, propped on a stool surrounded by her parents and sisters, posing for a family photo. Is it any wonder they nicknamed her Dolly?

I can travel back to my parent’s wedding, or to our little post war Cape Cod house, or to snowstorms in Connecticut, my brothers swathed in winter clothes, throwing delighted smiles at the camera.

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I can even return to my very first Christmas and sit in my dazed Mother’s arms again, surrounded by my four older brothers, wild eyed and waving their gifts, beside the tinseled white Christmas tree in our tiny living room on Cricklewood Road.

I can stop and marvel at the wall to wall relatives and friends in party hats and party dresses, drinks in hand, crowding our kitchen during some long ago New Year’s Eve party, and wonder at how happy and free and alive they all are. I can hear their laughter again. I can smell their perfume.

There is smiling Auntie Kay, looking like a movie star, sitting next to Auntie Jean. Dad and Uncle Vinnie are looking a little drunk, and Aunt Mary is reacting, laughing out loud, to something funny, and perhaps ribald, one of them has said.

And see how pretty Aunt Hattie is, sitting on Uncle Joe’s lap. Someone way in the back, next to Daddy, is holding up a bottle of booze, and Uncle Judi is throwing back a drink. And there’s Mom, tucked in the corner, wearing a party hat and a great big smile.

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The first time I saw this photo, I was a little taken aback at how wild and young my aunts and uncles and my parents appeared.

Until I realized–this was New Years eve, circa 1950’ish. Of course they were happy. They were alive. Most of them had lived through the lean years of the depression. They had all lived through, and survived, the Second World War.

And here they were, huddled in our warm little kitchen, safe, young and in love, looking forward to the best years of their lives.

Happy New Year indeed.

And this is the thing about this tradition–everyone in that photo is gone now. Some I haven’t seen for years and years and years.

But I can see them again, and I will, I’m sure, this Christmas Eve.

And I can celebrate with them.

And I can celebrate for them.

And I can celebrate Christmas, in my way.

I don’t need the Ghost of Christmas Past to take me back.

I’ve got this collection of photos, and this heart full of memories.

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And I’ve got this spirit of Christmas…right here in my heart.

And I hope you’ve got yours too. It starts with remembering.

©All images and text. 2018 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracings — Life in the Boomer Lane

 

Timely and important words written by Renee at Life in The Boomer Lane. Please share them:

It’s impossible to say what remains of a life departed. To loved ones, vivid memories, for sure. To those who came in more casual contact, moments of memories less vivid. To those who never knew the departed, perhaps an awareness of who they had been in life. What is left of those who were never […]

via Tracings — Life in the Boomer Lane

Italy: All The Colors of The Rainbow in Burano And Some Peace and Quiet on Torcello

How do the Italians get away with it? They are so bold. So out there. So creative. So colorful and artsy.

Can you imagine painting your house Pepto-Bismol Pink, or  Kelly Green maybe Tomato Red, or a startling Lemon Yellow, or if you are the sedate conservative kind, Turqoise Blue?

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What would your neighbors say? In Burano, they would say Bravo, and thanks for keeping with the status quo.

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Burano is a beautiful place. The buildings are bright, bold and eye-catching. While it may not have the architectural interest of major Italian cities such as Rome or Bologna, or it’s sister island Venice, the colors are so compelling, it’s a happy, fun vibe walking through it’s neighborhoods.

It’s one of the Venetian Islands, so it is a canal island, and you reach it by boat, as we did, on the last day of our Italian tour.

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There’s something about strolling along the canals, crossing over the quaint bridges, and exploring winding little alleys through residential areas here that is just so appealing. It was a welcome break after two weeks of non-stop touring through Northern Italy.

Burano’s a great place to just walk and shop and eat, which we did, and the crowds are much thinner than in Venice but slightly thicker than we experienced on Murano. And the pizza was very good, but it’s hard to find bad pizza in Italy.

