The Cruelty of a look Askance

With December on the doorstep the fields are yet bare of snow.  Autumn brings lists and indoor work such to keep my mind from straying from grudges about the weather and season.  Truth is, summer is always more of a gift than ever I could ask for.  The buckets of flower and beans seeds saved from the final dehiscence of blooms and fruits are proof of trust and hope.  Hope being a kind of prayer, we prayerfully tuck them away for the season of dark and cold.

Thoughts and ponderings take root during these dark quiet evenings and it occurs to me (once again) that the sermon on the mount is clear – we were never (none of us) saved merely for our own sake.  All parts of our lives, whether verbal or non, active or passive, must radiate the love of Christ.  If they don’t – if we give the impression of dislike or disapproval, we are a Pharisee.  I’m not sure that I even mean that “we behave like one”.  I think we become one.  “Holier than thou, watch me I am the non-sinner and holy, you aren’t measuring up to my level of spirituality”.  Only Christ has the right to look down on anyone.  We don’t know if He looked down on the Pharisees or not, but he was not passive aggressive.  He called out the Pharisees for being Whited Sepulchers.  Whitewashed tombs.  They loved their power and position, and every “sermon” they preached or rule they made or interpreted, was to keep that status.

He corrected the more lowly of sinners, but he never even once seemed to act with disgust or disapproval toward them.  If we want to emulate Him, we must stop our disapproval tours, and begin loving those around us no matter how they’re dressed, or what they live like.

The person who seemed to be the convergence of the two (Pharisee yet humble sinner) was Nicodemus.  He came with an honest question, willing to listen and learn.  Jesus seemed to say “you should know this”, but then he told him outright – “you must be born again’, and helped him see what that meant.  We don’t hear much about Nicodemus until the end when he helped bury Jesus.  That is evidence to me that Nicodemus heard and obeyed.
When I have someone looking at me like I am so naughty (or that my children are?) it simply doesn’t create a desire in me to be more….be more what?  They haven’t said.
It causes me to feel unloved and unwanted.  Not even enough care goes into “looks”, to say what I should change.  It is merely a mean look.   Don’t get me wrong, I have known folks who have brought me their weekly list of my “wrongs” and I don’t like that either.  I actually *am* within my biblical structure of authority and it is important to me to stay there (and you will find this in 1 Col 11. don’t add to it please).  I don’t think I need to have a weekly list of character improvements by arbitrary people to move me onto a better path.  That’s not to say I’m so good I don’t need work, I just listen better to love and acceptance.  Like most people.
Get out of the way of the Holy Spirit and let Him do His job.  Even this simplistic diatribe can help us see (myself included) that to love one another, is simply that.  It isn’t “we love them so much we want to help them see they aren’t as good as us”.

“And they tossed scripture to pious spirits and feeble minds; two things I could never distinguish by dialect or dress” (Raymond St.Elmo)

As the days shorten, so shall my energy.  It is then more important to budget this energy well.  Choral programs, A daughter’s wedding, a few more “parties” here bring joy, meaning, and love to our home.  Never give in to the temptation to shrivel within yourself.  It will only bring grief.  Next time I may re-attempt mirth.  It seems more fitting.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

The Polite Elephant

Many people around this area know about the Polite Elephant.  They certainly know what he would, and wouldn’t do.  He is so polite and correct that you can count on him to help you know how to be likeable.  Being likeable isn’t the goal of polite behavior, but it certainly helps us all to be more likeable if we aren’t showing chewed food to others and burping, putting ourselves first and not looking folks in the eye to greet them.  (Etc….!)  So – I realized something this past Sunday.  There is an ABRIDGED VERSION of the Polite Elephant.  I have never been totally in favor of abridged versions in literature, and while you may argue that it could hardly matter in this case, I beg to differ.  And here’s why: In the original version, the Polite Elephant has a dinner scene where he asks politely for things to be passed, and says thank you, and (if you read between the lines and I always do) chews quietly with his mouth closed.  The abridged version has no such dinner scene.  It skips directly to picking up a toy for a mother of a small child because of course the Polite Elephant tries to be helpful everywhere he goes.  Vital information here folks.  Check before you pick up a copy at the thrift store.  Hint: the board book has fewer lessons in it, though it *will* hold up to a teething baby for awhile.

