Saturday, November 13, 2010
The evidence: a fat, brown rat in a steel trap on my balcony.
As you may know, just a couple of days ago, I believed my two months of vermin torment ended with the capture of a rat in the cabinet under my kitchen sink. However, hidden under the waves of relief I felt that marvelous afternoon were a few inklings of doubt.
Following the now-ritual high-pitched screaming elicited by the sight of the creature's scurries came another realization, however: Yes, The Rat was in custody, but the maintenance men wouldn't be available to take him away for another seven hours.
No. This would NOT work. Every noise from The Rat, even caged, caused my nervous system to overload -- as well as involuntary and unfortunate squeaking noises from me.
Either The Rat had to go or I did.
Enter Frank, a dear friend from work. Upon my call, Frank charged in on his magnificent steed (or, more accurately, a 20-plus-year-old Chevy truck). He removed Rat-In-Cage from my kitchen and placed it on my balcony, out of my earshot and my breathing space until maintenance arrived on scene.
One final serendipitous note before I (God willing) close the book on The Rat Diaries: The heroic Frank's birthday? August 29th.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
When I walked across the street yesterday, no man beat me for not wearing what someone else’s religion thinks I should wear.
When I got up today, I was not forced to go perform a job I hate because that’s what my government told me I had to do for the good of the state.
When I go to sleep tonight, I will have no fear of being rousted from my bed by a secret agency and held against my will.
I can make my life what I want it to be because of the sacrifices of countless others.
From a very grateful American, Happy Veterans Day.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
(Special thanks to @SoapBoxinMyMind)
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Men, unbidden, came and believed they conquered the hills but the hills, disinclined, changed. No man outlasts the hills.
Treen. That's all. Treen she was. She hadn't bent to say more in a coon's age. No call to start now. 'Sides, nary a one that came to her cared to know her afore name. Nary a one could summon even Treen after.
The house deep in Gwrach Gorge had been home to her kin since - always, it seemed to folk. No one recalled who built it, likely not even Treen, though Lord knows she wouldn't tell if she knew. For all its weatherin', a warm and cheerful place. Splashes of color from the shelf-lined walls stocked with jars and ewers. Old wooden chairs worn shiny with time and use and molded to fit a body. The cackle of the black chickens out back lilting along the air.
She hadn't always dwelt in the house - course not, that was impossible, folk knew. Just seemed that no one alive these days could remember before Treen.
Herb Woman the kinder called her. Some, with a glance back for hidden, spoke of the Backwoods Witch. A few, braver or more foolish, inched even closer to a greater lie or the greater truth.
These folk, maybe they had heard the keening.
In the valley, the day began when he left. She arose. Said the mirror: bruised enough to hurt but not enough to be seen.
Shame masked, pride saved, and again she cried – brutal, ripping, noiseless. At last, the cloaked ache deep found form and grew, gained power and called out - still unseen but no longer unheard.
From the belly of the hills came an answer, and a beckoning.
Pain helped the needy find the way. It spirited them down the old wagon trail, up the ridges, through the thickets, into the gorge.
Lulled by the contented sounds of the black chickens, she looked around the bright room, spying ... blackberry and chicory roots, cherry bark, willow leaves, perhaps wild ginger?
"Are you comin' to me, child?" said Treen. "Just ailin' a bit and hankerin' for help, or are you comin' to me?"
She nodded, slowly.
"I'll suss out the truth, child, don't be callin' on me with no nasty selfish lie."
The old eyes missed nothing. Owl eyes, sighting telltale signs of untruths or withholding. What was glimpsed remained unspoken.
At last: "The pain will go, child. You don't get to decide. Treen don't decide. But it will go."
A death wail heard once, the soul flinches, chills. Twice, it's a truth unclothed, lay bare, and irrevocable. The third cry of the banshee, no living being recollects.
On the ancient table, worn to be almost concave, stone and glass, roots and leaves, mortar and pestle, and thick, black ... water?
