Monday, December 31, 2018

Fulcrum

Our word for today is "fulcrum." I have a love-hate relationship with this word.  It means a pivotal point. In fact, fulcrums are essential, if you want an "easy life." Think of the importance of hinges on doors, or that gadget that holds an oar in place on a row boat or the small grey rock I place under my spade in the garden to lift out the Hostas for re-planting.

Yes, fulcrums make life easier. They make things work. However, I don't like the sound of the word. The "ful" sounds too much like "fool" and the "crum" is "crumb." Put them together and they sound nasal, pedantic, almost silly. On the other hand, fulcrum, is too elevated a word for the small inconspicuous devices it describes.



Fulcrum is to physics, as catalyst is to chemistry. What can I say, I love the word catalyst. It sounds like crystals and reminds me of diamonds. A catalyst makes chemical change happen or at least happen faster. It is liquid energy, whereas a fulcrum is some overlooked mechanical pivot, that, OK, maybe makes the world go round, but you wouldn't necessarily know it.



Now apply these words, these concepts to life. If you were choosing a partner, for example, would you want a catalyst or a fulcrum? Would you want some sparkly bit of glamour, who could change your life in a moment? Or would you want the steady rock, the one who bears the weight of the changes, easing the burden of life's transitions, as unobtrusively as a hinge or an oarlock?

In literature, the answer is most beautifully illustrated in Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. It's worth the read.

The pictures? The best I could do for fulcrum.

Have a pivotal day!!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Medium...

Our word for today is "medium." On the surface, it's a very common, unpretentious, almost banal word. Do not be deceived! It has a depth, that borders on the mystical......

I first thought of "The Medium is the Message." I'm a great fan of Marshall McLuhan, who was probably the first person to make us aware that who or what carries the message to us is almost as important as the message itself. Consider, for example, the medium in a seance. Without this medium there would be no communication with the "otherworld."



Social Media is now the primary conveyer of our messages to the world. Can we go as far as to say that without Social Media, we could not communicate with the general public? Or the general public with us. How valid is what we hear or what we read, if it comes from Twitter, Instagram or Facebook? To what extent do people trust our messages on the same platforms? Is there a trusted medium out there?

Who reads newspapers anymore? (Well, I do.) Who watches TV apart from Netflix or its various incarnations? Who listens to the radio? In fact, journalists, our mediums of truth, are being restrained, imprisoned, killed. Be afraid be very afraid!



I'm on Facebook far more than I should be. It's a bit of a time waster and ironically, I really don't have that much time to waste. But that's an aside. Once caught up in the ever changing milieu of messages, ads that look like messages, and propaganda that looks like a friend's post, one can easily be hypnotized into believing almost anything.

I know that social media is not the only medium we can use. There is still writing, painting, music, dance, theatre. However, that on-line stream of information is constant, immediate and accessible to almost anyone, anytime, anyplace. Therein lies its power.



What every happened to the nondescript "medium." You know - Coffee - medium, no sugar. Or, sweater size - medium, no collar. Or height - medium, dark hair. I used to think that I would go through life always a medium, a universal average, nothing very special or spectacular. But I now know that as a medium - a conveyer of knowledge or opinion - I can be very powerful!! I do, though, need to get my numbers up.

Have a spectacular day!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Intricate

It was my turn to give a word in our writing exercise today. This time, it just popped into my head - intricate. I thought of the word partly because I was thinking of the intricate detail that artists bring to their work. I know that some can simply draw a few lines on a canvas and everyone calls it Art. I wasn't thinking of them.



I was thinking of fine detail, of filigree, of the hours working with many colours, of the delicate strands, the filaments used to shape, shade and sharpen an artistic piece. Partly, I admire the patience - writing and re-writing a paragraph, for example, until the right words are in the perfect order to covey not just the message, but the feeling, the angst, the joy, the layers of meaning beyond the words and the syntax.



I was also thinking of the thought processes behind the work. The times when the artist says, "I need something more here." or "I have to correct and imbalance there." Intricate elements are then added. A gown may be trimmed with lace, a jacket, braided or a glove, appliqu├ęd.



Where does this knowledge of what to add and what not to add, come from? Where in the intricate workings of the brain does the artist know when to stop and when to keep going? Some look to nature. Few things are more complex than the veining of a leaf, the shading of a flower or the composition of an insect. The magic happens, though, when an artist creates a leaf on paper, a flower from fabric or an insect in sheet metal and we say, "Wow!"


The pictures? Bits of Art and nature.

Have a special day!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Hangover...

Our word for today is "hangover." It might be more appropriate to write this for New Year's Day, when celebrants have had too much alcohol to drink the night before. Of course, some have hangovers everyday. So today would be just like any other.

Fortunately, it's been a long time since I've suffered a hangover from drinking too much. Yes, with age comes maturity, for some. A favourite expression in the pubs in England on Sunday was "hair o' the dog?" It was a way of starting a conversation, as many nursed a hangover on Sunday, brought on by Saturday night parties.



I'd forgotten the exact meaning of the phrase, but according to wikipedia, it was considered a cure for a bite by a rabid dog. Put a few hairs of the dog on the wound to cure it - drink some booze the next day to fix your hangover. It was a popular remedy from the time of the ancient Greeks, observed in most European countries and by extension a good part of the world.

The word hangover, however, is not just limited to the negative effects of alcohol, it is also used to describe something that is now obsolete. For example:



1. When we first bought our house, we had a clothesline in the back yard -  a hangover from when people (women) hung clothing out to dry. Some still do. It saves on energy, well, maybe not human energy. :)

2. Our house still has a milk box - a hangover from when milk was delivered to your door every morning. (We obviously treat milk now, to make it last longer - what's been lost?) Today, we often find, in our milk box, mail from a postman (person) who was too lazy to climb the steps to our front door.



