Creations in Stone

Stone RDP.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was STONE
It happens that blogger Keith H posted photos he took while visiting what’s left of the English Castle of Corfe. If you want to see STONE in large quantities, hop over to Keith’s Ramblings and have a look. Not just the castle, but the whole town is well blessed with stone.

As an artist, I’m very fond of drawing and painting stone. Artists as a whole love textures and stone gives us lots of opportunities to paint, carve, and design.

Image by Ulrike Leone — Pixabay

We’re fond of clouds and waves for the same reason: these things offer so many textural possibilities on which we can work out our creative urges. Quilters love finding new patterns; those who work with yarn aren’t content to produce same-old flat fabric, but work in a variety of ribs, knots, cables, shells, fans.

It also happens that on one of our calendars this month there’s a picture taken in the U.S. Grand Canyon. No lack of colourful rock there!

Image from earlofoxford — Pixabay

These stones tell the story of water gushing through that land with tremendous force, carving channels in the rock, creating canyons. As these torrents gouged through the soft stone canyon walls, they made fantastic layered textures before settling into a peaceful river. Today visitors look down at the river snaking among the canyons it created and they marvel at the things water can do.

I’ve held feathers in my hand and studied their complexity of colour and texture; I’ve looked through a wildflower book and marveled at the many leaf and petal shapes and colours. From thorny wild roses to fluffy dandelions and fat, fleshy sedum, I find such variety!

Fur, feathers, scales, limbs, horns, tails…shapes and colours galore decorate our world. All these tell me that our Creator loves textures, too.

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11

Giving Disease A Jab

Hello and welcome to SEPTEMBER! Did anyone see SUMMER as it whizzed by?

Leaves are starting to fall, most of our pretty birds seem to have zipped off, harvest is underway — except that the rains we were praying for in July have finally come. I’m glad I’m not a farmer! Mind you, quite a few crops were cut and baled last month because there wasn’t enough grain in the heads to be worth harvesting.

As for me, I’ve started digging up my one large flowerbed. I left it uncultivated in spring because it was so dry; now that it’s been raining I’m getting it ready for winter and for planting next spring.

I’ve been digging around in my family tree roots lately, too, and discovered a family tragedy. One that was quite common back in those days. I can’t imagine how devastated great-great-grandfather Charles must have been when…

– his wife Ann, passed away on Dec 3rd, 1863. She was about forty years old and her youngest child was just a toddler.
– his father, John Watchorn, died on Jan 1st, 1864 at the age of 68.
– his daughter, Ellen, died on Jan 14th. From the records, it looks like she was in her early teens.
– his six-year-old son, Charles Jr, died a few weeks after Ellen.
Ann and her children are buried in one grave with a common headstone.

At one time I made a note in my records that gr-gr-grandmother Ann died of smallpox. An epidemic of that sort would account for the number of deaths in one family in such a short period of time. It’s odd that I can’t find any death records for any of these people. Were they lost in a fire or in transit to the Dept of Vital Statistics, or were there so many smallpox deaths in the area at that time that they weren’t recorded individually? Perhaps a local newspaper of the time would give me a better picture?

Of course I wondered if there was no smallpox vaccine available in their day, so I did some research. Yes, smallpox vaccine was available then. However, there was apparently a lot of fear and resistance, or just plain indifference, to the idea of vaccination. According to the Museum of Health Care at Kingston website:
“Smallpox vaccine was used widely in Canada during the early 1800s, although it soon became neglected. Low immunization levels led to persistent outbreaks…”
The Montreal area experienced the worst outbreak in 1885 when 3000 people died from smallpox. The epidemic spread from there into parts of eastern Ontario.
“Anti-vaccine sentiments mixed with religion and French-English political tensions helped fuel the crisis.”

Sigh… Do things never change?

Well, yes, they do, thankfully. In 1924, a Doctor Heagerty writing about smallpox, lists the terror people felt when the menace was mentioned and all damage it has done in the past, leaving so many people dead, crippled, or scarred for life. Then he writes:
“Vaccination has altered this, and forgetful or ignorant of the appalling ravages of the disease in other days, we now scarcely give the subject of smallpox a thought.”

Small pox, whooping cough, diphtheria, polio. Immunization has dealt a death blow to these scourges our ancestors feared. In more recent years measles, rubella, hepatitis, chicken pox, meningitis, pneumonia, and various influenza vaccines have made life easier yet. We’ve conquered a lot of killers.

So it puzzles me when I hear people who are alive today because their grandparents, parents, and themselves have been saved from these once common killers, now opposing COVID vaccination. I guess some things never change.

