• Tag Archives Mary
  • Bees

    Spring                                                                             Planting Moon

    Good news.  I can pick up the bees tomorrow.  That makes today a good bit more manageable.  I’ll pick them up, go see John Desteian about getting lost on my way to seminary or college (dreams), take them home, spray them with sugar water and hive them on Tuesday when it’s warmer and not rainy.  A better deal all round.

    (In case you were wondering, this is a package of bees.  A 2 pounder. You can get 3 pounders as well.  About 7,000 bees.)

    Had a Skype visit with the sibs in far away places, the desert and the tropics.  Yesterday evening I sent Mary an e-mail saying yes, I could call this morning.  She had just started her day.  I read a bit, then went to bed, woke up, fed the dogs, ate breakfast, went downstairs and called her at her bedtime, 9:30 pm.  Mark was at 4:30 pm.  While I slept, both of them finished work days.  Seems strange to me even though we do it regularly.

    Just to change things up a bit, it’s raining today.  Don’t want to get into a rut precipitation wise.  Should turn into snow later on though.  Global weirding.  Indeed.

  • Video Phone a Reality At Last!

    Spring                                                            Bee Hiving Moon

    Technological victory today.  Mary (Singapore at 10:00pm), Mark (Ha’il, Saudi Arabia at 5:00 pm) and myself (Andover 9 am) on the same video call.  Three little screens with our talking heads beaming in real time (or whatever you call time in the instance where all of us are in different times).  Skype premium at $99.00 a year allows for up to ten individuals on one call with no additional charge.  Even when separated by thousands of miles and the International Date Line.

    (screen looks something like the pic above)

    That was my entire nuclear family on one video call.  Remember when video-phones were sci-fi what ifs?  Not any more.  And, there’s no phone.  Nothing but net.

    Over the last year Mark and Mary and I have moved closer together, seeing each other in person last July and now communicating more regularly than we ever have before.

    Mark describes Ha’il as like northern Arizona, Flagstaff/Dine homelands/Grand Canyon/polygamist Mormon country.  Come to think of it Islam allows 4 wives.  Maybe it’s the weather?

    Mary says Singapore is hot.  When asked how hot, she said, “Oh, I never know.  But it’s really hot.  I know that.”  According to Weatherunderground the current temp in Singapore is 81 with a dewpoint of 77.  That last is the kicker.  By contrast it’s 84 in Ha’il with a dewpoint of 14.  Just to be complete it’s 54 here with a dewpoint of  48.   Of course that’s a daytime reading for Andover, a night time reading for Singapore and an early evening reading for Ha’il.

    Both Mary and Mark are at the ends of their terms, with exams and grading and all that fun stuff on the other end of the teacher-student relationship.  Mark has a classroom full of cement workers.  Mary teaches students at Singapore’s National Teacher’s University.   Mom would have been proud.

    Forgot to mention on the call, but I have a tour for ESL students tomorrow.  Both Mary and Mark have ESL backgrounds.

  • A Third of the World Between Sibs

    Winter(?)                                  First Moon of the New Year

    Both sibs have sent photographs recently.  Mary has taken several pictures of elephants in a series placed around Singapore.  They’re part of a fund-raiser to help Southeast Asian elephants.

    Mary lives within short walking distance of the Botanical Gardens of Singapore, a delightful collection of Southeast Asian plants placed on large grounds.  In fact, she used to work there when her university had its campus on the grounds.

    The fund-raiser reminded me of the Charles Schultz cartoon characters St. Paul had up a few years back.

    Singapore is an unusual place, a city-state like days of yore, think Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Rome, Venice.  It refers to itself as the air-conditioned nation.  Mary refers to it as Asia-lite.  I enjoyed my visit there a great deal.

    Mark, on the other hand, is in a much less humid environment, Saudi Arabia.  He is in his fourth month teaching English in Ha’il, a former caravan serai on the pilgrimage route to Mecca.  It sits in the northern third of the Arabian Peninsula, near the center and has some elevation, about 3,000 feet.

    He has settled in there, having taken trips into the desert three times over the last couple of months.  The first time he went dune bashing in motorized vehicles. The second time he  visited a camel breeding operation run by a student, black camels, and in his most recent foray wandered the desert where this photography was taken.

    That puts me in the heart of the North American continent, Mary at the tip end of the Malaysian Peninsula, near Indonesia and Mark in the sands of storied Arabia.  That must be about a third of the way around the world to each sibling.


