Tuesday, August 30, 2011

After Irene

Simply by being there several times a week I become a shoreline expert -- sort of. I seethe changes. I was eager to see what Irene's winds did to "my" beach. We had almost no rain here but a day of continuous wind, which didn't seem to me to be especially violent. Yesterday I did not take my camera but today I did. I was there before 9:00 when almost no one else was around. The above picture is the shore, swept clean of nearly all loose sand. Most of it seems to have landed on the other side of the spit. It buried some of the dune grass closest to the shore. Today I notice that the tide has dub 3 or 4 inch deep trenches halfway up the beach. At that hour tbe tide was about as far out as it was going to get. So the beach was at its widest.
The top photo was taken from near where the public access is. The distant view is toward the end of the mile-long spit of land - with a fresh water inlet on the other side. It's only 50 to 100 feet wide until 3/4s of the way out where the seashore curves and the back side widens into a small marsh with several little kettle ponds. At the very end is a rocky area that is under the tide about half the time.
Out where the marshy part is the sand was deposited in the grass, very deeply in some places. Here are two pictures of new dunes covering the grass. Also the shore of the inlet side is much narrower suggesting some of this sand is from there also.
The rocky area is a sort of fat period at the end of a bent exclamation mark. Last year it was bordered with gnarled little trees, all living and apparently healthy. Over the winter most of those trees disappeared. Apparently the sand beneath their roots was eaten away and then they were carried away by the tide. Only one, the largest, of those gnarled trees was left this spring. But its roots were exposed and it did not sprout leaves. People used it to hang broken sea shells on which became plentiful as much as a month ago. Now this tree has been much broken -- the remnants of a bonfire on the very end of the spit shows lots of twisted limbs from this tree that apparently didn't burn well. Since Irene it's roots are almost all exposed and it's this sad wraith of what it was a year ago.
A short distance before the dead tree is this larger, still healthy one. Until Irene it was back from the shore a couple of feet, one had to climb a low bank to get to it to hang broken seashells on it's lower branches which were without leaves although the upper ones had and still have leaves. Obviously it is the next one that will be deprived of its footing and may follow the fate of it's neighbor by next spring.

A woman I often chat with on the beach -- she comes possibly more regularly than I -- said she thought the "period" part of the spit might become an island. That makes sense to me. It will be interesting to see. As can be seen in these pictures, this is a lovely and usually peaceful place for an early morning walk. It was a very beautiful morning beneath that sky where the temperature was about 70.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Too Good Not to Pass On

Let us put our old folks in prisons and the criminals in old folks' homes! This way the elders get daily showers, exercise and fresh air. No one can steal from them... and they receive money instead of having to pay for everything. The criminals get cold food and have to stay in their rooms all by themselves. No money is given them, the lights go out at 20.00... and showers only once a week. Copy this and watch how far this travels.

The above was quoted on a blog, not attributed except to say it was originally in Finnish. Think about it. Our prison population and our elderly population must be approximately equal. Where do we put our money?

It came, it went

Hurricane Irene came, huffed and puffed, left a mess like a two year old having a tantrum and left.

We on Cape Cod got only wind. Of course, since the place is full of trees, limbs, big and small, came down, so the electricity went off -- about 2 P.M. and came on at 5:30 A.M. That's it. A dim night, candles and book light did the trick but it was an early to be night. Which meant a early to wake morning -- very early. At 3 A.M. the silence was profound, the darkness deep, and when I went out to see if I could see anything amiss what I saw was a sky full of brilliant stars -- even a quick glimpse of a shooting star. With no ambient interference I could gaze at the sky in its magnificence as people used to see it before electricity.