Summer when I was growing up, was an endless series of peaceful yet busy days.  I guess they still are, only my definition of peaceful has certainly changed over the years.  Back then, I left the house early with my sister for swimming lessons (rain, shine or storm) and returned to change and recharge with food.  Then we would go play in the woods and/or ride our bikes somewhere.  After that we went swimming for the most afternoons.  Our daily ice cream cone habit was paid for by spare change we found along the way, but since most of “on the way” was through a cemetery, change was mostly found in parking lots or the bike lots, or the coin return of the pay telephone.  There was much more to fill those days but the Polite Elephant would never bore you with long selfish naratives of his life.

These days, there are weeds to keep back, company to get ready for and cook for, and the ubiquitous laundry in the basement (that isn’t quite the “Mount Washmore” I used to face when more children lived here, but still).  Right now I have the very peaceful task of watching a sleeping tiny grandson.  He is too little to go anywhere, but I sit here to make sure he doesn’t.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

“What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?” (George Eliot)

A Midsummer night’s ramble

As we get closer to mid-summer (or the beginning of summer, depends upon how you view June 21), the days lengthen into something extremely tolerable.  The latitude is about 44° (North) where I live so where I grew up was even better (45 °) in the summer…..darker in winter.  But not enough difference to make growing things any different.  Even the soil is similar – A lot of clay below the topsoil in the non garden areas (so if you dig a new garden, you will need to add good black dirt and compost).  Campfires go late into the evening with not too many bugs yet.  It is a charmed time of the year right now.

Around the summer solstice, it becomes almost easy to be tranquil, kind and peaceful.  There is hospitality in having folks come over, even when things aren’t perfect, so do not fail to meet together. Of course things must be comfortable for the guest, and disorder and clutter are rarely comfortable.

Jonathan is working hard in the beeyard these days, after his day job.  We help when he needs help.  Simple trigonometry problems go up on the whiteboard almost each week so the children can keep their brains exercised in practical word problems (like figuring the height of something too tall to measure, using shadow lengths, or a simple formula for an easy-ish combinatorial) through the summer, and book reports continue at a much slower, lazier pace.  Such is the homeschool family, that we find learning in all things.

I cannot part with my large pot of rosemary this summer so I sincerely hope it enjoys being in the house getting daily personalized attention.  As I get older, I become more and more attached to this particular smell.  I love the lavender too, but it would be deprivation to make it stay in here all summer long.  I’m late getting the front porch cleaned (lots of spiders around here), and the outdoor bench and wooden boxes I use as end tables need their coat of beeswax polish again.  I will need to deal with it before the 4th of July, when our intimate little group of relatives and whatever friends might want to come (and this entirely up to the potential guest, who would be, in most cases, quite welcome. One simply has to ask), will have a bbq on the porch and drink water and talk all afternoon until supper and then fireworks at Clear Lake in the nearby town.  Possibly a few games of spikeball, volleyball, practice throwing a few discs (so I can maybe become not *so* awful at disc golf), etc …

I would like to think that life always flows with midsummer ease.  I know that isn’t so, but my illusion at this time persists.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

“The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover any time to him
is aristocracy.” (Emily Dickinson)

Spring Things

I was recently reflecting on how spring seems to be passing me by this year.  I heard someone say that we’ve had no spring, but indeed we have.  It is on the calendar and in the heavens.  But they are right in that it has been too cold and rainy to do the spring things we usually try to do about now.  So I guess that is where my thoughts and reality come to convergence (and I love when that happens): If I don’t hurry and do the spring things outside that need doing, while it isn’t raining, they won’t get done and summer will come crashing in on me.

