FAREWELL SQUARES – Marilyn Armstrong


Happy trails to the squares. I’ve made so many that I thought since this is the end of this month of squaring, I’ll just find all the ones I never got around to posting or posted, but forgot I posted them — and give you a mishmash of life here in the cold, wet woods.

So there will be birds and squirrels. Flying squirrels and raccoons. And a few flowers, just for the pretty colors.


Watching Donald J. Trump get hoisted on his own petard is déjà vu all over again for those of us repelled by former Republican President Richard M. Nixon in the turbulent 1970s. Whoever opined that “where Trump goes, so goes the nation” is even more misinformed than vacuous Donald Trump. Nixon dropped like a lead balloon and the nation moved on with scarcely a ripple. It will happen again when Trump is gone.

History is a laundry list of despots who fell with equal approbation. People as delusional as Trump have always risen in times of discord. Thankfully, the always disagreeable and usually fragmented human race is ultimately too selfish to make room for madmen who threaten their slow, uncertain march to contentment.

Proof of a positive post-Trumpian outcome can be found in the dramatic story of  American political dysfunction when Nixon decided the U.S. Constitution was just another piece of paper to shred.  Nixon’s downfall started at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C, on June 17, 1972, when five burglars in the President’s employ burgled the Democratic National Committee headquarters seeking dirt to hurt the Democrats.

When the failed plot was linked to Nixon many respected pundits declared our nation was teetering on the precipice of doom. It was indeed a dangerous time. America desperately needed a hero and none could be found. The Vietnam War had seen to that. The astronauts were a wonderful distraction, so was Hollywood and television, but even collectively they couldn’t camouflage the rot eating the heart out of Washington, D.C.

American prestige around the world was at an all-time low. America’s vacuous youth were deemed out of control. Angry women from every station in life screeched at men in general for being self-absorbed sexists. Angry black men marched around with guns demanding justice from white men with bigger guns who dared them to try and take it. Native Americans prepared for another Wounded Knee. Hysterics warned a second civil war was looming.  Anarchy competed with racial discord and socialism dueled with capitalism to steal the nation’s soul. Sound familiar?

The naysayers crawling out of the woodwork in 1973 claimed America was doomed. They were certain the fabric of American society had been torn asunder. Political alarmists warned America’s great political experiment had failed.

Behind it all stood unrepentant Richard M. Nixon, the man who would be king. Like Trump, Nixon thought he knew better than our democratic institutions about what was good for the nation. And like Trump, he ended up getting all the blame when he was proven wrong.

When the dust from the scandal finally settled in 1973, his Attorney General John Mitchell, Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman, and chief of staff H.R. Haldeman had resigned. Subsequently, during the federal Watergate trials in 1974, all three men were convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury, and other charges. All three were sentenced to between two and a half and eight years in federal prison.

Nixon finally fell because a handful of resolute Republican politicians ultimately broke ranks with their intransigent colleagues, joining Democrats who said America was more important than Richard Milhous Nixon. Whether their stance was politics as usual or the sudden onset of emerging moral stature doesn’t matter.

Until they did so, no one in the Republican Party would admit Nixon was a liar who used his dreadful fabrications to save himself and his cronies.  His mendacity was so egregious that H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s acid-tongued gatekeeper, reputedly coined the phrase, “That statement is no longer operative” to protect Nixon from himself.

Like Trump, Nixon didn’t utter one lie so big it tore the heavens asunder. His utterances were a constant barrage of half-truths, lies of omission, and petty denunciations of opponents through the mouths of cronies who knew that if Nixon went down so would they.

See the rest of the article on natshouseblog


Blogging Insights — What’s Next?

Here are the original questions:


What suggestions / tipsdo you have for improving/upgrading this series?Do you have any questions that you would like me to feature?

If you are new to the Blogging Insights series, how about trying out some of the questions?There is no time limit so feel free to answer any whenever you please. 

Remember to tag your post #blogging insightsand also linkback to my blog. This will make sure that I do not miss out on reading your views and will also enable me to share your posts on my blog. You can check out the previous questions by clicking on the links below:



I’ve been following this series through other blogs. It pops up pretty often. I think you are doing just fine. I don’t want to put ideas in your head because I think your ideas are good and your own creativity will find the right way.

Seven orchids on a shoot

Blogging isn’t just something we do because we have nothing more interesting to do. And we each have our own reasons, often many different reasons. It’s a hobby, an avocation, a dedication, an art form, a post-occupation-occupation — all at the same time.

