Tuesday, November 29, 2011

After Thanksgiving

Sam is sad.  His girls left yesterday morning after being home for Thanksgiving break. 

We celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time at Kathryn's new house in Paducah (which meant a 10 hour round trip on Thanksgiving day for Jeff and Ally).  Kate and Dad and I went down on Tuesday and stayed until Friday afternoon. 

Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead on Thanksgiving so I didn't get any pictures when everyone was together.  Here are some pictures of the day after and a cool video of Uncle John's Model T in action. 

My niece, Mary Beth, and her boyfriend, Ted.  Mary Beth is working on her PhD in Mathematics at Duke
 and Ted is at Boston University working on a PhD in Physics.  They're adorable together!

Kate teaches the chickens to cross the road.

Kate and one of Aunt Kathryn's very tame chickens

My nephew William practices the fine art of chicken tossing.

Taffy is a good dog.

My sister Kathryn presides over her table with my nephew Jay

Kate poses in Uncle John's Model T truck

Just turn your head sideways ....

By the way, Kate seems to be over whatever it was that was bothering her.  It has been a tense couple of weeks with lots of doctors and tests -- but no one could quantify anything but a racing heartbeat and some strange blood pressures.  Larry thinks it was a "perfect storm" of stress, a flu bug, and a reaction to some medication -- none of which would have caused her symptoms independently but all together they packed a punch.  Anyway, I'm glad she's feeling better and thanks to everyone for your concern and prayers. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Every Day Luxuries

As I was making dinner last night and taking things in and out of the refrigerator, it struck me to be thankful for that refrigerator.  Seriously.  Refrigerators are a very new phenomenon in the history of mankind.  Even within living memory, the best people could do were iceboxes -- and that, itself, was an innovation.  I don't know how I could cope without a refrigerator and freezer.  All of your food would have to be either eaten immediately or dried, salted, or smoked. 

I read an article once in the Phi Beta Kappa Journal (Jeff's subscription, not mine) that I've always remembered and wish I could get my hands on a copy.  The article began with a vivid description of a messenger riding hellbent for leather down the mountain with precious cargo, handing his package to a waiting companion with a fresh horse, and falling spent from the saddle.  It turned out that the valuable package was ice from the mountain to cool the emperor's drink.  The point of the article was that even the poorest person in America today lives better than an emperor in days gone by.  It somehow stuns me to think that King Henry VIII used a latrine all his life. 

So, that's what I'm thankful for today:  refrigeration.  Even on a cold wet day, it's a good thing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sign of the Season

I just wanted to share these two short videos I made yesterday.  A huge flock of migrating birds landed in my neighbor's yard and were making all kinds of racket.  I thought the videos were pretty cool.  How do they all fly at once like that without running into each other?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fighting Entropy

Entropy.  That's the enemy.  We spend our lives fighting it and, ultimately, we all lose. 

Last night, Larry invited his sister to go to the movies with us.  Mary's a nurse and she's had a bad week.  She cautioned Kate, "Don't ever go to nursing school."  There was never any danger of that.  I thought, though, about the high burn out of nurses.  Their work is physically and emotionally exhausting, God bless them, and they never win.  They're constantly fighting an enemy -- disease and injury and death -- that never gives up.  Their lives are an endless parade of scared and complaining people in need.  No wonder they burn out.  It's like swimming against a tsunami.  No ... it's not like a tsunami ... more like a relentless tide.  Sometimes you think you're making progress and doing well, and then the force of the ocean overtakes you. 

I spent yesterday fighting entropy too.  I made a pretty good dent in cleaning out the garage.  It's not saving a life, but it's still a small part of the good fight.  Making order out of chaos.  Opposing the natural inclination of things to fall into decay. 

As I was writing this, the sun came up.  A new day.  I know I can't beat the enemy.  So, maybe that's not the goal.  Maybe the goal should be to make things as good as they can be for as long as possible.  Which means continuing to clean out the garage today and fixing Genny's hutch to she can't get out and run wild in the rain like she did last week. 

There's a cardinal and a titmouse on my bird feeder.  Ephemeral things, birds.  They look sleek and healthy though and I'm contributing to that by setting out food for them.  I'm helping them fight the entropy another day. 

I wonder what makes us keep going.  How do we have the courage and hope and energy to hold back the chaos?  Like a dike around Holland, we push back the waters.  We mend the dike here and it springs a leak there.  While I cleaned out the garage yesterday, the dishes piled up in the kitchen and Kate and Jeff left stuff all over the family room.  If you're lucky, you can only hope to make marginal progress over the entropy.  But I'm not ready to throw up my hands and give up.  In fact, I'm sort of encouraged by the realization that I can't be expected to win.  I only have to do what I can do.  That's giving it a good try, for myself and the people I love. 

Now that it's light, I can see that I left the lid off the rabbit food last night.  The feeder birds are curious about the rabbit food and occasionally perch on the edge of the plastic container, but no one has tried to eat it.  I'll probably have to throw out at least part of it.  Chaos wins a small victory.  But I have the lid and more rabbit food and the will to fight.