in human nurturing vs nature, nature wins

Much has been accomplished since I last was here. The big painting project I’d been planning for ages is done. I didn’t go for the purple I’d been looking at last year. Instead we chose a sedate taupe with an accent wall of dark blue that really shows off the white wood trim. It required packing away all the books and things on the wall–pretty close to moving out except we didn’t–spending about a week before and a week after to pile everything in the bedrooms and back. Four men filled the house for two long days with stepladders, paint buckets and rollers, lots of music (radio) and joking. Hubby and I spent those two days mainly staying out of the way, except for the afternoon I spent in the ophthalmologist’s office getting an eye looked after. It may have been the flurry of dusting door and window framing that caused one of my inner eyelids to puff up and droop down to cover part of my line of vision. I’d wake in the mornings with it glued shut. And boy was I a sight!  :roll:  If you saw the old Charles Laughton version of Quasimodo in Hunchback of Notre Dame, well that was me for a few days! In the midst of all this, the old furnace in the basement had enough of the cold weather and decided to cut out too.

Now that almost everything is done and back in place, the eye all healed (nothing serious as it turned out–just a clogged oil duct in the inner eyelid), a new furnace with a humidifier added this time, it feels as if we’re living in a new house. Everything looks so clean and neat. It’s been exactly the prompt I’ve needed to get going on the massive clearing out of forty-some years of accumulation. Upstairs is practically done, and because the furnace installation mess had to be cleaned before I could do the laundry, that room is looking pretty good too. Next week it’s on to the storage room, my sewing room, and the electronic graveyard. I can just see myself wresting old computer monitors and hard drives and masses of cords and plugs from the hands of a Hubby who never met a piece of technology he didn’t want to hoard.  At the end, hopefully I will have met my goal of everything having its own place to be so that we can get to it when Brrrrrrrh!it’s needed, and if it isn’t likely to be needed, it should be pitched or donated.

Since it’s been so cold here, with temperatures locked into a deep freeze since Christmas, outside has looked pretty bleak. The roofs of just about every house in our neighborhood featured this look.  So it’s been a good time to hunker down and focus on inside pursuits.
In an effort to change the kitchen’s look on the cheap side, I scanned some prize show chicken pictures from one of my books and found some cheap black frames in in the local IKEA. Now it looks like this above the stove:

chickens

I would really have preferred a collection of those fancy ceramic chicken sculptures, but the ones I like best would have cost several hundred dollars. These work as a good enuf substitute and not counting the cost of the ink used in my printer, the total for the dozen frames (there are more on the other wall) came to less than $25, and works for me.

Sadly, a small tragedy took place as well. One afternoon I looked into the back yard during a brief foray of sunshine. Sitting there all puffed up was a small bunny. He looked so cold and lonely and forlorn, I started to worry about him being all alone and hungry. When I was preparing a salad later that day I decided to toss a piece of carrot near the entry under the porch  he’d dug through the snow and ice. Then I began to notice little brown rabbit pellets outside that hole so I felt happy at the evidence that he wasn’t starving after all, but I’d still toss little bits of veggies–I think he especially appreciated the turnip trimmings–from time to time. One evening this week as we were sitting down to supper, there was a loud thump outside the patio door and Hubby jumped up to see what had crashed into the house. Well, sad to say it was a big old owl. Less than hour before, I had donated a few bits of lettuce core and carrot trimmings and created a perfect lure for that owl’s supper! Kinda spoiled my appetite that night. I was pretty mad at that owl, but mostly I was mad at myself. I had no idea there was an owl lurking in the woods behind the house, but I grew up on a farm for goodness sakes! I should have known better. Now I have the blood of that poor little rabbit on my hands. The owl didn’t fare too well either. Hubby said he was dazed so badly he sat for a long time on the edge of the retainer wall. He wasn’t there in the morning, but the remains of the bunny were. As for me, I won’t soon forget that in nature, nature takes care of its own in its own way. It’s just best not to be born so low in the food chain as bunny rabbits.

snowbound!

snow

Today is Friday, it’s January 11, 2013, and we’re about as snowbound as we’ve ever been in the seven years we’ve lived in Utah. We should have paid more attention to the weather predicting turtle who lives nearby here in the shadows of Mount Olympus. According to local news sources, this season’s is the biggest snowfall accumulation in the valley since 1993.  E.T. (Extra Tortoise), 69, is a 17-inch-diameter desert tortoise, rescued by Tosh Kano in 1988 through the State Division of Wildlife Resources during the construction of the Tuacahn Amphitheater. She warned us this was likely to happen back in October. Kano was the public works director for Salt Lake County at the time, and over the years he noticed a correlation between E.T.’s appetite and winter conditions. He was so certain about her ability to predict winter severity that he based his yearly order for road salt according to E.T.’s “predictions.”

