Saturday, June 27, 2009

Being the Bad Guy

I've started the kids exercising.  Boy, you should listen to the griping, the whining, the moaning about the stupidity of it all, the dodging ... mostly from the man-child.  From the girl I got cursing while in process (she chose Bollywood--wow, tough even for me, who's been bellydancing a long while.)  She cursed at herself, at the video, at herself again, but by the time she got through it all she was grinning and happy.

They were both grinning.  They'd accomplished something, no little feat, neither.  I hope it won't be like pulling teeth when we do it all again tomorrow.

But mom!

Sometimes I have to be the bad guy.

Friday, June 26, 2009


My little girl turned sweet sixteen the other day.  Three of us went on a massive shopping spree, bought far more books than clothes, had dinner at Red Lobster, looked at kitties (but didn't adopt any--five are more than enough, thank you!) at an adoption center, and spent the rest of the evening watching comedy.  Well, the kids did.  I crashed hard for a bit, then after everyone had gone to bed I worked on OryCon 31 programming stuff. 

This virus poopyheaded bug thingy, whatever it is, is still making me tired.  When I do sleep, I have unsettling dreams.  Anyway.

She's not any taller, or smarter, or more mature by stepping over this landmark birthday, and yet she is a little smarter, taller, and more mature every day.  She used to fit on her father's lap, head by his knees, feet at his belly, large, blue eyes staring up at him with her hands waving around randomly at first and then with slimy purpose.  She had a grip, this small thing, and a fascination with hair.  I got used to having slimy hair, having my hair pulled and yanked and tangled in moist, pink little fingers.  

She hid cat food under her pillow and in her closet.  It's important to have an emergency food stash in case of, well, an emergency.  She also hated clothes, like her mom.  She'd take them off at unexpected times and streak about.  

A lot of parents talk about their kids' independence.  Me too.  She decided she wanted to go home from kindergarten one day.  She snuck out, and if it hadn't been for a sharp-eyed secretary, she would have escaped to attempt to walk home.  Oh, I shudder ... we moms do that.  That was a decade ago and I still feel the same chill, and again when she almost drowned, and again when she fell asleep on the bus--that time the entire after-hours school system was hunting for her, and if it weren't for the bus driver hearing a small "can I go home now?" from the back of the bus just as he got off to leave the bus barn ...

But she's home, putting dishes in the dishwasher, enjoying her time to herself, talking to herself.  She's a private child, not quiet and subdued but she definitely prefers her own  rational, certain-of-the-future, inventive and determined companionship over that of any other being, human or animal.  When she seeks the rest of us out, it's good to know she does because she genuinely wants to be around us, not because she was lonely or bored.

There's not enough room in a blog post to share all the feelings I have, or paint even a fraction of the memories we share.  It's just good to travel through life with a daughter, this daughter, our daughter, a jewel amid the stardust in the universe.  

Monday, June 22, 2009

Writing Time

I've written somewhere between ten thousand and fifteen thousand words in the last couple of days on a couple of different novels.  I try not to rely on grooves to write, but when I'm in a groove I run with it, because who knows how long it'll be before the next one comes along!  

I'm also excited because a couple of short stories are a little overdue.  Overdue is good.  Fast responses are also good and very much appreciated, even though fast responses at my stage me no.  A fast no means I can get that story out quick to another market, a market where the editor might say yes.  Anyway, I'm pretty happy about being a writer right now.  

In gardening news, my garden exploded.  The other day I was weeding around some David Austin roses, specifically my favorites, the clump of three Abraham Darby roses, and I about fainted with pleasure.  Even with spiders dripping down my arms, all I wanted was to bury my nose in those shrubs.  The scent is so intense you may not necessarily want to stick your nose in the flowers themselves unless it's late afternoon because in the morning they might knock you right out.  But hanging around close in the leaves, jostling them, the fragrance wafting all around--it's a gardener's heaven.  My Abraham Darbies aren't full sized yet.  I can't wait until they are.  They'll all grow together into a giant mass that people won't even have to bend down a little to smell the roses.  Beautiful.  

