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Flowers!

Flowers!

More Flowers!

More Flowers!

Daffodil Duck (aka Daffy)

Daffodil Duck (aka Daffy)

I think I do more reading in the colder months than the warmer ones, how about you?

My leisure time in the summer seems consumed by flowers, bull frogs, and butterflies. In the dark of winter I will spend hours reading in the bathtub or bed, but in the summer I’m usually too exhausted by daytime existence and heat to read in my usual haunts. Reading for fun happens mostly in little snippets of time, mostly while I’m in transit –  like in the car being shuttled to a family function, or while waiting for someone’s luggage at an airport, or in a too-long line at the bank.

 

If you’re looking for something to read this summer, here are a few Book Quickie Reviews of the stuff that occupied my winter nights:

Title:  Fowl Weather 

Author: Bob Tarte

Why I Read It: It has a duck on the cover! (I’m a bit bird-brained in case you haven’t noticed).  I spotted it on the shelf at the Goodwill.

Synopsis: It’s the memoir of a kindred spirit who chronicals life with his menagerie. In his own words, it’s the story of, “how thirty-nine animals and one sock monkey took over my life.”

Highlights: Bob Tarte makes me seem normal by comparison. He’s funny and taught me a lot about my ducks.

Most Relate-to-able Quotes:  What can you ever say to a dead duck?  

It bothered me that I’d exhibited more patience with a duck than I seemed capable of extending to my mother…

 

Title: Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Why I Read It: It was a good book day at the Goodwill.  I hadn’t read anything by Gladwell, but I’d heard good reviews about his work. The idea of thinking without thinking was compelling.

Synopsis:  Through a wide range of case studies and behavioral research Malcolm explores the cognition behind “gut feelings.”

Highlights:  I am in awe of Gladwell’s ability to synthesize information from many different lenses into such a coherent picture of unconscious cognition.  He weaves together research and examples from such far flung fields as marital communication to military strategy (actually those two domains may not be as disparate as they seem on the surface) to museum curation.  It was as fascinating as it was well-written.

Recommended to: Folks interested in psychology will love this book. Also, firefighters and police officers, and others who must make quick, high-stakes decisions would benefit from this information as well as educators and policy makers.

Best Quote:

We live in a world saturated with information. We have vitually unlimited amounts of data at our fingertips at all times, and we’re well versed in the arguments about the dangers of not knowing enough and not doing our homework. But what I have sensed is an enormous frustration wtih the unexpected costs of knowing too much, of being inundated with information. We have come to confuse information with understanding….we are desperately lacking in the latter (Gladwell, 2005, p. 264-265).

Title: Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

Author: Claire Dederer

Why I Read It: Yoga and Memoir – these are a few of my favorite things!

Synopsis: Dederer shares her experience of coming to terms with motherhood and balancing a career with family life through a (sometimes reluctant) yoga practice.

Highlights: I love stories about the transformative power of a yoga practice.  Dederer tells her story with a wickedly funny kick.

What surprised me: I wasn’t expecting from such a funny flippant lady the depth of knowledge and insight with which she wrote about the women’s movement of her mother’s generation and the cultural trends in our own generation.  She challenged me to think more deeply about my own relationship with my mom and the social and political factors that defined mom’s generation and how that might have led to some of her baffling behaviors.

Best quote:

Without our mothers and their mass 1970s exodus to who knows where, we might not have gotten those crucial years of learning who we were.  I am not sure any of the mothers meant to give us this gift, this terrible gift of freedom…they bought our freedom with their courage (Dederer, 2011, p. 297).

——-

Disclosure: I signed up to be an Amazon Affiliate, which means 1.) I can use their book cover images in my posts without having to worry about them suing me, and 2.) if you use one of the links I provide in the blog to purchase the book on amazon.com I’ll get like a nickel or something.  I’m disclosing this so you will be aware that if you click on a book link, our electronic “footprints” will be walking together toward amazon.

 

 

This week started with me falling out of my house.  I fall often and each time I wind up here writing about it. Sadly, I’m not kidding.  There was the  “how-did-I-wind-up-here?” fall and the “fall-and-jump-back-up-nope-nothing-to-see-here” experience and the “fall-wearing-a-skirt-and-cuss-like-a-sailor-while-showing-panties-to-everyone-on-campus incident — all are clickable and readable to meet your schadenfreude needs.  I do aim to please.