“Que sera sera” versus Heart Smart

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is MYOCARDITIS, which means inflammation of the heart muscle. Here are my thoughts on the subject of heart health, though not specifically inflammation of same.

Image by S. Hermann and F Richter — Pixabay

In August of 1929 my husband’s grandmother visited her doctor, possibly because of a stomach problem and the pain it was giving her. While she was in the office she had an attack of acute indigestion and passed away right there. Interestingly enough, her husband had also died of “acute indigestion” some years earlier.

Back in the late 1800s John Holdeman, one of the leaders in our church, died of “acute intestinal distress.” If you’d examine death certificates, you’d find that a lot of people prior to 1940 died of some variety of “indigestion” which caused increasingly sharp pains in the chest, followed by collapse and death. Today the diagnosis would be “heart attack,” or myocardial infarction.

Conversely, my long-lost great-great Aunt Henrietta died in 1907 at the age of 55, and her death was attributed to chronic heart disease.

Prior to 1800 doctors had only their ears to tell them what a patient’s heart was doing, or not doing. The first stethoscope, invented by Frenchman Rene Laennec in 1816, primitive though it was, amplified the heartbeat. Subsequent improvements, including the two ear-bud version developed in 1851 by Irish doctor Arthur Leared, have given doctors a much better idea of what’s going on inside us.

This device enabled Gr-gr-Aunt Henrietta’s doctors to tell that her heart beat was not as it should be. But only the last seventy years, give or take, have tests been developed to record the flow of blood through the arteries and reveal that some are blocked.

What we call a heart attack today is a circulation problem. When blood flow to the heart is blocked because of a buildup in the arteries carry blood through the heart, feelings of pressure and chest pains result. Today’s patient stands a good chance of surviving because of CPR and bypass surgeries.

Cardiac arrest, on the other hand, is when the heart suddenly stops beating for some reason. Some signal prompting the heart’s rhythm doesn’t get through – or an air bubble in the blood stream hits the heart and stops it. Medics call this an electrical problem, and bring out the shock paddles. If someone is nearby to do CPR, the heart can be restarted. A pacemakers is installed to kick in if the body’s signal gets lost in transit, and the person may live many more years.

Perhaps this article is long enough, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about health issues of various sorts, and about fatalistic ideas like “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.” Someone recently commented about the COVID threat, that, “If I get it, I do. When my time is up, it’s up.” I’m sure she’s taken every possible precaution, and once you have, you can rest in “What will be, will be.” I also hear people offer comfort when they hear of a death by saying, “It was his/her time to go.” I don’t disagree, but as a general rule we’ll do everything we can to extend our time on this earth.

Circa 1900 people probably had a more fatalistic approach to health. “We’ll live as long as God/ Allah/ the gods/ fate allows us to live.” But amazing medical advances have given a lot of us longer lives than we would have had if we’d just let nature take its course. These days, if you’d go to a doctor with severe chest pains, and he’d say, “You may live or you may die. Whatever will be, will be,” you’d soon be looking for another doctor. One who’d do bypass surgery so your time wouldn’t be up quite so soon.

Monday Modicums

I just searched the thesaurus re: the word BITS, and it gave me the neat word, MODICUMS. “The smallest amount or part imaginable.” And this post is going to be cobbled together bits of news and musings.

Speaking of cobbled together, I started reading a book yesterday. THE GIANT FOREST, by Bill Belew and his daughter Mia, is billed as a “Chapter Book for Parents and Grandparents of Preteens Who Love to Read.” I think they should have run it by an editor, too, as there are a few words missing and some misspellings.

The plot: Half a dozen children from one school go to Mount Hermon summer camp (in California.) Several of these children have parental and/or friendship issues which are detailed at the beginning. The first evening, five of them wander off into the forest, get lost, and have frightening experiences. In one case a girl is captured by giants who plan to eat her. Another trips over the edge of a cliff into a waterfall.

This is a fantasy of sorts; you see shades of C S Lewis in the way intelligent animals and insects rescue the human children. But the scenes flip back and forth between one child and another in their experiences, so the book becomes a cobbling together of small scenes. To add to the melee, the story of an original pioneer couple (not too bright, it seems) is mixed in, also in bits. Since I haven’t finished it yet, I can’t give you an overall impression, except that I’d prefer a more linear story. I feel like I’m on a merry-go-round reading this one.

Today is officially the LONGEST day of the year. How did that happen? We only just finished May, enjoying the spring, and now June is passing in a whirl. Life has become a merry-go-round time-wise, too, with Sundays coming around every few days.

