SYW: Bugs, Inspiration, & More

I’m starting off the new week with Melanie’s Share Your World.

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QUESTIONS: 

If not now, then when?
This is the story of my life: Procrastination!

Can you describe your life in a six-word sentence?
No, I don’t think I can.

Do you remember that thing people used to say, about how you swallow eight spiders a year while you sleep? It’s not true, but do you think you’ve ever swallowed any? What bug do you think you’ve eaten the most of by accident?
Yuck! I hope none! Although I probably have inadvertently swallowed a gnat, since there always seems to be one around me.

I have eaten bugs, but it was intentional, sort of. In Oaxaca, Mexico, I was dared to eat chopped up fried grasshoppers that had been served as a complimentary appetizer at a restaurant! I did take a very small bite, and lived to tell the tale, although I don’t remember how it tasted. I don’t want to ever do it again! But the people I was with cheated me – they said if I tried it first, they would all then try it. But they didn’t. How gullible am I???

What’s the best approach to resolving conflict?
Calmly.

Where do you find inspiration?
By inspiration, do you mean inspiration to do something creative? Or do you mean spiritual satisfaction? If to do something creative, then I say in nature mainly. But sometimes something just comes to me and I have the urge to be creative – like certain books make me want to write. But for spiritual satisfaction, I am inspired by singing, mainly as part of an ensemble like a choir. Appropo here is a song that I have posted before, but it is definitely worth repeating: (Lyrics below)

“How Can I Keep From Singing?”

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars
I hear the truth, it liveth
And though the darkness ’round me close
Songs in the night it giveth

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?


When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?

SYW/HP: On Haunted Houses, Crowded Concerts, Bell Bottoms, Cockroaches and More…

I’m ready for another Share Your World Meets Harry Potter! The Harry Potter questions this week are inspired by The Goblet of Fire, but you don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to answer them. These questions come from another blogger, Roger Shipp, who is collaborating with Melanie and her Share Your World, which are the second set of questions.

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Roger’s Magical, Mystical Questions:

  • Many local regions, especially rural areas where I live, have haunted houses. Have you ever spent the night in a house that was supposedly haunted? Anything ‘strange” happen?
    No, the closest I came was when my son was a little boy and we would take walks together. The route we usually took passed a 2- or 3-story, dark gray house on a large lot. It always seemed dark and that no one lived there. My son had already made up a monster, who plagued his dreams. So I told him that the monster was actually nice and wanted to make friends. Even so, he was spooky and so was that house. That house became the monster’s house!
  • The Quidditch Cup (riding broomsticks while chasing a small ball) was a huge sporting event in the land of Hogwarts. What is the largest sporting event (or concert, etc.) that you have ever attended?
    Not being a sports fan, I doubt the crowds were as big at the Packers games I attended as the concerts I went to.

    The biggest might have been when a friend and I went to see the Beatles in concert – we were in the 104th row of an old stadium in Chicago. From our vantage point, the Beatles were about an inch tall and we couldn’t hear anything they played because most of the girls (including my friend, but she tried to restrain herself for my benefit) were screaming. I think I heard later that the Beatles sometimes just pretended to sing because the screaming was so loud no one could hear them – so why waste their voices?

    The other times there have been huge crowds when I was attending were at Ravinia. Ravinia is an outdoor concert venue with a bandshell and stage in front located in the north suburbs of Chicago. They have a schedule of performers starting in June and ending in September, which they mail out to people. (Needless to say, there wasn’t a schedule this year.) People pay much less to sit on the lawn and it has become popular to bring snacks, wine, tables and chairs (Ravinia also rents these out) and share with one’s friends during the concert. The largest concert I ever attended there was last year, when Ringo Starr and his band were at Ravinia. We tried to go early but the crowd was already so huge that it was hard to find a patch of lawn for our folding chairs. If you wanted to get up for something, you could not help but step in other people’s set-ups. I ran across several friends there while I was walking around – they weren’t together nor did they know each other, and I didn’t know they were at Ravinia that night. I wanted to see Ringo and his band but anytime I lingered near the bandshell, guards shooed me away. At least no one screamed!
This is a fraction of the crowd we could see from our spot on the lawn.

