The Three Degrees

These last two writing prompts have given my muse a workout. Yesterday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt was PURIST. The question came to me: So when are you a PURIST and when are you NITPICKING?

In some respects I’m a purist. Incorrect word usage makes me grit my teeth. I hear someone say, “He contributed his success to luck and hard work,” and I think, NO! You contribute–donate–to a worth cause. You attribute–ascribe–some (usually good) result or quality to what you’ve done or received.

People usually attribute their success to hard work, a good education, helpful parents, or just plain luck. On the other side, someone may attribute (credit or blame) their life of crime to their miserable childhood, but their behaviour contributes (add) to the rising crimes stats.

If I verbalize my dissatisfaction some people will say, “Why nitpick? You know what they meant.”

Today’s prompt word is FLATTER. Again, when are we FLATTERING and when are we simply ENCOURAGING? Am I flattering or encouraging if I say, “You have a beautiful voice”?

When praising children – which we definitely should do – I feel it’s better to encourage them when they’ve done their best, rather than flatter them with, “You’re the greatest!” or “You’re a STAR!” Life has some sharp reality checks for teens and adults who think of themselves as the greatest.

As the old school song says, “I’d rather be a little thing climbing up than a big thing tumbling down.”

Every coin has a flip side, likewise most virtues. Thrift can become parsimony. Determined can become pig-headed or pushy. Honesty can become offensive, even brutal, if not infused with kindness and tact.

Years ago the Toronto Globe & Mail had a little humor section that made use of this fact. Readers could send in their responses to these three viewpoints:
I am…
My friend is…
Someone I don’t like is…

For example:
“I am decisive; my friend is steadfast; that other guy is obdurate.”
“I am circumspect; my friend is astute; the one I don’t like is cagey.”

This is a great exercise for writers, or anyone who likes adjectives. Want to try it and leave your response in the comment box below?

Holiday Plans

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LITTORAL

Actually, I was thinking of the sea this morning, as I just read a poem about the sea, written by someone who loved it dearly. The verse is long-winded but delightful, written in the early 1800s. I’ll post it later for those of you who enjoy such poetry. But now for my response to the prompt…

Holiday Plans

Ellen, studying the inviting seaside scene on their calendar, turns to her spouse. “Fancy a LITTORAL holiday this summer, dear?”

Ed frowns. “Littoral? Nah. I don’t want to hang out in libraries, or spend a week wandering through bookshops, either. Or were you thinking of Stratford, taking in Shakespearean plays and such? I find them rather boring, to be honest.” He looks up at the calendar. “I’d rather go fishing.”

Ellen laughed. “Actually Littoral and Literary are different genres altogether. Mind you, I’d love to spend a few days visiting bookshops. Especially used bookshops…finding some old classics I haven’t read yet.” She pondered the thought. “There are some huge ones in Toronto.”

“Blah! Coping with all that traffic and the crowded streets, carting around a ton of books? Not a holiday for me!” He points to the calendar. “Why don’t we rather go to the coast this year? Some place like that.”“Walk along the sand, hear the sea roar, maybe watch the whales.”

“An excellent idea, Ed. I’ll see what I can find.”

“That we can afford,” he adds.

Image: dimitris vetskias 1969 — Pixabay

The Uninvited Guest

Here’s Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt

And here’s my little story in response:


“There he is, just like clockwork. I’ve no idea how he knows when I’ve made roast and mashed spuds for Sunday, but soon as I’m dishing out the meal, he’s knocking at our door.”

“We can pretend deafness,” her son Lance suggested. “He’s bound to leave if no one answers.”

“Dream on,” Sue retorted.

“She’s right. He won’t leave.” Dad chuckled. “I wouldn’t put it past him to climb in a window.”

“Mavis says he shows up every time they have barbecue,” Mom said.

Lance grinned. “Must be great to have a nose that keen.”

Sue rolled her eyes.

Feathery Neighbours

Image: marliesplatvoet — Pixabay
I clean out the mess
of sticks and misc debris
the tenants left behind.
Antisocial creatures these
wrens, making their point
clear: they tolerate no
nosy nearby neighbours.

If you know about wrens, you’ll know they have a bad habit of stuffing every potential dwelling in the vicinity full of twigs so no other birds can nest near them. I try to get my wren houses all cleaned out before they return in spring so they’ll have a choice of housing. Some boxes are made to open, but if they don’t it can be quite a job to pull a bunch of debris from the small holes.

Our yard seems to be full of wrens now – probably half a dozen pairs – singing their little hearts out while their eggs incubate. Trouble is, we hear them loud and clear but we rarely see them. Once the chicks burst out of their shells, the parent birds will be run ragged trying to keep up with little appetites.

I hear constant starving wail now because some birds have discovered our bathroom fan vent. Some years back the cover on the outside of this vent pipe fell off. Half a dozen years back a tree swallow pair discovered the 2″ pipe and cavity inside. They liked the spot with its handy “entry” and raised two batches of chicks. It was interesting hearing them raise their families, but in fall we got up on a ladder and plugged the hole.

After some years of peace and no swallows coming anymore, I took the tinfoil out. Big mistake. Blackbirds (or starlings?) found the opening this spring and cheeped, “Hey! Wouldn’t this make a good nest?”