  • Overseas Ellises

    Samain                               Moon of the Winter Solstice

    Brother Mark has settled in to Ha’il.  So much so that he visited, by their invitation, a group of cyberjournalists who run an online newspaper where he participated in an interview, drank tea, then left after shaking everyone’s hand, apparently a cultural expectation.  He says he has three photos and a youtube clip as a result of the visit, though I’ve not found them yet.

    Sister Mary sent these cute clips of elephants in the air-conditioned nation.

    They’re part of a fund-raiser to support elephants in Southeast Asia.

  • Visa, Visa. Where Art Thou?

    Lughnasa                                          Waxing Harvest Moon

    Oh.  Visas.  I think I shall never see a visa lovely as a tree.  Or something like that.  Anyhow, the Saudi visa saga took an unexpected and unpleasant turn this morning.  Turns out there are two steps to the process for teachers, certification of the degree and qualifications, then, the visa process itself.  This introduces more days, perhaps as much as a week more.

    We’ll find out tomorrow how the school takes this news.  I’m not sure why the school didn’t alert us to this fix since the Saudi visa process is the same the world over, but they provided no help at all.  In fact, we’re still down one vital piece of paper, something from the Saudi Foreign Ministry inviting Mark to Saudi, a piece of paper the school was responsible to produce.

    Dispiriting.  Mark and I had a heated conversation about the appropriateness of my way of addressing the school’s administrator in an e-mail.  Mark felt my wording was rude, boorish.  American.  To my ear the e-mail had nothing unpleasant or confrontational in it at all.  Mark says I don’t understand and he can’t explain it to me.

    Well, maybe.  He and Mary both have a keen sensitivity to Asian cultures and their ways are not our ways.  I’ve only visited and studied Asia, not immersed myself in it as they have over the last 20+ years.  Of course, their knowledge is better than mine.

    Even so, I believe Saudi culture different from Southeast Asian and enough so that whatever slight Mark felt I might have delivered will not be felt there.  We’ll see tomorrow.

    He certainly has a broader and more direct experience of world cultures than I do.  If he turns out more right, I’ll have learned yet another lesson from life.  If I turn out more right, he will have learned one.

  • Fall-ing

    Lughnasa                                                  Waxing Harvest Moon

    As August slides away and the sky shifts its colors toward deeper hues, an inner barometer detects higher emotional pressures.  The atmosphere weighs more, cuing those momentary pauses, breaks in attention.  It may signal a storm ahead, but more likely the prediction carries gray skies and mist, perhaps early morning fog.

    Melancholy comes calling this time of year, an acquaintance, maybe a friend, of long standing.  Mom died in October, 1964, 47 years ago, a year longer than she lived.

    Her death came at different moments in life for all of us.  Mark, 5 at her death, has few memories of her; she lingers in his past as a faint spirit, an enigma.  Mary, 12, has more, a young girl heading into adolescence, becoming a woman, missed the guidance a mature woman could give as she made that critical transition.  At 17 my life had already begun to pull away from the family, in my senior year of high school, the last, college plans in the making, I had her longest of all, only a brief time less than Dad.

    When that dark angel comes, and he comes for us all, finality is the hardest lesson to absorb.  No more mom.  No more.  Memories, yes, but memories fade and change as life goes on and here all three of us are, 47 years later.  47 years.  A lifetime.

    Why a friend?  How could melancholy be a friend?  Well, in this way.  As life patters on, this event following the other, we can become accustomed to its rhythms, lost in its small decisions and its casual absorption of our energy.  So lost, in fact, that we forget the Self that carries us forward, the Self into which we live and which lives itself into us.

    Melancholy can turn us away from the day to day and cause us again to walk down the stairs leading to what Ira Progoff calls the Inner Cathedral.  We often forget this quiet place within, our own sanctuary, and melancholy can call us to visit it again.

    So, yes, melancholy can be a friend of the Self, a guide back into the depths and resources of your Self.

  • A Calmer Week Ahead

    Mid-Summer                                                                        New Honey Extraction Moon

    Kate and I bought a new vehicle yesterday, a Toyota Rav-4.  Well, we picked out the things we wanted, left a deposit and now wait for the finding.  This may not be big news in most families, but the last time we bought a new vehicle was 1999 and before that it was 1994.  Until Wednesday we still had both of them.  The Tundra, the 1999 purchase, fell thanks to an oil-pressure hose providing cooling to the transmission.  It blew, taking with it other essential fluids, the engine and the transmission.  Bad luck.  The Celica motors on, at its next oil change it will hit 275,000 miles.  Toyota’s last and that’s what I want, have always wanted, in a car.

