Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Close Encounters of the Medical Kind

I saw the doctor today.  The normal procedure for the doctors I visit is to take you from the comfortable waiting room to the uncomfortable little exam room where you will wait longer than you waited in the waiting room.  Today was no different.  The exam table was just that - a perfectly flat table.  I was instructed to sit on it, and there I sat - feet swinging.  I felt like a two year old, seated on a kitchen counter. 

And I waited - and waited.  I read the January-February edition of "Inky Trail News" from front to back.  I played Solitaire on my iPhone.  My husband was with me so I interrupted his reading and asked him to rummage through the magazines that were stacked on a table in the corner.  I thumbed through Consumer Reports and read an article about vacuum cleaners.  It confirmed my belief that there is no such thing as an easily maneuverable vacuum cleaner. 

A modern decorating magazine had an article that featured a traditional arm chair, upholstered in white with a bright red embroidered blood stain on the front side of the back of the chair.  The back side had a smaller blood stain, designed to look like blood had soaked through from the front.  Don't even try to tell me that civilization is not on a steeply declining slope!  By the way, the price tag on the chair is $5,000. 

All total, I don't suppose I was in the little exam room for more than an hour.  An hour is really not a long time.  And if I had been told when I arrived - "You will be in this uncomfortable little room for about an hour" - I think I could have maintained a pleasant disposition.  But constantly anticipating the end of an undetermined waiting period is downright nettlesome.

Needless to say, I was glad to get home - even though I was a just a tad disappointed that the Brother Cadfael Chronicles that I ordered a few days ago were not in my mailbox.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

I saw the movie, Alice in Wonderland, yesterday. I'm glad I read the book last week. The book is full of light, humor, and nonsense. Yes, it's true that the Queen of Hearts is often getting annoyed with people and shouting "Off with her head!" or "Off with his head!" But in the book, the Queen's executioners never get around to carrying out her orders. And the Queen is either forgetful or forgiving because - when she encounters someone whose head she recently threatened to lop off - she doesn't seem to remember her sentence or care that the person still has his or her head. At any rate, the book is full of funny silliness and defies being taken seriously.

In the book, Alice is an endearing child.  In the movie, she comes off as a teenager with an attitude.  I have to give the movie maker a thumbs up for the White Rabbit though.  He was very much the White Rabbit of the book.

Compared to the light wholesome airiness of the book, I thought the movie was dark, ominous, and too serious.  I must confess - I was glad when it was over.   Now maybe I'll read Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll's sequel to Alice in Wonderland. I understand that it is a darker tale than Alice in Wonderland. Maybe it was the real inspiration for the movie.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wool Gathering

Sometimes I am astounded at my own ignorance. I always thought that corn played some role in the processing of corned beef. I've wondered what corn's role is in corned beef, but I assumed it had a role. Alton Brown's "Good Eats" show on the Food Network never fails to educate me, and recently Alton gave me a crash course on corned beef. Silly me! Corn has absolutely nothing to do with it! The word "corn," as a verb, survives from the medieval era and means to preserve with salt. So "corned beef" is beef - usually brisket - that has been preserved in brine water. I just wish there was more consistency in the world. We call pork that has been preserved with salt "salt pork." Why don't we call it "corned pork?" Or why don't we call corned beef "salt beef?" Oh well - never mind. Alton whetted my appetite for corned beef. It's simmering on the stove right now.

I'm reading Alice in Wonderland for the first time - studying up before I see the movie. I can identify with Alice since I've fallen down a few rabbit holes myself. I remember having certain parts of Alice in Wonderland read to me when I was a child - "The Mad Hatter's Tea Party" which is alarmingly similar to some family reunions - and "The Queen's Croquet Ground" which has a lot in common with organizations I've been involved with. Nothing in Wonderland makes sense.

After watching Bret Baier's 20 minute interview with Obama yesterday, I'm inclined to think that we all have fallen down a gigantic rabbit hole. "Interview" doesn't describe what went on between Bret and Barack. Barack gave a 20 minute speech - he's good at speeches. When Bret Baier tried to ask a question, Obama told him he was "interrupting." I don't think he answered one single question that Bret interrupted him with. The part of Obama's speech that stuck in my mind was when he acknowledged that his healthcare bill is "unpopular." But, he said, it is the "right thing" to do; and in time the American people will realize that it was the "right thing" to do. I was glad that Bret finally just gave up on getting any answers. I think if he had "interruped" one more time, Obama - like Alice's Red Queen - would have shouted "Off with his head!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thank goodness it's cool enough today to wear my green turtle neck pullover - one of the few green things in my wardrobe. I'm happy to say that the landscape around here is turning green, too. Several hard freezes this winter made the scenery awfully brown and dull.

