Saturday, September 29, 2018

He said. She said.

The following is an excerpt from an email exchange with a relative. The question was what did I think the chances were that Dr. Blasey's memory was correct.

"I, too, watched the hearing yesterday.  I listened carefully to what they both had to say.  Like many people, I was left with some questions.

I thought about it all evening.  I thought about all the women and few men who came and sat in my office and told me their stories of being sexually assaulted. I only remember one case where I wondered if the person was telling me the truth.
One of my main sources of frustration in that job was was that extremely few of these people were willing to report the crime to the police.  They felt, rightfully so, that the chances that they would be believed and the person who had assaulted them would be held accountable were very slim.  Further,  they knew they would be harshly judged by public opinion, ect.
I thought Dr. Blasey was forthright.  She answered the questions as fully as she could.  When she didn't remember or was unsure, she said so. Yes, there were details she could not remember, but they were peripheral to the actual incident.

I listened carefully to Judge Kavenaugh.  I don't believe that he was as forthcoming.  I heard his righteous indignation at being questioned, his anger and his hurt over what he thought was a life well and honorably lived. I have heard variations on that theme before. I also heard him obfuscate the extent of his drinking and the effect it had on him at the time in question.  I heard him refuse to insist that the only corraborating witness, Mark Judge, be called to testify. Why? I heard him dodge Durbin's question about did he want the FBI to investigate. Why not? I believe that he may not remember the incident that Dr. Blasey says occured. Perhaps it was a drunken joke to him.  Perhaps one of many.

You saw the effect the incident had on her.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is, yes, I believe Dr. Blasey's story.  I believe that it was Judge Kavanaugh and Mark Judge in that room and did what she said they did."
LIke many people, the effects of watching the committee hearing lingered.  I kept thinking about it.  I came to the conclusion that what I described as "righteous indignation" on Judge Kavanaugh's part was rather the fury of an entitled white man being thwarted.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What the @#$%?

IF you are wondering what's going on with this blog, you aren't alone.

I am shutting down my Wordpress blog and have shifted all those posts over to this Blogger blog.  I wanted to do the shift as quickly as possible and may sort the mess out later.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Visualize whirled peas…

Mark Bittman writing about a Japanese restaurant in the NY Times stated,
“Although so many restaurants advertising themselves as such (vegan) tend to be dull or even ridiculous, Kajitsu is lovable because the cooking makes that label irrelevant.” 

That’s what I would like to happen to vegetarian food…have the label become irrelevant.  Like so many labels in contemporary society this one is controversial.  People rush to take sides: carnivores v. vegetarians, vegetarians v. vegans, etc.  If you are one  you must defend yourself against the jabs and jibes of the other.  Why? Why can’t you just eat what you want in peace?

Polarization is the bane of life in the US.  People can’t just live their lives in peace.  Everyone has to have an opinion about what others are doing, no matter what sort of shambles their own lives are in.  It reminds me of when I taught middle school.  Children that age are very uncomfortable in their own skins.  They seek relief in the tactic of the best defense is a good offense.  And boy can they be offensive!  A lot of their discourse is about how inadequate others are in the hope that no one will notice how inadequate they are or feel.  Apparently, many in the US got stuck in early adolescence.

I couldn’t stand it then and have even less tolerance for it now. Why do we have to build ourselves up by putting others down?


Tales out of School

Martha was proud of herself.
Twice each week, on different days,
She sat in a grade school class
Observing, taking notes
Of what was said and by whom,
Of what teachers wore,
Of which child was lazy or naughty.
It was her duty to go.
How else would she know
Just what went on at school?
Martha was proud of herself.
Once each week at bridge,
She sat at the table
Reading aloud her notes
Of what was said and by whom,
Of which teacher was rude or haughty.
It was her duty to tell.
How else would they know
Just what went on at school?
Martha was proud of herself.
Each month, on the first Monday,
She sat in the school board room,
Passing out typed notes
Of what went on at school
When they thought no one was watching.
It was her duty, she said.
How else would they know,
Just what went on at school?

