Friday, June 12, 2015

Found Things

The title isn't a reference to a Tinkerbell movies, so if you were getting excited, I just wanted to get that out of the way.

On Saturday past, Charlie and Abe drew my attention to some beautiful butterflies I hadn't photographed before which were very excited about the soil in the pots that I had recently watered with fish poop fertilizer solution. These were "Mourning Cloak" butterflies, and we found out that their caterpillars are stinging caterpillars--a little alarming when you have little boys who must pick up every critter that isn't too fast too catch. Still, the butterflies are elegant, somber fellows that I enjoyed having around.
Mourning Cloak

Also, incidentally, peeing outdoors attracts Zebra Swallowtails...
This past Sunday evening, Abe found what I called "the grub from hell" crawling along the road where Abe was riding his bike. This thing was 3 or 4 inches long and very prickly looking, black head and torso, gray tail-ish part with lots of spikes sticking out the sides. Joe said it was a Stone Fly Grub, but I like my name for it better.

And over the last several days, I've found many tiny toads, small enough to sit on a dime. I showed one of them to Abe who loves to hold every tiny thing, but let the rest go on their toady ways, figuring it's hard enough being a toad the size of a bug without a giant 6 year old putting you in his pockets.

When we were in town yesterday, Tuesday, the boys took their bikes and road around the walkways at the athletic fields. They found a football which became ours because it was far enough lost that I was pretty sure no one was coming back for it. The boys spent last night tossing the old pigskin around, except no one but Daddy can throw worth a pound of bacon, so that was pretty comical. When the boys had given up on that, they ran around the yard and found Mourning Dove fledgelings in the hedge, and a tiny nest in the lilac with four eggs in it-all pale bluish green, splotched with brown. According to my 1944 copy of Birds of America, I guessed this to be either a Yellow Warbler or Chestnut-sided Warbler nest. Not having anything to go on but descriptions of the nests (in the book) and the appearance of the egg, I couldn't decide. The nest better fit the description of the Chestnut-sided Warbler's nest, but the eggs looked like Yellow Warbler eggs. Still, I'm not sure I can record this one in my birder's journal.

This morning, I found baby barn swallows that had fallen from the nest, either dead before they fell, or dead from lying on the concrete all night. Knowing birds as I do, I knew this was so that the strong one, whose head reaches the highest whenever his mother comes swooping in with a bug would survive to swoop himself one day. Bittersweet bird-ness.

So these are our found things that made me smile. And you know what? I can't keep any of them or take them with me, except a football. I find more peace and self-awareness looking outward at the world finding things than I ever do contemplating myself. I hope everyone has found things like that--things that come with freedom and joy without the thought of possession or the burden of cost. Even if they're not related to Tinkerbell...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Twilight Fades to Grey

I don't know how they did it: made 50 Shades of Grey into a movie that was marketed as anything but pornography. But they did. And then they released it on a holiday that was originally founded upon the martyrdom of a Catholic saint who performed secret marriages against under the nose of Roman Emperor Claudius II. I don’t see the correlation between that and a BDSM fan fiction novel turned movie, personally. But really, the travesty of this is much more far reaching. Let me explain.

First, I have to confess: I read the Twilight series and I read the 50 Shades trilogy. I'm embarrassed to admit this, and even more embarrassed by the reason. When J. K. Rowling was about four books into the Harry Potter series, I thought, three billion fans can't be wrong... I'm going to have to check this out. And it turned out that three billion fans weren't wrong. Harry Potter was fun, epic, and intricate with courageous friends prevailing over evil... with wizards! Then Twilight happened, and I thought the same thing. But it turned out that three million teenage girls could be wrong. Well, fool me once: shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Everyone, everywhere seemed to be talking about 50 Shades. I let my curiosity get the better of me and... wow. The devastation.

In the weeks since it was announced that 50 Shades was to be made into a movie, many internet writers have spoken up to condemn it, either for its questionable writing or its questionable morality. The condemnation is well deserved, but I'm afraid it doesn't go far enough. Many people who are unwilling to condemn the morality of the story have criticized it for having begun as Twilight fan fiction. If you don't know what fan fiction means, essentially, it means that someone who loved Twilight decided to write a spin-off story on an internet forum. 

