On Fire and On the Move

Our air quality seems somewhat better today. Earlier in the week smoke from northern forest fires lay like a fog on the fields. Today there’s a faint gray haze and the sky’s a solid pale blue, but the sun’s colour is normal. I noticed only a whiff of smoke in the air when I was out earlier.

We’d have had a lot hotter temps this month if it hadn’t been for the smoke screen we’ve been living under, so I guess there’s one small blessing. Yet when I think of vast tracts of forest burning…

I wonder if the birds suffer in smoky air? The hummingbirds are still zipping around, busy at the feeder, especially in the early morning. Since it’s the end of the season I was able to buy a second feeder on sale and they seem happy to slurp from it, too. In just over a week they’ll be gone, so I’m enjoying them while I can.

I was out for a walk a few minutes ago and ONE grasshopper took flight beside the driveway. Can this be Saskatchewan! As soon as it landed I stomped on it — I don’t at all mind some species becoming extinct. Birds can’t eat them anyway, so…

Actually that’s not quite true! One fall morning about six years ago we saw a juvenile great-horned owl, still with his white baby feathers, sitting beside our garage. Mostly silent and observant, he opened his beak now and then to let out a shrill peep. Later we watched him run up and down the driveway devouring grasshoppers. You haven’t lived — or seen “funny” — until you’ve see an owl run. They’re so awkward, hopping as much side-to-side as forward!

poplar shoots
spring up in my driveway
bent on take-over
Birnham Wood creeping
to Dunsinane*

At different times this summer, walking along our driveway, I’ve thought of that phrase from MacBeth. The original owners planted a row of poplar trees on the west side of the property. Theses have grown tall in the last ten years and are no longer content to stay in one neat row. Shoot by shoot they are creeping toward our castle. Bob has been keeping them at bay with the lawn mower, but they aren’t giving up.

Which inspired me with a tanka on the subject. A tanka is a five line poem which, in old Japan, went in a syllable sequence of 5-7-5-7-5. Here’s what haiku master Alan Summers writes about it.

If you are interested in learning more about haiku, senryu, tanka, and other forms of Japanese poetry, courses are being offered this fall. For details, check out Call of the Page.

*The woods near Birnam in Perthshire, Scotland. In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, Macbeth is told that he will only be defeated when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Later, his enemy’s army comes through Birnam Wood and each soldier cuts a large branch to hide himself, so that when the army moves on it looks as if the wood is moving.
https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/birnam-wood

Mashed Up Musings

Rambling Thoughts on Genre Mashups

Puzzling.jpgYesterday over at The Write Practice, the subject was genre mashups, something I’d never hear of before — at least not by that name. The concept of taking a story and retelling it in another genre is familiar. For example, telling the story of Cinderella as a news report.

In this Write Practice post “The Magic Violinist” is suggesting mixing genres like fairy tale + sci-fi, romance + thriller, classic + contemporary. Oliver Twist meets his Mafia Godfather. That type of thing.

I read a book recently where one of the main characters is an author and in her novel Jane Austen is captured by space aliens. The title of the book will give a clue as to how successful she was at getting it launched. The Rejected Writers Book Club (Southlea Bay) by Suzanne Kelman is a funny, though none-too-believable, tale with a mixture of zany and normal characters. I found it delightful.

Mixing genres is an intriguing thought. Even in straight fiction, there are some tales I think would benefit from a dash of something else thrown in. For example, Wuthering Heights — one book I disliked extremely. I read the thing all the way through, hoping poor Heathcliff would get a grip, but there was just no improvement.

It’s billed as a romance — but I saw no actual love anywhere in its pages. Jealousy, greed, snobbery, obsession, fury, cruelty, revenge, yes. Love, no. I think Healthcliff might have benefited immensely by a visit from those three Spirits of Christmas who brought Ebenezer Scrooge to his senses in A Christmas Carol.

I think a lot of mashups of the old classics have already been done a zillion times. There are many contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, and western versions of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Pride + Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet floating around.

