Friday, 26 May 2017

No Phone, No Pool, No Pets ... And NO DRIVE, Thanks Anyway

If you've been reading regularly, you know that I'm stretched thin these days between work and mom-care.

Thank you for your concern for my mom; she is noticeably improving now and even her thinking is much clearer. I am hopeful that she will get back to exactly where she was before her medical issues started one month ago.

On the work front, I am still staring down that 18-wheeler that's headed my way.

So there has been little time to ponder or read or take pictures. When it came time to write a post for today, I had only a few minutes and no plan. All I could think was that I had no photos, no ideas, no time, no energy ... and -- poof! -- an old country and western song ("no phone, no pool, no pets") came to mind. I haven't heard Roger Miller's "King of the Road" for decades, so I decided to see if it was on YouTube.

Sure enough, there it was.

(Isn't the internet a gold mine? Okay, YES, it's a black, tarry pit of hell in some cases, but so often when I have a question or want to relive an old memory it coughs up the answer or memory in such a brief flash of time that I am almost giddy.)

I remember hearing quite a bit of C&W music while growing up. Tunes by Roger Miller, Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and many others were played on our radio station, and the radio in our kitchen was on full-time. My father enjoyed this music, so I associate these songs with both him and my early years -- a winning combination for a good memory for me.







That's it for today. And I'm hoping that by the end of the weekend Life will be calmer here.

For now, it's still a case of ...

Life, I decline your kind offer of a drive. Vamoose!



P. S. A bird-y postscript: a little woodpecker comes to our deck regularly now for the purpose of drumming... or so it seems. He sits on the barbecue and jack-hammers away on the lid. Does anyone know WHY he might be doing this? Wouldn't he be in danger of blunting his insect-hunting equipment?? He's fun to watch, although I didn't realize how loud he was until a day ago when the window was open. I thought there was someone on our deck with a hammer and a sheet of metal!

Wishing everyone a good weekend :)



Monday, 22 May 2017

Poetry Monday. Sort Of.

My mom-care duties racheted up another notch or two over the weekend. Even though my mom's original infection is cleared up, she is having a lot of anxiety about her health because (a) she is 87 and has been very healthy all her life, so she isn't used to being sick nor is she used to the tiredness that follows illness (b) she's still not processing things entirely well (c) she is having new symptoms, unrelated to the old symptoms and (d) it's a holiday weekend so her doctor won't be in until Tuesday and that feels like months to her, given (a) through (c).

It was impossible to completely dismiss the new symptoms, since I am not a nurse, or a doctor, or even a veterinarian, so off we went to the ER, twice more, over the weekend. (The end result: paperwork has been started for a specialist appointment, which I suspect was more a means of getting her to stop going to the ER than a necessity or a solution, and which will -- if history is any indication -- cause a flurry of new worries by my mom, plus a car trip either two hours in one direction or three hours in the opposite direction.)

*bangs head slowly but forcefully on desk*

And my work deadline, which was extended by one week, is now coming at me like an eighteen-wheeler on the freeway.

*lays head on desk and cries a single, futile tear*

But!! I rallied long enough to write a poem.

Here it is.

Donkey Lament On A Holiday Weekend With No Holiday In It

I'm tired and stressed and full of frustration.
I need a stiff drink and a two week vacation.


*****
I didn't say it was a long poem.

Or a good one.

*****

I leave you with this other bit of verse and a sweet little face:



May your week have some good beverages and/or some cute in it.

P. S. At least our weather is back to cool and comfortable! That's one less stress for me!

*lifts head off desk and feels she may live after all*


Poetry Monday can also be enjoyed at these fine blog sites: Diane's HERE, and Delores' HERE ... join in if you like! Leave your poem in the comments at any of our blogs, or leave a link to your blog so we can find you.



Friday, 19 May 2017

Birds and Squirrels and Little Jimmy Dickens

Between continuing to check on my mom, whose recent illness has caused cognitive issues and make me cautious about leaving her on her own, and deadlines at work, I've found myself without a plan for this Friday post.

There isn't much in the way of bird-y news, but you can be sure that what little there is will be captured in blurry photos and captioned to death.

First, the finches, demonstrating how they blend into the trees (no wonder we never see them once the leaves come out):

Mr. Finch is on the right. The leaves belong to a tree that grew up beside the deck steps and was half lopped off by my husband last fall, with the intention of finishing the job this spring. Well, those plans have been scuppered by the birds, for whom the remains of the tree provide a good waiting area when lining up at the feeder. This is why we can't have a nice yard. Do I care? Not really. Anyway, this little half-a-tree is the same kind as the trees that line the back edge of our property. Ergo, invisible finches after the leaves make an appearance.

And here are the pigeons who came a-calling (because I flung (flinged? flang?) handfuls of seeds over the yard in an attempt to feed the birds who like to eat from the ground):

You would be correct if you were thinking our grass isn't grass. Two years ago we had a record dry and hot summer and it killed our lawn. We are still repairing it, in pieces. This is not one of those pieces. This is WEED HEAVEN.