Usually fan fiction carries on the same characters as its parent story, but E. L. James's Master of the Universe took on a life of its own to become the 50 Shades trilogy. Stephanie Meyer commented that erotica was not her thing but said, "[G]ood on her. [James] is succeeding with it." After all the Mormon house wife hype and Stephanie Meyer's admission that the love story of Twilight draws from tenants of the Mormon faith, such congratulations are, frankly, scary. But that is just the tip of the Twilight/50 Shades iceberg.

Here's the thing: any parent with a mustard seed's worth of sense or moral sensibility is not going to let his or her teenager within 50 yards of 50 Shades. Yet there's a whole army of Twilight Moms out there who would be stalking Edward Cullen if he existed in real life. These moms see no problem whatsoever with their daughters' entire world being papered with Team Edward posters. But is Team Edward really any better off than Team Grey

Because 50 Shades started out as Twilight fan-fic, there are tons of obvious parallels. Both are set in the state of Washington. Both heroines have immature mothers and emotionally obtuse fathers. Both males (whom I refuse to call heroes under any duress) are older, impossibly beautiful, dark-secret-hiding men. Both males try to stay away from their heroines, but are irresistibly drawn to them. So far, so stereotypically romancish (except for being set in rainy Washington) but it is all down into darkness from there.

Let's start with Bella: there is nothing to draw her to Edward except his preternatural beauty. Edward is quite rude to her, then abruptly switches to being stalkerish and controlling. Edward disapproves of Bella’s friendship with Jacob, with whom she has an actual relationship built on a platonic foundation. Edward does all kinds of creepy things to watch over Bella, including following her out of town, watching her while she sleeps, and then trying to leave her for her own good. When he leaves her, she becomes irrationally despondent and self-destructive, nearly killing herself so she can hallucinate him yelling at her. 

Eventually, Edward is misinformed of Bella’s death. He intends to kill himself, leading Bella to skip the country without telling her parents to save him. Thus is cemented the incredibly unhealthy bond between them. Then they get married and finally have sex, which leaves the pillows shredded, the bed broken, and Bella bruised all over and pregnant. Edward wants to kill the baby that Bella loves so that she won’t die trying to carry it. He then abruptly switches to loving the baby when he discovers the baby’s worshipful opinion of its mother. When the baby breaks Bella’s spine and tears her up internally during birth, Edward turns her into what he, himself, believes is a damned monster to save her so-called life and keep her in his. True love wins! Wait... what?

Now for Ana. There is nothing to draw her to Christian (and doesn't that name just irk me) except his preternatural beauty. He's quite rude to her, but then suddenly begins showing up in places he doesn't belong, exhibiting a jealous possessiveness he has no right to feel. He disapproves of Ana's friendship with a guy who she has known for years just because that guy has a crush on her. He does creepy things to care for her, including following her across the country uninvited when she goes to visit her mother, watching her while she sleeps, and forbidding her to drive her own car. 

Let’s elaborate on those last two. The creepy sleep-watching takes place in Christian’s hotel room where he takes Ana after she drunk dials him from a bar. He takes her from this bar to his hotel room rather than sending her home with her female roommate who was right there to help her if she needed it. When he deems her car unsafe, despite the fact that her father whose job it actually is to protect her not worrying about the car, he subsequently sells and replaces it with the same model vehicle he has bought for all his other previous iterations of kinky sex slavesAnd we’re supposed to swoon over Christian’s protective nature. Right.

Now Christian introduces Ana to his lifestyle of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism for anyone who doesn’t know--and congratulations to you if you've managed to live this long without knowing that) which requires an extensive contract before they can date (read: have painful sex all weekend). But it isn't really dating and it isn’t just the bed he wants to control. It is Christian trying to control Ana’s life when she's not with him and control her, soul and body, when she is. 

Ana starts trying to do anything it takes to please Christian or, in her words, to be what he needs. One night, she lets him beat her with a belt. At this point, Ana decides maybe Christian is a sicko, and leaves him. Hold your cheers. Christian becomes despondent; Ana becomes despondent. He insinuates himself back into her life and immediately blames her for not stopping him from beating her because she forgot she had a safe word. She buys this manipulation wholesale. He claims he'll try to have a different sort of relationship with her, but then goes back to trying to control her diet, friendships, and career, albeit in a slightly more stealthy manner. 