Monday’s fall was a new kind for me.  It was the sort of fall that goes on forever –  all slow motion. I existed in a precarious state of unbalance on the threshold between the house and garage for a very long time, knowing the fall was inevitable, but trying my hardest to will it not so. My mind and body finally surrendered to physics. Even after I acknowledged I was passed the point of no return there was time to observe and consider many things.  As the fall went on and on, I registered that the baby ducks’ water needed changing; that my trajectory, if not corrected, would land me in the pile of fresh cat puke at the bottom of the steps; that the glass of grape juice I was holding was lifted up in toast-making fashion (Cheers!); that I needed to swing my satchel across my back so my computer wouldn’t hit the floor.  I  completely bypassed the three steps leading from the threshhold down to the cold concrete ground of the garage.  Grape juice and ice flew up into the air and  then rained down on my head, shirt and pants as time went back to normal at the point of impact.  It was a spectacular descent if I do say so myself – all action movie hero-like. The computer was saved, nothing was broken, and I avoided the cat puke.  My one disappointment was that no one was there to serve as a witness.

There was no where to go from that point but up.

It’s been a lovely week.

Baby ducks Giggles, Olaf, and Chopper are doing well…

got my ducks in a row

got my ducks in a row

Giggles, on the far left in the picture above, is clearly the diva of the bunch.

work it girl!

Giggles – Work it Girl!

 

I finally got around to giving Herman a glorious toupee.  Herman is the planter I made last summer out of a hypertufa concoction.  We went for a punk rocker mohawk style for this season.  Don’t ask me what’s up with the stick. I didn’t put it there. A little friend must have decided his ‘do needed more something….

Herman the Hypertufa Planter

Herman the Hypertufa Planter

 

I also finished an ensemble because Skattur insisted something should be done.  El-D built the boxes from pallets, I mosaiced the middle pot from broken dishes found in the barn, and the doggy on top came from the Goodwill.

 

pallet planters and mosaic pots

pallet planters and mosaic pots

Next week I’m aiming for Faerie Houses….

 

Aaaaaahh!   Another semester complete.

I started thinking the other day that it’s time to start subtracting things from my life again.  And that’s when I lost my keys. They’ve been missing for the last two days, which is perfectly fine by me.

The same thing happened last May.  That time, they went missing for two whole weeks.  When I’d finally had enough of being keyless, I sat down and called my keys back to me.  (I know that sounds ridiculous, but it totally has worked for me with lost keys and cats).  Anyway, a few hours later I got a call from the library — someone had found my keys in the street several miles away from my house.  How my keys wound up in the street is beyond me.  It’s not like I threw them out the window or anything.  I chalk it up as one of life’s great mysteries, kinda like finding not-my-pants in my closet.   Anyway,  the someone who found my keys noticed I had a library card on the keyring so he took them to the library and had a librarian call me to come pick them up, which is kinda funny because I couldn’t pick them up — I didn’t have keys to get there!

When you lose your keys you can’t leave your house unless somebody comes and picks you up.  Hm….unless you have a spare key, which would change everything.  I bet you’re thinking by now that I probably should get spare keys since clearly this is a regular thing for me.  But let’s apply a little logic here:  I can’t even keep up with my regular keys, so how would you expect me to keep up with spares?   Ok so when *I* lose *my* keys I can’t leave my house unless somebody comes and picks me up – or well unless El-D takes me somewhere.  And this is pretty fabulous any way it plays out — either staying home or being picked up.   I love being picked up and taken places. It’s a whole different sort of thing than driving someplace.  I can also appreciate being stranded at home.

I’ve said all that to say this: I’ve been both picked up and stranded the last two days. And it was good.

Here are the beautiful things that have happened on the farm this month:

tom kha with a heart-shaped green onion

tom kha with a heart-shaped green onion

 

Horses ate

Horses ate

 

 

Olaf, Giggles, and Chopper took a bath

Olaf, Giggles, and Chopper took a bath

 

beauty unfurled

beauty unfurled

 

… and who knows when the time seems right I might sit down and call back my keys.

 

Winter in Memphis is the usual rollercoaster ride: it’s warm, it’s cold; it thunderstorms, it freezes.

One unusually cold snap froze a sheet of ice on the pond, upon which the ducks waddled.

Jan2014 014

We’ve had a busy month of hand makery.

El-D finished building the pallet wood coffee table.

herringbone top

herringbone top

It is fabulous, of course.

Jan2014 004

I spent most of December tying knots in string to make little wash cloths.

 I paired them with fancy soaps to create little ensembles…

 which I wrapped and put under the Christmas tree.

xmascraft 2013

While I was away on errands

Moon Pie unwrapped a few to better lick them.

