Saturday, October 29, 2011

Autumn Leaves and Spider Webs. . .

Autumn evening at home.

Autumn out one kitchen window.

Autumn out the other kitchen window.
Impressive work.
Click to see better.

I was standing at the kitchen sink yesterday afternoon watching a spider build a web just outside the window, and I was sort of in awe. The spider's skill is impressive, and his work is tedious. And I have always come along behind him and knocked down his webs with my broom. Poor little spider. (By the way, did you know a spider's web is many times the strength of steel of the same diameter?)

I walked outside to watch more closely. Impressive. Tireless spider. I'm leaving this one alone.

Spiders spend their entire life span capturing and eating other insects (about 2,000 in a year).

He spends his entire lifetime catching insects, via his web, and I keep making him rebuild the thing, which must make it difficult for him to catch his quota of insects. That spider must get pretty hungry sometimes.

Even though spiders do a great deal of good for our environment, spiders are greatly feared by most of the population. Most spiders are killed only because they scare people, not because they are actually dangerous to humans.

Spiders do not attack in herds. Spiders do not lay in wait and attack people. Spiders do not lift the covers at night and crawl into bed to bite people as they are sleeping. Some spiders can jump but they are not intentionally jumping at humans to attack them. A spider generally bites a human because it was scared and bites to defend itself. Spiders generally prefer to live in undisturbed areas such as corners of the house or the eaves or in the garden where they can catch insects in peace.

Well, that's a relief! I think this will be news to my sister, who has an irrational fear of spiders, so I hope she's reading this. (Herds of spiders are not lying in wait to attack you, JoAnne, and that spider running across your floor is as panicked as you are. Haha.)

(Everything in italics above is from the California Poison Control System. I was tempted to do some editing, but kept it "as is.")

Here's a promotion from the UK for "spider love." I'm willing to tolerate spiders, appreciate their contribution to maintaining a healthy ecosystem, and admire their artistry. I'm even willing to co-habitate with a reasonable number of them (unless a brown recluse shows up), but I'm not sure I'm ready to love them:

Spider Love.

All is well! A busy mid-terms week just ended, and I have not expired. God is good in many ways. In every way. I hope your autumn days are as lovely as mine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Few "Happy-Happy" Things. . .

“When my one-year-old grandson Jayden enjoys something,
however mundane and ordinary,
he does a little dance and chants in sing-song,
"Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy..."
His cheerful enjoyment of the simplest things is an admirable trait,
so I will follow suit and make a point to notice and exude
"happy, happy, happiness" about simple, daily, easily overlooked things.”
~taken from my High Desert Home blog

Happy-happy me today. . .

~Friends who travel the world and bring me the best jasmine green tea from Asia (the highest quality, they say—for diplomats. . . and for me, too, apparently). It’s delicious. And when I run out, ultra-cool J-Tea from Eugene sells a mighty fine jasmine green tea themselves. Morning coffee~after dinner tea. Nice.

~A beautiful, warm, sunshiny afternoon on such a lovely campus. Leaves are turning, the sky is vibrant blue, and the air feels crisp-but-just-warm-enough. I sat outside on a bench between classes, and my nephew (a student at the honors college, like his sister) came by, sat down beside me, and we visited. Love my nephew!

~Fun at the football game with mom and gang. It got loud (and I got almost hoarse because I do my part as a fan!), and Oregon won even though our best player was out for the entire game and our quarterback went out with an injury just after half-time (and we were playing against a ranked team). No problem. We are rife with great backups! It’s super-fun to be in Autzen stadium—one of the most intimidating stadiums in the U.S., they say.

~Feeling immensely grateful to God for being able to afford to eat tasty, healthy food. And for what seems like a miraculous stretching of the grocery budget! Today: two pieces of sprouted grain toast with almond butter-miso spread; a loaded green smoothie (romaine, kale, cucumber, apple, lemon juice, banana); a falafel pita sandwich with lots-o-veggies; some dark chocolate; a healthy “raw” bar to get me through the afternoon; green tea; a giant dinner salad with romaine, pineapple, avocado, red bell pepper, and Asian vinaigrette, with curry-cashews on top; a bit more dark chocolate (see why this is so happy-happy?). You know, I just feel so great when I eat well.

And, finally, because I have five little quizzes to take online by midnight (and I need to do the homework first) and I have lots of reading and some short-answer questions to fill out. . . and still want to get to bed at a decent hour. . . The final happy-happy?

~Hijole! I got an A+ on my Spanish test. How did that happen? If you had told me a month ago that, after being in Spanish class for less than ten days, I’d be writing a two-page essay in Spanish on a test, I would have laughed. But, along with a page of questions we had to answer, that’s what we were asked to do, and I’m just so thankful that it went well. I don’t ever feel in total command of what we’re doing for class (in fact, sometimes I feel half-panicked about it), but maybe that’s just the nature of the process of this language-learning thing. (And maybe it’s also the nature of too-perfectionistic me—something I’m truly trying to overcome!)

But, at any rate, God is good! And I’m thankful my life is full of “happy, happy”! I hope yours is, too! (And for a lot of us, it’s all about the way we choose to look at it, isn't it?)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Learning to Love the Treadmill and Killing Many Birds with One Stone. . .