If you happen to recall my last spring’s thunderous disinterest about my gardens, that last paragraph may sound ambitious.   But each spring brings a different thing to us.  There is still time to get a jump on summer and if you need help, call me.  I’m willing but ignorant.   And just so we’re clear, what you’ll get is an immediate appointment for my physical labor in your garden, that brings no expertise, just experience and a fresh eye.

My children could vouch that a recurring motto with me is “Learn by others’ mistakes.  You don’t have time to learn all you need to by making your own”.  My concern here is that we all make mistakes – and hopefully learn from them.  But if we rely on making a mistake in order to learn a hard thing – we’ll be fresh out of years before we learn some really valuable things in time to use them.  So while I never advocate being nosy and watching for dirt, one can be wise and realize things going on and quietly learn.   When they were very young it worked like this:  one child gets in trouble for something, the rest see that go down and decide to not do it themselves.   Life’s simple little lessons continue all our lives that way.

Last night we were helping Jonathan (the current main beekeeper here), install a whole bunch of bees into two different yards.  He’s trying Russian bees this year.   Now some people say that type is more aggressive, but we were thinking that after bouncing in a horse trailer for 900+ miles in the rain, anybody would be temporarily aggressive.  So we all received bee stings, and I personally am resisting the urge to say : “Здасвуйте мой товарищ!”

Tonight’s dinner will be salad, and some burgers that I found done up in the freezer.  I think I’ll try them on the grill.  With me, that is always a risky endeavor, but Mark cleaned it, so I should not need my usual arsenal to put the fire out.  Odd juxtaposition of words, but you knew what I meant.  The salad will be whatever I clean out of the vegetable bin, added to the lettuce and tomatoes from the greenhouse and the burgers are truly a cleaning of that section of freezer.  I must have thought I would use them right away because I never labeled them.  It’s clear though what they are (so I hope I’m right).  Any potential freezer burn can easily be masked with enough ketchup and mustard.    So in true Pam fashion: tonight is clean the fridge night.

I think I’ll make a cup of coffee and take it outside with me.  Go watch somebody else for a bit.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

The Village Idiom

We should have a reason for writing things; a purpose.  I suppose sometimes the purpose is just to purge a flow of ideas from your mind and let it go, or a way of expressing things that are important to you.  That said, I begin a topic that I have thought about for years.  It may not be important or even something we think about often, but as cross-cultural things and language things are cool, so is this.

Idioms are those phrases we use, that don’t have the same meaning as the actual words we are saying.  And the literal meaning of the words that are said are different than what we really intend to say.  This can confuse those in our midst who don’t speak English as their first language, especially if they are very new to it.

We don’t often think about these things that we say, we use them in everyday speech, usually correctly, and we all know what we mean.   When I tell you that “ I am shot” so “I have got to hit the hay”.  (let’s pretend for a minute that I actually talk like that), then you would know I don’t mean that I’ve been shot and to solve that I must now go strike some hay.  You would know that I mean, I’m tired and I need to get to bed, but it may shock a person new to the English language (and my own mother) to hear those phrases if they didn’t know what they really meant.

In England, when you make too big a deal out of something small, you may be told (indirectly of course) “That’s a storm in a teacup”.    In another part of London, you may be getting directions and then be told that Bob is your uncle.  Now in my case I do have an Uncle named Bob but I might wonder what that has to do with getting to my destination.  “Bob’s your Uncle” simply means – and there you go!  Such as “Turn left at the fish and chips place, then right at the very next street.  Soon you’ll see the Thames and then Bob’s your Uncle!, there’s the bridge.”

There are idioms in America that we don’t tend to use in polite society.  I would never give condolences over a friend’s father who “kicked the bucket”, and yet it is true that to kick the bucket means one has died.  In Britain, someone has “popped his clogs”, which seems equally disrespectful.  Even the polite euphemism “passed away” seems… too ethereal, yet we use it to soften the blow.

