Thursday, June 30, 2011

God's jongleur

I took a couple pictures of my St. Francis statue the other day, because I just love it so much.

I love that he has a bird on his shoulder and another on his hand, and a lamb noses at the other hand. That's kind of how my little dog lifts his head and looks at me when he follows me down the hall. I can see him in the mirror at the end of the hall, watching and following me. I like that a very godly man would see the value of loving animals.

Canticle of Brother Sun
also known as
Canticle of the Creatures
by Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your Name.

We praise you, Lord, for all your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom you give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor
of you, Most High, he bears your likeness.

We praise you, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

We praise you, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which you cherish all that you have made.

We praise you, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise you, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.

We praise you, Lord, for Sister Earth,
who sustains us
with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.

We praise you, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of you bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

We praise you, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that she finds doing your will.
No second death can do them harm.

We praise and bless you, Lord, and give you thanks,
and serve you in all humility.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The look of love

Me and my dog

Had a stressful moment at work today and I glanced at the time in the bottom corner of my computer screen and thought, "When can I go home?" I longed for the enthusiastic greeting of my dog.

Of course, dinner is what is really making him leap for joy, but he looks to me as the source of dinner and other good things. Now he's asleep by my feet. It's good to have a dog's love.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blooms in June

An iris--this time without a slug.

A couple of the fuchsia blooms have opened up.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Part of the job

Perfect summer day today. Sunny but not at all hot.

I pottered around on the deck, cleaned away old starter pots and so on, and did some sweeping. I didn't get the whole deck swept, but a good part of it. I got distracted partway through with the need to weed on the west side of the house and make more progress planting the Veronica. I'll be so glad when all those are planted, but it's a big job. Weeding was dirty, sweaty work at which spiders kept showing up uninvited. In handling the starter pots, I twice made finger contact with a slug, causing me to exclaim loudly, "Ew! Bachy! Gross!" I didn't get the whole place weeded and planted either. I did part of two jobs, weeding/planting and sweeping.

I gave all the potted plants some Miracle-Gro, so that was one job that I completed the whole of. The fuchsias are starting to get blooms. They're not completely open yet.

I'm glad to see them. Last year we had such a late summer that my fuchsias didn't bloom until August, if I recall correctly.

And I did take some time to just sit around and enjoy the deck, which is, after all, the whole point.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Now it's Miller time

The city of Bellingham is paving the road in front of the building where I work. This morning, when I sought access to my parking lot, the flagger told me, "You might not be able to get out again." I thought, You guys better just get out of my way when I leave on a Friday. As it turned out, everything went fine when I left, which is how things should go on Friday at quitting time.

When I was in college, there was a commercial on TV for Miller beer. It would show men working hard in a factory or wherever, then the whistle would blow, they'd head out of work, and the voiceover would say, "Now it's Miller time." Then would come scenes of happy dudes in a bar being served Miller beer.

I did not actually drink Miller beer after work today.

As I wrote this post, it occurred to me to wonder if Miller beer is still out there, so I googled it. Apparently a merger took place while I wasn't paying attention and there is now a company called MillerCoors. When I was young, Coors was only sold in certain states and if you took it to another state you were smuggling. This is, in fact, the premise of the movie Smokey and the Bandit, starring 70s heart-throb Bert Reynolds. I don't think I've ever actually watched that movie straight through. The first time I saw any parts of it I was shocked and disappointed at the way Jackie Gleason was swearing. Nowadays foul language is so common in movies I doubt I'd be shocked anymore. The coarsening of our culture. It's to the point that vulgarity and obscenity are not shocking; they're just boring. And profanity is so commonplace that nobody seems even to know it might be offensive.

Oh, well. That's not a very cheerful way to end a post, so I'll just be glad for the quiet of my own home and I will try to be a spring of fresh water.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lift up your heads

I watered my plants after supper tonight. Part of me was whispering that I was just too tired and they would probably survive without it, but the other part of me didn't find probably good enough. I thought of watering yesterday already but read a prediction for rain last night and today. But it didn't rain. It was windy and there were threatening clouds; perhaps a sprinkle fell here or there but not enough to water the plants. When I got home from work this evening, some of them were droopy. Since I watered them by tomorrow morning they'll be holding their heads high again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yabba dabba doo

Ho hum. Long day at work, then sat around reading and snacking in the evening, also browsed the web. One thing is, I'm always glad I'm not still a high school English teacher. Back then, no matter what I did with my evenings it was wrong because I should have been grading students' writing assignments instead. I hated grading papers, and I was never done with it. So I either had to spend my time doing what I hated or not do it but hate feeling that I was neglecting my obligations. Now I leave my work at work, and what a relief that is.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The first day of summer

Interestingly, the first day of summer on the calendar coincided with the first day of summer in our weather. Mid-70s, woo-hoo. Maybe there's hope for the rest of summer. Looking at the forecast, I see we're due a few more days of rain starting tomorrow night. We've had the occasional sunny day this spring, but what I want are several sunny days in a row. Apparently uber-blogger James Lileks is experiencing something similar all the way in Minnesota:

Well, here’s a surprise: a cool, overcast day! (sob) You can see it all settle in the faces of the citizens: they’ve written the summer off.

