Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Season's a-Changin' - 3

When we moved into this house, there was a puny little crab apple tree smack dab in the middle of the back yard that someone in it's short life had tried to espalier.  I didn't understand it at the time, trying to make a tree flat when it wasn't standing against a wall or fence.  Actually, I still don't understand the attempt.  We  undid the flattening through the strategic use of ropes and pruning and we now have a large crab apple that pretty well dominates the yard. 

I gripe about it because it takes up much of the solar access for the gardening I would like to do, but I love the tree at the same time.  The fall is an exciting time in this tree's world.  The fruit is small and about the size of the pie cherries we grow nearby, and a huge favorite with passing and resident birds.

This morning we counted at least nine different types of birds simultaneously feasting on the apples, the more spectacular among them being the cedar waxwings and the varied thrushes.  LWK sat at the back door like it was the best drive-in movie ever.

It varies from year as to when this happens, but at some point, the crab apples ferment on the branch and we are subject to multitudes of birds flying under the influence.  One year, it was a sunny winter day and the cedar waxwings were feasting on the little hard cider bombs and I heard one hit the window.  I walked out to check on the damage and found a little bird sitting on the deck, listing slightly.  I swear I heard a little voice, "Whoa, man, I totally got the spins!" 

I grabbed it because it was a sitting duck, er, bait for the neighborhood cats and looked at it a little closer.  I couldn't see any major injury, just an inability to stand up straight.  It sat in my hand a little while and then took off, flying rather erratically to a branch where it fluttered frantically to maintain it's perch.  I watched it for a bit as it sat, listing to the side, and found myself tilting in sympathy.  Yup, been there, done that.  Though I don't think I've hit a window.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Interspecies Contagion - 2

The other day, Resident Family was on the way somewhere - don't really remember where, and actually it's irrelevant to this story - the relevant bit is that Resident Spouse was driving and I was sitting in the passenger seat with the Mimsical Creature sitting on my lap.  Nice and warm, I might add.  The warmth triggered a jaw splitting yawn in me, which resulted in a thorough examination of my molars by the Creature.  I finished yawning and sat with my eyes watering from the effort when Resident Spouse looked over and said, "Hey, you made her yawn!"

"Tain't the first time,"  I responded and reminisced about a warm sunny spring day.  I was rather fond of my little ditty, but realize that Resident Spouse doesn't read my blog so in a fit of pride, I left the original post up on the computer.  The response?

"I thought you were going to say something about pupkus*."  My eyes stop mid-roll.  Hmmm.  I may have to add a stanza...

*  "Pupkus" is the result of a wet nose painting on the window.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Outside the Comfort Zone

I was recently exhorted to move outside my comfort zone by an anonymous "they."  Actually not totally anonymous because while I was peripherally in the know about this person, they don't know me at all, so it was an exhortation to the anonymous masses, of which I happened to be one at the time.  The interesting thing to me is that I perceive myself as tending to push the limits of my comfort zone, after all two of my primary hobbies are performance based and tend to put me out there in exposed situations.  But as I thought about the exhortation, I thought about what my comfort zone is and what makes it comfortable, or not.

Around the same time a friend posted her musings about her writing and publishing and agents, or lack thereof, and getting confirmation that what she is doing is worth the huge investment she has made. It occurred to me that pushing your boundaries or taking the leap to do what you love and taking the risk involves intestinal fortitude on your own behalf, but also some confirmation that you have something of value to offer the world.  After all, no matter how much I may love the work, patenting a new screw top lid to a bottle may not be the best use of my energy and dedication.

In the first case, my exhorter was encouraging people to take action to make their little piece of the world a better place ... to join a community of people working on a task within an organization to make things run.  Pick any organization, a social club, a community center, a church, 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy name it, and there are committees within the organization that need people to make things happen.  This is the exhortation I was hearing.  Find an action that appeals to you, join up and do it!  And this was considered to be working outside people's comfort zone or pushing personal limits.  I understood why I didn't understand.  This is what I do all the time.  I have to set limits so that I don't get eaten alive by hungry groups.  I pick and choose my actions to correspond to my needs, to those areas where I feel the need to grow.  This type of involvement does not threaten my feeling of comfort.

So what does?  My friend touched on it with her post - what is uncomfortable is not knowing whether what you do is worthwhile or an effort in developing a new screw top lid.  On some level, we need to do what we love and if we love it enough, we will take the leap to try to make it happen.  But on another level, we need to know that we are on the right track.  Or we need to know that there was a pebble we missed when we were looking under rocks for treasure.  We need guidance and encouragement and honesty.  Perhaps that's a "duh" statement.

Because I look for honesty in people's comments about my work, I am continually frustrated that the things I find easy in life (the join up and work stuff) gets all the praise and commendation.  The things that I truly love in life tend to be met with silence.  All sorts of things run through my head when met with these silences.  A big one being, "If you can't say something nice, don't say it at all."  Perhaps this saying is precisely why I tend to voice my opinion, it's that golden rule thing.  I would rather someone said something to me that was helpful in finding that perfect pebble than have them worry about hurting my feelings.

Another thing that runs through my head, and this is when I'm feeling optimistic, is that people don't say anything because they can't.  I think, well maybe what I'm doing is so far outside their realm of experience that we don't have a point of resonance.  In other words, that they are in some way intimidated because they can't relate.  And that is the edge of my comfort zone, right there.  How do I engage the people that intimidate me so that I can progress and learn from them or the opportunities that may arise?  How do I reach out for those opportunities that I want to take advantage of when I hate feeling like I'm selling myself as a bill of goods that may not have any substance?  In short, how do I know that what I do beyond the join up and work stuff is worth anything?