I think of St. Patrick's Day as a celebration of all things Celtic. One of my favorite little books is called Celtic Fire (edited by Robert Van de Weyer). It's a collection of Celtic Christian texts. I thought it was appropriate to commemorate the day by re-reading St. Patrick's Confession. According to Celtic Fire, this confession "is one of the few pieces of Celtic writing - and certainly the earliest - where authorship is known." It's a short autobiography as well as a profession of Christian faith.

Celtic Fire also includes some poetry. I especially like this one, called "Spring" (on p. 195) -

The face of nature laughs in the springtime,
her breath fresh and her eyes clearest blue.

Horses gather at the river's edge to drink its fresh clean water;
the sparkling waterfall cries with joy as its torrent hits the rocks.

The blackbird's call is wild and free, rejoicing at the new abundance of food;
the cuckoo, that lover of warmth, begins its happy chorus.

Sheep and cattle gobble the crisp, juicy grass;
the meadows are alight with the colours of flowers in bloom.

The sun glints through the fresh green leaves;
the wind rustling through the branches in the harp of nature, playing a song of love.

Men are vigorous and strong, women pretty and gay;
the whole world is in love with its Creator.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Annual Check-up

When I left the barn a few minutes ago, Tesoro was hanging his head over the stall door - a little bleary-eyed, as if he'd stayed out too late last night and had a little too much to drink. The vet had sedated him so she could float his teeth. (Wonder why filing a horse's teeth is called "floating?") Our horses usually need this procedure every other year. Rocky and Fay had their teeth floated last year, so they skipped out this time. I feel sure they enjoyed hearing the file scraping back and forth on the boss hoss' teeth.

The vet - from LSU Veterinary Clinic - usually comes with a crew of four or five veterinary students. Today she just had one student with her, but they didn't have any trouble handling the herd of three.

The horses on this quixotic little hobby farm are not too different from the people who live here. They are under-worked and over-fed. After the vet took girth measurements - the horses' measurements, not ours - it was determined that our equine friends could do to lose a few pounds. They need to munch less and exercise more. Where have I heard that before?

Monday, March 15, 2010


Spring usually sneaks up gradually on the people and animals at Bywater Farm. But this year it arrived suddenly. Almost overnight we went from bone-chilling temperatures to the balmy 60s - from gray, rainy gloom to glorious sunshine - from a barren landscape to big beautiful clumps of green clover and tiny green blades shooting up amid the brown grass.

A few weeks ago the Parish decided to tidy up the ditch that runs along the eastern boundary of Bywater Farm. This tidying up fit doesn't strike them often. We've been here forty years and this is the first time it has struck them. They mercifully brought all their heavy equipment on to our neighbor's vacant lot, leaving our little triangle pasture and fences unmolested. Since time out of mind trees have been growing on both sides of the ditch - mostly hackberry trees and pecan trees. Although the pecans have always been too crowded to reach their full potential, they've produced many a tasty nut over the years so I'm glad they survived the tidying up. In fact, most of our trees survived while the Parish removed just about all the trees on the neighbor's side of the ditch. I hope that was OK with the neighbor, but - OK or not - his trees are gone and our view has been expanded.

The barn pasture is a pitiful sight - more a dirt lot than a pasture. We had several hard freezes this winter, and they took a toll on the grass. We're feeding the horses lots of hay so nobody's ribs are showing, but I know they would like some green grass. The triangle pasture is just beginning to turn green. In another week or two we'll put the horses there and get busy rehabilitating the barn pasture. We'll toss some grass seed out there and hope at least some of it produces grass. One thing is for sure - as soon as the seed is out, word will travel through the bird community that there is a veritable smorgasbord in the Bywater barn pasture.

Walking the horses across the back yard from the barn pasture to the triange pasture used to be a rowdy affair. Rocky and Fay were just three years old when they came to live here. They're eight now and have done a lot of settling down. Tesoro, who is almost twelve, is still the boss hoss. I used to think that when Rocky grew up he might put the old boy in his place, but that hasn't happened. Tesoro still herds the two eight-year-olds around when he feels like it, and they get to eat hay when the boss says it's OK. Since he's a benevolent tyrant, he does eventually say OK.

I'm surprised that so many of the herbs out on the deck survived the freezes. The parsley is green and growing. So are the chives, catnip, lemon balm, and mint. I'm afraid the sage and oregano are done for. All the Blue Daze, my favorite summer flowering plant, is dead as a door nail. It can survive a light freeze, but temperatures in the teens proved to be more than it can take.

It's warm enough to have some windows open today, and Teche - the resident house cat - is enjoying the fresh air. Yes, I think spring is here to stay.