Are You An Antipode?

Hello Dear Readers

Are you as amazed as I am how fast March went by? We’ve come into April and I see that various bloggers are doing daily prompts and writing challenges. There’s a National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMO. (You can see a list of participants HERE.) There’s also an A to Z writing challenge. I’m not sure if there’s an official word list, or you make up your own.

The idea of using a letter a day appeals to me, so I’ll make my start belatedly with the letter A and offer you two words, one useful and one intriguing.

Rye Regular

A delightful addition to a writer’s toolbox! They act like seasoning in writing; a sprinkle here and there brings out the flavour, inviting your senses to take part in the scene. “Snoopy did his happy dance” has much more flavour than “Snoopy danced.”

However, every now and then a reader meets a writer who’s a real AFICIONADO of ADJECTIVES, inclined to add them with a too-liberal hand. Writers need to think of ADJECTIVES as the FIBER in their sentences — and realize that modern readers aren’t beavers. Most of us aren’t willing to take the time to gnaw our way through high-fiber paragraphs. I’m inclined to toss a book after the first few pages if it takes too much chewing.

In the following example, see how using many adjectives slows the action down:

For the tenth time that evening Mother pulled the blue-flowered cotton curtain back and peered through the single-pane, white trimmed window that looked over the grass-bordered gravel road coming toward their home. She saw only the crimson sunset on the horizon, the coral-streaked clouds over-layered by a band of magenta rising into deeper purple. As the dusk settled she scanned the road but saw no sign of the old bay mare and the rough-hewn brown wagon in which Father went to town. With a worried frown she turned away, wiping her flushed, tear-stained cheek on the lacy linen handkerchief, a gift from her own grandma, that she always carried in her pocket. She went back to her tiny ten-by-ten-foot farm kitchen, shadowed now by the dimness of the sunset, and proceeded to deal with the cooling remains of the abundant meal she had so lovingly cooked.

Now, here’s the low-fiber version:
Mother pulled the curtain back and peered through the window for the tenth time that evening, seeing only the sunset on the horizon. No horse and buggy carrying Father home to them. She turned away, wiping her cheek and going back to the kitchen to deal with the food still sitting on the table.

Writing instructors these days are saying: “TAKE OUT all the adjectives and only put back in the ones that are necessary to clarify the picture.” Something to think about.

Rye Regular

This is an old Latin word I came across in my search for intrigue. Are you an ANTIPODE? Or would you call me one?

Whether you’re ANTIPODAL or not depends on which side of the world you’re standing on. According to one source, ANTIPODE literally means “people who have their feet opposite.” That is, people who live on the opposite side of the world so the soles of their feet are pointing in our direction. So as I see it, you Aussies are all antipodes.

By the mid-sixteenth century, the concept had morphed into “something or someone on the opposite side of the world/planet/moon.” Nowadays ANTIPODAL can also mean entirely, or diametrically opposed. These adjectives add a lot more punch than a simple “He’s opposed to your scheme.

Get Out the Saw, Pa

Contemplating A World Without Sparks

Our temperature has risen! In Saskatoon right now it’s 10 F or -12 C and the thermometer is supposed to climb all the way up to -1 C / 30 F. Balmy breezes, almost! Our cats are enjoying the great outdoors this morning.

Texas residents won’t be nodding at that. I’ve been reading about the dire weather conditions and suffering of the poor Southern folks and they do have my sympathy because I realize they aren’t at all prepared. With our well insulated houses, furnaces and insulated water lines buried deep, we’re prepared for extremes of -50 whereas -0 F is a disaster down there.

No power is a game changer anywhere, though. I appreciate what the folks in Texas are going through on that score. (Assuming you have a furnace) heating fans and water pumps need electricity. Baseboard heaters and stoves are useless. We lived in Quebec during “the ice storm of the century” and know what it’s like to have no power for days with the temp hovering at freezing point.

The only way to operate anything – like the pump that pumped water out of our basement – was with a gas generator. Farmers especially were bringing these in from the US as fast as they could find them. For our dairy farmer neighbours with their bulk milk cooling tanks, a generator’s a must. We did have a wood stove in the basement, thanks be, and waded through ankle-deep water to stoke it. Generally speaking, this is not where modern man wants to go.