Eventually, Christian demands that Ana prove her love by marrying him. She understandably delays, but when he is almost killed by a sabotaged helicopter flight she quickly agrees to the marriage, cementing the unhealthy bond between them. Even after they get married, he wants to keep her from having children. When she does get pregnant, he blames, reviles, and emotionally abandons Ana, and goes on a drunken bender. 

The murderous black mailer who previously sabotaged Christian’s helicopter reenters the plot, threatening Ana for access to Christian’s millions. When Ana is rendered comatose, Christian threatens to tan Ana’s hide because she endangered herself trying to protect him.  

Now here's the kicker: in both stories, the love of these seemingly ordinary, innocent girls saves the monster/man she loves from his inner demons. That is the greatest lie any romance ever tells, yet we just love to believe it. Why?

I have a theory. I think women want the old fashioned ideal of a marriage. I think women, despite wanting freedom and respect, would still like to be protected and cherished by men who deserve to be respected and admired. I think women want to be with a man they respect, who is willing to be their strong pillar, their shield. I think women want marriages that challenge both spouses to be the best person they can be. But modern feminism has condemned these roles as demeaning and weak. We've been fed the lie that to be a helpmate is to be a servant, and yet we still, in our secret hearts, want that kind of relationship. Then comes the insidious lie that BDSM offers a lifestyle where one partner can submit to the other, while retaining the actual power. After all, the submissive must be brave and strong to give herself so trustingly to someone who enjoys hurting her, and she can stop the scene with a single word. That’s the lie. The result is a sadly tempting perversion of the ideal that our innermost hearts still crave.

This twisted mindset is obvious in 50 Shades, and as I stated in the beginning, it is still somewhat possible to shield ourselves from it. In 50 Shades, the darkness is evident enough that people are, at least, still embarrassed by their curiosity. The actors cast in the movie, Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, have both expressed more embarrassment about their roles than I expect they meant to admit. Johnson has said she wouldn't want her family or her brothers' friends, who knew her when she was a girl, to see it. Dornan has admitted that he believes if he met his on-screen alter ego in life, he wouldn't like him. He even said that he felt it necessary to protect Johnson during the filming of the explicit scenes of the movie. 

I still have enough faith in Americans to believe that 99% of fathers and mothers would tie their teenager daughters to chairs before letting them near Christian's and Ana's love story. But is that enough, now that it is out there all over the Internet and on movie screens? Furthermore, is 50 Shades all we need to worry about?

There is a reason I took the time to lay out the parallels between Twilight and 50 Shades. After all, there are plenty of voices speaking up to revile 50 Shades and the satin covered lie it is selling to women. But Twilight is the gateway and no one seems to see it. Critics have denounced the writing quality of both. Detractors have pointed out the weirdness of the love story in Twilight. Yet I haven't seen anyone draw attention to the fact that the less conspicuous and therefore possibly more insidious Twilight is conditioning young women's minds to be open for the message of 50 Shades of Grey--that true love consumes you and overrides all else even to the brink of your own destruction. After all, it isn't real love if a man isn't stalking your every move, and it isn't real passion if you're not bruised in the morning, right? Twilight is the gateway to 50 Shades, and 50 Shades is the portal to the destruction of love.

At this point I feel that, having so boldly condemned these two works of fiction as fundamentally dangerous to the precious hearts of women teenaged to middle aged, I ought to offer some kind of solution. I can't, though. I can recommend you don't allow your curiosity to tempt you as I did, but these influences are out there, and will have to be faced. Here's what I can offer: an alternative. I can recommend the love stories of Amy Harmon to both teens and women everywhere as a beautiful example of what romance really should be. I've been badgering everyone in a ten mile radius to read Running Barefoot, A Different Blue, and The Law of Moses and I think now is a good time to make that recommendation again. And I can direct our hearts back to the most unblemished and uncompromising definition of love ever given (in 1 Corinthians):

"Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Tale of Elephantine Proportions

Hi, Mom and Dad.
I had a dream that was so vivid, I had to tell someone. Who better than the three people (Hi, Mom and Dad) who read this blog!? 

