A VALENTINE FOR MY HUSBAND


lovebirds“How do I love thee let me count the ways” Robert Browning wrote these words to Elizabeth Barrett early in the 19th century.

Have you ever sat and listed the many ways and reasons you love someone? It’s quite difficult isn’t it? It keeps changing day by day and as more and more time goes by, you find more and more ways and reasons to care for someone. The reasons won’t be the same as when you were in the first heat of competition for his affections.

I love you for your kindness, and for the way you remember and celebrate each and every tiny holiday. I love you for knowing that people would rather receive a present than a gift card at Christmas, even if it is a very small package. (Of course, diamonds don’t take up much room.)

I love you for caring how I feel, and insisting upon carting me to every appointment even when I would rather drive myself, when I’m shopping for groceries, (even Nordstrom) and waiting patiently till I complete my mission without hanging over my shoulder.

I love you for being cheerful, even if it is too early for me to wake up and I just wish the world would go away.

I love you for writing real paper & pen letters to all the kids and grandkids instead of e-mail. (You have been told that you may alone in doing this.)

I love you for seeing a problem and insisting on fixing it immediately, even if I might wait and think about it. ( Another large tree came out today and two new ones will go in this week. I would probably have waited a bit longer to remove that lovely plum tree.)

I love you for admitting when you don’t know something. (I don’t always do this).

I love you for realizing we are different and not caring.

I love you for proving that right and left brain people can live happily together without killing each other.

I love you for loving me.

The first Valentine I received from you was when I was sixteen. I had just memorized Robert Browning’s poem in Mr. Cummings second period English class, and fresh in the throes of first love. This will be the 68th Valentine, and those ‘fresh throes” are stronger than yesterday. Happy Valentine’s Day Dr. Advice.

“At the end of the day, only kindness matters.”

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BETTE DAVIS?


Navajo Grandmother

Navajo Grandmother”, original watercolor painting, Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen

I met an young man of 17 today who made me realize how far out of the loop I really am.

He acts in his school plays wants to be a character actor, not a leading man, because they are more interesting to portray. We talked about movies, and I, an inveterate movie lover, had no idea what he was talking about! Apparently zombies are pretty big in the movies today, and his excitement in telling about these films was infectious. Out of the fullness of my ignorance I tried to enter into the conversation and tell him about movies I have liked in the past, but he had never heard of them. Incredible!

I began to realize that what the younger generation likes abut films today is more about special effects than story line. It took me a minute to appreciate his thinking. It was also more about looking at the film with actor’s eyes, and he’s right—seen in that aspect, they do deliver more punch.

When teaching at the college level, I used to feel part of the chatter, but the kids of today have jumped ahead at the same pace technology has moved.
Nothing lasts, and what a shame that is. Or maybe it is just that it make us antiques feel redundant. But if we are the “beta” generation, there is the realization that today’s kids will take their preordained place in line as well.

Where do all the yesterdays go? Tangled up in a heap in a memory folder. But tomorrows are filed under Hope.

Get back in the groove, Grandma!

THE SECRET GENIUS OF DOGS


JRT
553 With half as many neurons in their cerebral cortex as cats—and half the attitude, dogs are often taken to be the less intelligent domestic partner. while dogs drink out of the toilet, slavishly follow their masters and need a chaperone to relieve themselves, cats hunt self-sufficiently and survey their empire with a regal gaze.
But cats beware. Research in recent years has finally revealed the genius of dogs.

Dogs are language-trained animals and can learn to respond to hundreds of spoken signals, and the names of hundreds of different objects. Of the many dogs who have chosen to live with me, several stand out as more easily trained, but I haven’t a doubt that given more time and patience with the laggards, most of them would have risen to the occasion. Charlie, our Jack Russell Terrier, is a quick study, and though the movie industry has not been knocking on our door to hire him, I am satisfied with the various chores he performs around the house when asked.

Based on the ability of cats to hold a grudge, you might think that they have better memories than dogs. Not so. According to the study by Slyvain Fiset of Canada’s University of Moncton. Still dog owners should not be too smug. In 2010, Krista Macpherson and William Roberts of the University of Western Ontario published a study that tested navigational memory, in which dogs had to search for food in a maze with eight arms radiating out from a central position. Even the rats beat the dogs out in the test. But when food was placed on the opposite side of a fence, and a human was seen rounding the end of the fence, dogs could easily solve the problem.

This is the secret to the genius of dogs: it’s when dogs join forces with us that they become special. Nowhere is this clearer than when dogs are reading our gestures. Every dog owner has helped her dog find a lost ball or treat by pointing in the right direction.No other animal—not even our closets relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees—can interpret our gestures as flexibly as dogs. If habits, such as feeding or walking, are formed at certain times of day, the dog will be eagerly available to partake of them.