There are many times that an obvious truth, glaring behavior problem, or any other major problem or a difficult (or controversial) issue that we all know is there, but don’t want to deal with because it seems more comfortable to ignore.  This is ignoring “The Elephant in the room”.  And this happens all the time.  Sometimes for the right reason, sometimes for the wrong.  But know this- the longer the elephant stands there, the more chance of it making an elephant sized mess.

A non-native speaker to any language will have to suffer the indignity of trying to understand the native language’s idioms.   If you are in an Arab country, you may ask the Arab friend to do something for you, and you might be told  “I will do this on my head and my eyes”.  Don’t be alarmed, they only mean they will absolutely do this thing.  Or you may be just talking, trying to learn to know a neighbor and be told that another neighbor “sold them for an onion peel”.  This also is not literal, but means that person threw away their friendship for no good reason.
In Russia, you might like one thing, a friend, another.  You’d perhaps be told something that would translate to something like “On taste and color, are comrades not”, which we would know as a fairly familiar (to us) phrase saying “Each to his own taste

I have enough idioms to cobble dogs with but I’m afraid if I listed them all you’d do a runner, so let’s just remember to help those around us who came from another place or culture, to understand what we mean.   We should think carefully what we say (a good exercise at all times anyway) and say exactly what we mean.

Winter Solstice

I have a few hours here before evening ramps up, and another day before we begin to prepare for our annual foodie extravaganza at our house (New Years Eve).   What began as a way to make the Holiday activities special, for all of our young children (awhile back), became a special evening for the whole family.  Even those who have grown up (most of them) and moved away (some of them) look forward to it and try to be there for it.  At some point once the older ones were old enough to eat horseradish root, we began the tradition of digging up a few of the roots from the garden (and this proves difficult when the ground is frozen solid but it makes for very nice horseradish), and creating an extremely delicious version of cocktail sauce to dip our shrimp into.  At some point in our travels and years, we also picked up using tubes of wasabi sauce, and we make sushi to put this onto.  The food underneath is a mere conveyance.  Anyway, this is all miraculously accomplished near winter solstice, when the sun is lowest in the sky at midday (relative to the rest of the year), and the days are very short.

The reason this (northern) hemisphere has these short days during this time (both sides of December 21 or 22), is because the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun.  Looks rather like this from a distance:(winter on the right)









Now that we have bright electric lights, we can light up our homes easily to extend the day a bit, yet we still feel the lack of natural sunlight, making us tired earlier.  We even hate to leave our houses in this dark. (disclaimer: this may be a true fact only on planet Pam).

So I suggest we prioritize our energies (for we still have much to do) and do those needful things, keeping the many extras minimal, especially in the dark evenings.  Especially (and this is the key) if it distrupts our family life and peaceful equilibrium.  Psalm 39:6 tells us that all of our busy rushing and striving ends in nothing.  Ignore ‘keeping up appearances’.  Some people don’t even realize that is what they are doing until they are presented with that possibility.  The next right thing to do, isn’t necessarily the thing everyone else is doing to appear good.  It is that necessary thing that is put in front of you, that is budgeted in.  Be careful (and flexible) here; as it becomes easy overdo it and get crabby or too tired to enjoy your family.

And as this short day looks to be winding down (sunlight wanes), so shall I.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

A “Wonder” of children

Once upon a day, during one of our usual type of discussions about how things work, I gave out the fun fact that a “grouping of crows”, was called a “murder of crows”.  To this, one daughter replied that that was ironic (I think she meant characteristic).  Yes, it is characteristic and there is a reason for that.  But first, here are a few more group names for fun:

~ a Flamboyance of flamingos
~an exultation of larks
~a parliament of owls
~a leap of leopards
~an Ostentation of Peacocks :-D
~a crash of Rhinos
~a mischief of mice
~a puddling of ducks