In the way of dreams, this one began in a completely unrelated space and time. I think I was in college, though it didn't look anything like the one I actually went to. Maybe it was a cross between Miami U and Denver U. Lots of brick, no straight line paths, a river, lots of copses of trees. Anyway, I was wandering around this place when I cam upon three skinny dogs who all appeared to be chained to the same tree. There was a Dalmatian, a German Shepherd, and some mutt dog, though the dogs are of little consequence to the dream. I saw them, and I wanted to feed them, when I heard the noise of a predatory large cat off in the wood. All the dogs turned to fight the coming large cat, and that was when  I saw the baby elephant. 

Everything up to this point, I can probably pinpoint in my subconscious. University = frustration with the day's lessons. Feral cats are from the book I was reading before sleep. The dogs probably came from my subconscious awareness that I needed to get up and let the dog out for a bathroom break and feed her. I get lost about the time the elephant shows up.

Anyway, the baby elephant was hidden from sight by the huge tree the dogs were chained to in my dream. At the sound of the feral cat's scream, baby elephant took off running, and he ran straight to me. Now, baby elephants, in real life, are still big as VW Beetles, but this one only came up to my knee. So, of course, I picked it up and took off running. And again, as things are in dreams, I was rather suddenly in a remote area where two houses stood side by side. One was about three stories tall plus a walk out basement, and this was the one I went into with B.E. in my arms. I really wanted to keep B.E., but was absolutely overcome with the awareness that it would inevitably grow up into an elephantine... well... elephant, and I wouldn't be able to afford to feed it. 

The rest of the dream, though it seemed to take time to play out, was mostly me hiding the elephant from various people, like my dad and my husband, getting all coo-ey about how cute it was that B.E. kept swishing his ears, and trying to find the phone number for a zoo who would hopefully adopt a baby elephant. Two more significant events happened before I woke. I taught the baby elephant to hug me around the neck, and I fed it a magnificent meal involving carrots, lettuce, bananas, left-over nachos, and Pepsi. Even in my dream, I felt guilty about the soda. By the end of the dream, the baby elephant had actually shrunk down to the size of a cat. I think it wanted me to keep it. 

This reminded me a a picture book where this kid gets a dragon, and it keeps growing until its limbs all stick out of the windows and doors of the house. There's No Such Thing As A Dragon is the title of that book, and I think, in the end, the dragon shrank back down to a tiny dragon as soon as everyone admitted that he was, in fact, a dragon. If I were to put great stock in dream communication, I would have to ask myself what is the proverbial elephant in my proverbial room that I am ignoring? I leave you to ponder that thought. I have to go find enough food for a baby elephant...

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Mommy Wars

Disclaimer: the pictures in this blog do not necessarily possess thematic relevance.

I think the gerbil in my brain that runs the wheel that makes words goes into hibernation mode periodically. I haven't posted since August? Maybe the gerbil died. I don't know. I think last year at this time I was determined to blog once a week. And that, folks, is why New Years Resolutions are stupid.

Anyway, as I was clicking around "teh internets" today, and I ran across this blog written about how some Similac commercial is pretending to end the "Mommy Wars" but is really perpetuating the "Mommy Wars." The gerbil spontaneously reanimated and I thought... What the redacted are "Mommy Wars?" Apparently there is a whole cross section of hip, youngish moms who feel like every choice they make as mothers is in some kind of competition with the mothering world at large. Like breast feeding versus bottle feeding is a question for the history books or something. "I regret that I have but two boobs to give for my country!" Seriously, though... Is this really a thing?

So the gerbil took off running, and I was able to ponder these concepts a little. The conclusion I came to, if it can even be called a conclusion, is that we all spend too much redacted time on the Internet. Used to be, you had a baby and your parents and in-laws and maybe your neighbors all brought over casseroles and cooed a bit. Maybe offered advice that, in your sleep addled new mother state, you either forgot or ignored. And you went about muddling through to the best of your ability just like every other mother. Now, evidently, "good" mothers read mommy blogs and mommy books and buy all the best mommy products. Now motherhood is a competition, I guess. You know what? I'm glad I didn't know this. Only think how stressed I would've been had I known.

I suppose, as a writer of what could, at times, look like a "mommy blog" I might seem insincere with the above sentiments, but the truth is, I started writing this blog because I hate talking on the telephone. I thought, nine years ago, If I write down all the semi-interesting stuff in a blog, then I can tell my extended family and friends to read it and I won't actually have to talk to anyone! Awesome! It just so happens that a lot of my personal semi-interesting stuff has to do with my kids. So... accidental mommy blog! The good news for anyone reading this is that you don't have to include anything I say in your Mommy War strategies. I'd hate to perpetuate the chaos. 

