Looking at the Dark Side of Halloween

Welcome to this Special Halloween post. I’m crazy busy today as I’m visiting saintvi for the annual Halloween candy handout followed by the traditional Chili supper with delicious brownies for dessert while we watch one of the best movies for the season – Young Frankenstein. I will be coming home late and probably won’t be able to respond to comments until tomorrow. Have fun!

Chill winds, dead leaves as they dress up pretend
Children running they scamper door to door
Without a thought of how their lives will end
Making merry laughter the dead abhor
The veil is thinning between us and them
Sweet treats, full moon will call the dead to rise
Every child who mocks them hears death’s grim hymn
Played out in pantomime before their eyes
Evaporating souls like steam or fog
Fill the sky and seep past masks into mouth
Into throat becomes the croak of bullfrog
Hoarse they cry and turn to flee to the south
Into the chasm humanity falls
Compass points are pointless when the grave calls

This is for Ingrid’s Halloween Sonnet festival. Please go visit her blog to enjoy some other interesting and spooky Halloween sonnets!

Looking at the Curve

Haunt me
Pass or Fail
Grading on a curve
Depends on the best or the worst
Becomes the bane of average students suffering from
Test anxiety and low scores
Has no benefits
For the best
Or worst

This poem is a Bell Curve poem which is a variation on The Fib using the Fibonacci sequence. It does not rhyme and is strictly a syllabic poem of 13 lines with a syllable count of:

The rest of the story: I was talking to the neighbor down the street (who has a son the same age as mine). She is also a grandmother 6 times over (to my zero grandchildren). And although she works in the schools, she is not a teacher but a speech pathologist. She was telling me all about her oldest grandchild, a lovely girl in 5th grade. And it is rather sad that the gifts she was given in looks were not matched equally with intelligence. That is to say she is not a stellar student. The neighbor was ranting about the inequality of grading on a curve. Her example was her granddaughter who got a 73% on a test placing her below the average, and thus received a poor grade. And I had to agree that usually that is how it works. We had a little discussion but my experience with grading on a curve was negligible since it has little bearing for the top of the class. And I’m guessing those students who are truly at the bottom are likewise rarely affected. I had a slightly mathematical discussion with Sparky and I can see where your class standing would rarely be changed when graded on a curve. This assumes that there are always going to be top students who get near perfect scores and very poor students who score very low. The rest of the class will fall under the curve with the majority receiving a passing grade. In college I took physics. It was awful. On the first test the average grade was 25/100. It was graded on a curve. If it had not been, NO ONE would have passed that course. Does grading on a curve help students??

Looking Psychic

It was a normal day. Except it wasn’t because as I was going about my morning routine I suddenly thought about a friend. It was an odd and very specific nudge – I felt the need to send her a message because I just knew that she needed words of encouragement. I brushed the thought aside. I had places to go and people to see. But her face kept intruding into my thoughts. So I said to myself, “It will only take a second to send her a text maybe then I can focus on the tasks at hand.” So with phone at the ready I sent this text:
9:20 AM
“I had a nudge in my brain to send you a word of encouragement – You are worthy. You are strong. You are smart! I hope the new job is going well…”

She responded at 9:21AM
“You’re psychic! I’m actually changing jobs and moving to Nashville!! I really like most parts of my job but its not the right fit. Don’t worry. Its all good. Maybe we can talk tonight?”

So was this just a brain itch? Was it the whisper of a guardian angel? A nudge by the Holy Spirit? I’ll never really know. However that text made her feel like she was doing the right thing. When we talked that night I heard all about the job and the other things that in confluence had pushed her to the decision to move. As I listened I also heard a ping in my brain to say what I was thinking. I generally have a very tight filter between my brain and my mouth. In this instance I removed it and said the words:

“You deserve to be happy. If finding happiness means moving, then move. If happiness means chasing that dream then do it! Finding love is hard – I say go for it!!”

So she is. She’s following her heart despite the risk. She’s being brave. It is a grand adventure and I am praying that she gets the support from all the friends and family that she has supported over the years. All those years of being the giver and never doing things for herself in order to secure the happiness and well-being of others are over. She is now securing her own joy!

Looking at Gourds and Squash

School starts with days shortening
Quietly changes the status quo
Until summer bids us all adieu
And chill nights replace days warmer
Sweet flowers with petals stiff and frosted
Having spent their youth and beautiful lives

The calendar said that summer ended on September 22nd. It was a lie. Until we get a hard killing frost, summer is not over. The garden is still producing and I think the kale will probably be harvested through November. Sparky planted another round of arugula and I anticipate it being harvested for the last time this next week. The roses on campus continue to bloom and there are even a fair number of buds waiting to open. These are the heartiest roses I’ve ever encountered! But even so there have been signs for pick your own pumpkins for nearly a month. The grocery store besides the excessive quantity of pumpkins, has a huge pile of decorative gourds. Some are green and white striped with what looks like wax drips or warts all over, others are smooth in orange, green, white and even purple. Some have long curving necks others are round with ruffled middles. I’ve always been curious about the difference between gourds and squash and always say I’ll look it up. Every year I forget. Not this year! The difference is negligible. Seems one is cultivated for consumption and the other for decoration! Yes, they are of the same family and are both squash! That said, we had chilly nights but the days warmed up until this week. I had to hunt up the heavier jackets and sweaters. It is definitely Autumn and soon enough we will be staring old man Winter in the eyes.

