Mary in Ohio With a Bouncing Bunny On Her Head?

Recently reawakened to my strange sensory connection to my college friend.  Why is it that whenever I tear the sheet of Bounce in half and throw it into the dryer load I think of Mary?  To the best of my memory Mary and I never did laundry together, or sniffed anti-static dryer sheets, although we were college students in those crazy mid-Seventies.  The brain is so weird.

I've been making a series of photo collages connecting student artwork with my photos.  Sometimes the photo experience inspired the art project. Often the connection of the two images is a moment of, "Oh, ho!  Didn't I just see that somewhere else?"  Construction, collage, and Hartfield-Jackson airport runway:

Our new favorite picture book in the preschool class is Sean Bryan's A Boy and His Bunny.  The boy has a bunny on his head.  He names it Fred.

When I saw the illustration my brain, which was lounging on a park bench and eating a ham and swiss sandwich  at the time, immediately said to me, "Cheap paper plates."  Now that I have the plates from the Dollar Store I'm starting to doubt my brain.  How did it sense I should have the students make bunnies to wear on their heads out of these plates?  Cross your fingers that my brain and I will reconnect in time to make a successful art project/surprise birthday party.  Thanks.  One of us will report back on the results.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


My daddy don't tolerate

Lyle Lovett in the player tonight.  Found this cd when I was looking for something else, but it is exactly what I need.

My daddy don't tolerate my assistance eating his ground-up barbecue beef supper with cooked cabbage and a sugar cookie.  He's slapping at me to cease and desist, and trying to push his tray onto the floor.  I know when I'm not welcome.  Adios, I'm out of here.

Brought along Dad's comforter to wash out the spilled tomato juice.  It was just a V8 insult added to aesthetic injury.  My sister had to buy this dreadful star quilt in a hurry at Target when she moved Dad from assisted living to skilled care a year and a half ago.  Countless industrial launderings have only made it uglier.  Something snapped and I pulled the Buick over to toss the comforter in a dumpster.  Dad probably doesn't care, but I can't look at that comforter one more day.

On the good side, a black swallowtail laid eggs on the dill plant in our school garden late this afternoon.  We keep hoping..  I'll take Dad a well-worn bedspread that used to belong to the Woolly Mammoth tomorrow.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Off the Map, on the trail, missed the mouth, monorail

This oddly rejuvenating weekend began while I stood spoon-feeding Dad his blueberry pie Friday.  The local news was on tv, but the sound was muted.  My eyes had an end-of-the-school-week glaze on a segment about Zumba Gold dance exercise, but suddenly I recognized one of my favorite library patrons being interviewed.  I smeared blueberry mess across Dad's chin as I grabbed the remote to turn on the sound.  Dad grabbed the remote away, smearing the blueberries even more.  Zumba is probably a cult, but my eighty-something patron has a zest for life that is contagious.  

Friday evening I made a nice sauce for pork chops and pasta with roma tomatoes from the school garden, basil and sage from my patio pots.  Saturday I received a wonderful brown bagful of homegrown tomatoes from a library coworker.  Today I bought bacon to make BLTs...ummmm-good.

Grasshopper monorail above the roma tomato plants.

Bag of tomatoes resting & ripening on my counter.

Reading while Dad dozed, I loved the "Tomatoes" chapter in Joe Henry's Lime Creek.  This section is beautifully created in a crystalline collision of Emily Dickinson and Larry McMurtry with  the Berenstain Bears.  Other chapters vary in power and clarity, but the short novel is worthy of a read.  

If Emily and Larry were to collborate on a fence it might look like my favorite home on Euclid in Highland Park, TX.  I walked over on my lunch break just to see the clear blue glass.  Then I went down to Lakeside to look at the blue dragonflies above the lilypads.

Watched "Off the Map" on DVD last night to get a New Mexico fix.  Although I wanted to go live off the grid and the map, I managed to spend forty dollars at the new Market Street grocery store at Park and Preston.  I'd been for a long walk at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in west Plano, taking a map with me this time so I could find the hidden Pond Trail.  

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Diverting floodwaters (not funny)

Until this week, my knowledge of water treatment systems was limited to Ms. Frizzle's explanations in The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks.  Becoming more water savvy has become a theme for my year, a belated resolution provoked by a coworker's offer to order an EcoSpout for me.  Although I went in on her order, and now own the EcoSpout and AdaptAJug, they haven't changed my life, and are now gathering dust on a shelf.  What intrigued me was my coworker explaining that she captures the gallon of water from the bathtub faucet that runs while the water gets hot enough for a shower.  Why didn't I think of that?  Ooh!  I just hate being out-greened!