I did more painting last week, including several “pour art” pictures. I have much to learn in regard to this type of painting! Adding a few drops of silicon oil to the paint before you pour it gives “cells”, but I haven’t tried that yet. One day I watched a demonstration where a woman used her hair dryer to blow the paint all over her canvas. That will be my next effort. 🙂

Yesterday was Father’s Day, but was a wipe-out at this house. I had my second COVID vaccination Saturday afternoon and the predicted sore arm by evening. Yesterday I felt so weary and light-headed, so I had several long naps and read some. Bob did about the same, so nothing memorable or exciting to celebrate Father’s Day. We missed the Youth singing at the Villa in the evening, as I was feeling too light-headed to go anywhere. Thankfully that “floaty” feeling has passed and I can resume normal life this morning.

Saturday morning I read an interesting article on the Battle of the Alamo (in Texas), which debunked a lot of the myths that have arisen over time. It wasn’t the “decisive battle” Texas history has made it out to be, and could have been avoided.

Have you noticed how history is full of battles that didn’t need to be fought, if only someone at the time had used some common sense? In Canada we had the Riel Rebellion, which could have been solved so easily without bloodshed if the federal government had only listened to the Metis and native people. They were being driven off their land and some were starving. Their complaints were legitimate, but the federal govt was way off in Ottawa and had no clue about conditions here on the prairies. So send an army; put down the rebellion.

I see where the city of Saskatoon is considering renaming John A MacDonald Road (he was Prime Minister at the time of the Rebellion) Reconciliation Road.

Usually someone at the time has a good handle on, and keeps a record of, what’s really happening. However, the rhetoric and fervor of the hour make so much noise they drown out wisdom. A century or two goes by and historians, no longer caught up in the dynamic, look at all angles of these past events. Just as our great-grands, if time continues, will look at the movements and battles of our day and analyze what all factored in and how it finally played out.

As they say, “Hindsight is always 20/20.

Heading West

Writing prompts: today the Ragtag Daily Prompt was FIXER-UPPER and I was able to work it in with another writing challenge, the one I gave to Judy Dykstra-Brown last night. You’re welcome to try it too, if you like. The goal is to Use at least three words in a poem or story.

Judy has already written her poem in response (Click here to read it) and now here’s mine. I hope you can bear with this long tale. 🙂

Original image created by DarkMoon Art for Pixabay

HEADING WEST

Sunshine and blue skies. A glorious day to start on an adventure!

One of the scouts stuffs a couple of flasks in his saddlebag as I pass. He nods when he sees me observing him. “Strictly for medicinal purposes, ma’am.” Then he has the nerve to wink at me. I don’t know about that fellow. Altogether too forward. Heaven knows what kind of women he’s associated with ’til now.

I smile to myself as I reached my wagon. What I have in my luggage is strictly for medicinal purposes also: two medical books. Father would never hear of me studying formally, but from these I’ve learned a lot about human anatomy.

The scout probably sees me as a frightfully brash thing, attaching myself to this train like I have. My family thinks I’m mad. You should have heard the gasps when I announced that I’d bought a covered wagon, hired young Clancy Fitzhugh to drive it, and was heading west to assist old Dr James in his practice.

My brother Charles sputtered and eyed me suspiciously. Did he think I’d robbed a bank? Or was stealing some of his inheritance? And my sisters-in-law! “Foolishness! Far too daring! Out there among gunfighters and thieves. No respectable woman would ever…” and on and on. They see me at thirty-one as a spinster for life. A lost penny that will obligingly roll along from house to house. Well, I refuse to be dependent on them for the rest of my life.

It cheered me very much this morning to receive a letter from my good friend Sally. Won’t I have things to tell her when I get the chance? She’ll be astounded.

I miss her so much! We were good friends all through school, after all. Then a year after we graduated a young man from England stopped in our town on his tour of the American Midwest. He courted her and won her heart, married her and carried her back to England. Now she writes such interesting letters about her life over there – so different from anything we know! In her last letter she sent along a picture of a hedgehog that her son drew. She told me her children think they’re cute and put out treats to lure them into the garden.

Something catches my eye, a glitter by the front wheel of my wagon. Someone has lost a penny – and I’ve found it! I snatch it up and examine it, feeling lighter of heart. Surely this is a good sign?

Isn’t it amazing how things happen right at the time you need them? If I hadn’t happened to catch Mother sliding a small hearthstone into place one day, I’d never have known about the money she was squirreling away. Someone else would have gotten that windfall if I hadn’t discovered her secret.

“Your father will no doubt leave everything to your brothers in his will, with instructions to look after us,” she explained. “And knowing how careful your brothers are with money, even if they’ll let us have a little house of our own I can see us having to give account for every dollar we spend. I want us to have some money of our own when that day comes.”