The poem above is a double acrostic having the first letter of each line create a word when read sequentially top to bottom AND the last letter of each line likewise creating a word. Sort of a fun one to do but it was a real struggle for a word ending in U.

Looking at Flies

When we traveled to North Dakota in August, we experienced swarms of flies. They were everywhere. We tried to avoid letting any into the car but it was impossible. We got adept at shooing them out, cracking the window to suck them out, and if all else failed we swatted them in a death match. At one geocaching location there were flies – of the giant, biting, tear off a piece of flesh for a snack, horse flies. And I’m talking about lots of them. We managed to avoid getting bit and congratulated ourselves on preventing any from accessing the interior of the vehicle! I was very happy to return to Indiana where we get some houseflies that are dispatched with the trusty flyswatter. Now that we are getting a little cooler the flies have died off. Any still around are moving in slow motion and pose no threat. Or so I thought.

We currently have an infestation of fruit flies. I’ve been killing them right and left. And I know the source! Sparky has a thing about bananas. As a young child he got sick on bananas during a car trip. When we were first married he would NOT eat bananas. After children, he developed a taste for the ‘nanas but they had to be ripe. When I say ripe, I mean suitable only for banana bread. The last batch went spotty really quickly and I do not eat “leopard” bananas. Sparky had to eat all 6 bananas by himself. Which meant they sat there for several days past the point I’d eat them before they were ripe enough for him (read more black than yellow). I’ve called a moratorium on bananas until all the fruit flies have been eliminated. I’ve put a contract out on them all. I want to hire the John Wick version of pest control! If it were up to me – to paraphrase Al Capone, “I’m not only gonna kill them, I’m gonna kill their families, all their friends, and burn their houses down!”

As you might be able to tell the flies are making me crazy. They are too fast and too small for me to get them all! Son#1 made a big dent in their population when he was over. I’m heading to Dollar General to buy some of those fly strips…

Looking to Place a Bet

Paying up
I’m in debt
Mistake made
Placing bet

Wager bold
Strong arm threat
I can’t pay
Life forfeit

Gambling. Some people really enjoy the thrill of winning. But mostly they lose. I know several people who regularly go to the casinos. They go with $20 of “playing money” and when that runs out they have dinner and call it an evening. Sometimes they break even, sometimes they win a little, but most of the time they lose it all. But here’s the key – they lose all of the $20 they set aside for playing the slots or roulette or whatever other games they like to play and that is it. They are done. They walk away. Entertained and fed, it was $20 that they could have easily spent on a movie and snacks at the theater.

What it wasn’t was that month’s rent or money for the kids’ school supplies or clothes. It was not the money to pay utilities or buy the groceries for the next week. Gambling is sort of like alcohol – some people can have a drink with dinner and be done and others have one drink and pretty soon they have consumed the whole bottle of vodka and are passed out on the couch. Some people gamble and then walk away with money in their pockets and others play until they’ve spent every penny in the checking account and are trying to access the savings account so they can continue to gamble.

There was a story in the news about the new casino hotel going up (it is behind schedule for many reasons) but the one thing that struck me was that they would give a one night’s stay to any customers that lost a certain dollar amount of money. Sort of a consolation prize. To me it reeked of a tactic to keep the losers close and possibly enticing them to gamble more in the mistaken notion that they could get some of their money back! I’m obsessive (not terribly and it doesn’t make me act like Monk) but I know that there is something in my personality that would make gambling addictive. I’m self-aware and I also have a very strong desire to be in control of my mind and actions. Sadly there are many who are not in control, are not self-aware and who are addicted to any number of destructive forces.

The above poem is a Cethramtu Rannaigechta Moire, an Irish poetical form that is composed of one or more quatrains where all lines are limited to 3 syllables. The 2nd and 4th lines rhyme…

Looking for Therapy

I had a conversation with CalmKate a couple of months ago. She though I should incorporate the gist of the conversation into a post. I’ve been thinking about it off and on which usually means that it has struck a chord. After percolating for awhile and perhaps fermenting, I decided to tackle the topic – Blogging/writing as therapy. First a disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I do not pretend to be one. The contents of this post are based on observations, experiences and my personal opinions.

I’m pretty sure that journaling is an oft recommended activity to get the thoughts and emotions swirling inside the brain to the outside. Creative writing (be it poetry, prose, fiction or fantasy) often draws inspiration from life experiences of others as well as personal ones. The comment I made (which I had to search for) was: “We allow the emotion to flow onto the page and not act it out. We can mold it to become entertaining, shocking, sad, or inspiring and thus make it a mirror for the human condition – our condition. Then once in the light we can examine the circumstances, our reactions, and then grow. Though for many, as they have never learned to express themselves through written word, the counselors become a necessity.”