Not a good picture, sorry.
I took it tonight in bad light.
But there's my study hall!

I have always shunned gyms and workout machines, but it turns out now that I have a little gym of sorts in my own house. My second bedroom. As I’ve mentioned before, I brought my son’s treadmill here to insure that I will get my daily exercise during the school year. I started out jogging on it in the early morning because a treadmill is mind-numblingly boring, and it takes less time to work out at the speed of a jog than at the speed of even a very fast-paced walk. It was jog, jog, jog, stare at the wall, stare at the wall, moving always, but getting nowhere, and time ticks more slowly on a treadmill than anywhere else in the entire world, I’m certain.

And then, to consolidate tasks and provide myself with more free time, I decided to study while working out on the treadmill. But jogging and reading doesn’t work well for me, so I began to walk and study instead. I’d start moderately and gradually build up to a very fast walk, add some steep inclines, level it back out, and walk, walk, walk while I studied. And a funny, wonderful thing happened. Time flew! And I began to remember what I studied better. And all of the endorphins, or whatever they are, from exercise gave me a serious mood lift. And I could feel myself getting in better shape. And stress was released. Wow.

I’m partly a kinesthetic learner, so, of course! This makes total sense. The treadmill is a perfect way for me to study, especially when I am reviewing and memorizing information and ideas. Now I hop on the treadmill more than once each day—sometimes several times--but I don't intend to do exercise overkill. I make sure I get one good workout on the machine, and the other times, I just walk and walk at a pace that feels good and fluid and that allows me to study easily. I can walk and study for an hour, and it seems like time has barely passed. I even really enjoy it. Again, wow.

This is fun. Forget the rocking chair. I have a treadmill!

Here's an article I found when I decided to see if others are doing what I'm doing:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Some Saturday Notes. . .

I need to make this fairly quick because I have a lot to do this weekend, and I really should be doing that now instead of this, but, oh well. I can use a mental break, and I’ll get right to it after this. Let’s see, how should I do this? How about a list of things I’ve been doing, thinking about, and enjoying? But first, please forgive me if I have not responded to your email. My inbox is a bit swamped, but after I finish all that I need to do today, I will try to begin answering. I hate to turn that into a vow because the computer might be the last thing I want to look at at the end of the day! :-)

Let's go! 

~I have a new morning drink. (Yes, I still drink coffee, but not every single day without fail.) I have read a lot about the nutritional super-powers of chia seeds, most notably in the book Born to Run, and I’ve been enjoying them one way or another ever since. But why not do exactly what those phenomenal, joyful, mega-distance runners—the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico—do? Chia Fresca! (Scroll down a ways to see what this is about, if you don’t already know?) Chia is good for the skin, for regulation of blood sugar, and on and on.

~I was really getting consistent with my morning exercise routine. Walking some days on the treadmill (with lots of fast, steep inclines worked into the workout) and running on other days. I realized, though, that my exercise doesn’t seem to be as effective in the early morning as it is later, and I began to wonder about this, so I investigated online and came up with this article. I still do some early-morning exercise when I know there won’t be time later, but now I am getting on the treadmill later in the day most of the time, and the exercise does indeed seem like it is more beneficial then.

~With school and cooking and cleaning and talking to my kids and riding the bus (which eats up quite a bit of time) and church and on and on, I’m making a point to take time out for other things. Like reading something just for enjoyment. Another thing that I’m making a pointed effort to do every day is to remember to look for beauty. To get up and start counting my blessings and thanking the Lord for them. To notice the change of the seasons. To listen to the sounds around me. To notice how light falls into the rooms of this house differently as the year moves along (and to enjoy it). To continue to bring nature into the house.

“The true cook must have. . . a large dose of general worldly experience.
He is the perfect blend, the only perfect blend, of artist and philosopher.
He knows his worth: he holds in his palm the happiness of mankind,
the welfare of generations yet unborn. . .”

~Norman Douglas,
as quoted in Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David

“If you’re interested in cooking,
you’re also just naturally interested in art, in love, in culture.”

~Madame Jehane Benoit

To pay attention to food. It is beautiful. I’m making effort to move beyond utilitarian cooking to prepare something that is seasonal, healthy, delicious, and even attractive. And I want to take time to fully enjoy the gift of good, delicious food. I don’t know why, but at this time of year, I’m drawn to Deborah Madison. Her food is good, but it’s not just that. Having used this book so much when cooking for my family in the high desert, maybe it’s sentimental. I always open this book when it comes time to cook winter squash and other cozy foods, and this is exactly what I did last night. I baked a spaghetti squash and ate it, a la Deborah Madison, with butter and parmesan. Love this!

~As I’ve mentioned before, I am a mover (but also a quiet, contemplative sort) who likely has what many people might call ADD. This could partly explain why school has always been so distasteful to me. I learn well. Material is not difficult for me to comprehend, but I’m slow at studying, and I have to really structure how I’m going to attack my assignments in order not to feel swamped. I can also get tightly wound when I have a lot of intellectual stuff to do on demand, so I need to keep working to keep my mind settled down or my studying is very ineffective.

