Sunday, February 27, 2005

Angel in the Twilight Zone?

In Of Leases and Mountains, I recited the outline of the recent times, troubles, and victories of this dynamic duo: Cuppa and Anvilcloud. We remain thankful that what could have been is not.

After our celebration over a coffee and cinnamon roll at Tim's, we decided to continue our joyful splurge by having supper at Boston Pizza. We had a lot of company in December and January, and one tends to cook and eat somewhat extravagantly when playing the host. In order to regain dietary control, I had intended to forego both company and dining-out for the entire month of February. In the event, I caved a day or two early, but it if there ever was time to celebrate this was surely it (and it was the last Friday of the month after all). Sometimes, you have to be flexible concerning your vows and rules lest in your rigidity you lose the joyous and spontaneous moments that are the salt of life.

Regardless: before heading from Tim Horton's to Boston Pizza, we made a quick trip to the grocery store where the strangest incident occurred — almost as if from the twilight zone . It seems to me that this strange encounter should be terribly significant to me in some way that I'm not quite able to fathom. Perhaps writing about it will help.

It was cold and sleety, and as we hurried from the car to the store, a young man accosted us from behind. I would say that he was about thirty, give or take. He said something like this: "Sir, you seem like a jolly sort of fellow."

How odd! I strike few as a jolly sort of fellow. In point of fact, I think I am rather jolly on the inside, but I know that I seldom look it on the outside. It's a bit of a family trait. I can remember once asking my mother if she was angry. She thought the question strange because she didn't feel at all angry. In fact, she felt fine. D2 also shares this propensity to look more serious than she feels. It's our mutual genetic heritage, it seems.

Perhaps I was whistling and perhaps that's what caused this fellow to think me rather "jolly." I simply don't know. I do know, however, that I am prone to whistle both in private and in public. Cuppa, however, can't recall that I was doing so at the time.

I would never make a reliable witness in court, which is to say that I can't really recall the exact words that were spoken. Nor do I recall the exact sequence of the exchange. But here are the broad strokes.

He asked us to do him a favour. I looked at him askance. What was his game? Was he high on drugs? Was he planning to dun me for a handout? He went on the ask us to love each other. He was in tears.

We stupidly asked more than once if was alright when clearly he wasn't. Why do people do that?

He continued to sob and again implored us to love each other.

"We do love each other. Can we help you? Do you want to talk? What can we do for you?"

He stood there: convulsing, sobbing, shaking his head, unable to say more. He soon left, running on his way to god knows where. I can't remember the final words before he parted. Did he say something more? Did we? I can't be sure.

Cuppa and I regarded each other in dumbfounded stupefaction. We were moved. What could we have done? What should we have done? It seemed profound somehow, or that it should have been profound. But he was gone, the moment forever vanished: vanished from the senses but never to ever be forgotten, I believe.

Shortly after, out of great and uncertain concern I reemerged from the store to look for him again, but he was still gone, perhaps still running and sobbing in agonizing despair.

What would cause this distraught fellow to stop us on that day of all days, on that day of utter relief and sweet reprieve, on that day when we had said that we would remain together in the battle no matter what the doctor's verdict? Had he just lost a loved one? Had he been jilted? Had he harmed or been harmed? Whatever the answer, he was surely a lost and bereft soul, and we could find no way to comfort him. If I had been immediately open rather than suspiciously alarmed, would I have found the right words? Could I have touched him, changed his life?

I'll never know the answers, but it feels like a seminal moment has just passed, and I don't know how to interpret it, how to learn from it, how to grow from it. If I believed in the visitation of angels I might be able to find a theological fit of sorts, but I still would be unsure of the message. It doesn't seem like a message that we need to hear right now because I think that we already know it, but it seems utterly vital nonetheless. Perhaps I could interpret it as a benediction on our love. But why the tears and despair?

I had to write about this stranger-than-fiction encounter, especially under these circumstances. But I fear that I am no closer to apprehending the lesson that I should learn from this brief moment in the twilight zone.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Of Leases and Mountains

There is a story which is mostly Cuppa's to tell, and I have no doubt that she will tell it fully and leave my pithy account in the dust. I also harbour little doubt that I will tell my part more promptly and in more condensed form than she. We all have our own styles after all. Not to ruin her account, but as soon as I hint around the edges, of course, you'll have a basic understanding of what has been going on.

To wit: there has been a health alert in the family, and for the past two weeks we have been waiting to have a second test taken, the results gathered, and those results to be forwarded to our GP. The revelatory appointment was scheduled for yesterday afternoon, but we waited on tenterhooks throughout the day for affirmation that the report would be delivered. Would they get the results in time for our scheduled appointment, or would we be doomed to remain on squirming on tenterhooks for the weekend?

The official paperwork never did find its way to the GP's, but his nurse/receptionist was able to tap into the report via computer. We kept the appointment; fate smiled for the second time in just over a year; the results were negative. Of course I sternly reprimanded Cuppa for putting me through this emotional wringer yet again and entreated her to cease and desist such enervating behaviour.

Before we left for the appointment, I gave her a hug and told her, "We're in this together. Always!" We hugged; I choked and sniffled. It seems that I am usually pretty brave and stoic until it is time to finally turn the handle, open the door, and take that first step towards the rendering of the ultimate verdict. Then I tend to crumble a bit. However, I soon regained my equanimity and told Cuppa that I would be fine — fine in the sense that I would remain in control, at least.

Why is it that we (in this family at least) tend to be ashamed of our tears? What's wrong with tears? It's not like we've been caught with our hands up someone's knickers for goodness sakes. Even the other week, my brother-in-law choked up a bit on hearing that his son was safe after being in a minor accident. His voice wavered and halted, and he apologized. Why? Why should one apologize for being human, for possessing tenderness, for not being stoic? While it may be more the men than the ladies who are most guilty, we all do it. We all feel embarrassed, turn our heads, and grip resolutely for control.

As I have already declared, the best possible scenario unfolded, and we soon found ourselves sitting in the sanctum of utter Canadian soul comfort, the coffee/donut shop that is Tim Horton's — you poor Americans don't know what you're missing. Cuppa opined that she felt as though she had a new lease on life. Of course, she does, but it's only a lease, isn't it? The sand drains out of the hour glass. One hopes for as much sand as possible, but the sand will always drain. It is a lease. We don't own our mortality. That remains in The Universe's hands.

