Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The silence of the sea

Today, I am participating in a challenge, called #writing wednesday. I found the challenge on another blog. There was a list of ten words and the challenge was to use anywhere from four to ten words in the blog post. 

Here are the ten words: walk, darling, sand, taunt, silence, trap, blood, reason, right, brittle

I watch you dance barefooted in the sand
right where the silence meets the lapping sea,
waves rhythmically crashing on rocky land,
as you leap, my darling, you fly free.

Right where the silence meets the lapping sea,
that brittle silence that may soon break.
Waves rhythmically crash on a rock strewn lea,
the hollow noise bends reason into a dull ache.

That brittle silence that may soon break
the trap of brokenness that holds me earthbound.
The hollow noise bends reason into a dull ache,
old taunts filling my ears with meaningless sound.

The trap of brokenness that holds me earthbound
keeps me unable to join your magical dance.
Old taunts fill my ears with meaningless sound
and chill my blood with unwanted remembrance.

Do not keep me unable to join the magical dance,
sad memories; you must release your grip,
Cease chilling my blood with unwanted remembrance
of old shadows with power to crush and to rip.

Sad memories, you must release your grip,
I rise and walk to the water's edge to join the dance, 
Rejecting old shadows with power to crush and to rip.
Letting go of fear, I embrace the sea's vast expanse.

Here is a link to the blog post which presented the challenge: creative writing project with preselected words

Monday, July 24, 2017

The dream dinner

Today, I was having a little difficulty in deciding what I wanted to write about in my blog so I looking on line for a blogging prompt. What I found was a question to answer: "What six people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner?"  That seemed like a great start to a potentially interesting conversation. Who would I like to invite to dinner? Here are my choices:

Pope Francis (born in 1936): His focus is on humility and the poor and on our beautiful earth. He wrote the encyclical, "Laudate Si," about climate change, caring for the environment, and sustainable development. In the encyclical, he said, "The Earth, our home, is beginning to look like an immense pile of filth."

Stephen Hawking (born in 1942): His focus is on understanding the universe from the perspective of a scientist. He has written such books as "A Brief History of Time, Black Holes, and Baby Universes, and other essays." He said, "Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change."

Langston Hughes (1902-1967): American poet, who wrote about the lives of black people and about their beauty. He also wrote novels, plays, short stories, and more. He wrote:
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Isadora Duncan (1877-1927): She created a dance form, called modern dance, focused on free and natural movements. She said, "You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you."

Marian Anderson (1987-1993): She was a contralto, who performed mostly in concerts and recitals. She was famous in both the United States and in Europe. The composer Jean Sibelius wrote music for her and told her that her performances penetrated the Nordic soul. In the United States, Marian Anderson had to deal with racism. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to permit her to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. She gave her concert outside, instead, at the Lincoln Memorial. She said, "When you stop having dreams and ideals, well, you might as well stop altogether."

Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948): He was the leader of the independence movement, to free India from British rule. He employed tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience. He said, "You must be the change that you want to see in the world."

Question for you: Who would you invite to dinner? Please leave your invites in the comments section. I'm hoping to follow up with a future comments and conversation post.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The 52 week photography project: simple background

For week 26 of the 52-week photography project, my goal was to simplify the background so that the subject of the photograph stood out. For this, I took pictures in in rural settings, where I found few distracting elements in the background. Here are a few of the images:

Corn field. Grand Island, New York.

Rural Niagara County, New York.

Corn field in rural Niagara County, New York
Next week: Come back for the next installment of the 52 week photography project.

Questions and comments day

Today is comments and conversation day! A few days ago, I invited people to ask any question of me that they wanted. I got one response, from Sara Beth, with a list of questions:

She asked: Why (When) did you start the Ultimate Blogging Challenge?

The first time that I participated in the Ultimate Blogging Challenge was in October 2014. I joined the challenge out of curiosity. I had no idea of what a blogging challenge could be. Why not try, I thought. So I did. Since then, I haven't missed a challenge, and, in fact, really look forward to the challenge. I've gotten many more readers since I started doing this challenge.

How long have you been blogging?

I started blogging in 2006, so about eleven years.

What's your favorite flower? tree? 

My favorite flower is the portulaca because it's so delicate and colorful and it spreads. 

My favorite tree is the white pine. It grows tall and straight. It has long needles in groups of five and is just a really attractive tree.