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We also toured the island of Torcello,  which is tiny, has only about seventeen full-time residents, a handful of restaurants and sidewalk vendors, and a man who stands on the sidewalk that leads from the boat wharf into the tiny town, playing his accordion for you. 20181015_052712

I absolutely lost myself in the quiet of this beautiful little island, which was at one time, quite surprisingly, an important center of trade and politics. It has a long history stretching back to the fifth century and was once more economically powerful than Venice. The Italian plague, malaria outbreaks and infiltration of swamp plants in it’s lagoons contributed to the islands demise.

There are remnants of Romanesque architecture scattered around the grounds and integrated into the buildings here.

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The Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’ Assunta contains impressive Byzantine mosaics, but most of the opulent buildings that once graced Torcello were plundered to provide architectural elements for buildings on other islands.

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These two islands along with Murano were a favorite part of this trip for me. They were quieter than the major tourist destinations we visited. I did not feel inundated by crowds or commercialism on any of them and yet there was the opportunity to eat, drink, shop or just chill and enjoy the visual feast that is the specialty of the incredible country of Italy.

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©2018, All Text and Photography by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

And the Award for Your Favorite Facebook Friend Goes to: Anyone But Me

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These times are so challenging, who among us can really be our best selves? It seems impossible not to lose it now and then, use harsh language, spit venom. I realize that it is what we do when we feel defensive or threatened in some way, and what non-conservative/non-right wing Republican/non-Trump supporter hasn’t felt that way these days?

I find myself on social media posting things that I know put others (Conservative/Right Wing Republican/Trump Supporters) on the defensive, and maybe that’s my motive–tit for tat:

Your President makes my head want to explode, so here is a little bomb exploding on your Facebook page this morning, courtesy of me. Neener Neener Neener.

What The F?

If I had a analyst I would discuss this with her, but I don’t, because only rich people like Melania Trump can afford a decent analyst.

There was a time when I was able to approach sensitive subjects with tact and civility. I was diplomatic with people I didn’t agree with, and I was down with that.

Looking back now though, I wonder, was I being diplomatic or was I just afraid to say what I really thought?

When I was a little girl watching the Miss America pageant, I used to imagine what it would be like to be a contestant.

Of course like most little girls of that unenlightened era, I was swept up by the glitzy glamour of it all: beautiful evening gowns, sizzling swimsuits, high heels, red roses and a glittering crown, Oh My!

But there was another aspect of the pageant that I was always interested in–the honor of receiving the special award of  Miss Congeniality.

I wanted to be Miss Congeniality. I wanted to be the one everyone liked. I wanted to be the friendliest, most helpful, most supportive (and least competitive) girl in the room.

I wasn’t interested in being the bitch, even if it cost me my imaginary crown.

And for the most part, once I got over a few adolescent bitch fits, (thank you rising estrogen levels), I was a congenial young woman. Throughout high school I was shy but friendly. I never got in anyone’s face. I made some close friendships and I was nice to everyone.

I don’t think anyone I knew then would remember me now as “That bitch.”

I was a nice person. I think I got that from my Mom.

I remained a nice person throughout most of my adult life.

I didn’t make waves. I didn’t debate. I didn’t challenge people’s ideas, no matter how much I might disagree. I always tried to find common ground. I made only comments that minimized the differences between myself and others, rather than outright disagree with anyone. I smiled a lot.

Guess what?

Those days are over…kind of. I am not a sixty year old trying to be Miss Congeniality. I am a sixty year old woman with an opinion and a voice and desire to speak truth to power.

And the more I believe something to be true, the more I don’t care if it rattles you.

Yesterday, I drafted a Facebook post that concluded:

Donald Trump is a cry baby with a poopy diaper who smears it all over and then blames his Mama because his room stinks.

A conservative friend of mine thought it was hate speech.

I thought it was an adroit observation based on discernible evidence.

I don’t back down from that statement. I don’t retract it. I don’t disown it.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t regret it a tiny bit, way back in my Miss Congeniality/please like me/left over from my childhood psyche, I’m a tad sorry that my friends amygdala was addled by my words. But I’ll get over it and so will she.

Because that’s what adults do.

Cry babies, not so much. But that’s another Facebook post for another day.