"Is a way back, child, after the first. Even the second can keep. But, a tríu? The stone is thrown."
She nodded. She didn’t look away. Treen worked.
An ashen moon lighted upon the earth through skittering clouds. Mists frolicked about gullies and trickling water. But they just were, they didn't do.
The night's other whiteness, most unnatural but more nature than else, searched. The work of the soul-cry: It came when called ... and called when it came.
He started from deep asleep, winced, then laughed. Tweren't nothin' what he heard. She jumped, chilled, but no smile followed. She tucked the bedcovers higher under her chin and looked out the pane into the darkness.
Despite the warmth of the sun, the fire in Gwrach Gorge blazed with purpose, consuming the air and all Treen fed it. The black chickens took heed, scattered, kept their distance.
The trees stood in silent vigil, the wind held its breath, but she didn't come back into the hills, with bawls of regret, with pleas for release.
Old bones groaned as Treen bent back toward the fire.
In the valley, he jolted awake again, but no laughter cracked the air this night. Something ... there was something. The shrill cry of a night bird. A haunting from an old dream. But the truth was a lie, he reckoned. He looked toward her.
The coldness of the wail's echo burned in the silence.
Treen worked and waited and thought. Child, this is the last time the choice be yours. Mind it well, for what fate will nigh decide, no human being can divine.
"Truth be told, though," Treen said to the black chickens, "sufferin' don't have many druthers."
Disquiet stole down from the headlands and into the valley. Folk made for home, molested by their own familiar shadows now turned sharp and poorly fitting. A presence roused under the peculiar hush that held the night.
The push of the night woke him, and her, when the air in the room drew too close for slumber. He jerked from the bed to pace, recoiling from the windows, talking aloud to himself and to no one. It was coming, he knew, but what he knew he couldn’t conjure.
The pause of the wind was a full-mouthed silence.
The whiteness, unstoppable, cleaved the darkness outside, and the specter birthed as a body without flesh, hollow eyes dead but all-seeing. The face, the face of the banshee, split, and a keening rent the night - a tríu.
White turned black, and the bloom of a smile touched her face as she closed her eyes in welcome.
A shroud seemed to cover her thoughts, remembrances, when she arose the day after the funeral. Days, perhaps weeks gone missing - though oddly unmissed. Except for the rays of the sun, all was vagueness.
So many people had she seen, so many faces unknown. Such a shock, they had said. Your loss so great, they had said.
The pain will go, child, they had said.
The power of the hills lies in how they keep their secrets. No man outlasts the hills. ________________________________________________
Friday, October 22, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Weapons of war.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The words of a living language are like creatures: they are alive. Each word has a physical character, a look and a personality, an ancestry, an expectation of life and death, a hope of posterity.
-Morris Bishop, “Good Usage, Bad Usage, and Usage”
I discovered a wonderful book, “They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases,” a few years back. In it, the author, Howard Rheingold, talks about the theory of “linguistic relativity,” which at its most bare bones says that the respective languages of cultures shape the way each people views the world.
“The world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds – and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances.”
And because each does this differently, we’re presented with culture-centric words/concepts that don’t translate easily. Some of these terms have gained entry into our vocabulary – Zeitgeist, tao and mantra, for example. For the betterment of our shrinking world, and to have a little fun, I think we should try to add a few more:
ho’oponopono (HO-OH-poh-no-poh-no) [Hawaiian], n., a social gathering and healing process that combines the functions of a religious ceremony, group therapy, family counseling session, town hall meeting, and small claims court. Note: Under this concept, EVERYBODY agrees to stay in the same room until some resolution is reached. This is how we should run Congress.
uffda (OOF-DAH) [Swedish], excl., a sympathetic exclamation when someone else experiences pain, a combination of “Ouch for you” and “Oh, I’m sorry you hurt yourself.”