I went back to bed and lay awake some time pondering a morning headline, "Thousands lose power." By then it was hundreds of thousands ... Power became metaphor as well as technological fact. Power to see in the dark, power to cook, to keep food cold, to entertain themselves at home [except for the many battery run gadgets] And many other kinds of power that are taken for granted. A so-called "life style" we think we need but which our ancestors lived without. We regained power to see the stars, hear crickets, know silence. Forced out of routines, some of us reflect on essentials and that we are powerless to live the life we think is ours without the power of electricity.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Technology and Me

The old dog new tricks thing -- I am a slow adopter of new technology. I don't yet have a cell phone. Not because the technology is a problem but because I surmise, so far, that I don't need either that constant contact[ability] [I don't like any phone very much and tend to procrastinate about making calls] or that amount of extras geegaws. Yes, there are times it would be marginally more convenient to call someone when I'm not at home and even less marginally more convenient to receive calls. And I'll get one some day, who knows when?

I'm a bit famous in my family for having an ATM card so long before I tried to use it that it had expired. Now I use an ATM for nearly every banking need, but I still don't pay bills online. When ALL bills can be paid online I supposed I'll do it. I didn't use the Internet for a long time, now I can hardly imagine not having that convenience, likewise the microwave. I AM adaptable. But I still believe many technologies are more trouble than they are convenience. And I like writing and receiving real letters.

This new car won my heart when I got home with it and had trouble taking the key out. A little message appeared on what I call the supra-dashboard that read, "to remove key, push inward, turn left and pull." Viola!! I was so impressed that it immediately responded to my problem I wanted to kiss it [but didn't]. It will, the manual says, tell me many other useful things, like how many more miles I can expect to drive on the amount of gas in the tank. It will tell me how ecologically I am driving, when the tires need more air. Will it tell me when to put on lipstick and comb my hair before getting out to go to meet someone? That would be nice but I guess personal grooming is my own problem. So I have a love-em and sometimes leave-em attitude about technology, I'll never be a total convert, I'm too stubborn for that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Did It!

Okay, so I did it, I gained a few dollars in the dickering and I leased a 2012 Honda Civic which, contrary to the way this picture turned out, is not blue at all. It's charcoal gray with a bit of opalescence -- and that opalescent paint picked up the color of the sky and trees above. I like this blue a bit better but it wasn't an actual option.

The deciding factor was the configuration of the interior -- especially the way information is displayed in an extremely easy to read way. With all the digital wonders in other areas, the info age is moving into automobiles, in this case, in a way that I find very helpful. Approximately how many more miles I can travel on the amount of gas in the tank, my exact speed [in LED digits] as I drive are only two examples. Love both of them. I think I am going to be quite happy with this car. And, of course, I have the option to buy it when the lease is up. Meanwhile I have a peace of mind I did not have with the former 4th hand car that had done a good job but was totally wearing out. So I have a sense of satisfaction this evening and I think I'll sleep well now that I'm no longer mulling choices awake and asleep.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rite of Passage

Buying a new or used car, or leasing one, is a rite of passage for many young people, their wheels to freedom. If they aren't among the fortunate whose parents gift them a car as a graduation or birthday present, buying their firs car is a very significant indicator of adulthood.

Many women of my generation, including myself, have a some time bought a car. But I feel that women of my age [and generation]are unlikely to be buying [or leasing] cars since many have husbands who are happy to undertake that task as cars have always seemed to us "Men's" prerogative. And others of my age have sons or sons-in-law or daughters who do the dirty work. I had a talk/consultation with Son-in-law yesterday with many of hte cliches about bargaining points. Says he, it's not greatly different than bargaining with that sales man in Turkey for a leather coat, the same ploys are useful.

However I talk ed to a no pressure salesperson who wasn't concerned that I said I needed the numbers and time to think about them. That was this morning, I think I'll go to another dealership shorty and see what the offers there are. I'm a little disinclined to comparison shopping when I liked the first guy's approach and numbers But self-respect says I really should or I'll feel a bit chump-ish. Of course we can be slaves to the cliches about comparison shopping too. A few dollars difference may be offset by a different color paint job. The time is here for a decision and it will get made, perhaps in the wee hours of the night.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It Wouldn't Happen Here

"In the five months since the disaster struck, people have turned in thousands of wallets found in the debris, containing $48 million in cash.