That’s probably why we like to ask each other about blogging and why you do it which makes me think about why I do it. For those of us who are retired, it has become our new occupation after giving up whatever it is we used to do. Since before this, I was a writer, I am now truly enjoying this busman’s holiday.

Three on the yellow feeder

I started out doing this because I had a ton of pictures and no one ever saw them because they were all on my computer. I figured what the heck, I might as well publish them where others might enjoy them. It became a good reason for spending way too much money on cameras and lenses and the urge for better and better cameras and lenses and processing software never ends.

In this age of Trump and the crushing of everything I believed in, not to mention the eruption of our very own plague, I’ve felt that I need to not just post pretty pictures, but talk about the world. Climate change. Oppression. Racism. The hatred that seems to bind us tighter than love ever could.

I keep hearing that all we need is love, but that’s a song lyric, not a meaningful way of life. We need a lot more than love. We certainly can love people who aren’t our personal family or friends a lot more than we do, but that’s not going to fix the ozone layer or bring back the dying creatures our “development” of the wild places have killed. I fear that in the end, this world will be entirely paved over with roads running from an empty mall to another empty mall.

And if that isn’t scary enough, we need to get serious about figuring out how we can support all these PEOPLE. We are so over-populated, it’s terrifying. You know when you crowd the rats this much, they start to try to kill each other. Periodically Garry and I congratulate each other on having the sense to get OUT of Boston. With all the limitations of living in the middle of nowhere, it’s a whole lot easier on the nervous system than any city anywhere.

Today I write as much because I think there are important issues that need to be talked about. It’s not just about trashing the president. He’ll be gone soon enough. But clearly, we need to hate less and care more. The world has become ugly and greedy. For there to be subsequent generations of humans, we need to be a lot less ugly and massively less greedy. So I figure I have a small, but living bully pulpit and I might as well use it. And I can still post pretty pictures. I wouldn’t want to stress everyone out.

So for me, what’s next is to do the best I can do. Write, create pictures, count the flying squirrels, and hope I can keep affording food for the creatures of the woods.


My arm is not better. It’s just early in the day (for me) and I haven’t had a chance to abuse it yet. I have promised myself to quit when it starts to throb.

When I get up in the morning, I tell Alexa to give me news from Newsy. It’s a bit amateurish and tends to lack details, but it covers more material than the other news sources in a relatively short amount of time. Right now, I’m following the upcoming food shortages with alarm. They never mention them on TV. The only one who has put any serious energy in trying to explain it is Rich Paschall: THE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTION – RICH PASCHALL. This might be a good time to take a look at it. Because it turns out, food doesn’t just “pop up” in our stores, all neatly wrapped. It comes from miles away by refrigerated trucks. With the breakdown in port and beef factories, what’s next? If the food isn’t there, what do we eat? It will make the TP shortage look like nothing.

Most of us have never experienced real hunger. It will be an interesting experience, don’t you think? For those of us who are starving ourselves in the name of fashion, being really hungry because you can’t get food should be downright uplifting. It could be dieting out of fashion!



Do guns protect people or kill people?  Or both?

I have been protected by guns, but not because I had a gun and was sure I could solve problems by shooting people. We have an old, carved wood target rifle in the house, though it hasn’t been loaded in years. Owen cleans it — it was his father’s target rifle, so it’s something of a legacy.

No one has shown any interest in firing it. We used to slaughter paper plates back in the Maine woods using 22 shorts so a missed shot wouldn’t hurt anything. I think we lack that killer instinct. We might think about it, but we aren’t going to do anything about it.

Is it more important to be respected or liked?

Respected, but liked is nice, too.

Is having a big ego a negative or positive trait?  (yeah, I know.  Duh. But there ought to be one “gimme’ in the pile)

Having a big ego is fine as long as you keep it to yourself and don’t use it as a club to annoy everyone else.

A bit of healthy ego is fine. Lethal narcissism isn’t ego — it’s a mental disease. We all knew that, right?

Depending on your point of view, is death a new beginning? 

No. Or, as Ronnie Reagan says in his commercials, “Not afraid of burning in Hell.”

Gratitude? See the photographs.


CCYL 10: Using 2/3 of your photo frame

So I took some birdie pictures today. Not a lot, but a few. I really intended to go outside and take pictures of the magnolia trees, but they lost their flowers in last night’s rain. So there wasn’t anything to shoot.

