Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On Vocal Fry and Uptalk

Now I have a term for what I first noticed in the speech of Bill Clinton back in the early 90's :
vocal fry.  It was the way his sentences ended in hoarse soft growls, as though he had oncoming laryngitis. 

And now I have a term for what I heard coming from students who imitated the "Valley Girl" intonations:  uptalk:  ending all sentences with a question mark?

Both of these verbal  -what ?   things?  tics?  affectations?   irritated me twenty-five years ago and still aggravate me now.  I like a nice, clear, bell-round down turn at the end of a declarative sentence.
I like clear, non-gravelly vocal tones.  

Recently on Facebook, someone posted an essay by Naomi Wolf from the UK's  The Guardian
complaining about these verbal mannerisms.  Naomi Wolf implied that they are used by women and by using them, young women are turning against their own strong female voices.

Then, my poet friend Kim Bridgford wrote a rebuttal to Naomi Wolf's piece - which I presently can't find but will come back to when I find it.

Then, I heard an interesting segment on NPR's Fresh Air about these same verbal mannerisms, saying that they point to another cultural turning point in speech patterns, and that these patterns which are used , not exclusive to women or men, but to the young...say, those under thirty? and these will stay in the lilt of the language for several generations.

I won't be around to hear it happen in thirty years; suffice it to say that it offends my ear in the present.   Old fogey that I am.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It is Enough

sunset at Glacier Park... photo by Elizabeth McFarland

Saw this poem posted this morning on the "A Year of Being There" blog:

by Anne Alexander Bingham:

It is Enough

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

Chickadee... photo by Diane Porter

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Convent Culture 5: Storage Space

I'm not sure if this is my fourth or fifth blog entry about convent culture. Anyway...

Eight days after my release from the hospital, I am much much better and eating fairly normally.
It's my new normal, on this low residue diet, and watching how much I eat and how fast I eat it.
My memory of the pain and misery of last week will be a big incentive.

This illness has changed any travel plans I had, so I am at home, happily listening to murder mysteries on either CD or ipod, or doing some baking, or praying. Need to get back to writing.

In the meantime, I have been straightening up and weeding out my earthly goods. Went through and organized the winter clothes and separated them from any summer clothes I had never pulled out of the bins. Threw out some fifteen year old shoes that had seen better days.  This activity made me reflect on what I have and where I have it.

How many women do you know who have an academic robe and a Cape May sweatshirt hanging on their bathroom door?

I live in one room, and whatever doesn't fit in that room is stored in the one storeroom that eight of us share.

I have two shelves in the storeroom. The shelf with the maroon bins and the shelf with the grey bins are my shelves. Anything that doesn't fit in my room goes there.

We have a common clothes rack in the storeroom where most of us hang our winter coats and jackets.

That's it.

Clutter happens easily when I am in a hurry, or when I come back from travelling and don't get things back in their designated space.

oh... almost forgot the trunk of the car. I don't own a car; it belongs to my religious community. I have it for my use, because I need it to get back and forth to school, and to do the grocery shopping.  But the trunk becomes a catch-all for everything from a camp chair to a snow shovel.
When I think of photos of convent "cells" with nothing but a bed and a chair, I realize how much "stuff" I have.  But when I think of my well-loved married friends who have houses full , I realize I don't have much.  Everything is relative.
Books are my addiction, as is the case with most English teachers and writers.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Thoughts on French Toast

This is what I think about when I haven't had solid food for almost five full days:

I'm thinking about it today; earlier in the week I couldn't bear the thought of any food.

I'm in the hospital with a bowel obstruction.  Not going into any of the gory details, except that it involved vomiting.
This is the sixth ( or maybe seventh or eighth episode ) of this misery since June 2014. I kept thinking it was a norvirus  that kept coming back, but this round was much worse, and involved pain.
So I went to the ER and they did a CAT Scan and it showed this obstruction. The gastroenterologist tells me that every episode was caused by this same thing: a relatively obstruction that reverses itself.
I'm going to need to have surgery for this, but I don't know when.

So after three days of IV fluids and bedrest, I am feeling better and waiting for the doctor to come in and tell me his verdict.

Last night I had some clear liquids, and this morning I had a breakfast of "low residue" food.  French toast was on the list, so I ordered it.

It wasn't low residue; the texture was more like Styrofoam.  I ate about four bites and quit.

It was like the Texas French toast the food service serves at my house: prepared a long time ago, frozen , thawed Styrofoam with syrup:

It's not that I yearn for fancy French toast ala IHOP.

I yearn for old fashioned French toast the way my mother made it: just plain white bread with egg, milk, and cinnamon, with a little syrup.

This photo comes close, but it still looks more stiff and dry than I'm envisioning.