Here's one of the doves who coo at dawn and dusk, a most gentle and calming serenade to the beginning and end of the day:

More weeds. And sticks. Donkey hasn't gotten around to picking up the yard yet. Work deadlines and Mom-Duty, have I mentioned those already? I think this is a dove. For all I know, it could be another pigeon. We'll say it's a dove for now. My research is not going well.

Last, but certainly not least, our visiting squirrel (who I hope doesn't become our house squirrel):

He knew I was LOOKING at him from the deck, but he was hoping I wasn't SEEING him. He stayed as still as a rock until I started to turn away. Then he high-tailed it away through the trees, leaping from slender branch to slender branch, about 8 to 10 feet off the ground. I had an "aha" moment as I realized where the word "high-tailed" probably came from. His tail was straight up as he scurried along.

So, that's the report from Donkey-land, where the temperature and humidity have taken a giant step into "uncomfortably warm" the last two days, and neither of them even said "Mother May I" ... so if I'm not around on Monday you'll know I've melted into a puddle of goo until the weather moderates.

Just kidding. It would take more than that to keep me from blogging. I'm having far too much fun.

Have a good weekend, everyone. As the old song by Little Jimmy Dickens goes, "May the bird of paradise fly up your nose."

Well, maybe not up your nose. But close enough for you to enjoy its plumage :)




 


Monday, 15 May 2017

Poetry Monday: Things Are A Little Nuts Here

For more poems, visit Diane and Delores, my partners in crime. Except their poems are all originals. And good! And if you'd like to join us, leave your poem in the comments section of any of our blogs, or let us know where to find your blog.

People! It's Poetry Monday AGAIN!

 That week went by like a ... a ... well, like a peregrine falcon.

Which, according to Doug in the comments on Friday's post can reach top speeds of 200 MPH.

So, yeah -- lickety split.

I would like to be able to say I spent the week searching my soul and pondering and ruminating until I crafted an astounding piece of poetry. But the truth is that I was checking on my mom four times a day to make sure she took her antibiotics (because she was quite confused), and I was working, and doing all the usual other stuff, so this week Poetry Monday was looking like it would be bleak and empty.

Then I remembered a poem from my childhood. (And I realized I lied when I said HERE that I've only memorized two poems in my life. Because clearly I still remember this gem and that means I memorized it, too.)

Maybe I remember this verse so clearly because of the circumstances. My uncle was a member of the Armed Forces and was stationed in Egypt as a member of the UN Peacekeeping Force in the 1960s. My aunt (his wife) and their three children were visiting us for a few weeks in the summer. My brother and I brought the total kid count to five, ranging in age from three to eleven; I was in the middle of the pack at about seven years old. One day, when we were probably driving our mothers up a tree with our behavior, we were tasked with writing letters to my uncle. We used blue airmail paper, tissue-thin and of small dimensions, because it cost less to send it overseas. Then, as now, I loved any kind of paper and this was particularly intriguing because each sheet folded up to make its own envelope.

I had to plan my letter carefully because there was so little space on the page. I didn't really know what to say to my uncle. He had been a rather hazy figure in my life until that point. But I knew he liked jokes and funny stories, and I had just read a good one in a children's magazine. It went like this:

A peanut sat on a railroad track;
His heart was all a-flutter.
A train came speeding down the track --
TOOT!! TOOT!! Peanut butter!!

When I read it, I laughed so hard I had a stomach ache and tears running down my face. It was just one of those times -- you know what I mean? -- when something strikes you as being SO funny and the more you think about it the funnier it gets.

So I started my letter with the usual enquiries of his health, and the fact that my health was good (i.e., "Dear Uncle, How are you? I am fine."), and then offered up the adventures of Mr. Peanut.

When my uncle returned from Egypt, I was thrilled to find he had brought me a finely tooled drawstring purse made of soft leather, which I treasure to this day. In it was an Egyptian coin which I have kept for all these years, too.

And most important of all, I still have his letter that he sent in reply to mine, before his return to Canada. In it, among other comments, he said "this old country is hot and dusty," and that he had liked the verse very much.

What a kind response to a child's attempt to entertain. I'm fairly sure his deployment wasn't very much fun and that verse didn't do much to help. But it made my day when that thin, blue letter arrived in our mailbox with my name on it.

*****

Maybe next week I will be able to crank out an original poem, for a change. Wish me luck; I'm going to need it.

*****

This fellow doesn't need luck. He got his head in there with the peanuts by dint of hard work, a clever brain, and a nose like a bloodhound. Not to mention those little paws.

I think there's a lesson in there somewhere for me.


(Photo credit: Pixabay, a bottomless well of freely available photos for anything your furry little heart desires.)



Friday, 12 May 2017

All the Little Birdies

I am thrilled to report that the new bird feeder is now hung up and it immediately attracted numerous tiny birds as well as some larger ones -- a couple of which I have never seen in our area. That's how well those guys can hide under normal circumstances, I guess.

The finches and chickadees are regular customers, and little sparrows are sometimes in attendance. There are two new arrivals also -- a pink/brown fellow as seen below, and one that looks similar to the yellow/black guys below except it's quite a bit larger. They all share nicely, which is delightful.

