Monday, April 29, 2013

Returning from My UBS (Unexplained Blogging Silence)

Hello. It’s been a while. I’ve no good reason for my long absence—not one I can easily articulate anyway. But let me tell you a story…

Eons ago at a motel in California, my five-year-old self left two very tired parents in their room and set off to explore. My parents’ exhaustion now seems understandable to me. Who wouldn’t frazzle while traveling cross-country with two contrary teenagers and one youngster who ceaselessly asked questions?

So I was on my own on a clear, sunny afternoon. I surveyed the area—a playground for motel guests, a neighborhood of houses in the distance, more families checking in to their rooms, the symmetry of the motel exterior, the sameness of every room altered only by the numbers on the doors. Nothing remotely interesting to me. In fact, the afternoon was looking so bleak I wish I hadn’t left my parents. And then a flash caught my eye.

I looked skyward, only to be blinded by glaring sun. After focusing, I saw it: an oblong, silver metal vehicle encircled by slender, perpendicular cylinders each ending in a colored light. What was it? I looked around to see who else had noticed, but no one was looking up.

The vehicle came closer to the motel and glided slowly overhead. I HAD to share this with somebody! I raced back to the motel room, threw open the door, and burst in with my news. But before I got the whole story out, I realized that the people listening to me were NOT my parents. I was in the wrong room—so embarrassed I never wanted to leave my parents again (assuming I’d be able to find them). By the time I got back to them, my humiliation far outweighed my cosmic experience and I couldn’t wait to get on the road again. I was ready to leave this dismal place in the dust.

Of course, between my UFO tale and my accidental exuberance with strangers, my parents enjoyed a good laugh at my expense. But I know what I saw.

Years on, my UFO encounter well behind me and never mentioned again, I was trying to verify something I was editing. A newspaper article led me to a book chronicling unexplained occurrences. I found more than I’d anticipated.

Several pages of one chapter were devoted to the same shiny, colorful vehicle I saw on my first family vacation. The descriptions matched mine, the vicinity was the same, the time of year synced as well.

Hmmm. Other people saw it? You mean I wasn’t suffering from heatstroke or an overactive imagination? Cool. I could reshuffle my brain a bit and recategorize this memory without shame.

Fast-forward to April 2013—a month during which I should have had LOTS to write on Lull. A month celebrating poetry, honoring trees, raising awareness about animal cruelty. Yet I remained strangely silent. Honestly, I don’t know why. Lacking a better excuse, I offer this: That shiny hovercraft with colored lights came back for me.

Yup. I was abducted by aliens.

[Photos by N J. Jackson (palms at top) and NASA.]

Monday, April 22, 2013

Waiting For Every Day To Be Earth Day

“Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm, I’m stricken
by the ricochet wonder of it all: the plain

everythingness of everything, in cahoots
with the everythingness of everything else.”
—from “Diffraction (for Carl Sagan)” by Diane Ackerman

Thursday, April 11, 2013

One Small Step Toward a Better Dog Shelter

The facility for my local humane society is only five years old. At that youthful age, you’d think it would actually be as “state-of-the-art” as it’s described on the organization’s Web site. Sure, the colorful murals of the lobby warmly welcome visitors and the classical music playing in the dog wing shows consideration for the comfort of the animals; the staff’s upbeat and caring attitude is commendable. But none of these conceals the harsh environs the architect thought appropriate for homeless canines.

The adult dogs reside in a large, open concrete-block room in rows of cages with concrete floors that are separated by concrete block walls. Lots o’ concrete and NO apparent soundproofing, which makes for a VERY noisy habitat. And to a pooch who’s scared or nervous or troubled in any way, the din of the room must be unbearable. Especially when the barking begins, and it takes only one tiny terrier yelp to get 100+ dogs going. The music meant to calm the residents only adds to the cacophony. Between the noise and the concrete greyness/hardness, the place can really do a number on you.

But last month, the shelter held a special fundraising drive for one purpose: to purchase a bed for each dog cage. Donors were asked to contribute $50 per bed. And what do you know? In no time at all, caring folks met the quota.

Now each pooch has one soft place to go to relax or seek solace. Isn’t that wonderful? It’s such a simple effort, but one that makes all the difference for these homeless creatures as they wait for their future to begin.

[Top photo from Sweet Nothings Designs; dog photo from the Lexington Humane Society.]

Monday, April 8, 2013

Life Instructions

The nest in the photograph is atop a young oak tree across the street, spread across branches that aren’t much more than twigs. What I am unable to show by camera, though, is how amazingly minuscule the nest is. I could hold two of them in the palm of one hand.

It’s not a new nest, and when I recall how many terrific winds have gusted through the neighborhood this year alone, the engineering of the bird home is all the more remarkable. Whose is it? Will they be returning to it, as so many birds do?

I’ll start monitoring it. As the oak begins to bud and leaf, I expect that’s when the home will be reinhabited. I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, I aim to follow these wise words from poet Mary Oliver, and I encourage you to do the same:
“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

—from “Sometimes,” in Red Bird by Mary Oliver

Thursday, April 4, 2013

We Lost an Original Today

“ ‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. … We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
—Roger Ebert

[Photo from Wings of Desire.]

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Seeing Red—and Pink

Years ago, when part of my job was to research best practices in business management and leadership, one controversial topic was benefits for same-sex partners. But it wasn’t controversial for the reasons you might expect. Morality and religion were absent from the conversation.

Instead, HR directors were fearful that any couple—whether homosexual or heterosexual, committed to one another or not—could file for benefits. People could even PRETEND to be part of a couple and get benefits. Give same-sex committed partners the privilege of receiving benefits and you open the door to providing the same to noncommitted same-sex couples, which opens the door to opposite-sex committed unmarried partners receiving benefits, which naturally snowballs into noncommitted unmarried opposite-sex couples getting the same, and pretty soon everybody is getting benefits.

I laugh about this now because the solution is so easy: equal marriage rights. Benefits go to married couples, not longtime partners or faux couples. By making marriage lawful for same-sex couples, corporations won’t have to fret over how to determine whether a couple is bona fide. If couples want protection and recognition under the law, they’ll marry; if not, they won’t.

The issue becomes black and white. Or red and pink.

Isn’t it time for us to stand on the right side of history?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Forsake Not Your Peeps

At the drugstore yesterday, I walked down the Easter aisle in hopes of picking up a bit of seasonal chocolate. But the rows and rows of shelves that earlier were brimming with candy were EMPTY! Across the aisle, next to the lonely leftover toys and baskets, stood the boxes of Peeps no one wanted.

If you, too, have excess Easter Peeps at your house this week, get creative. Try your hand at a collage or diorama with them; use them as building materials. For examples, just search “Peeps art” or “Peeps diorama” and Google will oblige with numerous contests and exhibits.

Peeps are more than cute little sugar boosts. They can be the key that unlocks the artist in you.

[Art by Kathy Ansell and Chris Broquet.]
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