Kano said that normally she stops eating in September to prepare for her six-month hibernation, but this year she was eating  kale, mustard greens, parsley, and carrots until mid-October, so he knew something was different. Those are considered “super foods” in a turtle’s diet, thus he knew she was storing up fat for a long and hard winter. Other signs were noted as well. Acorns were bigger this year and there were more of them as well as more 100 degree+ days over the summer. I remember we were forced to take our neighborhood walks long after sundown because of the heat. Then we forgot about tortoises and  went on to Italy, extended our summer for several more weeks.   (In case you’d like to see E.T. and her owner yourself, to this KSL Utah channel 5 television site.)

trevi fountain

It seems like a long time ago looking back now, but this picture proves we really did enjoy a warm interlude at Trevi Fountain in Rome this fall. Ahhh, it looks so sunny and warm. Legend has it that if visitors toss a coin into the fountain they will return to Rome. Should we hear E.T. is eating like a pig again this September, I may have to reconsider my swearing off airline travel if. I’m pretty sure that’s the quickest way to get to Italy, which sounds very appealing now.  :grin:.

For today though, we continue to look out the window to see if it’s still snowing . . . yup! it is, and is expected continue all day. The nearly two-feet snow cake on the back deck may come close to swallowing that yardstick Hubby left in it (above photo) if it doesn’t let up. Did I mention the basement furnace broke down last Sunday? It’s working hard at the moment, but it’s an old old unit we’ll be replacing next week just in case.

I’ll be back with more news in a few days. That is, if we don’t freeze first. Does anybody know how to build igloos? Cháo for now!

the magic of rainy days in Venice

The week in review: It’s been fairly quiet this week along the Wasatch. The snowstorm that swamped us for three days last weekend finally quit sometime Sunday, and we were able to get out of the house and into the city for our bi-monthly lecture from the Forum for Questioning Minds, where Jill B. Jones, author of CASINO WOMEN, shared stories of women casino workers in Reno and Las Vegas.  Monday night I had a longgggg night in the Sleep/Wake Center at the University to learn whether I ever learned to sleep and/or breathe correctly upon birth 70 years ago. In other words, “why do I snore so bad?” More on that when I have results. Also, got good news from my Halloween colonoscopy. No more of that, thank goodness, for three years.  Now all that’s left until January, barring unforeseen maladies, is another blood test. Now let’s go to Venice to see how rainy weather only adds to the magic of the city.

The Grand Canal, Venice (the 8th day): Here our driver guides us along one of the major water-traffic corridors in Venice, which the Italians pronounce Venezia (ve-nit-zi-a) by the way, in a water taxi or water bus, not sure what to call it. The S-shaped canal continues for about two miles, and most of the 170+ buildings date from the 13th-18th century. Rich Venetian families apparently vie with each other to show off their richness with these picturesque palazzos. Most buildings emerge directly from water with no sidewalk pavements, and can only be viewed from the front by boat. And here I am looking and feeling like a country bumpkin all agog in the big city, hardly able to believe where I am… It’s mid- to late-afternoon and we’ve been warned to take along our rain gear as clouds gathering suggest there’s a real possibility of some showers later. At the moment I’m not concerned about getting wet. All I can think about are scenes from movies (like James Bond’s Casino Royal & Moonraker, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and wasn’t there one with Meg Ryan or some other American sweetheart?); all I can hear in my head are the voices of Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and Placido Domingo, and even Dean Martin pops in with That’s Amore.  Here’s one of my favorite waterfront palazzos. Two things never fail to catch my eye: flowers in flowerboxes and color.

All too soon we’ve covered the full two-mile length, past idle trade ships and and impressive cathedrals (so many we can’t possibly remember all the names; we’ve discovered it’s fairly safe to say either St. Mark’s or Santa Maria’s and be right 30% of the time) and pass through the famous Rialto Bridge to enter the area of St. Mark’s Square where we’ll disembark and get ready for our much-anticipated Gondola ride.

Back at the boatdock, we all line up into six-person groups waiting for our turn. Three or four boats with our groups had already loaded and left the dock when the rain began. It didn’t seem so threatening at first, and then it was nearly our turn to take the next boat. Suddenly the sky darkened and all the clouds overhead seemed to burst at the seams all at once. Someone saw a gondola with our people aboard, already drenched to the skin, trying to make it to one of the smaller canal bridges where they would wait out the storm looking rather miserable. For a change I was really happy we weren’t in one of the first groups, hence we stayed reasonably dry under the canopied waiting dock. When it became clear the rain had no plans to stop, our tour director announced the gondola rides had been cancelled.

