Looking Beyond

I’ve always been a detail person. Perhaps it has been a condition of being near-sighted. My art teacher was amazed at the detail of a drawing I did in middle school. We were taken outside to sketch. While my classmates were fixated on the sky, look of the buildings and towering trees, I was drawing a dandelion that was right there between my feet. It has been thus most of my life. Working in research, being attentive to the small changes resulted in significant contributuions. It allowed me to be able to visualize and draw blood from extrememly small veins and make precise injections. And in a way it held me back from making leaps off cliffs or attempting to step on clouds. My role for many years was that of the cautioner, Jimminy Cricket. I was the worst case scenario person warning of pitfalls. For that reason I personally didn’t make many missteps. There have been times when I’ve been challenged to see the “Big Picture” as an excuse by higher ups to undertake dubious assignments. I’m happy to say that I was able to avoid compromising my values.

As an organized person, I’ve always been more comfortable with a plan. I’ve got a plan for this week, next week, next summer, and the 5-year plan. I’m finding however that I need to look beyond my plan. I have to consider how my plan meshes with the plans of others. Not everyone shares my point of view or my vision for the future. As a Christian I am asked to look beyond my needs and consider the needs of others. Living outside the self and living for something else is a pretty frightening concept. With age is supposed to come wisdom. But I’m finding age reduces my flexibility. I’m set in my ways and I’m becoming resistant to change. Instead of an opening outward I’ve seen myself curl inward. I look for the horizon but my focus is not much beyond the tip of my nose.

The time of social isolation additionally narrowed my vision. I didn’t have much interaction with the larger community. There was an invisible barrier between my world and the rest of the world. Yes, it was a privilege to be able to afford to shelter in place for weeks on end, to have the means and monies to meet financial obligations, and to feel safe in my own home. I acknowledge that I am fortunate and more fortunate than most of the world. The harping and moaning about minor inconveniences makes most of us look like spoiled brats to those whose very existence hangs by a thread. How will we be remembered in the history books? What is the legacy we leave behind? How will we be judged by future generations? These are the questions that loom when you look beyond the self, beyond the individual, beyond vanity. These are questions I can’t answer. In light of the inequality in America I am now aware that change must occur and that change needs my active participation. I can do something. I can educate myself about race, white privilege, and social justice. Perhaps if we all looked beyond our own self interests we could change EVERYTHING!

Looking at Stupidity

What will we do in a crowd
When the noise becomes loud
A mask for safety allowed
Wrapped in a comforting shroud
As through the throng we ploughed
Coronavirus remains uncowed

Save us Lord from stupidity

Afraid of disease we remain
The only course for the sane
From close quarters abstain
Though wearing a mask is a pain
Its the cost of health to maintain
And disease prevention attain
Don’t whine and complain
Stay safe use your brain

Save us Lord from stupidity

Government and businesses close
Wear masks to cover mouth and nose
To flatten the curve they propose
Still some the order oppose
The old and frail they expose
Flippant they thumb their nose

Save us Lord from stupidity

The above is a poetry form called The Bop. It consists of 3 stanzas with a single line refrain after each stanza. All stanzas are written as monorhymes. The first stanza is 6 lines long and presents a problem. The second stanza is 8 lines long and expands on the problem. The third stanza is 6 lines long and documents the solution or failed attempt to resolve the problem.

My state is now “open” for business. Our cases had been declined but now a spike in new cases is occurring. I attribute this to the small but fierce group that refuse to keep their distance and will not “out of principle” wear a mask. These are the same group that refuse to wear seatbelts, adamantly refuse to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, and when I was working as a compliance officer had 101 excuses not to wear safety equipment. They were always the first to assure me that nothing would happen to them. Ususally just before I had to record an OSHA reportable incident… Of course this stupidity in the time of COVID-19 doesn’t just put them at risk. I’m not sure how long we will remain distanced but I suspect that I may not feel like mingling at a dine in restaurant for awhile longer. The church has been holding services since June 6th but restricting the number of persons permitted in the church at any one time. That prohibition will continue through August, as will the live streaming of the Mass. Our Pastor has been adamant that you MUST wear a mask. He maintains that the Bishop has mandated wearing masks and we WILL BE OBEDIENT! I was pretty sure there would be 100% compliance. However there were several people who gained entrance wearing masks and then promptly took them off. I was hoping the ushers would gently remind them that the masks were not optional as in “this is not Wal-Mart!” In the face of that occurance I’m going to attend via live streaming. I’ve even sewn some additional masks so that we can be sure to always have a clean mask handy…

