FAILURE TO BOUNCE – Marilyn Armstrong

Again, I tried to find a prompt for this, but nothing fit. Ironically, yesterday’s “writhe” would have fit today’s post, but I’m pretty sure you only get one use per prompt so I’ll just have to wing it.

Winging it is definitely the wrong word.

Yesterday evening, I stepped out of my shower, hit a damp piece of floor, and my bad left knee crumpled under me and down I went.

Defining bad left knee: When I was in my mid-20s, I fell and tore all the ligaments and tendons in my left knee. All of them healed except the ACL (anterior Crucis ligament). Repairing that ligament was major surgery followed by a year of physical therapy and healing time. And the surgery doesn’t always work.

They have to thread a new ligament (or whatever they use as a new ligament) through your knee and stitch it into place and then hope that it “takes” properly. The general advice was that unless I was a skier or a serious hiker, I could just be careful about the knee. Mostly, I had to not twist that leg because, at any angle other than straight, the knee recognizes its lack of ligament and collapses. It’s not painful. It just stops working like a knee.

It only hurts when you hit the ground.

At some point, when I was around 40ish, I discovered falling down was not like it was when I was younger. I couldn’t just get back up, dust myself off and move on. I had to be very careful on uneven sidewalks and “offroad.” As long as I kept my knees straight, no problem and if I needed it, I could get a brace that would give me a little extra support for the knee.

Mostly, I been very careful. I took a few falls in Boston, on Beacon Hill where sidewalks are notoriously bad. Since then, I’m careful to the point when I forget I have a tricky knee.

It wasn’t a huge fall. I didn’t break anything. I got some bruising in miscellaneous place and my knee is sore as was my back (no surprise there). What I hadn’t realized is that I had pulled a ligament or tendon (not sure which) in my groin area. A classic baseball injury and Garry assures me I’m now on the 10-day injury list.

I was really surprised at how sore I am. I did an unexpected split across the entrance to the shower and pieces of me hit the ridges that hold the shower doors in place. Sharp little things when they scrape across your thighs. By the end of the evening, I was limping around and complaining a lot. Mostly, I was complaining because I didn’t do anything dangerous or careless. I was so mad at me!

So I slept late this morning on the theory rest would help … and it did. It hurts a lot less than it did yesterday and I’m hoping that by tomorrow, it will hurt even less.

Garry said I should be more careful. I said if I were any more careful, I could just wrap myself in bubble wrap and never leave the sofa because I can’t be any more careful than I already am.

The real problem is at 72, I don’t bounce. What would be a very minor fall in earlier years is a much bigger deal.

Nothing reminds you of how you have aged quite as much as falling down.

IT ALL STARTED WITH “FANTASIA” – Marilyn Armstrong

This post began because my husband is not fascinated by dinosaurs. He seemed a bit baffled as to why I’d want to write a story about dinosaurs.

Note: Should a dinosaur wander through my back yard, be assured that I will be out there taking pictures until either the huge reptile ambles away or eats me, whichever comes first.

Unlike many things which have adult origins — technology, philosophy, history — all the “ologies” and “osophies” that attended my education and subsequent research — my passion for dinosaurs goes all the way back, back, back in time to when I was four or five years old and my Aunt Ethel took me to see “Fantasia,” the original, not the later remake.

Who remembers in “Fantasia” the history of the earth, starring the rise and fall of the dinosaurs? It is set to Igor Stravinsky’s brilliant “The Rites of Spring.” The music itself might be enough, but with the Disney artists on their best game, it was something else and embedded itself in my mind for a lifetime.

None of the movie’s graphics were generated by computers. All of them … each frame … was drawn by human artists. The music was played live by an orchestra full of real musicians. Contrary to popular opinion, special effects were not invented by Steven Spielberg.

I was just a little kid and it scared the bejeezus out of me. I had nightmares for years about dinosaurs hiding under the bed, in the hallway, in my closet. I couldn’t sleep without a nightlight because I was sure there was a dinosaur lurking, ready to grab me in giant jaws with teeth 9 feet long. I was a child of great imagination and excessive sensitivity.