We do own our minds, however. We are accountable for our time, however. We are accountable for our values, however. We are accountable for our attitudes, however. We are accountable for how we embrace the moments that are today.

Both Cuppa and I believe in and blog about living in the moment. Truly, all we have is today. That becomes more and more apparent as time performs its relentless march. It becomes more and more apparent as we begin to face these crisis moments. On one of these occasions, be it tomorrow or several decades hence, the doctor will not wave the celebratory All Clear flag. He will sit with stern look, deliver the verdict, and offer a course of painful but scant hope or a promise to make us as comfortable as possible.

Here's the thing. We, both of us, believe that life is lived today, not in the fears and shadows or even in the hopes of tomorrows that may never come to pass. We, both of us, believe that the simple things are the best things. We, both of us, believe that happiness is a choice. However, we are human and we, both of us, must permit ourselves to pause and grieve and catch our breath when life socks us a vicious punch to the jaw that staggers us and requires a mandatory standing-eight count. Yes, there has been some grief and mourning lately over that which could have possibly come to pass, for that is human and a necessary passage that we cannot, in our human frailty, circumvent.

I like to think, however, that if the fates had dealt the black ace, that if we had been put on notice that a struggle for life lay ahead, that, once the shock had passed, we would have chosen to remain faithful to our convictions. I hope that we would have continued to steal delight from the simple but happy snatches that life offers us all, that we would have lived in the joy of shared moments and not the dread of the looming mountainous shadows.

I think we fear the mountains too much. I have been to Canada's Rockies, and they are indeed powerful and immutable bastions that shall not be moved. They cast long shadows that dwarf our puniness. But I have not just been mesmerized by their brooding power, for I have also seen incomparable and incomprehensible beauty there. I have seen the sunlit peaks, the aqua-marine opacity of glacial-fed lakes, the energetically bubbling streams, the majestic falls, the verdant pines, and the mighty rocky heights.

We offer thanks for the new lease and the fact that the mountains' shadows have not yet claimed us. Until the lease expires, until the mountains loom, we will endeavour to live life to the full here on the plains. When our expiry date becomes imminent, when the mountains beckon, I trust that we will sometimes be able to glimpse the beauty that lies within and under those craggy, old peaks.

Peyto Lake in the Canadian Rockies near Banff 2000


Friday, February 25, 2005

Email Trial

I have decided to post an email link in the sidebar although anybody who already emails me might as well continue to use the address that you already have.

I took several precautions. One: I began a new email account — one that I won't use for any other purpose and can easily shut down if necessary. Two: I used a javascript application to attempt to hide the address from sp_am_b_ots. Those tricksy little bots roam the web searching out addresses for the those nasty creeps who wish to fill your Inbox with unsolicited emails.

The javascript is designed to make your address viewable and clickable for somebody in your site but to hide it from the bots. I got mine at Steve Dawson's site. You don't have to know anything about javascript at all. Just grab the code and plug it into whatever spot you wish on your web/blog page.

I decided to do this because I needed to share my email address with another blogger yesterday. That necessitated going into my profile and enabling it to show my address. Afterward, I went back and turned it back off. Hopefully, this will prove to me a useful and adequate compromise.

Speaking of new emails accounts. If you need one to do something like this, I have quite a few gmail invitations to give away, even though I didn't use one of them for my address.

Feel free to give me shout, whether you want a gmail account or not.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bird Brains

As you know from my December and January posts, I fell in love with chickadees. In fact I have always liked birds and have housed budgies and finches in my day. In fact, if people know how to go about it, budgies can be great fun as pets. Most don't, however; they buy them too old and then have no idea what to do with them.

This article in The Star cites a report on bird intelligence that might interest some. A few of its examples are listed below.

  • Vultures during the civil war in Zimbabwe "using a minefield as a frying ground," Lefebvre told the conference. "They would wait and, boom! Some animal would be killed and the vultures would swoop down. They would actually perch on the barbed wire and wait for the minefields to give them chopped antelope."

  • Japanese crows at intersections flying down and placing walnuts in the path of cars. The shells were cracked and the crows returned to pick up the nuts. They even learned to wait for the light to turn red so they could use the crosswalk while the traffic was stopped.

  • Herons "fly-fishing" by catching an insect and dropping it on the surface of the water to attract fish.

  • Crows making "tools" from leaves to catch insects.

  • Tits, woodpeckers and magpies in England pecking open the caps on milk bottles.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Snow Day

Yesterday was a snowday. Might it have been the last of the winter storms. Probably not, but each successive one will melt faster than its predecessor. Because I know that this snowfall will soon melt, I didn't bother to shovel-out completely. I compromised by clearing the stairs, doorways, a narrow footpath up the driveway, and two strips wide enough to serve as tire tracks. The car would have managed fine without the last step, but that small proaction assuaged my conscience somewhat.

My Cuppa has a wonderful ability to put on her rose coloured glasses and make the best of life. She proclaimed yesterday a Snow Day. Not very often, but sometimes once a winter, and in a good year twice, they used to close the schools, and I would be treated to a day off. I can't tell you how wonderful that was. You might have to be a teacher to truly understand.

On potential snowdays, I always listened to the radio with bated breath. Sometimes there would be no accommodation for the weather; sometimes buses would be cancelled; on rare occasions the schools would be closed. The Board was always reluctant to close the schools. It always seemed to me that they couldn't abide the thought of teachers having a day off. If they stopped at halting the buses but leaving the schools open, the teachers were still forced to go in — well, only if we wanted to be paid.

This was particularly inane when I taught at a bused country school. So many students were bused that the scant remaining ones soon rightly concluded that there was little point in hanging around, following their schedules, and proceeding to near-empty classrooms — empty except for one or two students and one teacher who could do little but advise them to find some homework to do.

It always peeved me to be forced to drive myself twenty miles in my little car when it was deemed unsafe for the buses to roll. Of course it was a short-sighted, anti-teacher tactic. I don't know what turned the Board against the teachers. Yes I do: these were petty reprisals for difficult negotiations and disagreements at contract time.

Even worse than presiding over empty classrooms in the country school were the quarter-filled to half-filled classrooms of the city schools, which, in our area, still had a fair proportion of bused students. What do you do with less than half a class? Do you go on and let the other half catch up (yeah sure), or do you give in and at best find a video and at worst tell them to find something constructive to do, which you hoped wouldn't be cards. It got worse during the day as more students drifted home. I say it got worse, but if enough came to their senses, it actually got better. Those who stayed, perhaps due to parental pressure, always moaned and groaned, but they were fewer in number. Regardless, it was never a pleasant experience to be grumped at all day as if we were the ones responsible for their unhappy predicament.

