sticks and stones

Build a great house but they can do a lot of harm when used as weapons.

My mom taught me that rhyme when I was little. I must have had a bad day in second grade and was letting her know. It’s amazing how much easier it was to memorize from then. Now I can’t remember seven seconds ago what I went into another room for.

So I tried using that thing once or twice but gave it up when I realized it really didn’t work.

Words can hurt.

IMG_0872.JPGfragile violet resting on a stone

Several years ago a neighbor who had been shunned from everyone in our little cul-de-sac asked if she could join me on my morning walks. I said sure and we arranged to meet a few mornings later.

She opened her heart to me and told me how difficult her marriage was. I listened for a while and when she mentioned something her husband had said I quoted that little verse. She came right back with how wrong that was.

It never occurred to me to think any differently.

IMG_0876.JPGLenten rose

So this is probably why psychotherapy became such a multi-million dollar business, and people bought up those self-help books. To me therapy was nothing more than paying someone to be a friend. But I realize some have been deeply scarred. And some come to a point where hope is so dim help has to come from someone trained to listen and offer help beyond what friends can offer.

I have always listened to other people. For me sharing in other people’s troubles connects on a level where I can help them carry a trouble, a hurt, a burden. I think we were created to share with others on many levels, like this….

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But sometimes life does not offer a friend and I pray. Or offer prayers for others. I depend on Someone who is always reliable.

And always there.

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So like the donkey that fell in the well, when people started throwing dirt down to bury him in that well he stepped aside and as the dirt grew into a large pile, stepped on top of it until he could climb out.

There is always hope.

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impressions

This was one of those weeks that can only be described as a gift. The little coastal town I live near doesn’t get anything most people can call winter, but it gets cold enough. Even some snow and ice some years, just not this year. Not yet, anyway.

But apparently winter gave a reprieve to some areas this past week, here too. Days were 60s-70s and nights did not get much below 45. So electric bills will be lower. Abundant sun, expansive blue skies, wispy playful contrails and clouds decorating the air.

IMG_0870.JPGCape Fear, upriver

Mindful of Emily Dickinson’s lovely poem, “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” (…Winter afternoons–…)

IMG_0866.JPGRed oak clinging to what is left of autumn

IMG_0867.JPGa closer look at leaf veins with the sun behind the tree trunk

So according to askabiologist.com* the leaves turn when temperatures get colder and the tree starts “breaking down the chlorophyll into smaller particles”, leaving more room for other colors (carotenoids) to make the orange, reds and yellows. Other trees (maples) have anthocyanins that create red, pink and purple colors.

The theory I grew up believing was that leaf colors changed when the days got shorter and there was less sunlight to make green. So that always seemed plausible but days get shorter all over the world and leaves don’t change color in warmer climates. So the cold theory makes more sense now.

I just never thought about it.

It’s interesting when we accept ideas unquestioning. Especially when they are about non-personal things, like nature. Facts are applicable to everything but so much seems subjective. So my ideas about why leaves change color, that I have believed for years (evidently I didn’t pay close attention in botany class) has been corrected.

It makes me wonder how many ideas, theories, concepts I am still holding true without really having it right.

0.jpgPileated woodpecker, base of far left tree hunting insects

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu always get things right. And they are generous in their opinions, whenever I am at a loss.

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https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/why-do-leaves-change-color

how much wood….

So Groundhog Day. That little rhyme most kids learn, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

Makes utterly no sense which is likely why it has survived generations and is so easily memorized.

Evidently this tradition really did begin in Pennsylvania, and the German settlers brought it with them. I doubt they brought their own groundhog since they are indigenous here.

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They are actually very cute and resemble prairie dogs to me, so I looked them up. They are all in the same family commonly known as ground squirrels which includes these two species as well as squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. When I lived in New Mexico I actually saw a prairie dog colony in a nearby nature park. They are much smaller and thinner than groundhogs and very curious. When I lived in Tennessee there were groundhogs in the yard and they burrow a lot like giant moles. Kind of annoying especially if you’re trying to have a vegetable garden but we worked it out.

So apparently the famous groundhog in Punxsatawney did not see his shadow which folklore dictates indicates an early spring.

I doubt that.

Every year I buy a Farmer’s Almanac, the longest-published periodical in America. Not so much for the weather predictions because, well as close as their top-secret prediction formula comes in accuracy each year nobody can really predict weather.

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Or much of anything. But this little book has really interesting stories, odd-ball history and not so odd history about America and other places, recipes, gardening tips, birding tips… all kinds of stuff.

Interesting to note that Canada observes Groundhog Day. They celebrate it in Wiarton, Ontario. Coincidentally February 2 is also Candlemas Day, Jesus’ first visit to the Temple. The day Simeon had long waited and in his song commemorates it–

“Lord bid Your servant go in peace, Your word is now fulfilled. These eyes have seen salvation’s dawn, this Child so long foretold…” also known as Nunc Dimittis, paraphrased for hymnals by James J. Quinn, S.J.

What faith! Since a young man Simeon had waited, daily in the Temple for the Christ child. And he never wavered in his faith. What joy his simple faith gave him, knowing God is always faithful and true in His promises.

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