Monday, September 29, 2008

Driving the Mentally Ill Crazy; a Circular Tale

New Mexico wall; Can't get over it, can't get around it
Regular readers of this blog may remember how Auntie Bucksnort sought treatment at the local emergency room and was sent to jail in chains by a system that doesn't discriminate between the mentally ill and criminals (see What Happened Next).

Here is yet another chapter in the saga. Please understand that I tell you these things to help bring public awareness to the way we still treat the mentally ill in our country.

Watch for the circularity.

1. To review: Bucksnort went to the Plains Regional Medical Center emergency room in Clovis, NM to get help because she had run out of medication and was in deep depression.

2. She was handcuffed, chained, thrown in a bare cement cell (no toilet, bed, blankets) at the local jail overnight, then shackled and transported by a sheriff to a hospital in Roswell.

3. The doctors in Roswell took away her other prescription medications, gave her a short term supply of new, unfamiliar medications, and eventually released her.

4. She was out of meds again by the time she could be seen by a psychiatrist in Clovis, the only person who could prescribe a new supply. This doctor prescribed yet another set of medications on Friday.

5. On Saturday, when the prescriptions were supposed to be ready at the local pharmacy and she went to pick them up, Bucksnort was told that they didn't have those medications and that they couldn't find them locally. They might be able to get some later in the week. By that time, she would have been without medication for almost a week (see #1 for what happens when the meds run out and the disease isn't controlled).

6. Bucksnort called the psychiatrist's after hours number and was told: In case of emergency, please go immediately to the Emergency Room at Plains Regional Medical Center.

Circle complete; go back to #1 to continue.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cheap Tricks

My husband belongs to a local golf club. Yesterday he received a message from the owner of the club who used the club membership list to send out a mass emailing with the title: "Can Good Muslims Be Good Americans?"

I was going to quote the message in its entirety, but I would hate for anyone else to grab it off this page and send it along as truth. I can't even begin to tell you how angry I am that these sort of lies are circulated from right here in the Bible Belt, where people purport to be religious. This is pure ignorance in all its glory, and it makes me ashamed to live in the same town where people think it's okay to circulate such drivel. It's nothing less than a call to domestic terrorism and religious warfare, as far as I'm concerned.

Here are a few quotes (in italics) from the message. I haven't made any spelling or grammar corrections:

Perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMSin this country. They obviously cannot be bothgood Muslims and good Americans.

Call it what you wish, it's still the truth. Youhad better believe it. The more who understand this, thebetter it will be for our country and our future.

Thereligious war is bigger than we know or understand .. .

And Barack Hussein Obama, a Muslim, wants to be ourPresident? You have GOT to be kidding! Wake up America!Obama even says if he wins the election, he will besworn in on the Quran---not a Bible!

The Muslims have said they willdestroy us from within. Hello! Having a Muslim presidentwould seem to fit the bill! Will you trust this man withour national secrets?

Beez returned the email with a request that nothing like this be sent to him ever again. I hope that he will resign from the club and request a refund of the fee he has paid.

If you would like to send a protest, you may contact:

The Chaparral Country Club

The Clovis News Journal (local newspaper)

Another Reason to Vote (As If You Needed One)

...[the organization] commanded the attention of politicians and the public through its aggressive agitation, relentless lobbying, creative publicity stunts, repeated acts of nonviolent confrontation, and examples of civil disobedience.

[tactics used] to accomplish...goals were versatile and creative.

Conventional politicking was supplemented by other more public actions–including parades, pageants, street speaking, demonstrations, and mass meetings.

Speaking tours, motorcade parades, banners, billboards, and other methods helped spread the word and educate the public.

Is this a description of some modern-day political action group? No, these quotes are about the women of the National Woman's Party, which was founded in 1913. The women were campaigning for the privilege of voting in America. Congress did not approve of the 19th Amendment giving them the vote until 1919, and it wasn't approved by the states until 1920.

From Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

The willingness of NWP [National Woman's Party] pickets to be arrested, their campaign for recognition as political prisoners rather than as criminals, and their acts of civil disobedience in jail–including hunger strikes and the retaliatory force-feedings by authorities–shocked the nation and brought attention and support to their cause. Through constant agitation, the NWP effectively compelled President Wilson to support a federal woman suffrage amendment. Similar pressure on national and state legislators led to congressional approval of the 19th Amendment in June 1919 and ratification 14 months later by three-fourths of the states.

All quotes are from the article,Tactics and Techniques of the National Woman's Party Suffrage Campaign, Library of Congress, American Memory.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

When You Give a Sheep a Shot; 55 Things You'll Never Know About Me

Please just skip this post and move along. If you read this list you'll just embarrass both of us.

Still here? I'm warning you, there will be nudity. You won't like it, and neither will I.

1. I have plumbing issues. I’m still afraid of the bathtub drain, and I secretly believe that one day a snake will swim up out of my toilet.

2. My father came from Worcester, Massachusetts and only completed 8th grade, making education for us kids of prime importance to him. We disappointed him a lot but he still loved us.

3. My mother came from a farm family with thirteen children and she didn’t want to talk about it.

4. My parents moved me from my birth state of Maine to California when I was three months old, thus making me officially rootless. I have lived in four other states and one Canadian province. I keep an atlas handy at all times and am always planning my next move.

5. I was born near the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and grew up in San Francisco, one block from the Pacific Ocean.

6. I learned many of the skills I needed from books.

7. I can make a blanket from the sheep onwards.

8. I used to have milk goats and that one goat, Lily, and I have been known to make a big ruckus out in the barn. She always waited until the pail was full before delicately placing her hoof right into it.

9. I believed that book about raising backyard goats and really thought they would weed around the fruit trees for me.

10. During the same period of my life, I once turned the geese into the strawberry patch because another homesteading book said they would clean the weeds between the rows.

11. I know to never turn your back on a gander and I didn’t have to learn that out of a book.

12. I once sheared a sheep by hand with manual clippers, but only the back half. My hand got tired. She looked like a lion.

