“And the Rocket’s Red Glare”

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It’s the 4th of July here, the day we celebrate our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Of course a war ensued, and it wasn’t until 1783 that the last British troops left New York City. But the energy here is on the day we declared we would be our own nation.

People throughout the country celebrate by setting off backyard fireworks, and towns put on elaborate displays of sky explosions. Laws vary across the country about what fireworks are legal. As a child in Oregon I could only legally use sparklers, long metal sticks which, when lit, emitted sparks. Our neighboring state of Washington had much laxer laws, and there things such as bottle rockets were allowed. Best of all, on our drive back from New York when I was 11, we bought all sorts of contraband in Wyoming where everything was legal. I am amazed that my mother allowed us to drive home with the explosives safely under the back street.

In Connecticut our grandchildren bought the array of fireworks pictured above. They look much more dramatic than they are. Mostly they emit sparks for various lengths of time depending on how much each one cost. Some also make an ear piercing whistle while they smoke. Nothing explodes and nothing goes airborne.

I suppose the danger of these things makes them especially appealing to kids. Hence the state regulations on their sale. But in “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, two states over, everything is legal. Large billboards on our highways encourage us to cross the state lines and buy from Phantom Fireworks. Despite pleas from the kids, we stick to our less flamboyant but safer stock.

May you have a great day whether you celebrate the 4th of July or not. And remember we didn’t declare our independence to end up substituting a banana republic for a monarchy, tanks rolling down our nation’s capital’s streets not withstanding.

“Sharing Trivia”

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My husband is three years younger than I am. That doesn’t seem like much, but occasionally just that age difference means that when I say something like “blame it on the bossa nova” he doesn’t remember the song. I make these kind of random comments frequently and he usually knows the reference. For instance he connects with the Laurel and Hardy line, “fine mess you got us into Ollie,” and even gets it wrong(me not us) the same way I do.

We can break out in the same advertising jingles when pressed, much to the annoyance of our grandchildren. “Brusha brusha brusha with Ipana toothpaste.” “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brushed your teeth with Pepsodent.” And of course we can chant the same bad jokes “knock knock who’s there?” “Banana””Banana who?” Repeated four times and finally “knock knock who’s there?” “Orange” “Orange who?” “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana.” Loud groans ensue.

A good friend of mine married a man twenty years older than she was. They had a good lasting marriage, but I always wondered about what culture sharing they could do. He was born in 1927 and grew up in the Depression. She was born in 1947 and grew up in the 50’s. He knew radio shows she had never heard of. She watched “Spin and Marty” on the Mickey Mouse Club. Not earth shattering differences, I guess, but a lot of cultural ground wasn’t shared.

I have enjoyed the various times I have posted about some material aspect of my youth and discovered that a number of my readers connect with those same drinks, books, tv shows, movies or songs. Sure I love learning about differences too. But at home I appreciate the short hand between my husband and me when I say “hit the road Jack.”

“Just the Two of Us”

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Last week I checked a book from the library that was a guidebook to waterfalls in New England. While we have lived in Connecticut since 2001, there are many places we have never seen. This resource helped us identify a state park that straddled the Connecticut Massachusetts state lines. We set out this morning to visit Campbell Falls State Park outside Norfolk (one of dozens of towns named after their English counterpart) Connecticut.

One observation struck us when we first moved here. There were few visitors in many of the state parks. In Oregon, no matter the time of year or the weather we were bound to find numbers of other hikers wherever we went. Since Campbell Falls was rated a 5 out of 5 in the waterfall guide, we assumed it would be crowded. Much to our surprise, but obviously our delight, we were the only two people there. A gentle walk through the woods with a steep path leading down to the falls delivered us to the sight above. We even got to cross a stone marker with CT on one side and Mass on the other. The park really did cross state lines.

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After our hike we went for lunch to a lovely restaurant in the town of Norfolk itself. Unlike some of the tired previously factory towns in northwest Connecticut, Norfolk seemed very affluent. I suspect it draws summer people from New York. The pub was upscale and the food was delicious.

We drove home content. We’re already planning our next excursion.

“Fed Up With Folding”

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Origami, the art of paper folding, has always fascinated me. In grade school  I learned how to make a paper cup by folding a piece of paper following directions shown above. I was pleased with this accomplishment and actually found it useful to be able to produce a paper cup when I needed one.

