What’s In A Word?

Click into photo for bio and photo source

Click into photo for bio and photo source

Anyone who’s been around me more than a few minutes knows that I love language — its sounds, its clarity and lack of clarity, and its anthropology. A friend of mine sent me an article about learning Potawatomi, the language of an indigenous American people who are now scattered to the winds in “a tribal diaspora” — as the author puts it — and the language of her ancestors.

I loved Robin Wall Kimmerer’s understanding about the Potawatomi people’s language and their relationship to the earth — their language gives life to inanimate objects. In this excerpt, she talks about how a noun moves to a verb, giving it animacy. The language lovers among you will totally “get” Kimmerer’s thrill when she sees the relationship between language and the natural world.

An electric current sizzled down my arm and through my finger, and practically scorched the page where that one word lay. In that moment I could smell the water of the bay, watch it rock against the shore and hear it sift onto the sand. A bay is a noun only if water is dead. When bay is a noun, it is defined by humans, trapped between its shores and contained by the word. But the verb wiikegama–to be a bay–releases the water from bondage and lets it live. “To be a bay” holds the wonder that, for this moment, the living water has decided to shelter itself between these shores, conversing with cedar roots and a flock of baby mergansers. Because it could do otherwise–become a stream or an ocean or a waterfall, and there are verbs for that, too. To be a hill, to be a sandy beach, to be a Saturday, all are possible verbs in a world where everything is alive. Water, land, and even a day, the language a mirror for seeing the animacy of the world, the life that pulses through all things, through pines and nuthatches and mushrooms. This is the language I hear in the woods, this is the language that lets us speak of what wells up all around us.

Click here to read the entire essay on The Daily Good.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a botany professor at SUNY Syracuse in New York, and has published several books and essays. Here’s an interview with her in a podcast. Fascinating!

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Road Trip to End All Road Trips

Do you have a spare two months coming up soon — before it snows? If so, you can drive a road trip route that hits all of the national parks in the continental United States, in just under 15,000 miles, and celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

My parents were fans of summer camping trips, probably because it was the cheapest way for us to travel, and I’ve been to many of these national parks. But not all of them. This is a fun goal for our retirement travels!

The link is shared from House Beautiful’s Facebook page and I just discovered this wonderful feature. It’s called “embed” and you get to it by clicking on the carat in the top right hand corner of a Facebook post. The code embeds directly into your blog post and voila! You’ve shared something wonderful from Facebook.

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BelgraviaBelgravia by Julian Fellowes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Julian Fellowes’s magic pen is at work again with Belgravia. A classic “wrong side of the blanket” story is spun elegantly and eloquently against the drawing rooms and societal divide of the English class system. For fans of Downton Abbey, this is a nice follow-up. You can also listen to it in serial format (https://www.julianfellowesbelgravia.com/).

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Duvet Day

I had a duvet day today.

From Pinterest -- original source unknown

From Pinterest — original source unknown

Frankly, I did not know that there was such a thing as a duvet day, but the picture tells the story. I’ve been known to stay under the covers all day and read, but today’s tale is not one of reading in bed. I was actually trying to get something done!

The big snuggly down duvet needed cleaning. It was only the hottest day of the summer so far, but I was determined that I needed to get this off the floor and put away for the summer. Did you check the date of today’s post? Summer is practically over, although it doesn’t feel like it today. Even after four years of retirement, I still think in “teacher calendar.”

I let my fingers do the driving first, and found a web site that said I should wash, then rinse the duvet twice, followed by many dryer cycles to be sure all of the feathers were fully dry. Otherwise, they would mold, being a natural product. It was also suggested that I put tennis balls in the dryer to help fluff up the down.

Music Man had some money left over on a laundromat debit card, so I went there first to see what type of extra-large washers and dryers they had. Two of each – check. The card had $1.03 on it and the place was kind of sketchy. Maybe not my best choice of the day.

I knew of another laundromat that a friend recommended, so I went there next. This place didn’t use a debit card, only quarters. The large washer was $4.50 per wash, so that would be $9.00 in quarters just to get the duvet washed and rinsed thoroughly. I couldn’t even bear to count up how many quarters it would take to dry the sucker.

I did a quick check on the price of tennis balls on Amazon – I was in the car and took the easy way out. Another two bucks.

On to the next option.

Imagine my relief when I discovered that my local dry cleaner would do the whole duvet for $19.99. Add it up, friends. It would cost about the same to wash that thing myself, plus the hours I would spend in a laundromat waiting for it to be done.

I went home, stripped the duvet cover off the comforter, and read the tag. DRY CLEAN SUGGESTED. Bam!

There’s a reason why God created convenience retailers. Let this be a lesson to you.

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Death of a Gentle Lady

Death of a Gentle Lady (Hamish Macbeth, #23)Death of a Gentle Lady by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’ve got a good thing going, why mess it us? Number 24 in the Hamish Macbeth series is predictable, yet charming. Maybe someday I’ll read them again in order to get the lady friends’ stories right — Priscilla and Elspeth just keep coming back for more of Hamish’s bumbling romance and frankly, I’m not sure why. Beaton always comes up with an original cast of characters that are likely drawn from real life. I would hate to be one of the author’s friends and acquaintances as I’m sure I would end up in one of her books. Yet I keep reading these cozy mysteries, one after another, so in that I’m like Hamish’s girlfriends.

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On Sunday, the children’s message at church was about “what kind of penny are you?”



The church member delivering the message had a bunch of dark and oxidized pennies and a bunch of shiny new ones. She asked the children which they would rather be.

I squirmed in my seat during this message. It should have been a simple little lesson, but as a grownup, the characterization of even a penny as being dark made me uncomfortably aware of how often our language demonizes dark or black as being a bad thing.