One thing that is frustrating about being a different (as opposed to inferior, as experts would sometimes make it seem) kind of learner is that school assignments do not necessarily align with this kind of learning, so it’s necessary to come up with strategies to address the material in my own particular way. The sad thing is that young kids don’t know how to do this and might find themselves so confused by what is expected of them and so overwhelmed by their inability to play the school game that they give up. And then they are labeled. And they learn to hate school. And they might not realize, or believe, how very intelligent (maybe even brilliant) they really are.

Recently, just to acquire some pointers that are geared for people like me, I’ve been doing some reading. A book (it’s sort of vulgar, actually) and an article that have been encouraging and helpful. I have come up with my own strategies, and, so far, they have been super-effective (don’t have time to explain!).  One thing that is stressed in the literature is not to procrastinate or let yourself get distracted, so, guess what? Time to get going!

~I’ll end with the following (saving the best for last). My son sent me this excerpt from a book containing some journal writings of Russian film-maker, Andrei Tarkovsky. This is about the purpose of art, and I think it is wonderful and very worth reading. As Aaron said when he sent me this, "Tarkovsky is brilliant.":

"Given the competition with commercial cinema, a director has a
particular responsibility towards his audiences. I mean by this that
because of cinema's unique power to affect an auditorium — in the
identification of the screen with life—the most meaningless, unreal
commercial film can have just the same kind of magical effect on the
uncritical and uneducated cinema-goer as that derived by his
discerning counterpart from a real film. The tragic and crucial
difference is that if art can stimulate emotions and ideas,
mass-appeal cinema, because of its easy, irresistible effect,
extinguishes all traces of thought and feeling irrevocably. People
cease to feel any need for the beautiful or the spiritual, and consume
films like bottles of Coca-Cola.

The contact between film director and audience is unique to cinema in
that it conveys experience imprinted on film in
uncompromisingly affective, and therefore compelling, forms. The
viewer feels a need for such vicarious experience in order to make up
in part for what he himself has lost or missed; he pursues it in a
kind of 'search for lost time'. And how human this newly gained
experience will be depends only on the author. A grave responsibility!

I therefore find it very hard to understand it when artists talk about
absolute creative freedom. I don't understand what is meant by that
sort of freedom, for it seems to me that if you have chosen artistic
work you find yourself bound by chains of necessity, fettered by the
tasks you set yourself and by your own artistic vocation. Everything
is conditioned by necessity of one kind or another; and if it were
actually possible to find a person in conditions of total freedom, he
would be like some deep water fish that had been dragged up to the
surface. It's curious to reflect that the inspired Rublyov worked
within the strictures of the canon! And the longer I live in the West
the more curious and equivocal freedom seems to me. Very few people
are truly free, and our concern is to help more to become so.

In order to be free you simply have to be so, without asking
permission of anybody. You have to have your own hypothesis about what
you are called to do, and follow it, not giving in to circumstances or
complying with them. But that sort of freedom demands powerful inner
resources, a high degree of self-awareness, a consciousness of your
responsibility to yourself and therefore to other people.

Alas, the tragedy is that we do not know how to be free—we demand
freedom for ourselves at the expense of others and don't want to waive
anything of our own for the sake of someone else: that would be an
encroachment upon our own rights and liberties. All of us are infected
today with an extraordinary egoism. And that is not freedom; freedom
means learning to demand first and foremost of oneself, not of life or
of others, and knowing how to give: sacrifice in the name of love.

I don't want the reader to misunderstand me: what I am talking about
is freedom in an ultimate, moral sense. I don't mean to polemicise, or
to cast doubt on the unquestionable values and achievements which
distinguish the European democracies. But the conditions of these
democracies underline the problem of man's spiritual vacuum and
loneliness. It seems to me that in the struggle for political
liberties—important as these are—modern man has lost sight of that
freedom which has been enjoyed in every previous epoch: that of being
able to sacrifice oneself for the sake of

Looking back now at the films I have made so far, it strikes me that I
have always wanted to tell of people possessed of inner freedom
despite being surrounded by others who are inwardly dependent and
unfree; whose apparent weakness is born of moral conviction and a
moral standpoint and in fact is a sign of strength.

The Stalker seems to be weak, but essentially it is he who is
invincible because of his faith and his will to serve others.
Ultimately artists work at their professions not for the sake of
telling someone about something, but as an assertion of their will to
serve people. I am staggered by artists who assume that they freely
create themselves, that it is actually possible to do so; for it is
the lot of the artist to accept that he is created by his time and the
people amongst whom he lives. As Pasternak put it:

Keep awake, keep awake, artist,
Do not give in to sleep . . .
You are eternity's hostage
And prisoner of time.

And I'm convinced that if an artist succeeds in doing something, he
does so only because that is what people need—even if they are not
aware of it at the time. And so it's always the audience who win, who
gain something, while the artist loses, and has to pay out."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who loves the rain,
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes,
Him will I follow through the storm
And at his hearth-fire keep me warm,
Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise
Who loves the rain,
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eye.

~Frances Shaw