Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Children in many schools in the United States of America learn fundamental skills of reading, and writing, and arithmetic, and demonstrate those skills in tests administered by the teachers, and tests required by government accrediting organizations that have agreed upon standards of expectations in different areas of study.

Children also learn applications for these skills that are useful in day to day life. They learn to read a clock, and how to use a calendar. They learn how to figure out how much an 8 percent tax will add to the cost of what they buy at the corner store. They learn if the grocery store sign says 'bananas - 89 cents/lb', how to figure out how much might one banana cost. They learn how big is an acre; they learn how much could one million dollars buy, and how much a dollar buys. They learn which coins add up to a dollar, and how much change should they get back if they buy 69 cents worth of gum with that dollar. They learn how to read and use a recipe. They learn Roman numerals, which are still in use here and there. They are introduced to numerous games and sports, to singing and musical instruments, to many of the arts. They learn the history of our government, and some of the basics of what is acceptable behavior in our culture, and what is not. They also learn lots of our culture's trivia that we assume everybody already knows. They learn about people around the world. They learn about animals around the world. They learn some of the histories - geologic, natural, and political - of the continents on our planet. They learn what has been discovered about the stars in the sky, the planets, moon and sun. They learn about explorers past, and those present - explorers of the lands and oceans, explorers in space. They are exposed to poetry and literature of varied cultures and eras. They learn how to use a library for entertainment, and to locate information. There are many practical skills that are gained in school, including, how to get along.

Some school experiences are great; some can be troubling. Usually, as in all of life, it's a bit of a mix. Some say we spend too much of our childhoods in school, a kind of jail-like experience. Some say we could be well-educated in less than the traditional required 12 years (summers off; 13 years including kindergarten) for a high school degree. There are many very different approaches to learning with different pros and cons. My own experience, overall, was a happy one. I looked forward to the start of another school year each fall. It was a healthy way to socialize with lots of other kids, and to experience the joy of learning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


In previous posts, I've compared feline sleep experience with that of humans, but have not shared any advice of late. During training to become a psychologist, we were taught about the nature of sleep. We did gain some practical information, some of which is listed below.

We humans fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly when:
1) we are not cold.
2) we are not in pain.
3) we are not hungry, nor thirsty.
4) we are not interrupted by sudden noises or events, permitting the full cycle of sleep with all of its stages to be completed.
5) when it is dark.
6) when we feel safe.
7) when we maintain a routine time and pre-sleep habits.

A blanket, an aspirin, a small glass of milk can make a difference.
We sleep better with a familiar comfortable pillow, on a familiar comfortable bed.
Pre-sleep habits may include something like reading, lullabies, a routine check through the house to ascertain all is well. 

It's hard to maintain sleep time and habits when we experience jet lag or changes in local time that are at odds with our body's sense of time (circadian rhythm). It is not unwise then to nap when sleepy, if possible, whatever time it is, if it lets your mind and body feel better rested. If worries are keeping you awake, imagine putting them in a drawer, or in God's hands. You can take them out of the drawer and worry if you like when you awaken.

Sleep well!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Northern California
circa 2009

The beach was strewn
with long stems
leaves and bulbs
of sea weed.
Past a great boulder,
the pocked rock surface
was colorfully alive
with starfishes
and anemone
and barnacles
at home
in the hollows
in the stone.
Away from the starfish
the beach ran on for miles
mostly sand.
The sea was brown,
and green, and blue
depending on how the sunlight
struck each rolling wave.
I walked a long way
away from friends
who were resting in the sun
amidst driftwood
and castaway logs.
on my return,
the water welled forward and retreated
with each wave.
It welled forward,
and a large grey sea lion
ancient whiskered white
waddled ahead
across my path.
I stopped.
The sea lion knew my presence
but did not pause
and disappeared
among the dunes.