You get the idea now, don’t you.  These are no accidental coincidences.
In the late middle ages (1486), there was published a book: Boke of Seynt Albans (The Book of Saint Albans), which was a compilation of matters that relate to “the interest of the time of a gentleman (in other less archaic words, it describes what “gentlemen” do with their time).
It is also known by The Book of Hawking,, Hunting and Blasing of Arms.  (blasing of arms refers to heraldry – family crests, etc..)  As far as I know, we don’t have those “class” distinctions here in America, with gentry vs servant classes (and in between).  Maybe we do somehow, but nothing like the arranged marriages they had in Middle Ages England (and later….and in Europe),to improve their social standing and wealth holdings.  And ne’er the classes shall intermarry – it wasn’t considered proper.  ::rolls eyes::

Anyway, this book contains an appended list of special collective nouns for animals.  These they call, The Terms of Venery .  Venery is an archaic term for hunting.  So they have listed all the terms of groups of animals that “gentlemen” hunt.  These terms are sometimes based on folk tales or superstitions so for example there is an old folktale that crows will gather and decide the capital fate of another crow (and in reality, they will gladly gang up on a weaker crow and eat him when they get hungry).  So between this and the superstitious thought that crows and ravens are harbingers of death, you can see how “A Murder of Crows” came about.

They had a sense of humor in those days too, so they added collective nouns for different professions to this book.  Here are a few of those:

~a blast of hunters
~a melody of harpers
~a diligence of messengers
~a superfluity of nuns (my personal favorite)
~a subtlety of sergeants

There are many more extant group names that I won’t list.  Ok maybe a couple more since I find this so hilarious.  ~a conspiracy of Ravens, ~ a squabble of seagulls, ~a lamentation of swans, ~a barren of mules (har!), ~a leash of greyhounds, ~a cohort of zebras, ~an array of hedgehogs.

So “armed” with that ~illustration of facts, let’s think of a few that might or might not be:

~a healing of doctors
~ a chorus of canaries
~an adjustment of chiropractors
~a circuit of electricians
~a flush of plumbers
~a conduit of pipefitters
~a comfort of mothers
~a bleeding of street gang members
~a teapot of British
~a rhetoric of politicians
~a polyphony of musicians
~a sanctuary (or is it sometimes a sanctimony?) of Christians
~a photosynthesis of plants
~a composite of police sketch artists
~a depression of minor keys
~an acoustic of ceiling panels
~a delight of bakers
~a segue of symphonies
~an instruction of school teachers

do I have the right idea?

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Cold Brew

If you’ve known me very long, you have probably heard me say I don’t like cold coffee, and perhaps you’ve noticed I tend to heat it hotter than just plain hot.  I do love it extra hot.  And black.  I never liked those fluffy cold coffee drinks they need a blender for or even iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk etc…  nothing cold.  Not even a little less than very hot.

Until now.  Cold brew is ground course (my preference anyway) and brewed on your counter in cold water for 12-24 hours, then strained and put into the refrigerator.  THIS is good.  It smells good, it tastes good, with not a hint of bitter.  It is almost too easy to drink too much.  I never thought I would say that about cold coffee.  Cold brewed black coffee.

I dIMG_1210ragged my feet regarding the garden, earlier this spring.  Even when it wasn’t raining or storming, whenever I thought “I really should go out there and see what they’re on about”, there was immediate and thunderous disinterest.  My usual seriosity about flowers fell on a deaf heart.  My whole being radiated the message (to the garden) “go away, I am busy”.  Being as old to this world as I am, I didn’t worry too much about myself or the garden, and sure enough we are back on friendly terms again.  All things planted that are needed and the roses and I are back in each other’s good graces.

After today’s battle, I walked back into the house and it smelled like fresh coffee grounds.  Usually when you walk into our house, you smell coffee.  It lingers nicely.  On a fishing day though it may smell like fish.  It’s worth it. Summer is on.

“Quick now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”


A Tale of Two Gardens. Eventually.

