Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Farewell Facebook

Well, the honeymoon with Facebook is over---already. I deactivated my account yesterday for the second time within a two week period. I had already become irritated with the pushiness of the website a week ago and deactivated. But I then read an article in our local weekly newspaper that I felt required a reaction; I decided to see what the word was among the locals on Facebook. Oops --- you can’t play unless you sign in so I obeyed and typed in my “old” password. The ravenous beast from the deep grabbed me and pulled me right back into that swirling current of social media, that sea of faces and good cheer, instantly advising that it would take a few hours to “repopulate” my profile information. “Oh, alright!”

Since I had made a typo (or two), in a previous post, which Facebook slapped on a wall, allowing me no chance to correct, I thought I’d outsmart the smarty-pants by first typing my post into MS Word. I then cut/pasted it on the page belonging to a local political candidate that I support. A pop-up appears, a sassy jack-in–the-box note informing me that my post has too many characters. “Darn”---I - did – not – say---; but of course I obeyed, what choice did I have, other than to forget it and not post my retort to an unjust statement in the newspaper (in my view). I spent ten minutes cutting my post down to exactly the acceptable size, hit share or whatever, and there it was. I had done my perceived duty as a citizen of my small town.

That should have been the end of the end-of-facebook story; I was back among the living, there was my face! Maybe. But it only took a couple of days until the next incident, rude intrusion, bold assumption, provoking power play, to occur. A feed, which I requested from The National Interest magazine (where I had just read some great book reviews) to be sent to my Favorites folder, was also grabbed by Facebook and pinned to my wall there. Several National Interest articles had been posted---not including the one I had read. Incredible, and frightening. Needless to say that was the end of my sail on the sea of faces. Never again.

I am happy to have had that experience, now knowing of what I speak with regard to the social giant, lest I be browbeaten as the ignorant curmudgeon who never even ventured to put a toe in the waters. I saw for myself how fast is the current that sucks a body in.

I reposted Virginia Woolf’s serene, albeit melancholy portrait here, which appeared beside my original announcement of entry into Facebook. I said there, words that proved to be prophetic: “She is pretty clearly out of line in the upbeat mega social scene of Facebook.” So am I.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Silence in the Tree Tops

Cooper's Hawk
The hawks have disappeared --- there is silence in the treetops. I miss the vibrancy and excitement of their eager, confident, even arrogant screeches as they swooped through the branches. I liked hearing them out there, feeling a bit proprietary as if they were pets, since they made their home here, having been born high in a nest behind our barn and educated in our yard; they also took their meals here---

A little research helped me to identify the young brood as Cooper’s Hawks who, for the most part, migrate south as early as mid-August. I found a wonderful account of these birds in a “web browser-based electronic book collection of Life Histories of North American Birds, by Arthur Cleveland Bent (1866-1954), one of America's greatest ornithologists.” The collection for the E-book is selected and edited by Patricia Query Newforth, © 1996 – 2010. It offers vivid, first-hand accounts taken from the journals of bird watchers, many answering questions about bird behavior that never appear in field guides. It’s delightful and I highly recommend it.

Someone has ceased his visits to the bird feeder as well ---more silence. In wondering about his disappearance, I came to suspect that my young thugs made a meal out of our lovely male Cardinal. The red baron no longer puts in his nightly appearance as the last visitor at the feeder, perching on top of the shepherd’s crook hanger at dusk, calling a haunting goodnight to his compatriots already bedded down. (I always thought he was a bit daring to keep such a predictable schedule.)

Mrs. Cardinal comes alone to the feeder now, no sentinel to protect her or tenderly feed her seeds ---a widow fending for herself. I miss him. I am somewhat consoled to learn, though, that a new male will usually step in to pair with a lone female. I look forward to that. I’m keeping watch for a newcomer.

Note: the reference to the cardinal as red baron refers to his regal bearing, not to his role as an ace pilot, played metaphorically by the hawks of course. I mourn them equally.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Honeymooners

“Don't steam me, Alice, don't steam me! 'coz I'm already steamed!” Remember Ralph Kramden’s famous grouchy line on the TV show The Honeymooners? At the risk of stepping out of line, since I never expected to directly address a political issue on this blog, I have to say I’m steamed enough to speak out!

On July 29th the Foster Town Council voted to place three proposed changes to our Town Charter on the ballot in the November elections. I am most concerned about the proposal to make the position of Town Moderator appointed instead of elected. I wish I had attended the hearing to speak against the proposal. Shame on me for my complacency!

We have been watching our individual freedoms being eroded for years on the national level and I believe that granting this right of appointment would be another example of transfer of power from the citizenry into the hands of a very few. The five members of our presently seated Town Council speak with one voice only --- lacking any Republican or Independent members to open democratic debate.