Now for conversation from yesterday's post about the secrets of a long life. If you want to check out that blog post, you can find it here: link to The Secrets to a Long and Happy Life

Alana said: They say attitude is everything, and when I think of my husband's aunt, who is 105, I remember a woman who always has had a great zest for life, lots of curiosity, and a love of learning. She never even had to take any medication until she was almost 101. I enjoyed reading about Mrs. Raleigh.

I can well imagine that your husband's aunt has some great stories. She sounds like a great lady with a wonderful attitude and a great love of life. 

Martha deMeo said: Paul sounds like he was an amazing man! My mother-in-law will be 100 in September and her sister lived until 103. Mom's mind is so sharp, still does her own banking plus keeps up with the cleaning, laundry and cooking. We finally talked her into moving into independent living and will be moving her next week. She will now have elevators which stairs have been her only downfall since she has trouble walking. She always says age is just a number.

I agree. Age really is just a number. It's all about attitude and being engaged in life and your mother in law sounds like someone who engages life with real zest.

SaraBeth said: Hi, Alice. What a treasure to have known these great gems in your life. Humor and not worrying about everything is probably the key to long life. Eating well and exercise and just plain enjoying each day and the people around you is another one.
Thanks for sharing these memories, made me smile.

Hi SaraBeth. Yes, I have been very fortunate to have known these gems. They have definitely enriched my life with their delightful personalities and their cheerful outlooks. And your response made me smile. Thank you for visiting!

M. Hickey said: Thank you for sharing . . . I think not taking myself too seriously is key for me :) along with good food, good relationships and exercise. It's interesting how everyone's life is so different and can be such an adventure if you let it!

That reminds me of my painting class. We are all given one type of image to paint. It could be a flower or a seascape or a landscape or a portrait or something else. After we make the paintings, we are amazed by how differently everyone interpreted the theme. There is no two paintings that are alike. So it is with lives, as you pointed out. We all get a number of years to fill up and make a life, and everyone comes up with a different adventure. And, of course, good food, good relationships, and exercise make all lives that much more complete. said: I'm pretty sure most of us would be really satisfied with a happy life. Because life is always too short for it not to be so.

Yes, exactly. For each person, happiness takes on a different meaning, but, yes, happiness is everything.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to visit and to comment and to ask questions. Keep those comments coming! They are much appreciated.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The secret to a long and happy life

I've known people who have lived long, and I think, happy lives. Sometimes I ask them what they do to live so well and for so long. They just smile because, well, it's a grand secret. When I attended the State University of New York at Brockport a number of years ago, I rented a room from a lady in her early 90s named Mrs. Raleigh. She was quite the storyteller. She told me that she was educated at the normal school (which later became the university) and that her major was home economics. 

She told me that her husband was descended from Sir Walter Raleigh, who was a poet, soldier, gentleman, and, apparently, an (arrrrr) pirrrrrate. He stole land from the Irish (hmmm, we can add "thief" to his list of careers). He married one of Queen Elizabeth I's ladies in waiting without permission (Elizabeth Throckmorton), causing the two of them to be unceremoniously placed in the Tower of London. He was later thrown into the Tower of London by King James I and charged with treason. He managed to get out of all of that, and he was able to continue his adventures. His goal was to find El Dorado in South America. His enthusiasm for finding a mythical city made entirely of gold caused loads of trouble for everyone. He never did find El Dorado. He had many adventures, but his life cannot be described as "long and happy,"as he was given a one-way ticket to the Tower of London to be beheaded. His last words were "strike, man, strike." He was 65 years old.

Mrs. Raleigh, on the other hand, lived a long and happy, although less adventurous, life. After her husband died, she rented rooms in her home to students. She had a cat that occasionally got out of the house. The cat was her baby. Once I found the cat and brought it back inside, much to Mrs. Raleigh's great glee. Mrs. Raleigh had a wicked sense of humor. One time, someone called for me on the phone. I wasn't in. She said, "Alice doesn't live here anymore." When I came home, she giggled as she told me what she had said. I never knew who called me. Apparently, she didn't ask.

Mrs. Raleigh did home canning and she cooked her meals every day. I learned a lot about cooking from her. She loved all food and said that she had a "stomach made of cast iron." She had a helper named Delbert, who was very devoted to her. She described him as a "boy," even though he was at least 70 years old. She had a daughter named Lucille, whose husband did all of the cooking. She said that Lucille never learned how to cook so it was a good thing that her husband could cook. Sometimes Mrs. Raleigh went out with her daughter and son in law. Mrs. Raleigh seemed to enjoy all that each day offered. 