This was the set up of the people next to us.
  • When you go for a swim, do you prefer an ocean, the seaside lakes, or a pool?
    I enjoy the ocean because it is warm, but prefer a bay where the water is calmer. Since I rarely go to a beach, except when on vacation, the rare times that I swim is in a pool. I don’t like it much because afterward my hair smells like chlorine.
  • Ron Weasley received a horrid robe to wear as formal wear to the Christmas dance at Hogwarts. Tell about the most ‘ghastly’ fashion statement that you have ever made.
    It was probably in the late 60s, when everyone (including me) wore inside-out sweatshirts, long strings of beads and huge bell bottoms. But I have to say, I still like bell bottoms better than straight-legged pants!

    Muggle Questions (from Melanie):

What is the last song you sang along to?
I’m not sure – there’s always music in my head, and sometimes it isn’t what I’d like to have repeating ad nauseum, but I think the last one I sang along with the recording was Old Man River a couple of days ago.
What was your scariest nightmare about?
I can’t remember it anymore, but I screamed out loud and it woke both me and Dale up.
What food do you crave most often?
ice cream, cookies, chocolate in general
What’s your grossest bug story?
The grossest and most horrible bug I’ve ever seen is a giant cockroach. Any cockroach, really. They usually appear where I least expect them and they run incredibly fast.

When I lived in northeastern Brazil with my first husband, we had all our personal effects shipped to us, and they arrived in these huge boxes, so we had large cartons sitting around the house for quite awhile. One day I was sitting on the couch in our living room and I heard a scratching noise. I went to look for the source and found a giant cockroach climbing up one of the boxes! These cockroaches lived in the grass in the surrounding area, which is why I never, ever, laid anything on the grass there. We also had a cesspit, and had to get it cleaned out occasionally – of course, that pit was crawling with them. It makes me shiver to think of even now. I thought of downloading a picture from Google and posting it here, but I can’t bear to even look at a picture of those horrible things!!

October Trees

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October trees paint the landscape
with bright colors,
their branches a display
of yellow, red, orange,
tinged with gold by the sun low in the afternoon sky.

October wind blows,
the leaves rustle and tremble.
Wrested free from their branches,
they scatter,
chasing, teasing each other
as they flutter through the air.
Patterns of red, yellow, orange
litter the ground below.
Branches undress for the coming winter’s mantle of white.

Some trees give up their leaves quickly,
leaving a sudden circle of yellow
around the base of their trunks.
Others are more reluctant –
yellow leaves still cling tenaciously
to their branches,
unwilling to join the blanket of color
beginning to curl and dry up
without the nourishment of their mother tree.

Beauty and sadness mingle
in this turn of the seasons.
The green of the trees’ canopy,
the bright colors of flowers
that have delighted the world have reached their end.

The trees, appearing unchanging
in long summer days,
suddenly change every day
in a flurry of activity.
The natural world embraces this change,
knowing that soon will come the season of sleep.
Squirrels scuttle up and down tree trunks,
through their branches,
shaking more leaves loose,
chasing, playing together,
vying for acorns and nuts to store for hibernation.

(A piece of discarded pumpkin
lies nearby,
an unexpected feast
for the rodents and birds.)

Rabbits sit motionless
in the presence of potential predators.
When the coast is clear,
they munch on garden fodder –
perhaps a lone tomato on a vine,
grasses and sweet herbs still plentiful
until the first frost hardens the soil.
They will burrow in their holes
that puncture the lawn,
warm as they nestle together in their downy coats.

The spring’s baby birds
now adults, are ready
to migrate in V formation
high above the autumn color.
Those birds who stay to shiver
and survive the winter
go about their business,
plucking bugs from the earth,
greedily pecking at seeds and bread crumbs
blown onto the grass,
preparing for snow-covered days of food shortages.

Ants, bees, butterflies, cicadas
have mostly died leaving behind their eggs,
hidden protected in tree branches,
on the bottom of leaves,
or buried underground,
for next year’s generation.
An occasional ladybug
crawls lazily up a fence,
seeking some warmth.
Cricket songs that punctuated summer nights
and cicadas’ incessant screeching
for weeks of summer,
have been replaced by silent autumn nights,
interrupted by rainstorms or fierce, cold winds as winter approaches.

Wind blows through the trees,
loosening their last, dried up leaves,
shaking their branches which clatter
and bend with the force of moving air.

October trees gradually give way
to stark November trees,
then turn into winter trees,
seemingly abandoned:
their branches, now bare,
spread nakedly in their complex network.
Large branches carve a path toward the sky,
smaller branches jut out from them;
the smallest ones weave their way in between their larger companions.