Friday, September 25, 2015

summer's end
the breeze is welcome
the last peas
dangle on the vine

Thursday, September 24, 2015


imagine a night
in a distant sky
a night still bright
after sun has set
a special night
four moons in sight
in rare togetherness -
one little orange
a big pale yellow
a mottled grey

and pallid white
four glowing 

gibbous moons
in rare togetherness

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

baseball game

sing to the flag
and clap
warm-up and
the game is on
start and pause
meet and greet
pitch and catch
and pitch and catch
and pitch and

Run and pause
and circle discuss.
waves of fans
and warm-up again

and drop the ball
steal away
back where you were

fetch me a hot dog
get me some peanuts
home run while you were gone
there's mustard on your shirt

breathe real slow
and watch the players
in white and gold
red and blue
run and pause
pitcher spit and wind-up
glance to the right
glance to the left

there's the game
and the runs
and the points
and errors

there's the slow motion
no motion
fast motion

of socks and cleats
interplay of
and players
on the bright green diamond

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

sage and rain

There was a kind of sage in our neighborhood in central Texas during the 1980s and 90s. The leaves of these medium-sized shrubs were very small, silvery, and fragrant, as with most sages. They were able to endure wide fluctuations in weather, from hot summers to light freezes, from dry weather to wet. I was told that these sages predicted the weather. When the little purple flowers appear, rain is close behind. I was surprised to discover this was true much of the time!

It is 2015 now, and sage shrubbery is still evident here and there. The blooms are much more abundant than in the past, and they last longer. These are very pretty silvery bushes, just a slight variation on the plants of a couple of decades past. However, it is disappointing to note: these sages do not predict the weather. Not once has rain appeared following the onset of a blooming cycle.

Monday, September 21, 2015

October, 1971

the school week was over
and several of us hastened
into the Rocky Mountains
the sun lowering
into Friday night
to go camping within
national forest.
the road hugged
walls of stone
gleaming ancient hues
maroons, golds
browns and blues
the mountains
so steep
so huge
the air was light
the cold revived us
giant trees
cupped us
within a mighty quiet
far from the city.
i never wished
to conquer a mountain
the peaceful mountains
conquered us

Friday, September 18, 2015

brightly -
water falls
and breaks
breathe in
newborn air

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Disc jockeys are a fascinating breed of people. Their jobs sound like fun, spending a few hours kicking back, playing music they like, chit-chatting on the microphone. Some have a fixed set, or lots of ads to play at specified times of day or night. Those with more relaxed jobs, and not much in the way of required airings, select this piece of music and that to please their listeners. Sometimes, when there is no sign that anyone is listening - I suppose the DJs play what they like to please themselves.

Some personable airwave stars work as teams, and entertain their listeners more with improvisational jokes and conversation than music. This is more like a show than the work of a disc jockey. The job of the DJ, locating interesting fare for an audience, can be an intuitive art, a combination of music knowledge and sensitivity to many elements within the recordings, and within the community. So DJs choose singers and bands and instrumentals and certain songwriters or themes - and listeners get to hear  and learn.

Another aspect of a DJ's work that's of interest is the way their selections and conversation interweave with the pulse of their community. The great disc jockeys seem to have an awareness of what's happening outside their little cubicle. One day, maybe it's a crisp day in fall after a long hot summer, and the music selections are fast-paced, and the DJ and listeners are running on the same track. One day, it's slow, and thoughtful, and maybe a little mournful, after the loss of a beloved public figure, or in tune with an as yet unknown event. There are four days in my own life that stand out, in part because of DJ choices of music on the radio, weaving so brilliantly with personal and public events. It's great to follow the path of a good DJ's music choices, to experience one song after another, a kind of journey.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Henriette et le lapin

an attempt at a poem in my limited French:

cours sous la lune
elle cours au forêt
et près du lac
la lumière comme
un nimbeau délicat
Le lapin reste
sous les bras
des arbres grands -
il la regarde.
il s'amuse
et il la regarde
par ce qu'elle cours
avec le parasol
à sa main droit
sous la lune
à la nuit
avec sa parapluie
si. un ombre
ronde et gris
ses pieds.
La jeune fille
la parapluie,
sa ombre
maintenant est près du lac
maintenant aux pieds.
Le lapin la suit très vite -
plus vite et plus vite -
et ses pieds savent l'ombre
et l'arrêtent.
Le lapin gagne l'ombre
mais pas Henriette si vite -
le parasol
et la jeune fille
n'est pas visible
n'est pas ici