We live in a border town, and it was never pleasant to listen to the American reports. They seemed to cancel buses and close schools at the drop of a ... snowflake. What a difference a border makes!

To come full circle, you can see why a genuine, Schools-Closed Snow Day was such a treat. So it was that yesterday, Cuppa put on her rose coloured glasses and declared yesterday to be snowday. Life is mostly about intention, and although we didn't do much differently, the intentional declaration that it was a Snow Day left me feeling different inside, somewhat mellow.

We had different food. Our usual breakfast consists of a healthy cold cereal (among other things), but I made hot cereal yesterday — oat bran cooked in apple juice (half apple juice and half water) with a dash of cinnamon. For lunch, a toasted tuna sandwich substituted for the usual pita or flatbread with cheese. For dinner (or supper) we enjoyed more of a breakfast in the form of an omelette — once again with toast and JAM. We can live a month on one loaf of bread these days, so two lots of toast in one day represents life on the edge for us. With both lunch and supper, we also had one or two little dessert chocolates — living in life's fast lane indeed.

Other than that, we pretty well did what we always do, except that we read a lot more than usual. I was deeply into Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although it is a novel, its theme is ecological. I learned a lot about the value of predators in the food chain and how silly we have been in our senseless destruction of the big bad wolf etc based on misunderstanding and lack of comprehension. It sounds odd I know, but, in addition to being scientifically educational, it also dealt with human struggles and relationships in a wonderful way. It was positively endearing and upbeat. Cuppa's assessment of Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos is a much more restrained, "It's different." That hardly strikes me as a ringing endorsement, and I consequently find myself not terribly tempted to pounce and devour.

It was all most pleasant. For much of the time we were side by side (see the photo below) basking in the warmth of the fireplace. We'd glance outside and feel good about being inside, together but apart, both reading but in different worlds. There is much to be said for being apart in our togetherness, which I steal partly from one of Cuppa's favourite quotes.

There is also much to be said for making joy and not just expecting it to be there for the taking. You can make joy simply; it doesn't always have to be an expensive and extensive production. Some people live for sinful pleasures, but the wise and happy live for simple pleasures.

Enjoying simple pleasures in simple togetherness.


The Blogging Generation

My mind is such that it happily wanders from here to there and back again in no apparent order or rhythm. It seems like a bee flitting from flower to flower although I have no doubt that the bees are really quite scientific about it all.

In one of these myriad flits, my thoughts alighted on this little blog space that I tend and upon who reads it and whose blogs I read. It suddenly struck me how almost everyone is younger than I, far younger in fact. I wondered why — for about a half a second — before realizing that nobody my age blogs.

Granted, that's not totally true. There are one or two out there. Both Tim and Norma appear to be my age or older, for example. But there aren't many. Most bloggers whom I read and who read me seem to be in their thirties: mere children really (take that as a compliment!).

It's amazing to reflect how the written word has the power to erase time barriers. Many, for example, read ancient spiritual text each day to fortify their spirits and commune with another reality. To them, their daily reading is totally relevant, even vital. When I read your blogs, it is without a sense of your age or my age. You are simply another mature human expressing what is on your mind.

I think it's splendid that we read of the thoughts and lives of different age cohorts and find commonality in our reflections, values, and struggles. I'm thrilled that all of you younger ones are out there because blogdom would be a pretty empty, bleak place without you. I'm not sure why you would bother to read the ravings of a BOF (Big Old Fart) such as I, but I'm pleased that you do.

We inhabit together some sort of functional community: one that doesn't replace real flesh and blood but forms some sort of an adjunct nonetheless. Although it is unlikely that we will ever meet in the flesh (so to speak), we do maintain a relationship of sorts. Kept in perspective, this BOF thinks that is a fine thing.


Reality Check

The Americans will always do the right thing... after they've exhausted all the alternatives."

Winston Churchill

"The debate about whether there is a global warming signal now is over, at least for rational people, said Tim Barnett, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. The models got it right. If a politician stands up and says the uncertainty is too great to believe these models, that is no longer tenable."

I have long been a believer, but not everybody is. Washington isn't, or says it isn't. However, I think that deep down they believe: believe and are trying desperately to avoid the reality and the associated cost. Read the article, Why global warming is not natural.


Saturday, February 19, 2005

Tulips and a Cold Shoulder

Tulips: Botanical Gardens (Feb /04)

After uttering certain complaints about the weather yesterday, it seems like a good idea to post this photo to help remind myself that spring is on its way.

I am a little bleary-eyed this morning. Last night was one of those unpleasant nights that I have too often these days: nights in which I don't particularly revel. Lately, I have taken to waking up for an hour in the middle of the night in order to toss and turn. I am beginning to look upon it as a duty. After all, if I don't do it, who will? It's not that I particularly look forward to performing this duty for humankind or that I plan it in any way, shape, or form, but it happens.

At times, however, and I have mentioned this before, I not only become wakeful, but I also become most uncomfortable. Sometimes, my internal thermostat goes haywire, and I become the toast of the bed — so to speak. That's bad enough, but when my shoulder decides to simultaneously feel as though an ice cube were being applied to it, I become positively miserable. Let me tell you, it's tough being hot and cold at the same time. In fact, it's downright provoking. I mean to say, who wants ice as a condiment on their toast? My only consolation is that I am not lukewarm and may consequently avoid being spewed out of the Divine's mouth.

So it was that I awoke at about two-thirty last night, gave up the attempt to go back to sleep at approximately three-thirty (give or take ten seconds, but who's watching the clock?), and got up to putter on the puter. I tried going back to bed several times in the next few hours and finally managed to grab about two hours of rather fitful sleep from approximately 7:32 to 9:36 (but who's counting?). So it is that I sit here bleary-eyed wondering why I am bothering to bother you with the minutia of my life. I suppose that I would appreciate your sympathy: preferably in the form of large donations to my favourite charity. Just send the cheque, made out to me, and I'll make sure that it gets to the right place.

On days like this, I sometimes wonder what to do. My eyes don't really feel up to reading. I'm not much of a TV person (my wife says that I'm not much of a person), so that's not a viable option. I'm not sure I could accomplish much useful here at the keyboard (as this post proves ever so well). I'm not much of a napper either, so I'll probably be up until ten or eleven o'clock tonight. Chances are good, however, that I'll get a decent sleep tonight. That's generally my consolation for enduring with mirthful disposition a very bad night — that the next sleep is generally better than my rather pitiful average.

