Thursday, April 30, 2015

Words to the Wayside

Words - they are a writer's tool chosen and used with thought or as sloppily put as a badly placed nail beneath an inexperienced or careless hand. I've done plenty of the latter and some of the former. Regardless, my response to elegant or clever or wry or profound word usage is much the same as being in a museum filled with brilliant works of art. Except that the intangibility of words means they can only touch within one's being. 

Maybe that's why books still appeal more than electronic devices; making words slightly more touchable. Or maybe not, but articles touting statistics are showing that books, real books made of paper and glue, are making a comeback. 

photo credit: Shutterstock
"I know I’m not the only one who discovered that the downside of moving from a dedicated Kindle eReader to a Kindle Fire tablet is I now can be constantly tempted, and pulled away from losing myself in the book, by notifications of incoming email, status updates, direct messages and Words With Friends moves." Frank Catalano

Of course, those wavering statistics have been written about pretty much ever since electronic readers were invented, lo those many relative minutes ago on the book timeline. So let me say, maybe that's why books appeal to me more. I use the electronic kind, finally bending to the ease of having something to read on the ferry, even if I forgot a book at home. 

I have read electronically in bed (gasp!) as well, and the reality is, it is just not the same, that pause in the reading where a book is laid down for a moment or even many moments. If a book slips off your chest onto the floor, no harm done, except finding your place - rather than finding the pieces.

What started this train of thought though, was an article from Orion magazine about words, their very selves, being replaced. In dictionaries no less stellar than the Oxford Junior Dictionary, for the purpose of the article; though the OJD is far from alone. 

It is the sort of words being replaced that hit hard. True but hard.

"A sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture, and willow. The words introduced to the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player, and voice-mail."

If that doesn't distress even the geekiest of geeks - and I know a few - it should.

The whole article is filled with lovely words, both dismissed and newly minted, so I hope you take the time to read it. 

"Consider ammil, a Devon term meaning “the sparkle of morning sunlight through hoar-frost,” a beautifully exact word for a fugitive phenomenon I have several times seen but never before been able to name."

An old reading nook without a Nook
For me, the writer, Robert Macfarlane has been discovered, reminding me of one of my first electronic interactions with a human (almost 25 years ago now), a Brit living in Finland who wowed me daily with words and wordplay, often sending me to the dictionary like the out of school student I was and still am. No longer challenged much in word usage, since I can't even grasp the language of my own chosen home, Mr. Macfarlane brought back a spark for me, to dive deeper into the word pool before it is drained of too much beautiful. 

Have a transformational Thursday. Do something trustingly treasured.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Yesterday was a 'get things done on the big island' day and I actually did do just that. But the first thing I did after getting on the ferry was check out the upclose view of Hector the Protector.

The more I look at Hector, the more I like him. There is something about him in his setting of rocks and water at the edge of the island, facing those incoming from afar that has a silently loud and powerful voice. Maybe we need his brother on the honda side.

If you want to learn more about how Hector came into being, there is a brief video from the artist, Thomas Dambo, here.


Every once in awhile I run across a tiny or small house that just sticks in my head and won't, despite effort, go away. This is one of them. I found it in an article from Houzz on nominees for (in my opinion, the unfortunately named) 'She Sheds Hall of Fame'. 'She sheds' is just damned embarrassing in my opinion. Regardless, I really like this example, 

I haven't used Houzz's courtesy embedding tool before, so I hope it works. And thanks, Houzz!

I like this place because all of the components, for me, work together in a way they shouldn't. That stove! That bed! In an 8 by 14 foot space? Crazy. But it feels good, at least in the photos. The furnishings separately make up a whole, working together for comfort and a big stamp of 'home'. 

Even if its a 'she shed' getaway instead. Oh, who coined that? Make it stop!

Have a waggish Wednesday. Do something wee.

and p.s. Because I can't wait until next week to share this! The coolest small home in Paris, in an unexpected place. Check it out here!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back in Time Now

On a walk the other day I was looking, again, at the wonderful old fence posts along the way. Gravity and time are taking their toll but for now, there is still the past in the present to be seen. I don't know what the wood is that was used for these posts (but someone does, I bet; let me know if you do). They speak the past of Culebra better than all of the words I could generate and I'm glad they are still there, even if the cattle are gone. I miss them.

On St. Croix a Crucian man told me they used a wood for posts locally called iron wood, a type of mahogany that is, obviously, considered strong as iron in that it seems to not rot and termites don't like it. Yet another wood that is literally scarce on the ground these days. 