Just for the fun of it, here are a few mashups I came up with:

Lord Peter Wimsey is sent to investigate the assassination of the King of Scotland and the murder of Banquo. He deduces from various clues that MacBeth is the guilty party…
or
Miss Marple, a good friend of Banquo’s widow, does some snooping and uncovers Lady Macbeth’s duplicity in the assassination of the king.

The Three Musketeers could be three university roommates who join together to prove their favorite professor, accused of being a spy, is innocent.

I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, and the synopsis doesn’t at all inspire me to start. However, one of the three male characters could meet up with the three spirits of Christmas and come to see the error of his ways, improving the sad outcome of that story.

On the humorous side, Bertie Wooster could meet up with Ebenezer Scrooge’s three Christmas ghosts and resolve to atone for his former self-indulgent lifestyle. He tries in his inept way to donate time + talent to some worthy cause, but Jeeves has to sort things out when they go awry.

Notes:

Cinderella, an old fairy tale, was recorded by French writer Charles Perrault
Oliver Twist is a classic novel by Charles Dickens
The Little Mermaid was a Hans Christian Anderson tale
Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel
Ebeneezer Scrooge is Charles Dicken’s notorious curmudgeon and tightwad
Pride & Prejudice was penned by Jane Austen
Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet and MacBeth were written by William Shakespeare
Lord Peter Wimsey was Dorothy Sayers’ famous detective
Miss Marple was Agatha Christie’s very successful sleuth
The Three Musketeers was written by Alexandre Dumas
The Great Gatsby was an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel
Bertie Wooster + his valet, Jeeves, were created by P. G. Wodehouse

A Fellow Who Brightened His Corner

Back in the 1960s a man named Jimmy Hamilton was going about his small region of Scotland doing good. He was travelling miles every week to make his rounds of nine hospitals, spreading sunshine. He’d go through the wards, taking a few minutes to stop and chat at the bedsides of those who seemed to need a visit. And folks blessed him for it.

He began this interesting “hobby” after he, as a young man, had to spend some time in a local hospital himself. While there he realized what a lonely place a hospital can be, especially for those with no close kin to pop in and see them, and he resolved to do something to what he could to cheer up a few of these folks. After he was discharged he began coming back as a visitor.

Thus his little mission started in a small way, but soon grew as he visited various hospitals in Motherwell, his own home. Jimmy was a ray of hope: he’d sit by a patient’s bed; show a kind interest in the folks; share little stories to make them smile again. His visits were so effective that surgeons would send for him to visit a depressed patient.

When he first began he made use of the local buses. However, as years went on he expanded his efforts to other hospitals farther and farther away. The many grateful recipients and their families clubbed together to help him with this; they bought him a special car so he could go even farther.

Perhaps Jimmy had a special inroad with folks who feel there’s no hope, for he himself was seriously handicapped. As a boy of three he lost both his legs in a railway accident. When he talked to other patients folks about courage and healing, they knew he’d been there, done that himself. When in despair they felt their useful days were past, Jimmy’s example of finding a small corner and filling it cheerfully was a quiet rebuttal.

Someone may say, “It seems my life has no purpose.” Rest assured, there’s a little task for each of us, something useful we can do for others that will boomerang and cheer us up, too.

Where there’s a will there’s a way. Jimmy has proved it.
.
Story taken from an account in THE FRIENDSHIP BOOK of Francis Gay, 1969 Edition

Passing Over Us

Silver Blue Day

Many-toned layer of clouds
envelope the sun this morning
shield it from the unrefined
eyes of rustics who beg
a display of its beauty.

Like a prince it rides in silver
and blue coach over the land,
not inclined to offer friendly
waves, not feeling to scatter
gold coins to peasants today.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Daily Addictions prompt for July 18: REMOTE

Ragtag Daily Prompt word for today: CLOUDS

For Every Hill…

For Every Hill I’ve Had to Climb

by American poet Ernest Lawrence Thayer
(1863—1940)

For every hill I’ve had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat
My heart sings but a grateful song—
These were the things that made me strong!

For all the heartaches and the tears,
For all the anguish and the pain,
For gloomy days and fruitless years,
And for the hopes that lived in vain,
I do give thanks, for now I know
These were the things that helped me grow!