Here’s the way it is:

If you meet me in person, I won’t get in your face, I won’t angrily debate you, I won’t disrupt the flow of sociability with unpleasant truths. Because I really like people and my Mom taught me to be pleasant and it’s just easier that way. I’d rather laugh with anyone than argue. You might walk away thinking: Wow, what a congenial old gal!

But on my Facebook page, where you can block me, you can throw me the bird, you can ignore me, you can un-friend me if you must, and I will never know the difference, anything goes, within reason.

Which means I might say something that has you muttering…That bitch!

And still, it will not be anything that I will direct at you or anyone else in particular, with the exception of certain narcissistic world leaders and political parties full of creepy ass old white men.

So I guess you can say I have made peace with the fact that I will never win the “Your Favorite Facebook Friend” award.

Guess what? I’m down with that.

Sometimes being sixty rocks.

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

Italy the Second Time Around: Fish Heads, Juggling Joggers and a Near Death Experience

I am not an itinerant world traveler. Indeed, at the age of sixty, I have recently completed just my second trip overseas.

Like the first trip three years ago, I primarily visited the country of Italy, with just a day trip into Slovenia, which it turns out, is pretty lovely and felt quite familiar, but more on that in another post.

And while this was my second trip to Italy, it was a journey that included some firsts for me.

For instance, I ate my first fish heads at a restaurant on the Venetian Island of Murano.

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I watched Anthony Bourdain eat them numerous times and swore I would NEVER eat whole sardines with their glassy little eyes and pouty little mouths. Plus they must have bones, no?

Turns out they don’t have bones, or not any that I could detect, and once they are in YOUR mouth their mouths are forgotten. They are pretty tasty really. Not fishy at all. Who knew?

Bourdain knew. I just didn’t believe him. In honor of his memory, I had to try them, head first, in a tempura type batter and lightly fried, and it was really not gross at all. Just a slight crunch.

Murano is also famous for it’s blown glass, which is surprisingly sturdy, and takes considerable more effort to crunch, as illustrated in the showroom of the Ferro-Lazzarini Glass Factory Show room, where the hard sales pitch included the slamming of a very expensive and beautiful hand blown glass goblet onto the table top. Several members of our travelling group were impressed enough to buy some after that unnecessarily violent display, and a number of women purchased jewelry, but since the abstract glass sculpture I was intrigued by included a thirty thousand dollar price tag, I abstained from purchasing anything in that particular venue. Photos were not allowed in the showrooms.

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I encountered another first in the charming city of Parma, where our passionate guide Ugo shared more historical information about his small city, it’s monuments and it’s art than could possibly be digested at one time, which was how I felt about most of the meals I was served this trip.

 

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On the two consecutive evenings we were there, we reached our dining destinations by walking the wide tree lined paths of Parca Ducale, located just behind our hotel.

That is where we encountered the juggling jogger, first I’ve seen far as I can recall. Overachiever.

Parma was a lovely town, and the crowds there were very tolerable. They also produce awesome cured meats and parmesan cheese in this region of Italy. We spent a lovely afternoon there and ate in a small streetside cafe. It was very relaxing and welcome after the hustle of Milan.

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On this trip, I also had my first near death experience. It was on the bus to some venue I really can’t recall due to the trauma. It’s not what you might expect. It really isn’t.

It’s just that I had to pee so bad, and I was so embarrassed, because we had only been on the bus for like half an hour. I tapped my sister in law in front of me on the shoulder and asked her to inform Carla, our tour director, in front of her, that I had to make a restroom stop.

Then I waited. I watched as Carla spoke to Natale, our bus driver. I watched as Natale  spoke back. I watched Carla settle back in her seat.

Oh dear, I thought.

Ten minutes later I was creeping up to Carla’s seat in the front to tell her that things were urgent. She spoke to Natale in Italian again. He spoke back. I sat down behind Carla.

And waited.

Eventually I saw signs for a rest stop. We passed it…under construction…CLOSED.

We passed numerous pull off’s on the side of the road. Too small for the bus.

The minutes ticked by. Carla and Natale exchanged more words I couldn’t understand.

I began eyeing the bushes along the highway edges longingly, the way Cosmo often does as we are travelling. It was all I could do not to wimper like he does because he can’t pee on all those glorious bushes.