Well, that's not really too bad is it: missing a few hours of sleep periodically? There may be several billion people in the world who would wish (note the alliteration) that to be their biggest problem. I have all of the comforts. Plus, I don't have to wait for somebody to give me the cold shoulder because I already have my own.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Winter Weather

What the heck! I had thought to follow up yesterday's post, and now it doesn't seem terribly appropriate or important, but the map is done and loaded, and I haven't anything else to say, so I might as well go ahead and do it and end this freight train sentence, which is not technically a run-on because it's a legitimate and properly punctuated sentence.

As you can see, at -4°C/25°F the most populated part of the country isn't as cold as many might think in winter. Mind you, even in this zone, the more northerly reaches will go down to -10°C/14F, which isn't exactly blazing hot. Nevertheless, -4°C/25°F is about the same temperature as Chicago, Omaha, Lincoln, and Des Moines. It's only a little colder than Kansas City, St Louis, Salt Lake City, or Flagstaff and somewhat warmer than Milwaukee or Duluth.

Mind you, it get's pretty darn cold as you head north beyond this zone — unless you are a polar bear -35° is just a tad nippy. (FYI, once you get into the -35° range, there's not much difference between celsius and farenheit.)

Did you notice our own little subtropical zone of sorts on the west coast where the average January temperature stays above freezing? That makes the area roughly equivalent to Denmark, The Netherlands, Paris, London, and Milan.

All of that said, however, except for that narrow belt on the west coast, we most defintely experience winter (just not to the degree that many non-Canadians believe, which is the main point of these two blogs). If you don't believe me, just go back to my December posts with all of the snow scenes. Even here in our relatively southern city, where there is virtually no snow after several days of rain, it is sometimes difficult to go out for a walk in mid-February because the whole rain-snow-freeze-thaw cycle leaves difficult-to-spot, icy patches that can cause pedestrian ambulating to be a highly problematic enterprise by times.

Yes, we all get a little house-bound in February and yearn for it all to be over for another year. I eagerly look forward to spring, but I know that despite the occasional, teasing, warm interlude, we're a long way from flowers, green grass, and warm scented breezes.

Yes, I agree with -epm; at this time of year, the notion of enjoying a hiatus in Rome (perhaps even Rome, GA for that matter) seems mighty appealing.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Geography Lesson

Several summers past, we crossed the Canada-USA border between Alberta and Montana (around the letter "h" in the 49th parallel label on the map below). When we stopped at a gas station (in Shelby, I think it was), the young lady at the checkout inquired of our destination.

"We're going to Canada," said I.

She: "So, you're heading north?"

Me: "No, we're going south."

She (with an incredulous look and tone): "You're going south to Canada?"

As a matter of fact we were, over 600 kilometres or 375 miles south. Mind you, we had to drive about 3000km/2000mi east before going south.

from the National Atlas of Canada

So it is that I have decided to use a little blog space to revert to my former trade and offer my non-Canadian readers a brief and selective geographical overview of this country and its location. There is obviously a stereotype that exists: endless winters, barren wastelands, and maybe even dog sleds, igloos, and mounties.

There is quite a bit of truth to some of that stereotype. We are a northerly country that by and large experiences a very real winter. However, the map readily shows that the red dots (each representing 1000 people) become pretty sparse as soon as you get very far away from the southern fringes of the country near the American border. In fact, it is estimated that more than 70% of us live within 150km/95mi if the American border, and approximately 85% dwell within 300km/190mi of the USA. In my own case, I just have to drive a few miles to a short bridge in order to enter the lower forty-eight.

So, in a sense, while some of the stereotypes do hold somewhat true for much of the land mass that is Canada, they are not as accurate as most might think about the regions in which most of the Canadian people reside.

On the map, the latitude lines are arcs. For a quick reference, I have labelled the 49th parallel (the long border with the USA in the west). I have (with a straight black line) also labelled where it is approximately located in eastern Canada. Yes, it curves up quickly in the east in this particular map projection.

The green arrows represent (very approximately — partly because I drew them straight) what places lie on a similar latitude to the extreme southern tip of Canada. The western line runs approximately through Detroit, Chicago, Des Moines, mid-Nebraska, and the Oregon-California border. It then extends through northern Japan, North Korea, northern China, and northern Turkey. The eastern arrow skirts close to Boston, southern France, and mid-Italy (Rome). That's surprising to many people, including many Canadians.

The area that I have circled with a red line is where I and a goodly percentage of Canadians live. This area along with the Atlantic provinces lies below the 49th parallel . In fact, it is said that about 70% of us live below the 49th parallel, perhaps on a similar latitude to southern Minnesota, southern Montana, and southern Washington. That would also locate most of us below some European nations: the UK, The Netherlands, and Poland, and well below the Scandinavian countries. Once again, this is somewhat surprising.

I know that's not the type of material that constitutes a typical blog, but I thought that some people out there in blogland may appreciate the perspective.

Maybe I'll tackle climate on another day.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Writing in my Notebook

Last night, we rented a romantic video called The Notebook which seemed like a fine notion for Valentine's Day. In fact, it was a fine notion, a fine movie, a fine romantic drama. It was not altogether airy and light, however: to the point where both Cuppa and I were left as blubbering heaps as the final credits rolled past our tear-blurred eyes.

Hmm. How do I continue this exposition without destroying the film for readers? I didn't think of that before I began this post.

Let me confine myself to revealing that the plot revolves around a love story that spans decades and that it also involves Alzheimer's or some form of old-age memory-loss. An old man in a retirement residence reads his story from a notebook, a story of him and his young love, to a female resident who is suffering from the dreaded affliction: the dreaded affliction which also causes me some angst.

Just over six years ago now, we buried my father. He had lived to a ripe old age and died from cancer which began in the prostate. In the last few years of his life, he also lost much of his cognitive grip on external reality. While he never lost the ability to identify those close to him, he did lose his sense of time and place — of the present and quite a lot of the past too.

Just two nights ago, I opined to Cuppa that I had some reason to believe that this same ineluctable process may be beginning to occur in me. I notice that some words begin do their best to elude my tongue. Just the other day, I had to reminded of the word for something that spells the same forward or backward: a palindrome — not an unfamiliar word to me. "Do you remember?" becomes a question that more and more frequently seems to draw a negative response from my lips.