‘Tis not the softer things of life
Which stimulate man’s will to strive;
But bleak adversity and strife
Do most to keep man’s will alive.
O’er rose-strewn paths the weaklings creep,
But brave hearts dare to climb the steep.

My response to:
Word of the Day Challenge prompt: SOLACE

Swallows and Sweet Rolls — A Different Morning

Hello Everyone.

Ive had an unusual morning, the hours dappled with duties and naps.

I allowed a vision of fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast to lure me from my bed at in the wee hours. I noticed some for sale Sunday evening where I bought my milk and the thought of fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls buzzed around my mind all day yesterday. When I woke up at 4am the temptation to have some for breakfast overcame sleep.

This lure had an ally in our overflowing laundry hamper. I imagined having a couple of loads done and dried before the day got hot — a pleasant thought. Here in central Sask the air ALWAYS cools off overnight, a real blessing in the hottest summer days. By noon the trailer where we reside is toasty, being in the sunshine, un-dappled by overshadowing leaves. So it takes a fair bit to keep the place comfortable. Plus you don’t want to add to the indoor humidity by drying clothes. The earlier in the morning I can do the laundry, the better for us.

Upshot: by 4:30 am my bun dough was rising in the oven and a load of laundry was chugging away. I let the cat out, left the door open, and stood on our deck enjoying the fresh morning air. But a few minutes later the male barn swallow swooped past several times, quite close, twittering frantically. It’s rare he’d get that close; something must be disturbing him.

One thing about swallows: they know who their friends are. I find them friendly birds; if you pay them quiet, kind attention they learn to trust you — and will even come to you for help. I’ve observed different times when something is amiss, they fly almost by my nose, pleading for help in their own way. At the Villa one time a pair sat on a post right by the door, twittering in distress when a pair of English sparrows — a thousand curses on the species! — were invading their nest. Here, too, the swallows swooped around us to enlist our aid when those wretched sparrows stole their nest. You can’t mistake their little cries of “Help! Help!”

So I grabbed some shoes and went out to check their nest to see a cat or some other bird got into the building where they nest. Thankfully they’ve chosen a secure place. But there were several magpies — notorious nest-robbers — nearby in the back yard. Must have been what was bothering him; I chased them off and never heard anything more from the swallow.

Some people say barn swallows are so defensive they’ll attack people who come too near their nests. I haven’t found them that way. Or the birds here on the prairie haven’t learned to fear people? I go check their nest frequently these days to see if the little ones are cheeping yet and my presence distresses the parent birds a bit; they flap around some, but they’ve never dived at me. And it’s so sweet to see the little ones peeping out at you!

Anyway, the dough was rising, the laundry washing, the swallows settled, and I was free to check out the daily one-word prompts other bloggers have so kindly provided. I chose to use the following in this tale:

Daily Addictions: RESIDENT
Fandango’s FOWC: LESSEN
Ragtag Daily Prompt: DAPPLED
Word of the Day: DEVIATE
Scott’s Daily Prompt: PACKAGE

However, when you deviate from the tried and true, the normal routine — okay, I don’t exactly HAVE a normal routine, but for the purpose of this tale — you sooner or later have to make a course correction that will bring you back into the program again. If you lessen your hours of sleep in favor of sweet rolls and clean laundry, by 8 am when you’re ready to sit down and reply to the daily prompts as you usually would at this time, your eyelids become heavy and you start to nod off.

So I had a short nap and woke up in time to bake my buns. Which turned out very well. Wish I could send along a waft of cinnamon for you as you read this post.

By 8:30 am the buns were cooling on the counter and the second load was drying. Sweet!

I had an errand to do at the Villa, the seniors’ residence where I occasionally cook, so I packaged up half a dozen cinnamon rolls and took them along in case today’s cook might like to use them. I found one elderly gentleman walking down the hall and gave him a couple for his breakfast. did some sorting of recipes after I got home; I’d noticed quite a few in my Recipe box that I never use. “As you get older your tastes change”, they say. Truth is, as you get older you’re lean toward the old familiars.