A friend and I had a discussion one day; she asked, “What if our power supply was cut off permanently.” I said most of us would die. She said, “If we needed to, we’d just have to find other ways to survive.”

I said, “Ha! We can’t live without power for an extended time. In winter, how would you heat?” She thought we’d have to cut wood.

I asked her to imagine the seniors in her building, in all the apartments on all the floors, trying to burn wood. Someone might burn the place down! “And think the million people in your city all trying to find enough firewood and wood stoves. Or get water – or food? Or drive on completely blacked-out streets? What would happen to stores if the city was blacked out every night? All the factories shut down, people out of work? No, I’m afraid if power was permanently cut, most Canadians living in cities would soon perish.”

She was using the idealistic “We’d all go back to the land” mentality. Everyone would get a little chunk of land to live on (which would denude the countryside.) Big farmers would have to share their land. We’d all survive on raising our own veggies, hauling our water (from where?) and sawing our own firewood. Our lifestyle would keep us healthy. It worked once. Why not again?

Recently I read that President Biden is taking measures to wean the US off oil and gas; I tried to imagine how that will work in the long run. Kind of like Texas now, but nationally? Softie that I am, I hate the idea of wind power because those big turbine blades kill so many birds; perhaps that could be fixed somehow? Giant bird nets? But in Texas now we hear the turbines are all iced up. How would they manage at -30F like we get?

Solar panels may make enough electricity for a home, but for a city water and sewage system? For factories and hospitals? Time will tell, but I foresee The train they call the City of New Orleans coming to a grinding halt with its fifteen cars and twenty-five sacks of mail.

Without oil to run factories, I can picture a time when the US will go back to a farming economy, minus the big equipment. Maybe, like my friend suggested for us, each city family will be given a chunk of land and go with subsistence farming, but I fear those beautiful national forests will go for firewood.

I’d thought Canada could benefit: we could sell our oil to the US if they wouldn’t produce their own. But I see the new President has cancelled the Keystone Pipeline project, meant to carry Alberta oil to Louisiana. Eastern Canada would breathe easier if all those dreadful coal-burning factories in IL & OH were shut down, ending the acid rain now polluting Ontario & Quebec waters.

Oil is currently a necessity to our lifestyle, but bringing in oil from overseas runs the risk of more oil spills and pollution. Building hydro-electric dams costs the environment, too. Ontario found nuclear power an unreliable, expensive, waste-producing alternative. Every solution has side-effects that must be calculated. Or, as someone tersely put it, “The cause of problems is solutions.”

In reality we can’t just go back. Not unless you eliminate 70% of the population and their demands on fuel supply and the power grid. Transportation, international trade, heating, cooling, sewer & water, manufacture, agriculture, construction, health care and more: these depend on a steady stream of power/oil & gas.

Idealism is the luxury of folks who are financially secure or retired in their little estate with a nice nest egg. They can dither to their hearts’ content over solutions for environmental concerns. And we should certainly all do our part to stop consuming, wasting, and polluting. READ: Stop buying CHEAP JUNK. Be willing to pay more for things made in your own country, where pollution controls are in effect.

But the poor senior on pension, the welfare family, or the average Joe/Jill who lives in a big city and has to work for a living – especially in a factory – may have a whole different perspective on the importance of saving the environment. Running out of food before payday weighs more heavily on their minds than thoughts of the world running out of oil in the year 2525.

The Penumbra of Covid-19

Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is PENUMBRA
Word of the Day Challenge: SAD

I’ll admit, I’ve never heard this word, so looked it up to discover that it refers to an area of partial shadow, either literally or figuratively.

Some of Merriam-Webster’s definitions:
– a space of partial illumination (as in an eclipse) between the perfect shadow on all sides and the full light
– a surrounding or adjoining region in which something exists in a lesser degree, like a fringe
– something that covers, surrounds, or obscures, like a shroud

So it means not completely in the dark, but shadowed;
one thing or area overshadowed by another.

In that sense, we could say that 2020 was largely spent in the PENUMBRA of Covid-19. We weren’t shut down completely, but definitely our daily lives were darkened by this menace. Commerce carried on as best it could, shopping done more online now than in person.