So when I get home, maybe I'll make some.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Going to Heaven

“Instead of going to heaven at last,

I’m going all along.” Emily Dickinson
Last Tuesday, we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the Impressionist exhibition.
The statue of Diana the Huntress graces the main foyer stairs. 
 I found some of the artwork on Google images, which I've posted here:
 Pissarro: Entrance to the Village of Voisins
Renoir: Two Sisters 

Renoir: the cup of chocolate 
Renoir: Dance at Bougival 
Manet:   Boy with Sword 
Monet: Poplars  
To see the original paintings did something for me, the vivid colors of the Renoirs, especially.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Longwood Gardens

On Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting Longwood Gardens with my childhood friend. She and I have walked all over those grounds many times in the 55 years of our friendship, but this was the first one in a long time.

The weather was a little humid but otherwise breezy and lovely. We didn't do the whole grounds; much of one side of the gardens is cordoned off because they are restoring the main fountain area , the bell tower and the rock garden areas.  So we went in the other direction, through the summer flower gardens and onward.


as we entered the summer flower gardens

some Amish visitors were there as well!

concrete gargoyle provides an armrest on one of the benches there
Then, on into the Woodland Path...
and on to the gazebo by the lake...
Then, to see some Amish youngsters feeding the fish:
and on, to one of the three marvelous treehouses - new additions since my last visit
at that point, the batteries in my camera gave out; the next few photos come from Google images:
the Italian Water Gardens:
and to the other two treehouses:
We ended up with lunch at their Café:
All told, it was a lovely time.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Poison Ivy Garden

There's the garden by the house, which is blessedly free of poison ivy. Every now and then when I'm weeding, I come across a small leaf; I used to wonder where it came from, but now I know that the birds bring the berries to eat, and sometimes one gets away from them, or else it's embedded in the bird poo. Whatever. I quickly pull it up.

I wrote this poem about it a few years ago:

Poison Ivy

Even the hairy brown roots, tangling in the leaves I rake

Away from the emerging hyacinth shoots

Can give me their miserable oil.

Under the garden, the vines are entrenched,

Roots networked efficiently and randomly.

Manipulative, controlling, scheming,  calculating.

They leave their weeping, itching mark

 on all who brush against them.

Purple tracks of it

Tattoo my arms –

Dotted swiss mosquito bites,

Taffeta blisters –

Nature’s palpable designs.


One of the three gardens in the woods is another story.  I've written about them in the past.  Two of them were begun by Sister Jean Marie back in the 1970's, and after  she became elderly and died, in the 1990's they were left to return to nature.  In 2005, I rediscovered them and began to clear them, and by 2006 and 7, they were in very good shape.

I called this one the Saint Joseph garden because
hidden in a far corner was this statue of Saint Joseph.
I called this one the Miraculous Medal garden, because Sister Jean Marie had put the design from the back of the Miraculous Medal in stone in the ground - twelve five-pointed concrete stars around the oval, and all.
In 2006, I spent my Christmas money on a garden arch that was very much on sale, and the grounds guys installed it that Spring  as a gateway to that garden.
Unfortunately, now the same garden looks like this:
Then, in 2008, I got cancer, and underwent a grueling treatment that successfully killed the cancer but almost killed me.   After that, I stopped working on the two gardens in the woods.
Now, they look like something out of Sleeping Beauty, when the castle is completely hidden by the vines and brambles...and, no doubt, by poison ivy.
I didn't take any "before" photos of the jungle out there, but trust me, it was bad.  It's still bad, but it's better. One of the other sisters has taken on the Saint Joseph garden, which, mysteriously, has never been entangled much with poison ivy.  Not like the Miraculous Medal garden, which I have nicknamed the Poison Ivy Garden. 
Last week I went out there to try and cut away some of the seemingly impenetrable vines, so that the lilies I planted ten years ago could make their way to the sunlight and bloom.
In the process, even though I was wearing gloves and long sleeves and long pants, the poison ivy got me. Some of the leaves were the size of dinner plates; very healthy and prosperous.
It only got me on my left forearm ( probably where the glove ended and the sleeve began) and when I removed the shirt later.
Of course, it looks worse in real life, and itches like crazy.  The remedies?
I'm using these more or less interchangeably. They all work pretty well. What really feels wonderful though, and stops the itching for many hours, is a minute with the hair dryer on hot, applied to the effective area.  :)
I had a worse case back in 2005 when I began to clear those gardens and didn't know I got poison ivy. I had never had it before, in all my years of birdwatching in the woods.
My college students suggested many hair-raising remedies which I did not try.  One told me that Tide, applied as a paste, was very effective.   One of the guys told me that he worked for a lawn service in the summer and when exposed to poison ivy, he poured GASOLINE on his arms.
No thanks!