Time in a Jar

A few years ago, Charles Kuralt did an on air essay about putting the hour of sunlight that was saved by daylight savings into a jar and actually saving it for a rainy day or whenever you needed some sunshine in your life.
This idea charmed me.  I could see the jar of sunlight sitting on a shelf in my closet waiting for when I would need it.   When would that be?  Would I choose a rainy day, one filled with twilight when I wanted to go forth in brightness? Would I choose a dark night of my soul, when I was most alone with my gloomiest imaginings and ruminations? Would I share it or keep it all for myself?  Would I hoard it and only let it out a precious, glowing minute at a time, trying to make the brief hour last for the six months of its shelf life?
I suppose what is most ironic about this jar of sunshine is that it is only available when we need it least, when the days are growing longer, when the light is with us more.  As the days grow shorter, about the first of November, we have to dump whatever is left from the glowing jar and replace it with an hour of darkness.  As with most things in life, when we need it the most, we have the least.  I am rarely tempted to open the jar of gloom I get each November, and nearly always have a full jar waiting to be exchanged the next spring.
Of course, these thoughts are just that: silly imaginings, flights of fancy.  Time is a theoretical construct, a will o’ the wisp,  something that is there, but not there.  We quantify it.  Measure it. Record it. Bill for it. Waste it. Save it. Spend it. Subject it to relativity.  But, we cannot create or destroy it as in “He who kills time, wounds eternity.”  I think it was Elizabeth I of England who observed that despite all her power, she could not add one minute to her life.  It follows that even those who control the daylight saved time must give back what they take away.


Sue kicked the pile of bear scat with the toe of her boot, then leaned over and peered at it.  “At least two days old,” she murmured.
I didn’t know whether to be relieved or stay worried.  Did two days old mean the bear was two days away in some other huckleberry patch or was it two days hungry and due back to this one any time now?
Late July is huckleberry season in the low mountains of northern Idaho.  Huckleberries look and taste a lot like blueberries.  One difference is that huckleberries are smaller. Another is that they are a favorite summer snack of Northwestern bears.
As we walked, it occurred to me that I’d never had to look over my shoulder or discuss in a very loud voice the virtues of sharing the woods while picking blueberries. In fact, I’d never really considered the possibility of actually sharing the woods with creatures which might take exception to my eating their lunch, or that might realistically consider me an acceptable substitute.  I was beginning to feel a lot like Goldilocks and wondered if before devouring me, the bear would drizzle me with huckleberries the way I had my pancakes that morning.
“You don’t think we’ll actually run into a bear?”  I ventured, pointedly ignoring the scatological evidence to the contrary at my feet.  I was not comforted by her reply.
“Mmmm, yeah, we could. They sure like huckleberries.”
“How do we know if they are around?”  My voice went up several decibels and at least one octave.
She looked at me, then at the pile of scat at our feet, and then back at me.
“No, I mean NOW. Around now.”
“Well, usually you hear them.  They are really noisy. They just crash through where they want to go. Not like elk or deer which you only hear by accident.  But then, sometimes you just happen on them.”
“Oh, swell.  Then what?
“Move very slowly.  Back out the way you came.  Don’t try to run.  No matter how clumsy and slow they look, bears are very fast and agile.”
I eyed the distance from me to the safety of the truck.  If spurred by the adrenaline rush brought on by immanent consumption, I figured I could make it.  “You mean I couldn’t beat a bear to the truck?”
Sue looked at me.  Eyed my overweight, out of shape middle aged state, grinned and shook her head from side to side.  “No way.  I told you.  Bears are fast.”
I was not convinced. However, as we continued on our way through the undergrowth, noting the vegetation for her habitat survey, stuffing ourselves with huckleberries, I joined in making a great deal of racket, singing camp songs, talking and laughing with abandon.
We encountered no bears that day.  I haven’t had occasion to eat huckleberries since.
I’m really glad I didn’t have to find out if I could outrun a bear, because deep down inside. I’m pretty sure Sue was right. But don’t tell her that.

