Wisconsin accused of vowel play in Senate race!



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



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



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



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.


Love is sockless


The Climber


Love is sockless and never wears shoes. The mountain is too hard to climb otherwise. The toes must grip the steep face of rock and hold on tightly to the sharp ledges.



Love never sees the summit. Its feet yield to the mountain’s hard wisdom: finding rest in sudden seams of green, where the heart grows fat, and climbing past pain to reach a fractured rock to  bind its wounds..



The first bleeding is the worst, always such a surprise to the new climber.



The calloused feet never forget the grass, the cool sweet beginnings of the long climb; and when the fall comes, as it must come at the end of every life, the memory of grass makes it all worthwhile.



Entering the past



Deep summer. I raise my hand to shield my eyes and smell orange blossoms. Traces of sunscreen streak my arms.  I stand in a swimming pool, waiting, watching the sunlight shatter again and again on the surface of the water. I can’t say for sure what I’m waiting for.


My hair turned green from the chlorine one summer long ago. Day after day I dipped below the surface, swimming through the hours, under the freckling sun. I counted swimming as bathing. I think about that summer and the things I can’t remember but want to. I rummage through my memories looking, find a page torn from a book, a faded photograph of someone I vaguely remember, but no name is written on the back. My past is the long chain of days I drag behind me.


A child stands on the edge of the pool, jumps, and splashes near me. I remember diving off the high dive when I was only six or seven. Into the deep. Unafraid.


A woman calls to the child to get out of the pool. I remember mother warning me that my lips were blue, and I needed to warm myself on the hot cement.  I turn and look behind me, but nothing is there.  The past is here, not behind.


I look at my feet; my legs below the surface disconnected to the part of my body above the water. I touch the boundary, the water’s skin freckled with light that divides air and water; the light bends, and nothing below looks the same again. What if time isn’t measured in length, but in depth? Perhaps I have stepped into the pool of time, and as I walk deeper into the future, more and more of me is in the past below. Eventually, the past will completely swallow me up.


I stand, staring at my legs, displaced by light. I cannot align them with my body, but I can feel them. I let them carry me deeper.


Someone calls my name. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and dive into the cool water, heading for the other side.


Writing by foot



Few people realize that the word “way” comes in two different lengths. Articles like “Twelve Ways to Iron Cheese” or “Twelve Original but Disturbing Ways to Use Your Neti Pot” or “Twelve Ways to Remove Cheese from Your Neti Pot” proliferate on the web. Most people see no problem with this. I do.


The word “way” comes from Old English and means “road” or “path,” and when you travel on a road or path, you must use a system of measurement to determine the distance covered. Back in the day when the thirteen British colonies were not yet the thirteen American states, our former overlords introduced English units as the American system of measurement.  Both the British and the Americans measured by the length of the poppy seed, which was one fourth of a barleycorn. When they laid three barleycorn end to end, they had the equivalent of twelve poppy seeds, or one inch. Providing the wind wasn’t blowing, they could lay down 36 barleycorn (144 poppy seeds) and create a foot. They only needed to do that one more time to have two feet, which is all anybody needs to head down a road or path.


Poppy seeds (Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS )


Of course, the British didn’t invent the foot. In the first century, when people finally started counting the years up instead of down, someone brought a Roman foot to Britain. Where the foot came from is anyone’s guess, so let me guess. Prior to the Romans, there doesn’t seem to have been a standard measurement for the foot. They must have realized how handy it would be to know exactly how far it was to the next village they planned to pillage. Counting footsteps would vary based on the size of the solider’s foot, so they needed a standard. And where else to find un unneeded foot than the battlefield. I haven’t yet discovered any record of how the foot was preserved, but that doesn’t prevent me from promoting my theory. At any rate, this foot was used for years and years, until the Anglo-Saxons brought over the North German foot, no doubt another war trophy from some unlucky foot soldier. In the 13th century, the foot became the accepted unit of measurement. Where did that foot come from? No one knows. At least not yet.  I’m working on it.


