WALKING THROUGH PARADISE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Paradise

Although Jerusalem was my home and I loved it beyond words, I had a second passion which was the Galilee. That northern part of Israel is rich and beautiful. The wildflowers alone are worth a trip in the spring. I don’t know how the seasons are now.

The best little piece of the Galilee is Tel Dan, archaeological site and nature reserve.

Wild poppies in the Galilee

In Hebrew, it is “Gan Eden” and there’s a sign (or was, anyway) in English that read “Paradise” with an arrow. Just follow the path.

I haven’t been back since September 2001 and much has changed, especially the weather. But it used to be that May in the Galilee, the open fields were covered with wild poppies, scarlet against the green grass.

Waters in full flow at Tel Dan – Photo by Shmuel Baram

Israel has a climate that is not unlike Arizona, which is to say winter is rainy and green. Chilly unless you are atop a mountain, but not usually cold … not like the cold we get here. Spring starts very early, in January when the almond trees bloom and April and May are typically breathtaking. The ground is still moist from the winter rains and the world is green.

Later in the summer, months after the rain has ended and it’s just plain hot with a blue sky and sun that never ends, everything turns brown or beige or tan with little green to be found except on balconies overflowing with flowers.

Review of Tel Dan

One spring, we traveled up to Tel Dan. It is obvious that there has been considerable development, archaeological, in the park itself, and of course, hotels. When we were there early in the 1980s, it was a park with some archaeology work in progress, but no hotels. No fancy walkways.

It was a “school trip” or a family outing. Now it’s fancier and there is more to see, but I think I liked it better before the betterment.

Entryway to Tel Dan Nature Reserve

There’s a lot of information about it and a lot of photographs, too. This is one of the magical places in the world. You can see it, feel it. It is part of the source waters of the Jordan River and has been in existence since before Abraham which is at least 5,000 years.

Wading pool at Tel Dan

There are several websites about the park, but this is the one at which I would start: The Tel Dan Nature Reserve. The site is written in English and Hebrew (there are probably other languages too). It includes some amazing photographs. The big waterfall is the Banias (originally probably “Panaeus” from the Greek).

The Dan River

When I was there, there were no “floating walkways.” You just tripped along rocks and roots through the flowing Dan river as it bubbled up out of the mountain. There are deep pools which look inches in deep because the water is absolutely clear and frigidly icy. That’s where I met my first bee-eater who was every color in the rainbow.

The Banias by Mount Hermon

There is also a lot of archaeological digging in progress. There remains much more to discover including caves, alters and probably a lot more below ground. It is one of the oldest known sites in the area. Not as old as Jericho or the caves at Carmel, but very old and continuously inhabited for most of its time.

I walked through Paradise and I don’t doubt for a minute that it was indeed Paradise. It felt like it to me.

THE CANAL FLOWS PAST US – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: CANAL

We live in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor which is sort of like a national park but without the funding. That’s the Blackstone Valley for you. Incredible historic areas which are unique to this continent.

Little bridge and locks over a tiny canal

Mills and a river with many canals and locks that rolls along for miles by the river. Sometimes, the river and the canal are one unit. When the water gets rough, the two parts divide into two portions, one having locks to allow barges to deal with waterfalls and white water, the other just the river. Uxbridge has one of the larger sections of a free-flowing canal.

Canal and Blackstone River where they separate and become two streams.

In Worcester, they actually buried the canal under its streets. Worcester is an ugly little city that is always trying to dress up like a real city and never succeeds. Maybe because of its history of putrefaction, factories, river pollution, sewage pollution and some of the ugliest architecture I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Along the diagonal of the canal

Perhaps NOT burying the canal and polluting the river might have made them a more attractive location. We tried to buy a really lovely house up there, but no bank would finance it. It wasn’t that the house wasn’t a beauty. It was glorious and for us, cheap. But the banks wouldn’t finance anything up there. They said: “Buy somewhere else.”

And that is how we wound up in The Valley. By the river and the canal.

Steps to the canal

You cannot live in this valley and be further than a quarter of a mile from the river, a tributary, a stream, pond, or a canal. We have more parks than grocery stores and banks combined. We have herons, swans, ducks, geese, and about a million (or more) snapping tortoises in the river. Also, trout and baby trout.

The canal in summer

Finally, fishing is allowed in many places and sometimes, even swimming. Personally, I’m not swimming anywhere near where those snapping tortoises are hanging. I value my toes.

And the river and bridge in winter

This is a beautiful place to live. A little light in the culture department, but if nature does it for you, this is a great place to live.

And in the autumn …

And we do have the country’s first free public library in the middle of town. Just so you know, we used to be a bit snazzier!

Blackstone Canal

I’LL GIVE YOU MY REALITY IF YOU GIVE ME YOURS – By Tom Curley

I figured it out! The solution to reality! This reality! This reality TV reality!

The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s not working. Each time something happens that we might think is positive, the next day — or the next hour — we discover we were deluded.

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Do you know what does work?

Fictional TV reality!