Perhaps I overreact; perhaps not. Whatever the case, the synchronicity of uttering my concerns one day and seeing the movie on the next was profoundly disturbing to say the least. Perhaps that is why the film so moved me. Perhaps someone who remains immortal would not be so moved. Perhaps someone without some familial history of Alzheimer's would not be so moved.

I remember when I became mortal or, to be precise, realized that I was mortal. It occurred in my late thirties, and I believe that I have mentioned it before in this blog-stream that I offer humanity, so I will refrain from much elaboration. Suddenly, however, or so it seemed, the realization was there, there where it hadn't been a moment, or an hour, or a month before. While we all know about our mortality in a vague way, I suppose it takes an existential moment for it to be made palpable to our souls.

So it is that I do not know whether it is my age and history that caused The Notebook to so move me. But move me it did and not in an altogether forlorn way despite moving me to tears. It was more touching than sad, more uplifting than depressing. It must be, therefore, a five star recommendation from this poor sod. Or is it four stars? I forget which system I employ (he said in a feeble attempt at humour.)

Whatever my lurking future, I do know and once again repeat my mantra that our lives lie in the moment, this moment. The past is a bucket of ashes; the future lies shrouded in the mist. I write in my life's notebook as each day unfolds itself and trust that it will be a good story in the end.


Monday, February 14, 2005

The Good Woman

About an Excellent Wife on Valentine's Day

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is above jewels.
(Proverbs 31:10 NASB)

In the late sixties, I met the one who was to become my soul mate. It seems odd to say that I only just met someone who already attended the same church and participated in the same young peoples group, but it was a big church, and we had tended to move in different circles.

She was different from the start: had no guile, played no juvenile girl-boy games , walked in a comfortable reality and a genuineness of spirit.

We married two years later. Any cold analysis might have prophesied disaster. We were both young — in our very early twenties. I was in the middle of a semester at an out-of-town university and living on student loans, but it made a kind of sense to me to marry the one with whom I wanted to share my life. Today, people wouldn't get married in those circumstances, and in my rational middle-age, I would heartily join them in counselling against it. But times were different, and we were naive: naive but not without some maturity; naive but not without genuine committment.

Needless to say, any cold analysis would have proved incorrect. We're still together after more than three and a half decades, and we are not unhappy in our togetherness. We have lived in harmony with very few disagreements. We have never been and never will be wealthy. Indeed, we have lived on a single income in an era when few others could or would make that choice. We have lived small: small house, small cars, small vacations. But we have also lived large: large in peace, contentment, and happiness.

She is human and has feet of clay. Nevertheless, I have been thinking lately, even before the approach of Valentine's Day dawned on my foggy brain, that in many ways this woman is proximate to sainthood.

The motto by which she lives is, "Always be kinder than you need to be." She doesn't just say this; she lives it. I don't think I have ever heard her utter a catty, malicious word about anyone: not even to or about those who would deserve such. She is a considerate and undemanding woman who always assumes the best of others, including me.

I have been blessed to share life with a good woman, an excellent wife, a jewel.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Joy By Surprise

However marvellous it is to have some eagerly anticipated event unfold well, the serendipitous occurrences of little surprises certainly adds spice and joy to life. These surprises needn't be gigantic or numerous: just a dash of spice. We were treated to a number of these spicy, little surprises yesterday.

Surprise One: Actually, for me at least, the little delights began of Friday evening. When we last went out to the show, with critical reviews to back me up, I cajoled my wife into seeing Neverland rather than her preferred Shall We Dance? I had no interest in seeing Richard Gere dance, but nevertheless Neverland proved a disappointment, and I fail to understand why it has had bestowed upon it various accolades and Oscar nods.

When Cuppa finally had her way and brought Shall We Dance? home. I resigned myself to the vexation that surely lay ahead. I was surprised by delight! It was a wonderful, light, enjoyable, feel good, entertaining story. It also proves that it is quite possible to make a good movie without unnecessary foul language or gratuitous sex. While it is true that sex always holds a certain allure to we hornier than thou males, I must confess to finding most Hollywood depictions to be generally unwarranted, sometimes preposterous, and almost always tediously unstimulating.

Surprise Two: the weather which had been forecast to be dull and, perhaps, drizzly, chose to smile upon us. Once again, for the second consecutive Saturday, the sun came to warm and bless. Covered by only light winter apparel, we once again repaired for a most pleasant walk in the park to be greeted by the smiles of similarly blessed, winter-spent, Canadians.

Surprise Three: While on our walk we rounded a bend to chance upon the sight of two fire engines parked by the Lake with lights flashing. When we detoured to satisfy our voyeuristic curiosities, we saw two teenaged boys way out there on the edge of the ice and the firemen preparing to rescue them. Well, they didn't need rescuing, were merely being adventurous, and 911 had probably just been summoned by an overly concerned passer-by. I don't pretend that this was actually a exhilarating highpoint, but it was an interesting little diversion, and it did cause us to pause in gratitude that we hadn't stumbled upon a calamitous event.

Surprise Four: The grocery store, which is usually packed on a Saturday afternoon, was comparatively empty. We were able to do our shopping and proceed through the checkout with a minimum of fuss, muss, and bother. Another small blessing.

Surprise Five: This biggest and best surprise of all was that when we finally got home, it was still light enough and warm enough (at 4°C/39°F) to consider getting out our bicycles for the first time this year. We limited ourselves to a short pedal around the neighbourhood, only about 4k (2.5 miles), but it felt good to get out, good to kiss the promise of sunny, warm days to come: days of riding the trail in our light summers clothes and drinking Tim's coffee at the end of the trail and also drinking in the sight of the incredibly blue water of Lake Huron.

The last event that I mention is merely the remembrance of a felicity that occurred last year, almost exactly a year, almost to the very day. We were visiting D2 at her university when she proposed that we drive to the botanical gardens. We did and owing to the time of year gained free access and stumbled upon the most glorious little greenhouse replete with blooming spring bulbs of all colours, shapes, and sizes.

The fragrance of hyacinths drenched the air in an impossible fragrance, the like of which I have never before experienced. We stood like fools with mouths agape and eyes wide with astonished wonderment. The colours were wonderful too, but the scent ... ah, the scent. I can almost breathe it again now when I think upon it. Intoxicatingly delightful.

