De-lighted for 44 hours

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I woke up in complete darkness just after Tuesday ended and Wednesday began. Outside the wind was banging around the house, tossing garbage, tearing limbs off the trees, and howling like a hungry wolf. It raced through our city at 90 mph with six small tornadoes tucked in its pocket, which it set down here and there like spinning tops with winds up to 120 mph that tore roofs off, split trees clean in half, and then snapped a dozen telephone poles, tangling their power lines and extinguishing the lights for over 50,000 people. We were in that de-lighted number.

IMG_0983 IMG_0985 Storm damage

We sleep in modified darkness, a lonely universe with pinpoints of light here and there dimly shining. I have a digital clock by my bed that counts the minutes in blue-green numbers and we have motion-operated lights in the bathroom, hall, and kitchen that protect our toes from stubs and our shins from furniture. All night the lights shine – digital clocks in the living room and on the microwave, and on/off indicators on the TV, modem, Time Capsule, printer, computers, and toothbrush.

 

It has been a long time since I’ve experienced darkness. No lights inside; no lights outside. Only a glow in the night sky to the southwest where electricity still flowed.

 

Our grandchild slept in the spare bedroom when the storm hit but never woke up. We ate cold cereal for breakfast, opening the refrigerator to get the milk and closing it quickly to keep the food cold. I scrounged through the cupboards and found some coffee tea bags. Then my husband heated up water on the grill so I could have my coffee. On the way to the grandchild’s summer program, I saw some of the wind’s work and heard that it would probably be days before we would be back on the grid. We felt blessed to have water, including hot water from the gas water heater.

 

Wednesday I read more than usual. We could get on the Internet by setting up a hotspot on one of the iPhones, but the connection was slow. My husband drove outside of our area to find ice since all the nearby grocery stores were closed. We ate what we could from the refrigerator and put the rest of the food on ice. He bought a small propane burner and we cooked on that and made tea. I read myself to sleep with a flashlight.

 

Thursday I had classes. Our school had the power back on by then, and none of the international students in my class had lost power in their apartments. All were alarmed at the idea of living in an area with tornadoes, so we spent the first hour talking about tornadoes and what to do if one touched down. That conversation led to ice storms, blizzards, wind chill, and frostbite, which are all as much a part of living in northeast Wisconsin as bratwurst, cheese curds, fish fries, and bubblers.

 

Cheese curds

Cheese curds

 

Bubbler

Bubbler

 

Thursday evening after I got into bed with my book and propped my flashlight up, the lights flickered on and off. When the electricity began to flow again, some neighbor children ran outside whooping and hollering. I had to get out of bed and turn lights off.

 

I am thankful for the men and women who spent hours working on downed wires, broken telephone poles, and local generators. I had forgotten or never realized how much noise the lights cause. We live in a restless world of illuminated nights that leave little space for silence. Although we experienced some inconveniences during our short time without power, I slept well, wrapped in the quiet dark beneath the starlit night.

 

 

Eating summer

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We eat the strands of sunlight that the plants spend their days gathering. We eat the roar of volcanoes, old memories of fires and dinosaur bones, forgotten car trips, purr of cats, chatter of blue jays, breath of smokestacks, and all of our words, even our silence.

 

We eat earth’s metals – magnesium, zinc and copper – that the plants mine. They find the wells of sweet waters far beneath the soil and draw it up for us.

 

One day in July the garden calls us to eat spring and summer, sweet, salty, tart, and juicy. After we slice the sunlight into a blue bowl, we pour the sun’s golden liquid that we gathered from the tight fists of olives, and eat until our bellies fairly shine. Then we lick the bowl like it was the sky itself.

Miscellaneous_seasonal_vegetables-1

 

Vegetables

Why is aluminum foiled so easily?

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Before World War II, it wouldn’t have been unusual for someone at a cocktail party to uncover the canapés and remark, “Tin can’t resist being foiled.” Now we know that tin can. But back then, tin foil covered America from coast to coast.

 

After the war, aluminum rolled into town. Why, you may ask (just as my imagination does in its Dr. Watson–like voice inside my head). Elemental, I answer in my best Sherlock imitation. Ductility and malleability are aluminum’s middle names. It can be stretched and pressed within an inch of its life,  2.34 x 10-4 inches to be exact. Aluminum, nickname Al, is a one-eyed all-American element with the number 13 tattooed on its arm. If you don’t believe me (about the eye), try using the British spelling, aluminium, on my computer. If you’re like me you have my sympathy but if you are, you will be delighted that it now rhymes with potassium. Brace yourself, however, because you will also discover it rhymes with the odium of Miss Spellcheck, Microsoft’s unforgiving editor, who will scribble her furious red line at the very idea of aluminum as a two-eyed element.

 

All of this background information leads to the question: Why wouldn’t Aluminum Man make it in the top ten list of superheroes? Iron Man made it. Does he have more mettle, is he steamier, or is he just hotter?

 

Iron Man is denser than Aluminum Man, so maybe brute strength wins over brains, at least periodically. Aluminum Man resists corrosion better than Iron Man, but he tends to crumple under pressure. And although Aluminum Man is a good conductor (that’s his alterego), he’ll never play at Carnegie Hall.

 

When my imagination first started talking about Aluminum Man, I assumed that no such character existed. I looked forward to developing the character, gaining worldwide fame, and retiring some place warm and balmy. Sadly, he does exist. I know because I looked it up on the Internet.