    Our life has coasted back to a familiar routine from the intense clay week followed by the intense family week.  Both were good, positive experiences, but there are reasons these events last short periods of time and the calmer times last longer.

    Got a note from Mary, safely back in Singapore, who observed that international travel was easier than intra-US.  She had a variety of air-related mishaps in her two weeks plus of traveling the US by plane.

    Kate and I need to spend time in our gardens, two weeks away from them at this time of year leaves weeds as happy as the plants we want 400_honey-extraction_0244there.  Also, the tomatoes have begun to ripen, peas have played out for now, though I’ll probably plant a fall crop, the beets have begun to fatten up (second planting), carrots, too.  Chard and spinach look good and they, too, need replanting for fall harvest.

    August will find us once again with the honey extractor set up, frames to uncap and jars to fill.  Mark Odegard has begun work on the 2011 version of the Artemis Honey label.  His first efforts looked good to me, but he’s a skilled professional and keeps adjusting, trying new things.  We’ll try this year to uninvite the bees to the extracting party.  They become a big bother, not appreciating the heist of their summer’s work.  Who can blame them?  Though, I should add, they put up a surplus well beyond what their winter survival requires.   That’s why bee-keeping works in the first place.

  • The 4th of July

    Mid-Summer                                                     Waxing Honey Flow Moon

    Independence Day.  Celebrating our ancestor’s victory over the British army and considering how their enlightenment ideals apply to our time.  Happy 4th of July!

    For an unreconstructed radical like myself, these are trying times.  I wonder where the sense of communitarian spirit has gone.  Yes, we have a can do, go it alone spirit, too and I participate in it.  The ethical underpinnings of Western civilization, however, fed by the the deep springs of Athens and Jerusalem have always reminded us that we share this journey.   Our lives are not ours alone, but belong as well to the whole, to the commonweal.  When we establish a government of the people, by the people, and FOR the people, we make this claim a part of our countries essence.

    The rugged individualist, the objectivist, the capitalist have the inclination to see the community as a source for their betterment, which is fine as long as their betterment does not come at others expense.  In that case these same perspectives become exploitative and parasitic, not interdependent, mutual.  A 5-year old knows that if all you do is take and take and take, then the other kids will no longer want to play with  you.

    The atomistic viewpoints of groups like the Tea Party and, in an insult to the Christian faith, the evangelical right, make it clear that they want the government to enforce their bigoted views of morality:  no stemcell research, homophobia and respect for only one point of view in struggle over Roe v. Wade.  They want no government aid to the poor, no environmental review for corporate projects that threaten the long term health of our natural world.  They have a vast umbrella of negatives with which they hope to block the sunshine of equality and shared responsibility.

    They want the constitution, like the bible, to be an inspired document, written not by men and women, but by gods, inviolate and sacrosanct.  It isn’t true of the bible and it is even much less so true of the constitution.  Both of these documents live, that is, they get swept into new eras, with new challenges and demand a hermeneutics for understanding their relevance.  Always.  This is an iron law of human history, no document from the past means the same thing today that it did yesterday.  That is anachronistic thinking at its most damaging, its most infantile, its most destructive.

    My sister lives in Singapore and, up until very recently, so did my brother, Mark.  This makes accessible, in a personal way, the viewpoints of other cultures toward our country.  Many people don’t like us, see us as arrogant, uncaring and ruthless.  Of course, the big kid on the block often has that reputation, deserved or undeserved, but our recent actions, Iraq and Guantanamo among them, have cemented these opinions.

    Even so, I have this urge to celebrate our country.  We are a beacon of freedom, a beloved place of opportunity and real diversity.  We have committed ourselves to constructing a nation not on history or geography, but on founding ideals of freedom and equality and brotherhood. (sic) The number and variety of persons who come to this country from all over the world, the number and variety of them who become part of the patchwork quilt that is our history and our present at its very best, attest to the essential value of our presence.  We negotiate the boundary between sending cultures and our history and, again at our best, we do it with open hands and hearts.

    Have we slaughtered Native Americans and held slaves?  Yes.  Have we engaged in first-strike aggression?  Yes.  Have we often pretended that our nation, defended by two oceans, exists alone and isolated?  Yes.  Have we laid waste to our natural resources in the name of jobs and profits?  Yes.