Whether it is a planned event or a serendipitous and spontaneous occurrence, I hope that you may be touched by the visitation of some small blessing today. They are out there you know, all around us really. Sometimes, we simply need fresh eyes with which to seem them. Sometimes, we need to deliberately and consciously exchange our jaded filters for those rose-coloured spectacles that so many, in their folly, deride.

Hyacinths: Botanical Gardens, February 2004.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Signs of the Times

In An Office

Toilet out of order ... please use floor below

In A Laundromat

Automatic washing machines: please remove all your clothes when the light goes out

In A London Department Store

Bargain basement upstairs

In An Office

Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday please bring it back or further steps will be taken

In An Office

After tea break staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board

Outside A Secondhand Shop

We exchange anything — bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your wife along and get a wonderful bargain?

Notice In Health Food Shop Window

Closed due to illness

Spotted In A Safari Park

Elephants please stay in your car

Notice In A Farmer's Field

The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free , but the bull charges.

On A Repair Shop Door

We can repair anything. (please knock hard on the door — the bell doesn't work


Friday, February 11, 2005

More Blog Links

I'm not sure why I haven't gotten around to this any sooner: because there is always something else to do, I suppose. However, I have finally taken a moment to add Loner's Ridge to my Blog Links in the sidebar.

I believe that I stumbled across Loner's blog by accident one day, quickly added it to my RSS feeds, and always look forward to reading her latest contribution. Loner is a deeply spiritual woman of the Catholic faith who writes with a kind of authentic humility that I really appreciate. She doesn't always write about her faith — far from it — but has put her focus there lately because it is Lent.

If you haven't been there yet, read some of Loner's blogs and see if you don't find it worth returning.

Oh heck! While I'm messing about with my template anyway, let me also link to Karla who writes We're Having a Baby. To state the obvious, she is pregnant and has recently experienced some complications that she seems to be dealing with very well. Her latest blog describes her first pre-natal class with humour.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Silly Canucklehead

Although winter has since returned, I mentioned in Canadian Eh? how nice it was last Saturday. It was almost as nice on Sunday, and we chose to go for a walk by The Bay. A little crowd had gathered on the promenade to watch this seasonally premature kayaker and wonder what the heck he was up to.

He was at a spot where open water met ice. As we chanced by, he was just in the process of extricating himself from the ice. Too late: I snapped the photo just after he had escaped the ice (lower part of photo). Amazingly enough, he turned around and headed back into the ice (upper part of photo).

I don't quite know what he was up to, but Canadians are prone to embrace silliness come late winter.

Yes, in case you are wondering, I performed little digital darkroom voodoo to superimpose the top photo onto the bottom one. Luckily enough, it blends fairly seamlessly.

This brings to mind the story of the hapless Canuck who got so cold kayaking that he resorted to building a warming fire in the bottom of the boat. As you can imagine, it soon got out of hand, and the fire burned right through the deck, rendering the craft unusable. The moral of the story: you can't have your kayak and heat it too.


Raindrops on Banner

Isn't that something. After about four months, I finally got around to adding some raindrops to my banner (the title header at the top of the page). Aren't they cute?


Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Inspired by writersblock's photo of icicles, I recalled that I had this one in the the vaults. She is the author of Dysfunctional Thoughts and is now listed in my Blog Links in the sidebar.


Monday, February 07, 2005

I Promise ...

... that this is the very last one.

Good Recent Blogs

Loner's Ridge recently posted a fine piece entitled "The Nature of the Father."

Mel wrote a stunning blog: "Sharks, Loss and Snowflakes."

Cuppa wrote a funny entry called "Menopause Cake."

All of them women. They leave us in the dust.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Two Chickadees

This photo is either the ultimate or penultimate entry (not sure which) in the now blog famous (I jest) chickadee series.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Up Close

The blogs seem to be rolling today, so I most certainly don't need to scrounge for another. However, there are still a few bird photos sitting in Blogger in draft mode. I should publish them before I lose track or am too far removed from the event.

This is possibly the closest shot that I took of the chickadees. Note the way the tail is out of focus? That narrow depth of field is frequently a result of using a telephoto lens.


Odd Couple

When you are yours are out driving about, do you ever find yourself speaking so quietly that the other person can't properly hear you? Perhaps you don't, but Cuppa and I both fall into this mode from time to time. I theorize that we speak softly because we are sitting in close proximity, and in the home environment, that volume would be all that was required.

However, and this is something that I have discovered about people as I have encountered some hearing loss over the past number of years, people have natural volumes at which they speak — their own comfort levels. This volume seems to be almost autonomic, for I have found that if I have cause to remove my hearing aids, people seldom modulate the volume of their voices. If they do remember at first, because I have just brought notified them that I have removed my hearing aids, "So would you please speak up?", they forget with amazing promptness.

Hearing aids aren't really the point, but I speak of such because that is what has caused me to notice this tendency. I also think that it is an automatic reaction to adjust one's volume depending on the distance between the communicants. So when we're in the car and close to the other person, it is natural to speak softly because we are proximate. One simply doesn't pause to consider the road noise factor; we don't compensate because speech volume is autonomic.

All of the preceding ramble is my way of backing into a description of a good laugh that we shared in the car today. I'm not sure that any other couple in the world would ever do this. We're odd, I suppose.

To get to the point, I made a low-volume statement of some sort. I have no idea now what it was — certainly nothing important at any rate. When Cuppa asked me what I had said, I realized that it wasn't worth repeating, so I simply passed it off and told her that I was just muttering.

So then I started to really mutter, just gibberish. And she did too. And it was funny. And it got even funnier when we threw a few chuckles in. We'd mutter as if we were telling a joke and then laugh to ourselves. Pretty soon we were both so genuinely amused that we began to laugh for real — really hard too. The kind of laugh that feels really good.

What a pair of old crazies! What an odd couple!


Canadian Eh?

Winter has decided to give us a reprieve. It's a rather balmy 3 or 4 degress Celsius (somewhat under 40F), but it's sunny and rather nice. It's so nice that people are out in droves: so much so that our usual parking area at the local park was full.

Yup, all sorts of folk were out walking and enjoying the day and offering lots of friendly greetings and warm smiles. Nobody is getting too carried away because winter can hardly be over; spring is not yet just around the corner. In fact, we are almost guaranteed a few more storms and perhaps another deep freeze or two, but we learn to take what we can get and enjoy it when we can.