Today, I went to a memorial service for a man named Paul Adams. He, too, lived a long and happy life. He attended Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church for the past ten or so years, ever since his wife, Mae, passed away. Paul was 99 years old when he passed away. 

Paul Adams was born in 1918. His father, who was born in 1857, was 61 years old when Paul was born. When Paul was about seven years old, his mom passed away. Paul was a teenager when his dad passed away. During World War II, Paul served in the U.S. Army as a chief clerk in a medical records unit. His unit arrived on the shore of Normandy on June 11th, 1945 or D-Day+5.

Paul's son, also named Paul, spoke about his dad at the memorial service. He said that his dad always maintained meticulous records, a habit that he probably developed in the military. When his father was taken to the hospital, Paul recalled, he was asked for a list of dad's medications and for a medical history. Paul looked inside his dad's wallet and found a list of medications on a folded-up sheet of paper. On the other side of the paper was listed "appendix" and "gall stones," with years listed (the medical history). 

"My dad lived a long life with few medical issues," Paul said. The family was planning a special birthday party for him next March, when he would have turned 100.

Paul Adams went bowling regularly, until he was about 94 years old. He sang with a chorale group, and he volunteered with Meals on Wheels. He was described as having a great sense of humor and, whenever I saw him, he always seemed very happy and fully enjoying life.

Father Earle King said, "When I grow up, I want to be just like Paul." He described Paul Adams as "gracious and kind, a loving, wonderful gentleman."

So what can I say about living a long and happy life? It's probably still a grand secret. If I were to guess, maybe a sense of humor is key to it. That and a good diet and exercise. Both Mrs. Raleigh and Paul Adams appeared to be happy with the lives that they had. They shared that happiness with everyone around them, sort of like spreading seeds of happiness. When I grow up, I want to be just like Mrs. Raleigh... or Paul... or both??

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Adventures of Flanders the Sea Gnome (part two)

Yesterday, I posted the first half of the story about Flanders, a gnome who went on a fishing expedition alone and who got lost at sea.

Here is a link to part one: link to part one of the (mis)adventures of Flanders the Sea Gnome

Yesterday, the story ended with:
We are nearing an island. I see a group of people. Not gnomes. Not large enough to be storytelling giants. Not the famous seafaring bears. But humans. I think. They are doing a circle dance. A leader guides them. A wave of fear suddenly attacks me. Who are these people? There seems to be something very sinister about them. I must avoid them.

And now... part two of the (mis)Adventures of Flanders the Sea Gnome.

The sea monster gently deposits me on shore. I find myself lying on white sand. I am surrounded by seashells, too many to gather, although I collect a few to bring back to decorate my home garden. There are horse conch, king crown conch, sharp rib drill, junonia, kitten's paw, shark's eye moon shell, colorful moon, and so much more. Just then, I hear footsteps. I see that the people around the campfire are coming toward me, marching in lockstep, as if they were just a group of zombies.
They get close to me and I see that their eyes are unfocused. They move in the same way all of the time, as if they were controlled by some outside force. A wave of terror grows inside of me. I pick up my bag of shells and I run, as fast as a sea gnome could possibly run. Fortunately, because the zombies' eyes are unfocused, they probably never saw me sitting there and they most likely didn't see me running. I race into a cave and run head first into a band of pirates. They are singing "What do you do with a drunken sailor" and are drinking grog and eating massive quantities of shellfish.

"Arrrr! Have something to eat," says the captain of the pirates.

I look at the pirates and recognize them as the pirates who, in one of my previous journeys, commandeered my boat, forced me to get on the pirate ship, and tried made me walk the plank and fall into the shark-infested sea. I don't do anything at all. I feel more fear than I have ever felt, even when Gordon the Garden Gnome and when Little Gordon accompanied me on the journey and Little Gordon got so sea sick that he leaned too far out of the boat and fell into the water.

"We are your friends. Those creatures out there... we have to fight together. Will you join us?" asks the pirate captain.

"Arrr,"I say and join the pirates in song and food. I had forgotten how hungry I was for food and companionship.

I have cast my lot with my former nemeses, the pirates.

I wake up in the cave. My head hurts and the pirates are gone. All that's left of them is a bunch of broken seashells. I don't know when they left. It was a night of drunkenness and pirate songs. It was dark in the cave, and I continued to feel fear. As I step out of the cave, I could see the Zombies running and crying. They do not sound the same. Something had changed in them. I walk past the wailing zombies and find the corpse of the Chief Zombie. A pirate's sword pinned the Chief Zombie to the ground. I turn away from the gruesome sight, my fear growing. The pirates had been my enemies in the past and our brief friendship had come to a drunken halt. Why did I drink so much of that grog? I fall and crawl on the shore, watching and waiting.