Looking Robotic

I went for a little drive to complete an errand of no big importance. That is to say, it was not a pressing matter and I could have handled it on any day in the next 3 weeks. The point is I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to get out and go somewhere, anywhere. You would think that after seeing only Sparky for so long I’d welcome time without him but while he was at work the house seemed so empty. Thus I merrily jumped into the car and headed to my destination. Except I was too wrapped up in other thoughts and missed my turn. No problem. I live in a relatively small city and I’ve lived here for 40-ish years. What I didn’t count on was road construction.

I had missed my turn due to being on “auto-pilot” and taking a very familiar route that I drove daily to work. My destination was NOT the university but a place located before that institution would come into view. I ended up driving for about 20 minutes taking multiple turns and additional detours to end up right where I started. That is, right where I went wrong! Having become disgusted with myself and the summer construction season, I turned for home.

I was caught up in my own little dark cloud of perturbation when it dawned on me that I’d just passed my original destination! I was able to redeem my trip by pulling into the next business (albeit a bit abruptly) and simply parking and walking across the lot. It occurred to me that this trip where I was like a programmed robot is how many people go through life. Once I was back on the road I decided to really pay attention to the people and places I was passing. I saw lots of people walking, mostly alone, in a seeming trance. They didn’t respond to a smile and a wave. People in cars saw only my car and not me in my car smiling and waving. It was a little disheartening. You would think that we’d all be hungry for any positive social interaction. Which leads to this post. My question is, have you been robotic in your life? Are you still on autopilot? Have you been able to break out of the routine and experience the miraculous and the joyous?

Looking to be Creative

I decided to post some leftovers from April’s National Poetry Month. Anyway, I was looking for a form that I’d read about several years ago (like maybe 8 years – time flies when you are having fun) that consisted of taking a word and then writing a poem using only words derived from the letters in the word. The word you choose is the title. I couldn’t find the form or the name. I suppose when you change computers and have to start a bookmark list from scratch that happens. After a mighty search I found it!! An Anagrammatic poem which is made by permuting the fixed array of letters found only in the title into the words used in the poem. I like to play with words and I like poetry and I like puzzles. It seemed like a fun way to make a poem and would also exercise my brain in a way that I don’t often go. So I started this before April was over and then never finished because it really didn’t fit with the challenge I issued or Kim Hawke’s MMPP prompts. It took me several weeks of puttering. I scrapped several attempts and then found inspiration. Now, don’t laugh but I was inspired by my computer screen saver. You see I signed up for this rotating series of photos from nature around the world. The screen always has a little blurb about where and what is being displayed. This one photo was taken in Ireland and showed a stone cairn in the remote hills. It was a beautiful scene with the green hills and an ancient castle ruin in the background. So this made me do some virtual digging. That lead to some pretty fascinating stories of ancient customs (burial, marriage, war) and fable and myth pertaining to creation.

Creation

Reaction
Certain erotica
Tacrine tonic
Nectar octane
Atonic trance
Cornea retina
Ornate ocean
Canoe recon
Trice atone
Cairn rance
Inter crone
Trace ratio
Antic actor
Irate tenor
Canto intro
Otic riot
Core tone
Note rant
Iron coin
Earn cent
Rain tear
One once

Looking at a Sad Event

I must put a disclaimer at the beginning of this post: The following words pertain to what is termed “foundation garments” by the more lady-like among us. If any gentlemen would be offended by the discussion of women’s underclothing please be advised to stop reading now.