If you're asking whether this is the same guy who enjoys winter, I answer in the affirmative. But come February, one also begins to look forward to the next season. While I know we're not even close to being there, I can't help but enjoy this harbinger of times to come.

I guess this is all very Canadian, eh: thinking that 3C is really great; enjoying winter; looking forward to the end of winter? Something else that is very Canadian is skating or playing hockey on an outdoor pond or rink. They were doing that today as we rounded to pond on our walk, and I paused to take this snapshot. No serious photography here: just sharing dads and kids enjoying the day together. Quintessentially Canadian is what it is.


Hooked At Last

That was a reprise of an almost forgotten pattern! That picking up a fairly long, 500 page, tome on a Thursday afternoon and finishing late Friday night.

I was thinking that I may have grown out of this behaviour as I haven't gotten totally absorbed like that for quite some time. To some extent, it unsettled me to think that I may have passed beyond the boundary of being able to be intoxicated into another world. Now, I see that it is still possible.

What hooked me was Stephen Donaldson's, The Runes of the Earth. This, and its sequels, are to comprise The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I had read the first two series (each three volumes) many years ago and always thought that there was one more story that lay waiting to be told.

The Covenant Chronicles definitely fall into the fantasy genre: a genre that is not everybody's cuppa tea. They belong not, however, to The Lord of the Rings class, of which there are many emulators. That being said, however, all fantasy novels seem to hinge upon some sort of quest involving a struggle against overwhelming evil. These works are no different in that respect.

However, they are written on a much more adult level (no, not that kind of adult) where issues of good and evil are examined in some depth and where boundary lines are not as classically distinct. The protagonist, Covenant, is a flawed hero: a leper and not always a completely likable person who struggles to do right and sometimes fails.

Donaldson takes you into the mind of the protagonist to a depth that no other fantasy writer can match. He takes you into their inner thoughts and allows you to participate in their struggles and dilemmas. He sometimes draws me kicking and screaming, for I do not always like what I am reading, but draw me he does.

He also has an amazing vocabulary. He uses words that I don't come across anywhere else.

  • ... gave it an eldritch quality, almost an evanescence

  • She needed that reassurance to help her bear the inchoate conviction ...

  • Its presence was suppuration and horror ...

  • Outside the day had turned crepuscular ...

  • It was condign; it belonged.

Well, I think that kind of stuff is just great.

I'm not necessarily recommending this series. They are not for everybody. However, if you think you might like to try reading Donaldson, start with the very first book of the very first series, Lord Foul's Bane.

I really wanted to share my pleasure at getting hooked on a book — at last! I didn't set out to write a book review but ended up doing something much like that because it seemed necessary to explain a little something about what it was that hooked me.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005


On the off chance that some dear reader may not have construed this from my myriad postings of chickadee photos, let me declare publicly that I am very fond of animals. I have exercised restraint by refraining from surrounding myself with hordes of pets, but we have frequently had either a bird or cat or both and perhaps two of each reside with us. Some were strays (even one bird, believe it or not), and others were foisted upon us. Rocky was foisted.

I don't want to tell the full Rocky story, but let me say that he came to visit with us one Thanksgiving and only left last Thanksgiving — five years later! At the time, five years ago, Butterfly, his human, lived in a bachelor apartment (what Canadians call a little, one room apartment), and the cat was driving her mad because there was simply no escape for her. He would pounce on her in the middle of the night, chew her hair, do whatever it took to send Butterfly onto the brink of utter despair, and there was nowhere for her to escape although she did try the tactic of subjecting him to timeouts in the bathroom periodically.

That's when Butterfly tricked us. She brought him home for Thanksgiving because she declared that he would be ever so lonely without her. True enough: however, when it became time for Butterfly to leave, she declared, as if she had just thought of this and hadn't schemed it all along: "I think I'll leave Rocky with you guys. He loves it here." That was true too; he loved having access to a back yard that he could explore at will.

Rocky was more used to females, so it took him and me a few months to get to know each other. But we bonded one day in the garden and were good friends thereafter.

There are cats and there are cats. Rocky is the latter — a great cat — my best cat . He loves to be near his folk, to get some quality lap time, and to share just about whatever food is on the menu. I miss his inevitable blurp of greeting whenever I enter the house.

But we had to let him go back to Butterfly because, as many of you now know, Cuppa and I like to pick up and go (generally to The Cottage) for protracted periods of time whenever the spirit moves us. Cats are not terribly portable critters, however. So, this past Thanksgiving, we trundled him back across the province to to be reunited with his original human — Butterfly — who has a real home now, not a tiny bachelor apartment.

Despite this extra space, read her blog to see how he is driving her mad once again. Our house is configured in such a way that he could be confined to the lower portion by night, far removed from us. He was prevented from pestering us mercilessly — at least he was after we figured out how to keep him from prying open doors. That was quite a battle of wits ... which we barely won. But Butterfly's house is not so conveniently configured as ours and ... well, you can read her account here. Please pay special attention to the comments. I find some of them to be hysterically funny.



I'm is a bit of a mind-numbing stasis today. I'm uncertain about what to do next regarding my CD burner woes (see yesterday). Do I try to roll my system way back? Do I go for a complete re-install (heaven forfend)? Do I pay for a Computer Doctor to make a house call? I can't quite come to grips with this. I need my computer to do the things that I like to do, so I really don't want to take it in somewhere and have it sit for days ... or weeks.

In my uncertainty, I dither a lot and don't accomplish much.

While the question festers and my stasis persists, about all that I have been able to do is to read blogs, particularly Life's Laundry. I have already written to Wash Lady and told that her writing flows like a mighty river. You might want to have a peek. Me and women: love 'em; love their blogs — the way they think and express themselves.

So, here's another female blog for you. Iona of The Netherlands writes Circles and Squares. Her main thrust is photography. From what some of you have said about my photos, I thought you might like to check out the better work on Circles and Squares.

Speaking of photos, and not having much else to speak about today, I posted a few in draft mode (for days like this) before we left the country — chickadees, of course. Here's one of them.

A wind-blown little bird


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Pissy Day

Not to fear. I'm not having one of my Black Cloud Days (like here) — I really don't have them very often, you know. Nevertheless, it was what I term A Pissy Day.

Back in the country, one of my goals had been to get all of my files backed-up onto CDs. For some reason, presumably a hardware failure, this simple delight was denied me as my burner threw one hissy fit after another. Each time it would tease me by appearing to begin the process, but it would eventually chew up and spit out another CD for me to toss into the bin.

