Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Caution Sign — Birds at Play

Posted in "North Carolina" by helenofmarlowe on May 15, 2014

In my most recent post before this,  about the faux pebbles, I mentioned that we have a wren building her nest in a flower pot on our back porch.

Here is an update.

WrenBabies

Six Chicks

Yesterday around 5 pm my husband and I left to go to A/perture to see Tim’s Vermeer.  Just as we were leaving it occurred to me that Doug might come to mow our grass.  We don’t always know when he will show up, and it’s about time.   So I thought an emergency notice was in order.

We quickly grabbed pen, paper, string.

We can hear tiny cheeping sounds coming from the pot that used to hold pretty, healthy pansies.    Not so pretty now, but more interesting.  We can sit on the screened porch (to right in photo) and watch the parents flying in with food.  Both the male and the female build the nest and tend the young.  They fly to the edge of the flower pot with food, usually insects, go in to feed an open mouth,  and then out again to sing a song in the weeping yaupon before  resuming the hunting and gathering.

When we returned from Tim’s Vermeer, all was well.  Birds still nesting, grass still growing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Faux Spring in NC

Posted in "North Carolina", Environment by helenofmarlowe on April 18, 2014

It’s winter again, or may as well be.

Mid March I began checking the 10-day weather report every day, even though I hate those cheesy amazing-awesome-you-won’t-believe-this video teasers that my pop-up blocker won’t block because they don’t pop up anyway, looking for a stretch of ten days with no freeze.

The warming came later than usual, just as I was thinking this long fierce winter would never end.  KitchenGarden
And maybe I was right.

Late March, I planted the cold-hardy spinach and chard and snow peas. A fortnight later, the crook-neck squash and banana peppers. I bought a huge but lightweight pot and created a kitchen garden beside the back steps. Here, take a look before the freeze kills it tonight.

And now, the third week of April in Carolina, we are bringing the potted plants back inside, the plants that grudgingly came indoors last October and spent the winter, as I did, longing for warm sunshine. Together we’ll bring in the large too-heavy-for-me Crown of Thorns that spends its summers beside the front door, and the agave plants that Kathy gave me  – plural, now, because the one she gave me maybe fifteen years ago has now been divided into three. We’ll bring in the aloe and orchids, the papyrus and the dozen or so avocado trees – well, the ones I don’t mention won’t mind. They won’t like coming back inside, but they would like being left outside even less. (My friend Gracia quickly corrected me on IRC when I carelessly spoke of bringing in the pot plants.)

At least we had several 80-degree days in early March. Maybe that was our summer this year.

Meanwhile, a wren has built a nest in a pot of pansies on the back porch. In spring, a songbird’s
thoughts will turn to nesting. I wish the wrens warmth.

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Human interactions throw me

Posted in "North Carolina", NC, Religion by helenofmarlowe on February 26, 2014

I noticed, as I drove into the muddy parking lot, a gray-bearded man on a motorbike, blocking my way.  But I was in no hurry. I had two hours free.

And so I sat patiently, confident he would notice me soon and move over.  And he did.

I parked and wended my way over mudpuddles and into the NC Botanical Gardens of Chapel Hill.

While standing at the entrance, looking at the familiar table of cut stems in bottles identifying What’s Blooming,  I heard a voice behind me asking,  Do you know what this is?

A man with approximately half a century’s experience on this earth, with longish gray beard, longish gray hair, wearing a cap with earmuffs, held out a stem of white wildflowers.  No, I told him,  I don’t.  I recognized the man I’d seen on the motorbike.

It’s the most common plant around here, he said. You must know!

Seeing none, other than the stem in his hand, I was tempted to ask whether he is quite sure it’s the most common plant around here, but instead I asked whether it might be a kind of aster.

You don’t know? he said. You don’t see! That’s the problem, you don’t see!

Yes, I agreed, we often don’t see what’s around us.

No, he said, you, you don’t see!   I see it everywhere.  It’s the most common plant here in the area, and you haven’t even seen it!

I looked around.  Is it here, in the garden?

He didn’t know, and asked me had I been here before. Yes, I told him,  I come here every year.

Then you should know whether it’s here or not.  Does this botanical garden have trees? he asked.

Stifling the impulse to give the obvious answer (look around) I said that I guess the garden has native trees in it.

What’s that ring, the ring around your neck? he asked.

Oh — it’s something that works rather like a sun dial. It tells the time, but only, I think, if the sun is shining.

How does it work?

I’ll have to remember … See these markings? You turn this dial, line it up with the month and the day and … let’s see … and the sun …

You don’t use it to tell time? he asked.

No.

How long have you been wearing this?

Well, an hour, today, but I’ve had it several years.

And you haven’t learned how to use it yet?

I did know — I have to remember …

Do you have memory problems?