36 husked barley corns equals 8 inches.
(People either used unhusked barley, or they had smaller feet.)


Once you have a foot, you can leap to yard to mile, cover any distance you like, and begin to measure the “way” we started down at the beginning of this post.


When you speak of the “Twelve Ways to Cut Cheese,” you must move equidistantly from point to point, and in this case you should move quite far. You must use your feet to move, and sadly there are only a few places in the world you can still do that.


In the United Kingdom in 1824, the Imperial unit of measurement stuck its foot in the door, evicted the English unit of measurement, and became the standard throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. America has not been able to let go of England’s Imperial foot since then. We know all about the French and their fancy-pants metric system; we’ve seen their advertisements on the home shopping network and listened to their sales pitch. We’ve even bought a few signs from them and put them up on some of our highways for people who measure in French, but Americans have  put their foot down when it comes to becoming just another meter-made country.


So now you understand what I’m talking about when I say that “way” comes in two different lengths: Imperial and metric. For those who find this difficult to follow, here’s the short version:


  1. If a “way” is a road or path you travel by foot,
  2. And the Imperial system is the only one that allows you to use feet,
  3. Then, only those who use the Imperial system can go down that road and write about the “Twelve Way’s to Avoid Spelling Errors.”
  4.  Since one foot equals 0.3048 meters, people who use the metric system should write the “3.6 Ways to Avoid Spelling Erors.”


(Note to new readers: If you have any questions, or find fault with my logic, please feel free to contact any of the people who comment on my blog. I’m sure they would be happy to help you out. They know where the exits are.)

Night and day


I remember stars.


The sun blazed in my childhood sky, began its work at dawn and moved through the field of blue, scattering its seed. In the deep black soil of night, those seeds burst forth with light.


I ran through summer nights, shoes forgotten, countless blades of grass beneath my feet, countless blooms of light above my head, believing they would always be there.


Like the sun, I moved away from my own dawn and lullabies, but on summer nights, lying in the cool grass, I wondered at the stars, up above the world, so bright.



Now I wonder if the stars are birds that fly across the sky, following the behemoth sun, who lurches through the day, clothed in blinding brass, pushing aside the hours in search of something long forgotten.


My night sky is almost empty now, the birds captured, caged in jars that line the roads I travel, hung on poles to light my way. Once they soared across the arch of night; I marked the seasons of their flight.


My old eyes, even in the dark of night, see what’s right before me, plain as day. I wonder if the sun is lonely, looking for the lights on the other side of the world, wondering where they have gone.


The grass still grows beneath my feet, conquering fields and planting green flags to mark its territory, but night is a barren field.


Day and night, I see what’s right before me, but I can no longer see what lies beyond.


I remember stars.


 Photos are courtesy of NASA, Hubblesite, and Wildfeuer.

Yard bunny



I’m partial to polka dots, so I leave the dandelions alone. My next-door bunnies are partial to dandelion leaves, so I often see their polka-dot tails in my yard.



When I sit in my favorite chair, I can see the backyard through the large picture window. A chain-link fence encircles the yard, dividing it from the empty fields to the east and south. The uneven ground beneath the fence provides a portal for the bunnies to squeeze through and enjoy the green buffet that we provide.


An open door for bunnies.


Earlier this month, the weather warmed and my husband cut the grass: the first of the season. Mixed in with the cut grass were handfuls of rabbit fur that once lined a shallow depression in the ground: a former birthing center for rabbits. Now they live in the further field, near the neighbor’s lilac bush.



In the soft light of late afternoon, one or more bunnies slide under the fence to eat. Last week I spent thirty minutes in my chair with my binoculars watching a lone bunny in the yard.


The yard bunny as seen through my window.