If you want to try out some Austin roses in your garden, there's some things to know in advance.  First, these are very, very heavy blooms, generally speaking.  A few will remain upright, but most are nodding, due to the weight of the bloom, even though they have stiff stems.  Second, most of them are very large shrubs, and some qualify as out-and-out hedges.  If you have a small area, be sure to check the growth habit on the roses.  He does have some very, very fine smaller roses if space is tight.  Lastly, these are high quality, and generally very expensive roses.  It's typical to see them sold for $25 a piece or more.  You can order them for slightly less direct from the grower, but then you pay shipping.  If you learn by heart (or keep a list in your purse) the roses you're looking for, sometimes you'll find them at nurseries for far, far less than standard retail during the main 'rose season' that starts as early as January, depending on your location, and goes no later than the end of May.  After that you can still sometimes find them, but it's usually at regular prices in one to five gallon containers.  Costco (yay Costco!) does carry them, but again, you have to know the names, as they may not be marked clearly as English or Austin roses.  This year I saw Golden Showers, Abraham Darby, and Gertrude Jekyll.  I've also seen Princess Margareta at various nurseries (highly recommended, though it hasn't yet managed grow higher than the giant ball of daylillies.)  Othello and Falstaff are also gorgeous and easily found, but if you can have only one Austin rose and your space is somewhat tight, but you still want a vigorous rose, I highly recommend Shakespeare 2000, a red rose that leans a tiny bit toward the blue/pink.  It won't get ginormous immediately, so you won't have to prune it several times a year to keep it from poking unwary passersby.  The flowers are to die for and the scent is intoxicating.  They're red roses, always attractive and lovely.  They're hardy, so if you forget about them, they won't die on you, and if you plant them in a less than perfect spot, it won't go limp or protest by putting out a few leaves, one flower, and then quit until next year (*cough* Sterling Silver *cough* Tigress *cough*)  Also, it nicely exactly matches the color of my Karl Rosenfield peonies and the flower size and style are extremely similar.  I planted them close to each other deliberately for this reason.

Personally, I look for rose descriptions like "sometimes can be unruly" or "aggressive" or "not for small gardens" or "can also be grown as a small climbing rose."  I also like descriptions like wild, arching, very large, hedging, spreads through roots, vigorous, fast-growing, and highly disease resistant.  When I have lots of choices, then I look for rebloomers or everblooming varieties.  Even in the 'everbloomers' the first show will always be the best, but it's nice to have lots of flowers at frost.  Oh, and speaking of frost, many of the hardy, cold-tolerant roses will develop buds well after the first frost, though it's unlikely they'll open.  Every year, I have at least one bud late in December (I don't prune my roses all the way back until Valentine's Day) for the winter solstice celebration.

Ah, roses, my gardening passion.  Yay writing.  Yay roses.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I'm fighting off a cold.  Both kids have it.  I've been sleeping most of the time, and when I'm not sleeping, I'm working (writing, housework, filling out a really, really long form for my job application) so I apologize for being away.  I hope I'll be back on Monday with more blogging.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I've accumulated over 20,000 hits since I started counting.  I don't remember when I started counting, but it was not that long ago.  Anyway, thank you all very much for reading!



I have to admit that one of my favorite places in Ireland is one of the most notoriously commercialized.  This is one of many places we visited where traveling in Ireland off-season made the experience very worthwhile.

When we arrived in town, it had been raining off and on.  It cleared long enough for a spectacular sunset.  From the driveway of our B&B, I managed to get a photo of the castle in the distance with the early part of the sunset peeking through a window.  

Our host advised us to go to the castle early, or an hour before closing, as the buses of tourists don't run at the verges of the castle's visiting hours.  He'd heard on the news that the weather would break in the afternoon the next day, and hoped for us that the weatherman was right.

It rained in the morning and early afternoon, so we toured the stores and the town square hoping the rain would let up.  The weather and time of year kept it from being crowded, and we were able to spend some relaxing hours writing, reading, and taking in the local atmosphere in a comfortable pub.  The rain did relax, so we walked over and arrived at the castle gates about 45 minutes before they stopped admitting new arrivals.  A sign let us know that we wouldn't be booted off the grounds for a bit after that, and the gatekeeper assured us we'd have plenty of time to see everything so long as we went to the castle straightaway.