While my friend uses that water for her plants, I've started using my captured water in the toilet tank.  I quickly realized that it takes a lot of water to flush.  And I requested Charles Fishman's recent book, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water from my library.  This is enjoyable reading for folks who enjoy man-made calamities, natural disasters, environmental issues, and clear nonfiction writing.  

A few years back Rose George's bookThe Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, convinced me that the United States needs to rethink foreign aid on a very basic level.  Big Thirst reminds me that our country needs bold, visionary, convincing leaders who can rise above bought-and-paid-for politics as usual to provide for population growth and climate change.

Tonight the media news focus is on Minot, North Dakota becoming submerged under floodwaters released by the Army Corps of Engineers from an upstream dam.  This water management system seems extremely wasteful and destructive.  Is it any less devastating than periodic natural disasters?  How could it be more effective and beneficial without destroying habitat?  I'm just musing, as there are many more chapters in the book for this slow reader.  Still, I am taken by this section about Patricia Mulroy, the woman who directs the Las Vegas Valley Water District:

Mulroy told President Obama he should consider a major public works water project, on the scale of Hoover Dam itself.  She thinks the federal government should create a system of canals to capture, then divert Mississippi River floodwaters straight to the Midwest.  When the Mississippi River floods, whole communities are devastated; the water they are devastated by is largely wasted.  Mulroy isn't talking about diverting the Mississippi itself--she know something about the politics of river water--just the floodwaters.

The result, in theory, could save the Mississippi River basin from periodic natural disasters, it could allow states east of the Rocky Mountains to access a new source of water, it could even all the United States to replenish the desperately falling Ogallala Aquifer in the high plains.  "One man's flood control is another man's water supply," says Mulroy.  "you could capture 9 million to 14 million acre-feet of water a year."  That's more than all the water Arizona, California, and Las Vegas take from the Colorado River.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Spores and s'mores

We could have roasted marshmallows at the grassfire down by the creek beyond the playground.  That was Monday, and it was a big event for the kiddies watching the firetruck arrive from safely inside the school.  All those fire drills practicing getting out of the school fast, then the fire is outside and we rush kids indoors.  The fire started when a worker was using a power saw to cut down a tree damaged in the wind on a day with a code red burn ban.  Droughts, gales, flash flooding after a nighttime storm, and me with my fat fingers, yes, fingers too fat to push the buttons on my cell phone for even 911.

Real life and nightmares have overlapped and interwoven to a disturbing degree this week.  Not poetic, but it's good to realize I'm feeling way too responsible for everybody and unable to access support.

To crawl out of my shell and leave it behind on the tree trunk, would I have to leave my cell phone and responsibilities, too?  Checking in with friends in St. Louis to find the emergence of the thirteen-year cicada is abating, but still nasty.  Good to learn that people with shellfish allergies should not eat cicada exoskeletons!

We have comparatively few cicadas emerging to buzz like power saws (or obnoxious leaf-blowers).  Spotted a new adult climbing up a branch.  Rather handsome with its green body, white face and ascot, and Tiffany wings.  I assembled the kiddies and used a broomstick for a pointer.  Look, Dick.  Look, look.  Tell Jane and Sally.  See, Madden?  See, Kyla?  Cicada!

After the rainstorm a fungus emergeth amongstus.  Big dang fungus.  When that fungus eruptus there'll be spores and spores galore.

And what is that visually unappetizing snack a student brings everyday?  He reports it is Pepperidge Farm S'mores Goldfish.

Cicada choose Craisins with Corn Chex and Cheerios instead?

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

A lick and a prayer

I've arrived at this expression backwards or upside down.  Thanks to the thoughtful family and friends who took the time to put a card, note, or cookies in the mail to Dad for Father's Day.  This small act used to be the way far-flung family members stayed connected.  It was an act of faith to compose a letter and entrust it to the postal service to be delivered.  When our ancestors folded a handwritten letter into an envelope, addressed and applied the postage, they were holding the intended recipient in their minds, hearts, and prayers.  There would be no online Delivery Confirmation.

A Facebook post sending a shout to all the fathers out there might make one feel virtuous for a sec.  Is it a prayer?  Maybe.  A text message or voice mail to be relayed to Dad by someone with a phone?  Lick?  Prayer?  Just the thoughtful planning to get a small bit of paper or chocolate chips into the translucent fingers of a loved one across the physical country in a timely manner is nearly a lost sacrament.