As I got older, I began to read books and discovered lots of really cool stuff about dinosaurs, most important (to me) was that North America — what is now the middle of the United States had been giant reptile central, the heartland of the Brontosaurus, Velociraptor and other astonishing creatures. Wyoming was the hot point where Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled. Perhaps their legacy lives on in Washington D.C., but I digress.

When this was made, the whole asteroid thing was yet unknown, so the history of the earth is missing that piece of information, but I’m sure Disney’s artists would have happily included it had they known. Meanwhile, I’m totally whacked at the idea of the earth getting hit by an asteroid. I always have a good laugh when someone in some space lab mentions, casually, that there’s an asteroid headed our way, but not to worry, there’s no better than a 50-50 chance it will really hit us.

That we pathetic creatures, crawling around the surface of the earth, believe we are all-powerful and can control our destiny by technology is funny. Not only has this planet been hit by asteroids — not once but many times — but each time, the event precipitated the extinction of Earth’s dominant species. The dinosaurs lasted a lot longer than we have. Should one of those big hunks of space debris smack into us, I think it unlikely that all the computers, weaponry, technology or prayers we can muster will be of any use at all. Our collective ass will be grass without even the opportunity to text our best buddies about the impending big bang.

We will be gone, quite likely having had even less effect on our planet, in the final analysis, than did the dinosaurs.

Humankind has always suffered above all from the sin of pride. Hubris, as the Greeks called it. We think we are creatures of God and perhaps we are, but who said we are the only creatures of God or that He gave us a permanent free pass from extermination?

map-dinosaurs-1993

And this is what so fascinates me and probably always will. That these creatures, these huge, powerful creatures who ruled this planet for more years than we can comprehend were, in a single calamitous event, exterminated. Eliminated from the earth leaving just their bones by which to remember them. And we think we are so all-powerful. I bet they thought so, too.

HUSTLE IN THE HOUSE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Hustle

I used to be the Entertainment Queen of my crowd. It was more than 40 years ago, but I was the hostess with the mostest. I fed the hungry, housed the homeless, cheered up the downhearted. I rescued cats, dogs, and lost people. No living creature was ever turned away.

It got crowded.

Image: Mashable.com
Image: Mashable.com

Life — in my own home — became one long hustle. It was like running a party that never ends. Anyone could show up. Anytime.

One day, I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted privacy. I didn’t want to clean up the mess or cook gigantic meals. I was tired of spending all my money on other people. The crowd that assembled nightly in my living room weren’t necessarily friends, either.

Home had become a facility. A place to crash. Where there was always music, food, something to smoke and probably a good conversation and a sofa.

So I started locking my front door and asked people to call before showing up. About half the crowd never came back … and I never missed them. Others drifted off in the course of time. The rest are still friends.

Where friends … and guests … are concerned, quality is not necessarily quantity. These days? Fewer are more fun.


now – THE joke


A very poor man goes to his Rabbi complaining his house is too small and he can’t stand it anymore. “What should I do?” he asks.

“Get a big dog,” advises the Rabbi.

Puzzled, the man buys a sheepdog and brings him home. The house is even more crowded, and the man returns to the Rabbi. “It’s worse,” he moans.

The Rabbi nods his understanding. “Get a goat. He can be friends with the dog. Oh, and get a cat too.”

Even more confused, the mad does as instructed. The house is unbearable. He returns to the Rabbi. “Please, Rebbe, it’s horrible at home. The dog, the cat, the goat … and it smells really bad.”

“I think you need a lamb,” says the Rabbi. “And a calf.”

DogsSlayThe BeastieDutiful to the end, the man gets a lamb and brings it home. The noise alone is deafening. There’s hair everywhere and the place stinks. Finally, he goes back to the Rabbi, now desperate for relief.

“Rabbi, OY VAY, IT’S TERRIBLE. The animals go all over the house and they chase each other. We have no peace, no privacy.”

“Get rid of all those animals,” orders the Rabbi. The man heaves a sigh of relief and the next week returns to see the Rabbi.

“Rebbe, it’s wonderful! We have so much room. The house is clean again. Life is wonderful!

No more hustle. Peace reigns.