Around 10 am I sat down to read, but soon fell asleep. As I said, less hours of sleep can play havoc with your schedule, but I think I’m awake now. I’ll reply to these prompt words, then I want to bake cookies.

Another deviation from routine: our church is holding Summer Vacation Bible School every evening this week and I’ve put my name down to supply four dozen cookies for tonight’s refreshment break. I’ll take my package of cookies over to church this afternoon when my husband gets home from his one-day-a-week book-keeping job in a nearly town.

Ah, I just got a pop-up from WordPress, offering to help me install a payment button! Hmm… You all know that you’re welcome to donate anytime, right? 🙂

Have a great day everyone.

The Intervention

Fandango’s one-word challenge yesterday was PREPOSTEROUS. I wrote this response in my head but didn’t get around to making it into a file. So here I am, a day late in posting my effort.

As Ludwig’s his three cousins filed into his tiny study and circled around him, the grimness in their faces made him apprehensive. “Take chairs, my dear cousins. This is a rare treat for me, having all three of you come like this. I suppose you must have some family business on your mind?”

“We need not sit. This won’t take long.” Karl faced him and spoke clearly, as Ludwig was getting quite hard of hearing. “The family business we have on our mind is YOU, Ludwig.”

Franz nodded in agreement. “We’ve talked among ourselves and decided to speak with you about your problem. We’ve decided to call this little meeting an intervention, as we wish to intervene in your affairs — purely for your own good.”

“My problem?”

“To save you from certain poverty,” Karl added.

Franz shuffled his feet. “Your hearing, cousin Ludwig. You know it’s getting quite poor.”

“Ah.” Ludwig’s eyebrows arched. “And so? What do you propose to do on my behalf? Send me to yet another doctor? The ones I’ve seen all say nothing can be done.”

The third man held up his hand and spoke loudly, “Exactly! We realize that nothing will change your fate. If your hearing loss continues at this rate, in ten years you will be deaf as a stone.”

“You don’t need to shout, Leonhardt. I can still hear, if only you speak clearly.”

“I’ve talked with my wife’s brother, Walt Shnedden,” Leonhardt explained. “As you may know, he’s a successful meat-cutter, and he’s willing to take you on as an apprentice, even though you’re…older… He’ll teach you the trade so you will be able to earn an income that’s not dependent on your hearing.”

“Meat-cutter? But my hands are made for the piano. For writing music!”

“You’re still a young man. Ludwig,” said Karl. “And we’ll admit, you’ve done very well at composing. People love your sonatas. But that day will come to an end, once your precious musical ear has fallen silent.”

“I think it’s very generous of Walt.” Leonhardt sounded impatient. “Only a fool would try to carry on writing music when he was deaf. And you’re no fool, Beethoven. I hope.”

Franz, always the amicable one, chose an encouraging tone. “We believe you could become a skillful and moderately prosperous meat-cutter if you started now.”

“That’s preposterous,” Ludwig shouted. “Music is my life. How can I ever accept such a crazy suggestion?”

Leonhardt turned to the others. “Well, cousins, I doubted we’d be successful in our endeavor. He will not listen to common sense. Ludwig will scribble his sonatas all the way to the poor house. We may as well carry on to our second intervention. I’m sure my nephew Felix will listen to reason if Ludwig will not.”

Ludwig started. “Felix? Do you mean Felix Haustelraed — the boy who dreams of being a sculptor?”

“Just the one.” Karl shook his head sadly. “He imagines he can earn a living chipping away at stone, but we all know that’s impossible in this day and age. A man needs a real job.”

“But his work is brilliant! If he keeps on, he could be a famous man someday.”

“He’d make a good meat-cutter, too,” said Leonhardt. “And be able to support a wife and family, as every young man dreams of. So hopefully he will show more sense than you, Ludwig. Good day.”

Karl nodded curly as he left the room. Franz, the last to go, gave a quick smile. “Good day and good luck, Ludwig.”

Beethoven waved, then turned back to his desk where his latest sonata awaited its final crescendo.

The three cousins had more success at making young Felix see reason. He went on to become a moderately successful meat-cutter, while Ludwig van Beethoven stuck with his music, deaf or not.

And now, who’s to say…?