Let’s have a frank discussion on the problem of brassieres. I’ve seen all the internet ads concerning the supposed “fact” that women’s bras have not changed in design in over 100 years. First I would hazard to disagree. The innovations are there: breathable fabric, no seam cups, flexible wire and no wire options, stretch fabric in every part of the garment, special “petals” to smooth the look in cold environments, strapless that actually stays in place, push up and minimizing models, and of course the invention that made my life so much easier 30 years ago – a nursing bra that could be managed with one hand! But that’s not what I wanted to discuss even if it really gripes me.

The problem is the “life span” of the average bra. Most of the bras sold, without regard to price paid, have about 1 year. You might be able to eek out a few more months by hand washing and line drying. Still it is a terrible and sad day when a comfortable one bites the dust. This is a tale about my oldest and most comfortable bra and the extraordinary measures taken to prolong its life (a story of life support of sorts). You see I washed it in the machine. I made the mistake of tossing it in with a couple of Sparky’s T-shirts. Now he has a couple of very old and raggedy shirts that have some sort of sentimental value that prevent him from tossing them. He wears them for painting and mowing the lawn. Anyway, a hook on my bra got snagged on his ratty t-shirt causing the hook to get pulled out of shape. After untangling the unholy mess, I considered my options. One, I could just toss the bra or two, attempt to reshape the hook and hope for the best. I opted to repair the mangled hook. The hook was bent back into approximate position. I wore the bra for another 6 months.

But this does not have a happy ending. There was one little part of the hook that protruded and over time wore a hole through the fabric where the “eyes” of the hook are located. This was a painful and constant irritation. I attempted an additional modification of the hook trying to get the poking part back into alignment. It didn’t work. So I moved my attachment up another notch. This worked for a time, until it didn’t. Now with 2 holes I was forced to attempt surgery. I just happened to have another bra that had a different problem that I retired into my scrap bag. (Who knew that the elastic would be valuable?) Anyway I attempted to do a hook transplant. This may have been the first transplant of its kind – ever!

It has been nearly another 2 months since the surgery (and a little over 1 year since the unfortunate washing machine incident) and the unspeakable has occurred. I discovered that the seam holding an underwire has separated. I’m calling it. I’ve had to bid that favorite adieu. And this is why I have such a hard time paying $75 for a piece of clothing that, God willing, no one will ever see!

On a happier note the lockdown/shutdown/social distancing/isolation/pandemic on the employment front has been lifted (but I’m still distancing and wearing a mask). I have 2 jobs scheduled that should make a little spending money. That means I’ll have a little money but nowhere to spend it!! (Well not entirely true, since Goodwill is back in business with limited hours and a mask required and no dressing rooms.) I plan on taking advantage of the spring cleaning that everyone did during the lockdown!

Looking for Lilacs

What the lilac lacks in longevity
Its beauty makes up with brevity
The fragrance is sweet as heaven
But gone by the month we call seven
The lavender flowers in profusion
Throw my memory into confusion
I recall my grandmother’s vase
Displayed on the table a show case
All purple hues spilling over the edge
The result of trimming the lilac hedge
The delicate flowers fade far too fast
Until they are spent at last
Plucked from the water and tossed
My memory ever fresh is not lost
And with a deep breath I can recall
Each lilac made of flowers so small
My grandmother whistling a bird song
Trying to teach me to whistle along

My father’s mother was a small woman. She loved to whistle. She could imitate birds, tunes from the radio, and even classical compositions. For several summers I would visit for a week or so and she would try to teach me to whistle. She would encourage me as I practiced even though I didn’t make much progress. I still can’t make anything more than a faint, moist, hiss.

She lived in apartments most of her life but I recall a house they rented when I was in second grade. That summer we visited and there were lilacs. Her favorite color was purple and it is no surprise that the lilac was her favorite flower (beating out the violet due to the wonderful scent). When I went into the house there were vases of lilacs everywhere! I went into her bedroom and her curtains and bedspread were decorated in a lilac print.