CLYTEMNESTRA’S LAMENT – GUEST POST By KARIN LAINE MCMILLEN

Introduction

Many of us have the mental image of nature as somehow kinder, sweeter, more gentle than the lives we lead. On a fundamental reality level, I knew that wasn’t true, but as long as all I saw were flying birds and leaping squirrels, I could ignore the rest. Even knowing that the large eat the small, and the strong kill the weak, that nature is fierce.

Nonetheless, the rattlesnake and snapping turtle have as much a right to their dinners as the bright yellow finch or the ladder-backed woodpecker. I didn’t realize how many of the creatures in my own backyard bore significant scars from hawks and foxes and bobcats until I got a distance lens and saw it myself.

A hurt squirrel

With the camera, I see many of the animals I photograph bear significant scars and damage from attacks by other creatures. Some have healed, others have disappeared and probably didn’t survive.

This is a story about love and nature.


Clytemnestra’s Lament: The Story of the Swans – By Karin Laine McMillen

We bought our swans, as all the bourgeois do.

They came in the US mail, in boxes with pointed tops. We had a swan release party. Restricted beauty reigned as pinioned swans flew across our one acre, man-made, engineered and certified pond.

A swan on the lake at the farm

Relocating swans is a precarious commitment. An unexpectedly large rectangular enclosure needs to be built in advance, part of it in the water and the remainder on land. This is so the pair can acclimate to their habitat, lest they try to walk back to Illinois from whence they came.

Named Illich and Odette after the heroine of Swan Lake by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, they acted as guardians of my gentleman’s farm and performed their duties of chasing geese and eating the algae with instinctual vigor.

Every spring our female, distinguished by her slightly diminutive size, built a large, perfectly round nest which always reminded me of Big Bird’s nest from Sesame Street. The first year, she just built it. I don’t know if she had eggs or not, but if she did they didn’t hatch.

Illich, Odette, with cygnets

The second year, my family arrived for the weekend from New York to discover four baby swans on the pond with their parents. We quickly discovered, or more accurately researched, that baby swans are named cygnets. We disseminated that information to anyone who would listen.

The following weekend I was saddened to see only two cygnets. My toddler was fascinated by who might have “eatted” them. I grabbed my camera to be sure to capture the fluffy whiteness and inspiring family unit in action. I unrealistically fantasized about having two sets of swans forever gracefully adorning our pond.

I don’t remember how long the last two babies lived, but at some point in the spring, I heard that one of the cygnets had been dragged out of the pond and eaten by a snapping turtle. I was furious, and have been trying to kill those prehistoric looking creatures ever since.

Swans with cygnets

The following year I became excited in the early spring as Odette started constructing her nest and proceeded to sit on it for weeks on end, for a gestation time I never fully researched.

On May 4th, 2007 the French National Orchestra was touring with Kurt Masur on the podium. The date stuck with me due to my bird-loving grandmothers anniversary of birth. New Yorkers turned out in droves to see their former popular conductor. I was seated in one of the side boxes at Carnegie Hall with a fellow musician. We were beyond excited to hear Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony as the highlight of the program.

Our familiarity with the work was such that we glanced nervously at each other when the horns flubbed their perfect fifths in the first movement. We knew that the difficult horn solo at the beginning of the second movement was extremely exposed, and would dictate the success of the evening.

I went to bed on a high that I am convinced one can only get from music and had an unnerving and unexpectedly feverish dream filled with violence and unrest. Black and white converged; blood, death, and fear prevailed. I woke in a sweat and shortly got the call.

It happened that the previous evening. My darling Odette was ripped to shreds by a bear. She was guarding her eggs.

When haunted by the violent passages of Tchaik 5, I still reflect on my culpability. Did I doom this mother by naming her after a heroine who dances herself to death?

 

Illich survived. He graced our pond for season upon season. I often wonder if he sang in mourning for his bride and offspring, while I sat ninety miles away in a red velvet adorned box at Carnegie Hall.

Years later, on a spring morning, I got a call informing me that the body of Illich was immobile on the land beside the pond. I envisioned him with his beautiful neck resting on the ground. I begged our sensitive caretaker to bury him appropriately on the property.