I tried to discourage them when I heard scrabbling in the vent area coming from the wall beside the built-in vanity. I got up and stuffed a tinfoil ball – shaped like a 2 x 4-inch “potato”– into the pipe. To be double sure they’d stay out, I stuffed a tinfoil sheet inside the wall, on top of this ball.

Well, they weren’t giving up. The next afternoon I saw the tinfoil sheet, relatively intact, lying on the ground not far from the vent opening. Looking around more, I found that the birds had somehow worked that ball of tinfoil out of the pipe and carried it clear across the yard to the barb-wire fence. Was one of the birds still inside when I stuffed in the tinfoil, or however did they manage to pull it out?

Anyway, rather than risk a dead bird or a nest of rotting eggs perfuming our bathroom, we’ve left them. Now we have this chorus of cheeps whenever mom or dad returns with some lunch. But come fall…

Haiku in Dialogue

Good morning everyone.

I shall leave complex issues, such as I wrote about yesterday, and rather write about some quick glimpses of life. I’m happy to see one of my haiku was chosen for inclusion amongst the many others at Haiku Dialogue this week — and also last week. This week’s topic was : a simple dwelling place. Last week’s topic was a simple daily task. If haiku interests you, you should check out these posts. It’s amazing how clever some folks are at putting these concepts into haiku verses.

My last week’s verse was:
another pill
the old clock

This week’s verse, a monoku:
fixing up the old house laughs again

The latest issue of Heron’s Nest just came out. I stand in awe of poets who can come up with modern haiku that twists, or entwines, two ideas together so ingeniously. To give you an idea, I’m restating the concept from one verse. The original was much better but I dare not violate copyrights. 🙂
my multicultural
dinner plate

Sometimes my mind has to work to make the leap and get the connection. 🙂 Here’s one of mine that stems from reading the news a few months back:

purging fires
burning banned books
warms a nation

Grandma Did Saving

Grandma wasn’t a socialist.

“Remember,” she instructed little sister Rose in the biffy one day, “Use only one square for #1; two squares for #2.”

You may smile at such extreme frugality, but Grandma was widowed in the fall of 1924 and went into the Great Depression with six children to feed and clothe. She had to pinch pennies every way she could; she knew the government wasn’t going to pay her bills.

She likely got some relief – many people did – but she knew their survival boiled down to how much of each thing they consumed. She didn’t expect the govt to feed them, or fix the stock market crash that threw so many people out of work. Thankfully the govt has enacted some checks to try and prevent a recurrence of that disastrous week in October 1929.

Grandma didn’t look to the government to fix the climate. It was what it was; folks knew only an act of God could bring the rains again. Since then mortals have tried meddling with the clouds, often to their hurt. People have since wised up some about land management and farming methods are much improved.

The thoughts I’m sharing here were inspired by Martha Kennedy’s blog post: “Save the World 1965.” I’m not considering global climate change, which is more-or-less a political movement. I’m simply considering pollution, irresponsible land and air management. I believe consumer choices–our choices–do impact pollution.

Reading the accounts Martha has posted, I’m amazed at how much has changed in my own lifetime. Recycling never existed–except for liquor and pop bottles. My siblings and I collected them from roadsides and sold them to the town café. Those nickels were precious back in the day! Plastics, just appearing, were welcomed as the saviour of perishable stored food. Since then we’ve counted the cost; now we’re back to paper or reusable grocery bags, wooden spoons and paper drinking straws.

Rivers, once floating sewers and chemical cocktails, have been cleaned up. There’s less paper production, so no more mercury poisoning. I’ve heard the Thames is much improved and London no longer has its pea soup fog. Chemical companies are much more accountable–at least in our country.

Internationally not so much, sadly. And where most of our goods are coming from? Can we have our cake and eat it, too? No pollution here but tons of cheap goods from third-world countries? And we need lots of fuel for travel–or heating and air conditioning for huge buildings with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. You didn’t see those a century ago. The govt could ration fuel, limit air travel, order all those fuel-gobbling cruise ships docked. (COVID did a lot of this for us, remember?) But travelers would complain, employees would lament lost jobs. In any legal restriction there are hidden costs. Rationing tends to create black markets.

One of Martha’s articles mentions population. There are too many of us! Or we consume too much? However, family size has dropped drastically since I was young. My Dad was one of ten; my parents had six. Abortions are terminating millions of possible citizens–sad to say. Speaking of hidden costs, China tried limiting their population by law and it appears their plan had some, though a lot of foreign couples have adopted girls from China, spreading some of their numbers around the globe.

My Dad, somewhat of a cynic, said, “The world has a way of regulating population. When there are too many people, another war or plague will come along.” Well, most of us pray there will never be another international conflict! And when COVID came to threaten us, we fought it tooth and nail. Or mask and sanitizers. And we’re doing better (too well?) at keeping people alive. People like me, who would have died without the amazing modern medical treatments. Seems we’re not very keen to die to make more room on the planet.

Yes, more land and air cleanup can be done. I do wonder, though: has our society become too socialist-minded? As in expecting the govt to fix the problems for us? Would our world be better off if each person/family felt more responsible for their own consumption? Our leaders may make speeches and promises, but they know they have no control over what happens in other lands. Consumer dollars actually do.