Our book store sells packs of origami paper, every color and pattern you can imagine, and I was intrigued to try my hand at it again as an adult. My granddaughter wanted to join me, so we bought a book of “simple” Origami animals. We quickly learned that the Japanese definition of simple and our definition were vastly different. Although each of us could make a paper cup, that was the best either of us could clearly execute. She even had the good idea to watch kids do origami on You Tube. That only made us feel less dexterous than we already did. We abandoned our elaborate project of making a full menagerie of paper animals. We admitted defeat.

Every now and then when we are together at the book store I look longingly at the seductive stacks of origami paper. Maybe we should try again? Absolutely not she replies. One afternoon failing to fold was enough.

“Whistling and Whittling”

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I have been reflecting on skills I really wanted to master as a young girl. Two in particular, whistling and whittling come to mine. I had already learned how to snap my fingers which had taken quite a while. I had figured out how to wink, closing one eye while leaving the other open. I failed to wiggle my ears, a trick one family friend demonstrated. I did have the ability to curl my tongue and flip it over, but later learned this was genetic and not a real achievement on my part.

Whistling confounded me. It looked easy enough. I was just supposed to pucker my lips and blow. (Imagine my delight when I heard a similar line by Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not” though  that had a whole different edge to it!) I could not make a sound come out for the life of me. I must have spent weeks trying and failing to whistle. Then finally one day the sound I had been aiming for, the sound that would bring our dog running, came out of my mouth. Success at last. Then of course my friend challenged me to make a piercing whistle with my two fingers. I never did master that and remain impressed any time some one gets everyone’s attention with that feat.

I got a pocket knife when I was eight to take to camp. It looked very similar to the one pictured above. Although I had no need of a knife, I was very pleased to own one. Of course I had to find something to do with the new possession, so I learned to whittle. Whittling really only requires a stick and remembering to push the blade away from you. I really enjoyed watching little shavings pile up on the ground. A pointless skill since I wasn’t going to use a sharpened stick for anything. But I was pretty proud to have acquired a new talent.

“Shameless”

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Much has been written in recent years about the negative aspects of shame. We are taught how to heal from shame, how to eliminate self-shaming messages, how to avoid shaming others. But what is the value of shame and how can we rightfully call the behavior of people, including the leader of the United States, shameless?

Shame brings that uncomfortable feeling that I am bad. It isn’t a global belief that everything about me is bad. Rather, as a useful feeling, it says “I have failed to act in a way that is that of a good person and I am trying to be a good person.” It can alert us and allow us to do differently next time. Guilt, another useful feeling, says “I have done something bad.” It is easy to confuse the two, but guilt may arise without shame. Guilt can sometimes make excuses that shame doesn’t allow.

What of a man when confronted with accusations of rape replies, “She isn’t my type.” as the U.S. leader just did? We inwardly recoil at hearing that, and I think it is because we recognize a total lack of shame. Similarly when we hear of children locked in cages we feel the shame that many of our leaders fail to feel. I like to think I live in a compassionate society. I don’t like the feeling of knowing I live in a society where this atrocity is taking place. I feel ashamed. Grievously, that feeling is not shared by the people who could change the situation.

So let’s admit that it is the total lack of shame from the U.S. leaders that sickens us. And that lack suggests there is no end to the behavior they condone. Shame can be a gift when used for good. Let’s pause the next time we feel it and see if it brings helpful information before we disregard it.

“The Case of the Disappearing Blogger”

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I never saw this particular Abbot and Costello scene, but the two of them were favorites of mine as a child. At any rate, I found this image the perfect accompaniment to my occasional post about people who blog and then stop without warning. I tend to leave their names on my “followed” list for a year and then sadly delete them. I wonder what happened to them.

I realize that people start a blog for many different reasons. I don’t follow those that are for commercial purposes, either run by a company or those that ask for monetary contributions. I also avoid ones that are basically diaries posted on line that resemble the kind of writing I did as a teenager–much angst and turmoil. Angst and turmoil are fine topics for blogs, just not for ones I follow. I am thinking instead of thoughtful musings, whether on one topic or on many topics that are posted on a fairly regular basis. I often find those from the comments left on other peoples’ posts and take a look at the commentator.

While I didn’t start a blog for any set reason, I soon discovered that I write with the intention of interacting with other writers and artists. I have connected with wonderful English speaking people all over the world, much to my surprise and delight. I comment on their writings and they on mine. The give and take is life enriching and I always feel buoyed after I catch up each day with new posts. So it is especially sad when people stop without any notice and disappear back into the ether. They probably never thought of their writing being missed, but it is.

I promise to not be one more disappearing blogger. If I quit, I will do it with a parting word.