The castle is more complex and interesting than I ever imagined.  Nooks and steep spiral staircases abounded.  The center of the main building had no floors anymore, so there's a view several stories down as you approach the top.  On the way up, often there's another diversion somewhere, or another tower to climb, so that it seems you'll never see it all.  At times the view from a walkway or tower set off my mild fear of heights, and I was grateful for the frequent breaks on our ongoing climb.  It would be very difficult for someone of frail health or with a disability to get anywhere inside the castle.

The location of the Blarney Stone is much higher than I realized it would be.  Those who used to come to kiss the Blarney Stone before safety committees existed quite literally took their lives into their hands.  Now there's a gate to keep you from plummeting to your doom if you slip, but it would be an unpleasant fall onto it, and wouldn't trust it to hold me.  It might slow me down long enough for the employees to grab my ankles and pull me to safety.

Yes, I know what locals do to the stone.  I kissed it anyway.  I'm a writer in my heart, and the history of it is too irresistible.  Besides, it had been raining all day, and it didn't smell funny.  I've done worse things, and it was a lot of fun.

The best was yet to come.  The grounds are amazing, and unlike the castle, there are plenty of places for people with physical challenges to explore.  But even in the garden, there are hidden steps, steep hollows, and potentially dangerous areas including some fast water, so it's a good idea to take it slow and keep a close eye on small children.  As a gardener and appreciator of nature, I felt like I'd took a strange turn into a different world.  The garden is old, and despite being overrun relentlessly for years, it has held onto a magical undercurrent and ancient power that our entire family felt.  I didn't take many pictures as a result.  At one point the men and the women went down separate paths.  What secret rites or mysteries the men wove into, I have no knowledge of.  I hold my own memories close.

Blarney is a place to bring a sketch pad, or watercolors, or a good camera, but it's also a place to meditate, or play, or relax.  By all means have fun at the castle, but for me, the real power of Blarney is in the land and the good nature of its besieged locals.  If you want to check off a world-famous landmark, you'll only need two or three hours for the castle, grounds, and soup at the pub.  But there's much more to find there if you're patient, lucky, crafty, humble, and quiet.

(last photo by my DH)

Monday, June 15, 2009


I know, I was going to post more stuff about Ireland.  Next post, maybe even later today, but first I want to talk about charities.

I got a call from Washington State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police late last month.  Since I'm a nasty, suspicious person, I didn't want to give them any credit card information over the phone, so I asked that they mail me information.  I felt uncomfortable, because the caller clearly didn't sound like a volunteer.  He used pushy jargon, didn't seem particularly grateful when I said I'd contribute $25, and then asked if I would contribute more when I got my invoice in order to help cover overhead associated with mailed contributions.  I hung up feeling iffy about the whole thing and was glad that I'd have a chance to investigate further once I got the mailed materials.  I hearts teh internets.

The letter I received looks very shiny and promises to contribute to all kinds of things I normally eagerly support:  helping out police and families in distress, developing crisis management and stress support programs,  LEO Torch Run for Special Olympics, college scholarships for children of LEO's, etc.  Seven items were listed as examples.  I thought wow, this is great!  But, being horribly suspicious, I did a web search.

I won't call them a scam like some have.  But they do appear to be a commercial, money-making venture rather than what I would call a true charity.  Their last report to Washington State's secretary of state reveals that 20% of money actually reaches the LEO community.  I've also seen an older figure of 18%, so I guess they've improved.  (Yikes.)  The BBB hasn't received any requested information from them--which isn't necessarily bad, but raises my eyebrows and makes me want to dig deeper.  I'm glad I did. 

