Thursday, September 29, 2005

Evening star

Hesperus, you bring home all the bright dawn disperses
bring home the sheep, bring home the goat,
bring home the child to it's mother.

- Sappho

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Herbal infusion

The last time I went to the Dr. she asked me if I was taking a calcium supplement, now that I'm getting to be middle aged.

Me: "No, but I drink milk".

Dr. "How many glasses of milk do you drink per day?"

Me: "Well... Ummm....... I put a lot in my coffee!"

Dr.: "Uh, no."

I love my Dr. don't get me wrong, she's cool. But I hate vitamins. I forget to take them, and when I remember to take them, it seems like they make me feel like I'm turning into a giant vitamin, you know? Like I smell like a vitamin, I sweat vitamin, I pee vitamin, my breath smells like a vitamin, etc. I just don't like them!

So, I have decided to turn to my normal way of dealing with my body: herbs.

Here's my new calcium routine, so I can (hopefully!) avoid having brittle bones, a broken hip and a hump on my back when I'm old:

Oatstraw and nettle infusion.

The nice thing is, not only will it help prevent osteoporosis, but it may also keep my nerves calm, lower my cholesterol, stabilize my blood sugar levels, increase my energy, make my hair shiny, clear up my skin and a bunch of other good stuff.

I buy the herbs from Red Moon Herbs. I've bought tinctures from them in the past that I really liked.

(Some of you may remember that I dried some nettles in the spring, sadly: they got moldy. Next time I'll dry them in the oven).

I tried drinking my new brew this morning, and it was tasty too. Can't beat that with a stick now, Babe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I think I need this shirt. :-)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Eagle dreams

It seems that over the past year or so birds have been coming to me in all of their various forms. All different kinds of birds.

Over the summer, I've had a few dreams of a bald eagle.

Earlier in the summer, before we adopted the baby sparrow, I actually had a dream that we were taking care of a baby bird that fell out of it's nest. At one point, the bird fluttered away from me on this porch, and I was trying to find it. I found it at the feet of this bald eagle that was just sitting there on the porch, looking at me. I scooped up the baby bird, afraid that the eagle would hurt it. Then the dream continued. Later when I woke up I thought: "Wow, it didn't even phase me or interest me that this bald eagle was sitting right there on my porch?"

Well after that, I also saw one, down by the Hudson River. I mean a real one, not in a dream. They aren't uncommon, and I see them every so often. Of course it's always cool to see them, but I've never felt a particular connection to them. Maybe my feelings about them are clouded by their symbolism. I haven't been feeling very patriotic for a long time now, (thanks to GWB) and Dave and I still seriously talk of leaving the country.

This eagle appeared in my dreams again last night. This time, it was in a pet store, in a tiny cage, looking miserable. I bought it and took it home, with the intention of freeing it. I just thought it was awful that it was in such a small cage. I really felt for it and knew I had to try to help it. I was really angry that someone would take a wild thing like that and ruin it in such a way. But once I got it home, I didn't know what to do with it. I realized that it wasn't going to be "free", as it had lived too long in captivity. I also didn't want to keep it as a pet, that would defeat the whole point of why I took it from the petstore to begin with! Also, I mentally had promised to help it.

But I also feared opening that small cage. I saw that the eagle had some serious big talons there, and a sharp hooked beak too. It looked a little crazed from being so cooped up. Who would want to open the cage and have it fly out into his/her face in a rush, with all it's pent up anger released?

Maybe I'll see it again tonight.

Ok, I know this is trivial and there's hurricane Rita going on now and all but...

We can all use a laugh, right?

Someone posted this link in a comment on a blog I read sometimes and I went to it on a whim, and I was in hysterics for like, an hour straight. I'm easily amused, but still. This shit is funny.

Basically, It's just things that people overhear other people saying on the street, in a deli, in the subway, etc. in New York City. I love to eavesdrop, and I actually have notebooks FULL of stuff like this.