Here's proof:

It took many many shots to get this slightly blurry photo. There was always SOMEBODY moving. Group photography is always a chancy proposition!


The two yellow finches (?) above are, I think, actually one guy and one gal, the guy being the bright yellow one, as seems to be nature's preferred colour scheme. There are at least three (maybe more, heck they all look alike to me) pairs that show up now, where there seemed to be only one male and a half-dozen females before. I wonder why the difference? Were the other males out hunting for food sources while one male stayed with the group of females?  Now that there's an abundance, are they free to all travel together?

It's so enjoyable watching these birds while the trees are still bare. Soon they will be hidden by the leaves and I'll see them only at the feeder.

But I'm finding it a painstaking and frustrating exercise to try to identify most of the birds I see. I'm absolutely sure of only the chickadees, bluejays and robins. I'm not at all sure that what I'm calling crows aren't ravens instead. I have no knowledgeable person to ask and only the computer to help ... and usually I end more confused than ever. I don't think I'll ever be a birder.

But I'm a bird appreciator -- of that I am certain.

As are our cats. Oh yes they are. Although they must do their appreciating from inside the house.

Happy weekend, folks. I hope you are getting a chance to enjoy all the little birdies -- and the big ones, too -- wherever you may be.


Monday, 8 May 2017

Poetry Monday: Robert, and Dan, and Sam, and Grampy, and Me

It's another non-Donkey poem today (two poems, actually) for Poetry Monday, as promised in last week's post.

My grandfather, the one who had the sweepstakes luck in the coal mine, and who commandeered me as his piano-chording sidekick when he played the fiddle, lived alone for many years after being divorced twice and having all the kids grow up and leave home. While he enjoyed a good debate on politics or religion with anyone who happened to show up at his door, he was happy to be alone most of the time. He pursued many solitary pastimes, among them the already mentioned fiddle-playing, board games like checkers and Scrabble (playing against himself, and always simultaneously winning and losing), and reading. The reading sometimes led to memorizing, either a favourite line in a book, or, more often, a piece of poetry that interested him.

He especially liked Robert Service's poems, and of those, he had a particular fondness for The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee. If you're ever run into these poems you will probably recall that they are long and wordy and darn good stories with excellent rhyming. Grampy liked to break into a verse or two whenever the conversation flagged, and it was definitely easy for us, his audience -- all we had to do was listen, try not to choke on the blue haze that filled his little home from his constant cigarette smoking, and smile when he finished.

At the time we didn't see it that way at all. Grampy was not an adult who understood kids very well. Instead of trying to understand what was going on in our minds and lives, he tried to involve us in his interests, by offering to play checkers with us (he did not believe in letting anyone win, no matter what their age), or by talking of his days in the coal mine, especially the part where he was the local head of the union, or by reciting poetry. I understand why ... now. And I understand that I gained a lot of interesting memories by not being the coddled centre of attention. And I never doubted that he loved us. He was just a different kind of grandfather from the ones in the books I read.

Looking back, that's just fine with me.

On to the two poems I mentioned above (in bold type). Because they are SO LONG, I'm going to reproduce only the first verse of each -- those are the verses I remember best anyway, and they're the ones that bring Grampy into clear focus. I remember him reciting them in his quiet, clear voice, and I picture him, warm brown eyes and slightly inclined head, cigarette dangling from one hand with an inch of ash trembling on the end, trying to establish contact with his fidgeting grandchildren with only the use of his voice and his amazing memory.

The Shooting of Dan McGrew

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up
In the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box
Was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game,
Sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love,
The lady that's known as Lou.
.
.
.
(The rest is HERE if you're interested -- you may notice that at this link, in the title, Dan McGrew's name is mis-spelled. I looked for another source but couldn't find one in the time allotted to write this post!)

*****

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
.
.
.
(The rest is HERE if you're interested -- and if you have time to read just one of these two poems, I'd recommend this one. First, it's shorter; second, it's funnier; third, it's got a surprise ending. Case closed!)

*****
 Note: If you'd like to read more about Robert Service, go here for the long version or here for the short version.


Don't forget to visit Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border (who had the idea for Poetry Monday in the first place) and Delores at Mumblings (who knew a good thing when she saw it and joined in).

I also want to mention that neither Diane nor Delores are anywhere near as long-winded as I am, so there's that.

You can join in too -- read a poem, write a poem, copy/paste a poem, talk about something completely different that comes to mind -- it's all good! If you write a poem on your blog, leave us a link so we can find you. Or you can put it in the comments at Diane's, Delores', or right here.

Thanks for reading!



Grampy's cigarette smoke? Sam McGee's cremation smoke? Who knows?





Friday, 5 May 2017

The Ongoing Bird-y Saga

It's beginning to seem that Fridays are bird posts just as surely as Mondays are poetry posts, here at Procrastinating Donkey's writing desk.

And by writing I mean typing, and by desk I mean computer table. Somehow typing-computer-table doesn't have the same ring as writing desk, though, does it?

Moving right along.