More than 5,700 safes that washed ashore along Japan's tsunami-ravaged coast have also been hauled to police centers by volunteers and search and rescue crews. Inside those safes officials found $30 million in cash. One safe alone, contained the equivalent of $1 million.

The National Police Agency says nearly all the valuables found in the three hardest hit prefectures, have been returned to their owners."

The above quote is from a Japanese newspaper. I'm sad that I know this would never happen in the US. I think also of the reputed million [or is it billions?] of dollar in paper money that were said to have disappeared in Iraq just after our invasion there.

Yes, I've heard some anecdotal stores of lost wallets being returned to people I know, but these true stories were related with surprise, awe and almost unbelieving gratitude. I read no such stories after hurricane Katrina or after the terrible tornadoes last spring. What about the safes in Joplin, MO?

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The broken shells, especially these which, I think [I know my profound ignorance about sea creatures] are whelks, always fascinate me with their beautiful spiral structure and the pink-coral-orange interiors. I can't resist picking them up and walking down the beach with the beautiful ones in my hands. Only at the last minute do I come to my senses and remember I have lined my books shelves with them already and as they got drier over the winter they rained small puddles of sand around themselves. So I leave the latest find on a post beside the beach path for those who are more rushed to find and perhaps wonder at, if only briefly. [I do not have great confidence in my fellow humans, most are so distracted by things they find more important than tiny bit of perfection.]
The season is winding down and we are all aware of it. Soon the tourists will mostly have gone home and the small parking lot near my favorite beach will have space for me to park in the middle of the day; I can take a chair, a granola bar and a bottle of water along with my book and read in peace for a while. The weather will remain beautiful through most of September, barring nasty wind and rain from hurricanes roaring up the Atlantic coast.
All people in the higher number decades talk about time flying faster for us. Strange how that happens as many of us, I speak for myself mainly, actually have more time for enjoying, fewer commitments, less hustle and bustle. Yet the time flies. Is ice cream more wonderful because you can't dawdle too much while eating it because it will melt? Does anyone think about that except a septuagenarian? Or does everyone else take the ice cream for granted -- there'll always be another summer? Well, not ALWAYS ... as Hamlet says, "ah, there's the rub."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Amazing Nature

Links are in the sidebar because sometimes there are absolutely amazing things -- today it's The Big Storm Picture. I urge anyone who reads this to click that link. I've never seen a cloud formation like that. Maybe you have to live in Nebraska. Even if you live in Nebraska you might be as stunned as I am.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Enjoy Your Day"

By 9:30 this morning four people had said to me "Enjoy your day." And I answered, "I will. You too." Yes, it's empty repartee. But, yes, I am enjoying my day. What does that mean?

Today it means the summer weather is as perfect as possible: awoke early after a good night's sleep to bright sun, more softy warm than broiling. A touch of breeze that will increase a little later in the afternoon. Abundant flowers on all the streets I drive, a long walk on the beach very early [two of the "enjoys" offered in the course of the walk], Early trip to the grocery when it wasn't very crowded, easily finding the items I wanted. And now a quiet day doing things I enjoy doing, reading, quilting, baking a dessert for dinner, my own iced tea concoction with fresh mint from my yard, no bills in the mail, blog writing, a family dinner later on. What's NOT to enjoy?

Poets and philosophers remind us that we rarely understand happiness [or even enjoyment] until after the fact, often long after the fact when we have a spell of nostalgia or a period of melancholia as we wish for the former happiness, enjoyment, serenity. I recently read that for younger people happiness/joy/delight is a matter of excitement, of doing something specific [playing tennis, partying, going to a concert, etc] but for older people happiness more often comes in the form of contentment which may be passive, contemplative, quiet -- although we never lose our ability, I think, to enjoy a party or visit with friends, a good concert, movie, play, meal.