The ritual of the postage stamp no longer needs the lick or even the mental calculations multiplying and carrying.  Forever I can peel and stick a Liberty Bell or a pinecone.  So rare to receive an envelope of moments and awareness and concern.  How miraculous that it arrived not carried by pigeons, but passed by hands and machines and around barking dogs to the receptionist on hold eating her Taco Bueno, and on to the double amputee who wheels around the hallways bringing your prayer to Dad's tray table for after naptime opening.

The phrase, "a lick and a prayer" usually means a quick, superficial cleaning:

...harkens back to the original meaning of “a lick and a prayer,” which was “a superficial cleaning,” specifically what the Oxford English Dictionary pegs as “a slight and hasty wash,” the “wash” being the process of washing one’s face and hands. Imagine a child, sent to wash up before supper, who skips the soap and only splashes some water on his hands, yet stoutly asserts that he is squeaky clean.

Dad's combativeness with the hospice bath lady has resulted in a twice weekly sponge bath in bed.  Dad would call it a "circus bath".  I've been struggling with that phrase on Google and in dictionaries for half an hour.  As I'm also reading Big Thirst, it's funny to find internet wiki instructions for how to "bathe when water is scarce".

The closest I came to an explanation of a "circus bath" was the December 1927 Popular Mechanics story about circus children taking sponge baths.  I'll just have to imagine my father at age four wishing he could join the circus to get out of his Saturday bath.  As for the hairstreak butterfly on the garden basil, it is performing upside-down and without a net.

Popular MechanicsDecember 1927Simple Life for Circus Children

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


No watermelon ever again!

Alarms should have sounded,
Doors should have slid shut and locked down the pod.  Tribbles have nothing on watermelon for creating trouble on the spaceship.

How can two-thirds of a cup of bite-size watermelon pieces in a sealed Rubbermaid storage container turn into a sticky flood of a skilled nursing care room?  Housekeeping left the mess for me to find, and I don't blame them one bit.  What was I thinking?

How did Howie manage to flip the watermelon so it would coat the side of his mattress, the floor under his bed, the pad beside his bed that keeps him from cracking his head open when he falls out, the floor under the pad beside his bed that keeps him from cracking his head open when he falls out ...pink stickiness oozing and spreading contagion like an episode from the original Twilight Zone?

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Sleeping through his day

Father's Day was not a big event for Dad.  He slept through the whole thing, although he let the aide spoonfeed him breakfast with his eyes closed.  If not for the miracle of hot coffee, an aide would have to spoon my breakfast, too.  

When I told Dad there was nothing in my fridge but watermelon, he got out a whisper that he never got watermelon.  So I took him some today, and left it on his tray next to the homemade cookies and card from my son and daughter-in-law.
Unsuccessful connecting with my father, but I've been in touch with my siblings and with Mother Earth.  Read the news.  Relaxed with my muse, making photo connections between student art and my 365 Project photos.

Instead of reading more of The Big Thirst, I watched "Temple Grandin".  Instead of ironing I just didn't.....


Making eggplant parmesan and hummingbird food.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


"Tired of waiting for the train"

When I arrive, Dad whispers that he is "tired of waiting for the train."  I hold onto his hand, but chicken out about asking where his train will be bound.  Because he is my father, my teacher of manners and patience, I visualize for him a shady vintage depot with dust motes floating near the windows and long wooden benches for travelers, and Dad unperturbed by long delays.

Dad and I might be in our 1960s memories standing on the pedestrian bridge above the tracks at the McCook, Nebraska train station waiting for the cheap thrill of the California Zephyr rumbling and snuffing below us?  This is about as exciting as McCook ever got, unless you were really into liver and onions.  You could get anything you wanted at Larry's Cafe, at the corner of Norris Avenue and B Street.  It was a quick walk from the depot or from the "bustling downtown".  The grown-ups would order liver and onions.  Granddad would order a steak well done with butter pats melting on top, and a glass of buttermilk.  Very creepy!!  Grandmother would buy Andes Mints for all of us on the way out if we had behaved ourselves.  That shiny green foil another high point in McCook.

Until today I never imagined my father as a desperado waiting for a train.  My copies of Ron Hansen's novels, Desperados, and The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford are well worn from rereading.  I've read most of Hansen's books, and noticed a review of his new A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion in the New York Times.