Our bird feeder has attracted the attention of a couple of very large crows, who are none too pleased with the fact that the feeder is hanging up. They much prefer to wrench it free and throw it on the ground, where they attack it with their pointy face-weapons.

I'd throw it on the ground out of sheer embarrassment, too, if I were a crow. trying to sit on top of that very small feeder. It looks a little like an adult sitting in a toddler-size chair. I haven't managed to get a picture yet because there is a very small window of time between the crows' arrival at the feeder and the throwing of the feeder to the ground; however, I shall persevere.

As if re-locating the feeder every day is not enough, the crows have also damaged it; the hook at the end of the chain has disappeared into the lawn, no doubt to be spit out by the lawnmower this summer. I just hope it doesn't hit anything important, like a person or a window.

This has been a busy week for me due to some health issues my mother is having. So I'll wrap this up with a picture borrowed from icanhas.cheezburger.com, and call it a day.





Have a good weekend, everyone. May all your hobbies be done in surroundings more comfy than a tree limb :)


Monday, 1 May 2017

Poetry Monday: Come Fly With Me

It's Poetry Monday! How does this day come around so fast every week?

Started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, and picked up by Delores at Mumblings, Poetry Monday is a chance to celebrate poetry by writing, reading, or both. You can leave your offering in the comments at any of our blogs, or on your own blog. Just let us know where to look.

At Procrastinating Donkey, I am running out of ideas for my own poetry. This may have something to do with my real job taking more of my brain recently, or maybe it's just that I'm not, at heart, a writer of poetry as much as a reader of it. Whatever the reason, I am posting someone else's poem today. It's one I discovered as a teenager when my Grade 12 class was given an English assignment. The assignment seemed simple enough: "Create your own anthology. At least half must be poetry, and at least half must be original work."

I still have my anthology and treasure it. I remember every piece I wrote for it, and looking through magazines for artwork to illustrate my choices. The assignment left a lot of room for non-original pieces, too, and there was one poem I liked so much I memorized it -- without being required to.

Now that is not a major accomplishment by the standards of even one generation before me. My parents were routinely given poems to be memorized and recited in class. My grandfather's generation was also made to do this, and he continued to commit poems to memory into his old age, just for fun. (More on that next Poetry Monday.) 

I can still recite today's poem, over forty years later. The words, ideas and phrases just begged to be read aloud again and again, and seared themselves in my mind.

As an aside, there is only one other poem that I have ever learned by heart: In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae. I think just about every Canadian child is required to lean this for Remembrance Day recitations; McCrae was a Canadian poet and a physician in World War I, and his poem is one of the best-known war poems ever written. I consider it a privilege to have had the chance to learn it as a youngster.

But when, you ask, are we getting to the poem du jour?

Right now!

This is another poem from wartime. I didn't realize until I was doing some research for this post that it is as famous as In Flanders Fields. Both poems still gives me goosebumps.

High Flight
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air ...

Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.



From Pixabay, used with great appreciation.


*****

A note on the poet, from wwwyourdailypoem.com:

"John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922 - 1941) was born in Shanghai, China, to an English mother and an American father. At the age of eighteen, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, trained as a pilot, and was sent to England to fly a Supermarine Spitfire with the 412 Fighter Squadron. After a high altitude test flight one day, John wrote his parents a letter and enclosed a poem--this one--that test flight inspired. He was killed a few months later, when his plane collided with that of another British military pilot."

High Flight is in the public domain.




Friday, 28 April 2017

Bird-y Update, And Deer


Since my post last week about bird visitors to our new, very small bird feeder, I've had lots of chances to try to get some better photos of them, and even a video. No, I didn't find my camera instructions. I just winged it. (Pun not noticed until re-reading!)

I found that I could get my camera to focus on the birds rather than the window screen if I made sure the outside object was in the centre of the picture. Now I have a convenient reason to procrastinate some more on looking for that darn instruction booklet.

As mentioned in that other post, there are two groups of birds who dominate the feeder. I'm fairly sure they are just common starlings and blackbirds. Both of these birds are plentiful here and you'd think I would have known what they were. As it turns out, in the case of the starlings, I was seeing lots of what I thought were new-to-me birds but they were actually just young versions of what I know as starlings. They are covered with light spots -- quite fetching, really. I am used to seeing plainer, darker starlings.

I borrowed this photo from Wikipedia, because my starlings wouldn't sit still. But my guys look a lot like this - black base coat, spots, yellow swords for beaks, and pinky-orange legs.


 

And the blackbirds? I'd never seen them up close before. Turns out they are't black, as I had thought, but irridescent, with dark blue heads and greenish backs. Their eyes are piercing yellow, and kind of give me the creeps. Their grey beaks are strong and pointy.




We also have some little yellow finches in our back yard. The males are bright yellow and the females are more of a yellow-grey. The day I took this shot, there were seven of them in one tree -- one male and, apparently, his harem. You're going to want to enlarge this one, and even then you might have trouble picking out the birds, they are so tiny and blend in (except for the male). (You can click on the photo to enlarge, or you can enlarge your whole screen by pressing Control and "+" until you get to a size that works for you.)


Just like playing Where's Waldo, except without the striped shirt to make the search easier.