Last spring a single grey swan grace our pond for a little while. He did not stay. This spring another has been spotted and I am nearly desperate for him to stay. Precariously, I follow the new swan with my camera as I stroll around the pond on Memorial Day.

My nearly white golden retriever and the white swan seem to have come to an equilibrium. My retriever seems to inherently understand the complex relationships before him. My mind weaves restlessly between questions and wishes.

Do I dare name him? Will he find a bride? Will they stay?

Suddenly peace washes over me with the warm breeze and I hear a whisper: “Nature, as is her habit, will forgive.”

FOOTSES AND LEGSES – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Feet and/or Legs

Feet and legs. Okay. Got that. Let me see what in my archives I can find and post. It’s always a bit of a gamble, but I’ll do my best!

Gotta love the feet and legs!
I’m walking here …
Photo: Garry Armstrong – That horse has attitude!
Just rolling!
Thinking of a warm barn?
The Duke
Gibbs’ feet
Garry’s and the Duke’s feet and legs
Lots of legs

LEWIS CAROLL – THE WALRUS AND THE CARPENTER

Of all the poetry from Lewis Carroll, this is my favorite. It is here because I like it. It serves no higher good and contains no hidden meaning. It is a poem that always makes me smile. Hope it brings you a smile, too.

BY LEWIS CARROLL

“The sun was shining on the sea,
      Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
      The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
      The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
      Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
      After the day was done —
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
      “To come and spoil the fun.”
The sea was wet as wet could be,
      The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
      No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead —
      There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
      Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
      Such quantities of sand:
If this were only cleared away,’
      They said, it would be grand!’
If seven maids with seven mops
      Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,’ the Walrus said,
      That they could get it clear?’
I doubt it,’ said the Carpenter,
      And shed a bitter tear.
O Oysters, come and walk with us!’
      The Walrus did beseech.
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
      Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
      To give a hand to each.’
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
      But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
      And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
      To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
      All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
      Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
      They hadn’t any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
      And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
      And more, and more, and more —
All hopping through the frothy waves,
      And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
      Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
      Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
      And waited in a row.
The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.’
But wait a bit,’ the Oysters cried,
      Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
      And all of us are fat!’
No hurry!’ said the Carpenter.
      They thanked him much for that.
A loaf of bread,’ the Walrus said,
      Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
      Are very good indeed —
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
      We can begin to feed.’
But not on us!’ the Oysters cried,
      Turning a little blue.
After such kindness, that would be
      A dismal thing to do!’
The night is fine,’ the Walrus said.
      Do you admire the view?
It was so kind of you to come!
      And you are very nice!’
The Carpenter said nothing but
      Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf —
      I’ve had to ask you twice!’
It seems a shame,’ the Walrus said,
      To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
      And made them trot so quick!’
The Carpenter said nothing but
      The butter’s spread too thick!’
I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
      I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes.
O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
      You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
      But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
      They’d eaten every one.”

I should also add that there is an inherent warning in this cute little poem to not be careless about who you decide to trust. Those with the smoothest lines may be the ones about to rip you off. A lesson I have painfully learned more than once.

It’s bad to fail to trust. It’s also bad to trust too easily and often!

LIFE AS A DEPUTY ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICER – Marilyn Armstrong

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.

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

Millville town center.

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.m

There are approximately 3100 people living in Millville.

Perhaps 9 or 10 years ago, 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. So, in exchange for $600 every 6 months, I would have the official title of Deputy Animal Control Officer. I 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. It was my first call — a Sunday morning — so my “senior officer” thought he should come along, show me the ropes as it were.

Photo: Greenshield Pest Control
Photo: Greenshield Pest Control

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 lot of 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 to send to the 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 not upset that I’d never handled a real weapon. 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.

72-wildflowers-cooperstown-ma_078

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 last 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.

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.

The 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-off 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.

72-Turtle-Muimford-Dam-100615_045

Meanwhile, an entire construction crew — big brawny guys who were supposed to be 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 about the strength of the gloves versus the power of the turtle’s jaws. I decided the gloves weren’t nearly strong enough.

My personal weapon: a Red Ryder BB rifle
My personal weapon: a Red Ryder BB rifle

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.