I obviously don't have the answers for myself. I am still utterly reliant on the rest of the world to tell me their opinion regarding my own efforts.  I have to continue taking my leaps of faith in a vacuum.  But it is a good reminder that I need to be aware of where others may be stretching their boundaries and needing the occasional or not so occasional good word and bear in mind that sometimes silence is a version of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Atomic scale megapixelation

I'm not usually into highlighting cool stuff, just for the sake of its coolness - BUT - the commentary was interesting and the images amazingly detailed considering what our modern cameras do.  I recommend zooming in and out to get the most out of these snapshots of long ago life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blatant nepotism - 3

One of the reasons why we operate a vacation rental, rather than a long-term rental, is because it's kind of like traveling in reverse. The world travels to us in the people we get to meet through our little house. Starting today and running through the weekend is the annual BendFilm Festival, a great opportunity to see the world of independent film in your own front yard. Here's some info about the film that's connected to me via my little part of the Bend economic scene:

SCREENING of World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements at Bend FilmFest

Charlottesville, Virginia (September 24, 2010) – Rosalia Films, Inc., announced that the documentary film World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements has been selected for inclusion into this year’s Bend FilmFest in Bend, Oregon. The film will have three screenings; Friday, 10/8 5:30pm at the Oxford Hotel, Saturday 10/9 at 5:30pm at the Tower Theater, and Sunday, 10/10 at 12:00pm at the Sisters Movie House. The one-hour film by award-winning filmmaker Chris Farina portrays public school teacher John Hunter and his 4th-grade students as they participate in an educational exercise that Hunter developed called the “World Peace Game”. The film follows the nine- and ten-year-old students over an eight-week period as they assume roles as world leaders responding to an ongoing series of military, economic, and environmental crises. This interactive experience triggers a transformation of the students from children of a neighborhood school to citizens of the world.
Hunter has created and refined the World Peace Game during his 34-year career as a method of teaching children global perspectives, collaborative learning, and problem solving. Born and raised in Chesterfield County, Virginia, Hunter began his education in segregated schools where his mother was his own 4th-grade teacher. Prior to teaching in Charlottesville, Virginia, Hunter taught in schools in Richmond, Virginia, and Columbia, Maryland.

World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements hopes to inspire wider adoption of Hunter’s efforts to teach children the “work of peace” and promote the replication of the World Peace Game. The World Peace Game exposes children to the complex issues of the greater geo-political world that they will one day encounter. An entertaining film with a positive message, World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements provides a timely reminder that the future truly is at stake as we educate our children.
The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas in March, 2010 and received an “Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking” Award from the Newport Beach Film Festival in April, 2010. The film has been or will be screened at festivals in Boston, Orlando, Arkansas and Palo Alto, and will have its international premiere in late October at the Bergen International Film Festival in Bergen, Norway. World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements is Farina’s 4th feature documentary. His films focus respectfully on people living and working in familiar American settings that often receive little media attention. Farina will be attending the festival screenings.

Visit the Rosalia Films website at for more information.

# # # #
For more information, contact:
Chris Farina
Rosalia Films
1209 Hazel St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 825-0972

Monday, October 4, 2010

Worth its Weight in Cheese

The Scene: Todd Lake
The Setting: Marmot tent, picnic table, tidy fire, and three backpacks with their guts strewn everywhere.
The Action: Dinner

Who knew that dinner would be the scene of a totally sublime gustatory moment worthy of Remy in Ratatouille? This little moment was brought to us courtesy of a local goat dairy.

Granted, everything was staged pretty perfectly for Resident Kid’s first backpacking trip. The hike was short, the weather mild, the menu included s’mores. But it was a last minute item tossed in the pack that stole the show that evening and completely obliterated the trail food we’d brought.

Resident Kid is pretty typical in that a favorite food is mac and cheese, so that was on the menu as being easy to transport and cook along with sugar snap peas with dip, grapes and the previously mentioned s’mores. But Resident Kid also likes more complex (and often stinky) cheeses and had talked me into buying a small chunk of Pondhopper made by Tumalo Farms at the St. Charles Farmer’s Market one Friday not long ago. The consistency is somewhat like a chedder with a rind but the flavor comes from goat milk and, as the label says, a local microbrew (Mirror Pond Pale Ale, I wonder?)

As I brought it out, Resident Kid helpfully pointed out that the chunk cost $5.00, to which Resident Spouse responded, “Then the dog doesn’t get any.” And indeed, the poor Mimsical creature didn’t get anything but a taste of some mac and cheese that night because we three were entranced with the Pondhopper. We savored thin and sometimes not so thin slices alone, or with sugar snap peas or, best of all red globe grapes. That flavor combination was the one that caused the fireworks and rendered the mac and cheese that was on the menu, completely bland.

For someone on a budget, the price is high, but this is a farmstead cheese crafted locally and definitely delicious. I’d say we got our $5.00 worth.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Season's a-Changin' - 2

The fallen autumn leaves crunching underfoot herald a much quieter exfoliation that occurs, year round, yes, but increases in intensity with the move towards colder weather. Ah, hairballs. Little White Kitty bequested us a lovely one yesterday evening. I can only hope she feels better now.

I don't really mean to gross you out, dear reader, but I was struck by a thought in the dark hours of the early day as I walked past the bathroom where Resident Spouse was coughing because of a speck caught in the throat. I turned into the living room and caught sight of LWK under the piano bench, spotlighted in the diffuse rays from a small kitchen light, in pose of slight startlement.

Perhaps she was startled by me, suddenly appearing from the dark bedroom, or perhaps it was a kitty horrified at the thought of the size of the hairball Resident Spouse would produce.