He tiptoed near the fence looking for something good to eat, wearing earth’s own colors – raincloud gray, sandy brown, and sandpiper buff, all detailed in either onyx or snow. Seen through the binoculars, his fur bore a pattern like feathers, and when he raised his head, ears erect, turning this way and that, I half expected him to fly away.



He nibbled on some dandelion leaves and chewed so rapidly, it seemed a kind of mincing. Often he lifted his head and scanned the skies and yard. He read the trees and clouds with his large brown eyes and studied all its smells with his ever twitching nose. I have seen a hawk or two fly overhead on other days, and I suppose he has as well.



Satisfied that he was safe, he settled into himself, sinking into a mound of fur, his ears like tiny horns, and rested in his stillness. Sitting sphinxlike in the yard, I thought he looked magisterial, small in size but great in wisdom.



Then he flared his nose and let loose ripples of twitches that rolled over his body, as if he had held his giggles long enough and now must return to his bunny ways and leave wisdom for the owls.



After grazing a bit more, he sat up, fluttered his two front paws and licked them. He groomed himself as carefully as a young man on a first date, then froze, suddenly remembering that the world must be watched.


More of the bunny through the window.


I could have watched much longer, but he had other places to go.  Turning back toward the fence, he showed me his improbable tail: a cotton ball glued on by a child’s hand. I waved goodbye and turned back toward my book.



Every evening I look for the rabbits, delighted that we share the world together. I know that dandelions and rabbits are often called pests, and perhaps they are, but they fill my heart with wonder. In my own way, I think the world bears watching.



Almost the 44th parallel


Like most of you, I live on earth.


My house is almost equidistant from the Equator and the North Pole. Living in between those two extremes, you would think we would have perfect weather. We don’t.



Longitudinally, I am also almost equidistant between a French farm field in the southern département of Aveyron and a wave in the North Pacific Ocean not too far south of the Aleutian Islands.


Ninety degrees of separation eastward



Ninety degrees of separation westward


One of the advantages of living near the 44th parallel in the northern hemisphere is that if I want to go around the world, I can do it in less than 17,000 miles. People who live on the equator have to travel 25,000 miles, almost 8,000 more miles than me. Once you factor in the cost of gas, it’s clear that in spite of the cold weather, I can save a lot of money on around-the-world travel.


I’m not crazy about the way the earth is tilted. If it were perfectly straight, I would be walking around at a 45° angle, which is harder than you think. The tilt makes it even harder. I think that’s why I always feel a few degrees off. Thankfully, I can stand partway upright and keep my head up; I’ve never understood how those people below the equator can walk around all day with their heads pointed down.


I’ve gotten used to the way the earth spins around the sun and have grown fond of having regular days and night. I’m not crazy about how it revolves widdershins (the old word for “counterclockwise”) around the sun because that’s the direction that unloosens things. The only way to get it to spin sunwise (the old word for “clockwise,” not to be confused with Early Childspeak for “sunrise”) is to turn the world upside down and pretend that the bottom of outer space is the top. I never do that. I already get dizzy if I think too much about the earth rotating as it revolves around the sun and the solar system orbiting around the Milky Way.


The part that unnerves me the most about living on earth is the hanging-in-outer space part. I like to be inside when I talk about it, near something I can hold onto, just in case. Don’t laugh. The website New Scientist has an article, “Solar system’s planets could spin out of control,” which is just the kind of thing I should never read. You probably shouldn’t either, but if you insist, go here. Keep in mind you cannot read the entire article unless you register, but there’s enough to scare you. Also if you are looking for another scientific-minded individual to hold onto when the world spins out of control, New Scientist has its own dating service called New Scientist Connect where you can “Search thousands of discerning, intelligent people like you.” I suggest you hurry up.


Other than the dizziness and occasional terror about spinning out of control and hurtling through outer space with no place to go but out, I enjoy living on earth. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.


Happy Earth Day from just above the 44th parallel.

A close-up of the 44th parallel in Wisconsin.


Special thanks to Wikipedia and Google for the pictures.