The Charity Navigator puts some perspective on overhead and percentage of charitable contributions that actually goes to charity.  My feeling is that 20% going to charity isn't good enough, not even for government work.  $20 of my $25 would have gone to the company for their overhead.  Well.  It seems obvious that if I want to give money to police programs, there have to be better and more efficient ways to do that.  In 2008, Washington State Lodge brought in $816,882 and spent $576,131 on fund raising.  They also spent almost $40,000 on conventions, conferences and meetings.  I totally feel their pain in the convention department, but having said that, with their additional accounting expenses and what-not, have very little left for, you know, charity, the reported purpose of their organization.

I can't support this kind of inefficiency, even if it's not deliberately set up to provide jobs off of people's goodwill rather than help people (or animals) in need.

Always, always check out charities before contributing.  I'm all about feeling good for helping out a good cause, but I want that good feeling to be real and justified, not a phantom thing because I went through the motions and poured money through a phone line.

It's a shame.  I would love to support LEOs and their families, especially when they're in crisis.  I'll just have to find another route, to honor the pledge I made.  It most certainly will not be through the Washington State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police today or next year or ever unless they shape up their organizational practices. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To Jay with Love

Back to Ireland soon, but first, I would like all the folks out there who know Jay Lake to send healing thoughts his way.  Jay received bad news regarding his cancer.  He faces what many people in America face silently, privately, for many reasons including not wanting their friends to treat them like the walking dead (or to avoid them for fear of being uncomfortable or saying the wrong thing.)  

The very sick are often isolated.  Jay has chosen to be public about his illness, hoping to teach us one aspect of what we as a society once knew when we had our loved ones with us through all stages of life.  I see it with births too, not just serious illness and death where people spend endless hours in hospital beds behind white curtains.  

I'm not any smarter in this regard than anyone else.  I want to learn how to relate to people better.

Jay often posts that if love could heal, he'd be the healthiest SOB in the world.  I hope knowing he's supported and loved will help.  I believe it can, maybe in surprising ways, but certainly in the obvious ones.  Fighting cancer takes willpower, courage, and every last shred of energy a person has (and some they don't.)  Family, friends and community are essential to keep going.  Think of a sporting event you've participated in.  Ever had a teammate urge you on?  Come on, just a little farther, you can do this.  I know you.  You're strong enough.  You're smart enough.  

There's a time when all we have, and all our friends have and family has, isn't enough.  There's no reason to believe that Jay faces one of those times.  It's time to cheer him on, to rally, to lend him strength where and when we can, not because he's dying, but because he's fighting for his life.

If you have an ailing friend or relative, or if someone you know is a new parent, consider calling or writing a letter, right now.  A few minutes of your time may help them through the next stretch.  

Incidentally, I know this would never occur to most of you but I've heard of it happening--people who offer help, but don't follow through.  If you know you have a habit of procrastinating or forgetting, then think twice before making a promise, even if you honestly mean to deliver.   This is a situation where 'it's the thought that counts' gets into iffy territory.  You don't know when your promise might be someone's last lifeline and they might be waiting for you by the door or next to the phone, waiting for you to do what you promised you would, be it making a phone call, a casserole, or arranging for music therapy.  

Stuff to think about.  If you want to learn, check out Jay's posts.  Click on the cancer tag if you dare, and follow along.  If you're inspired, offer a helpful comment.  It may make a difference.

non sequitur of the day:  back up your computer!


I was watching "Pride and Prejudice" (the newer version) again.  Caroline asks if Elizabeth wants to take a turn about the room.  They'd been talking about accomplished young women, and Lizzie noted that "And it is a small kind of accomplishment, I suppose." (To take a turn about the room after sitting for a long time.)
To someone like Lizzie, who loves walking and walks everywhere, taking a turn around the room has got to seem silly.  To Caroline it's a ploy.  But thinking about accomplishments in general ...