13. I can give a sheep a shot, but it makes me nervous. It makes the sheep nervous, too.

14. I once owned a weaving store and taught spinning and weaving.

15. I think chickens are fascinating and I can sit and watch them for hours. Their behavior is a metaphor for something that I am still trying to figure out.

16. I once startled a skunk when reaching into a nest to get the eggs out.

17. I helped deliver a lamb in a dark barn while reading the directions, with a flashlight, from yet another homesteading book.

18. In my first garden I planted several rows of corn (reading the directions as I went along) with my little bantam chickens for company. While I was busy looking at the book, the banties were scratching up and eating the corn--another lesson learned about companion animals.

19. One of my favorite things to do (I have a quiet life) is to consider the alternate words offered by Spell Check. For instance, it wanted me to change the word “banties” in the previous sentence into “panties.” Imagine.

20. I honestly believe that I am psychic, but only with my sister, and only some of the time.

21. I used to live in a house that had four fireplaces and was built in 1770. All of the people who had lived there over the centuries had left some little part of themselves behind. There was always lots of company.

22. I hated swimming for years because I was sent to lessons at a vast outdoor unheated salt water pool in cold and foggy San Francisco. The thought of swimming made my teeth chatter.

23. I kind of like swimming now, but only where I can see my feet.

24. I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree when I was in my fifties. My father would have been proud, but it was too late to tell him.

25. I got my master’s degree when I was 56.

26. I’ve always had a secret soundtrack running in my head, describing my adventures as I was having them. (She leaned a little closer to the bathtub drain. What was that slithering sound? Something was coming…)

27. My first library job was driving a bookmobile.

28. My last library job was teaching information technology to reluctant 8th graders.

29. While skiing long ago in a headlong and out of control fashion down a bunny hill, I made a promise to myself to give up extreme sports.

30. I have a sister-in-law who once jumped out of an airplane. That’s extreme enough for me.

31. I once stepped on a snake while running barefoot down a California sidewalk.

32. I have never been bitten by a snake, but expect to be momentarily.

33. I have three dogs. I don’t even like dogs. I might be mistaken, but I thought I was a cat person.

34. Just in case, I have four cats.

35. In an unrelated development, I have had several husbands as well, nice men all. We are still in touch.

36. Beez and I have been married for 41 years and have forgotten to celebrate most of our anniversaries. We remembered the 25th because we were in Yellowstone with all of our kids and grandkids and they reminded us. The 30th was lovely because we went to France.

37. My children’s names are in alphabetical order, but not because of any planned cuteness. The blended family just turned out that way.

38. I only like to watch non-scary movies. Years ago I decided that life was scary enough.

39. I learned to knit from a book.

40. I have made 110 sweaters for Knit for Kids.

41. I learned how to bake bread from a book. It has taken me years of practice to make a nice light loaf. Ask my first husband, who used to say that one of his arms was longer than the other from carrying the sandwiches I packed for his lunch.

42. I once lived in Canada.

43. When I lived in British Columbia, my California friends believed that I was somewhere in South America. Others, who understood that I had moved somewhere up north, believed that I was living in an igloo.

44. Now that I live in New Mexico, some of my eastern friends believe I am in a foreign country where only Spanish is spoken.

45. I used to lie on a hill all night and take photographic time exposures of meteor showers.

46. A group of people entrusted me to develop their meteor shower photos. I switched the hypo and developer solutions by accident and ended up with clear strips of film.

47. I had a friend who traveled to Europe and asked me to water his plants while he was gone. I used the jug of photo chemicals that was next to the jug of plant watering solution by mistake.

48. I learned to make pies out of a book when I was 11. I waited until my parents were out and baked ten apple pies for the freezer. Surprise!

49. Another time when my parents were out, I ate too many home baked cinnamon buns and threw up. Good thing no one had thought of eating disorders back then.

50. I learned to make replacement cinnamon buns from a book.

51. Having political discussions gives me a stomach ache, not unlike the one I got from the cinnamon buns. I know what I believe and can’t understand that everyone else hasn’t gotten with the program. My program.

52. Long ago, I was sleeping naked when my apartment caught on fire. That was bad, but not as frightening for everyone concerned as it would be if it happened now.

53. My first car was a 1951 Chevrolet that my father sold to me for $200.

54. I always wanted to be a cowgirl, until I actually rode a horse and found out how high up I was. Another extreme sport given up.

55. I love blogging, because my family has already heard all of this stuff.

If you are down here at the end of the list, you might as well know that this meme was inspired by Judy's list of 100 things about herself. I was excited to read there that she doesn't take meds and that there are dollar sundaes at McDonald's. I do take meds (though not the really good ones) and that's probably why my list only goes up to 55.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Magical Realism: Skylight Confessions, by Alice Hoffman

Magic[al] realism--a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the 'reliable' tone of objective realistic report. (from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms).

If I were reading Skylight Confessions out loud, my voice would be hushed, almost whispery; my tone calm and measured with a insistent undertone of something about to happen. In words almost beyond the range of your ear, you would hear...

There were tales of rocks that appeared in the dark, of mysterious reefs whose only purpose seemed to be to sink ferries, of the drowned men he'd known who had never come back.

...stories within stories within stories; all overladen with myth and the memory of a fragrance...

He told of a tribe who lived on the other side of the water, in far-off Connecticut, who could sprout wings in the face of disaster.

...intimations, implications, foreshadowing...

They looked like normal people until the ship went down, or the fire raged, and then they suddenly revealed themselves. Only then did they manage their escape.

...transformations, unexpected flights...

Stranger still: the pears in the basket had become flat black stones. Before he could stop them the stones arose without being touched; they hurtled up through the air as though they'd been fired from a cannon...

...anger at what is; a seeking after of what might be. And loss. Loss in the past and loss about to make itself known...

When Blanca thought of her brother she most often remembered him standing on the roof of their house, arms thrown wide. Fearful and fearless. A stork, a stranger, a man desperate for flight.

Quotes from Skylight Confessions

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cold Sunrise for Skywatch Friday

December Sunrise, Eastern New Mexico

Be sure to go to the Skywatch Friday website to see photos of skies all over the world (you can see the week's photos any time after 12:30 EST on Thursday) .