So I did birds. And a few orchids.

These two Goldfinch are square and use 2/3 of the frame. Woo-woo!

A very young Goldfinch



Bizarro Blog


Bizarro 04-26-20 hdrWB.jpg
Bizarro 04-26-20 WEB.jpg

It’s been a sci-fi-strange week in a sci-fi-strange time. We’ve actually seen a president of the United States muse during a televised press conference about the effectiveness of using disinfectants internally to kill the COVID 19 virus, and many thousands of grown-ups rushing to dissuade his more intellectually-challenged followers from trying it. Who would have guessed even ten years ago that the world would be living out a Simpson’s episode in real-time? But this one has had all the jokes removed.

If you’re not familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect, look it up. In short, it is a reasonably rare, extreme cognitive bias in which a person of very low ability thinks they are an expert at everything. The “very low ability” part is of paramount importance here because a normal person of almost any ability will quickly realize how much they have yet to learn. A true genius at anything will almost always report that the more they learn, the more they realize they don’t know. Only a fool thinks they know everything.

Enter Donald J. Trump, who has for his entire not-very-successful life thought he was an expert at everything. And it’s not just a political ploy because he knows there are plenty of rubes who will believe him—he actually believes it. This is why he eschews the company of experts; they only serve to remind him of how inept he actually is. This is why he muses aloud about various magical cures for the current pandemic; he actually thinks he’s so special he can accidentally come up with a cure for a complex epidemiological conundrum without passing a single class in biology. “I have a knack for science,” he has said, as though that makes him an equal colleague to people who’ve actually read and studied things.

Imagine a person with “a knack for music” being handed a violin for the first time. Would they be ready to play alongside Yo-Yo Ma? Now imagine this person has been handed a baton and placed in front of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He waves his hands around like a maniac (but his hair doesn’t move!) and thinks he is conducting highly-trained professionals to play beautiful music.

In fact, he’s making a fool of himself and the musicians are confused and scrambling, using every ounce of their skill and talent to not make a mess of the symphony they thought they were supposed to be playing. In an attempt to save face and their job, they cover for the delusional conductor. To the sort of person who would drink bleach if the president said to, the orchestra sounds pretty good. But to anyone who knows anything about music or the dangers of ingesting household cleaners, it’s a cacophony.

This is our Dunning-Kruger presidency.

Read the original post and see more great cartoons by clicking this LINK.

ATOP OF THE FEEDER – Marilyn Armstrong


They don’t have to fly very high. The flying squirrels just silently glide in and leave nothing to remind us they were here.

Meanwhile, the raccoons a total mess of seeds all over the deck. This brings in the Mourning Doves who are too big for the feeders, but love walking the deck and eating.



THE MEMORY OF FLOWERS – Marilyn Armstrong


It was raining all last night and today, but without the hurricane-force winds. Every single bone in my body hurts. When I stand up and move it’s like a tympanic symphony in there. Crunching and snapping, crackling, and popping.

One Daffodil
Spring along the river

A flowery road by the farm

Surprisingly, we DO have flowers. In the middle of the woods, there is a little grove of Magnolia trees that are blooming. If it would stop raining for a few hours, I could get some pictures. Even without the pictures (not only was it raining, but it was cold!), I was glad to see something other than Forsythia and Crocus.

Columbine, more
Columbine and old wood texxture


Because none of the Columbine are blooming. Not even Solomon’s Seal is in bloom. And don’t even think about the Lilacs. Actually, I take that back. It probably is blooming, but it’s so far up in the tree, I need my very long lane to even see the flowers — IF I can see them.

Solomon’s Seal

Outside, it’s just dark and rainy, windy, muddy, and cold — with snow further north.


TIME FOR ANOTHER BREAK – Marilyn Armstrong

For the last few days, my right arm has been getting worse each day. So now, it’s bad enough that I need to stop typing for a day or two. Usually one does it, but sometimes, it takes two. But I might post photographs with only a few words.

And anyone who has an idea how to make a lemon-walnut loaf a little bit lighter, suggestions would be appreciated.

The current recipe is:

  • 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts)
  • chopped lemon rind
  • two eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Half a cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons powdered baking powder
  • a bit of salt

It rose well and tastes good, though a fresher lemon would have helped and I’m going to have to get a mini chopper for things like lemon rind. But it came out a bit heavy. More baking powder? A bit more flour? Less flour? More sugar? Bake longer? Suggestions will be gratefully taken.

