Yes, but you don’t go!

Anyone familiar with the “Go ye Heroes” song from Pirates of Penzance? The women sing words of cheer to the men marching off to war:

MABEL: Go, ye heroes, go to glory,
Though you die in combat gory,
Ye shall live in song and story.
Go to immortality!
Go to death, and go to slaughter;
Die, and every Cornish daughter
With her tears your grave shall water.
Go, ye heroes, go and die!

GIRLS: Go, ye heroes, go and die! Go, ye heroes, go and die!

Meanwhile, the men start marching off to war… but make a U-turn around the town fountain and march back to the women… who keep singing cheerfully about them heading off to die. So off they go again, only to make the same U-turn and return, obviously not as enthusiastic about their bloody demise as the women seem to be. After about three times around the fountain, and the women exclaiming, “YES, BUT YOU DON’T GO!” they finally do march off the stage – as the women sing “At last they go, at last they go!!!”

My point? Winter is behaving like those poor schmoes in Pirates: Yes, but you DON’T go!!!”

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Time Lost

Friends in early childhood were situational, and they weren’t really friends; you met them in the park or in other places your parents took you. Eventually you were old enough to venture out on your own, and then you could “make friends” with other kids in your neighborhood (this was before the world was such a scary place that real play was replaced by parentally arranged “play dates”). Again, initially you had location in common – which, as I think about it, has always been necessary to starting a friendship.

Eventually you were discerning and actually chose your friends. In your teens they were kids you “fit with,” people like yourself; later perhaps you became friends with someone because you admired them and in some way perhaps you and the friend enhanced each other. Lovers and friends were more distinguishable then than in this generation, although throughout history and even in my youth (when the earth was still cooling) it was wise for lovers to also be friends.

Friendships most often seem to be killed by distance and time, or rather, the lack of time. Time passed is time spent; and spent, according to Webster’s, is time “having been used and unable to be used again.”  Once spent, can it ever be retrieved? Or is it gone forever like that quarter lost in 5th grade when I bet Didier that it wouldn’t rain by the time school let out?

In the past twenty years or so, I’ve been making friends from a distance. The Internet has removed that once-essential first step of friendship, location. The irony of this is that while I have made a number of new virtual friends (some of whom I eventually got to know personally), the Internet has also reconnected me with a number of far-flung old friends from various periods in my life, friends who had been “lost.” Recently I received these wonderful lines from one of them:

I’ve never felt pressured to write
By anything you’ve said or implied.
But yes, there is an urgency about it,
Brought on, no doubt, by my own sense
That time has been lost
And that writing is the only way
To try to make up for it.
It’s simple – the more I send,
The more I get back.
And therein lies the time recaptured.

Well said, old friend. How delicious is the recapturing!

Scream

There are sounds that a person recognizes the first time they’re heard. The metal-on-metal crunching noise of one car smashing into another turns your head, but your eyes are not at all surprised to see what caused the noise. Although the actual damage may be shocking, you already knew intuitively what the sound was.

I once had a sound-recognition experience that I will always remember. It wasn’t the impact of metals, glass and plastics coming together, it was the screaming of a rabbit, and although I had never heard it before, I recognized it as such.

I grabbed my camera and raced toward the sound – not stopping to wonder why the rabbit might be screaming – and there, under my back porch, Nature’s plan was being carried out. The rabbit struggled but could not kick free of the mink’s jaws. Death was swift.

The mink – beautiful though somewhat bloodstained – eyed me for a moment, moved closer as if to get a better look, and then went about the task of dragging the rabbit’s body to a protected place where he could dine on it as his needs arose. I watched from about six feet away.

Standing there, I suddenly understood the waning of the local mouse population. The mink had probably been hunting the area for some time, unseen and unheard as he consumed the deermice and voles, nature’s quiet Quarter-Pounders. But for the rabbit’s screams, I would never have seen him, and although sorry for the snowshoe hare, I welcomed this four-legged rodent trap.