    We should not be, cannot be, proud of these transgressions, but I submit that we are not the Great Satan.  We are not the only nation whose actions have transgressed human decency.  Further, I would submit that we are not even the worst, not even close.  Look at the Armenian and Jewish genocides.  The pogroms in Russia and the slaughter of the Stalinist era.  The vicious regime of the Khmer Rouge.  This is a long list and it runs deep in our world history.  No, we are a nation that has blundered and made arrogant mistakes, but we are neither all bad nor all good.  We are, rather, an imperfect nation with an imperfect history.

    As I look around the world, I find no country more committed to creating a united states of freedom, no country more committed to embracing the worlds refugees, no country more aware of its errors and no country more able to make amends.  We are a young nation, barely 240 years old, maybe an early adolescent in terms of our development.

    We must not give in to the petty, the self-aggrandizing, the screw the other guy mentality of our rising political movements.  We’re better than that.

  • A Reunion

    Mid-Summer                                                                                              Waning Garlic Moon

    As the garlic moon wanes, the leaves of the garlic plants begin to brown from the bottom up.  When half of them are brown, I’ll pull a couple to see how they’re progressing.  I plant more garlic than we use; for some reason it appeals to me as a crop.  Partly because you plant it in the fall and harvest it in the summer.  A contrarian.

    A Latin day today, perhaps tomorrow, too, after I see to the queen excluders in the colonies from which I removed them this weekend. I’m looking for movement of the workers up into the honey supers, starting to lay in honey there rather than in the hive boxes.

    Into the city tonight to discuss the slightly revised issue selection process for the 2012 legislature.  We’re moving up our process by a month to allow for better campaign planning, gathering of allies.

    My exercise commitment, once rock solid, has slipped in these past three weeks with many evening meetings.  I’m going to shift my workouts to the morning, see if I can get a new rhythm established.

    At the end of July my sister Mary will travel here from Athens, where she gives a paper, then reverse field back through London to Singapore.  My cousin Diane, who stood up for me when Kate and I got married, also, by chance, will be in town for another reason, so we’ll have a Keaton and an Ellis reunion right here in Andover, star of the northern burbs.  Diane lives in San Francisco where she churns out a weekly newsletter, highly regarded, on the pulp and paper industry.

  • Bee Diary: April 12, 2011

    Spring                                                   Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

    Hobby Bee Keepers tonight.  Kate and I heard a presentation on Minnesota Grown, a very interesting initiative by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture that supports local food 400_garden_0084based businesses with marketing assistance.  A woman gave a presentation on cooking with honey.  How to make truffles.  Uh-oh.  They were really good.  Not a healthful food, but my were they tasty.

    The hobby beekeepers have a farmer look, a rural feel, even though there are many urban and suburban beekeepers.  Guys with hat line tans, checked shirts and blue jeans; woman with sensible cloths and no make up.  Tonight I learned what to do with all the honey I have left over from the demise of my two colonies; use it four frames at a time to feed my new package bees.

    The night was clear and warmish.  Today was busy, as was yesterday and as tomorrow and Thursday will be.  My energy is up and I’m having fun.  I’m glad we’ve had the warm weather and a chance to get into the garden.

    About that land my sister, brother and I own in West Texas.  Probably not gonna be used for a housing development.  Forty acres of mesquite and sand, plus, natives assured me, quite a few rattlesnakes.  Taste like chicken I’m told.  A certain, lonely hermit part of me finds West Texas desirable because of its emptiness, its vast spaces and little civilization.  I loved Marfa and could imagine a winter retreat down there in Imperial that could serve as a base for outings to Great Bend, Marfa, Guadaleupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns.  Maybe.

    Think I’ll send Mark down there to scout it out, maybe hire a surveyor.

    West Texas

    The 2010 Census confirmed what anyone passing through the scrublands of West Texas already knew: People are leaving, and no one is taking their place, even with oil at more than $100 a barrel. The people who remain often drive an hour or more to visit a doctor, buy a pair of jeans or see a movie.

    So you might wonder why anyone is still there, in this place where natural beauty is defined by dry creek beds and scraggly mesquite, where public transit is a school bus and Starbucks is a punch line.

    “The greatest sunsets. The stars are just right there. You hear the coyotes howling,” says Billy Burt Hopper, sheriff of Loving County, home to 82 people and the least-populated county in the United States.