Masked Warblers and DNA

My husband’s cousin owns a nice bit of farmland right by the Saskatchewan River. He raised cattle, but he and his wife also set up some cabins on their yard and called the place Leaning Tree Guest Ranch. Though they’ve retired now, for years they offered guests a place to stay and enjoy the beauties of nature. One of the things they advertised: because no pesticides had ever been used on the land, this property boasted the largest number of native songbirds in Sask.

One summer my husband and I rented one of their cottages for a few days. In addition to enjoyable visits getting to know our relatives, we spent hours touring the lovely woods. Cousin Paul had made a nice lane right beside the river and kept this trail open for guests to wander.

At some places this lane narrowed down to just a foot path. One morning I was ambling along this path watching the antics of the common yellowthroats, tiny warblers that seemed to decorate the bushes around me like little yellow blossoms. Hyper, curious and cheerful, these cute birds are blessed with distinctive black masks somewhat like a raccoon.

I soon noticed that they were as interested in me as I was in them. They flitted into nearby bushes trying to get a better look at this visitor passing through so I sat down on a fallen log for about fifteen minutes and let them scrutinize me. Soon the branches a few feet away were a-flutter with yellowthroats hopping around seeking better viewing points and holding animated discussions about this odd creature. It’s quite a turn-around for me to be watched by the birds — and really unique to be discussed so openly. Being human — and females are very prone to this — I wondered what they thought of me and how I measured up to others of my species they’d observed.

Thinking of their cute little masks led me to pondering the variation in the warbler genetic pool that produces this unique feature. Some types of warbler have only one yellow spot on the tail while others are totally black and white.

My mind hops over to the marvels of the genetic pool in general. Which leads to some serious questions about the theory of evolution with regard to genetics and DNA.

A Simple-Brained Creature Ponders Evolution

According to the theory of evolution, as we were taught it in school, the earth was sterile. A boiling chunk off the sun and totally dead. The basic elements were present in molten form — guaranteed to kill any living organism. Eventually, they say, this sphere cooled and everything solidified. Except the water. Just why the water didn’t all evaporate into space, how it formed an atmosphere, is a mystery to me, but anyway…

Then one day a cell floating in the ocean came alive. Boink! Hello, world.

I lack faith here. I can hardly comprehend that a tiny pebble, a drop of water, or any other basic element of earth, would suddenly come alive. And not just start breathing air — or filtering oxygen from water — but also have the capability to reproduce! Did it divide? Or did it mate and thus reproduce? Mind-boggling.

Human cells divide all the time, according to the direction of the DNA. Any living cell —even a one-celled life form — must have DNA. So where would the DNA come from?

And then, could this new one-celled being contain in its DNA enough variation to produce a man, a dinosaur, a kangaroo, a mouse, a bird, a butterfly, an octopus, a reptile, a tree, a flower, a melon? According to evolutionists, all these and more eventually evolved from that one cell. I turn this thought over in my mind and come up with another question:

If the DNA to produce such variety were present in this initial one-celled creature, why did it take millions of years (according to the theory) to show up? These days if you have in one couple the DNA for red-hair and black hair, you’ll see this variation in the offspring — and definitely in the grandchildren, where other DNA is mixed in to produce an amazing display.

However, if the DNA to produce all that variation didn’t exist in that first living cell, from where did it come? It must have been added to the mix as time went on — but how? Can DNA that wasn’t initially present in a cell — like the DNA for scales or feathers or fur — somehow come into it from the atmosphere? More mind boggling concepts.

Some talk about genetic mutations and we see this happening today. We see mutations producing dwarfs, albinos, people with a sixth toe, etc. A child may have a harelip just like great-grandpa, but we never see a baby born with a beak, red eyes, a mask, a forked tongue, or talons. The DNA just isn’t there to produce this kind of variation.

According to most religions there is/was a Creator — in English we say “God”; French all him “the Eternal One.” Believers say this Eternal God designed all the creatures of the earth and gave each the particular genetics of their species, with potential for some variation. He also gave every species the ability to reproduce after their kind. And we see that He gave each species a DNA capable of some variation. And He gave them life — because life was his to give.

Now this concept is easy for me to grasp. Nothing mind-boggling here — if we can accept that God always was, even before the earth was.

sometimes it seems the whole theory of evolution is a cloak for “We will not accept that there is a Creator, an Eternal God.” Yet this is a theory its originator, Charles Darwin, tried to play down before he died. He advanced it as a theory, not as an unquestionable truth.

What DO Feminists Hate?