I can't imagine my dad as the outlaw adjusting the bandana over his nose and staring down the track at the approaching locomotive.  He could not have lived less like the old man in Guy Clark's classic song, "Desperados Waiting For a Train," but the aching sadness is the same.  Maybe Dad was more of an outlaw than I perceived, as he has sure become a noncompliant resident in the nursing home.

This train is bound for glory, but its arrival has been delayed.  When it gets here, I hope there will be no weepin' and a wailin'.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


As we have done before

Let's stare in and out with Windows.  Those barbarians @ Microsoft have decided this would be a nice evening to download, upload, and shake it all about.  Configure me!  Install me!  Restart me!  Was it good for you, too?

During this inconvenient and unslip-slidy technology encounter, my gaze strayed to the patio beyond the sliding glass door.  The red cannas are blooming, but all strangely contorted like rheumatoid arthritic joints.  A hummingbird seemed glad to sip a sideways flower anyway.

Go in and out the window,
Go in and out the window,

The lizards on the fence were colored stressed browns, so I sprayed water on leaves for them to drink.  The hot wind was a blast each time I went outside.  At least the mockingbird didn't get in through this window to peck the ripening tomatoes!  

No tomatoes for you Bill Gates!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Tilting at paper wasp nests

Dad grinned. He was clear-eyed and engaged in my tales.  When I said I was so glad he was in a better frame of mind, he slowly got out, "I am in a better frame."

He was grinning at my Pancho Sanchez role in a playground quest to remove wasp nests from the roof above the sandbox.  My boss loves all nature to the extent that she practices catch and release with wasps.

She loves nature so much she collects the Sunsweet Ones cannisters from her elderly mother and other residents at the independent living center for the express purpose of catching and removing wasps from the school playground with the cannisters.

I collect peanut butter jars for worm shows, but consider prune can collecting for wasp relocation borderline insane.  I am not nearly so charitably inclined toward wasps, and only eat prunes in kolaches.

Usually I can remain undrafted for wasp removal efforts by supervising children on a far end of the playground.  Having sounded the warning about the diggity-dog wasp nests, I felt obligated to assist in this catch and release effort.  Two big dang nests high up in the pointed roof, each with many wasps fanning the nest equal a bad situation on the playground.  

Temp around ninety-eight, and did I mention my boss has one arm in a sling recovering from a fractured shoulder?  "How brave are you?," she asks.  

So, yo, Pancho Sanchez hauls the stepladder and prune cannisters out to the playground, and offers to spot for Ms. Quixote on the ladder.  Cue the "Impossible Dream".  We shoo the kids to the other end of the playground and plan our mission.  My goal is to keep Ms. Quixote from falling down the ladder and refracturing her shoulder.  

Her first two attempts at tilting the wasp nest into the prune can are near misses.  One wasp clings to the outside of the can each time.  We regroup and make a final effort, but the wasps are ticked off now and ready to counterattack.  I keep Ms. Quixote from rebreaking her shoulder, but she ends up with four superficial stings.  For a sec it seems like a wasp flew in my mouth.  The kids are rushed back into the school.

Hearing the tale, Dad shuts his gaping mouth to keep wasps out.  Then he grins.  It is a sweet Tom Swiftie moment. The blind carpenter picked up his hammer and saw that wasps are not to be messed with when you are a one-armed paper hanger.  Next time I hope to stay pure and unchased from afar!

To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...


To fight for the right, without question or pause ... 
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ... 

I'm pretty sure Hell has lots of wasps.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Bendy buses and Woodrow Wilson

The caterpillar turned left without signalling, but it was in the correct lane, and in the dill.  It looked just like a little bendy bus.  When last did I ride a bendy bus?  Been racking my brain, or is it wracking?

Preparing for tomorrow's Traveling Worm Show, I'm feeling inarticulate.  A bendy bus is an articulated motor coach, often used for shuttling to major events.  Marathons.  Balloon festivals.  Graduations.  My old red dictionary indicates articulated means having joints. Hookah-smoking caterpillars?

A caterpillar is not a worm.  A worm cocoon is not a chrysalis, but the term for an egg case.*

Not a basket case, but I've got a few too many billiard balls in the air and not enough pockets.  Thank heaven baize rhymes with maize.

Sitting in the nap room, patting the back of the most reluctant napper with my left hand, and doing a fiendish Will Shortz crossword puzzle with my right...  Six letter attendee of the Potsdam Conference?

