Status

JUST ANOTHER UPDATE

I’m getting back into life. Progress feels rather glacial from my perspective but it’s undeniably progress.

foyer and lightI can write, as long as I keep stuff short. I still can’t focus long enough to read much but I’m getting there. Close, very close. Finding a comfortable position in bed remains a major challenge because I can’t yet lie on my side without feeling like my chest is being crushed. I’ve been assured it will come, but not yet. Soon-ish.

I tire quickly but each day is a little better than the one before. I have bursts of energy early in the day then I wear down. By 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I’m beat and I hurt. Still, last week I was exhausted by noon. Change comes and I guess one needs to take the long view.

I did I lot of stuff yesterday. We went to the grocery store and the pharmacy. I did the stairs — both flights — three times. I hiked up and down the driveway — our own bunny slope. It was a lot for me. And I was released from physical therapy ’cause I’m doing so fantastically. I have photographic plans for today.

Except I don’t feel well. Or not well enough, whatever that means.

I guess how one feels is a matter of “compared to what.” Compared to two weeks ago, I’m feeling great. Compared to last year, I’m a puddle of misery, a complete disaster.

It just depends on how you look at it … and whose body in which you are living.

 

TOSSING THE DICE OF LIFE

Take a Chance on Me

What’s the biggest chance you ever took? Did it work out? Do tell!

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My life has been so full of chances taken, some of which worked out very well indeed … and others which left me digging my way out of the smoldering wreckage of my life. They all had one thing in common: they seemed like a good idea at the time.

And maybe they all were. That’s the thing about risk-taking. You don’t know whether it will work out. That’s what makes it risky. If it were a sure thing (Question: Is anything in life a sure thing? If so, what might it be?), there would be no risk, no chance.

Life itself is chancy. Full of risk. Every single decision, every little choice can ultimately leave you wondering “what if?”

The biggest chance with the most risk I ever took was being born. Since then, it’s just been one thing after another.

I call it life, but you can call it Harry, if you prefer.

ADVENTURES IN HEALTH CARE OR LACK THEREOF

It snowed Wednesday. Just an icing but it prompted a lot of people who actually had to get their cars rolling first thing in the morning to say “This is a joke, right?” A New England joke. The day before, temps had been in the high 70s, I had turned the heat off, so Wednesday saw me and Garry huddled on the sofa in sweatshirts and blankets. Would the cold last long enough to justify revving up the oil burner? Or should we gut it out and shiver until more seasonal weather prevailed? Medicare-Payment-Methods-1024x768 Being so recently sliced and diced, I was not in fighting trim. By evening, I went for heat. Shivering was bad, but sneezing? Wow. That’s a killer. I’m still fighting the battle of no PCP. Technically, I’ve got one. I’ve just haven’t met him. Yet. I’ve got a date, May 2. Not so far away, but far enough. I hope this one’s a keeper.

In the meantime, I’m self-medicating everything including my blood pressure. I’m not doing anything crazy, mind you. I’m merely taking the BP meds I was taking before the surgery because I don’t have anyone to monitor me, no one to call or consult.  Other than the visiting nurses. They are wonderful and deserve medals.

Except they are all leaving because I’m doing so well. Ironies piled on ironies. My self-medication program is working. I’ve got my BP back into the “good” range from the “outta sight” levels of last week. Adventures in health care indeed. This is closer to adventures in lack of health care. How weird I’ve got medical coverage — good coverage — but no doctors. What a world, eh?

GINGER!!

Junk Food Junkie

What’s your biggest junk food weakness? Tell us all about it in its sugary, salty, glory.

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I’m not much of a junk food eater. My stomach doesn’t appreciate it and the rest of my system isn’t happy about it either. But I’m human, so I nibble. And when I nibble, I have favorites, the biggest one being crystallized ginger.

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What’s that? Preserved, sugared ginger. You can buy it in most grocery stores in the dried fruit section. It’s a common ingredient in many Chinese dishes … ginger in all forms is very common in Asian recipes.