When I take this walk, it usually ends up with that wonderful curving part of the road where rocks and water meet, but this time that didn't happen. Hearing the deep bass barking of dogs behind this sign, I figured, if they were loose and not happy with me, my camera was not going to be much of a defense (no pun intended), so turning around and heading back seemed like the best option. Hopefully, I can meet the dog owner here and find out if safe passage is assured for the next time.

Remember Jane's dog, Hound Dog? Here's an update from David for all of those who did so much to see him safely to his new home. It looks to be filled with love, traveling both ways.

"A pawdicure"
A bath
And a blow dry
Lucky dog! The work that is done to help dogs and cats find homes continues here, every day of every week of every month of every year. Friends of Culebra Animals (formally Animal Welfare of Culebra) can always use your help in whatever capacity you can give. 

Have a meet the memories Monday. Do something mossy.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Free Range Friday ~ Free Food

Free food? Really? Where? In your yard. Or your neighbors yard, though you might want to be a good neighbor to collect on that one. It's that time of year when food is growing all over the island; mangoes, bananas, plantains, cashews, avocados, breadfruit, limes, oranges, grapefruits and much more. Trees carefully planted and tended over the years do their magic thing, giving food and helping us breathe - it is wonderment right before our faces. Thank a tree today. The tree might not care, but whether it does or not? You'll be better for it. 

I know some of you read that title and thought I was going to go all over wasted food in markets and restaurants. Another day.

The 'food' here is not evident yet. All those little white things turn into red berries. Truthfully, I don't know how they are for human consumption but to chickens, they are like candy. 

Mangoes of all shapes and sizes are growing fast. We're watching and waiting!

Bananas or plantains - I think plantains

Dwarf pomegranate
Ok, time out. While I was looking for a good link to give for the dwarf pomegranate, I thought of a name and book I'd not thought of for awhile. I'm sure I've mentioned her in this blog before; she's one of my heroes on a lot of levels (I don’t want to suppose. I want to know. -Julia Frances Morton)

Julia Morton wrote the book Fruits of Warm Climates, which, incredibly, you can read (and download) totally online -the book goes in and out of print but until the satellites crash, it is always online. 

Each fruit is written about in great and creative description, her fascination with every aspect of each apparent. Such as the beginning of her description of the pomegranate "Steeped in history and romance and almost in a class by itself, the pomegranate, Punica granatum L., belongs to the family Punicaceae which includes only one genus and two species, the other one, little-known, being P. protopunica Balf. peculiar to the island of Socotra."

If you go to the above link, you can read more and also check out just about any tropical fruit you can think of, and probably a lot you've never heard about. Have fun.

I was in a yard once and asked what were those dark fruits on that tree? The homeowner didn't know. It turned out to be the most delicious plums I've ever tasted, before or since. No matter where you are, Spring brings food to us in one form or another, so keep your eyes open (and always ask permission!).

Have a free food finding Friday. Do something  foreseeable. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

An Earth Day Beach Romance. Sort Of.

I didn't feel the least bit voyeuristic watching these two on the beach yesterday, he strutting and preening, she giving full definition to the word coy. While we talked and drank out in the finally warming up water, an Earth Day tradition with too many participants elsewhere, the chickens kept up their own timeless rituals. 

Hey! Hey you, the cutest chick on the beach!
Cockle doodle Do, baby!
100% pure Rooster
I was lookin' back to see if she was lookin' back
Uh huh, I'm cool. I am. Oh yeah. Where'd she go?

When we were heading to the beach, a man was crossing the street with his very small daughter walking beside him. She threw down whatever she was holding and the father just indicated she should leave it on the ground and move on. Was it because he thought I'd run over them if they stopped for the moment it would take to pick it up and put it in a trash can? Was it because it didn't matter? It was an awkward spot to stop and say something to him before they went inside but if we could have, we would have. If Mom and/or Dad won't teach their children well, the rest of us need to gently step up to that plate. Yes we should. Not like a rooster though.

Have a tactful Thursday. Do something tonic-like.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth and Surf Day 2015

I know that surf is part of the Earth but I just couldn't help myself. No surfers either. Sorry!

“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”
Edward Abbey
Today is a celebration and a reminder, like Earth Hour, of actions we can all take to repair and prevent and clean up damage done to our home in the Universe. It would be lovely if, and some places really are like this, we could just celebrate the beauty of Earth and ongoing efforts to keep her that way. This list of the 10 most pristine places on Earth notes a wide variety of places, some inhabited and some not. For the 12 cleanest cities in the world, check this out. If you live in or close to one of them, pats on the back to you and your (and your government's) stewardship!!