A week later, the daughter of a neighbor dropped in to say hello. She was home on a break from her missionary work. I casually mentioned having seen a mink under my back porch, and with amusement, she told me about coming home and finding a mink in their yard, writhing in agony. Her father had poisoned it. Eventually bothered by its suffering, she got a friend to shoot it.

This young woman and her dad believe in Heaven and Hell, and being born-again Christians, they feel assured of a place in the former. I am not so sure. In fact, I hope that there might be a peaceful place, an eternity, where God’s innocent creatures could go about their business without ever having to cross paths with those who so blatantly disregard their beauty and their importance.  I care a lot less for those who harm them for no good reason.

Stormy Winter Morning Musing

From my house, if the wind is quiet, I can hear the sirens from all three local fire departments. They all sound at noon – at slightly different times – and individually when there is a fire, calling the volunteers. If for some reason the local volunteer ambulance squad is going to be a little slow getting to a call, our fire squad dispatches a fire truck (because it has an oxygen mask and a volunteer trained in basic first aid).

Twice I have been the beneficiary of this service. Once, while burning some junk wood at a firewood landing, the wind took the fire into my field. It was 2400 feet uphill from the road, and the volunteers came carrying water on their backs. Another time, when my heart went into arrhythmia, the Pierrepont Fire Chief (once a kid in the 4H club I was involved in) arrived in a firetruck and calmly put an oxygen mask on me as we waited for the ambulance.

This morning as the blizzard was beginning, I heard a siren. Whether it was Colton or Pierrepont, I couldn’t say for sure. I am always thankful it is not for us, I hope that it is something very minor, and I feel gratitude for those good neighbors who dedicate themselves to fighting fires and saving lives.

When we disparage those who voted for the current president, we need to remember that most – if not all – of these people who give so much of their time and effort to protect us and keep us safe probably voted for him. They try to do what they believe is the right thing. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Except that there aren’t very many of “us” on the volunteer fire department rosters.

Putting in Stitches


…………Sipress cartoon from The New Yorker, 3/10/08, p. 91
.
Behind the altar in the Baptist church of my childhood was a velvet curtain. If I ever did think about it as my mind wandered during Sunday services, I’d have thought it was simply a decorative touch, a bit of burgundy (or was it gold??) that matched one of the colors in the stained glass windows.

When I was about thirteen, my church-going contemporaries and I were herded into a baptismal class. The lessons “taught” to me there didn’t stick in my memory – but for the revelation that a large concrete water trough had been secretly lurking behind that velvet altar backdrop, and that one by one my classmates and I were going to be paraded into that tub and get our heads wet. In all the years past, church folks had been smart enough to do this sort of thing after all the young kids were sent down to their Sunday School classes. None of us had previously witnessed this strange event.

On “the big day” we donned some sort of white cotton choir robes, got in line, and then one-by-one waded into the tank. The water was waist-high, the minister asked me the pertinent questions, I answered as I’d been instructed to, and SPLOOOSH: the bastard tipped me over backward and under water. Apparently I came out of that tank a saved Christian; in reality I decided this religion was for the birds, or maybe the fish.

At some time after “organized religion” was washed out of me, some family friends came to visit. Their daughter Donna Jean and I were the same age but of ever more differing interests, making it harder and harder to know what to do during these occasional social get-togethers, and on this Sunday I said, “Why don’t we sew? We could make something.”

Donna Jean looked a combination of horrified and all-knowing while proclaiming, “Don’t you know that every stitch you take on a Sunday will be a stitch of pain before you die?” I must say that I didn’t know that…but not wanting to push her into doing something that she obviously felt was wrong (and apparently dangerous), I answered something like, “Yeah, oh, well, we don’t have to sew.”

My logical brain scoffed. I already had one foot planted in my father’s agnosticism and was secretly turning away from my mother’s Baptist church, and Donna Jean’s nonsense was laughable. Or was it? My mind raced. Had I sewn anything on a Sunday before?? I had. Yikes. Could Donna Jean’s proclamation be true?? Nah. But could I be sure?? Pain scared me. Building up a large cache of stitches of it that would have to be endured before death scared me not a little. We didn’t sew that day, nor did I sew on a Sunday for many, many years.

