Only one tree grows naturally in the great Sonoran desert that fills much of Arizona and continues down into Mexico. The dominant site throughout the desert is, of course, the huge Saguaro cacti.
Now that they are protected, they are everywhere, including dominating well-tailored back and front yards of suburban homes in and around Phoenix. You can’t cut them down, so no matter how well you plan your garden, nothing prevents a cactus from decided to take root there.
The ironwood is not a cactus, but a tree. It can live in the hottest, driest possible growing condition. It is the only tree that will survive in that environment without human intervention.
An old, gnarled ironwood tree is a true symbol of the North American west. Resilient doesn’t cover it. This is ultimate survival.
Since Cee very kindly left this as an open topic, I thought I’d go through my archives and find my favorite monochrome images for 2016. I did more in black & white this year than in any year since film went away and cameras went digital. Which, for you kids, is what we old kids call “a long time ago.” Rediscovering black & white and toned monochrome is an adventure. Returning to my photographic roots, as it were.
A sky full of clouds
Sun setting in Phoenix
The Mumford Dam
Garry with camera
On the wharf, Boston
Tugboat in the water. This is almost public. I mean, you use it to pull other boats, right?
The little tree is still standing, but it’s no longer the center of the room or of upcoming festivities. Now, it’s the tree of Christmas past and waiting only to go back into storage until next year. Poor little tree. It has such a brief moment of glory. Who can blame it for moping this time of year when it can feel deep in its polyvinyl core, that the end is near. So let us give one last, final cheer for a doughty little tree whose life is darkness for 11 months and glory for but one!
Sometimes, probably more often than we’d like to admit, there is only a single path. It may be rough or smooth, across open land or into a tangled woods. Regardless, it’s the road we are on and there’s no going back.
This is my road. It goes quite straight, up the hill and then, disappears. What lies beyond the hill I don’t know. Life is traveled without maps. We never know what’s over the hill or around the bend … or at the other side of the woods. And, as for taking the road less traveled? In my experience, it inevitably goes nowhere. That’s why the road is unused.
First and foremost, despite all of WordPress’s improvements which make it so much more difficult to manage this blog and keep putting out quality material, I intend to give it my best shot. As will my co-conspirators who I thank from the bottom of my heart for their contributions, love, and support.
A huge thank you to Ellin Curley who has completed a full year of blogging and never missed a deadline! In any business, that’s a pretty big deal. Her witty, cultured, and humorous observations on the human and doggish condition have vastly improved the quality of Monday morning for me and many others!
To Rich Paschall who has not only never missed a day, but always been there to pitch in when I’ve been away, on a vacation or rather more frequently — in the hospital. Thank you, Rich. From the bottom of my heart, I have never regretted inviting you to become a part of this … whatever we are. I only wish you lived nearby so we could slurp coffee and plan projects! More than three years during which time you have written fiction, travelogues, and deeply moving LGBT stories — documentary and fictional. Your writing has made a difference in lives all over the world. You have had an impact on the community and woken up a more than a few people who might otherwise never have paid attention to a reality in which they don’t personally live. Several of Rich’s pieces are among the most-views posts published on this site.
Rich, you are a treasure!
Garry, who is as I type this writing a piece … you are always my star on Serendipity. Your stories of the people you’ve met, the things you’ve seen, as well as your wonderfully warped sense of humor and great eye for a picture are of incalculable value to me, personally and to this site. I couldn’t do it without you. I wouldn’t even want to try.
And Tom. You haven’t written much, but each thing you have contributed has shown brightly. You make people laugh and you tell the truth in a way that people can both understand and enjoy. That’s a rare gift. Now, how about a little more output in the year to come? I know you’ve got stories. Between you and Garry, you’ve got an encyclopedia of stories. How about the time you met Timothy Leary? Huh? Now that buying pot in Massachusetts is legal — but selling it is not (huh?) …
I couldn’t have better friends or a better team. It’s a rough world out there and this is, for all of us, the one place where we can say how we really feel … and at least so far, no one can stop us from expressing ourselves. Let’s keep the world smiling, thinking, and remember to check the facts. Let’s have the best reality-based-with-wild-flights of fancy weblog in the world! We’re almost at half a million views as I write this. Lets get there and keep going. Yay team. Yay each of us.
But the biggest thank you goes to my followers, readers, and friends. They say that friends you meet and get to know on the Internet are not “real,” but a lot of you are very real to me. You have encouraged me when I’m down, told me I’m great when I feel anything but, sent me little gifts that made me feel incredibly special. I don’t know that I deserve your love and support but you have — all of you (and you know who you are, or I certainly hope you do!) from the farthest east, to the mountains of Switzerland, to the glades and glens of Shropshire, Cornwall, and the mysterious standing stones in England … you have taken me to places I had only dreamed of.