The Trickster

Saturday morning the temperature dropped to 32 degrees, colder than it had been for a few weeks.  Sadie and I had waited until the sun was over the ridge of the Sandias before we headed out on our walk in the open space near our house.
It was good we waited as the air was warming and the birds were singing now.  Sadie spooked a rabbit and tore after it.  Ridgebacks can run fast, but rabbits, having more to lose, can run faster.  She rejoined me and trotted along a few paces in front, as I walked along sheding layers of clothes thinking about how nice it was to have the warm weather birds back.  Earlier I heard a western wood pewee and a spotted towhee.  Further along, I spied a canyon towhee on a pile of rock.  It also started singing, as did a curved billed thrasher from its perch on a cholla.  Ahhhh spring, I thought as I strolled along imagining that the concert was for me, rather than for some female of their species.
cholla cactus in bloom
cholla cactus in bloom
Just as I was threading my way through some boulders near the top of a hill, we heard the characteristic, shrill bark of a coyote very close.  Sadie, who has no use for coyotes was off like a shot.  I yelled at her to come back.  As I came around the rocks at the crest of the hill, she came trotting up.  Another bark sounded and I looked up. There was a coyote about 20 yards away barking taunts at Sadie.  The coyote showed no fear of me.

I grabbed onto Sadie’s breakaway leash to make sure she stayed with me.  After a  hard stare at the coyote she came along willingly. I headed back toward home.  As we walked down the hill a chorus of three other coyotes started in calling and taunting trying to lure Sadie into chasing them.
Many of the Southwestern Native People refer to the coyote as a trickster.  I had just observed one of the reasons why.  Sending one member of the pack out to lure dogs to come play or chase is a common tactic.  The lure then leads the dog to an ambush by the rest of the pack.  I think Sadie may have fallen for this trick once.  Her speed and endurance may have saved her.  She knows this trick now and was content to escort me back home.

Two Brief Poems and One Short Poem about Spring

New grass, baby leaves.
Same old prairie,
Same old trees.

Whither the wind?
Does it blow around the world
And back again?

Winter Kill                                                                   for Jan
I took my shears to prune
what winter had killed,
but cut too deep,
lopped the graft,
only root stock remained.
I thought I had killed
all blooms to be,
all hope of flowering.
What grew then,
was something new,
blushing white
as angel wings
and fragrant,
as they must be.

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU

I know it’s March because the wind is blowing hard and will be doing so all week; and because I have an empty NCAA Tournament bracket awaiting me.  Not much I can do about the wind, but I will get my bracket filled out by the tipoff of the first play in game. Then, I will watch, wait and cross out my mistakes.  Soon, my pristine bracket will be covered with the red ink of faulty prognosis.
As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I am an alumna of the University of Kansas.  Being glued to the television much of March is my legacy. I wasn’t always such a devoted fan.  Maybe I was just a clueless one.  I attended KU in the late 60’s and early 70s.  I don’t remember basketball being such a huge deal.  It must have been important on campus, because KU was very good then.  KU has been very good most of the time since then.  I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I remember attending only a few games while a student.  I certainly don’t remember it being one of the overarching experiences of many students’ lives.
Perhaps reality lies somewhere between my fading memory and the craziness that takes place on college campuses today.  I can’t imagine camping out to get tickets, donning face paint, white outs, black outs, Dick Vitale, ESPN Game Day broadcasts and Final Four tickets averaging a $1000 or more.  Sports were a big deal, but they weren’t big business, yet.
I really hope KU does win the tournament.  They’ve been playing well lately.  Seems like they have a good chance this year, except for a couple of things.  These are young men playing.  They have young men’s emotions and inconsistencies.  This is true for every team.  The other factor every team has to deal with is parity.  Teams are extremely evenly matched this year.  Adam Kilgore writing in the Washington Post says that the “Best Team in Basketball is Nobody”.
I guess that means that we fans will fill out our brackets and wait and watch. I will hope to hear “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk KU” chanted on the last night of the tournament.
My aged but  trusty “Beak ‘Em Hawks shirt.