For someone in really poor health, just standing up is really difficult, if not impossible.  People in really good health look down on this kind of thing all the time.  They say things like, how could someone let themselves get that bad, and so on.  This attitude provides a very handy excuse to not even try.  It's too late, there's no point, I'll never be healthy (which may be true for some--but this is where self-honesty has to be at it's best.  Is there a diagnosis, or a mental block?  Can you and your doctor work as a team to get you better, if not all the way to prime health for your age?)  If I try, I'll just look stupid.  I am healthy, I'm just big-boned.  I should be able to look any way I want, be any way I want, and people shouldn't judge me (which is true, except it shouldn't be an excuse to give up unless there's a medical reason for the situation.)  I'm truly happier this way.  (Which is great!  As long as it isn't a lie--you shouldn't be ashamed to have your picture taken or be afraid to look in the mirror, right?)  Healthy people are born that way, they're lucky.  My genes are against me.  

For the record, my genes are waaaay against me.  My grandmother has struggled against her weight all her life, and lost--she's much too heavy, although she's got low blood pressure and is still able to get around, thank goodness.  My mother has struggled against her weight all her life, and won--thanks to cooking for herself and staying active.  My paternal grandmother died of her obesity.  My father was in excellent health when he died, but he did old-school calisthenics every morning and enjoyed camping, skiing, waterskiing, and gardening.  His father is terribly overweight and a couch potato, literally waiting to die, alone.  My sister was in great shape most of her life, but then her hips began to crumble apart and she was unable to exercise.  The weight packed on.  Now, overweight and with high blood pressure, she's healing from a hip reconstruction surgery (just on one side, the other is still bad but now she can compensate) and she can't wait to get back into shape again.  She's already made huge strides in that direction.

I've struggled against my weight all my life.  When I got pregnant, the pounds ballooned and I felt what it was like to be heavy.  My doctor warned me I was gaining weight way too fast.  I flirted at the verge of gestational diabetes.  At the end of my term I was ginormous--and of course, after the baby was born, I didn't return to my pre-pregnancy weight since I put on way more than breast-feeding and looking after a newborn naturally takes away.  It's not easy for anyone, and it wasn't easy for me.  But I lost the weight again, and after being at a stable weight for many years (give or take five pounds) I'm once again working to get my weight down and my ability to do fun stuff for as long as I want up.  I don't work hard to look like Jillian Michaels.  I work hard to look like a better me.  I have the chance to improve myself every day.  I'm taking that chance today.  I plan on taking that chance again tomorrow.

It's a small sort of accomplishment to walk around the garden every non-rainy day (and some rainy ones too.)  But it's something.  It's a small sort of accomplishment to write for fifteen minutes.  All these small things can be compared to the people who run five miles every morning before work, or write eight hours, or climb Mt. Everest, and of course they come up short.  Unless you're an astronaut, comparing yourself to an astronaut and deciding you'll never reach that high serves no purpose.

There's no need to compare ourselves to anyone else in order to strive.  Strive to do something more than you already do, something important to you (as opposed to what someone has told you ought to be important--just because I'm focused on my weight right now, that doesn't mean I'm pointing at you and your weight!)  Over time, these small accomplishments build into ones we can be proud of.  One day, no, one minute at a time.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Back in the Chair Again

After a busy weekend, I plan on continuing my Ireland series here at Jestablog.  I'll also be making a DVD of our travels, plus I have OryCon things to do, so it'll be a busy Monday too.  

Alas, I'm 13 minutes into Monday, and facing the fact that I need to get a good night's sleep before I can start my day.  

Don't want to!  pout  Want to stay up all night and work.

Even though I'm eager to blog and get my projects done so I can have free and clear time to write, I can't let my sleep schedule get thrown off.  The dangers are that I'll either need naps or oversleep, or I'll go short on sleep and be so mushy in the head I'll write poorly or simply waste the day vegging, wondering why I'm so low energy.  It of course doesn't take rocket science to figure out why I'd be low energy, but mushy brains are slow that way.  Even if I did figure it out, what could I do?

As much as sleep sometimes feels like a waste of time, I do get some great story ideas from my dreams.  Besides, I've noticed that I write more and more slowly the more tired I am.  If I sleep well and wake up feeling rested and excited about the day, I write quickly and often more clearly.  