Having said all that, I'd like to relate a story. The best place to wrestle is on Mommy's bed. This is a proven fact. I'm sure there are scientific studies and stuff. Anyway, after wrestling and tickling a while one day, my boys and I were laying around in a heap. The six year old says to me, "Mommy, your belly is soft." I'll admit, for a moment, I straight up panicked. YIKES! I have truly entered middle age! I have a soft belly, and wrinkles, and gray hairs and I will never be pretty and alluring again! But then I thought, Hey, wait: he means that as a compliment. He's small and snuggley and he likes to lay his head on mommy's pillow belly because it is warm and soft like a mommy should be. So, besides the fact that loving my soft belly allows me to eat more Snickerdoodles and put cream in my tea, I decided that I would be happy to have a soft belly because that's what being a mommy is kind of about for me. I'm pretty sure that guarantees I won't be winning any Mommy Wars. Good thing I didn't realize I was in one! 

Monday, August 04, 2014

A Letter to Myself (and Anyone Else Who Needs to Hear This)

Dear You,
You're in your thirties. Your life is pretty much nothing like you expected it to be when you were in your twenties or especially your teens. That's really okay. Great even. Because in your twenties, you were what is not commonly called (but should be) delusional. And when you were a teenager, you were just a dumb ass. You knew only a tiny little bit about yourself, and not a very useful bit at that. Like your BMI and your GPA. Not even your SSN. You're really much better informed now. Trust me.

So you're not where you thought you'd be or doing what you thought you'd be doing. And you're actually pretty happy about that. You have frequently thought that you'd never have met many parts of yourself if not for the life you live now. Like the part that loves dusting. Just kidding. You know you're not disappointed not to be a high profile insert career here in insert city here. You're glad to have discovered a love you never knew about of insert interest here. So what is the problem?

The problem is that the one delusional and dumbed ideal of your younger self that you never let go is the idea that in your thirties, you'll have your physical and metaphysical act together. Somewhere, somewhen you got the idea that in your thirties, wherever you were, whatever you were doing, it would be organized. It would be orderly. It would be sensible and fully fiscally responsible. In short, you thought you'd be on the level. Welcome, Frustration. Won't you come and take up residence in my life?

See, I'm not sure where you got the idea that this was the time of your life when you would be fully in control. Honestly, all those years ago when you were young enough to think Erma Bombeck was hopelessly gauche, there were still warning signs. Remember that comic strip where one character told another, "I feel like I'm losing control!"
"Don't worry," was the reply. "It's all an illusion."
"That I'm losing control?"
"No, that you ever had any to begin with."

Really, what is it that you want? And where did you get the idea to want it? Do you expect to have perfectly behaved children? An obsessively organized house? Laundry that actually gets put away? A paragraph not entirely composed of question fragments? What is it that you really think you should be doing that you're not? And whose idea was it, really, that you should? Haven't you long prided yourself on being absolutely outside the reach of peer pressure and oblivious to the caprice of external opinion?

See, that's the thing. You're smart enough to know that entropy is not just a concept in physics. That the world, deviated as it is from its original blueprint, is irresistibly drawn towards chaos whether it be the State of the Union or the state of the kitchen sink. You're also wise enough to know that nobody with a capital NO in your circle of acquaintance has their act together behind closed doors. If their finances are tidy, their house isn't. If their house is immaculate, their marriage isn't. If their marriage is serene, their kids are rowdy. Or whatever. Nobody's got it sorted. But I won't tell you any of those things, because that's not really helpful, is it? That's not where the stress comes from.

The stress comes from the idea that you were ever supposed to be perfect in any of your parts to begin with. You've always known that you were not blessed with perfect looks. You've accepted that. But you got the mistaken notion that, because you believe you're smart, you should be able to achieve perfection. If you don't manage time, money, family, and/or career with ludicrous aplomb, then you're suddenly worth nothing. Not just less, but nothing.

Let go of that notion. You were not created for perfection, because the broken world can't compass it. Instead, you were created for all the flawed brilliance you can imagine. You were created to make occasional wise observations. You were created to do something, anything, passionately. So what if it doesn't make dollars-and-sense to the world. That poem you are writing? That's what you're here for. That blanket you knitted for your friend's child? That is the beauty of you. That precious, witty thing your child just said? That didn't happen without your influence. That person whom you encouraged? Put that on as ballast to balance your Atlas act. You were made for the moments of blinding brilliance that shine out of your life.