If you have a stroke, I’ll kill you.

If you have a stroke, I’ll kill you.  That’s what Marge always said to me.  She meant it, too.  Sounds like she really cared about me?  Ha!  She wasn’t worried about me.  She was worried about her.  She didn’t want to have to deal with an invalid.  Oh, yeah, she was plenty worried about that.  What with my high blood pressure and half of my family turned into so many doorstops, while the other half played nursemaid, she had reason to worry.  Me?  I didn’t.  I figured you lived your life until your number was up, then you took whatever came. I mean I don’t want to go out as a drooling vegetable, but, if I do, well, I probably won’t know the difference anyway.
So, in order to protect her interests, so to speak, as soon as the doc said my blood pressure was up a bit and that my cholesterol (whateverthehell that is anyway) was too high, BAM, I was on a diet.  I couldn’t eat salt.  I couldn’t eat fat.  I couldn’t eat anything I liked.   I got steamed vegetables and fish.  That was her favorite to fix for me.  It was so easy she said.  No trouble at all.  Just put everything in some foil and bake it a while and bingo, healthy food.  I have to admit after I got used to it, it tasted okay. Once a year maybe.  But that was what she fixed me seven nights a week.  Fixed for me.  Her, she ate regular.  Steaks. Fried chicken.  Lasagna. Gravy.  Butter.  Oh, yeah.  All that stuff.  She would sit there and tell me what a saint she was for saving me from all that fat and grease. How I should be grateful to her. Grateful she says as she is shoveling it down her yap. And me? I’m staring at steamed cauliflower and cod.  If I griped, she’d say don’t blame me for your side’s genes. I’m not gonna to sit by and watch you blow a vessel in your brain like your daddy did.  And if you think I’m gonna chain myself to your bedside like your momma did your daddy, you can just think again. You eat what I give you.
So it went day after day until one morning, I woke up late.  It was so quiet. Marge was in bed next to me all still.  She was usually up way before me.  Couldn’t sleep late she said.  But she was still there. And it didn’t seem like she was sleeping.  I called her name, Marge, and shook her, but she didn’t wake up.  I call 911 and told them to hurry. Jesus, I was sure she was dead.
After the ambulance came and whisked her off to the hospital, I got dressed and tore after them.  When I got to the hospital, they’d already taken her up to the ICU.  Geez,  the ICU.  The nurse showed me where the waiting room was and said to sit tight.  The doc would be in soon.  Seemed like forever when the doc came in.  He said she’d had a massive stroke.  A stroke.  Her.  He thought she’ll probably pull through, but she’s going to need lots of care.  He looked at me standing there in my baggy clothes. The doc said good thing you lost all that weight.  It’s going to be a long haul.

Fallingwater, Verbing and Nouning, Flags, Transported, Poetry Play, Above Tijeras Mid Spring, When,


