All posts by lowercaselife

One who achieved college admission the normal insignificant way. Who held a job of low status. Who committed no crime. Who achieved no honors or awards. Who stood true to marital vows. Who tried to do the most good he could, which was not much.

Emus As Symbols

Todays post comes from NorthShorer.

Like everyone, I suppose, I made assumptions about what I would be like in retirement. I imagined a man straight of back, steady of hand, with a piercing chilling blue-eyed gaze. Well, make that a deep mysterious brown-eyed distant look above a rich white beard to tell of the lessons I had learned of wind and wave, time and tide.








Instead I ended up being a doubled-over rumpled dumpling who cannot look at much but the ground, lost in pain, not deep thoughts.

You know what they say about people who assume. You end up being as daft as emus, a person who amuses others with fake truths. I like the word assumption, with its sump right in the middle, where one ends up from assuming.

But, of course, it is false thinking that making assumptions is bad. Life is based on assumptions. For example, we assume much about people we encounter on the road, that they will be polite and careful. It is only the few times our assumptions are false that we notice, and then over-generalize about it. It is also wise to assume idiots are on the road and keep a weather eye for them.

Love is a large assumption. If we do not assume trust and fidelity, then we cannot really love. Or in agape love, I assume I can only give and assume from their it is not my concern. Feed a starving dog and it may bite you, they say. But love says you assume perhaps it will. You guard your fingers and keep feeding. Who knows what the starving dog has survived.

So go ahead. Be an emu. Stick your long neck out.

But I assume I could be wrong.

What bird is your totem?

Sew Buttons on Your Underwear

Forty years ago I gave myself a quest: to photograph MY North Shore, the stretch from Flood Bay to Silver Cliff, or as locals called it then, Silver Creek Cliff. Because I had use of a darkroom, it was at first all done in black and white, or perhaps with some sepia toning, or duotone effect, or Sabattier effect. Flood Bay back then was not the mass of concrete and curbs and cables it is now. It was then as it is now one of the very few official state wayside rests. Despite that, back then it was just a gravel patch with some posts to keep people from driving into the lake, which every so often people still managed to do. Locals routinely hauled away lake stone and gravel for their use, which left no dent on the amount on the shore. Also, then there was no monstrous resort along the shore. And Silver Cliff was a road, not a tunnel. The pictures I framed in simple shadow boxes without glass. I hung them on our knotty pine living room wall. (More about that later.)

The winnowing process of history to our benefit has eliminated most of the pictures. A few exist in my computer, taken from the negatives. My goal was to push pictures to expressionism. Often with high or low contrast.


One picture that I took in the remnants of a lumber mill a quarter mile from Betty’s Pies was our Christmas card picture.

Sometimes good fortune favored me, when it disfavored elsewhere with a massive storm.

A few I have drawn in graphite or pastel, often doing some adjustment of reality.

One sad picture remains, even though I did not frame it. How did history not winnow this poor picture out? It must be a sign, must it not. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

When this picture first appeared in the developing fluid, my first thought was it not worth making anything of it. My second thought was that here indeed was a sign. It must be from God giving me my life’s quest. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.) It could not be just random change. I was, in fact, until recently quite good with needle and thread, which my mother taught me at an early age, despite long sideways glances from my father.

I am sad to report that I never did discover how to fulfill the quest. Sigh. And now my chance is lost. Sigh. But I did fulfill one smaller quest and quite by accident. An undisciplined boy a year older than my son lived down the road from us. He was often in our house as small boy but not later. His teens were much troubled, as were his twenties. Now he is a brilliant photographer. I mean that. Does amazing work in the camera and in his computer. Travels the worlds. Makes a good living. Has a happy life. Most of his work is of the North Shore. He is friends with both of my children on facebook, where he told them that his inspiration came from looking at those photographs on our wall. To think such beauty came from such a shriveled seed!

Did you find a life’s quest? How has it gone?

Settle Down, Now, Lady

Sandy spent a couple years saving up money for new living room furniture. Our foldout couch crowded the living room and was breaking down, and a chair was looking a bit old. They were still good enough for a local charity to haul away to sell. In January she chose a love seat and a chair in similar designs. Theoretically I had a say in the choice. However, design is her joy, which I leave to her.

When Sandy told her dear friend, whom I will call Lady, she had replaced some furniture, Lady said, “I hope you got rid of that old wooden bench.” She pronounced the word old as if it meant ugly. Lady is like that and you ignore it. She is actually an outstanding person, a long-time successful speaker for those on the margins, for instance getting shelter for the street people of Mankato. Because the Salvation Army does not provide beds or food for women on the streets, five downtown churches take turns offering food and beds, each church serving a week in turn. But that expanded into providing space for men. The SA now requires people who sleep a night there to be sober, to attend church, and to attend Bible study. Sort of conversion by the bed. My cousin who ran the mission in downtown Seattle for years would be horrified, as they would be in Duluth, unless they too have changed. While the churches struggle to provide food and space, the SA has only a small fraction of its 25 beds in use. In a recent modest storm, they closed! Three of the churches opened in a rush. Lady not only offers financial support, at the age of 78 she also often washes the linen and cooks for the meals.