Have you noticed that a spotless mirrored surface doesn't reflect nearly as many rays of light as a pile of broken glass? Doesn't glitter like a yard full of asymmetrical snowflakes? Doesn't dazzle like the breeze-rippled surface of water? Life isn't ever going to be polished, unbroken, symmetrical, or  calm. Those things aren’t consistent with life. You need to keep an eye out for the joys in the midst of the jumble.

Like tonight, if you're me. The kitchen isn't clean. The laundry is half folded and not likely to get put away. The bank balance is laughable. But you went outside with the kids and their dad. For a glorious half hour, you all played Frisbee while absolutely nothing else mattered. And, BAM, you know that for once, you've nailed it. Everything is where it belongs in your world.

Love and Frisbee to you.
Now and always,


Sunday, July 06, 2014

As American as Fireworks, the 1812 Overture, and Of Course Irony

On Friday, my men and I took a walk by the Licking River, where we made ourselves ridiculously proud of silly accomplishments by walking over a swampy inlet on a fallen log. In the evening, we inflicted major damage on a cardboard box with my bow and arrows. Abe wanted me to shoot two arrows at a time, but I had to remind him that I am not Legolas, nor Merida, nor Katniss, nor Hawkeye, nor Robinhood. The next day, we took a hike at Quiet Trails where no one and nothing was around for miles to know we existed. We took pictures of mushrooms and frogs, collected leaves for crayon rubbings, and the boys made excavations in the river. I collected some shells, though I’m probably not supposed to there. We also picked up garbage and carried it out, so that’s good. And I admit to having a small cook out. The weather was fair and mild and we were all vastly contented and more peaceful than recent memory. And we finished it off by going into town to watch firemen blow $#!% up. I sort of wonder what the Founding Fathers would think if they could see us now.

He looks kind of cranky, doesn't he? 

Because I am feeling magnanimous, I will not name all of the following for you.





This was my favorite mushroom..
I did, in fact, spend a little time pondering what this weekend was meant to celebrate. We’re free. We depend on no king or overseas parliament. Men and women have given their lives to keep us so. They continue to. It’s important. I’m not sure any of us are living up to it. I shudder to think what answers I might receive if I asked a random smattering of people what ideals this nation came from, let alone what we stand for now. I sometimes think we’re the land of the ridiculous and the home of the over privileged. Because, really, is exploding ordinance to a soundtrack of Queen and country music the right way to commemorate our declaration that we stood separate and self-reliant from tyranny-over-the-sea? Have we traded the proverbial tyrant one thousand miles away for a thousand tyrants one mile away? There’s something sticky about legislating freedom and celebrating independence. Isn’t freedom, after all, about having choice and independence about taking responsibility. 

But I didn’t start out here to pontificate. I loved this weekend--have always loved Independence Day above other holidays, actually. I’m just not sure it makes much sense, is all. As we sat watching our townsfolk blow up an impressive array of Chinese-made sparkly things, I just had to giggle a bit. Especially when the speakers started to belt out the 1812 Overture, and Joe turned to me and said, “A Russian revolutionary anthem? Really!?” That was after they had already run over the end of the National Anthem with Chinese explosives and also after British band Queen’s rendition of We Will Rock You

I cherish my freedom and appreciate the idealistic life this country has afforded. I am grateful I do not currently have to worry about being set on fire in the street because my ankle accidentally showed outside of my burka. I am in awe of the tranquil splendor of a Kentucky riverside. I’m just not sure I’m always exactly “proud” to be an American. I think, maybe, we’re a little too goofy for pride, a little too undignified to stand on our dignity. Maybe it would be better to just be thankful and leave it at that. After all:

America, America. God shed His Grace on thee.

And that’s all His. We had nothing to do with it but be blessed.  