These photos are some of my Earth. It could be a lot cleaner around here, though over the years people have gotten better about putting trash where it belongs. What happens more these days is scraping the earth raw, legally or illegally, with no consideration of runoff, erosion or saving valuable soil - we don't have much of it - shifting into the bay where it affects everything from turtle grass to corals to fish to turtles. Some days, it seems perfectly crazy here and some days I'm really surprised at how good things look. Each human only gets to be on this earth a few seconds, in the Big Timeline. Don't be part of leaving a Trail of Tears behind yourself.

We don't see much big driftwood around here.

Coral world

You can snorkel in a few inches of water behind this reef and see the Magic Kingdom

These rocks and corals wearing new life. Try not to step on them!
Yes, I was maybe a little overenthusiastic about water yesterday. Ok, that's not true. Maybe I overshared. I cannot be overenthusiastic about water. Ever.

Artsy moment. But it really happened without planning so in it goes.

There was a family with friends sitting on the ground, cutting open coconuts, drinking the milk and eating the meat. Without a machete. They were there for a long time, working and eating and grinning. I was jealous, especially when they tossed one to some chickens. Lucky chickens.

One more. I liked how it looks like the water is spilling out of a circle. It was.

A glance the other way. Vieques.
Up on this hill, where I've housesat on and off for almost two years, there used to be no trash pick up. But after seeing the trash trucks come up here and turn around and then talking with a few people, I went to the municipality depot (yellow house/building - with all the machines around it - on the right before you get to Abbie's school) to investigate possibilities.

I asked one of the men if this  information was true and if so, could I get a trash can (and this is - one more reason - why it's hard to learn Spanish; when I try to do so, someone is kind, and/or doesn't want their ears tortured, finding someone who speaks English or enough that with my bad Spanish we can communicate). The woman I spoke with said:

They were out of barrels at the time but said they could bring one when one came along. Only two days later, one came along in the truck! And it was brought here! They also took the old broken stove and fridge, saving a trip to the dump, when and if I could find someone to help do that. Happy dance time! 

Pick up isn't every day up here like in other parts of the island, but that's fine; it definitely beats carrying it down the hill to some unsuspecting trash can. I love our trash guys. 
I believe they also come in black. Decorated by owner discretion.
I wish we had trash cans all along the route from town to Susie's restaurant, a stretch where trash is flung willy nilly. I pick up plastic but I usually leave drink cans unless I'm on my way home. Spilling really nasty old beer on yourself while trying to do a good deed? I think my instant reaction sort of negates the good deed part. Bad beer can Karma blow back.

Do something fun for Earth Day! Plant something, build something, unbuild something. Play in a park. Create a park! Hug your neighbor (ok, I'm getting out of control now).

Have a widespread WednesEarthDay. Do something for the world's welfare. Even if it is just in your backyard.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tiny Home Tuesday ~ Culebra and Beyond

We have a saying here, totally not in relation to homes, 'the odds are good, but the goods are odd'. Thinking about the houseboat, it came to mind as Phase 2 ends and Phase 3 is on the drawing board. Phase 1 was the initial gutting and new windows. The following photos show where Phase 2 ended, with Elijah working on it until dark the night before he headed back to California.

The couch/bed is a temporary thing and will be replaced with either a built in that will convert into a queen (benches on both sides with opening pieces that will connect in the middle) or a futon. But for now, it's a fun perch to look out the windows. 

The floor will be painted with deck/floor paint, eventually to be finished in bamboo. 

The head. Lots of work to do in there, the biggest being to put in a shower pan and install shower plumbing. 

For now, from rotting, torn up and unbalanced to functional, sound and painted up, I'm a happy, very happy houseboat person 

The next big work will be grinding down and fiberglassing the decks and reinforcing the giant hatch cover on the stern. Soon come!

If you are into the tiny house movement, you've probably heard of Deek Diedricksen from Innovative, funny and full of off the wall ideas and execution of same, his latest offering is what he calls the Glass House. Unless you live in year round warm places, it is only set up for warm weather seasons right now, but shows what you can do with imagination and access to a lot of recycled bits and pieces.

The Glass House was built in just four days, at a cost (sans labor of Deek and his crew) of about $10,000. How fun is this??

All photos courtesy of Deek Diedricksen.

The see through floor is over the stream flowing under the house. Nice touch, Deek!
For me, the point of this home, beside the fact that it is really cool, just shows that building a home can break rules of what a place 'should' be like. As I read the comments on the original article, among the many enchanted there were also people saying things like 'not for me'. Exactly! Then build something that IS for you. 