S T A L I N  doesn't work.  Maybe Potsdam was WWI.  I used to know history, but now Yoosta sounds like a small unreliable car make imported from a developing nation.

Yoosta know that smart skinny Ivy League sickly President's name.  Can see his face on the page of Presidents in the old encyclopedia, Vol. 14, Pil-Raf.  Died in office.  Was Teddy his VP?  What was his name??  No.  I'm getting way out there, standing in my field.  Awkwardly going left or right.

Yet again, I look up gee and haw.  Grateful I'm not driving a team of oxen.  As unsuited as I am to sing worm songs, I would be a greater failure mushing an Alaskan sled team of huskies or malamutes.  Nice to visualize when it is ninety-nine degrees, though.

*Each adult worm can produce 3-4 cocoons per week.  Each cocoon will produce 3-4 surviving hatchling baby worms.  Plan to skip through the hermaphroditic sex life of worms pretty fast with the audience of 6-12 year olds.  More interesting to me is that worms don't parent.  They don't drive the kids to ballet class or sit on the soccer sidelines.  They don't pack lunchboxes.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Straighten up and fly right

When I get to his room about five Dad registers my presence pretty quickly.  He is trying to say something, so I sit down beside him on the bed to read lips and listen to his whisper.  It's easy to get sucked into a no-win game of twenty questions, so I try to give him plenty of time to get some words out:

"You picked a hell."

"I picked a?  Can you say it a little louder, Dad?"  


"You would be louder if you were mad.  I know because I've heard you."

Dad gives me a flicker of a smile, but suddenly looks like he might sob.

"You picked a helluva time to be gone."

"I'm sorry.  Did something happen?"

"Picked a bad..."

"I had to go to work today.  It was the first day of summer school.  Are you worried?  Do you hurt?"

"Put me up."

I raise the head of his bed.  Dad keeps stroking his whiskers.

"She wanted to..."

"Shave you today?  You didn't have her do it.  Would you like to shave?"

Dad shaves.  I go ask the Lady In Red if something happened today, but she's not Dad's aide.  Still, she comes right in to say hello and get his attention.  She deserves a medal everyday.  She thinks maybe Dad got upset yesterday.  I agree, since I didn't recognize anybody on duty Sunday noon.  She says she has to do a "total reboot every Monday" with all the residents.

"Bad day."

"I'm sorry, Dad."

"Where were you last night?"

"I was at the condominium working on my worm presentation.  Was it a bad night?"

The person Dad thinks I am at this moment should have been with him at some time in the recent past.

"I was here at lunch time yesterday, but you didn't want to eat the kolache I brought."

Dad's supper arrives.  Mac & cheese, asparagus, ground chicken, milk, roll, brownie.  I feed him as much as he will allow.  He chews and chews, but forgets to swallow.

"...not worried about."

"I'm glad you aren't worried.  Then I don't have to worry so much."

"Don't worry.  Not worried."




I help him sit and adjust his pillow.

"Straighten up and fly right."

"Straighten ... fly... right."

Dad eyes are mostly closed.  I pat his arm. His skinny chest breathes more regularly.


I lower his head some, accidentally raising his feet.

"They don't let me drive."

Dad smiles at this, then dozes for awhile.  I move to the other side of his bed so I won't slide off onto the floor, and pat his other arm.  He rears up.

"How long do you have to teach?"  

"This was the first day of summer school.  I leave for work at 7:30, and get off at 5:00 for eight weeks."

Pat Dad's arm until he seems asleep, but he opens his eyes when I stand up.

"I love you, Dad.  I'll see you tomorrow.  Good night and good luck."

Buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air
Monkey thought that everything on the square
Buzzard tried to throw the monkey off of his back
But the monkey turned around and said, "Hey listen Jack!"

Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and stay right
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down bubba don't you blow your top

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Double wide world of worms

An army marches on its stomach.  Napoleon I

True for worms, too.  The traveling worm show will be marching out Wednesday, and it won't be going light.