I need to go back to sea. The horror of seeing the Zombie Chief, impaled on a pirate sword, is more than I could bear. I have to leave this island of horror forever. I manage to get to my feet and I stagger along the beach, still feeling the effects of the massive amounts of grog that I imbibed. I could barely see, and I trip over something that I can't identify. The sun shines brightly in my eyes. I fall forward and don't try to catch myself. I know that I was going and there is nothing that I could do to prevent me from falling on... I scream. 

My voice stretches out, high and shrill and full of terror and shock. I land on top of the Pirate captain, pinned to the ground by a sword. The pirate captain stares at me with a blank, dead gaze and an evil grin, that will never change. Why is the pirate captain dead? The world spins faster and faster. I could still hear my scream but I am unaware that I am screaming. I open my eyes and everything fades to black... As I continue to crawl on the beach, the thought comes to me that this island is under a terrible curse. I feel a sense of great foreboding. My own doom could come with the next wave... that crashed in with the tide.

Although the island is full of tropical fruit and beautiful lagoons, it is also doomed. Sort of like the Bermuda Triangle. Or a black hole. You come in but you never... I hear sounds and I hide, trembling and gasping for air... I eat tropical fruits that I can’t identify. They are delicate and sweet and juicy. I am still full of terror, however. I watch the water, warily. Where is the sea monster? Everything that I hold dear is gone. My boat, my fishing line, my nets, my superhero cape... I have to catch fish with my bare hands... My family is far away. I hope that they would get the message that I had tucked into a bottle before the storm struck.

A crowd of crazed Zombies and marooned pirates came toward me, their eyes full of blood lust. They want me dead as revenge for the gruesome deaths of their leaders. They had gotten some poor residents of the island to scream for my blood, too. I am sure that I would never see my homeland again. I believe that my fate is sealed. A zombie leans over me, and I could smell his foul breath. On his shoulder is a large bird of prey. The zombie said something that I couldn't hear and the bird of prey sinks his talons into my body. I scream. I know that I would either die a fetid death or I would become a zombie. But, since the Zombie leader is dead, there is no one to zombie-ify me. Just then, a large hawk swoops down and fights the zombie leader and the frightening bird of prey. The large hawk lifts me up and carries me to the sea monster, gently depositing me on his back. I am sore but thankful for the hawk that has saved my life. I would have a vivid memory of those talons for a long time afterward.

I lie on top of the sea monster and realize that I am holding a piece of cloth in my hands. How did that get there? Then I realized that the hawk had given it to me. It is tattered, wet, and covered with seaweed, but it is my superhero cape. I look in the sky for the hawk because the hawk deserved the cape far more than I did. But the hawk had flown away and was soaring high above me and the sea that I love so much. I look in the port direction and in the starboard direction and I know that the sea monster is taking me home. I  look forward to some quiet time in the garden.

I sit on top of the sea monster, heading back to the garden that I love and the family that I adore. I believe that it would be easy sailing when, all of a sudden, we are stuck in a whirlpool, from which we could not escape. We sit on the water, immobile. It is like a black hole, sucking us in and not letting us out. I try to stay as calm as the sea monster, but I fail. I had survived all sorts of dangers from nemeses and, still, I fear. What am I afraid of? I don't really know. It is the unknown that causes me the most terror.

The sea monster lunges forward, and I fall off, into the churning waters. I swim frantically, even though I am sinking in the watery black hole of doom. I fight against the darkness. My gnomish arms feel like lead weights but I push forward... and am out of the whirlpool. And I hear that song again, the song sung in the pentatonic key. Exhausted, I continue to swim, closer to the sound. I am aiming toward the sound. It is all I have. The sea monster is gone. My superhero cape, or what was left of it, fell into the watery black hole of doom. I am prepared to give up, to not fight anymore. I turn my head and I notice a mermaid. A group of mermaids lift me up and carry me through the rough seas. Everything that I ever had was gone, but I still have my magical jacket. I feel a sense of peace. The mermaids set me down gently on the shores of an island. I struggled to my feet and saw... a garden, full of gnomes. My family. My eyes bulged I can hardly believe what I am seeing.

"How is it that they are all here?" I ask a mermaid.

