Definitely Summer, or, the Mockingbird

Photo by Dick Daniels
Photo by Dick Daniels

At four o’clock every morning for the past week, I have been reminded that it is indeed summer.  That’s when the mockingbird begins singing.  He starts around four, and he doesn’t finish his repertory until the sun starts getting hotter around 8 a.m.

He perches on top of a parking lot light and sings and sings and sings.  Somewhere in the distance is another mockingbird, so they engage in this duel to establish their territory.  Sometimes he’ll tune up again in the evening, but usually it’s a morning routine.

The mockingbird is a very inventive musician and does mash-ups of other birds’ songs, getting faster as he goes, and sometimes rearranging the sequence.  I think of him as the Glee chorister of the animal kingdom.  I wouldn’t mind the early morning chorale if I could just sleep through it, or at least roll over and go back to sleep.

Mockingbirds remind me of where I grew up in Tennessee–they are the state bird.  As a child and a teenager I could sleep through a bomb going off, so the pre-dawn concerts didn’t bother me.  My dad was known to chase a noisy bird away–see my archives for the story of the whippoorwill.  I learned the lesson, however, that birds are crafty, and will wait until you are back in bed to start up their song again.

So I am waiting for the height of summer, when the mockingbird will have proved his manhood to his mate and will quiet down again except for running trills just before dark.  I like the way he flicks his wings and tail to show the patches of white, then covers them again modestly.  I agree with Atticus Finch that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, “because “they don’t do one thing for us but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us”.[38]

Even if they are singing long before I want to get up!



Beautiful_Greek_woman_statue[1]I was thinking about beauty and ugliness today because of the Ugliest Dog Contest, which was hyped on the Today Show among others. Here’s a clip:!watch/504008

I think poor Walle’s problem is that his proportions are just soooo wrong– poor little beast.  His owner said, “He tends to fall over.”

The ancient Greeks held that beauty was all about proportion and dimensions.  Here is a quote from the Wikipedia entry on beauty:  Although style and fashion vary widely, cross-cultural research has found a variety of commonalities in people’s perception of beauty. The earliest Western theory of beauty can be found in the works of early Greek philosophers from the pre-Socratic period, such as Pythagoras. The Pythagorean school saw a strong connection between mathematics and beauty. In particular, they noted that objects proportioned according to the golden ratio seemed more attractive.[9] Ancient Greek architecture is based on this view of symmetry and proportion.

Now there is some evidence that symmetry, which can be expressed mathematically, denotes genetic health.  There are a lot of articles and studies on this topic.  The general tenor seems to be that symmetry and masculinity are preferred across cultures and even across species.

Where does that leave all of us who are a little less than perfect?  Perhaps hoping that someone loves us for our personalities or our souls, especially if we aren’t part of the gene pool going forward.  Thank goodness for that!



Remembering Daddy: The Denim Jacket

Mother and Daddy at home on the farm
Mother and Daddy at home on the farm

I have Daddy’s denim jacket hanging in my hall closet.  It is an old, faded Wrangler’s denim, lined with red plaid flannel, in the classic style worn by farmers and cowboys.  When I came home from college in the fall or winter, I would borrow that jacket from him and wear it every time I went out while I was at home, unless he needed it to wear on the farm.

Daddy always seemed the right size to me, not too big and not too small.  He would be considered barely medium height now, barrel-chested, with strong shoulders and muscular arms and legs.  He wore khaki work pants and shirts when he worked at Clarksville Base, and he wore them to work on the farm.  They were heavy cotton and were a pain to iron, but I learned to iron on those work clothes.

When the weather was colder  he put on heavy, lined coveralls which zipped up the front and were dark green or dark grey.  All these clothes were meant for hard outdoor work, mending fences, herding cows, digging postholes, the work that couldn’t be done from a tractor or a truck.

When it wasn’t cold enough for the coveralls, he wore that jacket.  Many times I saw him put it on as he headed out to drive the school bus (when he had that job) or feed the cows just as the winter sun was coming up.

So after Daddy died, when Mother was cleaning out the house, that jacket was the only thing of his I wanted, and the only thing I brought home to New York with me.  I have never worn it again.  I guess I was afraid it would wear out.  It is quite frayed, and, I just realized, more than 30 years old.  But it is a last bit of him, and of frosty mornings when the cows patiently waited for him, lining up at the barbed-wire fence nearest our house, their breath making clouds.  “Hello, babies,” he would say, and they followed him at a stately pace to the stable, to be fed.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, and to all of us who love and remember them.


Practical Magic

Protection against the evil eye?
Protection against the evil eye?

Since the earliest times, people have tried to influence fate or luck or fortune, whatever you want to call it, with charms and amulets.  Some of them “work” by sympathetic magic–something represents something else, and gives you the properties of that thing.  For instance, the horn that some men wear as a pendant is supposed to bring sexual potency and/or fertility, by association with a ram or bull (and the shape is pretty suggestive, too.)

Others invoke the properties of the stone or charm itself–hardness, strength, the lights within it, etc.  And others are representations of a god or goddess or saint, seeking the protection of that spirit or the gifts he or she can bring.

I’ve been thinking about this lately for a number of reasons.  I’m working for a small company owned by South Asians, and our office has a number of representations of elephants, and of the Hindu god Ganesha.  He is the Hindu lord of success and the destroyer of evils and obstacles, as well as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom, and wealth.  No wonder there is a little brass Ganesha in the reception area, on the president’s desk, and little elephants on almost all of the (tiny) cubicles most of us work in.  It’s a bit strange to see religious icons in an office in the U.S.

Another reason is that I have been in search of an effective good luck charm for many years.  Nothing seems to work for me, perhaps because in my heart of hearts I don’t believe in lucky charms.  But as a friend observed to me several years ago, “I think you really believe if you find the right shade of lipstick your life will change.”  I said, “It won’t?”

I wish it were that easy.  I wish all it took was the right charm or amulet or stone or whatever to make one healthy, wealthy and wise.  It does take hard work to be all those things, and often luck or your environment or your genes intervene, for good or ill.  All we can do is the best we can, and hope for the best.  And I’ll carry the black tourmaline ($5) I just bought a street fair.  If it could protect me, cleanse negative thoughts from others, dissipate my own negative thoughts, and relieve stress, I’ll wear it 24/7!


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