We are treated to a pleasant report of Council accomplishments published in the Foster Home Journal each month. I read every word --- never get steamed about the content ---but I wonder about what I don’t read there. Speaking of that, I don’t remember reading, in his monthly FHJ reports, that Representative Scott Pollard co-sponsored the legislative bill to require district moderators’ positions to be appointed instead of elected. Perhaps I missed that? Please correct me. In any case there appears to be confusion of the titles “district moderator” and “Town Moderator”. John Lewis is quoted in the Observer as saying, “The new state law contradicts our town charter.” “As a result the charter has to be changed, he said.” I hope John will clear up the confusion in his next Council report in the FHJ.

Please vote in November to keep Foster’s elected Town Moderator. Unfortunate that there is only one candidate, no choice is a bad deal for democracy even if you like the candidate. That situation too was apparently a mix-up that could have been avoided.

Ah Honeymoons---

For more information you can read the August 5th issue of The Valley Breeze and Observer newspaper, take a look at http://www.fostergop.com/ and the General Assembly page, http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/billtext09/housetext09/h5730aaa.pdf

Friday, August 6, 2010

On the Bench

Do you remember the PC screen saver, back in the early 90s, which continuously scrolled the line “Where do you want to go today?” I loved that --- I fell for it ---. Funny thing is, I have no desire to actually go anywhere these days, quite the contrary, but flights of fancy are my greatest joy --- although payment is sometimes tendered in tears.

The young hawks are having a ball out there this morning --- like the Blue Angels at the air shows. Instead of whining engines, their high pitched whistles tangle around microwaves that prey silently in their midst. Over the housetop, through the fields, fancy maneuver in-and-out of the big blue spruce, then buzz a squirrel. They’re practicing --- showing off their killer skills.

The other afternoon I caught sight of them through the kitchen window. I’ve been wondering how many there are this year and there they were, four of them resting in contentment on my faux teak bench in the yard. What a sight --- one perched on each arm and two on the backrest. Binoculars – camera – picture through the window screen ---wonderful! Such pleasure right outside my window.

It occurred to me that, had I been outside, they wouldn’t have come near my bench. As it is they borrowed it for a few minutes’ respite from their antics. I wonder if they were thinking about their future missions, all their clowning behind them; or perhaps it was a council or a meeting of congress to discuss the new justice.

From my corner perch in the red wing chair I see the flag through the screen door, motionless this morning --- no breeze yet.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Written In Stone

I plunged into Facebook today. I had created an account there a few months ago out of curiosity about the wildly popular site, but didn't participate. I have now upgraded my profile and created a separate page for "Knot In Line". I'm not sure I've got it right yet though. I used this picture of Virginia Woolf  in the blog profile --- not with forethought --- I have her in my picture files as inspiration for the physical appearance of Maude, a character in a novel I am writing; easy to upload. She is pretty clearly out of line in the upbeat mega social scene of  Facebook. No matter.
The novel's working title is Written In Stone.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Weigh Anchor

The last person to own our house was a sailor by avocation. He and his wife named the place “The Anchorage”, which proved to be prophetic since this was their home for the rest of their lives. We took down their sign at the driveway entrance; it wasn’t ours, and each time I drove out I could see the neon letters flashing on the reverse side --- No Exit --- No Exit---. We have kept other nautical references attached to the house though, like the brass front door knocker in the shape of an anchor.

It surprised me to find a little brass anchor on the door to a small bedroom, now an office/library/laundry. I don’t know why it’s there but I like it. Since I can’t abide closed doors anywhere, it has no practical use ---nobody needs to knock. Somehow though, it is evocative. The upper portion of the anchor is a cross with a loop at the top. It reminds me of the crosses dangling from the large rosaries worn by my nuns at St. Mary’s --- in another world, which now seems as much a fantasy as the Avatar movie characters of today or even the lost world of Atlantis.

There were anchors everywhere in our childhood; not only for Catholics but as values respected collectively by Americans. Traditional families were still the norm in society. People understood the meaning of the word modesty. Children were still schooled in courtesy and manners. The list is long. I have to stifle a pang of embarrassment in recalling this ancient history, yet I mourn the loss of dignity, the comfort of ideals, and the existence of sin. The title of the 1961 musical “Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off”, is a perfect expression of my sentiments about the world these days.

Our predecessor here was an expert in tying knots, a required proficiency in the world of sailors. His knots were beautifully executed, decorating the ends of a few pull cords where light switches had never been installed. The electrician wanted to upgrade to wall switches but I wanted the knots. I washed and bleached them ‘til it was clear they were meant to be permanent, even adding one to the kitchen window shade.