Monday Morning Musing

I was going about my morning as usual when I happened to check my SPAM queue and saw a title that caught my eye:

“If Feminists Hate This, It Must Be Good”

I didn’t open the e-mail, but I must admit the title IS thought-provoking. My mind immediately brought up various responses:
If feminists hate war, then war must be good?
If feminists hate child-abuse, then child abuse must be good?
If feminists hate drug-trafficking, and the sex slavery that often goes with it, then drug use must be good?
If feminists hate SPAM, then…

Ah, but… So much meaning hinges on the word THIS. Since I never read the message — which is undoubtedly an ad of some kind — I have no idea what “this” refers to. I just jumped on the title and thought, “Wait a minute. This is a false assumption!”

Rather than getting the complete picture, aren’t we sometimes inclined, as listeners or readers, to catch a few significant words and build our rebuttal on that?
“You said this, and it isn’t true.”
“She wrote thus and thus, and it makes no sense.”
“He carelessly asked for a dozen when he should have asked for precisely twelve!”

Looking back I blush to think of times where I’ve pounced on some short phrase and shook it like a rat, not listening for — or deliberately ignoring — the real meaning behind the statement. Yes, “Guilty as charged.” The speaker may have had a valid point but I’ve allowed one sentence to negate it.

Conversely, haven’t we all seen a child pick the part they wanted to hear and go from there?
Mother: “I don’t think you really should go along with them, but if you feel you have to do that I won’t order you stay home.”
Child to friends: “Mom says I can go.”

Another phrase comes to my mind. Over the years people have seized on this statement and taken it literally without ever exploring the context for the complete meaning.
Jesus said, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” (Matt 7:1)

These words from the Bible are frequently quoted, in fact they’ve become a motto for our times. They’re used to excuse a LOT of bad behaviour, to prove innocence of a sort. Usually comparatively speaking, like:

“Sure, I’m smoking pot, but who are you to judge me? You have a social drink now and then. Remember, the Bible says, ‘Judge not that ye be not judged’.”

Years ago I worked for a boss who smoked. Her sister nagged her about the danger of getting lung cancer. Then studies revealed that women who dyed their hair had a higher incidence of cancer. (It was slight, if I recall correctly.)

Well, the sister dyed her hair, so my boss justified her smoking with this ‘you’re just as wrong as I am’ approach: “My sister criticizes me for smoking, but she’s dyeing her hair. So who is she to judge?” Her argument didn’t affect her chance of getting lung cancer in the least, but it got her off the hook with her nagging sister.

In John 7:24 Jesus says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement.” Sadly, this sentence has never gotten equal billing with the “Judge not” line of thought.

In Matt 5:48 He tells his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Now wait a minute! What’s this about PERFECT? Who can ever be perfect?

The only way to find out what Jesus meant by this statement is to read the book of Matthew.

Just like the only way I’ll ever find out what “feminists hate” and why it’s so good is to read the e-mail. But I’ve deleted it. I really don’t want to know; the answer is not important to my life.

Gifts and Children’s Whims

Seasons greetings to all my Readers and Followers.

Is everyone in a “holly jolly Christmas” mood? I wish for you one and all happy holidays with lots of sweet getting-together times. We’re planning to enjoy Christmas dinner with our children and grandchildren and have a gift exchange in the afternoon.

Seems we’re going to have a white Christmas after all. We’ve come through a spell of unseasonably mild temperatures and the snow that fell in November slowly disappeared. In the last few days we’ve gotten a bit more and the temp is dropping.

I haven’t posted anything for a week, trying to get through an un-jolly blue funk. I sometimes feel like I’m swimming through mud, wishing I had lots of energy and enthusiasm but rather feeling exhaustion and depression. Getting stuck in a mire about what little I’ve accomplished versus what all I should be doing.

I find it heartwarming to hear those cheery old Christmas carols like “Joy to the World.” I realize that feelings come and go, will drag us down at times, but the world is singing of great Joy: our God remembers us in all our trials and has sent us a Counselor and Guide. I’ll never be all I should be or do all I should do, but Christmas comes every year to remind us God is ever merciful.

On a happier note, for Friday Fictioneers this week I wrote this story to go with the photo prompt: “The Princess and the Pea Green Hat.” Now I offer a “choose your own ending” for this tale. Read the story and choose which ending you like best of those below. Or add your own in the comments. 🙂

1) Princess loved the hat and wore it everywhere until she outgrew it.

2) She loved it, wore it on their holiday trip, and left it at a MacDonalds 1500 miles from home.

3) She wore it to school once but no one else was wearing a hat like this. Being a sensitive child she refused to wear it again and be called weird.

4) She wore it to school, but so many others were wearing a hat like this, hers wasn’t a novelty at all. Being a sensitive child, she refused to wear it again and look like everybody else.

5) She had a fight with her friend Tiannia, whose Mom knitted the hat, and tossed the thing in a dumpster for spite.

6) She felt sorry for all the poor children who have no hats, so she donated it to a charity.

♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬

I can sympathize with Princess, her eager-to-please mother and long-suffering father. When it came to Christmas gifts, I was an odd child — or a normal one with very indulgent Aunt & Uncle. (I grew up with them as my parents.) I asked for some ridiculous things, on a whim more or less, and Mom & Dad F (read “Dad” here) bought them for me.

Like when I asked for a typewriter when I was nine, or a microscope when I was ten. Whatever possessed me!? Of course these items were a novelty for a few days after Christmas, then I put them away and seldom looked at them again. (What an ungrateful wretch!)

Much to my parents’ dismay. “You wanted this thing and now you’ve got it and you never play with it!” I felt bad, but I’d completely lost interest. Mom & Dad F were just scraping by; Dad had serious health issues after the War and missed a lot of work for awhile. Only as an adult did I realize the sacrifice they made to get me those things. To top it off, my siblings (raised by our parents) consequently often griped that “Whatever you ask for Uncle Fred buys you.”

Children have such brilliant — but fleeting — whims. For my folks’ sake I wish they’d said, “Forget it. Here’s a doll.” Or I’d had some smarts myself and not asked for expensive novelties. (Though the typewriter did get some use several years later when I was in high school.)

Mind you, they usually gave me the book I wanted, too — often the current Nancy Drew Mystery — and those I appreciated for years. So I have lots of good Christmas memories in addition to a few guilt-trippy ones. 🙂

All I can say now is, give your children and grandchildren whatever you want, but don’t expect undying appreciation. They are children.

Courage

by Edgar Guest

Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
a daring deed in a moment’s flash;
it isn’t an instantaneous thing
born of despair with a sudden spring.
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
or the final tug at a slipping rope;
but it’s something deep in the soul of man
that is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn’t the last resort
in the work of life or the game of sport;
it isn’t a thing that man can call
at some future time when he’s apt to fall.
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
when the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn’t a dazzling light
that flashes and passes away from sight’
it’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
with the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue;
it’s part of him when he has work to do;
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
it isn’t a thing that can come and go;
it’s written in victory and defeat
and every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
it’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by the Reilly and Britton Co.

Just A Clueless Tourist, Sir

Guilty As Charged

A writing exercise one day was: tell about an adventure you had while traveling, focusing on one particular scene during the trip. So here’s a scene from when I drove my daughter to Mississippi for a Teacher’s Summer Class.

Twelve years ago our daughter wanted to attend a week-long workshop for teachers — the event being held in Mississippi, no less. She didn’t want to drive all that way alone, so I accompanied her and did most of the driving. I was excited about the trip, having never been to the Deep South before. We were living in Quebec at this time, so had two long days on the road, entering the US at Detroit and heading more or less straight south on Interstates.

The second day found us somewhere in Kentucky on a nice four-lane highway and I was behind the wheel when we came up behind a line of about six cars, every one of them in the right lane, doing almost 50 mph. I found this curious, as the speed limit was 55 mph and the left lane was completely empty. I craned my neck and peered ahead as best I could, expecting to see some extra-wide vehicle causing this slower traffic. Nada. Just a line of ordinary-looking cars.

Now I was really curious. Had the speed limit changed and I hadn’t noticed the sign? Last thing on earth I wanted to do was get nailed for speeding in the States. I knew the chain gang was passe but I’d read some pretty awful accounts of arrests at gun-point and strip searches, etc. Not to mention fines and fees for a US lawyer.

A few minutes later we passed a sign: 55 mph. So why is everyone doing below 50? As the road went round a curve I got a better look at the lead car. A police cruiser. Aha! He was cruising along at a lower speed and the drivers behind were all meekly following, no one daring to challenge his authority. I joined the line and took it easy on the gas for another mile.

Would it surprise you if I mentioned here that I can be a rebel at times? As I drew near yet another 55 mph sign, I wondered,  “Am I going to poke along at 50 mph for an hour in deference to the whims of those officers? Can they arrest me if I don’t just meekly follow? Have they got any reason to stop me for driving at the speed limit?”

Nope. At least I sure hope not! So I pulled into the left lane, sped up to 55 mph, and slowly overtook the police car, making very sure I wasn’t speeding. If I was indeed committing some other social faux pas, I trusted my Quebec license plate would tell him I didn’t know any better.

They say about sheep that when one sticks his head through the fence, the others will surely follow. People are much the same. When I was some distance ahead of the cruiser — we didn’t have cruise control so I kept one eye glued to the speedometer the whole way!— I saw in my rear-view mirror that other cars had pulled out and were also passing the cruiser. I suppose they’d been anxious to see if I’d get into trouble and when no lights started flashing they decided they could get away with it, too.

Now I can say I led a mini-coup — a social rebellion of sorts — in a foreign land. I can just imagine those policemen sitting at the doughnut shop later and chuckling about it, just as I am now.

What would you have done?