Note: I'm adding this comment much later. It's December 2008, and now I realize what has been bothering me about this photo all this time. It was taken in December 2007 and is of the sunset, not the sunrise. My apologies.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baby Surprise Jacket

When looking around for a good toddler sweater pattern, I came across the phenomenon known as the Baby Surprise Jacket or BSJ, as it is fondly known by the knitting masses. It was devised by knitting guru Elizabeth Zimmermann in 1968. She says, in her Knitting Workshop book where the pattern is published, that "it was designed on vacation and puzzles me to this day."

It is knit all in one piece, all in garter stitch, with a series of increases and then a series of decreases. Here it is after 53 or so rows. There are only 114 rows in the whole sweater.
While I was knitting, I was trying to figure out what was what. Where was the front? Was this the neck edge? Why, oh why, did my increases leave the holes you can see halfway up? Would I be able to fix them later?

Once it was off the needles, looking very much like a ray-type of sea creature, it was still pretty mystifying. However, the pattern called for the making of buttonholes on both fronts so that you can at least figure out where those parts of the sweater lie in the picture below. Elizabeth maintains that having two sets of buttonholes means that when the baby is born and you know the sex (remember, this was in the old days when the baby's gender was also a surprise), you can then sew on buttons on the correct side. In reality, I believe that she has you do two sets of buttonholes because you would never be able to tell the left front from the right during the knitting stage.
Now comes the surprise part. You fold a little here, sew up a small seam or two there, and surprise! You have made a sweater. You will note in the picture below that I was able to more or less diguise some of the accidental holes by some judicious sewing-up.

If you should decide to make the BSJ, you can first take a look at thousands of them (over 3000 to date), in all colors and yarn types on Flickr, right here.

You will help yourself immensely, once you have purchased the book and own the highly copyrighted pattern, by downloading and printing these Baby Surprise Jacket Notes by Dawn Adcock. There's potentially a lot of math and a lot of counting in this sweater, all made much easier if you keep Dawn's notes on a clipboard in front of you.

There is an extremely helpful Knit Wiki article containing photos with arrows (helpful with placement of stripes), lots of notes, some variations, and a little chart about gauge and size that will allow you some control over your finished product. The original one-size pattern is made for a baby; this chart will give you some guidance in case you are knitting for an older child.

I wanted my sweater to fit a toddler with a 22" chest, but thought it should be a little bit big so it would still fit by the time I sent it. I worked out the gauge, actually knitting several samples (highly unusual for me!). I ended up using size 10 needles, figuring if the sweater were a little too big, my granddaughter would grow into it. However, my finished sweater will probably fit her sister, who is in 3rd grade. Perhaps it was the cotton yarn I used--not much spring to it.

So, I am ready to try again, using smaller needles and more elastic yarn. It's a fascinating pattern and I can't wait to apply what I've learned so far. We'll see what happens.

Does Sarah Palin Really Believe "The Flintstones" Was Based on a True Story?

Quotes from a fictional conversation between The West Wing's President Jed Bartlet and Barack Obama:

...Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it...

...You’re a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren’t the same thing and you’re in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine...

Want to read more? See Maureen Dowd's New York Times column called Aaron Sorkin Conjures a Meeting of Obama and Bartlet.

Thanks go to Ben for the link to this article.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The National Debt

From Facing Up to the Nation's Finances


Nation's Finances

National Debt Clock

Some More Baby Blankets

I knit furiously all the time, it seems. In the car (passenger seat only, never while driving!), while watching a movie or the news, and when "unwinding" from another peaceful day of retirement. I suppose I could knit and read at the same time--I've actually tried it--but it seems unnecessarily tense and a rather silly thing to do.

Lately, I've been finishing up several projects that were somehow all underway at the same time. Here are my Baby Blankets #9 and #10 for the local group that distributes them to new mothers. Both patterns are from A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, by Barbara G. Walker.

As always, the babies are not very critical. Good thing, too, because my leaf rows look a little windblown on that Traveling Leaf blanket.

Lace Check Pattern

Traveling Leaf Pattern

Monday, September 22, 2008

If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?*

Think about these quotes when watching the evening news or looking at the latest poll results:

If the World Series runs until election day, the networks will run the first one-half inning and project the winner. ~Lindsey Nelson

Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right? ~Robert Orben

Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you. ~Author Unknown

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. ~George Jean Nathan

Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason. ~Author Unknown

If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these acceptance speeches there wouldn't be any inducement to go to heaven. ~Will Rogers

The problem with political jokes is they get elected. ~Henry Cate, VII

George Washington is the only president who didn't blame the previous administration for his troubles. ~Author Unknown

Every two years the American politics industry fills the airwaves with the most virulent, scurrilous, wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country - and then declares itself puzzled that America has lost trust in its politicians. ~Charles Krauthammer

There is only one opinion poll that I am interested in and that is the one that will take place on election day. ~Michael Howard

*The title of this post is a quote from The Quote Garden, author unknown.

See more election quotes at The Quote Garden and at Said What?

Start Talking About It

I found this Canadian video, along with an excellent discussion of how we need to start speaking openly about mental illness, on the Australian blog, 70 Plus and Still Kicking.

The video is called Removing the Stigma of Mental Illness and, although it was made in Canada, it works for all of us anywhere in the world. Please watch the video, and start talking about mental illness so that we can do our part in removing the stigma.

June posted some Australian mental health resources on her blog, and I will follow her example and give you a list of some for the U.S. (below).

Thanks to June, for starting the discussion and for inspiring this post.

Mental Health Education Resources:

Mental Health Information Network (includes a report on America's health care system for serious mental illness and a report card for the individual states)

Mental Health Today

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sourdough, At Last

I've always wanted to make sourdough bread. I carried around a sourdough cookbook from place to place all my life, never quite getting around to using it. In the big purge before we left New Hampshire to move to New Mexico, a lot of my old cookbooks went to the neighborhood Swap Shop, including the sourdough one.