Crystallized ginger is an adult taste. You either love it or hate it. I love it and try to keep some in the house in case I have a sudden need for that sharp, sweet taste. Try it. You might like it. A little goes a long way.

Note to WordPress:

I feel obliged to mention — this prompt is uninspiring … dull stuff. How about you folks at WordPress do some thinking about creating some interesting topics for the Daily Prompt? Because this goes beyond bland. It’s boring.

MY BRIEF CAREER IN ANIMAL CONTROL

I live in a small town. Just under 13,000 people call Uxbridge home. The village, or as we say around here, “downtown,” has a classic brick town hall, circa 1879, an elegant old library, and several other historic buildings.

1893 Thayer Library Photo: Garry Armstrong

1893 Thayer Library Photo: Garry Armstrong

Our closest neighboring town, Millville, makes Uxbridge look like Metropolis.

Their town hall is a unit in an old condo building. The center of town is a sub shop. There’s no sign to indicate you are in Millville, so it’s easy to miss. When you get there, it will be closed anyway. The following notice is posted on Millville’s website:

Due to budget constraints, effective immediately the Town Clerk’s office will only be open on Mondays from 9am-1pm and Wednesday evenings from 6pm-8pm for public assistance.  If you cannot be at the Municipal Center during these scheduled hours, please call the Town Clerk’s Office to schedule an appointment.

There are approximately 3100 people living in Millville, spread out thinly.

Downtown Millville.

Perhaps 7 years ago — I don’t remember exactly — the town of Millville decided they needed a Deputy Animal Control Officer. I don’t remember how I heard about the job. It may have been a tip from our local animal control officer who knew I liked animals and needed part-time work.

This was about as part-time as a job could be. The pay was $1200 per year, payable semi-annually. Before taxes.

Millville already had a Senior Animal Control Officer who was theoretically in charge, but passionately fond of golf. I suspect he also had a full-time job elsewhere too. So, in exchange for $600 every 6 months, I would have the official title of Deputy Animal Control Officer and would be on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

I’m basically an optimist. I figured Millville is tiny. How many calls could there be? I took the job. I was sworn in, just like in the movies, hand on the Bible. I promised to protect and serve.

A mere couple of hours later, I got my first call. A homeowner had found an almost dead skunk by their trash bin and wanted it taken away. Since it was my first call — and a weekend — my “senior officer” thought maybe he should come along, show me the ropes as it were. Luckily, the skunk did the right thing and went from nearly dead to absolutely dead while I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I was informed by my erstwhile boss that the skunk had probably been rabid and I should not touch it. If the skunk had not died on his own, I would have been obliged to shoot it.

Me: “Shoot it?”

Boss: “Yes, shoot it. With the rifle.”

Me: “Rifle? What rifle?”

Boss: “Oh, didn’t I mention that? We have a couple of rifles in the office. When an animal is behaving suspiciously, you have to shoot it.”

Me: “Behaving suspiciously?”

Boss: “You know, approaching people rather than running away. Acting weird. Most of the animals you’ll get calls about are rabid. There’s a lotta rabies around here so you don’t want to get close. Just shoot’em.”

Rabies. Shoot the animals. $100 a month. I was getting that creepy feeling I get when I think maybe I’ve signed up for something, the implications of which I had failed to fully grasp.

After we bagged the skunk — literally, using gloves and shovels provided by the town of Millville — to send to the Worcester county animal medical examiner, I promised to go to city hall as soon as they reopened to discuss guns and the other equipment I would need, like shovels, leather gloves, heavy-duty plastic trash bags (the non-human version of body bags), tags for the medical examiner. Forms to fill out. Oh, and where to put the corpses. Turns out, you can’t just stack them up in city hall.