"When you were away, the pirates laid waste to everything in your home. The sea monster and a few mermaids were able to rescue Gnome City before the Zombies arrived to absorb everyone into Zombie hood. We are sorry, Flanders. Your homeland is gone. You will never go back there. But your gnomes are here. Please consider our land to be your land. We make our home in the lagoon."

I had been longing for my homeland for so long, even though I had terrible wanderlust.

It wasn't the place that I wanted; it was the gnomes in the place.

There is no place like gnome.

(the end!!!)

The Adventures of Flanders the Sea Gnome (part one)

This is the story of a gnome at sea. A garden gnome turned into a sea gnome. It is the story of survival in the face of insurmountable odds. Here is part one of Flander's tale.

Dangerous waters

Getting in my boat. I've got a bucket for fish and I'm protected against poachers and other such evil characters. I'm set to go fishing. Heading toward the ocean now and thinking that's where I will find the best fish. I sit in the boat and wait. Hoping that something will come up. I used to have a superhero cape. It fell in the choppy waters in an earlier fishing trip, when I was fighting with that big fish, the one that wouldn’t give in without a battle.

And so I wait. Asking the deities in my little world to show me some kindness. So tired. Think I'll get ready to go to sleep. I have to wait quietly in this boat anyway. I don't want to scare off the fish. Can't relax too much, though. It's night but dangers still await, even though I am well protected from murderers. Sleep with one eye open and wrap myself in this blanket, covering up my protective jacket that will keep me safe from those who kill at night. The wind screams all night. A storm. I fear what could happen. Nevertheless, I fall into a deep sleep.

I wake up and sees that I am far from shore. I put out my fishing line again, ready to catch something. Maybe a little fish, maybe a big fish. The smell of the sea air keeps me calm and focused. I know that I have a big task ahead.  So I wait, in the boat, thinking about Santiago and his epic struggle with the marlin. I had never met Santiago but the story was legendary. The marlin was a great fish that Santiago caught but he was unable to reel it in because it was so enormous. The struggle continued for two days. Santiago was an old man but he couldn't leave the sea because the sea was his world and his life. Even though he was trying to catch the marlin, Santiago loved it and called it his brother. He was determined not to kill the fish but to give it back its life because it was so strong and resilient.

I didn't catch any fish. I'm headed to shore. Whatever shore I can find. I am far from home and don't know how to get there. I am truly lost at sea.

I land on the shore of an island that I don’t know. I have no idea of where I am, as my compass fell out of my boat during the wind storm. I have been blown far off course. I go into a cave to wait for what I believe will be yet another storm. The sea is full of white caps and high waves. The cave is chilly, echoey, and empty. I paint the walls, just like they did in prehistoric times.  To make my paintings look prehistoric, like the Pettakeri Cave Sulawesi, Indonesia; Coliboaia Cave, Romania; and Chauvet Cave, France. I could paint animals and my own hands. These seem to be the most authentic in appearance. A cave wall covered by images of mice and human hands. I know, they didn't paint mice. But some of those prehistoric animals are extinct. I'll go for mice, squirrels, and cats.

A few days later, the sea is no longer churning. I've checked the boat, and it is clean and seaworthy. In a few hours, I'm going fishing again. Let's hope that I catch something tonight.

Once I leave the cave, I find myself in a lagoon. The water is so clear and so blue that it appears to be turquoise. I look over the boat in the water and I can see the coral on the bottom of the lagoon. I think that I must be in some special, magical place. I know that coral reefs are endangered. But this coral reef is strong and healthy. The coral is a vivid shade of pink and it is surrounded by fish: queen angelfish, saddleback butterfly fish, copperband butterflyfish, longnosed hawkfish, and clown triggerfish. They are beautiful but they are not fish to eat. I go to the shore and find pineapples, coconuts, mangoes, star fruits, papaya, and avocadoes. I eat my fill of these scrumptious fruits and then hop in the boat and push off.

I am back in the sea, in a boat that seems to be too small. The waves rock me to sleep, however. Sleep that I desperately need and want. I wake up and see a sea monster and I am startled. He tells me not to fear, that I will always be safe and protected. I reach under my blanket and my protective vest isn't there. The sea monster says that he is my protective vest. He is the protection that I have always sought and the warmth that I have always needed. He leads me to a calm place so that I can catch fish.