On a different day, from a different window, a different shot -- enlarged:

Hmmm ... Mr. Finch is mighty blurry ... sorry!


There are several chickadees who also come to the feeder, usually when the bigger birds aren't around. I love to see them and hear their distinctive call. It makes me feel smart to be able to identify one bird and its song beyond a doubt.

Here is one little fellow who arrived when there was nothing left in the feeder but the smell. Don't worry, I filled it again right after taking the photo.


Mr. Chickadee is blurry, too ... it must be going around ...


 
I also managed to get a video of some of the starlings and blackbirds at the feeder, from our upstairs window. It wasn't quite the mayhem we had last week; are they learning manners, I wonder? or maybe not quite as starving as a week ago? And yeah, you can see all the bird poop on the deck and railings. I've had work deadlines, so for now we still have a "poop deck" although not in the usual meaning of that phrase.



video


And here is a blackbird talking while eating. Tsk. They have an easily identified squawk, as you'll hear at the end.


video


And while not bird-related, I will leave you with this shot. These deer seem to be the same mama and two babies that came to -- and through -- our yard last year, but the babies are big now. Here they are in our back neighbour's yard. It wasn't until I uploaded the photos and looked at the closeup that I saw what one deer had been looking at so intently through the window. See the white blob in the left window pane? If you enlarge the photo you may be able to see that it's a cat. The deer watched the cat (and the cat, I presume, watched the deer) for quite some time before the deer moved off on their morning rounds.


It looks like an untamed jungle there, doesn't it? In a month it will be a solid wall of leaves, giving both us and our neighbour summertime privacy.


That's it for another Friday. Let's hope our vision isn't as blurry as some of these wildlife photos. Wouldn't it be cool if we could just "Control/+" in real life to see things better? I'd buy one of those.

Have a good weekend!



Monday, 24 April 2017

Poetry Monday ... With A Warning

It's Poetry Monday -- started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, and picked up by Delores at Mumblings, and celebrated here at Procrastinating Donkey -- pull up a chair and join us.

You can read, comment, critique, or add your own poem at any participating blog, or at your own -- just leave your blog address in the comments to let us know where to look.

Today's poem was the result of ruminating on two incidents that I experienced a couple of years ago, within a month of each other. This is the poem I mentioned writing awhile ago but didn't want to post because I felt it was too dismal. I said I'd post it on a day when we all need a good cry.

Well, I don't know about you, but I've been in a bit of a blah, bleak mood the last week or two, so I'm ready to put it out there. But I certainly don't want to bring anyone else down, so this is fair warning: read at your own risk.

Spreading misery instead of cheer. Way to go, Donkey.



*****



Three Souls

I

"You got any money?"
A harsh voice, startling me.
A stranger: tall, rangy, vacant eyes.
"Sorry, I don't carry cash."
Almost the truth: two dollars in my pocket. Heart hammering.
Not keen to be bullied into giving any amount.
He erupted with a curse, and "I had nothin' to eat since the morning. I need some money."
I wondered if swearing would turn to striking.
Wondered why he was asking for money for food on an empty street
After all the food shops were closed.
He strode away, cursing me loudly.

Later, I wondered what he'd have said, or done,
If I'd offered him the banana from my work lunch.
It didn't occur to me.
Too scared to think.
Too worried by his anger.
And, to be honest,
Too upset by his expectation
That all he needed to do was demand,
And he would be given,
And forgiven.
Would my two dollars have been enough
To make him less angry?

II

"Excuse me, could you spare a couple dollars?"
A gentle voice, dignified.
A stranger: tall, rangy, too dark to see his eyes.
A cold night, outside the grocery store.
"I don't have enough money for my rent," he added.
"I just need twenty-five dollars, and my landlord will let me stay."

Five dollars in my pocket.
Five dollars from my hand to his.
"I'm sorry it's not more."
"Thank you; bless you," he said quietly.
Later, leaving with my groceries, and with items for him,
He was gone.


III

I know hunger will make rough edges,
And corrode the soul.

And I know that addiction serves a purpose:
Dulls the senses, dulls the hurt, dulls the emotions.
(Did addiction even have anything to do with anything?)

And, further, I know that giving is better than withholding
Even if the gift is -- or seems, at times -- mis-spent.

And I know that conditions shape us, and our parents shape us,
And exposure to the elements and mental illness and being out of a job
And physical pain and not enough warm clothes and -- god, there are so
Many hard things that shape us -- being ridiculed, being bullied, being ignored,
Being invisible, being passed over, being rejected, being beaten ...

But even knowing all those things,
Why ... why ... why
Was it so much easier to give to the second man
Than to the first? 





 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Bird-y Things

I haven't been walking regularly the last couple of months, but whenever I do, my camera comes with me. However, over the past year I've exhausted most of the even-slightly-interesting natural features along my walking routes. That means that most of my pictures are repetitions of ones I've already posted.

But I do have one to share. Earlier this year I mentioned we were visited by a female pheasant. Well, a few weeks ago the male pheasant showed up. Here he is in our back yard:

Busily eating whatever bugs are awake when there's still snow on the ground

I saw the female again (well, a female, at least) just a couple of days ago. From watching the male fly away a few times, I believe they may be living in a small wooded area a couple of streets away.