Yes, I'm enjoying my day, just like I was told to do.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Deep Reading

"Deep Reading" as defined by Alice Jacobs in an article called "We Can't Teach Students to Read" in the Chronicle of Higher Education came to my attention because of the Arts and Letters Daily -- a link in my sidebar here. The link is part of my problem which Jacobs touches on but doesn't address - it's not her bailiwick, but it is mine. I am an addicted deep reader and have been most of my life. To me, and probably to most deep readers, this means being a slow reader. Jacobs tells us that until the sudden boom in college educations with the GI Bill after WWII a very small percent of Americans had college educations and an equally small percent read much of anything, let alone big serious books read in depth. Oh, yes, there has always been that layer of readers but they've always been the minority. After far more people learned to read in depth thanks to college, we are now moving into another period when deep reading is becoming rarer even though now the college educated numbers are huge. Why? Because there is too much to read and too much to distract and too much to give pleasure that has nothing to do with deep reading, too much too do and too little time for reading of any sort.

After a meeting with four women, three of whom teach literature classes I said I wasn't taking any of their very interesting classes because there is just too much reading. They went on to talk about a list of recent fiction they had enjoyed and discussed in their various reading groups. I did not join in because I have no interest in most of those books. Later I thought how odd it must have sounded to say there is too much reading. But there is! All my life I have known I have limited time in a day and must ration my enthusiasms. I did not learn golf or tennis when I lived a suburban life although I thought I would enjoy both. I would not be able to take piano lessons, write, and do volunteer work if I were playing games.

I've applied this criteria to my reading most of my life although for many years I read the popular nonfiction books, I've always been very picky about fiction. Now with a truly finite time ahead, I am very careful what I read. But it is getting harder. I like blogs and read a few almost daily, and many others occasionally. I like links like the Arts and Literature Daily because they offer me articles on subjects that I find fascinating, like Jacob's in a publication I would never see otherwise. But I have learned to skim -- even that article. I get the daily NYTimes online and skim more rapidly than I would the paper edition. My AOL home page gives me hard news head lines and lot of junk. It is easy to skim what a celeb wore to a party and to merely glance at the always missing kids. I get national, international and local news in tiny tidbits and that is enough. I've begun skimming more often in the few magazines I get. Jacobs says we do not so much suffer information overload as filter failure. I try to fine tune my filter. I read 60 or more short stories last spring -- my choice -- never again! Most short stories aren't worth the time.

What do I read in depth? A few novels, rarely a best seller, usually not American or if American, authors with something new to tell me. If the main character is a teen - sorry -- I read Huck Finn and Catcher in the Rye and many others. I've grown up, Don't need those touchstones any more. I like books by authors who tell me about cultures I do not live in. I deep read selected nonfiction books, I'm reading a biography very carefully right now. I cannot take courses that have me reading "great books" that I've read or that I've chosen not to read because I have two bookcases full of books I DO want to read.

Jacobs quotes Steve Pinker who said, "Children are hard wired for sound, but print is an optional accessory that must be painstakingly bolted in." Clever but not exactly true. I believe I, and many other serious readers, either have an inborn temperament and/or early life experience that makes us readers. My friends, who read less selectively, are a bit younger and a bit less serious about literature, a bit younger and less aware of the march of time, perhaps a bit less curious about the world -- or I should say about the world beyond their own. (I mentioned Cutting for Stone, which most had read. I said I'd love to go to Ethiopia. No one else felt that way AT ALL!) A part of me I can't root out worries how my comments about reading sounded, a wiser part of me says, what does it matter? Perhaps I am hard wired to seek social approval but my taste and my search for meaning in what I read has long since been bolted on.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rainy day, vacation day

Soft sounds of dripping on leaves in the night, and a day of unrelenting rain. In the middle of a summer of sunny, often humid days, a long, long cool shower. A day of forced indoor activity -- so easy on a Sunday with the fat NY Times to read -- love its newly designed and expanded editorial section -- and, of course, my beloved crossword puzzle. And the Sunday magazine with its varied articles. A kind of vacation from summer habit of walking on the beach, making the best of a beautiful afternoon.