I like to imagine she barked bubbles afterwards.

Kiki prepares her army to take over the world

Kiki prepares her army for insurrection

 

I’ve been away from home on business. When I left only one of Kiki’s sweet babies had hatched. Since I’ve been away I have been receiving Daily Duck Briefings from my Agents of Chaos. The day after I left, eight more of her babies had hatched.  The day after that the duckling count was up to 11.

 

 

I can’t unsee it.

–El D

The Hungry Raptor

The Hungry Raptor

My beautiful mistress demanded another blood sacrifice this week.

Hiram, our only boy duck that had manners, was taken out by a hungry raptor.

I was headed to work when I met the brazen beast near my car  in the midst of his macabre meal.  At first sight I was so captivated by the hawk’s beauty and proximity that it was all I could see.  I didn’t process the life being extinguished beneath his talon. And then, all at once I did, as the flood of life’s drama rushed in – the hunger, the struggle, and the sacrifice of one life for another.

Sacrifice.  When I was a child, the word conjured terrifying Biblical images of a world that made no sense: Abraham binding his son Isaac, slaughtered lambs, and gruesome crucifixions.  Such interesting tales told to Sunday school children.

Over the years, my understanding of the concept has deepened. When I became a vegetarian I began practicing what the word meant in action: to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.” I gave up my taste for flesh so that another life might go on for awhile longer.

My current lesson comes in noun form, “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.”

Within the linguistic roots of the word sacrifice is the word sacred.  That tangle of meanings is there for good reason.  The life and death of one thing is contained within the seed of another.  Everything must eventually give way for what comes next in Life’s yearning for itself.

This brings me to the topic of the Japanese beetles.  The scarabs are pretty; their shells are an iridescent mix of greens and golds.  However, they don’t belong here. These interlopers have been fornicating all over the roses and eating up the petals and leaves. Last season I came to the conclusion that while they’re pretty, they don’t smell nearly as good as the flowers,  so I poisoned them.  Then I questioned myself about the ethics of a vegetarian destryoing a happy bug’s life — and about poisoning the air, ground, and plants with hazardous chemicals.  Skattur suggested I pick the bugs off, pack them in a box, and ship them back to Japan.  I entertained this fantastic idea briefly, then I decided to pick them off and feed them to the ducks, who seem quite satisfied with this exotic delicacy.

The first harvest of the season comes at the heels of all this sacrificial obeisance.

june 21 010

I managed to pick about a dozen blueberries before the bushes became just another elaborate system for feeding winged-things.

We have also managed to salvage some lettuce, radishes, and a few raspberries, which made a pretty salad.

july 7 2012 001

Kozo at everyday gurus has issued June’s Monthly Peace Challenge, the topic of which is Peace at Home.  This is my contribution.  I hope you enjoy!

~~*~~

I’m currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now.  How this book wound up in my life is its own story of synchronicity. After I was hired sight-unseen for a teaching gig I hadn’t been seeking,  I discovered this book was on my predecessor’s syllabus. I mentioned this a few weeks ago to a friend who had popped in for lunch.

“I think I need to read this book.” I said.

“Oooh! Goosebumps.” she said, ”  I have that book in my car right now. I knew it was meant for donation — I just didn’t know it was meant for you.”

She had planned to run a few errands following our lunch, which included dropping off a few items in donation.  The book was in her donation pile.

Let me tell you, I am learning that now is very powerful indeed.

So this week I was reading a chapter about using and relinquishing negativity. Early on in the chapter Tolle discusses the problem of negativity,

Negativity is totally unnatural.  It is a psychic pollutant, and there is a deep link between the poisoning and destruction of nature and the vast negativity that has accumulated in the collective human psyche. 

You might imagine my delighted surprise when I came to a passage about ducks.  When I read what Tolle had to say on the topic I had to laugh.  He starts with….

Even ducks have taught me important spiritual lessons.  Just watching them is a meditation.  How peacefully they float along, at ease with themselves, totally present in the Now, dignified and perfect as only a mindless creature can be. 

–Eckhart Tolle

This man has obviously not met my ducks, I thought and closed the book.

You see, earlier this week we had a duck fight.   One of the bad boys, Myrrh, started it.  He grabbed ahold of poor Hiram’s neck with his bill, forcing Hiram to retailiate by grabbing Myrrh’s neck and the two side-stepped back and forth like they were slow dancing.   It was really ridiculous.  Myrrh then joined his juvenile deliquent brother, Frankincense, in bullying their sister Mistletoes.