My boss was unconcerned I’d never handled a weapon other than a Red Ryder Daisy BB rifle. I’d never shot anything currently or previously alive. I was puzzled about what I was supposed to do if I got a call, actually needed a rifle, but it was locked up at city hall which was pretty much always closed. Would the offending animal make an appointment for a more convenient time? Or wait for me to call someone, get them to unlock the gun cabinet, then hang around while I drove over to get it, then drove back to shoot him? Are the rabid animals of Millville that cooperative? Was I supposed to keep the big hunting rifle in my house in case I needed it? The rabies thing had me spooked, too.

When I was finally able to get to city hall, I demanded a rabies vaccination. No way was I going to handle rabid animals without a vaccination. They pointed out rabies vaccinations are expensive and I was only the deputy. They suggested I pay for it myself.

Me: “How much will it cost?”

Clerk: “Around $450.”

Me: “That’s four and a half months pay.”

Clerk: “Well, we don’t normally pay for it.”

Me: “I’m not doing this unless I’m vaccinated.”

It turned out that the animal medical examiner could provide me with the appropriate vaccination, so Garry — who had begun to look alarmed – drove me to the doctor. While the doctor prepared the inoculation, we got a rundown of exactly how common rabies is in our neck of the woods. “Why,” he said, “Just the previous week they found a deer with rabies. Chipmunks, skunk, fox, coyotes, squirrels, deer … even possums get rabies.” The only exceptions are rabbits who are naturally immune. Go figure.

The following day, I got another call. A really big snapping turtle had wandered into the road and was blocking traffic. It didn’t sound too threatening, so armed with my shoulder-high heavy leather gauntlets (no rifle), I drove to the site and met the snapping turtle from Hell.

A common snapping turtle.

Keep in mind that there is water everywhere in the valley. Not only the Blackstone, but all its tributaries, feeder creeks, lakes, brooks, ponds, pools, and swamps. Snapping turtles are called common for good reason. They live just about everywhere you find water. Undoubtedly, the big snapper had wandered into the road, lost his bearings. Someone needed to grab the turtle and carry him back on the river side of the road. That someone was me.

This turtle was not in the water, not docile. His beak was sharp. His neck was extremely flexible. Not my kind of nature pal.

So there I was, by the side of the road, trying to figure out how I could grab him. He was approximately 30 pounds of pissed turtle. He seemed pretty agile to me. He could move. Okay, maybe he’d lose a footrace to a rabbit, but he could trundle along at a nice pace. And he had that snaky neck and was determined to bite me.

Meanwhile, an entire construction crew, these big brawny guys who supposedly repairing the bridge, were watching. They didn’t seem eager to help. In fact, they were the ones who called in the first place.

I eventually herded him across the road. I looked at those jaws, looked at my leather gloves, did a quick mental calculation as to strength of gloves versus power of turtle’s jaws, decided the gloves weren’t all that sturdy.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Have you ever tried herding a turtle? Of course not. You can’t herd a turtle, but I did. I don’t know exactly how I got him across the road. I know there was a big shovel involved, but otherwise, it’s a blur. The next thing I remember doing after getting the turtle over to the river side of the road, was calling the clerk and resigning.

The turtle was enough for me. I figured if I didn’t get out quick, they’d have me hunting rabid coyotes with a large gun and I’d shoot my foot off.

They tried to bill me for the rabies shot. We settled for not paying me. I think I got the better part of the deal.

WAITING FOR YOUTH TO OVERTAKE ME

Only Sixteen

Tell us all about the person you were when you were sixteen. If you haven’t yet hit sixteen yet, tell us about the person you want to be at sixteen. 

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Like Merlin in some old Arthurian tales, I am living backwards in time.

Right now, I’m entirely too old and most days, including today, I feel at least 100 years old.

And I’m pretty sure I was never truly sixteen and definitely never Sweet Sixteen. I wasn’t that kind of kid. I was old when I was young, so my reasoning is that as I get older, I will finally be young, like I should have been first time ’round.