I can't look at this at work, not because there are nude pics or something, just because it cracks me up too much and I don't want to be sitting here in my office laughing my ass off all by myself.
So...Here ya go, I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. Don't say I never gave ya nothin. :-)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

So busy...

September and October are the busiest times for me at work, and lately, my weekends have been pretty full too. I'm sorry I haven't had much time to blog lately! I will get back to it more when things slow down for me.

Random stuff I've been doing:

Yesterday I took Danny to a Habitat for Humanity worksite and we worked there for about for about 4 hours. It was cool. I've always wanted to do that.

This group had built 6 houses so far on that block, and were working towards completing 10 altogether. The houses were really pretty nice.

I didn't know if I should bring Danny or not, since he's 8 and gets bored easily. I worried that he would start whining that it was "too hard" or that he was "too hot" etc. At home, he often comes up with excuses why he can't work in the garden with me or clean his room. But in fact, that kid worked harder than I did!

He was right in there with the rest of the college kids, shovelling dirt and clearing debris from the worksite and chucking it in the dumpster. I could tell he was proud of himself. I saw how hard he was working and I kept asking him if he wanted to take a break and eat something or have some water, but he didn't want to. At one point, he was digging up a big rock and he asked me for help with it. The rock was massive, and personally, I thought it was beyond my abilities. I told him it was too big and he should pick something else to do, to which he replied:

Mom, what if Thomas Jefferson had said that about writing the Declaration of Independence 'Oh forget it, this is too hard.' No way!

Then he kept gamely digging. I really don't know where this kid comes up with this stuff, but it's pretty funny.

Meanwhile, some of the college kids were milling around, pretending to work but obviously wishing they were somewhere else.

There was a whole range of human behavior going on. Most of them worked very hard and really gave their best effort. Some of them screamed when they uncovered a mouse or a bunch of bugs, or refused to touch anything that looked dirty. Others were macho, showing off, lifting the heaviest things they could find, or breaking up rocks with a sledgehammer so as to look as strong as possible. There was a lot of flirting, bantering and laughing going on. I also met a novice nun who used to be a newspaper reporter. It was pretty interesting.

I like manual labor, personally. I'm not really that physically fit, and I do tend to be a bit of a slacker, but, as work goes, I enjoy manual labor more than most types of work. I notice that there is a free, playful energy of cameraderie around most physical work. Not the backbiting or gossip of an office.

It also feels good to do some kind of work that you know will help others in a real, tangible way.

Today I'm going to visit my grandson again.

Danny and I are really interested in owls ever since our visit to the Adirondack Visitor's Center. I brought home a cool project, an owl pellet full of mouse bones. We dissected it at the kitchen table (spread with newspapers) with my buddy Joanna. We sorted all the bones and tried to identify them.

Last night I heard a great horned owl outside. I've never heard one around here before. It was very exciting. We have a screech owl around here frequently, and a place nearby where we camp sometimes we always hear tons of barred owls, but this is my first time ever hearing a great horned owl. It was a special thrill.

Monday, September 12, 2005

J-sus this is asinine!

I hate this bastard anyway, but this has got to be a new low even for him.

So, the people who suffered the hurricane were just.... lazy? And they deserved what they got? And "let this be a lesson" to all high school students everywhere? That if you work hard and are "honest" you will get ahead and not be the victim of a hurricane?


I was so outraged when I read this over my morning coffee yesterday I ranted for about 10 minutes and I felt like my head was going to explode. This country becomes more like a surreal bad dream every minute.

Getting to be fall now...

Here are some late summer pics.

The baby jacket I knitted for my grandson Wyatt, natch. It's made from baby alpaca yarn and it's super soft. I saw little Wyatt over the weekend and he is adorable. :-)

Woodbox: This is wood Dave sawed up by hand with a bowsaw last winter. It was a fallen limb from a tree down by the creek. Soon we'll be burning it in our woodstove. We had about a cord and a half of wood stacked out by the garage that we bought, but this wood in the woodbox always makes me think what a cool guy I have. :-)

We have a RIDICULOUS amount of tomatoes this year. I've been canning, freezing, drying, giving them away, we've made tons of sauce and salsa, but they keep coming! They are really good too. Roma and San Marzano.