A light snowfall etches a contrast
between dark and light,
the blanket of white
showing off the branches’ intricate beauty.
The winter trees lie in wait,
as snow, ice and wind
each have their way with their branches.
Yet the branches,
supported by a solid trunk,
remain unscathed by these harsh forces of winter.

Branches sway and bend
under strong, cold winter winds;
they are weighed down by heavy snow,
icicles dripping from their limbs.
Yet their survival is assured:
while winter is transitory,
the trees have stood resolute
in their places,
anchored by roots beneath the earth,
growing and thriving for many years
to carry on for many more.

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Copyright © 2017 by amoralegria

This is a poetic reworking of an essay by the same title written in 2013.

 

 

 

Izapa: A Crossroads of Trade

April 1, 2017                  Chiapas, Mexico

Our tour’s first destination today was the ruins of Izapa. To get there, we drove east from Puerto Chiapas until we were just a few miles from the Guatemalan border. Our guide, Cora, told us the history of Izapa. It was the first major city built by the Mayans, and according to Internet research I did later, it did have pyramids (actually, they were temples) at one time. Tourists cannot visit the entire site, because archaeological research is still being conducted. One thing that is known is that it was a crossroads of trade and was occupied by other indigenous peoples. The Aztecs, who were warriors, tried to conquer it once, but the Mayas negotiated with them, giving them 200 sacks of cacao seeds, feathers, and slaves. Cacao seeds were like money, so literally money grew on trees!

 

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A drawing of how this portion of Izapa would have looked during occupation. The ball court is at the top, marked by #126-127. The Watchman is behind it to the left. 

 

Archaeologists have found artifacts at Izapa that originated in South America and in what is now the Midwestern United States. In its heyday, Izapa was home to about 35,000 people. It is believed they traded with native peoples of Peru, because at Nazca archaeologists found three items which were unique to the Maya – one was an artifact painted with a blue dye from a plant from this area. Another was a figurine of a frog made in a typical Mayan style. Cora told us the Mayans were “good sailors”, which I had never heard before.KODAK Digital Still Camera

Research I have done since does indicate a connection between the Olmecs and the Mayas, the Olmec being an older civilization. The Maya were definitely influenced by the Olmec, since all of the peoples of this hemisphere were migratory at some point. The large heads created by the Olmec depict them wearing headbands, which would originally have contained feathers, like the Mayas of Izapa, who worshipped a feathered serpent and wore this headband that represented the snake. Many of the gods of the various indigenous groups were the same, but using different names. Quetzalcoatl, the major god of the Aztec/Mixeca, the Mayas called Cuculcán, but it was the same god.

Linguistically, the Mayan language is not related, as far as I know, to that of the Olmec or Aztec. The latter spoke Nahuatl since Nahuatl can be divided into several dialects. I’m not sure of the linguistic history of the Mayan language. According to Wikipedia  , the Mayan language family has no demonstrated genetic relationship to other language families. Similarities with some languages of Mesoamerica are understood to be due to diffusion of linguistic traits from neighboring languages into Mayan and not to common ancestry.

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One of the mysterious standing stones scattered throughout the site. 

The excavated portion of Izapa, Cora said, is only a small piece of the entire city. When restoring it, furthermore, archaeologists used cement to hold the stones together, but the Maya would have used mud and sand – and eggs! – as mortar. There is one large mound of sand and dirt with stones scattered among it that has not yet been reconstructed, but there is a ball court, several 3-tiered platforms and a variety of stelas (for which Izapa is most known) and standing stones.

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The ball court

 

The ball court is a feature common to indigenous people from central Mexico south – the Aztecs and the Zapotec had them and probably others too. It was not just a game – it could decide one’s fate. If there was a problem that the community couldn’t resolve, for example, the two sides would play on the ball court and the solution suggested by the winning side would prevail. It was also used to decide the fate of groups of captives. Cora had told us the Maya were not a warrior society, yet they wore the feathered serpent headdresses to fortify them in war, they took captives (obviously in battle) and they practiced human sacrifice – although this may have nothing to do with war and everything to do with religion: appeasing the blood lust of the gods. In fact, the victor in a ball game was sometimes the one sacrificed and this was considered an honor, because one was sacrificing one’s life to benefit the entire society by keeping the gods happy.
Cora stopped in front of one of the stelas, which are stones with carved pictures on them.