The amazing thing about writing is that emotions and actions can be poured onto the page without harming anyone. That is one can write about murder, revenge, jealousy, thievery, and any number of terrible things without having ever taken part in them. Many write to teach through their own experiences – both positive and negative. Others write as a creative outlet as they work through stress, depression, grief, and illness. And there are still others who rage against prejudice, inequality, hatred, and all the injustices of the world. In equal number are those who vent their frustrations with government, politicians, policies, laws, media, science, education and the list goes on. This writing it out sometimes provides perspective. They can go back and read what was written weeks or months ago and challenge themselves to do some critical thinking.

This brings us to blogging. Blogging puts those thoughts and emotions on display. We share our creations with others. We can teach, inspire, persuade, inflame, soothe, or goad others. Knowing that, bloggers have responsibilities. We are accountable for our words and how those words affect others. Laws are finally catching up to the technology. Trolls and flame wars, cyberbullying and charlatans, are out there. With everything there are positives and negatives. Writing can have all sorts of benefits for the writer and their audience – I’d like to advocate for positivity and above all kindness.

Looking at an Early Night

Birds sing
Lonely songs
To recapture day
To warn others of night’s dangers
To comfort the brokenhearted lovers now parted
They fail on all counts with harsh notes
Lovers plug their ears
Evil laughs
Day breaks

Here we are in the middle of October and the Halloween candy is getting stale on the shelves as it has been on display since the 3rd week of August! As usual the days are starting to get shorter and the nights longer. Although it is still warm during the day, the night air has a crispness as it comes from the north. The other night (and it was dark out already) we were all gathered for ice cream on the patio and were startled by a call that sounded very close. It was low and raspy and then it changed to a clearer sound but we couldn’t tell the direction it was coming from. Of course everyone had their phones out and soon enough we determined that it was the call of a Barred Owl. Then we heard another call. It sounded even closer! My in-laws live in our neighborhood and have an open grassy area behind the patio with a ring of very mature trees, mostly oak with some pine and a scattering of maple, aspen, ironwood and catalpa trees. We figured out that the owls must be in the trees and were having some sort of serious discussion. Probably over territory. My MIL was relieved to know it was owls as she had been hearing their spooky calls for the last couple of nights. Because my FIL takes off his hearing aids at night his sleep was not affected!

The poem is a Bell Curve poem which is a variation on The Fib using the Fibonacci sequence. It does not rhyme and is strictly a syllabic poem of 13 lines with a syllable count of:

Looking Puzzled

I do not have an immensely popular blog, which is just fine with me. There are lots of bloggers and social media addicts who measure success by the number of followers. I even know some of them. The problem with having lots of followers is that it is nearly impossible to interact with them individually. That’s why it is always gratifying when I comment and get a response. I have a friend (we’ve met IRL, been to each other’s homes, gone on a road trip together even) who has oodles of followers on FB. She gets tons of likes and almost NEVER responds to any comment on her FB posts.

In an odd turn of events, the number of people (or businesses) following me doubled during this last August scavenger hunt. I was surprised but also pleased to have met some new and creative poets. On the flip side, I’m accustomed to responding to each and every comment made on my blog. The number of comments coming in was nearly overwhelming! We are now well into October and the number of comments from new followers has slacked off. As it was, there were about 20 people who commented regularly and now the number is about 25. Still manageable and it feels like a community, friendship, connectedness. There is a sensation of puzzlement over how very popular bloggers handle the massive amount of comments on their blogs. Do they respond with likes only, respond with counter-comments to all or only a select few? How do they maintain a sense of connection with their followers? I sit scratching my head and wondering.

Looking at Waterfalls

The water crashing loudly shakes and terrifies me as
Sound falls
Churning white at lip and river bottom bubbles
And bawls
And the roar and thunder scares me as badly as
Storm squalls
Mesmerized I listen to the Valkyries cries bounce off
Stone walls
Closer to the edge I lean to see and feel the pull
It calls

I am both afraid and attracted to water. The ocean is magnificent – as long as I’m on land. I’ve been in the ocean once and it terrified me so badly that I will NOT go farther in than my ankles. You see, once a long time ago (before children) Sparky and I went on vacation. We visited the East Coast and did what we had never done before – went swimming in the Atlantic ocean. Well, swimming might be an overstatement for what I did. I waded into the water and got about waist deep when it happened. A wave lifted me up and then set me down. It was a strange sensation and not altogether unpleasant until a few seconds later when the water grabbed my legs and tried to drag me into deeper water! The pull was tremendous. And I couldn’t get out of the water fast enough! It was like a horror movie. Since then I’ve been very reluctant to enter large bodies of water and very very respectful of the power of the ocean. The same is true for large rivers with fast flowing water or rapids. And perhaps it was one too many perilous TV shows where the characters are swept away and headed for certain death by going over a waterfall that fills me with trepidation. Despite the fear and anxiety I’m still mesmerized by the water falling, surging, flowing and ebbing. I have visited the beach and watched the ocean inch inward to high tide and then recede for low tide and it never gets old. Do you hear the call?