One example given was when Europe was coming out of the Dark Ages. Columbus had proved that the Earth wasn’t flat; Galileo had invented the telescope and peered into space; superstition was slowly giving way to scientific truth. The printing press was invented and literature began to inform those who could read.

We might say “SAD” is also a sort of PENUMBRA. The shorter daylight hours in northern lands can bring on a kind of depression of spirit the medical world now calls Seasonal Affective Disorder. One wonders if Antarctic penguins are feeling sad while we here in the North are enjoying long summer days?

Wisdom in a Nutshell

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt — better late than never, seeing the day is almost done — is the word COMPACT

My mind went to all these marvelous bits of enlightenment that have been squeezed into a few words. Proverbs and adages, if you will.

According to Merriam-Webster, an adage is a saying often in metaphorical form that typically embodies a common observation. They give the example: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Least said, soonest mended” is a whole sermon in a nutshell. Great advice for the fellow who’s getting vexed about something and is ready to give the one who’s annoying him a fiery lecture. It’s also good advice when you’re so sure, and ready to accuse someone of some little crime. If it turns out you were wrong, you’ll be very glad you kept quiet.

Another phrase that falls in this category is, “Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you ever regretted.”

“A stitch in time saves nine.” Also a bit of homely wisdom compacted and passed down through the ages. Likewise, “Best make hay while the sun shines.”

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Be careful when you’re hurling accusations at other people because you might be just as guilty in some area — or even be caught doing the same thing yourself.

“Buy in haste, repent at leisure.” A lesson every purchaser has experienced at some point.

A more recent saying we hear is “Been there, done that.” It’s a very compact way of offering sympathy to someone who’s made a big mistake, fallen into some trap or sorrow, and looked foolish doing it.

And here’s one we’re hearing about frequently, both in brief and at length, during this pandemic: An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.

Book:Seniors and High-Tech

One day my husband brought home a book he thought I’d enjoy — and it did give me many chuckles, especially as I remembered our own days of learning how to operate this new-fangled device. If you’re young and tech-savvy you can read it and sympathize with computer sales & support people who must patiently explain what a byte is, how to control a mouse, or how far you should back up when your computer gives the order.

My Senior Moments Have Gone High-Tech
© 2016 by Karen O’Conner,
published by Harvest House Publishers in Eugene Oregon

My Senior Moments Have Gone High-Tech by [Karen O'Connor]

Consists mainly of anecdotes about golden oldies who take up using a computer in their senior years, these amusing tidbits have been gathered from learners, teachers, and fixers. As well as humor, the writer offers hope for those who feel their offspring are tossing them into the sea of technology without a life jacket.

Like the woman who set her mouse on the floor, thinking it should work like her sewing machine foot pedal. Or the irate fellow who ordered tech support to come out and see why his printer wasn’t working. The company rep dutifully showed up, checking things out, and asked how long the printer had been unplugged.

This reminds me of my first attempt at using our computer. Bob had purchased one three weeks previously, so he and our daughter (who worked at a computer store) were babbling in this strange language. Which made me all the more determined not to touch the thing. However, we’d been on a Family Reunion trip to Boston and I wanted to write up a long letter to his mother plus several penpals. Rather than hand-write all those pages, I typed it into the computer.

Starting with “Dear Mom, We had this great trip to Massachusetts…” I went on for eight pages giving her all the details. Then I hit PRINT. Nothing happened. I hit it again. Nothing happened. After the third try I called our daughter at work. She asked, “Are you sure it’s plugged in?”

I checked. It wasn’t. I plugged it in. Out came the eight pages. Then another eight. I couldn’t stop the thing! I unplugged it again, then plugged it back in. Out came another eight. I’m thankful my two penpals didn’t seem to mind an eight-page letter that started with “Dear Mom,” accompanied by a handwritten note of explanation on top. And when hubby got home, he showed me how to cancel a PRINT order. 🙂

My husband is talking now of updating our cell phones. Gulp! I still mourn the obsolescence of my old cell phone. It worked so well; to answer a call, you just flipped open the lid.

Anyway, I think this book would be a great Christmas gift for the senior on your list.