However, I came across a photo of some beautiful loaves made by a southern cook and I just had to try out her recipe. Please go to Judy's great website, Recipes from a Southern Country Cook, listen to the great food music, and try out her recipes for Sourdough Starter and Sourdough Bread. When you are finished there, you can check out her other blog, Living on the Other Side of the Hill, which features more great music. Sometimes I just tune in for the music as I work around the house.

I made a nice batch of Judy's sourdough starter, and in five days when it was all ready I baked my first loaves of bread (seen in the photo below). Here's something I didn't realize--once you've made your batch of starter, using yeast and a couple of other things, you never have to use any more yeast. Given the way things are going with the economy these days, I'll be glad to not have to buy more of those little jars of dry yeast, which can cost up to $7.00 at some stores around here.
Look what I baked!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Preacher, Preacher, Hair on Fire

My mother's family
My mother's family was a large one, as you can see. Although one of them was missing in this photo, there were 13 children in all. There was such an age spread that the older ones had already left and started raising their own huge families when some of the younger ones were still being born back home. My mother is that sweet child in the bottom row on the far right. This photo would have been taken around 1919.

They lived on a farm up by the border between Maine and New Brunswick. You can tell they are farmers by the "farmer's tans" on the men--tanned and reddened faces with white foreheads that would have been protected from the sun by their hats when they were out working on the potato crop. Many years later, my mother would beg me not to move back up to Canada, because all she remembered about that place was the hard, hard work grubbing up potatoes out in the fields.

See that fellow who looks like his head is smoking? That's my Uncle Clifford, who later became a preacher. He was a man who liked to pray whenever it occurred to him, and he liked lots of company. He came to visit our family when we had left the dust of the Canadian potato fields far behind and had moved to a suburban lifestyle in northern California.

My mother had also left the "holy roller" church of her childhood far behind, and my sister and I were raised like little heathens. My parents occasionally did send us off to church on our own with dimes for the collection plate. I remember having a real religious revelation one Sunday on our way to the neighborhood Episcopal church. I explained to my baby sister that we should walk in the woods and Appreciate Nature instead of attending church with the all those "tea party ladies." She agreed with me, as she always did back then, and we made sure to look around appreciatively at some trees and flowers as we flagged down Glen the Ice Cream Man to spend our collection money on creamsicles, all frosty orange and white.

My parents were pleased that we were seemingly "getting religion" every week with no effort on their part. We were also pleased with the arrangement, as was Glen the Ice Cream Man.

All was well, until Uncle Clifford showed up, probably taking a swing through the western states on some missionary trip or other. As I said before, Uncle Clifford liked public prayer, administered often and lengthily, with all participants down on their knees. I spent my Uncle Clifford prayer time peeking over my folded hands and sneaking looks out the California-style picture windows, mortified that my friends might be passing by and might see me in this peculiar position.

As I peeked, I noticed that the adults all kept their eyes tightly closed while in prayer and that gave me my getaway opportunity. I inched along on my knees, painfully and slowly, across the hardwood floor until reaching the carpeted hallway and, speeding up on all fours, made it to my room where I crawled under my bed.

I fully intended to stay there until Uncle Clifford went off to save some other hapless suburbanites, but my mother eventually discovered my hideout. She refused to believe that I was "talking to Jesus" under there, as I claimed. Sadly, that made her suspicious of my other religious activities, and I don't remember seeing much of Glen the Ice Cream Man on Sundays after that.

Little Bucksnort and me, before we got religion

Friday, September 19, 2008

What Happened Next

If you read the post Chasing Salvation a few days back, where the Elvis impersonators were milling around in town while a nice lady finally snapped and chased a Gremlin down the street, you might have thought--oh, that clairz, she makes up the weirdest stuff.

However, that was a true story and I was trying to write out my anger at what happened next. The nice lady who snapped is none other than our own Auntie Bucksnort, and she has started a blog so that you can read her firsthand account of the medieval treatment of the mentally ill right here in eastern New Mexico, right here in the 21st century.

You won't believe it. I didn't believe anything so brutal and dehumanizing could happen in modern times. Please read How I Spent My Summer Vacation on the new blog, but first... Feel free to leave comments--Bucksnort needs our support.

Sylvia, way off in Washington state, has also written about the situation on her blog (with this follow-up) and the story is starting to reach some people here in Curry County who have already been working to change this appalling system.

Here in New Mexico, we are contacting organizations that advocate for the mentally ill and deal with reports of patient abuse. I will let you know what happens next.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prairie Sunrise for Skywatch Friday

This photo was taken at Oasis State Park near Portales, New Mexico during a camping trip in September 2007. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Be sure to go to the Skywatch Friday website to see photos of skies all over the world.

Meet Precious Ramotswe

I hope that you have already met Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, in the series of books by the same name. Precious (a woman of traditional build) solves cases in her beloved Botswana, where her agency shares a building with the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, a business owned and run by her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.

I just finished reading The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007), one of the later books in the series, and I thought that I'd try to explain to you why I love these books so much. Here are just a few of the reasons:

Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the series, somehow gets inside the heads of his women characters, and speaks with an authentic voice.

People in the books do a lot more thinking than speaking, and we are party to their thoughts and philosophies.

Precious always calls her husband by his full name, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, even in the privacy of their own home as they eat stewed pumpkin and roast meat.

The names of the people, in this particular book and all the others, are wonderful--in addition to Precious and her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, you will meet Mma Makutsi and her fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti. The melodiously named people just keep on coming--Tati Monyena, Mma Potokwane, Mr. Polopetsi, Sister Batshegi, and Mma Botumile. They are names that want to be spoken aloud, and I entertain my dogs immensely with my renditions of them as I read.

I whisper the place names to myself, as well. Mochudi. Gabarone. Lovely, aren't they?

One can pick up bits of the Setswana language, for so it is called, just in case one might need to say go well--Tsamaya sentle, or stay well--Sala sentle.

I've learned that citizens of Botswana are called Batswana (singular: Motswana). Women are referred to as Mma, as in Mma Ramotswe; men are referred to as Rra, as in Rra Monyena.

