Friday, July 31, 2015

The Lion, the Dentist, and the Villagers

Like many, I was appalled at the cruel death of Cecil the lion and my first reaction was to get in touch with Guido and put out a contract on the smiling dentist who appears to have lured a half-tame lion to a lingering death.

But Guido was already booked up (so many bad guys, so little time) and I contented myself with signing a petition or two and watching the internet villagers gather with their torches and their calls for retribution.

Once the dentist was thoroughly threatened, doxxed (his personal info published on-line -- the same thing those bakers got in trouble for doing to the lesbian couple) and his office forced to close (at least for the moment,) there came a second wave -- a flurry of posts taking people to task for getting all upset over one lion when there were so many elephants/rhinos/wolves/(fill in the blank) being hunted for trophies.

"And what about the pigs and chickens and cows and wooly lambs?" the vegans chimed in. "Don't their  lives matter too?"

"And all the aborted babies!" 

"And Sandra Bland!"

"And Black lives!"

"And children dying from hunger -- 30,000 daily!"

"And the Marines in Chattanooga!" (This post forgot the sailor but I haven't.)

"And all the people suffering in Sudan! What about them?"

Good questions. I've been pondering on this as I deal with transforming garden produce into food for now and later. 

One answer is that people just naturally like some animals better than others. Big animals -"charismatic megafauna" as THIS ARTICLE calls them. You wouldn't get this kind of uproar over one spotted owl. Or one rare toad. 

 The answer I arrived at before reading the article was that, unlike so many of the other causes, this had a specific face -- well, two specific faces.  The majestic lion (who had a name as well) and the smug, smiling, rich-guy dentist. Suddenly we villagers had a focus for our anger.

It's hard to find one person to blame for world hunger, trophy hunting in general, or any of the other above-mentioned cases (except, perhaps, that of Sandra Bland -- and Chattanooga -- but that shooter is dead.) Here it's easy -- the wealthy, entitled American who has a history of bending/breaking laws to secure his "trophies." What's not to hate?

"And," the mob shouts, "he needs to be brought to justice. If he escapes the courts, we'll make his life hell."

I really want to see justice done. I hope the whole truth of this incident comes out and that, if he is guilty,  the wealthy American can't buy his way out. I hope that the massive outcry leads other trophy hunters to consider changing from guns to cameras. (Yes, I know about the monetary contribution of game hunting to poor economies and to conservation programs. Camera safaris do the same thing.)

But I find the mob justice of the internet a little scary. Particularly when the mob is composed of nice people. Particularly when I find myself reaching for a pitchfork.

It reminds me of a kids' soccer game many years ago. I was sitting beside a friend who, I happened to know, attended Quaker services. And who was quite anti-gun. 

But when one of the players on the other team had the ball, my sweet friend was shouting at our boys, "Kill him! Kill him!" 

No answers here . . . just observations.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Barbara W. on Facebook started it.

She's the one who introduced me to DREAMSCOPE. 

So I've been experimenting with the different filters on some recent pictures.

I seem to be drawn to the more geometric and abstract treatments . . .

But this one below (called Trippy) is pretty cool too -- if not downright terrifying.

I can quit anytime I want to.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Universe Conspired . . .

I was worried I might miss the opening of the night-blooming cereus  I mentioned yesterday but a well-timed power outage left me with no distractions at all and I was able to focus on this beauty.

It began to open at dusk . . .

John moved it from the green house to the front porch where I could sit in comfort and figure out how best to light it. Below is with the camera flash alone . . .

But then I tried turning off the flash and using a strong, hand-held flash light  . . .

And I like the results much better.

Such a magical bloom . . .

It has a wonderful fragrance too. . .

Moths (its natural pollinators) were beginning to fly around it but I didn't manage to capture any -- I think the flashlight beam confused them.

I sat up with the bloom till about eleven . . . and in the morning, it had wilted.

But then I noticed a tiny bud, no bigger than the tip of my little finger . . . something else to watch!

Monday, July 27, 2015


  Ephemera are things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a brief while. Ephemera also describes items of collectible memorabilia, usually written or printed, that were not meant to be permanent.

Day lily blooms are ephemeral -- each bloom lasts only a day -- hence the name. 

The other night I discovered a bit of ephemera in a book I was re-reading for the umpteenth time -- a magazine blow-in, pressed into duty as a book mark -- after being used for some preliminary planning for a baby quilt made, many years ago, by our community of friends. (Each person was supposed to choose what animal they would like to embroider.)

The ephemeral nature of this creased bit pf paper was underlined  for me by the fact that two of the women I'd listed  have passed on.     

"Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.
He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down. . ."
(Job 14)

When I was watering the green house this morning, I was thrilled to see a night-blooming cereus bud almost ready. Twice this year I've discovered them too late, limp and wilted the morning after their one night of glory. Will I manage to capture this one when it opens?