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

construction site

Day to day, I pass by a construction site with a very large and colorful crane. There is a big and deep hole like for a basement floor. I noticed of late that work on the building itself has started. The workers and the crane are building what might be a stairwell. What is new to me and of interest is that it is being assembled of very large, rectangular slabs of stone or something heavy like stone with a few notches and rectangular holes and such. Each segment is perhaps the height of the stairwell; they seem to fit together like giant pre-fab pieces for a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Many traditions last for centuries, or even millenia, and then, at some point, they fade away. When I was a kid around 1960, our town in south central Louisiana had a downtown whose main street was paved in brick, the local red-orange brick. Cars were becoming more mainstream, pedestrians less so. What came to mind today, though, is the image of nuns. Back then, most convent sisters, young and old, wore habits, a kind of uniform. At that time, the habits were long, to or below the ankles. The fabric tended to be starched. The veils not only covered the head, but came all the way to the face, with extensions that covered part of the forehead and sometimes the sides of the face. A small bit of shining face and twinkling eyes was thus framed in folded fabric. A wooden or metal cross was worn around the neck, or attached to a tie around the waist. Shoes were plain and sturdy.

The habits of some convents were black. Some were black in the winter and white in the summer. I think I recall some sisters who worked in hospitals wearing blue habits.

What is no longer visible when I look at everyday folks in town when visiting Louisiana, or here in Texas, is the sight of an occasional nun in habit. Many nuns now dress conservatively in lay (civilian) clothing, and thus can mingle without notice, which is fine. The old vista of town, though, had an occasional cloud or two or three of black floating among the other residents. A kind of peaceful energy seemed to billow about the fabric of the robes. People near them often spoke a little quieter, more calmly when nuns were evident. The sisters didn't seem particularly conscious of this, that they were like little stones, weighting things down a bit. They didn't preach, and some spoke little at all, but social disturbance rarely arose with nuns nearby. 

The everyday splashes of black in paintings and memories past were peaceful icons of piety.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sometimes, I take the little things for granted, and today, I'm expressing gratitude for one of those little things. Since kindergarten, Crayola and other brands of inexpensive colorful crayons have been a part of everyday life. Sometimes brand new with conical points and fresh paper wrappers, sometimes worn into rounded pieces with bits of dust and debris imbedded in the sides, they work from start to finish. There's something cheerful and promising about a brand-new box, the crayons in neat rows, a choir of colors. There's something reassuring when you can find somewhere in the junk drawer in the kitchen, or in your desk, a few weathered strays. They're present in restaurants to give restless kids something to do, they're in your box of supplies as school starts at the end of summer. Crayons are really wonderful, like paint that you can hold in your hand, no drying necessary. From ages two to one hundred and twenty-two, rich or poor, anyone can be an artist.

Friday, September 11, 2015

7 by 7

When I briefly lived in San Francisco a few years back, I used a city map to find my way around. The map showed the main part of the city, much of which is bordered by water, to be roughly seven miles by seven miles. I'd been nervous about finding my way alone, but now, this news changed my experience of city life. Having been an enthusiastic hiker for many years, seven miles was not impossible! San Francisco was not so much an unfamiliar city, now, as a kind of National Park in my mind. No matter where I got stranded there, I could always find a trail, hike back home enjoying the scenery along the way.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

sunshine grapes

Some delicious green grapes I bought say something like this on the label - 'filled with sunshine'. That phrase is very appealing. These grapes ripened in the sun. Each one contains those aspects of the sun that support life and growth, health, on our planet. (Sometimes we refer to these aspects as 'vitamins and nutrients'.) Most species (plants and animals) on earth evolved on earth, and may be dependent on sunshine in ways similar to how we are dependent on air and water.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

summer Texas creek

one June in the 1990s was mild
milder than it had been for some years
it wasn't too hot to play outdoors
the boys took paper, sticks,
string and picnic plates
they built boats and rafts
at the dining room table.
They signed out with the mom in the kitchen
and headed down to the creek.