Think about it. There was a show called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government was blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court? Wiped off the earth.

The only cabinet member that had to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the government from the ground up. While he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal in which the ones responsible for blowing everybody up are also trying to take over the country.

In spite of that, their government and President are doing a lot better job than ours! They are noticeably more sane and coherent and sometimes, they make intelligent decisions. Imagine that!

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So here’s what we do.  We switch realities!

It’s a win-win for everybody. How? It’s simple — at least in theory.

First

The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV, 24/7. Every day. You like watching the news? You’ll never miss another show!

Second

On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger.

And on Fox News.

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They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News.

As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Third

OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Honest to God fictional ones.

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The cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. And if we dig into the DNC pool, we’ve got dozens more. Hell, every billionaire is ready to declare!

We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” Again. As a matter of fact, just keep watching it over and over until you feel better. It’s like a political tranquilizer.

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We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

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We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was the President, but he was (is currently, I believe) also God!

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The list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Fourth

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already a Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

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Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

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Secretary of Defense? I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

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ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.

(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

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Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

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Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from any medical show you’ve enjoyed over the years. Any of them will do fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

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Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

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(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

Five: The Election

How do we do this?

We have an election. Not the usual kind. What with voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and just candidates that don’t have the right scriptwriters, our elections are not working out well. That’s how we got into this mess, to begin with.

We have the election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time.

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Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College.

We can set up March Madness-style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. Imagine how many office pools there will be. You might even win!

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And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.

This is absolute Democracy at work!

It could work!

As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people:

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“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”


FEATHERY PHOTO BOMBING – Marilyn Armstrong

I always know there’s a bird on the other side of the feeder by the way it swings in the air. A lot of the ladderback woodpeckers like to stay where they can’t see me … and I can’t take pictures. I also know they are there because sometimes I see a feather sticking out of somewhere or suddenly a beak — or even the bird’s head appears, then vanishes.

Goldfinch

I sometimes stand for half an hour with the camera aimed and focused … and there’s nothing. I give up, put the camera down, turn around and there are half-a-dozen birds. Cardinals, woodpeckers, and a whole flock of goldfinches. And more.

Today, there were a lot of birds when I got to the kitchen and almost none after that. It was a warm but drippy day. It wasn’t exactly raining, but it wasn’t exactly not raining. We had to put the dogs out for more than three hours. It was just drizzling and 55-degrees. Yesterday it was closer to 10 — but sunny — so we’ve been having some rather sizable shifts in temperature.

Getting more yellow as the season progresses …

I gather it’s going to snow on Monday. A long, slow accumulating storm.

Not one of those blizzards where we get two inches an hour. No, this is going to be one of those slow, lazy snowstorms. I have to assume it’ll be colder than today but I don’t know how much colder. Since they are forecasting only snow (minus the usual sleet and freezing rain), I’m assuming it’ll be freezing or below.

Unless it stays warm or the storm blows out to sea. You never know.

I don’t know what bird is sticking his head in the picture, but he’s a lot bigger than the Goldfinch! I think it’s one of the Ladderback woodpeckers. The Goldfinch looks better.

I took some pictures of a very determined Goldfinch. Note the head poking out from behind the feeder in the last picture. Photo-bombed again!

MANMADE BY HUMANS – BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge:
Made by Humans

The pocketwatch
Corn Maidens
Cookie jar
Sam “The Man” Adams … in bronze, life-size – Very influential!
At the Pops

VARIETY IS MY SPICE FOR LIFE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Variety

I like going to the same places over and over again, but I also like adding new places to which I’ve never been.

I like white and dark humans and all the shades in-between. I respect every religion unless they are trying to kill me, and after 50 or so years, I even forgive that. After growing up with my father, I’m not afraid of anyone. Surviving him tore the fear away.

The furniture in my house goes beyond eclectic into fully random. Oddly, it works. It’s an interesting house. You never know what you will find.

The colors are mostly muted so they don’t offend anyone and anyway, no one ever comes over so if it doesn’t bother us, who else would it bother? The dogs are colorblind.

Bonnie and living room

I will order the same thing in the same restaurant for years until one day, I decide to try something different. Sometimes, that becomes my new favorite. Sometimes, I realize why I didn’t try it before.

On the other hand, I’m very careful about changing services and utilities. Like electricity or veterinarians or doctors because however bad they are,  the “new kid in town” can often turn out to be a lot worse than you imagined possible.

Atop the shelves in the living room.

I shop at little old Hannaford not because it’s the biggest or best grocery in town, but because I’m comfortable there. And it’s at least a mile closer to home than any other grocery.

I haven’t found a new hairdresser since the guy, then the woman to whom I went to for a total of 30 years retired. The new ones never seem to give me what I want. So mostly, I don’t cut my hair. When I do, I am as often as not the one doing the cutting.

Bonnie and sofa with too many cushions

There has been a lot of variety in my schooling, my work (I changed jobs often) and this is my third marriage — which has lasted at least a decade longer than the other two combined. When you get it right, stick with it.