Frank & Myrrh

Frank & Myrrh

Finally, after one Mistletoes rape too many, I tossed both Frank and Myrrh out of the pen and chased them to the pond. Aside from the departed baby Penguin, none of the ducks had ever been out of the pen in the great beyond. I told El-D I didn’t care what happened to the hooligans, which was almost true…

…until the next morning when I went outside to see if they looked ready to atone for their ruffian behavior and sexual shenanigans.

The boys were nowhere to be found.  I called El-D to whine about it: I didn’t mean to sentence them to death!  I just thought a little overnight banishment into the great beyond might do something to improve their disposition.  El-D joined me in the search for the missing ducks.  We found them…in the pen. In my indignation the previous day, I had absently left the door ajar and the little jerks had snuck back in. All ducks were present and they were laying around murmuring to each other about whatever ducks murmur about.

ducks 005Ok, so I was happy to see them.  Besides, their little adventure did seem to have a positive effect – they were definitely more subdued. There was no aggression, just companionable communication. I guess a day of swimming and doing duck things in the great beyond wore them out.

So….we decided to experiment. El-D wrangled the guys again, which was quite a show. Each one struggled to get away as El-D carried them out of the pen and up the hill.  As soon as they caught another glimpse at the pond, they became still and quiet.  When El-D released them, they went flapping to the water. At the end of the day, they were easy to herd back to the pen.  The next day, when I opened the pen door the bad boys ambled out on their own…followed by Mistletoes.

When I next opened Tolle’s book, this is what I read:

Occasionally, however, two ducks will get into a fight — sometimes for no apparent reason, or because one duck has strayed into another’s private space.  The fight usually lasts only for a few seconds, and then the ducks separate, swim off in opposite directions, and vigorously flap their wings a few times.  They then continue to swim on peacefully as if the fight had never happened.  When I observed that for the first time, I suddenly realized that by flapping their wings they were releasing surplus energy, thus preventing it from becoming trapped in their body and turning into negativity. 

—Eckhart Tolle

What a lesson in forgiving and forgetting.

june 6 032

Today all seven are playing outside in the great beyond. At sunset I will go out there and they will make their way to the pen for their cracked corn dinner.  They are as just fancy about this routine as you please and as well-behaved (at least for now) as the Peabody ducks. All they need is a little red carpet.

Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now.  Let it teach you Being.  Let it teach you integrity – which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.  Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem. 

–Eckhart Tolle

Like sands through the hourglass…these are the ducks of our lives.

–Lunar Euphoria

RIP Penguin May 16, 2013- May 20, 2013

RIP Penguin
May 16, 2013- May 20, 2013

Penguin, the beautiful little duckling, died yesterday under the rump of his mother and shells of his sisters and brothers.   In his short little life, he managed to miraculously escape the pen twice. While apparently easy to find a way out of the pen, finding the way back in proved problematic for Penguin. After each escape he stood outside the pen peeping like crazy, as if the rest of the ducks were free and he was the prisoner.  Both times he was rescued from the great beyond and delivered back to his mama’s nest, only to have his mother deliver him to the Great Beyond.

The day he died another baby hatched. It was a terrible sight to behold, really. Blind, contorted, and slimy, it looked like something you’d see hatching in a monster movie – like a baby dragon or something. The creature’s stick-neck was folded at an improbable angle and one tremulous leg kept working the shell open a little at a time. The bird’s dinosaur lineage was quite evident in his appearance.

Meanwhile, not to be undone by Kiki, P. Recious Rainbow has built a new nest right next to hers and plopped down numerous eggs of her own.  There the two sit quacking out the duck version of Dueling Banjos. Or maybe  it’s the duck version of a dance-off…which would be a lay off?

Who will win this game of nests?

Who will win this game of nests?

Mistletoes is standing on Kiki in that picture because she was running to me, her champion protector. As the youngest female, she is tormented relentlessly by the boys. Every time I catch them trying to gang rape her I chase after the boys clapping at them and yelling mean things about how I might become a carnivore again if they don’t leave her alone.  So now she has the habit of running TO me when they’re after her.

Breaking News!!

Meet the newest duck on the block!

duckling

So far this little one, we’ll call it Penguin, is the only one hatched.

 

If you missed the last batch of duckling tales you can find the posts here:

This Week on the Farm: Breaking News (Literally!)

This Week on the Farm: Dreams, Rescues & Attacks

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