Life’s been getting up my nose recently anyhow, so I’m fully prepared for youth — at long last.

It could happen, right?

So what do I want to be when I finally slide into youth? I want to be healthy. No drama, no teenage angst. I will be smart. I will find other smart kids to hang with. I will laugh at the bullies as the losers they are. I will enjoy the freedom of being young with all original body parts working properly for however long it lasts. Magic? Sure, why not.

Going backwards in time has got to give one a few advantages. Life and Karma owe me that much.

Gallery

SHINY STUFF

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Shiny

There are so many kinds of shiny. The reflections on glass, water and steel. The shine of the sun, shiny headlights in the night. Shining rivers and lakes, the shine of a sunrise on the sand on the shore. Here’s a selection. The motorcycles are my favorites :-)

Image

TIME AND HISTORY IN YOUR HAND

I collect very old Chinese porcelain. I used to have a lot more of it, but in the name of de-cluttering, I divided my collection and gave the other half to my best friend who I knew would appreciate it.

Han Dynasty 206 BC - 220 AD

Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD

The Chinese government has not always been diligent in managing their national treasures. Sometimes, it was a political decision. Many times, foreigners have stolen the best and most beautiful, which is why you will see so much Chinese art in English and American museums. They didn’t give it to us. We didn’t buy it. We stole it. What a shock they aren’t as in love with us as we think they ought to be.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain.

In recent decades, the issues have been pragmatic — lack of money. There is so much that needs preservation. The U.S. has difficulty preserving our 250 years of history. Imagine how hard — and expensive — if your nation’s history goes back thousands of years. And your country is huge and densely populated.

Suddenly, preservation becomes more than slightly daunting.

Counter point - Modern Limoge ca 1965 alongside Song dynasty vase (China Song Dynasty 960-1279 AD). I use the vase for single roses. Perfect size.

Counter point – Modern Limoges ca 1965 alongside Song dynasty vase (China Song Dynasty 960-1279 AD). I use the vase for single roses. Perfect size.

Private collectors — like me — who have become custodians of some of these very old things have an obligation to care for them. We have to make sure they will be inherited by others who will treasure them. That’s not as easy as you might think. Not everyone “gets it.” And many people have no room; they have their own stuff and can’t help with yours.

I could have sold my pots but I didn’t want them to go to the highest bidder. I wanted them to be where they would be loved. If that sounds weird, you have never collected antiquities.

Jun vase (Northern Song on through the Yuan) holds a fresh rose

Jun vase (Northern Song on through the Yuan) holds a fresh rose

When you hold one of these pieces, you hold history in your hand. Imagine how many people have held this vase, this statue, this oil lamp. How many lives this pot has touched. Imagine!

Quote

THIS TOO SHALL PASS …

My mother said it all the time. It was a favorite expressions. I never thought much about it. It was meant to comfort me when I was unhappy, when something had gone badly. It never occurred to me the expression was more than what a mother says when consoling a child.

It turns out the expression has a long and ancient history.

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This too shall pass” (Persianاین نیز بگذرد‎, Arabicلا شيء يدوم‎, Hebrewגם זה יעבור‎) is an adage indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.

The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets, and is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by the simple words. Some versions of the fable, beginning with that of Attar of Nishapur, add the detail that the phrase is inscribed on a ring, which has the ability to make the happy man sad and the sad man happy. 

Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The adage and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald and also used by Abraham Lincoln in a speech before he became President.

ALL THE ANSWERS YOU’LL EVER NEED

We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means. Why bad stuff happens. Whether or not a malevolent deity has it in for us. It’s normal to wonder if the reason you are sick, broke or miserable is the result of something you did or failed to do. To accept the total randomness of events is rough.

Like you, I’ve put a good bit of thought into how come my life keeps falling apart. I know I’m not perfect, but come on! It’s not like I ripped off everyone’s retirement money or slaughtered thousands of people because I think they are ethnically inferior. Whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things.