If we were lucky we’d have one more chance for that Venetian gondola ride tomorrow, weather permitting. We proceeded to our hotel in Venice’s mainland suburb. While Mestre is modern and industrial and cheaper than its neighbor, the “canals” we viewed from our hotel window, admittedly picturesque in their own way, could not compare to the romantic canals of Venice. On the way to the coach, a dazzling rainbow set against a brightening sky seems to promise our group, many of us understandably disappointed–many wet and hungry–that our chances were very good. (That’s me in the green jacket with the street lamp jutting out from my head.)

Sure enough, the next morning we made it, and, again, I learned the gondola rides featured in movie settings and picture books are a little more complicated. Should my readers visit Venice someday and seek out your own gondola adventure,  be advised that there are different ways to navigate the canals. And I’m pretty sure if you want to snap a digital or two, you’ll have loads of opportunities. The chances are more than even that you’ll encounter a bride and groom along the way. But where were the singing gondoliers from the movies? You know…the ones with the striped shirts and straw hats? The reality is that you see all kinds of boats on the canals used for different purposes, weddings, funerals, pageants, even races. It’s considered a special occasion boat and the current cost of a ride is around €80 for a 40-minute cruise (sometimes with a glass of wine). There are cheaper deals available, but our tour was apparently one of those. Six to a boat instead of two, no serenade. I had to content myself with the voices in my head–Bocelli, Pavarotti, and Domingo, and danged if Dean Martin didn’t pop in again once or twice!

You may be struck, as I was, at the vast number of clothesline you’ll see hanging outside. Seems because of the high cost of electricity, most Italian homes do not have clothes dryers, only about 3-4% from what I’ve read. Most Italians hang their clothes to dry in yards, on folding racks set out on the porch, or clotheslines outside in front of their windows. They reason that it’s not only easy, but economical, an important consideration when you consider how expensive it must be to rent or own a home in Venice.

Lest you think all of Venice as a city exclusively spread out along water canals, I offer this alley view. That’s Hubby waiting for me to catch up along one of the mazes of sidewalks leading back to St. Mark’s Square. Always at a loss for navigating, I’m always asking, Are you sure this is the way out? Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, he’s right, as he was this time, thank goodness!

Back on St. Mark’s Square is  the great church (St. Mark’s Basilica) with its beautiful clock tower. On the top terrace below the winged lion  with an open book are two bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. One figure is old, the other young, to show the passing of time. They are said to represent shepherds as they are wearing sheepskins, and are giant in size so that their form can be recognized at a distance. Although the clock tower has undergone numerous restorations over the years (originally a statue was kneeling before the lion but was removed in by the French in 1797 after the city surrendered to Napoleon), the bell is the original one.

Now you may have heard or read about the flooding in northern Italy the last few weeks, and of course scientists have been saying for years that Venice is slowly sinking. Every time the rains come, the winds blow, and tides sweep more water in. It’s easy to see from this picture taken along the boat docking area how flooding would be a big problem for Venice.

And it’s no secret that in this 21st century, there are few places a person can’t get to within a day of travel, and more people than ever are now realizing long-held dreams of seeing the world, fulfilling their own “bucket-dreams.” Thus the tourist industry continues to flourish, particularly in Italy. It continues to be an important part of our global economy. Thus, in an effort not to discourage visitors to Italy’s famous city built on the seas, Venetians came up with alternative ways for tourists to get around the square in the (more and more) likely event of flooding. Indeed, you can see the props scattered around the square when not in use although you may not recognize what they are. When they are needed, here’s how they look.

Rather than complain, since you can’t argue with Mother Nature anyhow, nor can we yet agree among us that global warming is real, floods are now a fairly regular part of the Venetian tourism experience. Ever resilient, the tourists have learned to take it all in stride and make the best of it, even thinking of it as an different kind of travel adventure. This picture is from Reuters News Agency, but you can go online and do your own search (floods in Italy) and come up with your own assortment of tourists flopping around straddling floating tubes or surfboarding through the streets. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad philosophy for life. Let me add quickly, however, that in spite of the magic of that Venetian rainbow, I’m glad we saw it while you can still navigate on foot there. We got out at just the right time. Venice, or Venezia, as my new Italian friends would say, still holds a lot of magic.