Though I wrote this piece several years ago, I think the questions are still timely.
            In an issue of the  New York Times, Fred Bernstein wrote about structural problems with one of the most recognizable buildings in this country, a house calledFallingwater. Built in 1936 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this structure does indeed perch over a water fall.  Surprisingly, both the house and water are enhanced by the placement, just as Wright intended.  Cantilevers thrust the house into space echoing the water as it changes levels over the rocks.  The effect is stunning.  The effect may end soon.
The house is in danger of succumbing to gravity and tumbling down the cliff just as the water does because of the shortsightedness of one of this century’s great visionaries. Wright’s prickly personality was well known. He hated to be told what to do to the point of being a contrarian. As a result of this sort of hubris, his masterpiece is in danger of becoming a pile of broken concrete at the bottom of the cliff it now leans over.  When the contractor who was building the house suggested that there was not enough steel in the structure to support the weight of the concrete, Wright had one of his artistic snits and threatened to quit.  Wright eventually got his way, or so he thought. Now nature is having hers, even though when Wright wasn’t around, the contractor sneaked twice as much steel into the structure as Wright called for.  Despite this secret shoring,  the concrete, which usually stabilizes in a year, continues to bend.  The cantilevers droop lower and lower.  Without buttressing the layers of flying concrete will eventually no longer be able to support themselves.
It is a temptation to consider the possibility that it was Wright’s plan that art imitate nature to the ultimate degree at Fallingwater.  That the structure would eventually follow the water as it seeks a lower level.  Such thinking requires a stretch, a large stretch.  A stretch which would have to account for other Wright design flaws like flat roofs that leak and furniture that is striking in situ, but horrible to sit upon.
As I read Bernstien’s article, I smirked at one comment a visitor made about Wright.  He said, “It’s surprising that as good an architect as Wright screwed up.” I thought to myself, “Humph, this guy expects him to be perfect.”  Yet, in thinking about Wright and composing this exercise, that’s exactly what I caught myself doing.  While I’m interested in Wright and his work, it is the problems with Fallingwater which caught and held my attention.
Like all those we admire and label “Great” or “Genius”, when we strip away the cloak of their achievements, we very likely find the inconsistencies and paradoxes the rest of us labor under. Why then, do we expect perfection in all aspects of their lives?  Why then do we gloat when we find their humanity? Perhaps the difference is that those whose achievements and lives rise above the rest, manage to disentangle themselves enough from the mundane to soar. Their genius is risk that succeeded.

Verbing and Nouning

I recently watched a New Yorker video featuring one of their copy editors, Mary Norris, who is also known as the Comma Queen.  She talked about the verbing of nouns a term which in itself breaks the rule of not using nouns as verbs.  This rule or dictum is enforced by the New Yorker in the case of some nouns such as impact.  She states that the New Yorker will not allow its authors to use impact as a verb. For example, I found this dictum about not verbing impacted my writing.
I’ve thought about the verbing of nouns some and have written about it some on other occasions.  My conclusion is that I don’t like it, but occasionally find myself using the bastard words.
I am all in favor of keeping the English language alive, but I see little need to take the lazy way out which is what I think much verbing is.
Let’s look at one of the examples Mary uses:  She suggests that writing something impacted you is a less satisfactory way of saying something had an impact on you.  I agree.  Verbed nouns grate on my ears much as the word “moist” does on other ears.  Accessorize, prioritize, federalize, incentivize.  Ewww.
I’m trying to think of an example of an acceptable mutation.  Hmm, I wonder if mutate is a verbing of mutation.  There, maybe I thought of one word that might be acceptable,  since to mutate is to make a specific kind of change.
Uh oh.
I looked both words up.  Turns out mutation is the nouning of the verb, mutate.  Oh no.   whole new group of words to examine for okayness.  This is going to keep me busy for quite a while.
I’ve come to the conclusion that if we didn’t noun verbs, our language would become cumbersome, indeed.  For example, a runner is a person who runs.  It’s a lot easier just to noun that verb rather than affix the clause, “a person who…” does whatever,” ad inifinitum.
While this usage seems perfectly acceptable to me, I still cringe at the verbing of nouns.
As Whitman wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” $133.42