I was pondering this stuff when I was a teenager, which is why I studied it in college and kept exploring it through the decades since. One day, I woke up and realized I knew the Truth. All had been revealed.

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I Don’t Know Anything. Neither Do You.

Suddenly random happenstance is as meaningful as anything else. What a relief to realize I don’t need an explanation. Stuff happens. I spent years — decades — thinking in circles, but now I am perfectly content displaying my lack of knowledge for all the world to see (and admire).

Just like when I was 12. I’ve been considering founding a church. I could enlist a lot of followers. My church  would require no beliefs. It would need no contributions of time or money. It wouldn’t even require that you show up, unless you happened to feel like it. There would be no rules to follow, no standards to live up to. No angry deity to get pissed off if you behave badly. It would ideally suit the modern lifestyle, don’t you think?

Faith and Proof

Faith is not proof. Faith is opinion in fancy clothing.

You can believe what you want, but you can’t know any more than I do. You take the same leap of faith believing in God or declaring yourself an atheist. Both positions require you take as absolute something for which you have no proof and for which you can never have proof.

If believing in a loving God makes your world feel rational, that’s good. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ll have backed a winner. If believing there is no God, and science is the path to Truth, go with that. Regardless, you’re  making a faith-based choice because there’s no proof God exists or doesn’t exist.

As for me, I don’t know. Really. I don’t know and what makes me smarter than you is I know I don’t know.

Tempus Fugit is a frog.

Tempus Fugit is a frog.

Accepting that one knows nothing is a big step, so the next issue to tackle is how can you can cash in on your new understanding. What’s the point in knowing the meaning of life unless you can awe people with your brilliance?

No one will be dazzled unless you know the right words. Terminology is important.

Big words (4 or more syllables) when used in an appropriate setting, can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds indicating their admiration.

Employing big words enhances your likelihood of getting a management position.

You can write important books.Have a blog like me. Big words can take you a long way if you are skilled at deploying them.

Note: Make sure you know how to pronounce them. Mispronouncing big words will cause unexpected laughter … not good unless you are aiming for a stand-up comedy career.

Epistemology

Let’s start with epistemology. This is an excellent catch-all word you can drop into any conversation. Most people will have no idea what you are talking about but will be too embarrassed to admit it. On the off-chance you encounter someone who actually recognizes the word, you can use this handy-dandy definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the philosopher’s convenient source for everything:

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? 

I bet you still have no idea what it means. The awesome truth is that epistemology doesn’t mean anything because it means everything. Anything that means everything means nothing. Equally, when something claims to do everything, it has no actual use. This applies to people, concepts, and appliances. In practical terms, everything and nothing are identical. (Remember infinite sets from college math? It’s like that.)

Phenomenology

On to phenomenology. When I was studying religion in college, phenomenology was a way to prove the existence of God. Phenomenologically speaking, all human experience is proof of God. Except the same reasoning can prove there is no God. This is the joy of phenomenology.

Phenomenology can help you prove all things are one thing, all things are God. You are God. I am God. I am a warm cup of tea and you are a daffodil. If this doesn’t clarify it for you, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers further elucidation:

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.

In other words, you can use any and all human experience, your experience and anyone else’s, to prove whatever you want. Phenomenology is fundamental to all belief systems: religion, politics, and Fox News. Lots of people believe in religion, politics and Fox News, so maybe they will believe in you too.

Becoming a Fount of Wisdom

You can now explain anything. Everything. You can prove things based on something a couple of friends said years ago while under the influence of powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Although others may fault your logic, in the world of academics, everyone disbelieves everyone else unless they are citing them as a source, so you might as well stick your oar in the water.

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There are people who will attack you using faith. Faith is based on itself making it hard to dispute. Not to worry. The only one who is ever fully convinced by faith is the one who holds it. Nor does it really matter how many people believe or disbelieve it.