I’m going to post some nice square pictures of flying squirrels, but that is going to be all that arm is going to do for a couple of days. You will survive without me. Given how much I use my hands and arm. It’s amazing it moves at all.

John Prine – A Musical Tribute: A serial monography, forgottenman’s ruminations

John Prine – A Musical Tribute

I’ve already posted one tribute to John Prine, but I stumbled across this amazing musical tribute by Carsie Blanton that moves me deeply as well. I hope y’all enjoy.

HERE is a link if you’re inclined to hear more. (Personally, I prefer the simple YouTube track above.)


Most people assume that the nuclear family is the natural and best environment for bringing up children. We probably also assume that it’s been the norm forever. But both assumptions are wrong. Both historically and cross-culturally the extended family – multiple generations living together and sharing responsibilities – is in fact the most common social arrangement. Remember the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child”?

The nuclear family only became widespread after the Industrial Revolution created a factory based, centralized economy. This type of economy favored the smaller, nuclear family unit because it could more easily pick up and move to wherever the work was. In the scenario that gave birth to the nuclear family, husbands’ incomes alone could support the whole family. For the first time in history, wives were able to stay home and run the household and care for the children full time, on their own.

The problem with this family structure today is that one income can no longer support most households and most wives also have to work outside of the home. However, children and aging parents still have to be cared for and this creates a vicious circle. Parents have to pay a big chunk of their income to caregivers for their children (nannies or au pairs, daycare centers, etc.) and must also often help their parents afford retirement communities, home health care, or nursing homes. Then the people caring for YOUR children and parents have to pay people to take care of THEIR children and parents, and so on.

In 1940, 25% of Americans lived in multi-generational homes, with grandparents helping to care for young children and later older kids helping to care for the aging grandparents. By 1980, only 12% of Americans lived in inter-generational homes. But after the Great Recession of 2008, economic necessity brought that number back to 18%.

The current Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the fact that our society today farms out and isolates our older population and puts unrealistic pressures on the nuclear family unit. Maybe now is a good time for another resurgence of the interdependence of the generations.

We have idealized ‘independence’ for a long time; the independence of the parent-child unit despite huge logistical and economic hurdles and the independence of the older generation who are proud to be able to make it on their own, despite loneliness, isolation, and often a huge price tag. It seems clearer now how dysfunctional the separation of the generations can be for a vast number of families.

Multi-generational living

With good childcare hard to find and prohibitively expensive, it’s a no brainer that willing and able grandparents could be invaluable to cut costs and increase the quality of their grandchildren’s care, at least part-time, while their children work. This may not always be feasible. I would not have let my in-laws spend that much time with my kids unless they promised to pay all the psychiatric bills that that would have engendered. And my mother was too busy living her own life to even occasionally babysit for my kids (she ‘visited’ with them at her convenience).

On the other hand, I have a friend whose daughter has three kids ages six, four, and two-and-a-half. She normally helps her daughter out a few days a week, but since the shelter in place order in Connecticut, my friend and her husband have been spending all day, every day helping their totally overwhelmed, home-bound daughter. Another friend moved down the street from their daughter so they could help out regularly with her special needs daughter. My husband and I were lucky enough to have had grandparents as a big part of our lives growing up and in turn, we helped care for them when they got older. It was a win, win for everyone involved, and enriched all of our lives.

It might take a while to trend back to extended families living together, or at least close by, on a larger scale. First, attitudes have to change back to valuing the extended family lifestyle. That may begin to happen seeing how both young families and seniors are struggling with financial and emotional stress today. Inter-generational families may be seen as a solution to today’s problems for future generations. Instead of the ‘sandwich generation’, balancing children and aging parents separately but at the same time, the extended family brings everyone together to help each other through all stages of life.

In the meantime, the government can ease the situation for younger parents by guaranteeing paid parental leave and also access to high-quality child care for everyone. That still leaves older people alone with their children helping with their care as best they can. But at least it could give young families a breather while we all figure out what type of family structure works best for everyone in today’s world.

THE NIGHT OF APRIL 25TH – Marilyn Armstrong

On top of the feeder and in the air – Flying Squirrels

The flying squirrels were super active last night. Flying and feeding, closing the “wings.” They were all over the feeders until the raccoons showed up and took over. You can actually see the squirrels body in the big wings and he is definitely ON TOP!

Two Flyers, with probably more in back and on the other feeder
On the march! Foof awaits … but not much