This morning we actually had a conversation about trying to make the sofa more comfortable for the dogs. We don’t sit on it. It’s the dogs’ bed and on those rare occasions when we have company, we vacuum it, put on a clean cover and it’s fine for guests.

But there are a lot of cushions on it. I pointed out that we don’t really have to worry about the cushions because we don’t sit on the sofa and have never used any of the cushions. They are there because the dogs enjoy knocking them off and Garry enjoys dropping a pile of cushions on top of any dog that’s sleeping soundly. It’s our version of barking while they sleep.

We’ll just keep the cushions and occasionally, wash the covers to get the dog hair off.

Variety is fun but so is continuity. I think we all need a balance of both to have a life that runs reasonably smoothly.

THE SHINBONE STAR – REBLOG By NATHANIEL R. “NAT” HELMS

TIME HEALS OLD WOUNDS . . . UNLESS THEY’VE TURNED GANGRENOUS

A self-imposed exile from the machinations of Donald Trump is a good thing. It is like spraying Febreze Clean Linen scent inside your skull until the rotten stench is completely covered. Two weeks wasn’t long enough to fully enjoy it, but it is a start.

A real exile from Trump means no cable news, newspapers, Facebook memes and rants, not answering taunts and jibes and no light-hearted political discussion with the neighbors.

Netflix is a good hiding place. A more extreme alternative is Devotional Hour with Sister Marie, the wizened old nun who provides solace on a local Catholic television show. Five minutes cured everything. Even with great alternatives available, actually weaning oneself off the Trumpian titty is like quitting smoking without a nicotine patch. His nefarious influence is everywhere.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about such an experience is discovering that people who must work every day to care for their kids, dogs, and homes don’t often give a tinker’s damn about politics. It takes a particularly powerful whiff of Trumplandian swamp gas for them to even notice all is still not well in Washington, D.C. They apparently leave all the angst for old retired people who won’t suffer too long no matter what happens.

Several other discoveries jumped out immediately. The Trumpian Wall saga has run its course across the emotional nerves of my neighbors. So have mass shootings, the endless litany of #MeToo sexual peccadilloes and reports about election campaigns so far in the future they are irrelevant. The baffling Mueller probe is seen in the same light as all the other probes getting shoved in people’s keisters in the name of New Age correctness.

My hardworking neighbors know that a Saudi journalist named Khashoggi was chopped into mincemeat by lackeys of some medieval Arab prince who won’t be touched; that war in Syria and Afghanistan may be over but don’t count on it; and that some big, bald-headed guy on TV when they arrived home Friday was in a pointless pissing match with the Democrats. None of it touched their lives.

What really pisses off Mr. and Mrs. Working America is finding out that they aren’t going to get the income tax refund they used to use to buy a little fun, the really unimaginative halftime show at the cliché’-rich Super Bowl and that the constantly rising price of food and gas never gets factored into those glowing reports about how rich America is.

Just ask a working mom who looks forward to taking the kids for a week at the beach that won’t happen this year because she didn’t get a useful tax refund. Ask the tradesman who tolerated his union dues going to Democrats, thinking their expanded presence in the House would improve his life. Instead, they are using his money to buy a bully pulpit to promote themselves without accomplishing much else.

Perhaps the most illuminating people to talk to are the mid-level government employees where I live that are wracked with doubt because they spent all their savings just to survive Trump’s 35-day government shutdown. They are imminently aware that another shutdown is still in the cards. They are equally certain that at some point a shutdown will wreck the economy the same way it already has wrecked their households.

The so-called Trumpian base, the badly informed working class folks who turn to anyone who offers them red meat, are confused and angered as well. They thought their lot would have improved by now, said one of my forsaken buddies while buying donuts. We’ve been punching holes in targets together for 30 years and he still can’t bring himself to say he might have been wrong about Trump.

My old buddy lives in a trailer court down the road. He lives there because he can’t afford a house. He can’t afford a house because he earns a $1,000 or more a week during the working season and still can’t save enough for the 20-percent down payment. Despite all the news stories about how the country has run out of skilled and unskilled labor, he doesn’t have a job.

His mobile home costs $780 a month plus utilities. His wife doesn’t work because they can’t afford daycare for his three kids. Being a union laborer doesn’t provide much work in the dead of winter, he said. Unemployed union laborers go on the extra board and draw $280 a week unemployment that they hope will last until the spring thaw. The only thing being a cherished veteran got him is a VA house loan and lip service. Meanwhile, Republicans who supported Trump in Missouri are again trying to introduce “right-to-work” laws because they think laborers like my friend are paid too much.

I learned a lesson from this experience. To move forward, the country must clear its head, put its feet back on the ground and wean itself off the milk of Trumpian discourse. Hate holds only bankrupt answers. Trump’s forte is lies. It is time for Democrats to go around him, under him, over him or through him, the way illegal aliens would get past his useless border wall.

The presumption that time heals all wounds is misplaced. Time only heals wounds that don’t turn gangrenous.

Democratic leaders need to spend less time blaming Trump’s egregious behavior for the country’s wounds and begin binding them instead.