I can write any time of day.  I know there are folks that can't.  They have trouble waking up in the morning, or they feel too drained in the evening, or too sleepy after lunch ... I think in some ways if I had restrictions on when I could write, it might be easier to be consistent.  The more consistent I am about what time I sit down and write, the easier it is to make into a habit.  On the other hand, being able to write pretty much any time in any state means that it's easier to squeeze in some writing at oddball times, even when I'm on vacation or at a convention when the idea of keeping some sort of schedule or planning writing times is an exercise in frustration.  So, as always, being one kind of writer isn't an excuse not to write.  You just gotta, and the more often you write in accordance with what kind of writer you are, the more productive you'll be.  Just an observation.  And now, time to settle in for the night.  See y'all in the morning.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thistles and Barley

I'm proud (and nervous) to announce that my short fantasy, Thistles and Barley, went live at the free online magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the June 2009 issue (#18.)

This is such a neat magazine, and it's free.  Did I mention it's free?  Free to subscribe, free to view, and it's a not-for-profit, so if you donate, it's considered a charitable donation to the arts and you can write it off on your taxes.

But wait, there's more!
There's a forum just waiting to be taken over by passionate readers of fantasy.  It's quiet there now ... too quiet.  Just think of the opportunity to vent your spleen in regard to western (as in wild west) fantasies (there are two I know of in back issues that are very popular among readers.)  Tell the world my writing is dull, or deep, or pink.  Get into a discussion with the editor or authors about first person present.  Have a little fun with the assurance that, at least right now, it's not going to eat all your time for the next month (or year) to keep up on the topics you're interested in.  I love fledgling forums for that reason.  Plus, they're all shiny and uncluttered by trolls. (knock on wood)

So have a looksie.  I hope you enjoy what you find Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Air France Flight 447

When 228 people die in an airplane crash, it touches people all over the world.

It's more than a little ironic.  There are so many conflicts all over the world, people suffering torture, deprivation, dying, and few if any of them get any media attention.  When they do, it doesn't seem to cut as deep, even if there are thousands of victims.  That got me to thinking about mortality, and what touches us, and what does not, and why.

I remember when I read Tuesdays With Morrie, how Morrie felt when he read the news about the suffering of others, whether it be from hurricanes, serial killers or disease.  Mortality became real as he faced his own death in so many more ways than a healthy person with a long or at least undetermined lifespan can completely understand.  Including me.  I can't claim to be any wiser or more connected to the pain and deaths of others than anyone else in my privileged circumstances.

My family all recently flew on long international flights, including within sight of a strong storm, and watched the scramble of rerouting as a series of tornadoes swept through the south-eastern United States.  I remember clutching the arm of my seat every time the plane dropped sharply, remembered the flicker and loss and only partial return of functionality to our onboard computer entertainment center.  I remember telling my kids this was normal, and in a lot of ways, it was, and is normal, as we watched our plane circle and navigate around dangerous areas, forming U's and figure eights on our flight map.  Storms and turbulence are part of flying, and pilots deal with those situations very frequently.

That's what's making my stomach clench and what makes my heart ache every time I think about that flight, those passengers and the crew, and what they must have faced.  I know the pilots did everything possible, and I believe they did everything right with the information they had.  It's a dark and bitter truth that doing everything right doesn't always save the day, no matter how experienced the crew, or how long they have to brainstorm for solutions.

Our world is so much bigger and stronger than most people imagine.  We appear to be in total control of our environment, with our houses, our sea walls, our weather reports and air conditioning.  But we're not.  We add percentage points to our survivability in a crisis.  That's all.  

It's safer to fly than to drive.  Absolutely.  But we're monkeys, and for many of us, facing death so far above the ground with nothing to save us but the wits of the crew and a machine, no matter how magnificent and graceful, is something we can both imagine all too easily and which we dare not imagine at all, not in any detail.  I don't think there's anything to be gained from such a thing, unless you're an artist and need to express that terror so that it can be released to the sky like a prayer, or an aircraft designer doing your best to take every circumstance into consideration to give the crew and passengers a few more percentage points to hang their hopes upon.  That's what the investigation will focus on in the next few months.  They'll try to analyze the hell out of this thing in hopes of preventing an accident like this from ever happening again.  But you can't actually remove the hell entirely.  It's always there, waiting.