In these very difficult times, insulated white people need to think carefully about what message we are sending with our words, not to mention our actions. Do we really want to tell small children that dark equals bad? In this case the lay minister used the word mean to talk about bad behavior.

I saw a quote in which someone said that the United States is ripping off the band aid of equality and democracy and underneath it is a seething infection of racism and prejudice.

As a lover of words, I hope that my words also speak love and tolerance – and even using the word tolerate makes me squidgy. I need to do better than tolerate people of different colors and ethnicities. I need to love them wholeheartedly.

And I need to do more than just love – I need to help spread the word. Maybe someone reading this will think twice about characterizing dark as bad. It’s not just political correctness; it’s reality for many people in our country.

Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?

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A Whimsical Garden

Our local garden club recently sponsored a garden walk, and of course I took photos galore. Entitled “A Whimsical Garden”, this homeowner creates yard art out of dishes and glassware, and she has a particular fondness for fairies. Her home is easily recognizable when you drive by because of its charming decorations.

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One can’t have a whimsical garden without a fairy garden!

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I loved the gardener’s use of ordinary green florist’s vases to create OZ.

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There has to be a patriotic corner.

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This vase tree (instead of a wine bottle tree) is perfect for the gardener who does not want to show the world how much wine she drinks. :)

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Peacocks mix their beautiful color with the greenery.

So many ideas, too little time. But isn’t it lovely to imagine having even one of these whimsical pieces in your own garden?

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Two Scottish Mysteries

Summer reading — isn’t it just the greatest? Trying to find books set in Scotland in anticipation of our fall vacation has been interesting, though. I’m surprised at how little I’ve found; beyond M.C. Beaton’s Scottish mysteries featuring Hamish Macbeth and Diana Gabaldon’s massive Outlander series, there’s not much. Okay, I know there are books but maybe my library doesn’t have them. Here’s Wikipedia’s list. Anyone have any suggestions for me?

Death of a Travelling Man (Hamish Macbeth, #9)Death of a Travelling Man by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have gotten hooked on the Hamish Macbeth series, and while this wasn’t my favorite of the few I’ve read, it was cleverly plotted and full of excellent character development. I found it interesting that the villain is a “traveling man” — another word for hippie or drifter — and the author distinguishes this from the Roma travelers common in Europe. As with all of Beaton’s smysteries, our hero solves several cases throughout the course of the book, and I also learned more about Priscilla, Hamish’s fiancee. I really need to go back and read these in order.

Death of a Village (Hamish Macbeth, #18)Death of a Village by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the reasons I like the Hamish Macbeth series is its seeming back-in-time plots that turn out to be very modern indeed. This book was no exception. I’m not going to give away the solution to the mystery, but I loved how a modern invention is used to terrorize a community.

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Thanks for commenting and sharing ideas with me. I love you guys!

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Shadows and Reflections Photo Essay

I’ve got a new camera and I’m in love! More on that later, but today I’m sharing my photos from Fathers’ Day, with a theme of shadows and reflections in a photo essay.

As I’ve been learning about my camera and lenses, I’ve also learned that choosing a theme for the day helps to organize my creativity and my output. My relatives and friends will tell you that there’s only so many flower photos they can stand in one day!

My day started with church and the beautiful light that comes in through side windows in our altar area. That set my theme for the day.
Shadows and Reflections: Photo Essay

We went to the Art Institute of Chicago in the afternoon specifically to see the exhibit America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s. This collection will be shown until September 18, 2016, and I highly recommend it. The show includes well-known works by Grant Wood, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, and Thomas Hart Benton. While resting on the chairs outside the exhibit, I noticed that the glass wall of the exhibition hall was reflecting both the outdoor garden and the people walking by.

Shadows and Reflections: Photo EssayAfter we viewed the exhibit, we visited some of the other art galleries in the Modern wing of the museum. There were some winners, but I have to admit, I don’t get a lot of what is called modern art. I wasn’t the only one; every now and then we would encounter another visitor laughing quietly at a piece of “art”. The following two pieces caught my eye due to their three-dimensional nature that caused shadows and reflections.

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Five Blues (Punj Neelay) by Rasheed Araeen

Shadows and Reflections: Photo Essay

We escaped to the cool basement rooms to see the treasures from Iran, and encountered beautiful tiles and artifacts.

Shadows and Reflections: Photo Essay

After we had our fill of art, Music Man asked for a pint of dark beer for his special day, so our daughter chose the Beer Bistro for our dinner. The beer list was wide-ranging, and the food was fresh and well-prepared. Of course, the camera came out to pick up a few interesting images.

Shadows and Reflections: Photo Essay

Mirrors make the best photos, and turning it into black and white highlighted all of the interesting architecture in this pub.

Shadows and Reflections: Photo Essay

There was some sort of metal tower out in the courtyard between the buildings, and the late afternoon sun caught its shadow.

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The metal tower again, framed by the barred window, a troll and a wine bottle inside the pub.

So what’s the new camera? It’s a 4/3 mirrorless Panasonic Lumix G7, and I bought a 14-140 zoom lens to use as my walking around lens. I am also borrowing a 100-300 zoom lens, which I’m pretty sure I have to buy from my friend. This camera fits in my purse, is lightweight, and takes lighting fast photos. I’m hooked!

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Book Review: Death of a Poison Pen

Death of a Poison Pen (Hamish Macbeth, #19)Death of a Poison Pen by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hamish McBeth is a wonderful character, and Beaton has surrounded the likable policeman with intriguing Highland characters. This mystery was pretty complex, with new twists and turns popping up everywhere, all clothed in wit with a gentle author’s touch.

If you haven’t started reading this series, start with this one. It’s a goodie!

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