  1. Large laundry basket full of sixty peanut butter, mayo, and spaghetti sauce jars.
  2. Turquoise ten-gallon Sterlite storage tub with air holes, drain holes, and a catch tray.
  3. Fifteen-gallon Rubbermaid storage tub marked, "Dave".
  4. Paper bag holding two "worm castle" jars filled with layered soils and including nightcrawler tunnels.
  5. Book bag containing Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Worm, Harriet Ziefert's Class Worms, and Wendy Pfeffer's Wiggling Worms at Work.
  6. The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss.
  7. Lid with air holes for #3.
  8. Large bucket of ninety-eight cent topsoil from Home Depot.
  9. Large UTZ pretzel jar full of sand.
  10. Large UTZ pretzel jar full of pea gravel.
  11. Coffee can full of Miracle Gro organic garden soil.
  12. Seven tie-dyed giant fabric worms.  (Six adult and one hatchling)
  13. Photo flashcards of food to feed and not to feed worms.  (No pizza)
  14. Bedding materials for a worm bin (egg cartons, newspapers, tp tubes, smashed eggshells, shredded classified documents).
  15. Tie-dye fabric strips for the craft project.
  16. Large parakeet food jar full of rich homemade humus.
  17. Bucket of scoops, spoons, and trowels.
  18. Plastic drop cloth.
  19. [Not pictured] My active vermicompost bin full of red wigglers.
  20. [Not pictured] Bag of organic material.
  21. [Not pictured] Magnifying glass.
  22. [Not pictured] Emergency back-up sand and gravel in the Buick trunk.
Yes, I keep asking myself, "What was I thinking!?"

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Seeking (and picking up Rx at Walmart)

Cockleburs and questions.  The cockleburs were in my socks.  The questions, but no good answers, were in the camera.

Still stunned from my daddy long-legs revelations, I hiked several of the unpaved trails at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, and eventually found the Open Field Trail.  Improved signs name the trails at intersections, but maps are not posted.  Still the park is a gem of Plano, and is well-used.

The Open Field Trail was a glory of gaillardia and Queen Anne's lace. Flitting around, then disappearing, black butterflies teased with solos and duets.  What were they?  They were completely new to me, and there were so many!  Flashes of yellow on the upper wings showed as they flitted.  Light points on the under forewings and many eyespots...  I was getting crazed.  Maybe it was "heat prostration", one of those dreaded  and delightful calamities learned in childhood like "quicksand", "frostbite", "sleeping sickness", "merthiolate", and "ringworm".

The black butterflies were totally uncooperative whether I stood still or tracked my quarry.  They did not land and spread their wings for a photo shoot.  They just disappeared into the grass.  I followed, wading out into the vegetation, vaguely worried about snakes.  Should have worried about the burs!

Would the young couple coming down the trail think I was a deranged old lady dancing around in the hot sun with a camera?  OR would I wonder if they were nuts taking a shortcut with their pure white Great Pyrenees dog bigger than a polar bear right through the grasses?  Holy iceberg, Batman!  That dog's fur was going to be full of burs.  Oh, right.  So were my socks.

Eyespots.  On the forewings?  On the forehead? This is not your daddy's buckeye.  This is more like the guy with the tattooed third eye at Freebirds in Austin.

How to stay focused on the butterfly mystery until I could download my photos and hit the field guides?  OM.  OMG.  Wandered through Walmart waiting for my prescriptions, being one with the cat litter and stacking plastic storage containers.  Feeding Dad ground chicken, potato salad, and spice cake at the nursing home.  How do nuns serve in the earthly realm and hold the spiritual in their consciousness?  Not that I'm holy, but I've been in the moment on the Open Field Trail.  How do I hold both the wonder of the butterfly and the caring feeding of my shriveling, drooling father while his tv blares "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"

The common wood nymph flies erratically.  It does not stop for photo ops.  It is one with the open field, staying clear of the trail, unaffected by the burs.

Be Here Now
Common Wood Nymph

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Wait, wait! Don't wash me.

Sadly today I say goodbye to the ancient Kenmore. Sadly because it handled giant loads and saw me through the heavy tie-dye textile art and sweaty teen son era.  Sad, also $pending money on $omething so grown-up and boring.  Waving goodbye right to left, as the Kenmore lid opened to the left. Body memory must be retrained because the new washer opens front to back.

For way too long sweaters have whispered, "Don't wash me in hot," from deep in the laundry hamper.  The Kenmore refused to fill with cold water no matter the threats or incentives.

W is the letter of the week.  Waiting for washer delivery?  The Home Depot delivery guys were great.  In a 10-2 window they called at 9:40, arrived at 10:02, and were gone by 10:07.  I'd gotten up early to clear a path for them.  The condo is a skinny place with many obstacles.