The people of Botswana, as represented in this series, have a charming way of speaking. For instance, a person who has died is referred to as "late." Not in the way we use the word for this situation, as in "your late wife," but in this way--"I am so sorry to hear that your wife is late."

Above all, I've learned how proud the Batswanas are of their country, their history, and their traditions. And I can't read a single chapter without wanting to jump up and brew a nice hot cup of red bush tea. Read the books--you'll crave the tea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Knee Deep in Slime, Looking for the Truth

Sadly, the tone of election politics is plummeting. Charges and counter-charges are flying back and forth. Lies are made when the truth stands right before us, but the news cycle is speeding up so quickly that we can hardly keep up.

The non-partisan might be a good place to start sorting out truths from untruths. It was named to PoliticsOnline's 2006 list of The Top 10 Who are Changing the World of Internet and Politics.

Here is the mission statement for

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

The Annenberg Political Fact Check is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg in 1994 to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state, and federal levels.

The APPC accepts NO funding from business corporations, labor unions, political parties, lobbying organizations or individuals. It is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation.

Too Good to Miss; Blogs This Morning

Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl has written this morning about what she would do if she were God--one of the things would be "every time a politician lies to the American public, I’d make their noses grow longer like Pinocchio. Right there on national television." Read the rest of the essay, A Message in the Grass.

And Sylvia, over at The View From Over the Hill, shares Garrison Keillor's GOP; It's Just Like High School. It starts out with this observation: So the Republicans have decided to run against themselves. The bums have tiptoed out the back door and circled around to the front and started yelling, "Throw the bums out!" They've been running Washington like a well-oiled machine to the point of inviting lobbyists into the back rooms to write the legislation, and now they are anti-establishment reformers dedicated to delivering us from themselves.

This is a piece that I wish the Republicans would read--they don't trust us Leftist Dems or the Liberal Media to point out what is right under their noses, but everybody trusts Garrison Keillor, right?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You Don't Have To Be Old to Appreciate This

Take a look at the wonderful website, Time Goes By; What it's Really Like to Get Older. It's a peek into a good future for those of you who are young, and an affirming and lively place for those of us who are a bit older. Among its features:
  • A list of links to a collection of blogs by older people, which is something I'm slowly exploring
  • A link to The Elder Storytelling Place
  • This great quote from Jay Rosen: Blogs are little First Amendment machines
  • An article on Age and John McCain, parts 1 and 2, that I hope you will read

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Girl Named Zippy

I just had to read something by Haven Kimmel and the library had lost A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana , so I first met Zippy and her family a bit further on in their lives in the second installment of her autobiography, She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana. I read it by day and got up in the night to read some more, laughing and crying all the way.

My library was kind enough to buy another copy of the first installment so I've just finished reading A Girl Named Zippy, finding out more about the earlier days of the people I'd already met. When you think about it, reading autobiographies out of order is a lot like meeting people in real life--you meet them at whatever age they are, then find out more about their younger selves as they fill you in on their experiences.

With Zippy, I made myself sick from laughing twice by the time I could wipe away enough tears to see that I was only on page 7; and twice more before page 9. But Zip is tricky; you start out thinking that she will be treating you to a laugh riot throughout, then find that there are sad and even uncomfortable events to live through; again--just like real life.

The review from New York Newsday says: "While reading A Girl Named Zippy, I started to dog-ear each page that contained a charming anecdote, a garden-fresh metaphor, a characterization shrewd as those from Spoon River, or a madeleine substitute worthy of Proust. My copy soon came to resemble a cone..." It's true, I started putting in sticky notes on the best pages, but soon ran out.

Haven Kimmel has also written a novel, beautifully named The Solace of Leaving Early. The edition I had was published in the tiniest print--even younger people would have found it so. The effort I expended in reading the first few pages soon wore me down. The book started out with some intriguing little girls in medieval costumes with pointy hats and streaming scarves, floating around a Mooreland, Indiana-type town. There was an awful lot of discussion of ideas. I wish she hadn't written it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chasing Salvation

Earlier that day...

On the day the Elvis impersonators came to town it was sunny, just the way it almost always is in this part of New Mexico. There was a slight whiff of dairy cow manure coming in on the breeze, the kind of odor that the old timers say is the "smell of money." There were long sideburns everywhere, there were buckled boots, and there were those little jewels stuck onto shirts, just like the kind I used to have on my childhood six-shooter holsters.

On the day the Elvis impersonators came to town, Miz Teeny, the large shining purple-black lady who lived in the tiny apartment raising all the coffee-colored grandchildren that her daughters couldn't be bothered with, looked out her window to see something that almost made her drop the littlest one, the one she'd just scooped up to nuzzle and change the diapers of.

On the day the Elvis impersonators came to town, Mr. Jimmy, the guy that everyone figured was dealing drugs although they doubted he was really smart enough to make change, the guy that kept that poor old boxer dog chained up in the cement yard like a mental patient, happened to look at the window across the street and catch the expression on Miz Teeny's face, which made him slowly turn his head to look down the road to see what was going on.

On that very day, a small purple Gremlin (the car, not the creature) passed down the road for the third time that morning, playing loud Jesus music with the driver exhorting everyone by way of a rooftop loudspeaker to get saved down at the revival tent that evening. And chasing behind that Gremlin, trailed by little gremlins of her own, was the nice lady who lived alone in the house with all the plants and cats; the kindhearted and sweet lady who had finally, finally snapped.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

17 Kinds of Baptists

Not a Baptist church

You might have thought I was kidding, when I mentioned seventeen kinds of Baptists in an earlier post. There are actually way more, but I liked the way the word "seventeen" sounded in that context.

Here are some of them, just a few of the vast variety: General, Regular, Old Regular, Missionary, Old Time Missionary, Central, Primitive, Christian Unity, Full Gospel, Fundamental, Six-Principle, Evangelical, Independent, Landmark, Liberty, New Testament, Free Will, Progressive, South, and one of my favorites, Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestination Baptists.