suilk (SWILLK) [Scottish], v., to swallow, gulp, suck with a slobbering noise. To the Scottish people, the act of swallowing food with an abnormal amount of noise is considered rude enough to merit a verb of its own. Note: If I didn’t already have the family background to prove I’m part Scottish, this would do it.
fisselig (rhymes with thistle fish) [German], adj., conveys a temporary state of being flustered to the point of incompetence as the direct result of another person’s nagging. Note: If said overbearing nagger asks what’s wrong, reply “I’m fisseliged.” That could be odd enough scare him or her away.
tartle [Scottish], v., to hesitate in recognizing a person or thing but recover quickly enough, remember the name and avoid terminal embarrassment.
sanza (SON-zah, rhymes with Honda) [Zande, New Guinea], n., a circumlocutory form of speech that employs words and gestures to create hidden malicious meanings to apparently polite, innocuous speech. Note: I would swear on a stack of Bibles that I know no one who’s from New Guinea, but I definitely know some women who have perfected this speaking ability.
attaccabottoni (rhymes with a lot of baloney) [Italian], n., a doleful bore who buttonholes people and tells sad, pointless tales. Note: Attaccabottoni is my last entry here lest I become one.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Johnita: Christina said her son Hunter has the ability to hypnotize chickens.
Megan: Where'd you hear that?
Johnita: Aunt Virgie told Dad up at the molasses-making.
Megan: God we're hicks.
That bold truth bothered me when I was Megan's age, and it's likely that I wouldn't have uttered it aloud at 16.
Both sides of my family, Hensley and Blessing, settled in this country about 200 or so years ago and they've been in the Southwest Virginia-Northeast Tennessee area since before the Civil War. (My mom still has the document my however-many-greats Grandfather Blessing signed re-pledging his allegiance to the United States of America after the war ended. It's cool.)
We are far closer to the Clampetts than to the Southerners portrayed in "Gone With the Wind" - if either of those works of fiction ever truly bore resemblance to real people. Both sets of grandparents still had functional outhouses during my lifetime, farming was a way of living, and Grandma kept chickens until the day she died.
By no means am I saying that when I was Megan's age I was embarrassed by my country family. Far from it. I simply longed to be sophisticated, much like the beautiful women I admired in all those classic black-and-white movies.
Ever seen the TV series "Green Acres?" I identified with Lisa. Still do somewhat, to be honest. "New York is where I'd rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay ..."
It warms my soul that my darling niece embraces our family, even though it would be more accurate to say we are "high-tech hicks."
Every 21st-century innovation exists here, and at this point a great many of my relatives probably would have a very difficult time minus their cell phones, 200 channels, high-speed Internet and the like. Cousin's pimped-out pickup truck sporting a gun rack includes Sirius Satellite Radio, TomTom and cell phone integration. You get the picture.
God we're hicks.
Yes, sweetie, we are. Now would you PLEASE put down your iPod Touch and cell for just FIVE minutes?
* Cornhole is a game in which approximately 5-inch-square, cloth bags of corn are tossed toward an angled wooden target, about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, with a hole about three-fourths of the way to the top. Similar to horseshoes, but even more countrified if that's possible.
** Dinner on the ground is what most Baptists (and likely many other non-Catholic and non-Episcopalian groups but for sure Baptists) call the semiannual after-Sunday-church-take-lots-of-homemade-food-outside-and-eat-until-you-can't-move ritual. Prayerful potlucks, as it were.
*** Pronounced "Catern's."
**** That's right: Kermit.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I despise “reality shows.” There, I said it.
If that makes me “unAmerican” then so be it.
I harbor no personal grudge against Simon Cowell or Jeff Probst, though I must admit I hold them – if only slightly – responsible for the preponderance of crappyness that permeates those beautiful HD flat-screen TVs these days.
The idea of keeping up with the Kardashians is nauseating.