Once home, I decided to try my portable CD burner. If it worked, then I'd know for sure that my burner problems were due to a hardware failure, and that my expensive extended warranty would pay off. It did work — exactly once! Then, it behaved just like the internal burner.

I have removed programs, reinstalled programs, retried both burners —over and over — and it just ain't workin'.

Afternoon: okay, fugedabud da burner. Let's go for a walk in The Wetlands Preserve. Bad choice! Not enough people have walked the pathways since the last snow to render them very navigable. We were forced to trudge single-file, looking down every step of the way for the best possible footing. Pretty pissy walk that — especially after Riverwood.

Suppertime: Cuppa forgets to turn the stove on to bake one regular and one sweet potato. But Anvilcloud wanders into the kitchen about twenty minutes later, notices the problem, corrects the problem. After almost two months away, however, dumbass Anvilcloud forgets a certain peculiarity of our dumbass oven. It requires two manipulations to turn it on. One: set the temperature dial. Two: turn the oven on via a separate switch. It's the only oven that I have ever been intimate with that works that way — and I simply forgot.

While supper wasn't cooking, I was notified by an alert reader that my blog template was falling apart in that silly browser that people are wont to use: Internet Explorer. Okay: find the problem; fix the template.

While I'm at it, let's try to fix another slight problem that I have been seeing but avoiding — a few extra pixels repeating at the right edge of the content section — in Internet Explorer — naturally. I amend the coding on every large photo that I've ever posted. It's a slow process folks. Go back, open each pertinent blog, repair, republish. Didn't work!

After supper: Cuppa turns on the dishwasher, and we go our separate ways to bang our heads on the walls of our choice. Shoulda waited. Shoulda waited for the dishwasher to drain all over the kitchen floor before seeping into the basement. Then, we could have just banged our heads once and been done with it.

However, for optimists there's a bit of an upside to banging your head against the wall — even twice in one day: it feels so good when you stop. That's the best thing about a Pissy Day too. It eventually comes to an end!

I may not be a brother of the cornhuskers, but at the end of a day like this, I can join them in saying, "To-morrow is a day." (Carl Sandburg)


I Am Enough

I took a long list of ToDos with me when we went away and didn't get terribly far with them. Oh, I caught up on my photo album and general organization of my digital pictures, but I didn't do so very well in most other areas: such as working through certain tutorials and computer projects.

Recently, my reading habits have taken a turn which I could not have predicted several years ago, for I have moved from reading mostly fiction toward reading mostly non-fiction. This is partly due to becoming absorbed in the process of trying to acquire a few, new computer skills and spending quite a bit of my reading time with my nose in computer manuals. It is also partly due to not knowing where to turn next for good fiction.

You see, I like to find a enjoyable series to follow. It started when I was a kid with The Bobsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, Chip Hilton, and others. As a adult, I like Birtish mysteries, and there are a lot of good choices out there: Elizabeth Geroge's, Inspector Lynley; Peter Robinson's, Inspector Banks; Ruth Rendell's, Inspector Wexford; and several other authors and series which my feeble brain can't dredge up at the moment — Ann Granger and Deborah Crombie spring to mind but their characters don't. But one eventually gets to the end of even that plethora and wonders what to read next.

Two years ago, CBC had a Canada Reads contest. Each of six well-known persons plumped for his or her favourite novel. Each week, the group voted and eliminated one until only Micheal Ondatje's, In the Skin of a Lion, was left standing. Bought it; read it; was hugely disappointed. If that's the winner, how terrible must the losers be? One doesn't know where to turn or whom to believe.

At The Cottage, upon hearing rave reviews from both Cuppa and her sister, I decided to give Sue Monk Kidd's, The Secret Life of Bees, a whirl. I suppose that it might be seen as a woman's book — written by a woman, about women, and primarily for women, but, I'm rather both fond, admiring, and respectful of women. Always have been. Never required re-education about their value or roles or that sort of thing. Without ever thinking to refer to myself as such, and while having reacted to some of the more strident personalities that have bestrode the scene, I have probably always been a feminist — although one hesitates to use a word that holds such different connotations for different people.

In the event, I read The Secret Life of Bees, thoroughly enjoyed it, and felt pleased to have enjoyed fiction once again. The novel intertwines race, religion, sisterhood (in a broad sense), and (yes) bees in a remarkably creative way.

This thought, and I must loosley paraphrase the thought for I no longer am in possession of the book, leapt off the pages at me: You don't have to be great at doing something: to love to do it is sufficient.

This resonated with me because I have long wished to excel, truly excel at something. I have been fairly competent in some pursuits at various times: chess, tennis, gardening, photography, and computing, for example. However, I excel at none, and I have tended to feel cheated or left out. "He's competent," strikes the ears not as a huge accolade.

Suddenly, Kidd was telling me that's completely okay. If, in their time I have really enjoyed any of the above pursuits or others, that is sufficient. We can't all be gifted, but we can all, indeed we must all, be participants. We've all heard and laughed at this question, but it serves the point: "Where would you be if only the best lovers made love?" But ain't it fun anyway?

Last night was one of those nights that I have mentioned previously: when I'm hot and cold at the same time. It drives me crazy and drove me out of bed and down to the computer last night. I checked for new blog entries through RSS feeds and found that Mel of Actual Unretouched Photo had recently posted Through a Stranger's Eyes, which I found to be quite marvellous. (Yes, we now have a new link in the side panel — do check out Actual Unretouched Photo.)

To some extent, when I read wonderfully written blogs like Mel's, I feel inferior and am tempted not to bother any more. In so many blogs out there, there's a level of ability that I cannot hope to match. Then I give my head a shake and tell myself to do what I enjoy doing. According to Sue Monk Kidd and according to common sense (if we are but willing to use it), it is enough.

The world will not beat a path to my humble blog door, but it is enough that I write what I wish to write, that I post a photo that I wish to post. Life is not meant to be a competition but a striving: to be the best that I can be.

I feel that we do our children a disservice when we tell them that they can be/do whatever they want: "The sky's the limit. You can be whatever you want to be." I know that we are trying to tell them to reach for the stars as it were, but we must exercise caution in how we communicate the message lest we tell a falsehood. Try as long and as hard as we might, most of us do not possess the innate ability to be an Olympic champion or a Nobel prize winner.

In the final analysis, we can only find those things that we love to do and then do them as well as we can. That is enough. It has to be, and it is.