It's all so fleeting -- one day, one night, one span of years. We have to pay attention lest we miss something.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reading Harper Lee -- A Very Personal Response with Some Minor Spoilers

One would have to have been on a desert island or locked away from all media not to have been aware of the rumor of, announcement of discovery of, forthcoming publication of, publication of, and ensuing reaction to Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, the book she wrote before the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird.

I didn't leap to acquire a copy. Not because I didn't want my memories of Atticus ruined, as many people put it. Not because this was said to be a much weaker piece of work. It was just one of those things I thought I'd get around to eventually.

The thing is, I'd never been in love with TKAM -- I read it over fifty years ago and somehow never felt the need to read it again. (I went through a very long period of resistance to most American and particularly most Southern fiction, spending my time with English writers for the most part. I did get over this prejudice eventually, thanks in great part to Lee Smith's novels.) 

I probably saw the movie -- but again, have no strong memory of it. So much about TKAM has become a part of our group consciousness that I have a hard time distinguishing between what I read or saw and what I've absorbed by osmosis.

But I thought I should read this new (old) book. At the very least it would be interesting to see the first attempt of this renowned novelist. First, however, I had to read TKAM again.

And, oh! how glad I am that I did. It spoke to me so clearly of a time that I remember -- well, more or less -- TKAM is set in 1935 and I wasn't around till 1943. But things change slowly in the South and everything  about the book-- good and bad -- had the ring of familiarity. My maternal grandparents were from Alabama and I visited kin there on multiple occasions. (Aunt Mamie had a cook who could have stood in for Calpurnia. ) And Troy, Alabama wasn't much different from Maycomb.

Neither was Tampa, Florida in the Forties and Fifties.  It was a city but also a collection of small towns. In our particular small town of South Tampa, southern politesse reigned. The ladies visiting, the rules, the expectations . . . now I find all of it a quaint memory but I suspect that when the book came out in 1960 (my first year in college and the beginning of my growing disaffection with the life I'd been brought up to lead,) I suspect it just annoyed me. Too close, too familiar.

Now, with time and distance, I am enchanted with all of it -- the familiar voices and folkways, the inquisitive, intelligent Scout, the wise and upright Atticus, Jem, Dill, Calpurnia and the many eccentric characters who inhabit Maycomb. It's a wonderful book and it kept me reading till 2 in the morning. 

And when I awakened, I was on fire to go back to these characters -- flawed and imperfect as Watchman was rumored to be. So, with the instant gratification of my Kindle, I was back in Maycomb with the grown-up Scout -- now Jean Louise.

Oh, my -- and this was familiar too, beginning with the train ride and the 'roomette' (that was how my grandmother and I got to Troy for those visits.) I remember the consternation in the white community over Civil Rights, the fear that everything was about to change. (My Alabama relatives were said to be 'strong for George Wallace,") 

I didn't find it surprising that the saintly Atticus had the attitudes that he did. It seemed absolutely believable. And it didn't diminish his role in TKAM. He was still a moral force.

WATCHMAN has its flaws -- at times the grown up Jean Louise is nowhere near as likable as Scout. And some of the dialogue turns into speechifying at times. Still, I read it straight through, finishing in the wee hours of the morning, just as I had the previous day with MOCKINGBIRD.

You can see where Lee mined WATCHMAN for chunks of description or narrative to recycle in TKAM - the description of Aunt Alexandra, for example, or the story of Maycomb's founding. And there are are bits that would have benefited from a close editing. But it's still a terrific story.

For lovers of MOCKINGBIRD, there are lots of flashbacks to that time period. The range of eccentric characters is there.  Uncle Jack is particularly well done. And it was interesting to me to see what had happened to the characters from TKAM.

I thought WATCHMAN was a much harder hitting book than MOCKINGBIRD -- which makes me wonder if that's part of why it was not published. Too many home truths perhaps.

In 1960 when TKAM was published, it allowed white readers to feel good about themselves, to identify with Atticus in standing up for the underdog. (THE HELP did the same.) But WATCHMAN doesn't produce that same good feeling -- at best, it's a wary accommodation of the changes in society. The white folks of WATCHMAN have gone from benevolent in their care of the 'good coloreds' to uneasy and suspicious of them all.

And, alas, as I read, I kept thinking how relevant this old/new book is to today's not- exactly- post-racial society.

The scene where the grown-up  Jean Louise asks Calpurnia -- the now retired housekeeper who raised her -- if she had ever loved them ( Jem and Scout and Atticus) was especially poignant.  (I'll leave it to you to discover Calpurnia's answer.)

I was reminded of overhearing a relative complaining about the cold reception she received from the adult children of her ailing housekeeper/cook when she visited the old woman in the (Negro) hospital.  

"When I think of all we did for her! These young Coloreds have just gotten above themselves!"

I suspect those children resented the fact that the white family had seen far more of their mother than they ever had. For years their mother had cooked and cleaned five (it might have been six) days a week and served  after-school snacks and meals, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, to the white family. Her children got what little was left of her.

As I warned, my response to both of these novels is quite personal. I hear the voices; I know the people.  I remember the times with a combination of nostalgia and loathing.  But I loved both books.