I get it now.

Then, finally, just as I approached the edge of wetness…

 

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THE REST STOP!

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Photos by the author

 

As I exited the bus, Carla directed me to go to the restroom on the right. I was moving with the speed of a sloth due to the pain in my bladder.

It would have been a shame to have come so close only to die now, wouldn’t it?

A couple of other buses had pulled in and women were marching purposefully in the same direction.

I limped into the rest stop store, headed straight for the toilettes, and got in line behind nine or ten other ladies.

Grimace.

Next thing I know, Carla, our most awesome tour director, comes along side, takes my arm and gallantly leads me into the inner sanctum of the restroom as she explains in loud and authoritative Italian that this passenger has an emergency and needs the very next stall that opens up.

I love Carla. I also love the sweet German girl who shared some cranberry tablets with Carla for me, a kind of homeopathic treatment for bladder issues.

Carla saved my life. Or at least my dignity.

And while I didn’t find myself walking through a tunnel towards a bright light or see my dead relatives waiting for me as I walked to the restroom alone, or any of the other things that constitute a true Near Death Experience, I did think I was gonna die.

For a little while.

When I left that restroom, there were a couple of young German teens glaring at me, there were stern faced Italian women wondering who this overly demonstrative American was babbling “Grazie a tutti” as she exited the toilette and there were other women just lining up to wait their turn. I hope none of them were in distress.

Thanks to Carla, our most awesome tour director, a funny, smart and compassionate lady, I no longer was.

 

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

I am Joe Black: On Life and Death and The Practice of Kindness

 

My distant neighbor Molly complains that the bunnies in her yard eat her stuff–crops, flowers and ornamental plants, but at our house, the rabbits eat dandelion stalks and leaves almost exclusively. I’m down with that.

It think it’s because her husband Dave grooms their lawn so scrupulously that the rabbits don’t have access to good healthy stands of common weeds, like they do at our place, so they eat his wife’s plants.

My old man does not groom the lawn.

He mows and chops and drags and digs and does all manner of fossil fueled mechanical processes, generally of a destructive or reductive nature, but no, he does not groom.

So we have dandelions and lots of them. Acres of them.

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Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

But I won’t let him spray herbicides on them because we are organic here and I won’t let him mow them when the bees are working either.

I never said I was easy to live with. But the birds, bees and bunnies are, so he concedes.

Not surprisingly, the dandelions generally get ahead of us and turn to fluffy white seed heads before we mow them and isn’t Mom Nature the mother of intelligent design because just when the dandelion seeds are bone dry, she whips up the wind a little to help spread them throughout the good Earth, or at least my little corner of it, so I never have to worry about next years crop of weeds.

It’s a beautiful thing for the bunnies, which were prolific this summer. We spent a lot of time watching them enjoying the bounty of our weedy lot.

There was one little bunny in particular we grew especially fond of.

He was teeny tiny when we first noticed him in the yard. He looked too young to be out of the nest. I could have held him in the palm of my hand and don’t think I didn’t want to because I seriously ached to do so.

I immediately felt protective of him and worried about the ravens, owls and  hawks that frequent the neighborhood, and sometimes our yard. Occasionally he would be out in the company of one or two bigger rabbits, but he was usually on his own, which made me wonder what kind of derelicts his parents must be. I kept a wary eye on the trees for predators and would have wrestled him from the talons of an eagle if I had to.

For several weeks he came in and out of the bird thicket adjacent to our back deck, which is a small naturalized area of native plants–salal, Indian plum, huckleberry and elder berry–that provides food and cover for birds of all kinds, but it was kind of quiet this summer due to the drought.

One day when my sister-in-law was visiting we sat out on the deck and watched him nibble his lunch below us and then retreat into the shade of the thicket for a little nap. How sweet is that? Of course I loved him fiercely!

A day or two later I stepped out on the deck to the obnoxious screeching of blue jays in the bird thicket. I ran at them and shooed them away. I didn’t see the bunny or anything else in or around the thicket, but I know they act that way when the feral cat is about, or the owl.

