The Wearing of Beards

In my childhood I don’t think I ever saw a man with a beard, other than “Santa Claus.” Yeah, this dates me. Pre-1960. Hippies with long straggly beards and hair, worn in rebellion against the Establishment, didn’t come to Canada until I was in my teens.

Beatniks there were, but they hung out in far-off American cities, so I had very little idea about their appearance. My dad and his friends, of average Canadian farm folk background, would have considered a beard a disgrace to a man — an odd reversal of natural circumstance. Older men we’ve talked with, whose memories go back to small-town life in the 30s and 40’s, remember beards being ridiculed and young men who wore them being tormented.

When I did hear the word when I was young, it was usually associated with mumbling. If she couldn’t hear his reply, Mom might say, “Dad’s mumbling in his beard again.” I think they even accused me of mumbling into my beard a time or two. I suppose that’s a cliche now?

In my teens I did see some older men with beards, and decided that a neatly-trimmed beard or goatee looks quite distinguished.

Today, in contrast, beards seem to be everywhere. Or “shadow beards.” Look at book covers and magazines: most of the males I see have the three-day-stubble look; some might have a neatly trimmed beard. But clean-shaven men seem to be in the minority in photos. Plus, Amish romances are very popular; on those covers, beards are a given.

As an adult, starting to learn about church and religion, I discovered there’s a Bible-based reason for men wearing beards. Different religious groups (including the one we’ve joined) teach that this natural male-female distinction has been instituted by our Creator for a reason and men should maintain this natural order. This would include Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, Muslims, the Amish, several Mennonite groups, Old German Baptists and others I’m not familiar with.

Jewish and Christian groups refer back to the Mosaic law where “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” (Leviticus 19:27) Some Jewish groups take this “corners” to mean “sideburns,” so they let theirs grow into what looks like long ringlets.

The Amish take it to mean, don’t trim your beard at all. However, coming from Europe where army officers had a lot of pride in their elaborate moustaches, the Amish have rejected moustaches as vanity. So, while Amish men have beards, they don’t wear moustaches. Looking at images on Wikki, I see the Old Order German Baptists must share this thinking. Both groups do cut their hair, but more in the style of the Quakers. (When they came to America and settled in Pennsylvania the Amish adopted a lot of the Quaker styles, like the broad-brimmed hat and plain coat.)

Our church believes “the beard” is a symbol of the sexual distinction, one that should not be removed. However, we aren’t living under the Mosaic Law now, so the Church doesn’t take this “not marring” as a rigid law. Our men believe in being all-round neat, and trim their hair and beards to look tidy.

And thus ends my quick overview in response to Fandango’s word for today: BEARD

Visiting a Favourite Site

Fandango’s prompt word: ROUTINE

While my husband and I are enjoying a relatively normal day at home, today’s a break from routine for most of the folks here in Canada: Thanksgiving Day. A holiday for most working people at least, and for many it’s a time to gather with family and gobble turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and pumpkin pie. I think there’s usually a play-off football game happening somewhere as well.

For me it’s been a day to visit one of my favourite sites, Troutswirl, the Haiku Foundation’s blog. I was going through an older post where poets shared verses about the sights seen in meadow and field. Here’s the link, if you’d like to take a look.

Which has inspired me to write my own verse, suitable for this post-harvest season we’re in:
out-of-work scarecrow
fallen in the wind
shredded by young coons

This is also the day I can’t get proper responses from WordPress on my desk computor. I can’t fathom what ails it, so I’m working totally on my laptop. One issue here: the keyboard is bilingual — and the spell check is all francais. It’s highlighting almost every word I type as a spelling error. 😦

The Word of the Day challenge is FATHOM, a very useful word. For some time now I’ve been trying to fathom why I get into obssessing about small issues. (Was I always? Is it old age settling in — or the result of chemo?) Molehills so soon become mountains.

This prompt gives me a new senryu:
sounding the issue
I fathom the wrinkles
of my obssession

Maybe I’ll print this off and tack it on the fridge. 😉 I’d like to be more aware of when I’m sliding down that slope and catch myself, learn to skip over the issue. Procrastination should come in very handy here, right? Worry about it later.

For over thirty years I’ve had a friend with mental health issues (paranoia) and talk about obssessing! A look from someone — always interpreted as negative — can set her off on a deep examination of how hateful that person — and everyone else in the world — feels toward her. She could spend an hour on the phone with me, analyzing all her interactions with that person.

I’ve discovered that you can’t fight fire with fire. You can’t reason with obessession, nor counteract it with positive thinking. “Try and look on the bright side” has never worked for her. Likewise the commonsense, “Most people don’t even know you, never mind hate you,” goes nowhere. I’ve learned to deflect her thinking into a different avenue altogether, by reminding her that someday the troubles of this life will be over and we’ll be in that better world where love and peace govern everyone’s heart. She starts thinking down that line and her fears over today’s evil plotters shrink to a more manageable level.