I’ve seen the sun rise over the Jura mountains and in the Arizona desert.We got there in person — you can’t top that!
I’ve seen the wilds of Australia and Tasmania. Learned how much our Canadian neighbors are just like us … but different, too. We’ve shared our kids, our dogs, our fears for our country’s futures. Our concerns for the climate and the natural world.
We’ve talked about our life, loves, and many happy hours about our cats and dogs and horses. I’ve learned about growing up in places that to me are as mythical as Oz or Valhalla … and met people who have traveled and lived all over the world. And all of you have helped me feel as if finally, I fit in somewhere. I belong to this world, this strange and marvelous world of blogging we share.
ILLEGITIMI NON CARBORUNDUM
Let’s all take a bow and stride forward bravely into the new year. Go team SERENDIPITY!
I decided to answer this with my favorite dozen pictures from the past year, both mine and Garry’s. I don’t know how well these represent our lives. We tend to photograph our high points rather than the lows … but maybe it’s better that way. Happy New Year!
2016 was the year that we stopped ignoring the news and began watching it with a kind of horrified fascination. At first, we thought it was funny. Ridiculous. This couldn’t be serious. It was a goof and everyone was going to end up popping champagne, slapping each other on the back and saying, “Good one!”
Except it wasn’t a joke and after a few weeks, it also wasn’t funny. The news was scary. Unnerving. Disturbing. To keep from total nervous collapse, I started reading articles by Andy Borowitz, the wit of “The New Yorker” magazine. After a while, I found I was following the magazine and reading many — almost all — of the major articles by all the writers. Not to mention loving the cartoons and The New Yorker has always had the best cartoons.
Finally, I ponied up the money and bought a two-year subscription which came with a free New Yorker book bag in which I now keep my frequently used computer and camera accessories (as opposed to the never or almost-never used accessories). No sooner had I set up my account and started receiving both the hard and electronic copies of the magazine than Condé Nast, The New Yorker’s corporate owner, began besieging me with other magazine offers … and renewal offers for The New Yorker.
The renewal offers get more desperate sounding with each passing day, as if my subscription will make or break the entire corporate structure. Give me a break!
I started my career as the assistant subscription manager of Architectural Digest. I wasn’t there long because I got pregnant and the long commute by Long Island Railroad got to be a bit much for me … and I knew my future was not in subscriptions. I was a writer and I was going to find somewhere I could do what I do and get paid for it. But, for the seven or eight months in subscriptions, I learned a lot about the business.
The first rule of subscriptions is that unless the subscriber is known to be deceased and the place he or she lived has been bulldozed, you never cancel a subscription. Why not? Because magazines do not make money from subscriptions. They make money from advertising, Advertising rates — the cost for a full or part page in a publication — is based on the number of subscribers, so you never want to lower that number. You want to show growth. Only growth. It’s self-defeating to cut off subscribers.
Now, with all magazines doubling up as both web and paper, the equation is a little different, but the concept remains: you set your price for advertising based on the number of people who you can “prove” read your publication … and that is done via subscription numbers. Whether the subscriber is via Internet or postal delivery, that is the only solid evidence you have of who reads you. That is why, when you follow a publication on line, after a few hits on the web site, they require you to open an account. Even if it’s free, an account is a subscription. It counts toward making up the numbers which allow the publication to set good rates.
So why all the hysteria to get me to renew? I suppose because revenue is revenue, even if it’s a trickle rather than a raging river.
The problem is that all this badgering is counter-productive. It doesn’t make me want to renew. It makes me resent that they don’t seem to appreciate I did actually pay them when I could have continued to follow them for free on the Internet. Hounding subscribers to renew when they just subscribed is not endearing. They should stop doing it.
I probably will renew … when this subscription is nearly over. But in the meantime, I’d appreciate an end to the spam. It’s annoying.
So there we were. It’s late. The dogs are sleeping. Garry and I are watching “The ABC Murders” on the BBC Poirot series. Poirot is reading an article in the newspaper, supposedly quoting Captain Hastings. Hastings says “I say, Poirot, I really didn’t say that, you know.”
“I know,” says Poirot. “But perhaps this will help us. The murderer, he sees what I supposedly said in the daily blog …”
noun 1. A website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other websites. 2. A single entry or post on such a website: She regularly contributes a blog to the magazine’s website. verb (used without object), blogged, blogging. 3. To maintain or add new entries to a blog. Verb (used with object), blogged, blogging. 4. To express or write about on a blog: She’s been blogging her illness for almost a year.
Origin of blog 1995-2000; shortening of weblog – Related forms: blogger, noun
Blog? He used the word blog? This show was aired in 1992 and the story is set in pre-World War II England. How far back does the word “blog” go? These BBC productions are generally considered accurate renditions of the books.
None of these definitions would be used to describe a newspaper article or column … or even a published rumor. Except — this BBC TV movie was released in 1992. And the word “blog” in a form and meaning we understand is there, where it can’t be because the word did not yet exist.