Later I caught a glimpse of  the bunny running under the deck and into the front yard. Linda and I moved to the front porch and watched him sitting motionless beneath a patch of oregano for the longest time.

He was still there a while later so I sat on the porch again, watching him watch me. Eventually he took a few cautious steps towards me, looking right at me, which was odd, so I took a moment to scrutinize him. That was when I noticed the wound on his hind leg. It looked bad. My heart sank.

We managed to catch him and bring him inside, cradled in a towel, to examine the leg. The flesh was stripped clean exposing the bones and he had a couple of puncture wounds on his ribs. in spite of his famously weak stomach, Glenn held the cradled bunny while I tried to clean the wounds with a syringe of warm water. God I love my old man.

I applied some antibiotic cream and wrapped the leg with gauze bandages, but the wound was profound. We made him a little den of soft towels and grass in a box in the bathtub and left him to rest while I tried to contact an animal rescue for advice.

Twenty minutes later when I went back into the bathroom to check on him, he was stretched out on his side in the box, as if trying to reach the the pile of grass in the corner. He was in distress. I stroked his fur and talked to him gently, hoping to comfort him.  His breaths seemed so shallow and he whimpered a couple of times as I petted him. Moments later, he went altogether still and his soft brown eye went glassy.


I have tried to save wounded birds, butterflies, broken dogs abandoned on the road, and now, a baby bunny, without much success. Other animal lovers I know have shared tales of reviving birds and saving baby squirrels and other wildlife, but for me, it just seems to end badly. And I so want to help them.

I contemplated this as I buried the bunny in the yard. My friend Teresa once told me I was a helper, because I often came across animals in distress and even people and tried to intervene and help, but I’m beginning to feel more like Joe Black.

Maybe I am a helper of a different kind. Maybe I am a helper that walks with you through the shadows. Like Joe Black.

Maybe I shouldn’t say that out loud. I could lose a lot of friends.

Death is something we all have in common and yet we rarely discuss it in this life. I think that could make the dying person a lonely person. I know from the testimony of a friend who lost her daughter that it can make a person grieving over the death of a loved one very lonely.

Last Spring I was approached by a tiny injured wren as I worked outside, just like the bunny. And like the bunny, I tried to make him comfortable. I placed him in a box in the warm greenhouse, filled with grass and birdseed and water. I hoped I could save him, but I couldn’t.

You can’t change your calling, even if it sucks and is kind of morbid. If I am meant to be a helper that walks through the shadows with the dying or stands in the shadows that death casts on grieving loved ones, so be it.

I have sat with three dying dogs and two dying parents, a handful of birds, and a baby bunny. Every one of them represented a loss to this heart, in varying degrees.

No one can spare the dying from that last lonely walk or lighten the shadows their leaving casts over the survivors, but we can offer companionship, a quiet place to retreat to, a listening ear and soft words. We can attempt to mitigate the loneliness.

We can try to rescue injured bunnies, broken birds and shredded butterflies and practice kindness towards the Earth also.

Which brings to mind the words of a song by Jewel:

In the end, only kindness matters.

Amen and Amen

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts on Knowledge and Understanding from Aldous Huxley

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…at least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice, and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism, and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols. But zeal, dogmatism, and idealism exist only because we are forever committing intellectual sins. We sin by attributing concrete significance to meaningless pseudo-knowledge; we sin in being too lazy to think in terms of multiple causation and indulging instead in over-simplification, over-generalization, and over-abstraction; and we sin by cherishing the false but agreeable notion that conceptual knowledge and, above all, conceptual pseudo-knowledge are the same as understanding.

1956 Essay Knowledge and Understanding by Aldous Huxley, from the book THE DIVINE WITHIN, Copyright © 1992 by Jaqueline Bridgeman, HarperCollins Publishers

 

 

Let Go My Ego

I’ve been trying to get some spiritual work done lately. It’s not going great.

I’m not talking about meditating, levitating, studying scripture or attending religious meetings five nights a week.

And no, I won’t be ascending any staircases on my knees next month in Italy either.

I just want to murder my ego. I want it dead as a door nail.

I want it to stop following me around all day making me expect special treatment–like pretty birthday cards from my old man, foot massages and good customer service from Tracfone.