So are dogs smarter than cats: Not necessarily. Species are designed by nature to be good at different things.

And what might the genius of cats be? Possibly, that they just can’t be bothered playing our silly games or giving us the satisfaction of discovering the extent of their intelligence.

cat & mouse

HIDDEN MESSAGES IN NURSERY RHYMES


frog_0002

A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go—-”

For centuries children all over the world have been delighted by these charming nonsense ditties.

But these little songs frequently held hidden messages covering a more serious saga of a political person embroiled in the throes of a scandal, or perhaps even a royal personage falling out of favor. More often than not though, they were simply humorous rhyming verse sung as an amusement to children.

The frog parable is the story of a young frog who went courting his lady-love, Miss Mousey, who in one version runs a neighborhood pub. They were married by her uncle Mr. Rat, and left on their honeymoon. Unfortunately, the merriment was interrupted by a prowling cat, who ate the rat, as Miss Mousey wisely hid under a nearby leaf. Poor Froggy quickly left for home, but on the way he was swallowed by a large white duck. (These little tales rarely ended happily.)

The marriage of the frog and the mouse was sung as early as 1714, with fragments being sung repeatedly through the years. It was prevalent during the Old Price Riots in Covent Garden in 1809, due to the rising prices of theater tickets. This was important because the Drury Theater had burned down and Covent Garden was the only theater left. The riots lasted for three months until the manager apologized and brought back the old prices.

Nursery rhymes were often used as rhythmic accompaniment to spinning, and as a family game to improve memory, due to their repetitive wording. They are found throughout the world, and included in “Nursery Songs From the Appalachian Mountains “ in 1906. The Frog story became an especial favorite in the U.S.A. with 40 versions of it found in various folk-lore societies.

A Gaping Wide-Mouthed Waddling Frog” was featured in “The Top Book of All” in 1760, and was a long 12 verse bit of cumulative nonsense reminiscent of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. It was often performed rapidly by singing it all in one breath.

Rhymes, songs and riddles have entertained people through the centuries, and perhaps lightened the sting of an ill-humored subject.

NOTABLE & QUOTABLE


“I have never been in a discussion where people said ‘I only wish we had nore time to talk about the weather/sports/gossip’ But, given the need to find common topics for discussion, these are some of the easiest common denominators to find.”

Quote by Dan Ariely, Wall Street Journal

SHAMANS AND KUSHTAKAS


North Coast Shaman
Happy Tlingit Shaman, sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

chilcat blanket
Chilcat Blanket Tlingit

Shaman and Kushtaka! Both struck terror in the hearts of the Tlingit and Haida people, for both possessed frightening supernatural powers. The shaman, healer and seer, battled the kushtaka (Tlingit for Land Otter Man; in Haida, gageets) for the spirit of a man in danger of drowning or dying of exposure. Stories of kushtaka exploits, though they may no longer evoke the spine-tingling chill of earlier times, still have the power to mesmerize those who hear them.

The Tlingit and Haida universe abounded with spirits. In this world, the boundaries between animal and human realms were blurred. Early people could hear an omen in the hoot of an owl, or a chilling curfew in the croak of a raven. Should you hear the hoot of an owl, be prepared, it may be heralding very bad news if you are of the North Coast people!

The Chilcat blanket is quite an intricate robe, each family handing down the blanket from generation to generation.

The shaman mediated between the spirit world and the human realm. He was a figure of great power in most Native American cultures. Both the Southwest and North Coast people overflow with tales of the supernatural, so if you are feeling low, see your local Shaman! The cure may be worse that the cause, but it’s worth a try.

PEOPLE OF THE SUN


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“People of the Sun” oil painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

What is this painting asking us: Are we blind to Life’s possibilities? Are our lips sealed to prevent the dissemination of heretic thought?

The rising sun is obviously our touchstone, without which we would forever wander in the terrors of darkness.

Now put this in the context of today’s life.

Do we stumble through life without taking every advantage offered us in the way of work, play and love?

Are we quiet in the face of dissention? Do we keep our opinions to ourselves for fear of disagreement?

The sun gives new life, light, warmth and hope.

Possibly the painting is saying “The darkness is over, it is a new dawn, and you can escape fears of the night.

TOTAL NOISE CULTURE


There are people to whom silence is odious. The radio and/or TV must be on or they become uncomfortable. The art of conversation is not lost on them; for to them silence is not golden. If TV should fail them, they talk.