In this case, the carving was weathered to the point of being difficult to discern, so Cora passed around a colored copy of the picture once imprinted on it. It was part of a codex, a series of pictures that told a story or stated a rule. The stelas found at this site were protected from handling and further erosion with green tin roofs overhead and chicken wire fences around them.

While she was talking about this, I noticed a commotion to the left of where I was sitting on a low stone wall on one side of the ball court. Several members of our group were crowded around something they were looking at on the ground and one man was taking a picture. It was a black scorpion! It fled by running along the bottom of the stone wall and it was probably a good thing that I had stood up to see what they were looking at because the venomous creature was headed in my direction!

 

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THE BLACK SCORPION!

 

Dale asked about some stones that were sticking up from the ball court walls. Cora said they were just part of the ball court but I’m not so sure. There were other such stones standing about the grounds seemingly randomly, but what I noticed was that they all appeared to be facing north. I knew which way was north because Cora led us to another noteworthy artifact beyond the ball court: a pillar-like structure, called The Watchman, which she said was the carving of a man crouched and looking in the direction of a volcano to the north. She said that this structure also functioned as a clock or calendar, the sun appearing directly behind it at certain times of the day or year, and the Big Dipper rising directly above it at night.

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The Watchman

 

Next, she showed us another wire fence and tin roof protected group of three stone objects. The one on the right was an elongated piece of stone with a snake’s head carved on one end and the stone was hollowed out in the middle along its length. This was a piece of an aqueduct and it represented the god Cuculcán. The other two pieces in the group appeared to have some relation to the first, one being a large bowl-like object with a deep well in the middle, but Cora didn’t explain what they were.
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After that, she gave us 20 minutes of free time to explore the site further. We were to meet at the bus at 10:40. I checked my watch, which said the same time as hers: 10:20. Dale and I went in different directions. He immediately climbed one of the platforms and went off to take pictures. Several other people did the same.

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There were no trees in the restored area and no wind. It was very hot and I was glad I had a hat, and that I had applied sunscreen on the bus. I had forgotten the bug spray, however, so waved away the small insects that always seem attracted to me.

 

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Izapa’s hot, dry climate is the perfect habitat for this little fella!

 

I climbed up and down a couple of the three-tiered platforms for a different perspective. I discovered a large sign, in English, which described the “don’t miss” stelas and other objects. I read and photographed the sign and started to make my way to the other stelas in the direction of the bus. KODAK Digital Still Camera

Panama Cruise C 645I was so absorbed that when Dale called to me from the bus, I was surprised to see that everyone else had already gotten back on the bus! I was the last one! Possibly everyone else had just gotten too hot, because there were five minutes left in the 20 minutes of free time. However, since everyone else was ready to go, I had no choice but to comply.  Dale said he got pictures of everything, including the signs, so I wouldn’t have to miss anything.

WPC: Structure of a Web

Two Septembers ago, I was taking a walk at 8:30 in the morning when a neighbor signaled to me to cross the street to look at something. As I approached, she said not to come any further, but just look. A spider had, overnight, spun this intricate web which stretched across the sidewalk, anchored by a tall milkweed plant and a tree. It was so delicate and complex – it’s always a wonder to me how a spider can spin such a large and beautiful design in such a short time. Yet this intricate structure, in all its beauty, is solely for the purpose of catching the spider’s dinner, and within a short time, due to other forces of nature, it will be gone. The author of this amazing structure is sitting right in the middle – perhaps she is resting after all that hard work!

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From the other side:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Structure

Weekly Photo Challenge: Boundaries

THREE BOUNDARIES:

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Boundaries.”

ZOE_0001Kitty TV: On a snowy day in January, my cat, Hazel, gazes out into the white wilderness from a favorite window. Both the window and the icicles provide the boundaries which keep her inside, safe and warm from the cold winter outside, while allowing her to engage her endless fascination with the world out there.

20150902_083413Spider Web:
Look carefully and what do I see:
a spider weaving a boundary between her and me.
For an unlucky bug, a web’s boundary is the seal;
its fate: for the spider, a tasty meal.

100_0872Savijarvi Farm, Finland:
A hedge of flowering plants separates us from the Finnish horses on display. This natural boundary allows us to see the mare and her foal, while giving the horses a sense of safety, protected by the tall plants from human spectators.