Kate Gosselin is about as entertaining – and relevant - as watching crabgrass grow.
I would be afraid to let the girls next door anywhere near my house.
I think America has talent but it’s not onstage hanging with Mariah Carey’s husband.
Dancing is lovely, but it’d have to be more fun to dance myself than it is to watch C-list celebrities hoof it.
There’s a reason those Bachelors and Bachelorettes are bachelors and bachelorettes.
The only even pseudo-interesting Situation on the Jersey Shore is the people in that group seem to be covered with some shiny/sticky substance most of the time.
And the “Real” Housewives all seem to have fake boobs and fake tans and fake attitudes and fake lives.
A confession: I used to watch Deadliest Catch. Those men are some of the bravest, craziest and unique individuals out there, but the show and those on it seem to have turned into a caricature of themselves – which means I’m out.
A qualifier: MythBusters is not a “reality show.” IT IS REAL.
And it’s in everyone’s best interest that I don’t get started on court shows - Judy, Joe, Alex, Hatchett, et al.
Friday, September 17, 2010
E-mail can turn the nicest person into a tactless lout. It’s the nature of the medium. Unlike a phone call or an in-the-flesh conversation, an electronic message lacks the vocal nuances, the give-and-take, the body English that do so much to soften the sharp edges of a poorly chosen word. ...
All in all, it’s easier to inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings in an e-mail than in a letter, a phone call, or a face-to-face talk. ...
Next time you log on and enter the ozone, don’t check your manners at the portal.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
My stationery fetish.
I haven’t done the back-to-school thing in more years than I care to count, but the annual rollout of fresh, unadulterated notebooks, binders, Post-It Notes, pens, highlighters, pencils and erasers turns my head to a degree that’s akin to a sighting of Hugh Jackman without a shirt.
You don’t know me, but that’s really saying something.
I glory in shelves filled with daybooks and address books, crisp stationery (despite having handwritten but a single letter in the past nine months), calendars and journals. I revel in colorful rows of paper clips, thumbtacks and rubber bands.
Like most people, I primarily use office supplies at, appropriately, the office.
That’s a problem. Procurers of said office supplies have no sense of taste or whimsy – oh, OK, a limited budget. Plain yellow Post-Its? Boring, blue, dime-a-dozen ballpoint pens?
So I’m a BYOOS (bring your own office supplies) kind of woman - replacing the office Post-its with my multicolored, variously-shaped, lined, super-sticky Post-Its, the boring ballpoints with multicolored felt pens (though red steadfastly remains my favorite). A special touch? Multicolored Sharpie highlighters of different widths to mark off accomplishments. (I’m also big on list-making).
But don’t worry – I bring home the plain yellow Post-its to use as spoon rests.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
In baseball, a can of corn is a high, easy-to-catch flyball or pop-up. Hard cheese is another term for a fastball.
In football, a slobberknocker is an especially hard hit on a tackle — also known as bringing the wood. The fumblerooski is a play on which the quarterback pretends to fumble and a teammate picks up the ball.
Fertile imaginations had a hand in these.
During the opening weekend of college football season, I heard both a new phrase and an old one, neither of which I really like. The new one was “a case of the quicks,” simply meaning the player was fast. It made its point but seemed unnecessary, and I hope it passes away quietly and immediately. The old one was “the worm has turned,” which is used often in the sports world but also is commonly heard in everyday language. I’ve just never really cared for it — and it has been around a very long time.
Among its word of the day entries, of “the worm has turned” the site www.randomhouse.com says:
It’s one of many derived forms of an old proverb, the base of which is either tread on a worm and it will turn or even a worm will turn. It means “even the most humble will strike back if abused enough.”
The proverb is first recorded in John Heywood’s 1546 collection of proverbs in the form: “Tread a woorme on the tayle and it must turne agayne.” Shakespeare uses it, of course: “The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on” (Henry VI, part III). It has remained common in all sorts of literature: “He’s a very meek type. Still, the worm will turn, or so they say.” (Agatha Christie, The Mirror Crack’d).