Her Life Before Her Eyes

Now here's some irony. I would like to recommend that you watch this movie, but I can't tell you why. I won't give you a link so that you can read more information about it, because that might spoil it for you. I can't explain why we talked and talked about the movie after we'd watched it, and why we decided to slit open the Netflix envelope so we could watch it once more before sending it back. It's called Her Life Before Her Eyes, it was made in 2007, directed by Vadim Perelman, and it stars Uma Thurman.

That's all I can tell you, except that although I was worried that it might be too far outside my comfort zone, being about events surrounding a Columbine-like shooting at a high school, it turned out to be an amazing viewing experience.

I usually stick to feel-good movies and I love the ones made from classic children's stories (I hope you remember that I am a retired children's librarian). My current favorite is The Secret Garden because it is so beautifully filmed and even though there are some slightly spooky parts, it all turns out well in the end. And, see, I've even given you a nice link to more information about it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Second Tier Girl; Painful Memories of Early Meanness

Is that a beautiful skyscraper?

They used to tell me that high school was the best time of life and, even at that tender age, I thought incredulously that I hoped it wasn't so. We high school kids were so judgemental, and so critical of each other and of ourselves. So very unkind.

You'll think I'm mean, and you'll be right, but I remember that awful feeling at a dance when I'd be looking hopelessly at the cute boys and wishing one of them would come my way and then, from somewhere way out of my field of vision, there would come one of those guys that I'd never noticed before except maybe in math class for being so smart. One of the pimply ones who didn't know how to saunter; didn't know where to put his arms when walking; in short, someone who was just as self-conscious as I was. Someone who was probably thinking, with his smart vocabulary, "That poor girl, I'd better rescue her while she still has a shred of self esteem left."

And there I'd be, with another project on my hands. Someone I needed to be nice to, someone I couldn't let down, while all the time he probably considered that he was the one taking on the project. Neither of us would ever know the truth--there was precious little communication between genders in those early days.

It was the same when it came to clubs, the kind you had to be invited to join. There was the club for popular girls, and there was the other one for all the rest of us. Definitely second tier. I grew to know my place, but that didn't make me any kinder.

All past meanness is eventually rewarded. That's how I ended up here in my accidental prairie home. Not the New Mexico of the little adobe houses and the soft sound of Spanish being spoken and the sight of sharp mountains against an early morning sky. Nope, I got the New Mexico of the flat land, dairy flies, and bad health care. Not the New Mexico of the Indian pueblos and the fragrant piñon fires and the hanging red chile ristras. Nope, I got the New Mexico that smells of chemical fertilizer on good days, manure piles from the dairies on not so good days, and abject fear from the stockyards on the worst days. And not the New Mexico where people of all kinds are accepted, but the New Mexico where there are 17 kinds of Baptists, angry with each other and with someone else, who are all convinced that people who are different (maybe gay, maybe Democrat) can be changed as long as they accept the Lord.

It's a good place for a second tier girl, remembering past unkindnesses.

Skyscraper? Nope.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Skywatch Friday

As I visit my ever-growing list of favorite blogs, I've been seeing some beautiful photos and reading a bit about something called "Skywatch," especially on Sylvia's blog, The View from Over the Hill. Don't miss this stunning series of tornado photos that she recently posted.

Today on Quiet Paths, a nice way to visit Christine's part of Montana, I finally followed the link and decided to join the Skywatch community and post a photo.

So, this is it, my first attempt at sharing some eastern New Mexico skies via Skywatch. Be sure to visit the Skywatch website, which is "a place to enjoy skies and views from all around the globe." I messed up my link there and it doesn't work, but I'll try again next week.

What Can Happen During a Single Subway Ride; Remembering 9/11

Some days change the world. You can never forget what happened to the world, to your country, and to yourself and your family.

My son was in Manhattan on his way to work that morning. He said that when he went down the stairs to the subway it was a beautiful day with great blue skies. New York was bustling, and kind of impersonal as usual.

When he came up out of the subway, the whole world had changed. Taxis were pulled over with their doors open and radios turned up so that everyone could try to follow what was happening. Strangers were holding each other in their arms. People were walking hand in hand, trying to help each other.

We couldn't reach him by phone all morning.

I was working in a middle school in New Hampshire. My office happened to have a TV and staff members came in and out to see where we were being attacked next. The school administration had decided to keep the news from the kids until the end of the day.

Teachers watched the awful news on the TV screen with tears streaming down their faces. When their breaks were over and they needed to go back to be with the kids they wiped away the tears and put on a calm expression before walking out the door.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

To a Blog Reader, Who Stopped Reading

Towanda wrote, in response to yesterday's post, A Powerful Statement from Arkansas:

"the same ones who shout no abortion are often those who will send the young man to his death at 18 without a tear." My God! My dear God! Just because you do not share the same political philosophy with conservatives -- does it make you feel better and more compassionate perhaps to actually believe that some conservatives do not grieve for every soul this country loses in the war against terror? What kind of monsters do you think we are? Just as I grieve for every unborn baby killed in an abortion, I grieve for the fact that it is necessary for us to lose our young men in order to prevent terror from spreading in the world. If you think conservatives are as heartless as the above statement suggests, then we have nothing in common, and I will not be returning to this blog again.


You see, it was easy for me to quote that statement from Arkansas which, now that I see it through Towanda's eyes, demonizes a whole segment of the population--almost in the same way that we demonize our enemies in wartime so that it is easier to destroy them without looking into their eyes. Towanda's cry from the heart makes me realize that I was not making an accusation toward some nameless bunch of people, but possibly, or even probably, the folks who are my neighbors.

I am very sad. Sad that I could fall into the trap of making an assumption like this, of dehumanizing a whole group of people I don't even know, and sad that Towanda will not be returning to this blog.

I am also sad that Towanda has always been so hard for me to understand politically, as she is the only person I know who still sticks up for Bush and his policies, although there are obviously plenty more. Sad to think of the implications for our country post-election, with this huge gulf between two groups of people with such differing belief systems about each other.

Sad that conservatives can make the phrase community organizer sound like an epithet, a label of shame.