I have never sailed a boat, having neither means nor a courageous temperament. I’m a landlubber who loves to gaze out over the ocean and sail away in my imagination --- hence our annual trips to Maine. I had no idea before today that the phrase “weigh anchor” means to hoist the anchor in preparation to set sail; it seems counterintuitive. Webster’s New World Dictionary (my old school dictionary, 1961) claims, in addition to the nautical usage, that to weigh is to consider and choose carefully, to balance and ponder in the mind, to bear or press down upon, as with heaviness; yet also to hold in high regard, to esteem and to value --- to hoist?

When you think about it, neither the anchor nor the knot can have a useful existence without the lines to which they are attached. An anchor would rest in place untied and a knot would be naught without the cord from which it was created. Everything exists in relationship. The meanings of words often proceed to a vanishing point much like the meaning of life.

This past Sunday’s reading was taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes whose point was that all is vanity i.e. emptiness. Come to think of it the world is anchored in the emptiness of space. If we order the pilot to stop the world so we can get off, where could we go?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Refrigerator Notes

Dates and Other Bits:
They're tying the knot in September.
Maine vacation, June 26-July 10.
Think you can – Think you can’t
Note from a sweet neighbor:
caring for her gift of Colacasia Esculenta,
Elephant Ears.
Emily’s alphabet magnets:
E is for elephant with long sucking trunk;
J begins Jack on his magic beanstalk.
Lawn mower gas in blue container,
spout doesn’t work.

Sip ‘n Dip vs Santa’s Helper, Inc. 5:45.
Rough & Ready vs Dante’s Interior 6:45.
A begins apple so ripe and so red.
R is the rat that steals the bread.

Main Breaker:
Two weeks away.
Killed the main breaker---better safe---
Maine cool and sweet, the earth in sleep mode.
Home again, eight hour drive from Blue Hill.
Just getting dark, soupy humidity.
Box of blueberries and a hummingbird feeder on the step.
Open the door---
Ugh! What is that stench?
The fridge – Oh my God!
A putrid mass of rotted chicken, fish and beef.
How stupid! How sorry ---
Two hours of cleanup, lingering smell.
Fridge won’t re-start.
Oh God, add a thousand to the trip tally.
Baking soda, charcoal, coffee grinds.
Suck it up.
Why bother, isn’t it dead?
Maybe it’ll come back tomorrow---
rest, dry out, catch its’ breath.

New Day:
Call the service man
“Shouldn’t be a problem.
Plug it back in---probably shut down in defrost mode.”
Give it some time.
Still smells.
Couple more hours, more baking soda rinses.
More wringing of rags and hands.
Oh God – the fan whirs – its back!
Run out the door, arms waving, yell across the yard.
“We have Blast-Off!”
The earth spins again.
The world turns.

New Notes:
“Hummingbird food
¼ C sugar
1 C water
blueberries not washed yet”
From Claire & Don

Berries were moldy after seven days in the heat.
Flashy new flower for the Hummingbirds,
S is for sweet or for sour,
for safe or for sorry.

Life on the Line

It didn’t happen here
but found its way
through the phone line-
a stab of fear.

Hey, C topped my story –
(that’d be the bat he banged to death
in a waste basket last night with a broom) -
M had a Red-headed Woodpecker
in the house (voice smiling).
Oh no, B!
D caught it.
With his net?
No, his hands.
Oh no, B! Did it peck him? Is he ok?
What’d he do with it?
Put it in the bird cage with Beauty.
Oh no, B! Did it attack?
No-o-o-o (voice smiling), just sat there,
beauty and the beast.
Oh God, B! Then what?
R took him outside, let him go.
Oh God, B, my heart’s pounding.
I thought someone was hurt.

A little drama for pale blue Beauty.
A dashing stranger in her cage;
black waist-coat, red beret,
bayonet at the ready.

By the way
You lost a waste basket -
spattered with bat blood.
I put them out for the trash man.
The broom too.

Life on the line:
A five year old grandson,
grandfather, grandmother,
a wild bird --- a caged bird.
The old fear leering,
raising its beastly head to stab
again and again and again.


Swinging over the stones
ropes untied, hanging loose
Back - and forth
Back - and forth.
on the tree tops.

I hear the young hawks
swoop through the canopy,
screeching their whistle,
eager to hunt.
When the wind blows
the cradle will rock.

I saw them last year in a line,
wings spread out on the grass;
like monks prostrate before the creator.
Rehearsal, ritual – mantling.
When the bough breaks
the cradle will fall.

Swinging over the stones,
Back - and forth -
Do the hawks pay tribute,
pledge their prey as sacrifice?
Down will come baby
cradle and all.

I can’t read the names from here,
but I know them by heart –
old names: Place, Wood, Knight,
their babies where stones are small.
I pass them often on my way
to the new grave by the cedar tree.