Having more believers or followers doesn’t transform faith into fact.

If it did, we could achieve some really nifty things. Like, say we all believe in magic and therefore, it exists. Cool.

Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve clarified everything. If not, feel free to have your people call my people. We’ll talk.

Status

RAIN AND A CORNER TURNED

I’ve turned some kind of corner, physically. Pain level dropped a lot and suddenly. As the evening wears on, I wear out, as if all the pains of the day collect and concentrate in my chest and shoulders. I do the best I can. It’s better. Definitely.

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I wanted to go out today. Take a camera, maybe the little point and shoot because it’s so easy, but the rain came. I should have known. The weather yesterday was weird … very warm with a powerful wind, yet sunny. During the night, the wind died away and the rain came and this morning, it’s all drip, drip, dripping … the slow saturating rain of April.

Just the kind of watering the flowers need. They suck it up and grow tall and strong. There will be a burst of color now. Not today, not while the water is falling from the sky …. but tomorrow, maybe or the day after. Whenever the sun next makes an appearance.

I dreamt last night the cancer is back and quietly eating me. Three nights in a row, I’ve dreamed the same dream and it frightens me. It could be true. I don’t know. I had a chest x-ray and it was clear … and just the other day … so how bad can it be, right?

It’s so gray out there. So damp. The dogs hate this weather. Snow they will play in and any other weather, no matter how cold … but not this steady rain. There will be no photo expedition today. I shall wait.

Life’s on hold. Everything is waiting for me to be ready for it, ready to live again. I’m sure when the sunshine returns it will cast off so much of the haunting sadness I feel. I believe, I do believe.

ONE BIRD SINGING

A strange day, windy and warm

Trees bending and swaying

Our doors slamming up and down the stairs.

No storm. Just a wind, wailing until

A bird came and sat on the deck railing

He sang a song so loud and clear

We thought it was a computer, maybe a phone

Too loud to be real.

But then it didn’t stop.

Wood_Warbler_(Phylloscopus_sibilatrix)

Irregular the song and ever louder he called until

I rose and went to see where the music began.

There he was. A tiny warbler on the railing.

From his open throat a song trilled pure and clear

And he such a tiny thing. Feathers, beak and a big voice

Yet so loud the wind could not match him.

That was my day. Today.

Come back tomorrow little songbird. Serenade me again.

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WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE - Time for Poetry

SHARING MY WORLD, 2014 WEEK 15

Cee’s Photography - Share Your World – 2014 Week 15

For your blog do you basically use Windows or Mac, laptop, desktop, pad, or phone?

Garry in his office

Windows – 2 Win 7 laptops and a desktop plus a Win 8 tablet – but I really hate Windows 8. Unless Microsoft makes some significant changes, when it comes time for the next-gen of computers, I will have to go in another direction. Given my huge investment in Windows-based software, the idea makes me a little queasy.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Pretty much exactly where I am. In a house in the country with dogs. Writing and taking pictures. The only other thing I wanted to be was The Lone Ranger and that didn’t work out.

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

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I grew up in New York, which is a huge city, but my neighborhood was more like a semi-rural village. I think most cities are like that. You don’t live in The City, you live in your neighborhood. We had woods and trees, donkeys and chickens and geese roaming about. Even a riding stable around the corner. It wasn’t very NY city-ish, but it was walking distance to the subway, the magical tube to the wonders of the big city. For a kid, especially a teenage, it was as close to a perfect location as you might hope for. Country living in the greatest of all cities? Not much to complain about there.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

100? 110? Older than dirt.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

NestInTreeHollow-300-72Surviving each week is a triumph.

This morning, there was a warbler singing so loudly on our deck I thought it was someone’s cell phone (how ironic!) and that too was something for which to be grateful.

Birds like nesting on our porch. Nice, but then they get all antsy about us going out there and we can’t use the deck until all the baby birds have grown up and flown away.