But then -- a power outage and the sky so sunless my eyes strained to read by the window, even a lighted candle was a strain. What to do? Go somewhere that had light since it seemed to be only our apartment complex without electricity. What a mistake it was to go to the nearby mall! All the denizens of the empty beach were there as restless as I and much noisier. I often feel charmed that parking spaces open up for me which happened but I fled anyway - across the street to a strip mall much less favored, a little shopping errand and then a lengthy, slightly guilty sweet and coffee while I read a magazine in a leisurely way. Back home the electricity was restored. The rain continues -- it has come in gentle and serious impulses all day. Gentle at the moment. The air feels soft, wet, of course, but not humid. The grass is grateful and will show its appreciation by growing and glowing greenly tomorrow. I like weather, I don't mind having to adjust my plans to accommodate what the sky offers me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

SOLD: The New Global Slave Trade, documentary

Last evening I saw Sold: The New Global Slave Trade, at the small screening room at the Cape Cod Museum of Art. First of all I was amazed that on a lovely Friday night in the middle of summer with very little advertisement, the space was totally full . True most of the audience were over 50; but it speaks to a population that cares about issues and is not afraid of a documentary that might be a little hard to watch.

In fact, I think it was the film maker, who was present, was a little timid and the film could have been stronger with ten more minutes in which some narrative facts would have explained the word "global" in the title. She concentrated on three heroic people combating the enslavement of children -- as small as two and a half. One was a woman in Togo where boys were "purchased" from their parents for a small payment. Parents were desperately poor and were told the kids would be well fed and sent to school -- a lie, of course. They were forced to pull loads of market goods on carts and slept in the open air with meager food. A woman in Hyderabad, India was rescuing girls from the sex trades, giving them education and teaching them skills to earn their own money. She spoke in a contained way of being driven by anger because had been abused as a child also. I can hardly wrap my mind around the perversity of raping a three year old child. The third was a lawyer in Pakistan who exposed the agents who bought small boys and sold them to sheiks in the UAE and other countries in that region where they were used as camel jockeys, tied to camels who were learning to race. The lawyer finally got a law passed in the UAE that outlawed the use of kids and now kid-size robots are used. Which is not to say the practice has entirely stopped. Much of his work is now helping the boys get an education and get a useful life -- although it was hinted that they are psychologically damaged and very susceptible to the extreme mullahs who preach jihad.

The film maker wanted to simply tell stories - and at the same time, win hearts of her audiences by showing beautiful, sad children. She also emphasized that the two women,in particular, were deeply religious and used religion to win the children's allegiance to a new life. The religious element in Pakistan is problematic. She said in Q&A that she had learned in years of journalism that telling a story is better than giving data; I wish she had learned a little more balance -- basic data would have been welcome, especially as she used "global" in her subtitle and mentioned that slavery exists many other places. I've read of its continuance in Algeria, of people enslaving domestic workers whose passage to the US they paid, and so on. Yesterday's Times had an article about "population agents" in rural China who take away infants and children from peasants without proper documents -- I suspect those children are either go adoption mills or put to work in factories if old enough to do simple tasks.

The film maker spoke of showing the film and speaking throughout South Korea, she is reaching for a global audience. I wish it were a better film. And I had a further thought about all such films: the subtitles were necessary for a few speakers but the screening room has a shallow rake so it's hard to see the bottom of the screen [and more so if a woman in front keeps moving about so she can see]. I should think a technology could be developed that would let the screening venue choose to put super-title [on the top of the screen] in such settings. It should be a menu choice just as the subtitle language is.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Highly Recommended

I want to draw your attention to the "Mosaic" post which is rather short on the Pure Land Mountain blog in my sidebar here to the right. It is a beautiful piece of writing. Every now and then Bradly writes something I so much wish I could have written.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Are You as Amazed as I Am?

Is anyone as amazed as I am that a woman who was shot in the head, only a few months ago is now able to take her seat in Congress and vote? Medical science, rehab, human will and perserverence are amazing things. Of course being a celebrity and getting the best possible care, being the kind of woman who had run for Congress and won also came into play Still ... not very long ago a wound like that would have been a death sentence or would have meant a terrible life in bed, unable to retain her capacities. Frankly, I don't know what her politics are but I know taht she's one brave, determined woman and that she had tremendous help all around. I rejoice for her.