Moving on to other birds now, the ones that are more common to our back yard ...

After one snowstorm I felt very sorry for the flocks of smaller birds which I was starting to see in our area (presumably having migrated here thinking it was spring, and getting a snowy surprise), so on impulse I bought a small feeder which holds a block of seeds in suet, and hung it from our back deck. My thinking was (1) I would have quicker access to it there, as opposed to putting it in the trees at the edge of our yard, (2) it would entertain our cats, as it is just outside the basement window where our cats spend some of their time, and (3) it would also entertain me because it's right outside our kitchen window, where I spend some of my time.

Well, that was good thinking -- as far as it went. What I forgot was that birds tend to poop ALL THE TIME, even in the middle of eating or while waiting to eat. Little devils. So now our deck is liberally sprinkled with white splotches. Fortunately, last summer we moved our barbecue to a different spot on the deck, because it used to be right where all the splotches are now.

I also didn't count on whole flocks of birds fighting over the feeder. It's just a little feeder, but we've had dozens of birds in the yard at once, some lining up on the deck railing, and others jostling instead of lining up, and dive-bombing each other with open beaks, and pushing each other off the feeder, and, in general, acting like hooligans. At times it feels like we're in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Mostly we are getting starlings and another bird that's either a blackbird or a grackle -- I'm still trying to identify that one because they are fairly similar to my untrained eye. But sometimes we get a chickadee or two, and I've occasionally seen a little yellow finch. And when the feeder first went in, it was the bluejays who found it first. Now they are nowhere to be seen. The starlings and blackbirds/grackles are just too numerous and persistent. So I'm thinking of getting another feeder to offer Niger/thistle seed to the tinier birds, and maybe one for peanuts for the jays ...

This is how it begins, isn't it? One feeder ... then another ... and before you know it you're eating crackers for supper because the birdseed purchases have blown the budget.

By the way, I'd love to be able to show you some photos of the birds at the feeder. But my camera always focuses on the screen instead of the birds! I need to find the instruction manual (oh dear, probably a two-week project) and see if I can override auto-focus.

Hope you have a restful weekend and don't have to dive-bomb anyone in order to get your food :)


This is one kind of bird we do not have to worry about finding in our yard. Ever. But isn't it cute? (photo by Pixabay)






Monday, 17 April 2017

Retreating in Pants

Poetry Monday is here again! Started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, picked up by Delores at Mumblings and open to anyone who wants to take part, either in the comments on any of our blogs, or on your own blog. Leave us a comment if you'd like us to come have a look at your offering.

This week I've been spinning my wheels trying to come up with a topic.

I spun them so long that I ran out of time. So I'm borrowing from Ogden Nash, whose poems I enjoy because of his dry sense of humour and ability to rhyme almost anything.

Here are two of Mr. Nash's poems, which, on consideration, may be related. This, the day after Chocolate Bunny Day, seems to be a good time to ponder the implications for my own waistline.


Poem 1:

Nothing Makes Me Sicker

Nothing makes me sicker
than liquor
and candy
is too expandy


Poem 2:

What's the Use?

Sure, deck your limbs in pants,
Yours are the limbs, my sweeting.
You look divine as you advance . . .
Have you seen yourself retreating?
 


*****

In related news, my walking has not been going awfully well. When I had the bronchial bug, I did not get out at all, and last week I managed only three days, with shorter than usual jaunts. Ah well, another week is coming.

But when I was out and about, I did get a couple of photos I liked.


Mr. Black Cat sometimes shows up when I get to this point in my walk. He's very friendly.

He doesn't really have two heads, nor a large bottom.


I wish I were as sleek as this cat. I am rationing my Reese's peanut butter chocolate bunny carefully so that -- hopefully -- I will not have to always ask myself how I look retreating in pants.

Have a good week, my friends :)


Friday, 14 April 2017

Care To Dance? Mind Where You Step.

 

In the early years of logging in Europe and North America, trees were often cut during the winter and then dragged to the nearest river in the spring. With the rivers usually at their highest levels then, due to snow melt runoff, the logs would be floated downstream to the nearest sawmill where they would be cut into lumber.

To help keep the timber moving smoothly in the water, workers would walk or run on the tree trunks while using a pike pole to push logs into position. This required great agility and was the inspiration for a folk song written by Canadian Wade Hemsworth, called "The Log Driver's Waltz."  Hemsworth was "...struck by how much the sight of log drivers at work resembled dancing." (click here for Wikipedia link with more information)

 In 1979, the National Film Board of Canada released a series of vignettes about our country, and one of these was an animated film based on "The Log Driver's Waltz." It is a delightful short film set to Hemsworth's song, performed by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and The Mountain City Four. It used to play occasionally between programs on our national TV station, which is where I first heard it long ago. I was so happy to find it again a couple of years ago on (where else?) YouTube.

It's a wonderful waltz, with sweet animation, and well performed. Enjoy!