I know that the sea gives and the sea can also take. I've experienced enough storms and wrecked ships to know how demanding the sea can be. Yet the sea gnome will always remain a sea gnome. The allure of the sea is too great. The water stretching on and on forever until it touches the sky is my world. It is where I feel most alive. I will always be a fishergnome. What else could I do? I leave the lagoon a little sadly. It was a place of joyful respite, but I must move on.

Life as a fishergnome is often quiet. The sea is calm, although the sky is cloudy. The sunrise this morning was vivid with reds, oranges, and a bit of gray. I know that means that a storm could come. Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning. I watch, I listen, and I wait. My fishing line is in the water. It, too, waits. The wind picks up... I see a cormorant diving below and emerging with a fish. I hear the birds scream. I wonder and I wait but I feel an edginess. Danger could be lurking. The surface is too calm. Just then, I manage to pull ashore an island. I've arrived safely on land and am looking for food and a safe place to stay. I see vultures circling overhead. There were rattle snakes and other menacing creatures. Land doesn't feel as safe as the open waters for Flanders the Sea Gnome.

I get back into my boat and return to sea but danger lurks for me there, too. I have fallen into the water. I try swimming, but I just flail. I can feel myself sinking. My end is in sight. My story could be over. I hope that I exist in someone's memory. The memory of a sea gnome who just wanted to explore the world. A tiny spot in a little garden was never enough for her. She needed to experience everything that life could offer and where else but the sea? Just as the water closed over my head, I found myself lifted up. I could scarcely believe it. Am I alive or am I dead? And then I saw that the sea monster was carrying me...

I have now lost my fishing line, my superhero cape, and my boat. I am truly lost at sea. Without a boat, I have no sense of direction. I don't know starboard from port. The sun shines in my eyes. I close them. I have to trust in the sea monster. I have no where else to turn. If it weren't for the sea monster, all hope would have fled.

I fight against the sea, raging around me. If it weren't for the sea monster holding me up, I would have been caught in the vortex and would have gone under. My beloved sea has become my nemesis. I fight hard, summoning whatever strength is left within me. But it slowly drains out of me. I remembered the red sky that I saw early this morning, and I understand why the red sky is a sailor's warning. I rest on top of the sea monster's strong body. He is my rock and my strength. I have to trust that he will not abandon me.

The waters are getting choppy again. The sky turns an angry shade of gray. A storm sky. That's how it is usually described. Waves roll over the sea monster and me, riding on top of him. cling to him, terrified of what could happen. Would I fall off of his slippery body? Could I hang on? My faith in his ability to keep me safe has dwindled away, almost to nothing. I was painfully aware that I was a solitary sea gnome, adrift in an churning, violent sea. I gulped for air and...

I had gone inward, to a place where no sea gnome should go. It was a place of fear and sorrow. Where was my hope? From where would it come? I thought that I sensed gentle music in the distance. I strain to listen, although the storm grows and the rain falls harder than ever. The sea monster has become very slippery. I struggle not to fall into the foamy waters. I hear the music again. It sounds like an alto flute. The song that it plays, written in the pentatonic scale, has becoming more audible. I feel an overwhelming sense of sorrow from this quiet melody in a melancholy minor key. Despite the hypnotic effect of the music, I have to maintain my focus. I have to stay on top of the sea monster, my friend and my protector in an ocean that has suddenly become hostile.

Soothed by the music, I asked myself why I had traveled to sea, where life is beautiful but hazardous. Had I made the wrong decision? I had once lived in a beautiful garden, full of color and sunlight. Why had I abandoned my garden? And, like a flash, it came to me. I could never be satisfied always being in one place, seeing the same things every day, doing the same things every day. My story needed to expand, and my world needed to grow. My wanderlust had become so great that I had to let it take me on a journey, to see the edges of the earth. If I ever made back to my garden and my former world, I had stories to tell and songs to share. I knew, as I fought to stay on the sea monster's back, that adventure and exploration were more valuable than safety and routine. I look up and see sunlight...

The sky is clear again. I rode out the storm and I am still safely and comfortably on top of the sea monster, my protector. I know that I have not yet reached safety. I sense that safety is far from me. Even though I am no longer in danger of drowning. I still sense danger. I remember my garden and my family of gnomes. I am feeling nostalgic for my old home. Never did I intend to leave home forever. But it looks as though that may be what happens. My brother and sister gnomes, my husband gnome, and my baby gnome. Such a sweet little gnome. It will always be a baby gnome. It is just cute and little. Well, at least for me, the baby gnome will never be anything but cute and little. I am so far from home that I doubt that I will ever return. I reach into my little waterproof bag of goodies and get out a writing utensil, a piece of paper, and an empty bottle. I begin to write.