Yellowjackets: Dave has a weird relationship with the yellowjackets. There's a lot I could write about it but I'll save it for another blog entry later on.

Anyway, they are making it hard to enjoy eating outside on our deck these days. I thought maybe giving them some dried fruit would distract them from trying to eat our food but it just made it worse. I tried talking to them and they just don't care to discuss it. Fierce little things they are! Ah well, so much for my hippie methods of pest control! LOL.

finished baby jacket Posted by Picasa

baby jacket Posted by Picasa

woodbox Posted by Picasa

tomatoes Posted by Picasa

yellowjackets Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Love Notes and New Baby!

First of all, my stepdaughter had a baby boy last night and I'm now a GRANDMA. :-)

Yesterday was the 2nd time I met with the class I'm teaching, and I thought it went really well. When I got back to my office, one of the students had emailed me. He wrote "I heart you". That is so sweet. It really made my day. I'm still smiling about it.

Sometimes it's so hard to be a teacher, it's like you stand up there in front of this surly, bored audience like some kind of bad stand up comedian and bomb. Other days, it's really a great feeling, like you really get across what you wanted to say. Yesterday was one of those good days. :-)

3rd: Last night I was sitting at the computer when I heard something fly behind me. It was a piece of paper with a pencil stuck through it. I picked it up and read:
Meet me in my room.
p.s. I am not Danny.
So I went to Danny's room and knocked on his door. He opened it a crack and slipped a sealed envelope out. I took the envelope, opened it and read the message. It said:
I like Pokemon.
There was a Pokemon card inside. I have it in my pocket right now.

4th: I just got off the phone with Illiad tech support and we finally have our ILL system set up now so that when a student requests an article, we get it electronically from another library and it gets put on a server as PDF and the student gets an automatic email telling them it's there and how to access it. Maybe you don't know what this means or care, but it's cool, trust me.

You could say it's a good day.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day.

There are some things I’d like to say about Labor Day.

Now, normally I’d like to rant about unions, the labor movement, how much we owe to them, globalization, the minimum wage, the breakup of the AFL-CIO, etc etc. But I think I’ll skip that for now. Instead, I want to write about unpaid labor. I may do it in a roundabout way, I’m going to ramble. so bear with me.

The other day I found that there is a very abundant weed down by the creek, it’s very pretty, and it has tiny white flowers all over it. I was curious, so I turned to my field guides and tried to figure out what it was. At first I thought it might be boneset, a very useful medicinal plant. But after some more research, I figured out that it is actually a relative of boneset – white snakeroot. It, too, has been used as a medicine, but I prefer not to mess with it since it can also be toxic. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died of “milk fever” which was caused by drinking milk from a cow that has eaten white snakeroot. I guess this was a common illness that killed people in earlier times.

Still, it is a pretty plant and it’s interesting to learn about it. I also now know how to recognize boneset, and how to use it, should I find some. Most importantly, I know how to distinguish it from its more dangerous relative, white snakeroot.

I am a librarian by trade, so research is how I earn my living. But this research I did just for my own curiosity’s sake. Was this “work”? Or “play”?
I met my friend Chris in college. He was an art student back then, full of ego and covered with oil paint at all times. To go to an art museum with him was fascinating. He pointed out brushstrokes, composition, told me about the lives and careers of many artists, talked about how their work was received at the time and how it influenced future artists etc. I learned a lot from him.

Chris went on to graduate and become an artist. At times, he was able to make a living selling his work, but most of the time he had other jobs to help him pay for paint, canvas and brushes. Once I went to visit him in Seattle, where he was living. He and his wife lived in a large warehouse/loft type of space, with his paintings covering the walls and with no real kitchen or bathroom. Chris was in his mid-thirties by then, and feeling the pressure that men especially feel in our culture to “grow up”, get a “real job” and stop “pretending to be an artist”.