Wow what filthy floors you have! Red Riding told wolf to trot on over to Albertsons for some Swiffer wets.  There were creepy/fuzzy things under that old washing machine, predating our move into this condo in 2000.

Staying wide awake for Mavs NBA Finals games has been wicked difficult.  Flashbacks to childhood piano lessons were even worse ...  Go down to the levee.  I said to the levee....  Had to sing to myself, "It's simply great, mate, waiting for  the Dirk Nowitzki."
I sang a worse verse about Wiley and the turkey meat treats. Welcome, my new grandpuppy!  Isn't Wiley just the smartest widdle wuzzum?

Wait, wait!  A month ago I walked without a pedestrian green toward the old NPR headquarters.  Did the ATM dispense Morning Edition mugs?

Wonder of wonders, my opera buddy found discount tickets to the Bruce Wood Dance Project performance tomorrow evening.  I'm whirling in anticipation!




Way cool!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Congregations on the rock

Sometimes we are seekers.  Othertimes we just stand still and have our eyes opened to the enormity of what we do not know.

I started out to take a photo of a daddy long-legs on the shady stone beside the trail at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve.  Just one.

Soon it was dancing with its shadow--

Me and my shadow
Strolling down the avenue

That one was headed to the gathering of far more than I could count!  "Adults are frequently seen in huge gatherings, standing with legs interlaced." *

I pray their shoes are velcro.  Not anxious to get in there to tie shoes.

Wouldn't want to be that one roly-poly, either.  A mother pulled her two young children over to see what I was photographing.  "Look, kids," she said, "those are the most poisonous spiders on earth."**
Thankful I was off-duty, I didn't even blurt that daddy long-legs aren't really spiders.

I slowly realized the exposed stone faces on both sides of the trail were hosting congregations of daddy long-legs.  Was this a break-out session at a synod convention?

Why did some groups hang upside down?  Why did others stand sideways?  Through what miracle did they all get the memo to wear striped socks?
What if the plenary session reconvenes?

*National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders.

**This seems to be a prevalent urban legend, although it was new to me.

The seeker will have to wait for the next post.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Hot time, summer in the suburb

The cows had a boom box.  They were grooving to the Lovin' Spoonful.

Back of my neck getting dirt and gritty. The cows were all bunched in the shade at 9:45 this morning.  My walk buddy wanted to take photos of the Haggard Farm -- OUR farm -- across the street from our homes and our Walgreens.  The farm is soon to be housing built by Toll Brothers*.  The development will have a farmsy name to make up for the loss of the breathing room in the middle of Plano.

We weren't breathing all that well as we walked along the barbed wire fence with traffic whizzing past.  It wasn't that we had Dirk Nowitzki sympathy sinus infections.  We were being bombarded with massive doses of grass pollen.

The llamas were under a different tree, probably listening to Peruvian flute music.  We walked toward the farm's tree-shaded drive with its modern day recycling carts.

Much of central Plano was part of the Haggard farm at one time.  We have Haggard Library, Haggard Park, and Haggard Middle School.

Although W. O. Haggard, Jr. married Merle, it was NOT that Merle Haggard.

I am still pleased that none of my sons turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.

Part of the Haggard farm property will become a new city park.  We walked all the way east to take some photos of the horses there.

It won't be an massive soccer field park, but a real open space park, thank heaven.
 *I would be much more crabby about this if the Toll Brothers were not the sponsors of the Metropolitan Opera's live Saturday broadcasts that bring me great joy on WRR, 101.1 FM.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Tomatoes busting out all over

Not my kitchen, of course.  This photo is a painting in one of the diplomatic reception rooms at the U.S. State Department taken without a flash.  It is reminding me to eat more fruit.

"Fruit" is such a confusing term.  At least once a year I look up the distinction between fruits and vegetables, but I never get it clear. Thankfully, tomatoes are in the overlapping area between "biological fruits" and "culinary vegetables".

In the good old Sixties, we had the Basic Four Food Groups--dairy, meat, bread, and fruits and vegetables.  We didn't have to sort fruits from vegetables, we just had to eat them.  The Food Pyramid made things too complex in both the horizontal and vertical versions.  Michelle Obama is the only person in Washington who has uncomplicated my life in a long time, and I applaud the new My Plate.  Now if we could just reunite the fruits and veggies, I'd be thrilled.