I looked outside a few minutes ago and saw big white flakes coming down. A quick flash of winter again. Well, we can be thankful that our weather is changeable rather than boring, and we’re not subject to hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

The Seat or the House?

This morning my thoughts went to the words, “the seat of the scornful.”  And the inspiring poem, The House By the Side of the Road

David, writer of Psalm 1, gives this caution about who we choose to hang out with and where we sit down.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Psalm 1:1

The seat of the scornful seems to be a crowded place in this day and age — and maybe always has been. I must admit that I’ve occupied that spot too often myself. I’ll make a comment about something someone’s doing, then suddenly I catch an undertone of, “Well, I would NEVER do a thing like THAT.”

Judgement is not scorn. We need judgement. We need to be able to draw from our own experience and observing the experience of others to determine where to put our feet. We need to form sound conclusions for our own safety and avoid the slippery slopes others may be saying are “great fun. We don’t need to scorn them when they disappear down that slope into the mud puddle at the bottom.

Sam Foss has a great attitude and many have found his poem inspiring: Here’s the second verse:

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Have a great day, everyone. 🙂

Flashes of Fantasy

The grass was white with frost this morning, but the sun’s still warm enough to dry it up fast. The temp today is supposed to reach 12 C. Nice!

Re: Techno-troubles I mentioned yesterday

Same story, sad to say. This morning Fandango’s blog came up squashed left, but a click on the title brought it back into normal focus. Word of the Day prompt came up just as it always does. Clicking on the Ragtag Community e-mail got me nothing. The link appeared in my browser strip, but a blank screen. I tried three different ways to access it and got a blank screen each time. Just now when I clicked on the e-mail notice again, the blog came up fine.

So I never know whether Word Press and my computer will cooperate or not. I’m thankful I can still post, but this situation may well require a trip to some t-expert for an internal exam.

Of Flash Fiction and Fantasy

As I mentioned before, I’ve been working at compiling a book of flash fiction stories. But perhaps I’m laboring under a false ILLUSION that my JOVIAL, “happy-ending” stories will sell in today’s market? To study the competition out there, I’ve downloaded several e-books of short stories and read a number of flash fiction tales online. Judging from what I’ve read so far, I’ve concluded:

— Flash fiction stories today are, for the most part, NOT upbeat.
Yesterday I read one tale about a ragged, grizzled fellow sitting in a bar mumbling to an imaginary friend. (Himself in the mirror, I guess.) He rehashes his guilt because he’d ignored his father’s middle-of-the-night moans — the dad was often moaning — and the father died. He sits there until the bartender tells him to go home, so he goes back to his empty apartment. The end.

—Endings are often tragic. Sweethearts walk away. A loved one dies.
Like the one about the guy sitting in a café half-listening to the general BURBLE around him, when he sees a woman walk past the window. There’s something about her… It’s love at first sight! He follows and catches up to her just as she’s standing in front of a store window. She turns and smiles. He smiles back. A terrorist bomb explodes. He comes out of it with minor injuries; she’s killed. It ends with his wondering “Why do things happen this way?”

—There are often fantasy or supernatural elements.
This is getting to be quite common all across the board. Like someone in a coma after an accident, sent off in body (and perfect health) to accomplish some goal. Strangers/angels appear and disappear. That kind of thing.

—There’s often a reverse twist to the tale.
A technology wizard is feeling bored one morning, so he finds an ingenious way to hack into the city’s traffic signals system. He turns all the lights green and is entertained by the resulting chaos. After awhile he finds the repetition of car crashes and sirens so boring.

A fellow driving home from work sees a beautiful rainbow and thinks of the old story of “a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” He pulls out his phone to send his wife a quick picture, loses control, his car crashes and he dies just a few feet from a shining pot of gold. Talk about heartbreaking!

My Well Dressed Hamburger’s Adventure

This morning my mind’s been spinning out a story that will incorporate a lot of these elements. Because I’d rather see upbeat endings for people, I’ve been working on a tragic ending for the “well dressed hamburger” I mentioned in my last post. A lachrymose tale indeed! (For those who like obscure words.)

Yes, total fantasy — but it’s given my imagination a good workout. Plus, no people have been injured or depressed in the weaving of this tale. Mind you, some younger folks may find my sense of humor deplorable or laughable. (Pardon the pun.) 🙂

Have I made you curious? Another element of flash fiction can be an unsatisfying ending, one that leaves you hanging, not knowing how the situation turns out.

Fandango’s Prompt: ILLUSION
Ragtag Daily Prompt: BURBLE
Word of the Day Challenge: JOVIAL

Beset By Techno-Trials

Fandango’s challenge for today: TRIALS

Very fitting, seeing I am having serious trials with Word Press on my PC. In the first place the computer is slow to load and obey any commands. Secondly, blogs I click on, wanting to read the latest post, often come up squashed to the left side of my screen so I have to click on the title to make the blog come up normally. Sometimes it just won’t.