And I'm wondering how we can heal. Behind the labels, thrown back and forth, is a world of hurt and misunderstanding. Two worlds, actually.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Pretty Powerful Statement from Arkansas

Here is a quote that I came across. It especially makes sense to me after watching the Republican National Convention. To read the rest of this post, see Galla Creek Ephemeris.

I do believe the Republicans like to get our minds on things like a 'woman's right to an abortion' so they can change the focus of issues that count for most of us day by day. How is the right to an abortion going to affect most of us--not at all. What the President thinks about abortion is not going to help with the day to day issues that are choking us to death...

I also think it is a little ridiculous to say you value the life of a child but then don't care if he starves to death once he is on this earth. Don't care if he has food, clothing, shelter. Once grown the same ones who shout no abortion are often those who will send the young man to his death at 18 without a tear.

(Emphasis is mine).

Monday, September 8, 2008


I'd just as lief be riding a camel...

What a strange word--colloquialisms. Anyway, I collect them, and am fascinated with some of the wonderful ones that I hear around this area. I loved it when one of my knitting ladies mentioned that someone had "split the sheet," because it was such a wonderfully expressive phrase, and I was only slightly saddened when I learned that it meant "divorced."

I am charmed when Towanda from Kansas writes that she has been "out of pocket" lately, which I take to mean "not around much" (??), although my Texas knitting lady uses the same expression for "a little bit misplaced" as in, "my keys aren't lost, they're just out of pocket."

I need to ask for your help with the word "peer." I saw it in a comment in response to a blog post and I'm hoping the blogger is reading this. I can't find it again (hey, it's out of pocket!) to be sure, but I believe that it was used in a sentence something like this--"I'd peer be doing [something]..."--much like some people might say "I'd just as lief be doing [something, whatever], which, in turn, means "I'd rather be doing [whatever]...

Can you help me? Have you seen that blog comment somewhere? Is it on your blog? Can you define "peer" as it is used colloquially?

The Flag Pin Controversy

Here is a quote from a blog that I just found. To read the rest of this post, please go to the wonderfully-named Don't Tell the Children.

I am fascinated by this outbreak of American flag pins in men's lapels. What does it mean? How did the movement get started? I suppose it must be a means of identification: as in, "I am an American citizen" as opposed to "I am an Egyptian citizen" and that is helpful to dispel confusion. What happens if you are a man, in a suit, and don't have an American flag pin displayed in the lapel? I have heard, although I did not see this, that a reporter on TV asked a candidate why he was not wearing an American flag pin - ( I heard that this reporter was that sweet-faced George Stephanopolis). The implication must be that if one does not consistently wear a flag pin, one must be a terrorist sympathizer. Is this what George Stephanopolis meant?

...Wearing ribbons and other insignia to show your backing of a particular cause (usually health related) is not new but the negative connotation of this one (Where is your flagpin?") is new. We are all Americans, so there is nothing identifying those wearing them from the rest of us unless they are "super-Americans." Not since Nazi Germany has the wearing of a badge, or not wearing a badge, meant trouble. Remember how brave it was for the King of Denmark to wear a yellow star to show that he and his country were one,and if the Nazis took any Jews they would have to take him?? That was a lapel pin that meant something.

Postscript from clairz: I was interested to find that the story of King Christian of Denmark wearing the yellow star in support of his country's Jews is not true in its specifics, although true in spirit, according to In checking further, I found that the children's book by Carmen Agra Deedy that I am familiar with is named The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Peek at O'Reilly vs. Obama

The remainder of the interview will be seen on Sept. 8, 9, and 10 on Fox.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Adventures of Caption Boy; Metablogging in a Little Town on the Prairie

Looks like Pisa; scene near my accidental prairie

This blog began as a way for me to describe, mostly to myself, the differences between living in New England and the Southwest. Somehow it morphed into a place for me to rave on about my childhood and books and chiles and oral history and politics and prairie dogs and posole. There was even an entire two weeks of pancake recipes that came as a complete surprise to me. I look back over each month's output and honestly wonder where all this stuff comes from.

While I'm telling you about the very blog you are already reading (in our family, we call it being "caption boy") I guess I should tell you a bit about me.

Never mind. In writing classes they always say show it, don't tell it. If up until now you have thought of me as a practical person; someone who looks a lot like a really really short Michael Phelps with a few variations; someone who loves T.S. Eliot and Vonnegut and hates Walmart but ends up shopping there anyway; someone who accidentally lives in a very flat place; someone who shouted in a rage at a nice old lady at the senior center today because she was saying that we have to vote in the Republicans again so they can keep us safe from The Terrorists; someone with more dogs than sense; someone with an odd sticky-outy haircut periodically touched up by a hysterically laughing sister called, most peculiarly, Auntie Bucksnort; someone (help!) who is almost terminally confused by the function of the comma, let alone the semicolon, and who is inordinately fond of the word penultimate; and someone who can't remember where she/I/they were/was going with this sentence... Well, who cares? I'm sure you got lost way back there.

Anyway, here is a tiny glimpse of a previously unknown facet of my secret life out here on the prairie. Cue the runway music, please.

Take a look at these gorgeous websites: James Coviello and his Fall 2008 Show, and the fabulously named Weardowney and their Spring/Summer 2008 Show. I visit these guys when preparing for yet another dismal trip to Walmart, searching for that elusive best deal on laundry detergent.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Traveling Via Blog

Some mornings Beez, on a schedule, strides into the kitchen and wonders why I haven't even made coffee, even though I've been up for ages. I drag my bleary-eyed self away from the computer, where I've just traveled all over the world visiting friends I've never actually met. Here's a bit of my daily journey by way of blogs...

Bonobo Handshake Vanessa writes about bonobo research and rescue in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Saartje Knits in the Netherlands

Yarnstorm Jane excels at all things domestic, somewhere in England

Yarn Harlot Stephanie knits and travels and writes in Toronto

Extra Ordinary What's happening with Erikka (former student of mine) in Massachusetts

Extra-Extra News! I can check out what's on my son's mind in New York City

Desert Candy Mercedes writes about middle eastern cooking from Washington, D.C.