It is inevitable that at least once each year I will discuss gardens and flowers.  So for all you indoor people, be forewarned – worms ahead.  Worms are good.  Actually a lot of things are good in their right places.  For  example, worms are good in the garden but not as good in my refrigerator.  In a way:  The worms do keep longer in the fridge, and they’ll wake up when they warm up, in time to be put on a hook and eaten by a fish.  But I really don’t care for when they escape the container inside my fridge.   Snakes are also good in their ecosystem.  They eat an abundance of bad bugs and mice.  This keeps the population of those things in check.  But when they get in a house and multiply, nobody is happy.

The trick in the flower garden, is to pull out the actual weeds, but to leave those tiny seedlings you want, that have grown from last year’s flowers.  This is why I can’t just assign someone else to go out to do it unless I am going too.  Not that I would. Just saying.

It is also time to bring all overwintered plants outside with the understanding that they can come back in if it freezes.  This gives more space in the living room to reorganize and wash the floor and windows.  All projects lead to more projects.  There are also plants that want to be repotted, or divided.  I prefer doing this in the fall but some won’t wait.  It’s nice when it isn’t terribly windy, but here in Southern MN, spring is wind.  You just have to find a secluded spot so the dirt doesn’t blow away while you’re working on it.

If you haven’t gotten out to trim vines before now, it is probably too late to benefit the plant, but you can still do it if you’re willing to sacrifice future flowers.  Roses that are runaway, can be left to stab you all summer, or you can trim them even though they clearly have leaves and possibly buds already.  It’s a difficult thing but experience will tell you it may be better to just clip them.  Had the dead vines from last year been trimmed off of the clematis, it would have sent the energy into new ones this year.  But the old ones will suffice and they’ll all look sort of eclectic out there.  In other words: things don’t have to be perfect, to be wonderful.  So in your “survival of the fittest gardens”, don’t worry too much, just do what you can.  The plants will take care of themselves, or they’ll die.  Either one.  But you can look at it and decide what to do each year and that is fun.

I have an older garden, that has taken on many forms and border changes through the years.  It looks like I don’t have a clue, right now.  But soon it will look like it was all planned out to every detail, and I’m always happy with it.  I have another garden that has also gone through forms and border changes and it never quite is what I want.  It’s newer, so that may be partly why, but I also haven’t fallen in love with it and involved my children in its photography over the years.  It may be those things, but I just don’t know.  It’s hard to feel motivated about this garden, and it usually looks scruffy.  If you judge me by one, you’ll feel one way about me.  If you judge me by the other, you’ll feel another way about me.  My recommendation is to not judge me by either.  It’s easier for you.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils…”

(From “The Daffodils” by William Wordsworth)

April Showers

April is a fickle month in MN.  One never knows one day to the next if it will rain, shine, sleet, (sometimes snow), be warm, cold, or in between; Unless of course you read the weather report, then you may have some idea.  I generally prefer to step outside and take a look around each morning.  Life should have some wonder and surprise, and a sunrise and weather are always a wonder.

April also has a few special days in it.  Forget April Fools Day – I hate that one. I like having fun, but I tend to shy away from doing so at another’s expense.  Seems like practical jokes come back to bite.

Lillian and Kim have birthdays this month, but it seems like quite a few of their friends do also, which is kind of fun.  Thomas Jefferson’s birthday is on the 13th.  We don’t tend to celebrate it but it seems worth mentioning.  Square root day was the 4th, for obvious reasons.  Arbor Day is somewhere in there, as is the Turkmen racehorse festival (in Turkmenistan anyway).   One of my favorites is Day of Silence (April 15th – Makes me wonder if it’s related to tax day).  We could perhaps even pull it off except that it’s one of our birthday days here.  I remember the day she was born.  It was warm enough to walk around outside.  There were dandelion greens all over and I remember thinking that if I felt more like bending down and picking things I could make a salad with them.

Last year I reminded all those who read this (mark) that April is National Poetry month.  I go through rare periods of inability to grab onto inspiration, as in now, so this year I’m reminding myself.  For what it’s worth, it is also National Mathematics awareness month, so maybe I’ll be more aware of that instead.

Here’s hoping all of the above will lead to May flowers,

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.