Why is summer solstice the first day of summer? Didn't it used to be called "midsummer" as in A Midsummer Night's Dream? Some folks just call it "the longest day of the year," which is wordy but accurate. If I were Jerry Seinfeld, I could develop this thought into a genuinely hilarious comedy routine, but I'm me so I'll just go to bed at the close of the longest day. I guess it's the shortest night of the year, too.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The pleasantest thing

The Swing
A Child's Garden of Verses
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Raining death from the sky

So this afternoon, after my family left following our Father's Day celebration, I scatted Sluggo among the irises and hostas and in the pansy pots, as those have suffered the most slug damage. I also took a spray bottle of Roundup and sprayed weeds and grass that were coming up through cracks in the deck, sidewalk, and driveway, and also sprayed a local weed that I think we call sand rushes (although I don't find that name online to verify it) that grows in the sandy ground in the beds at the northwest corner of our house, and that cannot be eradicated by pulling or digging, because they just break off and grow back.

Better living through chemicals.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Finally got an iris bloom a week or so ago. This morning I looked out the kitchen window at it, and there was a large slug, sliming all over it.

Click on the picture for full gross-out. (Use your browser "back" button to come back.)

And here's a snail.

And yet another slug on the leaves of irises that haven't bloomed yet.

So among my errands today was to buy Sluggo, which is reputed to be safe to use even when pet wander around the vicinity. I have not spread it out yet because it is Not Very Nice weather out today, and I am officially in for the evening, even though I haven't yet had supper.

I wanted a sunny Saturday but I got (yet another) overcast, damp one, so I'm pouty and crabby.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scenes from the flower pots

The plants with the yellow flowers are Nicotiana, yes, tobacco. The flowers smell sweet. In Busman's Honeymoon, by Dorothy Sayers, the vicar and his wife invite Lord and Lady Peter Wimsey over for sherry and cigarettes. This is in the 1930s, before cigarettes were bad for people. The vicar asks Lord Peter if it is correct that sherry is the only wine "with which the goddess Nicotiana does not quarrel." Lord Peter agrees that it is correct. I shall not dry and smoke the leaves of these plants, but perhaps I could drink sherry while sniffing a bloom one day.

Here is heliotrope, a sun-loving, sweet-smelling plant. My flower-loving grandma grew heliotrope. One of my flower-loving aunts grows it near the door of her house because her mom (my grandma) told her to put that good-smelling plant by the door so that when you brush by it on your way in you bring a good smell indoors with you. I just read in Wikipedia that its leaves follow the sun. I had never observed that.

Callie rose. I get this one just for the pretty flowers. I don't think it's particularly aromatic.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bird's nest

Inside the white oval on the picture below is a bird's nest hanging from a branch of our deodar cedar. It has been there a few weeks. I think it has been used and left already.

I saw a small bird fluttering around it a few weeks ago. I thought maybe it was chickadees who built it. We get a lot of them at our feeders. But when I looked up chickadees on Wikipedia, it said they nest in holes in trees, not that they build nests like this. So I don't know what kind of bird built this nest.

He that hath found some fledged bird’s nest, may know
At first sight, if the bird be flown;
But what fair well or grove he sings in now,
That is to him unknown.

"Beyond the Veil"
Henry Vaughan (1622-1695)

Indecision costs

If you are a faithful follower of my blog, well, thank you. You may recall that earlier this spring I ruthlessly cut back six lavenders, not sure if they would come back. Three came back full and strong.

And three seemed not  to come back, so I bought three replacements. Then two of those three started to green up, so I mentioned recently I hated to dump them out of the pots when they were trying so hard to grow.

I was trying to think of a place on the property where I could plant them in the ground, so I could then use the pots for the replacements. Sadly, while I thought it over, the replacements, waiting too long in their little starter pots, bit the dust.

Sad, sad, the bitter tale.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sounds like

Last night was one of those nights where I got so sleepy I plumb forgot to blog. Or did I plum forget? Which is it, a plumb or a plum? It's plumb. Reminds me of once when I saw an online article that said a crowd disbursed, when they meant dispersed. And I often see people write "Here, here," when they mean, "Hear, hear." And do you "toe the line" or "tow the line"? I believe it's "toe." I thought that these words were homonyms, but I guess they're homophones.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Not just a salad

Reading on my Kindle Julius Caesar: Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy. My previous knowledge of Caesar comes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and, I'm somewhat embarrassed to say, a series about Rome by Colleen McCullough--better known as the author of The Thornbirds.