There had been plentiful rain
in May and June
the creek was flowing clean
against the smooth and weathered
limestone creek bed
the air was refreshed
they could wade and explore

what was most entertaining
was setting the twigs and rafts
in the water on one side of the crossing
and watching how fast they floated
to the other side

which tunnel pipe would they come out of?
why is this one taking so long?
why do some stay upright
and the others flip and crash?
there goes a roadrunner!
there goes a snake!
there goes a jackrabbit
through the milkweed and buffalo gourd -

Saturday, September 5, 2015


q  qq





other than words

my mind is tumbling
with noise and reasoning
word thoughts that don't match
what i would think
what i would say

i send the words
flying like flocks of birds
and let myself nothink
like a bee
like a moth
like a mouse

i nothink
and let it be
like a Beatle or a tree
my soul floats
all as One and only me

Friday, September 4, 2015

where are the curtains
that flutter in the breeze
that sails in
off the surge of the sea?
the fabrics light
pale yellow and white?
where are the open windows?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

popcorn balls

Some families at Halloween in the 1960s in south-central Louisiana handed homemade popcorn balls to trick-or-treaters. What a treasured score this was! Popcorn balls were made of popcorn, butter, cane syrup, salt, and sometimes peanuts - the little red-skinned kind. The popcorn balls were wrapped in wax paper, and during later years, in plastic wrap. When prepared just right, they didn't fall apart, and neither were they hard and crunchy. The candied syrup stretched, and was delightfully chewy and sweet. Over the years, as I grew up, I thought of these as decadent and a treat that was not so good for a body. But now I see in my mind the fields of corn and cane that provide the main ingredients, that popcorn is a whole grain, and I think, what is wrong with that?  I think of the pleasures other creatures on earth get out of these plants, from the thin sweet juices of cane, and the nutritious satisfying substance of corn. Peanuts make squirrels and baseball fans very happy. The noisy costumed creatures at Halloween told the neighbor parents at the door, 'Gee, thanks!'

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


How do magnets work? How are they related to the earth? Do they behave differently on the moon? Why can a person with a magnet and a piece of metal turn the metal into a magnet using friction, by rubbing the two objects together? How does that happen? How do the magnet's poles, positive (+) and negative (-), get affixed to the pieces of metal? Do magnets and gravity have anything in common? Do magnets have other uses besides attaching pictures, comics, and reminders to the refrigerator?

How does magnetism work between living creatures? Is it the same thing, or the application of the same term ('magnetic') to a different, more biophysical phenomenon?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Observatory Park

One doesn't often see the words romance and physics in the same sentence. However, if you think about astrophysics, and the stars, planets and moon in the night sky, you might discover a connection. As a student at University of Denver in the 1970s, I had both class assignments (courses related to astronomy, cosmology, and Einstein's theory of relativity) and other opportunities that permitted me to spend time at Observatory Park. The park included a small couple of acres with an old, handsome, dome-shaped observatory . Sometimes we had lab at the observatory. We took turns looking at various objects in the sky, huddled over the eyepiece of an old, fine telescope that was affixed to a clock mechanism that kept the object being viewed in focus, adjusting to the earth's steady turning. Despite the city lights of Denver, we often had a good view, the 'mile-high' air so cold and clear. The telescope was situated in a small dark space the size of a waiting room, with maybe three bleachers.

Though we must have gazed at planets, the moon, and stars, what made me weak at the knees were galaxies. Galaxies: spiral-, sphere-, and other-shaped collections of thousands of stars, each star different - perhaps binary, or with its own solar system, or blue and dim, or a nova flaring large and bright. We couldn't see individual stars at such a distance - it was more like looking at bee hives and swarms, millions of miles wide, their piercing white glow reaching the humbled eyes of a handful of momentary creatures on a small acre of earth.