I don’t see LIKE buttons on anyone’s blog, just a tab saying “Loading…” Worst of all, I can’t customize or access my dashboard to make any changes. I don’t know what ails the thing; it works fine in with all my other programmes.

Thankfully it’s business as usual working from my laptop, everything comes up as it’s supposed to, including the WP Administration. Are any of the rest of you having trouble with WordPress or is it really all in my PC’s electronics?

You’ll notice the lovely header I put up yesterday in memory of our recent snowfalls. I’ll soon have to replace it, though, as the temp today is supposed to be 7̊C ( 44 F) and on Sunday 11̊C. (52 F) I was just hoping for a smidge of sympathy from the WP crowd. 😉

Now here’s a chuckle for you. We writers have our TRIALS and one of them is wandering metaphors that settle in the wrong part of the sentence. Actually this perfect illustration comes from the book Sixth Cabin, A Writer’s Retreat Mystery by Kathi Daley. This is a very interesting cozy mystery with a rare — SPOILER ALERT! — relatively happy ending. And fine editing except for this one eye-catcher:

What the Well Dressed Burger — or Jack — is Wearing…

I sat in the waiting room with Jack eating a cold hamburger wearing a dress that cost more than my first car.

Of Traffic, Tangles, and Tangents

Fandango’s word for today: TRAFFIC

Ragtag Community prompt: COMEBACK

Word of the Day challenge: SCINTILLATING

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: WELTSCHMERZ

Autumn’s Goings and Comings and Goings

The snow that fell on our land last week disappeared and fall made a little COMEBACK —until Sunday night when fluffy flakes drifted down on us. Monday our land was white with snow again and all but the very hardiest of our summer bedding plants are stiff.

TRAFFIC news from Calgary yesterday, after the city was beset by its own cloud system and got smacked with 40 cm (16 inches) of snow in twelve hours:
many flights cancelled; 251 collisions reported; 80 city buses stuck or having mobility issues. (The transit system hadn’t put snow tires on yet.)
The city of Edmonton sent thirty snow-plows and other nearby cities have also sent plows to help clear streets.

Traffic news from here is mostly avian:
On our trip to Saskatoon yesterday we passed a couple of fields along the road that were dappled with black and white. I had to look twice: it wasn’t snow after all. I’m guessing at least a thousand snow geese in the first flock and another thousand in a second field nearby, half of these settled and half milling around in one big tangle above them. I think this is the greatest number we’ve ever seen in one gathering. They appeared to be enjoying SCINTILLATING conversation with their fellows.

When the sun shines on milling snow geese they can appear like a sparkling, mostly white cloud. Rather than in clear vees like Canadas, snow geese fly in a number of vee shaped streams that seem to tangle and untangle as they go. The birds come in a mix of true white and “blue morph” varieties, often mingling with Ross’s and other geese. As I’ve said before, they make an amazing sight spread out over ten acres or so!

And on the way home we saw many vees of Canada geese southbound. It seems this latest snow has given the geese a very clear “Time to Go” signal. We’ll be looking forward to their COMEBACK next April.

Weepy Weather

Ragged leaves offer their last respects to summer,
altogether expired now. No wake will be held.
I bring the eulogy, north wind brings the mourning,
the rain brings tears enough for us all.

According to M-W, the word WELTSCHMERZ means:
1) mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the
actual state of the world with an ideal state
2) a mood of sentimental sadness

This describes to a T how I feel when I look outside. The “ideal state” is a long, lovely fall. Not snow. Not yet! I remember all those promises of “global warming” we heard a decade ago, and see winter settling in at the beginning of October. But this too will pass— for awhile.

It’s not that I want to knock the ideal of conservation, being responsible caretakers of the planet and not polluting nature until it can’t recover. But climate predictions come and go with the wind, I’ve observed. Speaking of wind, there’s a stiff, cold one blowing today. Our cats aren’t very brave to venture out.

At any rate, the general “sad to see summer go” adds its tones, along with an “I’ve accomplished so little this year” sigh, making for a tangle of feelings. A mild case of weltschmerz? I wouldn’t dare toss that word around amongst the unlearned, though, lest folks think I should be quarantined or put out to grass at the Funny Farm.

Avoiding Fruitless Tangents

I try to decide priorities, but there are so many tasks that need doing. Some days I think I should just carry on as I have been and live with the frustration. Surely it will pass? Other times I think of major changes, like giving up my goal of writing books and be content to communicate with the world via my daily blog post. I wonder if I should abandon writing altogether in favour of keeping on top of housework and sewing. Indecision can be an obnoxious little tyrant!

Lately I feel like I’m sitting on the brink of some big decision and dare not jump for fear of breaking something. Like Robert Frost, I see several forks in the road immediately ahead and I must soon choose one — but I can’t decide which. A To-do List wafting down from Heaven would be nice. 🙂

People say, “Which is the most important task?” and I say, “ALL of them.” Plus, I’m so inclined to pick activities that bring the most emotional payback — or back pats — but this activity may not be so important. Dear friends, say a prayer for me. I feel in need of courage and wisdom.