My fruit and veggie parings go into my worm bin.  The red wigglers do the ultimate combining.  One of the best parts of vermicomposting is the mystery garden that sprouts in the rich worm dirt.  Our school garden gets volunteer cantaloupe each year.  Those will take over the garden and a good section of the playground if we allow it.  At home I've got tomatoes growing everywhere.  This morning I dug up four from the front flowers that were big enough to attract attention. Now they each have a big pot on the patio.  Hope they produce my favorite fruit soon.

As soon as I got inside, Stubby II appeared on the fence to make sure I hadn't goofed up his realm.  The original Stubby ruled my patio in 2009, a fearless, tailless anole if ever there was one. I don't think the anole with the partially regrown tail I spotted Sunday is really the same lizard, although some sources say anoles can live up to four years in the wild.

2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Communing with balloons

Took flowers for Dad's vase after lunch.  He'd been pretty sharp in the morning, just uncomfortable being folded wrong in his bed.  Dad doesn't weigh much these days, but still enough that I need an aide's help to scoot Dad up toward the pillow.  Then I can raise the head of the bed so Dad can sit up to drink coffee, always important!

After lunch I stopped back with the bouquet.  Dad was still sitting up, eyes wide and unblinking, mouth agape, and hands tracing the route of the suspended ceiling's grid.  He looked like a flight attendant pointing to the exits during the safety demo.  Oblivious to me, I arranged the flowers, chatted about lunch, took off his glasses and cleaned them.  He grabbed the glasses back and returned to communing with the ceiling.  Pair of L lines receding toward the horizon.

Spur of the moment, I headed to downtown Dallas for free admission First Saturday at the Nasher Sculpture Center.  I needed art.  I needed free.  I needed driving directions!  "You cain't get thar from hyere" should be the Mavs welcome to Heat fans.  Downtown is a massive detour due to construction on the Woodall Rodgers deck park that will change the freeway into a tunnel with a giant urban park above (take a virtual fly-through at the link).   For now you cain't fly through.  You cain't exit.  You cain't backtrack.  You cain't find the parking garage at the Dallas Museum of Art to save your life.  Not even from the three-point line.

While I was struggling to get off of Woodall Rodgers to circle back to the Arts District, I got a view of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, also under construction.  The bridge is the first of a proposed trio designed by Santiago Calatrava for the Trinity River Project.  It would be nice if the construction went as quickly as this time-lapse video.

While it looked like I might be stuck on the Interstate all the way north to Denton, I was able to exit at Victory Avenue.  This was as up-close as I've been to the site of tonight's game three of the NBA Finals.  It figures that I was lost at the time.

This is not a map of downtown Dallas with detours, but there's a resemblance to my completed Worm Knot textile project.

The good news is that my auto travails were completely worth it.  The Nasher Center has an outdoor exhibit, "Statuesque" with very fun works by Aaron Curry in blazing pink and lime green.

The bright colors contrast with the dark figures of  Thomas Houseago.  (Both these artists were born in 1972).  Hut, hut, hut!  The works resemble football centers from this angle.
And Curry's "Horned Head Trip" looks a bit like my new "CollageMama" Chinese chop:

What about the balloons?  What about the communing?  That's a whole different exhibit on the lower level of the Nasher Center.  "Whole different" doesn't begin to describe the experience of "Sightings:  Martin Creed".

Walk down the stairs, and the balloon-filled room grabs your vision.  But, wait, these are musical stairs.  Each step plays a tone.  You and everyone else is making the strange music filling the museum.

Wait in a long line with anticipation building for your turn inside the balloon room.  A few people lost their nerve, as I would have in my anxiety days.  When you get to the arrangement of cacti you are on deck.  No eyeglasses allowed in the balloons.  It would be easy to lose them.  You begin to anticipate the static effect on your hair before you even enter.  The atmosphere is that electric.

You are in!  You are pushing your way through balloons.  You push them up for a glimpse of the ceiling.  It takes surprising effort to move.  You push until you find a wall, then turn.  It's loud.  Kids are shrieking with joy.  You push through balloons to find a person pushing toward you and both shriek with surprise!  It is cool, and not as humid as expected.  There's plenty of air, of course in all the spaces between balloons.  You breathe and fill with joy.  All other thoughts are gone.  You are IN ORANGE BALLOONS.  What else could there be?

Your five minutes are ending.  You find the windows, and then the door.  People are taking photos of you through the windows, documenting reactions.  You are pleased to emerge without letting any balloons escape.  You feel a bond with everyone who has been inside.  You may never be quite the same.  You have been on a very odd detour!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


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