Wendy Knits What Wendy is making now in Washington, D.C. (I think that's where she is--after all, the blog is more about knitting than about place) and what her amazing cat, Lucy, is doing.

Switched at Birth I might take a little trip to the seafood market with extraordinary writer, Beth, in Florida

Knitting Weather Kathy writes from Juneau, Alaska

Quiet Paths Christine plays music and takes wonderful photos of Montana

Texas to Oregon Linda tells wonderful stories of family history in Texas, and life in Portland, Oregon

The View from Over the Hill See what Sylvia's thinking up in Seattle

Morning Ramble Patty's simple life on a Texas homestead

Val on Line Fellow librarian Val shares photos of Santa Fe and all around New Mexico

La Casa de Towanda Sharon, a recent transplant from Kansas, talks about her new life near Santa Fe, New Mexico

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Blind Dog Running

A loving friend and important family member, Leny
I hope that if you are looking for a pet you know to go to your local animal shelter. Our shelter here in Clovis holds animals for just a few days before gassing them. Thousands of animals are killed there each year, which is pretty terrible for a town of just 32,000. There isn't a viable spay/neuter program here, and a newly formed committee is just now looking into the idea of lethal injection as a hopefully more humane way of putting the animals down. For some reason, possibly because some people have such low incomes, spaying and neutering just don't happen here very much. We see animals running loose all the time.

Hopefully your town is a little more enlightened than Clovis in this respect. When I lived in New Hampshire, there was a shortage of adoptable dogs because the public had been so well educated with regard to spaying and neutering. Dogs were brought in from kill shelters in other states.

Our beloved Leny was first an "unclaimed stray" in Ohio, then she was housed in a kill shelter there, then she was rescued and transported to the wonderful shelter in Stratham, NH where we found her. Our little Weetzie came from the kill shelter in Clovis, rescued on the day before her scheduled execution. They have brought so much love and enjoyment to our lives, and are truly members of the family. You can read their full (and somewhat fanciful) biographies and see more photos on Beez's blog, Pirate Dogs and Pilgrims.

Sometimes the dogs who are available in shelters have special needs and that is why I would like to recommend this wonderful blog, Blind Dog Running, to you and to anyone you know who might be interested. It's about "a great dog who just happens to be blind." The author, Velvet Sacks, has done a real service here for dogs with handicaps, because you can read the wonderful story of what living with a "challenged" dog is like and realize that you might like to welcome such an animal into your home and your life. On the blog, you will find sections about making life easier for you and your blind dog, as well as links to pet medical information and other blind dog sites.

Thank you, Velvet, for your blog. I believe that it will give a second chance to a great many deserving animals.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fins and the Art of Swim Kick Maintenance

Always stretch before exercising (click to
enlarge to see what's on TV)

I am an amazing swimmer. There is little that I cannot do with a pair of noodles in a pool, as long as it is Olympic-sized and the noodle colors match my swimsuit. Just the other day I discovered that I could attach one end of the noodle to the water outflow and cause the other end to squirt at my swimming partner, Bucksnort. This activity got us some swift attention from the lifeguard, who I know was secretly happy in her heart because during Old Ladies' Swim Hour there is hardly ever any discernible movement in the pool.

I owe the amaziness (sometimes real words just won't do) of my swimming to the fact that I share the same "built for swimming" body style with Michael Phelps, except that I don't have those sticky-outy ears. Well, my arms are a bit shorter than his. That's a good thing, since I am 5'1" and shrinking, and having Phelps-length arms would give a whole new meaning to the phrase "knuckle dragging."

Michael and I both have a short femur-to-body-length ratio, which I understand is indispensable to competition swimmers. As a matter of fact, I overheard that big guy at Physical Therapy, where I was getting used to my recently installed and almost paid for knee, mutter to a co-worker, "She's got no femur at all," which I took as a great compliment.

Michael and I have practically the same trunk, except that mine is a bit more truncated and is--well, trunkier. A lot of this is due to Bucksnort and her insistence that fresh donuts administered immediately are the perfect antidote to physical exercise.

Where Michael and I differ in swimming style is in the kick. Simply put, Michael's kick propels him in a forward direction, and most speedily. On the other hand, my kick, delivered with the very same motion as Michael's, propels me backwards with not so much speed. I've analyzed it, thought about it in the middle of the night, and I've even changed noodle colors but, there it is, the world's first backward swim kick.

After observing my young relative, Toots, running through the sprinklers with great dash and style the other day, I've decided that adopting at least part of his aquatic outfit might help with my propelling issues. So, I've bought myself a pair of fins. They are diving fins, the only ones that were on sale, and this worries me a bit. If I can get them to stay on top of the water (I think that Old Ladies' Swim Hour has a rule about keeping your hairdo dry) instead of wanting to dive to the bottom, I believe that I'll finally and completely own the Phelps swimming style.

This post is dedicated to Cathy, who swims laps around noodles and bobbing old lady heads over in Alamogordo. Thanks for the inspiration, Cathy!

Monday, September 1, 2008

It Feels a Little Bit Like Fall

Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.
~Edwin Teale

Even though we are relatively new to this High Plains country, the signs of the coming autumn are surprisingly familiar. I am reminded, in some essential way that I don't really have to think about, that the cooler days are coming.

The late August call of the blue jay sounds just the way it did back in New Hampshire. At night, the toads and the crickets sing to say that they will soon be leaving us. A couple of trees in the neighborhood have a different look to the color of their leaves. Just a slightly different look.

Back in New Hampshire, I would watch for that branch high on the big maple tree near the fruit stand off High Street. It always turned scarlet every year as school was starting. Way too soon, we would think.

A schoolteacher friend in Maine used to tell me that her last daylily would bloom just before the first day of school. Here in eastern New Mexico, we will still have flowers blooming right into November, but we know it's time for school to start by the smell of chiles roasting.

We still slip into shorts and tee shirts every morning, confident of the continuing warmth of our days. But we know the changes are coming.