3. It's the rare family, in Toronto anyway, that parks a car in their garage. In fact today many people are converting their garages, especially in laneways into small flats. In fact, we still have some very large homes, in the city, with carriage houses - a hangover from a time before cars, when the wealthy owned carriages and the horses to pull them, as well as, the groomsmen, footmen, drivers etc.



Will cars soon be considered a hangover from an earlier time? What else might disappear? The landline "phone on the wall" is almost obsolete. Maps are passe´, churches are being converted to condos, retail shops to nail salons, and gas stations to restaurants. In fact, the only thing I see that has made a comeback is the bicycle. People ride now in winter, there are more and better bike lanes (we still need more and better bike lanes). There are public bike racks, and areas to rent bikes conveniently around the city.

Can I dream of other activities that I would like to see revived?

The pictures? Hangovers from an earlier time and the penny farthing, from a time when money was worth more. Now there are no pennies and I'm not sure there were ever farthings in Canada.

Have a memorable day.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Entangle

It was my turn to provide a word for our writing exercise today. Sometimes, it's not easy to just "come up with a word." Yes, verbiage clutters my mind all the time, however, when asked to isolate just one word for a writing exercise, I'm often "stuck."

I did, though, ask the cosmos for this one. I looked out the window at a mesh of branches interlaced against a sullen sky and thought of entanglements. Even stripped to the bare bones, nature is complex. Life is intricate and people, perplexing.



We complicate our lives or others complicate our life for us. We may set upon a path that seems direct, even easy in its simplicity, only to find detours. We may be forced to navigate unmarked roads, un-blazed trails. We may wander for a long time in a tangle of underbrush, looking for a clearing.



I know we have inner compasses - Faith in ourselves - Belief in the goodness of others - Hope in times of utter hopelessness, but we still must find our own way out of the entanglements that snare us. Sometimes we have to break a branch or two to find that clearing. We might have to, for example, disentangle ourselves from relationships, or from forces that distort our compass. Or wait patiently for the mists to clear.



The image of untangling the entangled is perhaps easier for knitters to grasp. We often untangle yarn. We may sit for hours, finding the free end and then tracing it through its many switchbacks, loops, knots and general mayhem until we have a smooth ball of wound yarn with which to work our magic.



Because once we have that clear path, we can create a most amazing life!!

Have an un-entangled day!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Contact.....

Today, our writing word is contact. For me, contact, is all about connections... clicking... finding your other half.

The other day we were talking about time wasters or maybe they were time soothers, pastimes that eased the troubled mind. Some played solitaire, others did crossword puzzles and still others preferred the more graphic jig saw puzzle. If you do jig saw puzzles on-line, there is a very satisfying "click" when you insert the right piece into the puzzle. You have made a perfect connection!!



Now, take the concept of the jig saw puzzle into the world, to the masses of people "out there," and try to assemble the pieces - a daunting task. Maybe you could just limit your search to the piece or pieces that would be right beside you in the puzzle. You know, the one with a bit of fuzzy purple on it or maybe it's the one with the red line through it.



How do we go about making contact with the people that will put our picture together? They must be people with similar life patterns and their knobs and notches must click with our knobs and notches to make it all work.

Extroverts, those people who make contact all the time, processing hundreds of people in a week, let's say, might have very little trouble putting the pieces together. But, what of introverts? Those shy corner pieces that need only to connect with two other pieces to make their life complete, or at least that small corner of the whole picture.



One year my daughter gave me a jig saw puzzle of the Eiffel Tower in shades of sepia. It took me a week to complete because of the lack of any distinctive colour. It might very well have been a comment on my life - constructing something memorable from an otherwise tedious palette. OK, it did take a while!

The pictures? Puzzling, almost colourless pieces. I love black and white photography and I miss the old contact sheets! Smile if you've been there :)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

And still I (We) Rise....

It's been a long time since I've written a post. What can I say? Life gets in the way of writing. I know, I've said before, if you're really serious, life should be writing. Well, unfortunately for writing, I happen to be serious about a lot of things. I need to focus!

Today, or at least, this morning, I can focus on writing and our word, for a long time, has been "endurance." Thank you for enduring the wait :)

For me endurance is all about being in it for the long haul. Maybe it's a relationship and you just don't give up. You work at keeping it together. It's easy to enjoy the good times, but you have to endure - and make better - the not so good times.



Endurance is also about yourself. How you "hang in there" for the long haul. How you buoy yourself up in the dark days of winter. How you find peace, when everyone around you seems to be raving mad. Where you find the resources, that deep well of strength, to get you through a negative diagnosis, a separation, a death....a something.

We talk, we write, we paint about the indomitable human spirit - How we take on challenges to test and strengthen our endurance; how we build our tolerance on a daily basis; how we resist in small measurable acts until Justice or Peace or Love has been restored.



I once said to a friend that I have a fairly high tolerance for pain. I thought that it might have come from two basic situations in my childhood. 1. If you live in a family that struggles daily to survive, you don't add to their struggles by suggesting that you are in pain, or some distress. You keep it to yourself and work it out, somehow. This concept was supported by the nuns in the Catholic schools I went to. 2. If you were in pain at school or some type of distress, you were told to, "offer it up for the souls in purgatory." Through your suffering you might free up one poor soul, paying the price for a venial sin, and send them to heaven.

A pious thought, maybe, but a giant endurance builder. Then again maybe I believed all those, "stiff upper lip" movies we watched - Once more into the breach and damn the torpedos - full speed ahead!!

The pictures? Building the endurance muscle!

Have a tolerable day!!