Many years later, when she had a stroke and was dying in a hospital bed, I sat in the waiting area with one of her old friends. We sat and talked about his garden. He knew about her love of lilacs. He told me that he had intended to bring her some but had forgotten when he got the call that she was in the hospital. He went home and cut an armful of blooms. I took them back to her apartment and put them in a vase on the table. It was his gift to her and without knowing a gift to me.

I’m a practical person and rarely if ever purchase cut flowers. I’d much rather plant something that will bloom. But the memory of those lilacs still haunts me in both a sad and happy way. We planted two lilac bushes in the back yard. They’ve never really grown and I don’t think they have bloomed more than twice in the last 20 years. Maybe this will be the year.

post-script: Sparky mentioned casually that he smelled lilacs and lo and behold there were a couple (somewhat anemic) blooms…

Looking into the Freezer

As I may have mentioned before, we have been eating out of the stored foods since the grocery shelves have been strangely and intermittantly out of some items. I decided to finally use the last venison steaks. They were delicious. There are lots of people who would never ever in a million years eat venison. These are not the same people who are vegetarian or vegan (although the vegans and vegetarians wouldn’t either). Anyway I wanted to share with you the recipe for venison steak so that if you are ever so inclined you could try it. It would of course also work with beef…

Venison Pan Steaks
Ingredients:
4 venison steaks cut 1″ thick
1 pint buttermilk
1 t. cinnamon
3 T. black pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 sweet onion chopped
1 c. beef broth
6 T. butter (yes real butter) divided
1/4 t. sugar
3 T. red wine
1/2 c. red wine
2 T. capers – rinsed
1 t. flour and 2 T. broth

Directions:
Rinse the venison and remove any “silver skin” from the meat (this is similar to preparing lamb). Place the venison steaks in deep sealable dish and pour the buttermilk until the meat is submerged completely. Cover and refridgerate overnight. Turn the steaks once about 4 hours before you will begin the meal preparation. Place 3 T. butter in a saucepan and melt. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent and slightly golden. To the onion add the broth, sugar and 3 T. red wine and cook until it is reduced by half. While the onion broth cooks, rinse the milk from the steaks and discard any remaining milk. The buttermilk removes the “gamy” taste from the meat and also tenderizes it. On a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap, sprinkle the cinnamon, pepper, garlic and onion powder and mix and spread across the surface. Gently press the steaks into the spices on each side and place them on a platter. Melt the other 3 T. butter in a skillet on medium heat. When the butter is melted and bubbling place the steaks in the skillet to cook. Cook about 4 – 6 minutes on each side (depending on how rare or well-done you like your steaks) turning only once. When the steaks are done, return them to the platter and keep them warm. Into the skillet pour the red wine and bring to a boil scraping any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Once the wine is boiling, pour the onion broth into the skillet and stir well to mix and return to a boil. Mix the flour and broth until the flour is dissolved and no lumps are present. Once the liquid in the skillet is boiling rapidly add the flour mix, stirring continuously to thicken. As soon as the liquid has thickened, turn off the heat and add the steaks back to the skillet. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and top with the capers. The entire cooking and prep time is about 30 minutes (minus the overnight soak in buttermilk).

 
The first photo shows the steaks in the skillet (there were 4) and the second shows the plated meal – we had loaded baked potatoes and Sparky added an arugula and kale salad.

Looking at Fluff and Stuff

With all this time on my hands, I decided to review some of my favorite and maybe not so favorite movies. It was my decision to tackle the Marvel Universe. I started with Spiderman then Iron Man and then I watched Thor. I was ambivalent about the Avenger/Captain America movies. I threw in all the X-Men movies. I finally wrapped it up with Guardians of the Galaxy. At first I was trying to decide where the X-men fit in and then whether to try to watch the movies in chronological order or in the order they were released. I know. I’m a geek. Anyway I was trying to write an Abecedarian poem and ended up doing an initial rhyme (consisting of rhymes and near rhymes). It seems that all that Marvel Universe stuff started popping up in the poem. I guess I’m more susceptible to suggestion than I thought. So here is a little fluff on the surface with some serious stuff mixed in…