Leave me alone you nasty ego.

You make me say assanine things on Facebook.

You make me angry when I don’t get the reaction from people that I want.

You make me feel embarrassed over things that happened decades ago.

You make me whine like a baby when I’m hot and tired and dirty and just want a bath but it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon and I’m no where near done working in the yard yet.

You make me act like people I don’t like.

You make me have a meltdown in a smokey I-84 rest area because I have to sleep there in 100 degree heat and I’m hot and tired and dirty and just want a bath, like every other poor soul stuck there, and there are plenty, because they can’t find a room or a campsite, or because they are homeless and sleep there every damned night but I have to act like some privileged old white lady with her first world problems and have a bitch fit…because of you.

Damn you ego, you did that to me.

I dislike you immensely.

Like I said, it’s not going so well.

But I’m working on it.

I’ll get that bitch yet.

And I’m open to suggestions.

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

Dark Days Living in the Interior

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I used to enjoy travelling around the interior western United States. But I never wanted to live there. In spite of it’s towering mountain ranges, mighty river systems, geological wonders and preponderance of National Parks, Forests and Monuments.

I was always glad to get back to the west side of the Cascades, where the air was softer, cooler and saturated with oxygen, not smoke, all summer. And of course it’s beautiful right here at home.

But the last decade or so things have definitely changed.

We spend more time indoors now in the summer…with the air conditioning on.

Actually, it’s recommended this week due to the smoke and haze that is blanketing the Northwest with thick cottony air that stings our eyes and throats. We are surrounded by fires that are pumping out a steady supply of carbon rich smoke. California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia. Some of it is coming from as far away as Russia!

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We have had under an inch of rain in the last 120 days here. The woods around our home are an abundant and overflowing tinder box. It makes me wary. It makes me crazy. I know I’m not imagining that things are getting worse.

It’s been far too many summers that I have felt this way.

Being stuck indoors on these long summer days is so irritating to me. It’s why I have never felt the desire to move to a warmer climate, even if the winters are more tolerable. When the days are long I want to spend them outside, like I used to, not inside hiding from the heat until after the sun goes down. What a waste!

There isn’t a pool in the world, lighted, beautifully landscaped, and just a step or two from the back door, that could make that lifestyle attractive to me.

Today I feel like a prisoner. Today, I think maybe we all are:

Prisoners on an earth ship that is precariously out of balance.

In a prison of our own making.

None of us knowing the length of our sentence, or if we will outlive it.

Perhaps it’s a death sentence. Some people think so.

We don’t know absolutely, but we know enough to make educated guesses, and the educated among us have been pretty accurate in their projections. More drought, more prolonged heat, more vicious storms. Less temperate and more harsh conditions. More crop failure, less food security. More wildfires and floods and famines. More political unrest. More refugees. Less diversity. Less life.

Less life. Yes, that is what I’m feeling. The life-less-ness.

I’m living it, and I recognize the irony.

But I have no basis to complain. I’m part of the problem. I’ve lived sixty years on this earth, in a fairly conventional western manner. I am an American, which by birth makes me a master consumer in comparison to people in many other parts of the world.

My attempts at reducing my ecological footprint have been paltry.

I undoubtedly deserve to be punished for the part I have played in the climate crisis we are facing. I feel the weight of it following me around these days the way a guilty man carries his sentence with him, with a sense of the inevitable.

Certainly the Orcas and the salmon and the dolphins and manatees don’t deserve to suffer for my dereliction of care for this planet. Or yours.

Another blogger mentioned reading an article about how studies confirm that the IQ of human beings has gone down in the last few generations. I believe it without question.

Think about it.

WE ARE POISONING OUR ENVIRONMENT.

There is nothing intelligent about that.

And we can’t feign ignorance, not anymore. We know what we are doing.

We are a lung cancer patient continuing to smoke.

We are a dialysis patient continuing to drink.

We are an advanced species with the ability to reason acting in a completely unreasonable manner.

In other words:

We’re screwed.

Forgive me, but I needed to get that off my chest. Must be the smoke.

Carry on.

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

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