(Note: The word "birl" is an old Scots word meaning "to revolve or cause to revolve" -- and used here, "birling" means "to cause a floating log to rotate by treading on it." Source: Wikipedia link above))




 

Lyrics (from genius.com):

If you ask any girl from the parish around
What pleases her most from her head to her toes
She'll say I'm not sure that it's business of yours
But I do like to waltz with a log driver

[Chorus]
For he goes birling down and down white water
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly
Yes, birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely

When the drive's nearly over I like to go down
And watch all the lads as they work on the river
I know that come evening they'll be in the town
And we all like to waltz with the log driver

[Chorus]

To please both my parents, I've had to give way
And dance with the doctors and merchants and lawyers
Their manners are fine, but their feet are of clay
And there's none with the style of my log driver

[Chorus]

Now I've had my chances with all sorts of men
But none as so fine as my lad on the river
So when the drive's over, if he asks me again
I think I will marry my log driver

For he goes birling down and down white water
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly
Yes, birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely
Birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely

***********

I hope your weekend involves music, or dancing, or both :)


Monday, 10 April 2017

Mistress Green Eyes

It's Poetry Monday!

Started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, picked up by Delores at Mumblings, and open to one and all to participate either on your own blog, or on Diane's or Delores', or right here, in the comments. If you post it on your own blog, leave us a link in the comments so we can go check it out.

April is National Poetry Month in some parts of the world (which I knew, but forgot because of the bronchial ick). This means it is your patriotic duty to leave a line or two! (well, depending on where you live) ... It can be your own or some favourite lines from a poem or song. Anything, people! Work with me here!

Or you can just read and enjoy. Or, alternatively, read and leave a ...er ... constructive ... comment.

Oh, heck, you can even get up and do an interpretive dance if you want. But we'll want to read about that in the comments also. Preferably with a photo or a link to YouTube.



Today's poem is the story of how we came to have the cat who most recently arrived to live with us. Recently doesn't mean recent. It just means she's the last in the long line of cats who have shared our home. She's unlike any other cat we've had. You must obey all her special rules of engagement or else she will mangle your person, and she can't be around our other cats because of her very territorial temperament. It takes two of us and a boatload of courage to clip her claws. The vet has to wear leather gloves to her elbows when the cat goes in for her periodic steroid shot (kitty has allergies, in an ironic twist for all those out there who are allergic to cats).

But we manage.

Here she is:


Oops! That's the Cat-a-saurus view.


HERE she is:

Just hanging out while Donkey blogs. Or tries to.

 


Mistress Green Eyes


One spring day, while walking,
I met you first my dear.
I bent to pick you up, and
You boxed me on the ear.

The lady in her driveway
Said you'd been hanging round;
But when I asked the neighbours
No owner could be found.

You ate my kitties' kibble
And drank and drank and drank.
And cowered in the bathroom
Beneath the toilet tank.

You didn't like the menfolk;
You'd had a scare, we guessed.
And even with the ladies
You seemed less than impressed.

As days turned into months,
And months turned into years,
You slowly learned to trust us
And let us scritch your ears.

Those years have also taught you
The fun that toys can bring --
The rapture of a catnip ball,
The quick delight of string.

You're still a feisty feline;
We keep one eye on you.
You're apt as not to bite us
If you think it's good for you.

And yet, you're always close by,
Where we can both be seen;
And if we're not together,
You're parked halfway between.

For five years now we've loved you;
No longer "new" - you're Home.
And now, my Mistress Green Eyes,
You're even in A Poem.



 *****

Friday, 7 April 2017

My Guilty Secret

Have you come across the YouTube videos of "Simon's Cat"? This is a series of cartoon videos by Simon Tofield, a British animator, who based the character of Simon's cat -- who remains unnamed -- primarily on one of his own four cats.

It is clear that Simon has watched his cats very closely because he has captured the habits, demeanor and qualities of cats perfectly in his videos: ever-hungry, ever-curious, playful, and pretty much completely self-centred. Simon's cat takes these to new levels, mind you, and can do a few things that regular cats cannot, like use a baseball bat.

This is, I believe, the first Simon's Cat video made for YouTube. At least, it's the first one I ever saw. I know, I know -- that's not necessarily the same thing. But it appears less polished than later videos, and was uploaded in 2008. I include it because it contains the aforementioned baseball bat. It's a bit more violent than some of the later videos ... re the baseball bat ...






Anyone who's ever had a cat knows how they love boxes. Here is the perfect example of what happens when a cat finds a box.






And although it's really hard to pick a favourite from the many Simon's Cat videos available, I think this is the one I'd have to choose. Simon's household has acquired a kitten, and the mannerisms of the new baby feline, plus the interactions between Simon's cat and Simon's kitten, are spot on ... and hilarious.






If you liked what you saw, you can find more at Simon's Cat home page. The author has also introduced a series of questions and answers in video format (part cartoon, part vet interview) to help cat owners better understand their cats' behaviors.

... And yes, now you know one of my favourite pastimes ...  my guilty secret!