Ascend with me
Begin anew
Contend with fear
Defend the truth
Extend your hand
Friend to me
Grin at danger
Hold-in judgement
Intend to do right
Jinn in a bottle
Ken for those lost
Lend your assistance
Misspend all the wishes
No end to the troubles
Offend the senses
Penned apologies
Quin survivor
Rescind the anger
Transcend the fear
Unbend the broken
Vend this bounty
Wend your way home
X-men mystery solve
Yen turn to yearn
Zen to action

Looking for the Exit

I’ve been thinking about what leaving the house looked like during the height of the pandemic. The people at the grocery ranged from the laissez-faire who took no precautions preferring to let things take their course to the ones who taped themselves into garbage bag/duct tape haz-mat suits complete with safety goggles, face shields, shower caps, elbow length latex dishwashing gloves and an N-95 mask.

  
Now that it is warm out, there aren’t any plastic clad preppers. Instead the scarcity of face masks has given way to many home-made masks. Some of them are improvised and funny  and some are more practical mimicing the traditional surgeon’s style masks. The sewn masks made to hospital specifications are actually very colorful and at least a little more Spring-like in addition to being safer than some of the more, um, exotic ones. We have been going to the grocery separately – Sparky goes to one store and I go to another. This provides a way to get my car a little outing to keep the battery in good shape and to make the trip shorter. The last time I went I was in and out in 30 minutes. Gone are the days of leisurely strolling down the aisles, chatting with neighbors or relatives you happen to see, and the friendly banter with others and the cashier. The stores here are catching up with our European neighbors – limiting the number of people who are allowed inside the store, creating one-way traffic flow in the stores, and requiring/suggesting masks be worn and no reusable bags to limit exposure of staff. Finally (since son#1 is a grocery worker) the store staff are wearing masks. This makes me feel a little better since there are too many who are not wearing masks (I have a little rant on that that I may post at a later date. On the up side our grocery bill has plummeted. We would spend easily $70 a week on groceries. Now we are spending ~ $20 -25 a week. Add that to the savings by not eating out and we are doing fine financially since neither one of us made any money. The bad part is that the Governor has started the last phase for opening everything up. Some of the stores have done away with senior/fragile persons’ hours meaning we have to mingle with everyone when entering. And of course there are those ‘mericans who refuse to wear masks putting themselves and me & mine at risk. To that end we are continuing to shop at the crack of dawn when most of the idiots are still tucked securely in bed.

Looking in the Window

So CalmKate posted a little photo challenge on her blog to creat your own post about the photo above. I was struck by the waterfall of tears and the silouette of trees as lashes. Eyes are often windows to see within but they also function as mirrors. The fires that have raged and still rage both literally and figuratively in 2020 have made a gash in my psyche. A slash and burn kind of landscape, at least emotionally, is my experience so far.

The closer I look the more I see
My tears spill out before I blink
What I see makes my spirit sink
The closer I look the more I see

My tears spill out before I blink
Trees afire I watch them burn
Fox and deer to ash they turn
My tears spill out before I blink

Trees afire I watch them burn
I’m unable to stop the flames
I can’t remember their names
Trees afire I watch them burn

I’m unable to stop the flames
Destruction spreads and reigns
The grim reaper gathers grains
I’m unable to stop the flames

Destruction spreads and reigns
The earth is scorched and turned black
Death will never give them back
Destruction spreads and reigns

The earth is scorched and turned black
The closer I look the more I see
The earth cries out “just let me be”
The earth is scorched and turned black

The closer I look the more I see
My tears spill out before I blink
What I see makes my spirit sink
The closer I look the more I see

The above poem is a Catena Rondo. It consists of any number of 4 line stanzas having a rhyme scheme of AbbA where the first and last lines are identical. The Second line becomes the first and last lines in the next stanza and so on until the last stanza which is identical to the first stanza word for word. It has repetition and that gives it a chant like quality.