McCullough's "Masters of Rome" series is actually well researched and historically accurate to known facts, but the literary level of the writing is still on a par with Thornbirds. Still, I learned a lot of Roman history from the volumes I read. I have not read them all because I get sick of them, but I did read about the first three or four, I think. The first ones deal with Sulla and Marius, and you do get that sense, which historians confirm, that Sulla was both fascinating and sinister.

Caesar's influence on Western history was such that his name came to mean a ruler. The German word Kaiser and the Russian word Tsar (sometimes spelled Czar) both derive from Caesar. But before Julius Caesar, it was just a name, a cognomen--a nickname that became hereditary. Caesar's first name was Gaius, or Caius, and Julius was his family name. Caesar was a cognomen of some, but not all, of the Julius family, the Julii. His adopted son, who became Caesar Augustus, had the same cognomen, and after them people who were or fancied themselves to be some type of heir to the Roman emperors called themselves Caesar.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Subdued excitement

Today after work I drove around Bellingham a little, looking for the mural that calls Bellingham the "City of Subdued Excitement." I found it on Prospect Street. The banner across the bottom of the circle in this picture says, "Ye Olde City of Subdued Excitement."

I took the picture for my sister-in-law who, although she knows Bellingham better than I do, happened not to have heard of this slogan until I said it to her a week or two ago. She loved it, as do I.

In taking the picture, it seemed to me that the first time I saw this, it didn't say "Ye Olde," so I looked around the web to see if it has been different, and I found two different pictures, showing that this mural is subject to change. Here and here.

And here's a cool video some locals made:

Looking at this post and the Grand Rapids one below, it seems that I didn't plan it that way but civic pride is a theme this week.

Just one more cool local note. People who live in Bellingham refer to themselves as Bellinghamsters, or just 'hamsters.


Yesterday, while I was home, sick, from work, I purchased on my Kindle and read The Wilder Life, by Wendy McClure. I enjoyed it. She recollects in her adulthood her love for the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and over the course of a year visits most of the sites and museums related to the series, and the journeys have a meaning for her that she finally discovers.

Like her, I did love those books as a girl. She had a paperback set, but I think she's a little younger than I am and that those were not out in my day. What I would do was repeatedly check them out of the library. I would find a pile of new books to read, then go get one of the Little House books and get it, too. Like Wendy McClure, I fantasized about the pioneer life without in any way emulating the actual hard work in real life--unable to complete embroidery and knitting projects.

I can even remember when I first heard of the Laura books. When I was in third grade, my family moved from Key West, Florida, to Austin, Texas, due to my father's military career. At the new school two events brought the books to my attention. One was that the teacher was reading aloud to the class On the Banks of Plum Creek, and the first chapter I heard was the one where mean girl Nellie Olsen gets her comeuppance when she wades in Plum Creek and gets leeches in her legs, which sends her into fits. My new classmates roared with laughter. And when we went to the school library, we all sat at tables and our teacher said that the quietest table could go first to pick out their books. Everyone immediately became still and proper, with their hands folded in front of them. She chose a different table than mine, and the little girl next to me expressed dismay that those lucky chosen ones would get all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

I enjoyed reading Ms. McClure's re-discovery of these books, her humorous stories about going to the locations, her relating of the quest to her own life, and overall I found the book satisfying. She had a very good-natured boyfriend/significant other who not only went with her to several locations but also read the books so he would understand what they were seeing. If you're someone who idolizes the books or the show, you might not enjoy her humor, but if you can reconcile your love for Laura's simple, hard-working life on the prairie with a more urban, modern narrator you might enjoy it.

Here's an example. McClure writes about a book of letters from later in Laura's life that she read that disappointed her when she was a girl because they weren't like the novels:

West from Home was a collection of Laura’s letters home from her trip in San Francisco in 1915 to visit Rose, now an adult, and to see the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Had I first read them when I was older, I probably could have connected the dots between the Laura of the Little House books, with her braids blowing in the wind, and the older woman who traveled across the country, writing about weather and hotel rooms. As an eight-year-old kid, though, I couldn’t make sense of any of it. ... What was this Panama-Pacific thing? Where was Laura? I’d finally figured out that she went by the adult nicknames “Bessie” and “Mama Bess,” and at last I managed to glean two bits of information about her. One: that she was “growing fat,” or so her daughter, Rose, said, in a letter home to Almanzo. According to Rose, Laura ate multiple buttered scones “without a quiver!” At the time I read that I was growing up in a household full of diet books, so I was mortified. Two: Rose reported, in the very next letter, that Laura had fallen off a streetcar and hit her head. I couldn’t un-know these sad facts, that the little Half-Pint I knew and loved had become some kind of embarrassing middle-aged person who got into stupid mishaps in the big city. In my mind, the world of the Little House books just went up in smoke at the end, their heroine disappearing into clumsy ordinariness and ignominy. It had always trailed off with a vague, unspoken disappointment. It’s the kind of story we learn over and over again about everything in the world: your life starts out as a wild open frontier that you explore until the forces of time or history or civilization or nature intervene, and then suddenly it’s all gone, it all weathers and falls down and gets built over; everyone dies or moves away or becomes a grainy photograph, and yes, at some point you just get fat and fall off a streetcar. Progress—it dumps you on your aging and gigantic ass!

If that offends you, you won't enjoy the book, but if it made you laugh,  you will.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cement sinuses

Yesterday I was going to blog about my cold under the title, "My face is a fountain," referring to the nearly non-stop liquefaction of my eyes and nose combined with intermittent sneezing. But I was too sorry for myself. Today I am still a little sorry for myself. Someone piped wet cement into my sinus cavities and now it has set solid and cannot be moved. I cannot smell anything, not even when I hold an open jar of Vicks VapoRub right under my nose. And my speech is impaired, so that I say things like, "I candot spell andything dot evend when I hode an opend jar of Vicks VapoRub right under by dose."

Garfield Comics for December 18, 1983

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dilly, dilly

Just checking in to say I've had either a bad cold or severe allergies since Thursday night, and it's kind of sapping my energy, so I haven't been posting. Because of it, I did not go to the Farmers Day Parade. However, I did still plant some flowers, mostly this afternoon. All I have left to do is transplant three lavenders, and weed the stair-path on the west side of the house and add all the Veronica Georgia Blue plants I bought for there.

I don't know if I've already mentioned I couldn't find any Veronica Miffy Brute to match what I planted last year, but I found Veronica Georgia Blue "out the wazoo," as we used to say in my younger days (we were such clever sprigs), so in the spirit of "close enough," I bought a lot of those.

The expanded version of "close enough" is "close enough for government work." And there is also, "good enough for who it's for." These are jokey-type sayings we say in my family.

I was going to plant the three lavenders this afternoon, but I couldn't decide what to do with the plants in two of the pots I want to use. After I ruthlessly cut back six lavenders in March, three of them came back and three did not, so I bought three replacements, but then two of the three that had not come back started getting green leaves. They are not full, like the others, and I don't think they'll look good, but on the other hand, I hate to yank them out and throw them away when they're trying so hard to grow back. I want to find a place somewhere in the yard to plant them, so they can live out their natural life span, but not on my deck, where I don't want straggly plants. But today I just didn't have the strength to go dig a couple holes to plant them, plus first figuring out where I want to plant them. So the poor three replacements will have to spend another root-bound week in their starter pots.

Lavender blue, dilly dilly, lavender green.
When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Parades and feet

Well, hooray, tomorrow's Friday. On Saturday, I plan to observe the Farmers Day Parade from a friend's front porch, who lives on the parade route. She told me she wouldn't be home but her husband will and the house is open to whoever wants to come for their traditional "parade party." The parade starts at 10:30 a.m., which means I'll have to wake up early--for a Saturday.

On another topic, I know the question the world is asking itself is, What about Jan's feet? I'll provide an update on that important and fascinating topic. My new walking shoes and the taking of Tylenol and Advil (when I remember) and a little bit of Achilles-tendon stretching (when I remember) are alleviating the plantar fasciitis. However, the new shoes have also given me a nasty blister on the bottom of the "ring toe," so to speak, of my right foot. So that's hampering my stride now and causing a surprisingly high level of discomfort, aka pain. "It's always something," as Roseanne Roseannadanna would say.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Experience Grand Rapids

Well, I was wondering what to blog about when I came across this video at the Hot Air website.

Dear old Grand Rapids. I went to Calvin College there and then lived there a couple years afterwards. I worked at Modern Hardware, a hardware store--not the computer kind--as a cashier. Apparently there was a Newsweek item that said Grand Rapids was a dying city, and this group was offended by that and made a video expressing their love of their city. It's fun, touching, and well-done. It was filmed in one take! Love it.

Here is an article listing some of the participants. I knew I recognized Bing Goei. I met him a decade or two ago at the Multiethnic Conference (which I attended as a member of a Chinese church) held concurrently with the Christian Reformed Church Synod.

I gather this video went viral last week. I guess I'm a little behind the curve.