If we want to lead utterly safe lives, we can try, but that won't prevent us from facing our own deaths someday.  Some might decide that we have no business flying at all, that we don't belong in the sky.  I can't hold to that.  There's no safe place anyway, not even in our own beds when it comes down to it.  That's why I can't decide that I won't ever fly again, no matter how vivid the pictures in my mind are of what those people experienced before the crash.  There are too many places in the world I want to see.  Heck, if I sell a book, I plan on taking a whirlwind tour to promote it, and celebrate life.  I'm a nervous flier, but I'll do it, because I want to live my life, not exist in a dark, padded room eating a sterile, monotonous diet and running on an OSHA approved hamster wheel for fear of death.

It's such a blessing to fly.  It's beautiful to experience places beyond our backyards, where people dress differently, speak differently, think differently than we do.  The other day at a writer's group meeting, we talked about the scent of the air, how it differs from place to place.  This isn't a minor detail someone experiences in his life.  It is life.  It's living fully, and learning to appreciate who we are and what we have as a species, not just as individuals.  If we don't experience or appreciate in some way by reaching out as far as we can, whether the best we can do is try to touch our toes or whether we can aspire to fly among the stars, we may as well be inanimate.  The people on that flight lived, not nearly as long as their loved ones would have wished, but they worked and played hard.  They saw more of the world than some of our ancestors even dreamed.  

I'm so desperately sorry for their loss.  But Air France flight 447 shouldn't be a cautionary tale.  It should be a reminder of our mortality, yes, but also of our achievements, especially our ability to fly.  The people who are locked in tiny cells for the entirety of their brief, painful lives, who live in fear every moment, who perish unknown of hunger or thirst, wish they could, and I suspect that the dread of a death falling out of the sky wouldn't stop them from trying to fly away to the promise of work, or play, or coming home to a safe place.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Kylemore Abbey


One of the must-stop places in Ireland is Kylemore Abbey.  The grounds are graced not only with the Benedictine abbey itself, but a gothic church and a Victorian Walled Garden.  The interior of the abbey has some interesting artifacts.  Part of the building isn't accessible, because it's still in use, but the areas that visitors are allowed in are plenty to hold a history buff's interest.

A lakeshore walk through woods took us to the gothic church, a small but ornate and lovingly-kept piece of architecture.  Although I was impressed by the building, especially the incredible interior colors and ceiling, I have to admit I was distracted by the birds.  This is a bird-watcher's paradise, and I really wished I had a zoom lens and tripod with me.  Their songs surrounded us.  On the path, signs help bird watchers and folk who appreciate wildlife identify what they might be looking at.  I really wished I could have seen a badger, but alas, the only one we saw in all of Ireland had been killed by a car.  I spoke with a local about wildlife and she lamented that hedgehogs had declined lately and she hardly ever saw them anymore.  Again, sadly, we saw a hedgehog, but only a roadkill.

Those of you involved with a horticulturist, be prepared to sit back and spend some time here, because the gardens are a work of art-in-progress.  We walked, but there's a bus for visitors who don't want to hike the not-insignificant distance up to the Victorian walled garden.  One of the most fascinating things about this garden is the painstaking restoration process its undergoing.  Horticultural archeologists are analyzing leaf and other plant deposits to determine what originally grew where.  The greenhouses are being rebuilt.  This particular garden had some innovative design features, including piped heat, that must have made it a wonder to behold in its time.  Right now the garden is very young, but I can see in my mind's eye what it will be when it's all grown up and I'm thrilled to consider its future.  For avid gardeners, they provide plant lists, which I had to take home of course.

The gift shop deserves special mention.  It has some quality artwork and handmade goods at reasonable prices.  If you see something at this shop, don't resist if you really want it.  There's a possibility you'll find some of the items there for slightly less somewhere else, but chances are you won't find these things anywhere else at all.  I looked, because there was a statue I wanted, but I never saw the artist's work displayed anywhere else we went.

Having said that, the cookies were not to our taste.  The birds at the bed and breakfast we stayed at that night, however, loved them.