Well, I have to look at it again — I’ll remember …

You won’t.  You’re hopeless.  Here put it over my head — I’ll take better care of it than you will.

No.  No –It was a timepiece, my son gave me this, you can tell the time of day … someone, I forget, historically, it’s a replica of …

Do you have memory problems? Copernicus?

No, I said, not that long ago. It’s a replica of a timepiece used by …

Who?

I’m trying to remember —

You won’t remember. You’re hopeless. You don’t even see the flowers around you.

It was Eleanor Of Aquitaine — she gave it to Henry, so they could meet …

Give it to me.

No.

You don’t need that — you don’t even know how to use it.  Slip it over my head …

No, I won’t.  See the building there, you can just see the roof from here — there may be someone in there who can tell you what this flower is.

Do you think they’ll know? he asked. It is THE most common plant in this area.  And it’s blooming all over the place. It’s tall, it’s more than six feet tall, and it’s blooming, and you don’t see it!

Are you walking this way? Let’s go and see if someone in there can identify it.

Wait, he said. I want to see these on the table — maybe it’s here.

ok — I’ll walk ahead.

And then I walked on, as he examined the bottled stems. I walked toward the areas most likely to have people, but it was a chilly, misty, breezy day, and few visitors were about.

A few minutes later, I looked toward the building I had directed him to, and I saw him carrying his white wildflower through the open archway.

I turned and walked out the entrance, never actually getting into the gardens. I walked back to my car, wondering what I will do for the next two hours.

I turned north onto NC 501. A shopping center ahead. I pulled into Southern Seasons, parked, walked inside, picked up a shopping cart and walked aimlessly through the aisles. I looked at all the bright shiny teapots, the cutlery and coffee pots, candles, candy, cork screws and cheese boards, and realized — remembered? — that there is nothing here that I want.

Human interactions throw me.

As I drove back to the hotel, I began to have thoughts — hopes? — that maybe I’d see him again. And maybe, with a second chance, maybe I’d get it right next time.

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It’s Move Your Money Week! And so I did.

Posted in "North Carolina", Economy, Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 11, 2011

This is Move Your Money Week. And so I did.

 I’ve been happy with Wachovia for more than 30 years. But Wachovia is no more, and Wells Fargo, nee Wachovia, is now charging fees that Wachovia never charged while, according to Reuters, Wells Fargo paid Chief Executive John Stumpf compensation worth $21.3 million for 2009. A year ago, Wachovia/Wells Fargo began charging me a $25 fee for my unsecured line of credit. I’ve had that unsecured $15k for thirty years, never paid for it, and never used it except occasionally due to carelessness – it’s my overdraft protection.

Maybe Mr. Stumpt is worth $21million a year, every year. It doesn’t really look like much when compared to the $43.7 billion in taxpayer bailout funds that went to Wells Fargo. And the $25 annual fee for an unsecured line of credit that I almost never use isn’t going to make a difference in my vacation plans.

But our country’s rising income inequality troubles me. Increasingly wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, and not because they have worked harder, but because they have influenced the laws that rig the rules. We like to think of America as the land of opportunity, and that once was true. But for the last three decades, economic mobility has become harder in the US than in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany or Spain.

Much is amiss in the rigged and under-regulated economy that has seen corporate taxes as a share of the nation’s tax revenues plunge from 28 percent in 1956 to only 11.8 percent in 1996 and to below 10 percent in the early 2000s.

The share of all property taxes paid by corporations dropped from 45 percent in 1957 to 16 percent in 1995 (more recent figures are hard to find, as most states have changed their accounting rules to not break out corporate from personal tax payments, in response to lobbying pressures from corporations).

After decades of campaign contributions from lenders, legislators have re-written the banking rules to favor the banks over the people. Much of this corporate-friendly legislation was even written by the Corporations, instead of by the legislators whose job it is.  (See  http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed  — ALEC Exposed.) So today I moved my checking, savings, money market and credit card to the State Employees Credit Union. And as soon as I’m sure all my charges have cleared, I’ll cut my Bank of American credit card and mail it – or maybe take it – to the bank that notoriously took bail-out funds, gave CEOs huge salaries, and paid no taxes.

It isn’t that hard to Move Your Money, and it will help the economy of your own community.

How Do They Fool So Many Voters?

Posted in "North Carolina", Economy, Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on October 10, 2011

I’ve never known anyone over the age of 13 to be as obsessed with sex as the current NC Republican legislators. They were hired to create jobs and improve the economy, but they’ve done nothing so far except insert themselves into the private lives of citizens. They’ve cut the budget so severely that the UNC system has had to cut more than 3,000 positions. This, they think, creates jobs? They’ve cut and closed government offices, putting many thousands of public employees out of work. Do they think that moving people out of jobs and into the un-employment lines is good for the economy? Our NC – DOT has just cut 400 positions. Will putting those 400 people onto the un-employment rolls help the economy? Our NC Republican legislators have passed laws curtailing women’s reproductive rights to a degree not seen (correct me if I’m wrong, anyone) in any other state, and approximately equal to the reproductive rights of the most restrictive theocracies. Not because they care about babies — I see no evidence that they care a whit about babies — but because they want to abolish the individual right to privacy. They are now spending their (our?) time and energy and tax money working on passing a Marriage Amendment to the NC constitution. Yep, not just a law, but a Constitutional Amendment! To strengthen it, I believe, against a possible newly elected and saner legislature changing that in future.