In the houseboat, literally cutting the galley in two halves and repositioning it to be on both sides of the boat transformed what was, to me, an irritating space that never felt right to a workable space that feels (and is) balanced, with plenty of room to work. The interior looks bigger, even though what was there before was a long bench facing the long galley, with a fairly useless hanging locker at the end of it. 

Was it a little scary to say, yes, cut it in half! without knowing how it would turn out and feel? Sure it was, but my gut said do it and I'm so glad we did. 

Remember this?
Have ideas to change things in your world? Turn your shed out back into a tiny home? Resize, downsize, free up time and money to have more time to play/work/discover? You really can. Because my income prevents getting everything done at once, should I be discouraged and just go the route of finding someplace I don't really want to live because the work is already done? No. Home is home, whether it is a shack or a floating home or a tiny home on wheels and I want to look at 'going home' as something that makes me grin each time I think about it. Some dreams take time to make reality and the fear factor is often a good sign to just jump in. Does a body (and soul) good.

Have a teach and tame your temptations Tuesday. Do something treasurable.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Orange Obsession

Not the eating sort of oranges, though I've binged on oranges before. Really good oranges are addictive, with just enough work in peeling them and enough health benefits to make a temporary obsession seem almost noble. 

This isn't that, this is just pure, enjoyed obsession. The sort that a l m o s t makes me want to taste these. I'm afraid to look up if they would be non-objectional to eat because then I just might.

From no blooms for awhile to short hard rains and a good yard session - attacking those viney killing weeds, the ones that slide around, slenderly climbing, like baby boas of the plant world - the blooms have returned en masse, the plants breathing and exhaling, pushing beauty into the world.

In the early morning light all of the magic is not interrupted by remembering drifts of science classes...stamens, pistols, ovules, anthers. The cycle of earth and rain and bees and birds. It was so elegant, even for a young child, so obvious, the science only leading to enjoying the beauty even more. 'That's the stamen, that's pollen!'

Drawn to orange beauty. I can think of worse ways to spend some time.

Have a macroscopic Monday. Do something metamorphic.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Oh Springy Saturday!

A day of week's end. Saturday. In Spring! Freed from a weekly employment keeping you from getting your hands dirty, your plans to dig in the earth planting flowers, planting veggies or, depending where you are, weeding, watering, harvesting. All of those plans are just waiting for you to get them started. It's like a Home Depot ad come to life. Or death, depending on your perspective. Argh.

Caretaking where there is a television in Spring is, for me, sort of like having television around during the frenzied last days before a major election. I watch, I wince, I talk, loudly, to the screen. "Idjits!!!" There is even a commercial that has a woman weeding her garden, moaning and groaning, and then hey presto! Use this poison and you can sit poolside instead. The commercials lambast the honesty of actually weeding your own garden to promote poisoning your yard. The yard your children or neighbors or animals touch. 

Grown on Culebra without pesticides
"It's safe!" they say. Really? What it is is, it's easy. It's less messy. More time to be on the computer! Hooray!

Aiiiieeeeeeeeee! What got me started this morning was this article, brought to my attention by Lloyd's Blog. The article is about another blocking of information by Monsanto, this time in Maui. They, unlike Puerto Rico, rejected the experimentation of their land for pesticides. But did that, the will of the people, stop the poison giant? Well, read the article. 

No need to repeat to the choir. And to those who think it matters not what is sprayed on their food or injected into the seeds that become that food, my little pips of indignation and attempts at education most likely won't be swaying you today. 

Organic veggie market in Portland
But hey! Maybe tomorrow. Maybe when the dots start connecting. I mean, if poison made food even taste better, I could see some of the appeal, but when was the last time you bought a beautiful tomato unless it was either organic or hydroponic? The American public has been led (and led quite willingly in general, I might add) to accept white, tasteless tomatoes, as just one example. That's kind of sickening. Ok, it's sickening. Literally.

And by the way, you DO know you should never refrigerate a tomato, right? This guy tells you why. He also writes this. "organic tomatoes were found to contain 55 percent more vitamin C and 139 percent more total phenolic content at the stage of commercial maturity compared to the conventionally grown tomatoes.6  There was a trade-off, and that was size. The conventional tomatoes were significantly larger. However, while many unaware consumers equate size with quality, this simply isn't the case. At least in the case of organic tomatoes, you get more even though it may be in a smaller "package.""

Poison for your lawn. Antibiotics (and poisoned grass) in your milk and meat. Poison in seeds. Poison in our parks, on our roads, everywhere. And the people who are extreme about pointing it out are the freaks. Ah, what a country we live in!

Let's not do this.
Have a Springy Saturday. Do something sane.