BIRDS AND CACTUS: LAST DECEMBER IN A NUTSHELL – Marilyn Armstrong

Since we never did Changing Seasons for December, I thought I’d put together a nice collection of this month.

It’s pretty much all birds and cactus because I got bird feeders in November, and my cactuses, which were blooming in November and at Christmas are still blooming. Vigorously. The most enthusiastic blooming I’ve ever seen and lots and lots of birds.

And then, there were two Christmas cactus. First, the scarlet one bloomed and now, the pink one, which looks redder than it is supposed to be, is blooming.

 

And of course, there was Christmas.

Our tree, before the gift
The tree with the gifts

And Bonnie was groomed!

Groomed Bonnie

And of course, let’s not forget the squirrels!

And that’s pretty much December. Not counting watching movies and having Garry hear stuff! Not outdoor pictures unless you count the birds and squirrel, but it was certainly a busy photographic month. I worked so hard on the birds and squirrels I developed an actual issue with my right arm. I needed a cortisone shot. Anyone have a spare tripod?

THE DAY WE GAVE UP PIZZA DELIVERY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Deliver

We used to depend on pizza delivery. I mean seriously. If you can’t get the pizza delivered hot and still smelling great, what’s the point? Except out here in the boonies — and even for Uxbridge, we are in the boonies — there aren’t many places that deliver. On their advertisements, they specifically mention that they don’t deliver to “south Uxbridge” — meaning us. And the prices kept going up. Not only for the pizza but for the delivery. It was free, then it was a couple of dollars, then it went up to three or four dollars while the quality of the pizza kept going down.

The people who make pizza around here clearly never ate in the North End in Boston or better yet, Brooklyn, New York. And none of them were Italian. Their idea of a pizza was something with a really thick, doughy crust and nothing much on top. If you actually wanted toppings, that was extra. A lot extra. And no one offered anchovies.

One day, I discovered that I can fit a 12-inch pizza in my counter oven and since then, life has never been the same. Garry keeps canned anchovies in the kitchen cupboard (not much can of fish!) and there’s always extra cheese and sauce available.

We no longer required delivery. We do … sorry about this … DiGiorno.

In particular, the marinara and meatball pizza. For six bucks, we get the pizza, made exactly the way we like it and hot enough to get pizza burns on our tongues. No more $14 pizzas that are cold by the time they get here and on which there is so little cheese and sauce, it’s not worth bothering to eat. It doesn’t even smell like proper pizza.

Goodbye, Uxbridge House of Pizza! We have our own house and our own pizza.

IN SEARCH OF PEACE ON EARTH – Rich Paschall

The Same Auld Lang Syne, by Rich Paschall

Another year has begun and we can see it is indeed the same as days gone by.  If “old acquaintance be forgot” as one year passes into another, old hatred, old disputes, old border wars, old and new religious battles carry on as if they will forever be remembered. Are these disagreements worth the killing of men, women and children standing on the other side?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
and never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
and auld lang syne?

In our neighborhood, just as in many around the world, we conclude our year wishing “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”  It is on our greeting cards and in our songs.  It appears in Christmas stories and is heard from pulpits and lecterns around the world. The invocations I used to read on Christmas Day, to those assembled at noon mass at a nearby church, included a call for world leaders to truly seek world peace.  For this intention, I would say to the congregation, “We pray to the Lord.”  They responded to my prayer by rote, since we have the same response to all our intentions, “Lord hear our prayer.”

The Lord may hear our prayer but I think He surely means for us to work at resolving the conflicts that plague the world.  I am not convinced many really heard the intention or remembered it by the time they hit the pavement an hour later.  Do we want a new beginning or will things continue in the same direction?  Our history for this sort of thing suggests the answer.

Sometimes our world leaders do indeed seem to be making strides for peace, but these strides often suffer reversals when conflicts begin anew as they predictably do.  While Presidents, prime ministers and even royalty call for peace, how many are actually plotting retaliations and wars behind the scenes?  In fact, we would all think our leaders were careless and irresponsible if they were not prepared to take up old battles at a moments notice, or begin new ones if need be.