The proverb’s first American attestation is in 1703, and there are a number of 18th century American examples, showing that it has been popular for some time.
I found another item about the phrase, one that's intriguing, but questionable.
The site http://salmonriver.com/words/nancy/wormturns.html says:
When Shakespeare used that simple phrase, “The worm has turned,” he knew his audience would understand its meaning and origin. A widely used expression even today ... but few who use it know why.
“Worm” is a common term for “dragon.” In fairy tale terms, the flying dragon spewing fire would ravage fields and villages. To be in the dragon’s path resulted in inescapable destruction. What a relief if it changed directions.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
My biggest pet peeve, however, involves the incorrect use of pronouns after a preposition.
(Seriously, it's OK to stop reading.)
From the book "Woe Is I," Chapter 1 "Therapy for Pronoun Anxiety:"
The book continues:
I can hear a chorus of voices shouting, Wait a minute! Doesn't Shakespeare use "I" after a preposition in "The Merchant of Venice?" Antonio tells Bassanio, "All debts are clear'd between you and I, if I might but see you at my death." That's true. But then, we're not Shakespeare.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
The chalkboard scribble is also far from comforting.
I, too, love freedom. I, too, have great pride in and hopes for my country. I, too, am grateful for the many and continuing sacrifices being made on our behalf by our servicemen and servicewomen.
But unlike Beck, I know I don't have a stash of snake oil hidden in my closet.
Donald Duck meets Glenn Beck
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
quotidian, adj., daily; commonplace, ordinary, trivial
sybarite, n., a person devoted to luxury and pleasure (should have been used when Enterprise crew visited Risa)
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I had seen vintage movies before, of course. Once a year, network television (we got NBC, CBS, PBS and - when the weather was right - ABC) rewarded us with some of the classics or, at least, family favorites: The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, The Sound of Music, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Ten Commandments, Mary Poppins.
But I didn't know of much else until cable television crawled into my little valley in Southwest Virginia.
Katharine Hepburn was a revelation. The Philadelphia Story. Bringing Up Baby. Woman of the Year. The African Queen.
Gracious, Bogart. Casablanca. The Maltese Falcon. To Have and Have Not. The Big Sleep. Key Largo - mustn't forget Lauren Bacall.
Cary Grant, the unsurpassed movie star. North by Northwest. Arsenic and Old Lace. To Catch a Thief. Operation Petticoat. Father Goose. Indiscreet. That Touch of Mink.
Oh yes, Doris Day. Her appeal was tremendous during what I dubbed my "Harlequin years." Pillow Talk. Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Send Me No Flowers. With Six You Get Eggroll. The Glass-Bottomed Boat.
Jimmy Stewart. Clark Gable. Audrey Hepburn. Grace Kelly. Spencer Tracy. Elizabeth Taylor. Tony Curtis. Rock Hudson. And Marilyn Monroe.
Their faces, their voices, the way they carried themselves. I was captivated.
Some Like It Hot. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It Happened One Night. Giant. All About Eve. My Fair Lady. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Sergeant York. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Bell Book and Candle. Sunset Boulevard. Cleopatra. How to Marry a Millionaire. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Rear Window. Breakfast at Tiffany's. Auntie Mame. Charade. Roman Holiday.
I reveled in women exquisitely dressed, men in crisp suits and hats, dazzling settings, danger and romance, charm and heartbreak, excitement and longing, humor and passion. The lives and events depicted in such films obviously were often mere illusion, but that fact merely nourished a young girl already harboring overwhelmingly fanciful notions.
Yes, reality came as quite a shock to that young girl.
But to this day if I happen to catch any one of those movies (and many others like them) on TV, I greet it with a rush of feeling like seeing a dear old friend I have missed for far too long.
What's the harm in a little fantasy?