I’ve had pain now and then in the years since God’s ways were revealed to me by Donna Jean. Maybe I’m paying down the cache. Or maybe there’s a Christian equation that looks something like this:

(Life allotted) + (Sunday stitches sewn) – (Pain stitches experienced) = Time Remaining

Who knew God was a mathematician?

Click!

 

 

FaceBook.  FB.  Time-sucking, discount-store blog.  “Friends” you’ve never met on the outside of a screen feel your pain and share your excitements with a simple click; causes and politicians can be supported with the touch of “Share”.  Surely this is Nirvana.

I used to blog regularly, at times doing the literary equivalent of attending Black Friday sales in the wee hours, searching for the perfect word or turn of phrase to complete the day’s post.  Now, through FaceBook, I take on the evils of real Black Friday with a mighty click.  Climate change:  Click!  GMO crops:  Click!  Romney’s dog on the car roof?  Click!  Click. Click. Click!

Back in the real world, there’s an insect for that, although the Click Beetle’s clicking tends to scare off predators because of its sound and action, not its support of causes.  The mechanism is a spine on the prosternum which snaps into a corresponding notch on the mesosternum.  Not only does it create a clicking sound, but it can bounce the beetle into the air, so it’s useful when the critter is on its back and needs to right itself.  Evolution has not yet provided our click beetle with an “Unfriend” button.

 

It was Karan Cross of http://www.thewildinside.blogspot.com who “got me on FaceBook,” as they say.  As anyone who sells handmade items will tell you, social networking is a way to spread the news of what you are creating, and, being a smart dealer, Karan made it easy for me to try the drug.   It quickly progressed to being the first thing I do each morning with subsequent fixes throughout the day.  The personal page was soon supplemented by a Wizened Eye Photography page.  If you want people to “Like” your art, it isn’t necessarily good to mix personal observations, loves and hates with the more dignified artistic self you wish others to see…  Or, put more succinctly, I soon had two f***ing FB pages to manage.

Inevitably, the question “Why?” arises.  I sip my morning coffee and click to see what’s new.  A high school classmate posts a new photo of her granddaughter, stunningly beautiful and sparkling with personality.  Click!  A distant neighbor describes a morning’s activity in Ireland. Click!  A cartoon makes me laugh out loud (or, more precisely, LOL).  Click!  A new painting is unveiled, a hand-crafted silver bracelet displayed, a haiku shared.  Click, click click!  Awareness of someone’s need or illness is made.  A dinner recipe tempts me.  Whispers and shouts from around the world, taken in nibbles that I swallow- or left as crumbs on a plate for other scavengers of cyberspace to forage.

And so, although it doesn’t fend off enemies or right me when I’m on my back, like the beetle, I’ll keep on clicking.  My FaceBook friends, thank you for being a part of my life.  This post’s for you.

 

That’s Odd

And so the New Year, an odd-numbered one, approaches.

Many years ago, my husband and I came to superstitiously believe that there was goodness in the odd-numbered years (and toil and trouble in the evens). After all, we were married on 11/03/1973, as odd a date as one could find. I had a stress-induced miscarriage in 1974, two days after my ex- sued for custody of our daughter. Our move to the North Country was in 1/1975, marking a new age of freedom from the constant threats and harassment that had been visited upon us by my ex-husband. I was diagnosed sterile in 1976; our son was born in 5/1977. The many other “proofs” of our theory slip my memory, but it did seem to be a definite pattern in those days. 

As calendars are a human construct, I suppose the whole “good year / bad year” idea lacks any rational basis. Indeed, recent years have blended ups and downs – until 2016. (And if I’m honest, I had a couple of things to be very thankful for in the past twelve months: the “salvation” of my grandson from meds that were poisoning him, and the birth of sweet Ada come immediately to mind.)

2017 is almost upon us. May it bring us reasons to have hope, reasons to rejoice, and may it bring us – collectively – reason.