"To my dearest gnomish family. I miss your gnomey ways and your gnomey smiles. I miss the way that you caught the raindrops and the way that your eyes gleam in the sunshine. I miss our gnomely songs and dances. I hope that we will be reunited one day but, if I never come home, please know that I love you with all of my gnomish heart. I would send you the songs of the sea if I could put them in a bottle, but they are too big to fit in a little bottle. I would send you the smell of the salt air but it won't be contained by a bottle. All I can send you is my love. I love you to the moon and beyond. I love you past the stars and the galaxies that I watch on a clear night here on the rolling, dancing sea. I love all of my gnomes for ever and ever." I put the note in the bottle, seal it, and throw it out to sea.

I still have hope in my heart; I believe that I will find my way back home after all, to my family. To my husband who is so happy in the garden and to the baby who isn't really a baby, except in his mother's eyes. The storm has passed and I never fell off of the sea monster. Why was I not able to trust? Why did I fear? I must stay strong and know that courage means doing the very things that I fear the most. We are nearing an island. I see a group of people. Not gnomes. Not large enough to be storytelling giants. Not the famous seafaring bears. But humans. I think. They are doing a circle dance. A leader guides them. A wave of fear suddenly attacks me. Who are these people? There seems to be something very sinister about them. I must avoid them.

(to be continued)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Building your online cookbook

Today, a fun suggestion for a blog post came from Paul Taubman. It was to make a list of five top blogs or websites to share. Since I have been doing a lot of cooking with those delicious fresh ingredients that I find at farmers markets and from the Becker Farms CSA, I have spent a lot of time online, looking for interesting recipes. Here are five websites, dedicated to making the internet a better cookbook.

Here they are (in no particular order):

Taste of Home. This is the website that goes with the magazine, "Taste of Home." The monthly magazine is always full of lovely recipes, and this website is, as well. The website offers recipes, contests, suggestions for dinner parties, and much more. Recipes that I've found here have included vegetarian split pea soup, cold strawberry soup, and meatless lentil soup. Here is a link to the website: link to the Taste of Home home page

I Love Vegan. If you are interested in exploring a vegan diet, this is a great website. It includes recipes and information about all things vegan. One recipe that I've used from this website was teriyaki peanut tofu stir fry with brown rice and vegetables. Here is a link to the website: the I Love Vegan home page

All Recipes offers a variety of great recipes, including that delicious bean soup with kale that I found last Friday. There are recipes in every category. It has a few too many popup ads, however. That aspect could definitely be toned down. Once you get to a specific recipe, the popups aren't such a problem. Here is the link to the website: All Recipes home page

Katie's Cucina is Katie Jasiewicz's food-oriented blog. She is a home cook, food blogger, and recipe developer. I found a wonderful recipe for blueberry quick bread at this website. I brought the bread to coffee hour at church yesterday, and most of it was finished! Here is the link to the website: katie's cucina home page

Recipe Land offers a different way for you to look for recipes. You type in a box an ingredient that you want to use.
You are then led to another page, with a list of recipes that include that ingredient. You also can go to another box and type in ingredients that you wish to exclude from your recipe search. So, for example, I typed in "kale." With no exclusions, I got 122 ingredients. I then asked for "cilantro" to be excluded. Then I got 119 ingredients to be excluded. I then excluded "bacon." That took it down to 114 recipes. You can continue, as long as you like, to exclude ingredients as a way of refining your search for the right recipe. Here is a link to that website: link to recipe land search for that ideal dish

Today's question: What are some of your favorite cooking websites? What recipes would you recommend?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Roadside gardens and AMA Day

It's AMA Day!  And it's also Roadside Garden Day! I bet you're wondering... what's an AMA Day? Well, I'll tell you...

It's "Ask Me Anything" Day!

In the comments section below, ask me any question that you like, and, later this week, I will answer the questions. I may also use some of the ideas from questions for upcoming blog posts, so... stay tuned.

Now, I bet that you're also wondering... what is a Roadside Garden Day and who make that declaration? Did someone declare Saturday, July 15th, to be "Roadside Garden Day"?
Come to think of it, was it necessary to declare "Ask Me Anything day?" I did this little quiz thingie on Facebook recently. It was an easy quiz. I just needed to say my birthday and I found out what celebration occurred on that day. My birthday is also known as National Chocolate Milk Day (yummy).