Shortly after that Chris did decide to take a break from the artist’s life and do something different. Now he teaches Tai Chi, which he also really enjoys. One thing I have noticed about Chris is that he’s gained a lot of wisdom and humility over the time that I've known him. I asked him in a phone conversation a few years ago if he had given up on his art. He said: “I decided that art is for me, but the art world is not for me”.

During this phone conversation we talked about herbal medicine. He described finding boneset growing in an empty lot, and collecting it for use in the winter to help his immune system fight colds and flu. He said: “When I look at boneset, I see a plant that has so many uses, but to most people, it’s just a weed growing in an empty lot. I feel like boneset myself. I have so many uses that society may not value or understand.” I knew just what he meant.

We all have parts of ourselves that we know are valuable, but will this particular capitalist system pay for these things? And if we aren’t paid for them, do they have any “value” to those around us? Are they “work” or “play”?

My step-daughter, Glenda, is pregnant and due to give birth at any moment. I think it would be cool if her baby was born on Labor Day, just because. Is giving birth, is parenting part of the gross national product?

I love to knit and I have two knitting books that I love very much. Both are by the same author, Robin Hansen. The titles are: Fox & Geese & Fences and Flying Geese & Partridge Feet.

They describe the humble task of knitting warm mittens and hats for people who labored outdoors in a cold climate. Some of these techniques are used very little anymore, and may be lost.

The author conducted oral history interviews of older women (and a few men) in the maritime provinces of Canada and Maine in the US. She asked them to show her the knitting techniques passed down to them by their ancestors. She traces how certain areas used certain patterns and techniques and how the different ethnic groups (Scandinavian, English, Irish, etc) influenced knitting in the areas she studied. She visited museums and shows pictures of mittens that you probably don’t see much today.

For example, mittens with tufts of wool roving lining the inside - often used by loggers, big bulky mittens with thick shag (kind of like shag carpet) on the inside or the outside - used to drive a horse drawn sleigh in winter, giant mittens boiled in salt water and shrunk down, worn wet to haul fishing line from the freezing winter ocean, “wristers” that were worn underneath mittens to keep the wrists warm when a person had to take the thicker, bulkier mitten off to do some work requiring more manual dexterity, etc etc.

All the labor involved. All the work people did with their hands. All the knowledge lost. All the connections between generations lost as people no longer value that knowledge. All the human creativity and innovation that was put into such simple everyday things. All the hours and hours spent to make these things. Now what are they? Who cares anymore?

Did the woman who wrote these books make much money from hours of interviewing people, learning and mastering the techniques, writing about it? She was curious; she didn’t want this knowledge to be lost. She wanted to write it. She got it published. But my guess is, they weren't bestsellers. Theya re out of print now. At one time this kind of labor and skill could have been a life or death matter. Now, to write such a book, is it work or play?

On vacation we went to the Adirondack Museum. Buildings and rooms full of artifacts that were once everyday, ordinary items. Each handmade. The hands that made and used those items are gone. Now they are curiosities. There is something about this that makes me so angry, and really -- envious.

Why was I born in a time where all of our objects are mass produced? Why is people’s “labor” now in factories in other countries, for such low wages, surrounded by barbed wire, not even allowed to take a bathroom break, screamed at and humiliated, fired if they talk of a union. Why do we have to feel this guilt and shame when we touch any plastic thing, or any item of clothing, knowing the hands that made it were basically the hands of slaves?

Why isn’t there the pride of figuring out a better way to make something, craftsmanship, passing on that knowledge and skill to another?

Why is our own labor, the labor that we are paid to do, often so empty, abstract and disconnected from our true selves? We workers have no control of the means of production.

When I knit, when I learn about and use herbal medicine, when I track and animal to hunt, when I garden, when I preserve food for winter, when I study animal behavior I labor with love. But love doesn’t pay the bills.

Right now, my husband calls upstairs that I should come downstairs and fold the laundry. I have stolen an hour to think about this, to write this.

Was this work? What is work?