I should tell Lady that the old wooden bench, which is called a settle or settle bench and is a standard fixture of British pubs, has the official British seal of approval. My English aunt came into our home 35 years ago and spotted the bench and exclaimed, “Oh, a settle!” She ran her hands over the top and said, “It is almost perfect, but it needs to be older.” The last part was her joke. She spent the visit sitting on the settle and drinking the Twinings tea we had on hand. A couple years later an English exchange student was at our house and had a similar reaction.

A few years ago Lady told Sandy that she should put this away, meaning after Christmas, but her tone was that it should be put away permanently.

Lady has good taste in clothes, which are often in marked contrast to the tens of carats of diamonds she always wears. When she dresses to the nines, the carat load rises. I imagine that many people think it must be costume jewelry because of the volume. I admit I have a bias against diamonds in droves.

Yes, our furniture and accessories are a mishmash. As you age you shed style in exchange for memories. Lady’s large living room is its own mishmash of stuffy small town museum and waiting room for businesses of dubious merit.

Because they often stay with us, especially the kids, we discussed this change of furniture with our daughter and family. They said the foldout bed was getting too uncomfortable and they could bring blow up mattresses. Last week ninth grade grand daughter out of the blue announced that we were not to think that she and seventh grader Mr. Tuxedo were not coming to stay with us a few times this summer as they always have. She and her brother had many plans for their stays. That was a warm moment, to think they have not grown out of staying with us.

Do you have a name for your interior design style?

Waits, Waits, Don’t Tell Me

The Bible gives us a metaphor about those folks, those confounded ten-talent people. You know them!

Jesus tells a metaphor about using money expressed in talents, which has turned into a metaphor for the fact that we have varieties and numbers of gifts, that is talents as we use the word today. The parable tells us that some people have ten talents. You know them!

My sympathies are with the timid one-talent guy who comes off so badly in the parable. (Matthew 25:14–30, in case you want to look it up.)

Bill Bailey is a favorite of ours on British television, excepting that fact that he has many talents. Some of you may know him as Manny, the flaky assistant in the wacky Black Books. As well as an actor, he is also a stand-up comic, a writer of comedy, and deeply gifted in music, skilled at improvisation in music and in comedy. We know him for QI and others of the many British TV panel comedy shows. We love him especially for his part in Walks with My Dogs, a show in which various British celebrities walk famous trails around Britain with their dogs. The show is laid back, slow-paced, calming. Bailey’s unassuming manner is perfect. He rescues dogs. Of course, he does. He is also a sort of PDQ Bach comedian, working with orchestras, for one thing with his Odd Guide to the Orchestra. His piece about bassoons is hilarious.

Here he is doing a send-up of Tom Waits.

Forty years ago I had a student who was a true ten-talent person. You could count them. Despite her modest and warm manner (people skills was one of talents), she aggravated her friends to no end for it, especially since she found the talents a burden at 16-18 years of age. I would like to tell you her name, such a delightfully Norwegian name. But I will not.

A few Babooners have more than one talent, a couple at least approaching the metaphoric ten number. I, for one, am a wannabe. I am certain that most Babooners move in circles that include a ten-talent person or two. Oh, yes, you know them!

Tell us about ten-talent people you know and how well they have managed them.

Do your multiple talents distract you?

Books: Theory Number 1

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer (Clyde).

I lifted the following from my second novel:

He took out the two novels, Jon Hassler’s Simon’s Night and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, which he brought to occupy the many hours he would pass in the chair. “Hulger, maybe truth about old age is best told in fiction.”

Hulger held his pout; his tail still said J’accuse.

Clair had read both books, Simon’s Night a few times. He brought them for their shared theme of old people who have drifted out of the central river current into the slack water. Dropping both books onto the rock, he opened his journal to write. “Fiction comes in four categories:

1) Stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things to face extraordinary challenges, which seems to be the grist of most current movies.

2) Extraordinary people facing ordinary challenges.

3) Ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, which Hitchcock preferred.

4) Ordinary people facing ordinary challenges, which I prefer, but which is not in fashion in popular fiction.”

Assuming this is proper grist for your thoughts, which type(s) do you read most often?

Throw It on Dayton’s Wall and See If It Sticks

Today’s post comes from Northshorer.

The last time Sandy was in Dayton’s downtown, when it was still a Dayton’s, she looked up at a large photo mural on an upper floor and spotted herself in the photo. We were going to try to get there with our daughter and family to see it, but health issues prevented us before it closed. But a friend of hers took a photo of it and sent it to us.


Sandy is walking beside her friend Maggie. I will leave it to you to find them, which is rather easy to do. The photo was taken in about 1953 when they were in junior high. It was a big adventure for them to ride the bus downtown from the Camden Park neighborhood where they lived. Would parents allow that today? Sandy can tell stories about having to deal with sexual predators of various degrees, so perhaps the age was no more innocent than today.

There was something about the downtown, whether in a major city or a small town.

What exactly was it about downtowns that is absent from our culture today?

Keep Your Foot Paste off My Keyboard

Today’s post comes from Clyde.

Trying to help my fingers type better, I ordered a new keyboard from Amazon, one that has raised keys that clack like a typewriter. I may not have it long; Sandy has keyboard lust.

It came with two things that did not arouse my confidence in the product. The first was the little white plastic object that is the header picture for this post. My son figured out what it is. I will leave it to you to guess. The second was the warranty card, which is in this photograph.

Been a while since I have received mangled translation like this. How delightful.  I await my three bags of after-sales service.

What have you lost in translation: linguistic, cultural, generational, or political?