But it did exist and it meant basically what it means now, except applied to a daily newspaper, not something on the Internet.
I can reach but one conclusion: My accurate sources are wrong. The word did exist at least as early as 1992. If they are wrong about this, what else did they get wrong? Did Agatha Christie use it in the original manuscript? I’d need to have a searchable copy of “The ABC Murders” to do a word search. I don’t have such a book at the moment, but I’ll try to find one. There may be one available as a Kindle and they are searchable. I’ll let you know.
Meanwhile, I can’t find any source that admits any evidence that the word “blog” existed in its current form and usage prior to 1995 (most say 1997). All sources agree on this. The word “blog” comes from “web log.” Except obviously, that’s not true.
It’s a mystery worthy of Dame Agatha herself.
How many other things I know are true, are wrong? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
UPDATE: Dateline Uxbridge, 1:22 PM, EDT
After much checking in by helpful readers and friends, the word (given the heavy fake French accent …) might have been one of these three words:
Blood (which is what the transcript of the show thinks it was)
Blab (mebbe, because with the accent, anything that is a single syllable and starts with BL and is followed by an “aw” or “ah” sound could sound like blog
Blah, as in “blah, blah, blah” which had during WWI (around 1918), come into common parlance to mean the same thing it means 100 years later.
If anyone has the book, it would be interesting to find out what Dame Agatha actually wrote, as opposed to what the BBC production used in the script. The show is available on Netflix. It is first show of the 1992 season four. “The ABC Murders” is a movie length feature and very well done. It will stand alone as a single viewing.
And now that the election has come and gone and Donald Trump will shortly occupy the White House, this post from last March seems even more relevant than it did when it was first published. What is Truth? What is Real? Have we slipped sideways into another dimension on an alternate Earth where everything looks like it used to, but it is something else. Something sinister. Weird. Scary.
It’s almost 2017 and I’m more than a little bit lost.
Ellin and I were on a brief ski trip a couple of weeks ago up in Vermont. We learned three things.
We are still not too old to ski.
Gravity is a harsh mistress.
It’s getting harder and harder to figure out what’s real and what’s not.
Let me explain.
We were on our trip on a Tuesday. One of the Super Tuesdays. I forget which one because they’re all Super now. We’re both fascinated by this incredibly bizarre presidential campaign, so of course we were watching …
In between binge watching episode after episode, we’d check in on the (real) election coverage. And that’s when I noticed that on House of Cards, the characters are constantly on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, and so on. All this stuff is shot on the actual news sets with real people playing themselves — while reporting on a fictional presidential campaign.
I’m not going to reveal any spoilers, but this season’s episodes were filmed way before the actual election began. Despite this, the show (House of Cards) contains a lot of surprisingly prescient plot lines.
We sat there watching CNN, MSNBC, CBS and all the other news shows interview and talk with Frank Underwood as he brilliantly manipulates the government and the world to get whatever he wants.
Then we’d change the channel to watch CNN, MSNBC, CBS and all the other news shows talk — with Donald Trump — where they were debating whether or not Trump has a large penis.
Then, a bunch of pundits complained this (real) campaign is nothing more than a bad reality show. They are correct. The Republicans are currently trying to throw their leading candidate off the island, but inextricably, he keeps winning the immunity idol.
The other questions everyone keeps asking is “How did a reality show star end up running for President?”
Murphy Brown was the fictional TV journalist and anchor. Played by Candice Bergen, she headed the cast in a 90’s sitcom about a fictional news show called FYI.
In one of the late seasons, she got pregnant and was going to be a single mother. Quayle gave a campaign speech (real) calling her out as being against “Family Values” because she didn’t have a husband. Murphy Brown was “mocking the importance of fathers” (an actual quote from Quayle’s speech).
Here’s where it got brilliant. The producers and writers of the show didn’t put out a statement denouncing his speech. They had Murphy Brown go after Quayle on the television show. It made front page headlines (real) all across the country.
So, now you had Dan Quayle fighting with — and being mocked by — a fictional character on a fictional show. And he fought back. In real life.
Pretty much nobody said “Has anyone noticed the Vice President of the United States is fighting with A FICTIONAL TV CHARACTER ????”
No one appeared to notice. Or care.
That’s was the beginning of the end, when American politics started down the rabbit hole. What began as a real-life politician appearing on a fictional TV news show, morphed into fictional politicians on real TV news shows. And real news shows showing up on fictional TV shows.
And a badreality host running for President of the United States.
In the real world.
At least I think it’s the real world. I’m not sure anymore. I used to have to take drugs to get this confused. Personally I’d rather watch House of Cards. It makes more sense.
To paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite movies, Galaxy Quest, our current reality is a poorly written episode. And it’s not over, not nearly.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.