Frost & Flame

Prairie Blues

I’m feeling on the blue side this evening, owing to some changes in the air, literal and social.

For one thing, it was a really windy day and the September wind had a bite. When the sky clouded over in the afternoon it was downright cold. Reality blowing in; summer’s gone. 😦 This evening the wind has died down, but the weatherman is predicting frost tonight: -1C should finish off most of our lovely blooms. I’m not rushing out to cover anything, as they’ve been looking straggly for awhile now. They seem to know their season is over.

Here's a poem I wrote long ago about the September Wind:

Damp September wind whistles
through an early August day, chilling
our summer-browned bodies.

Ever the schoolyard bully, it cuffs us
with an almost icy hand.  "Remember!"
It mocks our shivers, our calendar

consultations.  Dismayed, we grab
for hours as they bounce away, August
days slipping out of our lives forever.

With sighs we hunt for sweaters,
check the pockets of our coats,
while we’re at it, wash our gloves.

© Christine Goodnough, August 2012

My husband tells me that, as of tomorrow, here in SK we’re back to wearing masks when we go shopping and to gatherings. THAT is disappointing! When you wear two back-of-the-ear hearing aids, as I do, the last thing you need is elastic getting tangled with the hearing aid’s plastic tubes. But so many people haven’t gotten their COVID vaccination that our province is experiencing another surge in COVID cases.

After a couple of months mask-free, this feels like a giant step backwards. There’s to be a wedding reception Saturday at our church and it just won’t be the same with everyone masked. Another rule will be that you have to provide proof of vaccination before you can dine in a restaurant.

That said, we enjoyed a nice visit with friends from Quebec who came for lunch and stayed awhile this afternoon. And tonight we have a blazing sunset, with a brilliant ring of fire in the west and southwest to brighten up our world for half an hour before dark.

I spent four hours yesterday, give or take, painting another picture; today I submitted it to the Artist’s Atelier on Malcolm Dewey’s website and got some valuable suggestions for improvement. I started doing all my pictures on canvas, but these days I like to paint a “trial run” on watercolor paper and see how it comes out. I always find some changes and improvements I want to make before committing the final picture to canvas.

Well, enough griping. Wishing you a great weekend, everyone.

Fast Fly

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is FOREBODING

And the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day yesterday was EGREGIOUS. Seeing that word, I tend to think of GREGARIOUS, which means sociable, friendly, outgoing,. However, EGREGIOUS means somewhat the opposite: obviously or noticeably bad.

As I sat at my laptop pondering what to write re: FOREBODING, a fly landed near my hand. Before I could terminate his existence he was gone. Suggesting a phrase — the first two lines of a poem, redirected from Joyce Kilmer’s “TREES”? Sure, why not? Bear with me here…

Fast Fly

I think that I shall never see
a fly that’s slow enough for me,
a boldly lingering freebooter
’til I can reach the flyswatter.
One lands, but when I blink my eye
it’s on alert and ready to fly
attuned to my egregious thought
of rendering it a bloody spot.

It seems to feel a faint foreboding
as tiny nibbles it’s uploading;
senses my unkind intention,
anticipates swift intervention
to its dining as I leave my chair
to grab the swatter hanging there.
Yet snails along, as flies are wont,
my sluggishness it seems to taunt.

I lift my swatter, all prepared
to deal with any fly that’s dared
check out my home for food un-grazed.
However, soon as hopes are raised
it will not move ’til I bring down
my swatter – such a crack resounds!
It spooks the cats but, woebegone!
that teasing fly is off and gone.

Times And Seasons

Another Week Joins Misty Yesterday

The clouds that sneezed on us earlier this week — 3mm or about 1/10″ in fact — have rolled away, the sun has come out with a blazing heat — moderately — and the combines are lumbering across grain fields again. I was out after supper watching one chomping its way through the field behind our neighbour’s farmyard; mostly watching the moving light and listening to the motor roar. Darkness comes so early these days — it’s 8:30 and very dark already.

While I was outside in the dusk I saw three cranes fly over. I thought I’d heard the unique croaking of sand hill cranes, but it seems so early for them to be here. Maybe they follow the sound of the combines? I still see the odd mourning dove but almost all of our other birds left a few weeks ago. The hummers left August 28th and we haven’t seen robins or warblers for several weeks. Did they get weary of the smoky air and move south? We’ve had relief from that lingering smoke for a couple of weeks, but I noticed some smell in the air again this morning.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was PING PONG. A very apt prompt for me because it feels like my mind ping-pongs a lot, mainly between “I just don’t feel like it” and “But I really should.” Today “I really should” won out and here I an doing a blog post again. When I sit down with my morning coffee and try to plan my day, my thoughts start to ping-pong from one “Needs doing ASP” to another five or six in that category and my energy wants to drain away. I’m sure you organized types will have no idea. 😉

I’ve been enjoying painting — and yet even with such a pleasant hobby there’s some serious ping-ponging. I’m very much a fan of Malcolm Dewy and the painterly or impressionist style he demonstrates in his You Tube videos. I’d like to paint like that! I also admire the works of Ian Harris and Clive5Art, who paint more realistic pictures. Bob Ross-type scenes. Yes! I’d like my pictures to be that realistic, too! So when I pick up a brush, I land somewhere in the middle, neither as impressionist, or as realistic, as I’d wish. Here’s my “Park.” As you can see, too much sharp detail for a Van Goh.

However, I’ve already let analysis and indecision ruin a lot of productivity and fun in my life, so I’ll just squash those bouncing ping pong balls and get at it. 🙂

A Day To Lollygag

Here’s my response to today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt is LOLLYGAG

OUT FISHIN'
by Edgar A Guest

A feller isn’t thinkin’ mean
out fishin’;
His thoughts are mostly good and clean
out fishin’.
He doesn’t knock his fellow men
or harbor any grudges then;
a feller’s at his finest when
out fishin’.
The rich are comrades to the poor
out fishin’;
all brothers of a common lure,
out fishin’.
the urchin with the pin and string
can chum with millionare and king;
vain pride is a forgotten thing
out fishin’.
A feller gets a chance to dream
out fishin’;
he learns the beauties of a stream
out fishin’;
And he can wash his soul in air
that isn’t foul with selfish care,
and relish plain and simple fare,
out fishin’.
A feller has no time for hate
out fishin’;
he isn’t eager to be great
out fishin’.
He isn’t thinkin’ thoughts of pelf,
of goods stacked high upon a shelf,
but he is always just himself
out fishin’.
A feller’s glad to be a friend
out fishin;
a helping hand he’ll gladly lend
out fishin’.
The brotherhood of rod and line
and sky and stream is always fine;
men come real close to God’s design
out fishin’.
A feller isn’t plotting schemes
out fishin’
he’s only busy with his dreams
out fishin;
His livery is a coat of tan,
his creed: to do the best he can.
A feller’s always mostly man
out fishin’.
Image by S Hermann and F Richter — Pixabay

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.