Even the current Pope, revered for his concerns for the poor, has condemned violent groups and urged the world not to be indifferent to the suffering they have caused.  If we are not to be indifferent, than what are we to do?  Is it a call for those facing conflict to continue the fight?  Is it a call for outsiders to join in?

There are no easy answers to what is left of ISIS, the Taliban, the war lords and terrorist groups. If there had been, I wish we would have employed them by now.  How about closer to home?  What of the racial profiling, police brutality, gun violence and large prison populations?  What of the street gangs and drug cartels?  What of organized crime and the violence they are willing to commit?  How many marches in the street will it take to rid us of the same old acquaintances we know through these oft-repeated scenes?  Will marches alone bring peace to our homeland?

The sad truth of starting each year with a call for peace on earth is we end each year needing to renew the call again.  Perhaps it would be best if old acquaintances could be forgotten, so we could start with a new and clean slate. There are, however, those who can not let go of the hate.  They perpetuate the cultural divide.  They do not wish to give up the fight or extend a hand across the border or the battlefield.  Is this what we were taught?  Did we say “Peace on Earth” when we really meant “Don’t let our enemies get any peace?”  What messages are we really sending when we learn that the greeting card verses are more fiction than fact?

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never be brought to mind?” Perhaps. And perhaps we need to start believing in the simple verses of seasonal songs and bring peace on earth. The answers to our problems are actually there in many of those simple holiday songs.  They have always been there.  It is contained in a four letter word we are afraid to use, especially when it comes to those we perceive as our enemies. Do you know that word?  Love, as in Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself. They know on the streets we can not continue to live with the past wrongs, some streets anyway.

Auld Lang Syne, or “old long since” is a Scottish poem by Robert Burns.  It was subsequently set to traditional folk music.  The modern question for us is, “Will we ever ‘take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne’?”

And there’s a hand my trusty friend! 
And give me a hand o’ thine! 
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, 
for auld lang syne.

THE WOODPECKER WHO WOULDN’T LEAVE – Marilyn Armstrong

Usually, I grab a shot of a woodpecker and he or she is promptly gone. There were no birds early in the day because we had wind so powerful, it moved the big oak trees which isn’t easy when they have no leaves. That’s what woke me this morning — the groaning of the trees. It gave me the shivers and I got up, turned on the coffee, told the dogs to go out.

Downy Woodpecker

Which they did by literally going out the door, turning around and coming directly inside. They think they are fooling me. I can see them laughing as they come in the door.

I let them believe they fooled me. It makes them happy. I also gave them a tiny bacon-flavored treat. It turns out, a tiny treat makes them just as happy as a big one.

More woodpecker

When I first came into the dining room, there wasn’t a bird to be seen. High winds and small birds? Not a good combination, but after another hour, when the winds had calmed, I looked out the dining room doors. There was a Downy Woodpecker hanging on the feeder. He was too small to be a Hairy or Red-bellied — and he didn’t have a red swatch on his head.

I grabbed the camera and took a few pictures and then, he was away. But just as I was removing the SD card and putting in a new one, he was back. When any of the smaller birds tried to come for a bite, they took one look at Mr. Downy … and left.

I took more pictures. Then, figuring I’d shot enough, I put the camera down and went into the kitchen to put away last night’s dishes. Chat with Garry as I toasted muffins and poured coffee … and I realized the little woodpecker was still on the feeder, the longest any single bird has spent on the feeder.

He must have been really hungry because he was there for at least an hour. Sometimes the warblers take up residence for long periods, but it isn’t one warbler, but it’s a small flock which keeps changing birds. One departs, another one lands.  The chickadees sometimes do the same thing.

The birds are getting possessive about the feeders. It’s interesting to watch. They used to all gather, various birds at the same time, but now, they come in groups and they have an agenda. Curious to watch how it changes. Maybe it’s the different food?