Since we can celebrate chocolate milk with its own special day, why not have a Roadside Garden Day? I couldn't wait around for Congress to act so I declared it myself. It's Roadside Garden Day!  I didn't, however, declare "Ask Me Anything Day." That honor goes to Paul Taubman, who, with Danni Ackerman, runs the Ultimate Blogging Challenge that I enjoy so much four months in the year.

I got the idea to declare today to be Roadside Garden Day because I went to a garden walk last week that celebrated gardens and cultivating the soil for aesthetic effects. As I was walking today, I stopped to take pictures of the wild flowers. I realized that many of them would be considered to be weeds if they were growing in someone's garden. I would be called upon to eradicate them. And eradicate I would do with great gusto. In the setting of a roadside ditch or along a creek, the native wild flowers are not weeds; they are necessary to the ecosystem. They attract pollinators, which we need for the apple and pear trees. 

So... why not celebrate Roadside Garden Day?

Please park your ask me anything questions below in the comments section below!!!

Documenting my day

Today is day fourteen of the Ultimate Blogging Challenge. I decided that I would document the events of my day and share them in my blog post.

The decision to document the events of the day came this morning. I was thinking, hmmm, what should I write about in my blog, and I decided, on the spur of the moment, to just document my day with photography and share the story. It was supposed to be a pleasant, easy-going day but sometimes life gets in the way of plans.

For breakfast, I made oatmeal in goat milk, with a little ground flaxseed, some raisins, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of maple syrup. For a beverage, I had the rest of my smoothie, which I had made with strawberries, raspberries, melon, apple cider, and plain Greek yogurt. The goat milk really does make the oatmeal creamier. 

Woods Creek
After breakfast, I was set for my adventure. Even a shopping trip is an adventure when your main source of transportation is called "left" and "right."
Surveyor near the post office
It was a warm and somewhat humid day. I noticed the trees and the flowers and I watched the road because I always watch the road. I just hope that the drivers are watching for pedestrians.
Mural at the Grand Island Town Plaza
that I helped to paint in 2012.
At Woods Creek, I walked down the the creek to get some photographs. The water seemed very cloudy, maybe because of the large quantities of rain that have fallen lately.

Town Hall garden

I then continued walking until I got to Town Hall, where I decided to pay a surprise visit to Town Supervisor Nate McMurray.
Nate McMurray and family
Before long, Nate's family also decided to visit him. They are delightful. Nate's son told me that he is part of a swim team for the summer and that his favorite stroke is the butterfly. 

At Soma Cura (yoga
studio and juice bar)

I thought that I would have fun using
the silhouette setting on my camera.
After a little while, I needed to leave town hall to go shopping. I was unaware that I had set my purse on the floor after removing it from my wheelie cart, and I left without it. I walked over to the supermarket and found everything that I needed. When I went to pay for my purchases, I discovered that my purse was missing! Uh oh! How could that happen? It was not a good moment. I asked at customer service but no one had turned in a purse. I then decided to retrace my steps back to Town Hall. I tried to figure out if it had been possible for my purse to have been stolen from my wheelie cart but came to the conclusion that the thief would have had to have been extremely fast and efficient because I was never separated from that cart.

Was this a long shot? What could have happened to my... and there it was, sitting on the floor where I left it. Nate gave me a ride back to the store, where I redid my shopping trip. It took me less time, since I knew where everything was. I guess that the first time was just for practice. In the dairy aisle, I saw a friend. She told me that her daughter's friend passed away. He was twenty years old. The opioid epidemic claimed another young life. We wondered at how many more would be lost to this terrible epidemic. How could it be ended?

The vegetables are chopped and ready
for the soup.
At home, I continued to wonder about it as I cooked my dinner. I have the Naloxone (Narcan) kit on the table. It is called the "overdose rescue kit."
Bean soup with kale
The kits were distributed during the training that I took at the Grand Island Memorial Library a few months ago. The hope is that, with more people being trained, there is more potential to save lives. 

Tilapia and fresh corn from the
Grand Island Farmers Market.
And so, I write this post at the end of a day that had its ups and its downs. It's had moments of beauty and its moments of heartbreak. It was a day that reminded me that life is a beautiful gift but so fragile. 

Thank you for reading my story today. If you have the opportunity to be trained to administer Narcan, please do so. You could save a life.

The silence of the sea

Today, I am participating in a challenge, called #writing wednesday. I found the challenge on another blog. There was a list of ten words an...