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Fair Folk

Artsy pond photo, for starters.
Before I bore you with Odonata classifications, allow me to bore you with unabashed bragging. My son is really smart. Always, even as a young child, he always possessed a literal mind. While that has at times been a nightmare for whimsical me, it is also often a joy to behold. At the age of nine, one of his favorite movies is Titanic. He knows more about Titanic than most people three times his age. But I got tired of fast forwarding past the boob parts of that movie, so I decided he should find some other nautical disaster movie to obsess over. He also likes tornadoes and hurricanes, so I introduced him to The Perfect Storm. And he loved it. How I relish these little parenting moments. But here is the bragging part: once he got done watching the movie, he decided that the world simply needed a Lego Andrea Gail. So he invented it.
Charlie's super cool Lego Andrea Gail.
You can trust this face.
That said, I figured my last post had gone on far too long about the names of bugs and the superiority of my commonwealth over your state (neaner neaner boo boo) so I wrapped up without sharing with you the damselfly half of the Odonata world. You thought you were safe. WRONG! Much like the way I annoy my dear husband by endlessly bringing home buckets of shells from the river, I intend to annoy you by pontificating upon the names of the flying insects I photograph at the river. And if you choose to stop reading, you better think again because catastrophic universal consequences will result bringing about an inevitable world collapse. Oh yeah!

I doubt that my sons are as thrilled with river swimming as I am most days. For them, one part of the fun of swimming is the actual swimming, but the greater part is that at swimming pools, one finds other kids. Not so much, the river. At the river there are, of course, huge-ish fish, and also pointy faced fish, and also zippy crayfish. There are rocks, shells, and Water Willow flowers in a veritable sea. There are Cliff Swallows in a colony under the bridge, occasional snakes, turtles, and mice. I realize all of that is probably enough to convince most of my readers never to visit, but it's a great place for me. The kids like it too, but they just think there should be more kids there. Or maybe just Daddy. The river is even better with a Daddy in it, because he makes us all braver.

Shooting the rapids!  (Do not try this at home.
Besides your home's lack of a river, this photo
was totally staged.)
American Rubyspot, probably male, not that
I asked him or anything
The thing about the river that makes it for me, though, is that it is the easiest place to believe in fairies. At the shady edge of the stony shoal where the Water Willow grows thickest, there the fair folk dance. Their wings move so fast it seems like they hover on the power of magic alone, dressed in colors as vivid as any flower. The move so nimbly around each other that it seems there must be steps to their dance. Watching them, it isn't hard to imagine where the idea of tiny fey spirits might have come from.

Vivid Blue Dancers, not dancing at all, just
sitting around on coffee break
Of course, the fey of legend are not pretty Tinkerbells. Come to think of it, even Tinkerbell was not the innocent that Disney made her. She and they were ephemeral, enigmatic, and often capricious creatures just as likely to do harm as good and see nothing wrong with doing it. The insect world of the Odonata fills out that part of the myth as well. They might come to rest on your shoulder to awe or to startle. They might perch on a branch to observe you or to issue challenge. Of course, to mosquitoes, they are flying death. Some are as vain as Tinkerbell ever had it in her tiny heart to be, and others as elusive (to the photographer, at least) as any shy naiad of stories. It is this that I see at the river, where I breathe free.

Violet Tail Damselfly who seriously needs
a more imaginative name
Damselfly Love

Damselfly Love 2
Bizarre love child of Butterfly and
Dragonfly is Owlfly. Shouldn't it be
a Butterdragon or something?
While I hope that the naturalist adventures to which I am prone provide something unmatched in my sons' childhood, I am also grateful for the kindness of family and neighbors. In my last post, I wrote about camping at Hueston Woods. That trip was made possible by the letter "S", as in Grandpa Stanley and Grandma Shelley Crum. The week following that, Nana and G-pa Pearson put up with the considerable discomfort of sleeping on our couches so that they could take us bowling, swimming, and to the zoo. Grandparents, if it weren't for you, my boys would probably think that there was no civilization in this world.
Lucy thinks we're totally square!

And peacocks are just
fancy dress roosters.
They will totally
attack you if you're
getting all paparazzi
on their feathered
expletive deleted.

The week after all the grandparental adventures, we received a surprise invitation from Steve, Angie, Easton, and Best Case Farms for the boys to go on a special fishing trip. The boys were thrilled, and I discovered that right here on my own home road is a hidden paradise the likes of which I could not have imagined. The boys had a great time fishing, and I had fun rowing (and not crashing!) a boat. Big thanks to Steve, Angie, Easton, and Best Case. You're Fair Folk too!

No one happier than a boy and his fish!