Mother was right. Father was generous to her, but he’d will everything to the boys. I can just hear him saying, “Why would women need money when they have family to look after them?”

I knew Mother was good at lacework and sold some from time to time; now she told me she was setting aside some of the housekeeping money. She was looking ahead, but didn’t foresee they’d die together. Their deaths happened when our horse spooked and upset their carriage; Mother died instantly; Father lived only a few days.

My parents’ dear friend Dr James made a special trip back for the funeral. Some years back, hearing about an acute need for doctors, he’d gone out West to a small mining town in Montana to set up a practice and we hadn’t seen him since. Chatting with them I could feel he was happy about what he was doing, even patching up gamblers and gunslingers. The day after my parents’ funeral I shared my own dream with him, knowing he’d understand.

Ever since we lost my sister Millie I’ve had a burning desire to help other women make it through childbirth. Could Millie have been saved if she’d had a more competent midwife assisting her? Who can say? But since the day we buried Millie and her newborn girl, I’ve studied and assisted one of the local midwives, with the dream of saving other women’s lives.

He commended me, said my services would be most welcome in their area, especially since one of the midwives there had such a rough time with her last delivery she may never assist him again. I should consider joining him there.

“I’m sure you can could get a room with Mrs. Greggs will take you on as a boarder. In fact, I’ll even pay for your board for the first few months if you’ll do nursing for me. Mrs Greggs is an older widow, quite a respectable woman who swears by ginger tea as a cure-all and feeds me gingersnaps every time I stop in.”

I had to wonder if he stopped in quite often…

Three weeks after the funeral Charles came over to announce, “We’ve decided to put the house up for sale. This property is too valuable for you to live here alone. But you needn’t worry; you can live with one of us. Or we can buy you a small cottage.” I can still see him standing there, a glass of iced tea in his hand, handing me such a bleak future, with not so much as a “by your leave.”

Oh, yes, they said they’d see I was cared for if I stayed here, but I know how that would go. The thought of being shuffled from one home to another, an obligation, an unpaid servant, underfoot too often. Or in a little fixer-upper cottage, dependent on them to do the repairs. Once he left I pulled Mother’s savings from the niche in the hearth and counted it, breathing a sigh of thanks for her foresight.

I’m striking out on my own, come what may. The wagon-master’s shouting and the teams are all shaking their reins impatiently. Time to head West!

The Letter I: Uniquely Ours

Rye Regular

I’m not sure there’s another language where the I is pronounced like we English pronounce ours. (Though we must make allowances for the Cockney OY.) There are some dialects that pronounce AYE like our I, but I don’t know of any other language where it stands alone.

However, most of our words that start with I come from Latin, carried across the English Cannel by Roman soldiers, or coming into English via the French adaptation of a Latin word.

Even our simple word INK comes from the French encre, adapted from the Latin encaustum, meaning burned in. The Romans in turn borrowed it from the Greek word encaustos, which is where we get our word CAUSTIC

Actually, many of our IMPORTANT, INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE, and INTRIGUING words start with an I. Im- heads off a number, Imm- some more, and In- starts off a host of words.

Some of these are combos, while others maybe once were, but have become detached from their roots:
We have INERT, but no ERT; INVITE but no VITE.
INVOKE still shows its roots; the –voke comes from vocation.
INVESTIGATE comes from In + vestige, or trace. So you’re looking for traces of the facts when you investigate something.

Rye Regular

Awhile back I started reading a book about the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire, through the Middle Ages, up until the Enlightenment. It was heavy slogging but one thing was clear: the history of Europe has been a long stream of invasion and bloody conquest.

Constant waves of invaders came from the east, the steppes, the Ural mountains: the Franks, the Goths, the Gauls, the Vandals, and a host of others. A lot of these had their turn sacking poor Rome, and then moved on to various other conquests, including the British Isles. Plus there was the era when a good part of Europe was overrun by Muslim armies. Land grab, power grab: this is the history of mankind.

The news this past year has been disturbing to many of us, and leads us to wonder if INSIDIOUS INVADERS are at work behind the scenes. Not wielding swords and charging forth, but playing from the shadows, slinging ink and using social media, hacking, spying. Fueling discord, attacking authority, wishing to bring down the society we have now and replace it with something “better.” But who is really behind the turmoil and mud-slinging we’re seeing today? People may not be such willing puppets if they could see who’s really pulling the strings.

I believe it would be a good thing for us all to read George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, and refresh our minds as to the possible consequences of “throwing off the yoke of oppression and bringing in a new social order.” If we lose our guiding star in these chaotic times, some power will step in and take control – and they may not be so nice to live under, either.