 

And that, of course, leads to the question, Why is the Internet like a broken refrigerator? Because it spoils everything.

Wisconsin accused of vowel play in Senate race!

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Accusations are flying right and left about the upcoming Senate race here in Wisconsin. Of course, most, if not all, of the alleged accusations about vowel play originated on my computer because I needed a catchy headline for this post.

 

But I didn’t make up the part about the vowels. Wisconsin’s fate hinges on vowels – those joiners of consonants, the chatty members of the alphabet who always make their voices heard. They are the ones who mingle at the word parties and call out, “Group hug!” Vowels pull in the recalcitrant consonants who would just stand there speechless otherwise.

 

So on November 6, Wisconsinites will play political Wheel of Fortune and pick a vowel – an “a” or an “o.” Our next Senator will be a Tammy or a Tommy, that is, a Tam or a Tom.

 

The Tam, Ms. Baldwin (whose last name may already predict the outcome), threw her hat into the ring one year ago. I like to envision her throwing a tam into the ring (one of those woolen bonnets with a pom-pom on top, worn by the Scots and called a Tam o’Shanter.) Sadly, for no one else but me, Ms. Baldwin was not born into the O’Shanter family. By winning the election, Ms. Baldwin hopes to put a feather in her tam. The feather, of course, would be one plucked from the Tom she is running against.

 

The Tom, Mr. Thompson, hopes to defeat Ms. Baldwin and change that “a” in her last name to his favorite vowel, the “o.” It’s easy to snicker at the fact that tom is short for turkey, but remember, Benjamin Franklin, famous for ousting other presidents off the one hundred dollar bill since 1928, wanted the turkey to be our national symbol instead of the eagle.

 

As you know if you read this blog (and if you do, you have my sympathy), I have chosen to keep my thoughts on the best choice to myself. I plan to choose a vowel on November 6, but that’s between me and Alex Trebek.

 

 

Crop circles

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After much cogitating and looking up the definition of cogitate in various dictionaries, from which I learned its connection with “agitate,” and the idea of something revolving around in your head, much like the mind on the spin cycle, I finally decided to put an end to this first sentence. It was getting out of hand. If you’ve been reading along, you should be right about here by now. And since we have gotten past the awkward first-sentence introductory thing, we can move on. After all, you’re not here to diddle and dawdle. You’re here for answers, and unfortunately that’s what you’re going to get.

 

Since this is a blog post and not a dissertation, I can only scratch the surface of the topic. And although I know you are itching to hear my theory; first, I must address the rash of ideas out there about what causes crop circles.

 

I have to talk about other people’s ideas, which frankly don’t interest me much, but it’s necessary to try to appear fair and open-minded. One theory attributes them to hoaxsters (AKA pranksters), probably just youngsters who are hipsters and jokesters. Another blames Jerry Lee Lewis and his “Great Balls of Fire.” People with video-editing skills have captured pictures of these flaming balls of light on video (AKA moving pictures).

 

As to be expected when there are unexplained phenomena around, sandwiched somewhere into the plethora of theories, you’ll find a BLT (Burks, Levengood, and Talbott). These three biophysicists have checked out crop circles and discovered they could use a lot of biophysical words like node, expulsion, macroscopic, anomalous alterations, and magnetite to describe crop circles, but not explain how they got there.

 

Additional ideas have to do with the earth’s magnetic personality (AKA fields), the diatonic scale of music, and, of course, UFOs. Like I said, the theories are like a rash.

 

If you’ve read this far without having any idea where this is going, I both congratulate you and sympathize with you. I really don’t know how I got here either.

 

It had something to do with realizing the similarities between crop circles and cowlicks. Close-ups of crop circles whirl and swirl in the same pattern as the cowlick on the back of my head, which made me think of cows in space, soaring through the Milky Way. I’m pretty sure there’s a post in there somewhere, and I promise to publish it as soon as I can write myself out of this one.

 

 

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The watermelon

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I carry the watermelon like a newborn and place it gently in the sink to rinse away the dirt. The bands of green barbed wire are smooth as ice.

 

 

I see the face the watermelon showed the world, that cheerful summer green blending in with leaves and grass. Beneath its bright belly, it hides the scars of waiting. I turn it over, touch the mottled, yellow skin that carried the weight of sunlight for me. This is the face I love. I trace the days of waiting for the bees, waiting for the sun, waiting for the rain. In stillness, the watermelon yielded to the world and all its wars, growing great with a blood-red secret. The more its heart grew large with wonder, the more the rocks and stones pressed sharply, marking it forever.

 

Now it waits for me to reveal its beauty with my sharp knife.

 

 

Inside the watermelon’s succulent heart I find seeds, teardrops black as night. The sun never knew its sorrow. Even watermelons want to leave behind some sweetness, some memory of the summer when the red-winged blackbird sat on the fence watching the sun do its work.

 

Love comes in small change

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Love comes in small change: pennies of please and thank you, nickels of you go first,

 

ten-cent hugs, quarters of talks over coffee, half-dollar words not said,

 

and some cents of forgiveness, always held back till the end of the day,

 

for the dirty socks forgotten on the floor and the toilet seat left gaping in the bathroom.

 

Lovers save the change of love, fill their pockets and their piggy banks,

 

to spend on love’s small extravagances.

 

Love is a lifetime of wealth, mostly made of small change.