And this is the party that claims it wants to get big government out of our private lives. It’s clear their main goals are 1) causing as much damage to the economy as possible, so as to ensure our president will not be re-elected, and 2)  control the private lives of individual citizens.  How is it that they can fool so many voters?

Don’t read this – it’s bah, humbug

Posted in Holiday, Religion by helenofmarlowe on December 4, 2010


Marta said to me, I love this season!

I must have looked rather incredulous, because she then said, You don’t?

The winter season, the Christmas season.  How can I not love it?

How can I not love it? Let me count the ways.

Christmas is a celebration of things I do not love.

Consumption, for example.

I’ve never done my fair share to keep the American Corporatocracy jingling. There are few things I want that can be purchased and brought home in a bag. I avoid shopping malls like a cat avoids the jays. Why would I want to go somewhere in December that I avoid without fail for the other eleven months?

When asked what I’d like for Christmas by the good spirit who draws my name from the hat, I usually respond that I want a goat, and I want it sent to Heifer International. I do this in spite of Miss Manners’s lament that donating to charity “should be recognized for what it is: the demise of the ancient custom of good will expressed through symbolism.” Miss Manners is right, and I would love to celebrate Christmas the way Jane Austen did, with small handmade gifts. I don’t see this worthy tradition making a comeback.  More likely, I think,  Christmas will be reduced to an occasion for everyone to exchange a $30 gift card.

Snow in our back yard

My problem may be  that I am a creature of habit.   I don’t want to break my routine, a routine that works for me, and start stringing lights around the house and decorating a tree which, to my mind, is perfectly beautiful without any ornaments.

My radio stations, that I listen to all day while working/playing on my computer.  The symphonies, the piano concertos, are all, with the exception of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful Nutcracker, all replaced with a month of Christmas music.  We will go to a performance of Handel’s Messiah.

And did I mention the weather? And what the freeze does to the summer pleasures of sitting on the front porch, reading in the rocking chairs, with birds enjoying the safflower seeds that I sprinkle along the rails? Did I mention the weather, and what it does to the pleasures of summer gardening, bringing in eggplants, crookneck squash, zucchini, vine-ripe tomatoes? And walking barefoot in the grass? Did I mention what the winter weather does to the potted palms and cacti and petunias and impatiens that I cannot bring indoors, because our house is too small for all the plants that bask on the porch all summer? I choose, and some I have to leave out, knowing they will die. This year it is various hanging baskets.

The days are cold, and the days are short. And I am all a-grumble.

I do not like Christmas. There, I’ve said it.

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American Theocracy

Posted in "North Carolina", Local Government, Religion, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on February 23, 2010

It was a circus, the county commissioners meeting tonight.   I have photos and video, but I don’t have the heart to post them.

The people in our large overflow room singing Christian hymns.

The shouted and hollered Amens and Yesses! when speakers spoke about Jesus.

The buses — I have photos of the church buses lined up along Chestnut Street — this is what our democracy (theocracy?) has become.   It will not be on your tv.

I am so disheartened, I am going to bed, simply to get this day over with.

Bob, and one retired Baptist minister who said he was also a member of the ACLU (and was booed for it) were the only speakers who asked them to let this drop. All the other speakers invoked the name of Jesus as they successfully urged our commissioners to go forward in our march to theocracy.

A man sitting behind me hollered,  If they don’t want to pray, they can stay at home!

I turned around and said to him, What if they have county business?

Bob leaned over to me and said,

You have to look on these people without  hating them.  Don’t hate them.

Well I don’t, of course, but was sorely annoyed.

Church buses herd the troops

When the group broke out in song, in a Christian hymn (clearly practiced and on cue) I felt disheartened.  Bob, with his philosophical and moral strength, just smiled at me and said,

That was an interesting moment to observe.

We have a major university in our city.

Not one Wake Forest University  professor– not one professor of history, not one professor of religion, not one professor came out to identify the misrepresentations made tonight about our history and our constitution.

We also have a state university here.   If there were any representatives from Winston-Salem State University, they did not get media coverage and I am not aware of their presence.  It was needed.

Seven hundred sheep getting off church buses, and with very few exceptions,those reliable few, our citizens declared this a Christian nation.

Commissioners Beaufort Bailey, Ted Kaplan, and Walter Marshall cast minority votes against the appeal.

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