Sometimes events converge the way I would plan them. This year my iris bloomed on Mother’s Day.  I cut a big bunch and took them up to put on my mother’s grave.
My mother was a passive woman.  She fought very few open battles against my father, as he from the patriarchal seat of absolute authority issued the orders with which he ruled our family life.  However, there was one battle Mother waged and won.  The battle was over two bushel baskets of iris bulbs.
In the summer of 1951 my father changed jobs.  Our family was transplanted from Alabama to Idaho.  My parents purchased a tract house, one of a row that had been plopped down on the bare spots created when bulldozers scraped off the layer of sparse vegetation which grew in that high, dry latitude. Going from lush Alabama to the near desert of Pocatello was horticultural shock of a kind my mother did not intend to tolerate for long.  Iris were her favorite flowers.  She determined to take two bushels of bulbs along with us to plant despite my father’s hard habit of throwing out anything for which he could not see an immediate and pressing need.  He declared that taking those bulbs was ridiculous.  It was stupid, a waste of space in the moving van.  She didn’t even know if they would grow in Idaho.  He scowled his most frightening scowl.  The thunderheads of anger at having his will thwarted loomed over our family.  We all took cover except for Mother, who for once, held her ground.  We were amazed when she won.  The bulbs went to Idaho where they flourished in a thick braid the length of the back of our house.  We children delighted in them, too.  They were a sign that some battles against our father’s intransigence could be won.
It seemed that there were iris each place we moved after that.  It was taken for granted there would be.  If there were none growing when we came, then some were planted.  They were tacit reminders of her victory, like flags taken in battle.
I have continued her custom of planting iris wherever I live.  I have done it because I like them and because they remind me of her.  Here in Kansas, I learned, iris are often called flags.  Here in Kansas, I have fought my own battles.
I felt a smug immunity when I turned forty.  There would be no mid-life crisis for me, then I stumbled over my hubris and began a free fall into despair.  During the four years it took me to climb out of that dark pit, I sought help.  Twice I came away no better.  I hoped the third time would be different.  I had interviewed a therapist over the phone.  I told her my situation.  She said she thought she could help.  I had my doubts, but I got in my car and drove the 100 miles to her office to give her a try.  She met me at the front desk after I had filled out the forms.  We chatted as we walked down the long, carpeted halls to her office.  I follow her in and looked around.  “You like iris,” I said.
“Yes,” she laughed.  For, you see, iris where everywhere.  Her office was a veritable garden of things with iris on them. There were pictures and pillows, plaques and a throw. Small sculptures and ornaments covered the tables.  There were iris on things I’d never thought of putting flowers on.
Surrounded by these battle flags, I knew this time would be different.


Libraries are fond of using displays to encourage patrons to read more.  One of the most hackneyed is based on the theme of books transporting us to realms beyond our day to day lives.
Yes, the idea is hackneyed.  Yes, it is trite. Yes, I was transported by the last book I read.  Absolutely taken from here to there and even more I wanted to stay in that place, among those people.
I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer when it first came out in 2009.  I loved it then.  I told everyone I knew it was wonderful and they should read it.  They should have.  It was wonderful.
Then I moved on to the hundreds of books I’ve read since.
A couple of weeks ago I was scanning the shelves of books on CD at my local library branch, looking for something, anything to listen to in my car, when I saw Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societysitting there.  I knew I had read it seven years ago and enjoyed it.  I also knew that one of the upsides of my aging memory is that I can read books I know I have read in the past and enjoy them as if it were the first time through.  This aspect of my fickle memory is a wonderful thing.  It enables me to pick out books I know I’ll like and not waste time on clunkers.
So, I grabbed the box and headed to the checkout kiosk.  As I walked, I looked over the cover notes.  There was a list of narrators.  I don’t like multiple narrators.  I almost put the box back on the shelf.  I am still dancing a jig that I didn’t.  The narrators were perfect, having several fit this book exactly.  I liked it.
I liked it so much that I really would love to go to Guernsey in 1946, the year before I was even born, to see the places and meet those wonderful people.  I want to live there then in that place and time. There it is. Transported.

Poetry Play

Ear Worm
John, John,
The gander’s gone.
The fox is on the town.
The kits will cry ‘til by and by
The gander’s on their table.
John, John.

Full moon
On the desert
Pulls on the sand and rock
The ancient sea now seems long gone.
Neap tide.

Birds are betrayed
By the boy child’s tantrums.
Bringing winter back blasting spring’s

Cigarettes, pipes.
Chewing tobacco, snuff.
Made from crops lovingly tended
To death.