Happy Weekend, from a Simon's Cat fan of the most intense kind :)






Monday, 3 April 2017

The Right Questions

In my travels around the internet -- here I am, with my flying goggles and cap:

Zoom! ... (courtesy of Pixabay) (yes, I know that's not a donkey) (try finding a donkey in aviator gear)

-- I sometimes sign up for emails from sites where I have previously found intriguing, helpful, reliable information, figuring that more of the same cannot hurt my brain. I am well aware that, as I age, the ol' brain cells are dying off faster than they're being replaced, so I am paddling hard, upstream all the way, to try to at least even out the flow, if it cannot be reversed. I believe I may have mixed a few metaphors there, but -- Tempus Fugit! -- I cannot stop to untangle the mess. Also, my bronchial ick is still affecting my thinking. Onward.

One of the weekly emails I receive is from BBC.com and is called "If You Only Read 6 Things This Week." Generally I find at least one of the article titles is interesting enough to pursue.

This week the title that I could not resist clicking on was "The Snack That Changed The English Language" and it was about the role of pies in history and from that role the ways that we now use sayings about pie to describe things, such as "humble pie," "easy as pie," and so on. While it was a half-decent article, it also made me a little gaggy because there was a photo of a sardine pie with the fish heads all poking out of the pastry. Now, savoury pies (including fishy ones) are not tops on my list of Pie I Dream About. That category is reserved for dessert pie such as apple or mincemeat (which in our household is about half raisin and half pulverized cooked roast beef, which makes it sound like a savoury pie but trust me, it's not).

Anyway -- to keep on doggedly trying to get to my point -- at the bottom of that web page there were a number of links to other articles, and THIS IS WHERE MY INTERNET AIRPLANE/CANOE HAS BEEN HEADED, for the purpose of this post. Finally.

The article I really wanted to talk about today is from BBC Future, an offshoot of BBC.com that provides in-depth coverage of science, health and technology. 

BBC Future asked "a series of experts" what they thought were the grand challenges that matter in 2017. Here I would like to offer my opinion that some of the "experts" are not what I would have in mind when asking about the most important challenges facing the world -- for example, the last question in the list below is provided by the former corporate vice-president for research and development at General Motors, so it is not surprising that he has come up with this take on what the grand challenge is. That's not to say that the question he poses is not important; however, it does make me wonder how the contributors were chosen and why.

Be that as it may, the questions posed are interesting and diverse, and have made me think, which, as I have already stated, is never a bad thing.

Here they are, and here is where you can read the entire article, in case you are interested in a bit more information on any or all of the questions (it is not a long article):

How can we avoid resistance to antibiotics?
What can we do to conserve water -- especially in the face of climate change and urbanisation?
How do we fight "fake news"?
In an interconnected world, how do we fight global disease?
How will we deal with overpopulation?
How will the era of big data and artificial intelligence shape our health?
How can we safely use gene editing technology in humans?
How do we make cities more sustainable and pleasant for the people who live there?
How can we keep extending our life expectancies?
How can rapidly developing regions grow effectively?
How can we better inform people about natural disasters?
Car ownership continues to rise worldwide -- how will we accommodate this?

However.

I find it highly interesting that nowhere on that list has anyone said "How Can We End The Suffering Caused By War?" or "How Can We End The Suffering Caused By Those Who Crave Power?" which I see as basically the same thing. How about simply "How Can We End The Suffering Of The Innocent?" This comes to mind more forcefully than usual as news reports surface of four famines that are on the verge of ravaging Africa (Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia) and Yemen. For more on that, see this article from the New York Times.

I don't know whether the leading minds in the world find these questions too impossible to answer, making them turn to other, more solvable questions, or whether BBC Future didn't ask the leading minds but rather conveniently available ones.

I don't know the answers, and I'm not sure I know the right questions, but I think we have to figure out the latter before we can figure out the former.

Welcome to my brain, where the air and/or waters are often turbulent. Mind the splashing if you get too near the paddle.

*****
It was in thinking about the impending famines that my poem for Poetry Monday came into being. I thought about the famines that have taken place over the decades of my life. The one that pierced my heart the worst was the Ethiopian famine of 1983-5. Our first child was born in 1983 and the true cost to the most helpless of the citizens - the children - disturbed me deeply as I compared our baby's life and ours to the suffering of those souls.


Chance

The men have guns.
The women have babies.
The babies have nothing: No food. No water. No future.
Again.
And again.
And yet again.
And there
But for the grace
Of birth place
Go I.

*****

Don't forget that Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border and Delores at Mumblings are also writing poems for Poetry Monday. If anyone wants to join in, feel free to leave your poem in the comments at any of our blogs, or on your own blog and leave us a note in the comments so readers will know where to find you.
 

Friday, 31 March 2017

Furry Friday

You'd think that being sick and off work all week doing nothing but shuffle from fridge to couch to computer would mean I'd have a stockpile of posts by now.

... No.

I have five drafts; two of them are only titles and the other three, on re-reading, don't make any sense.

So it's back to icanhas.cheezburger.com for some funny cats and dogs.

Yay! Who couldn't use some fun at the end of the week, right?




















































John Gray, if you're reading, this one's for you :)

Have a good weekend!