A man friend of ours is devoted to classic jazz, which he cranks up to the decibal of a B-17 bomber. He is also an antique clock collector, and each of his many beautiful clocks chimes the hour, the half-hour, and some even announce the quarter hour.

But we are so overburdened with data, rhetoric and spin that it is difficult to absorb, much less try to make sense of. We are entertaining ourselves to death.

A friend living alone and with a slight hearing loss, was fitted for a hearing aid, thinking it would give her twenty-five year old hearing once more. Not so. She thought it would be a little “pre-old-age” touch to prepare for for the inevitable. Now she is aware of the slightest creaking of her house in the dark of midnight, the rhythmic pulse of the refrigerator, with it’s periodic glassy crash of the ice-maker disturbs her sleep. The rustle of the leaves in her garden sound like a freight train rumbling through the yard. You begin to hear sounds you heard before but weren’t aware you were hearing, and they aren’t always pleasant.

We are failing in our efforts to pin down this increasingly incomprehensible reality. The ubiquitous cell phone ring tones, the lyrics to contemporary pop music, the sounds of today’s everyday life of course skipped our ancestors, and have left us envious of the “quiet life” people speak of.

We can recapture that delicious “aloneness” when hiking in the wilderness, running a well-known trail, or fishing a solitary stream, or walking beside a quiet sea at sunset. During the War, to get a little peace and get away from the pounding of the engines, my husband used to sit at the fantail of his ship and listen to the sound of the screw while watching the phosphorescent wake pealing out behind.

Peace and tranquility are what we sometimes need for our own well-being.

SUFFER THE FOOLS GLADLY


Suffer fools gladly. You read that phrase often about prominent people who don’t suffer fools gladly. It’s often taken as a compliment by them. suggesting that a person is so smart he has trouble tolerating people who are far below his own high standard. It’s used to describe people who have the guts to tell idiots what he really thinks. It sounds OK, but when you actually see people in the act of not suffering fools gladly, it looks rotten.

The philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville argues that “politeness is the first virtue, and the origin perhaps of all the others.”

Surprisingly, the phrase originally came from William Tyndale’s 1534 translation of the Bible. In it, Paul was ripping into the decadent citizens of Corinth for turning away from his own authoritative teaching and falling for a bunch of second-rate false apostles. “For ye suffer fools gladly,” Paul says with withering sarcasm, “seeing ye yourselves are wise.”

Many people handle fools well; members of the clergy and many great teachers. I don’t give myself high marks always, but I would never knowingly put anyone in an uncomfortable position.

G. K. Chesterton had the best advice on suffering fools gladly. He put emphasis on the word gladly. “A man and a woman cannot live together without having against each other a kind of everlasting joke. Each has discovered that the other is a fool, but a great fool. This largeness, this grossness and gorgeousness of folly is the thing which we all find about those with whom we are in intimate contact; and it is the one enduring basis of affection, and even of respect.”

At the end of the day, only kindness matters.

GRANDMA, GOD AND AIMEE, 2.


Aimee slipped unbidden into my dream last night, which brought to mind my grandmother’s fascination with her.

Aimee Semple McPherson was a Los Angeles evangelist and media celebrity from the 20’s and 30’s, the largest among a flurry of religious salesmen, all of whom were selling salvation, a commodity always in demand, and which costs them nothing to supply.

In Aimee’s philosophy, God, being Love, desires only that His children be happy, and they cast money into the collection box with reckless enthusiasm to assure them of that happiness. “Just give a little more” she would cajole, and they did.

Aimee’s call to Love offered an eternal Costa del Sol, liberally supplied with food, drink, sex and sun. Evil had no place in this ethereal paradise.

Grandma was a liberated woman seeking a new source of religious interpretation, and was enchanted with the notion that another woman could supply it. LIfe was not easy for my grandmother at that time; a single divorced woman raising two young daughters, while working and running a rooming house in the middle of the Great Depression.

The spiritual bubble burst for Grandma, a highly moral woman, when Aimee became romantially involved with her secretary, who was also married. This was simply too much for Grandma.

They had donned their swim suits and went for a swim on the Southern California beach, when it was reported that Aimee had been kidnapped. The town went crazy with worry over their favorite God-fearing darling, sending out dozens of people, even dragging the ocean searching for her body, and at least one man drowned in the failed effort. A ransom note was delivered, clarifying the terrible news that she had been kidnapped.

A month later, Aimee came walking in, swearing that she had been kidnapped, tortured, and turned loose in the desert to find her way home alone, though her physical condition belied it.

As the money poured in from grateful followers of her Four Square Church, her Temple filled to capacity but without Grandma. She rightly felt that she had been duped, and that Aimee was merely another false Wizard of Oz, hiding behind a shiny curtain.

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