Category Archives: Mysteries

The Water Tower

I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for forty years.  Not that this had made me an expert, but every now and then I feel a little sheepish about what I don’t know.

On Christmas Day YA and I drove to Hudson to have dinner with friends.  These friends just moved to Hudson in June, so this was the first time we would visit them in their new home.  I let YA put the address into my phone’s GPS.  YA has been on a campaign to change my GPS of choice from Google Maps to some other direction-finder.  She is convinced that my difficulties with Google will be solved with this new app (I am constantly confused when Google changes the perspective while I’m driving; oftentimes I think I have more time before a turn and then suddenly Google zooms in and I’m either missing the turn or swerving quickly to make it.)

The fact of using GPS is a little frustrating to me.  As a teenager, driving all over the suburbs of St. Louis, I don’t ever remember getting lost or turned around; I certainly didn’t have a city map that I consulted.  I’ve thought about this a lot over the years as I’m pretty sure my penchant for getting turned around is getting worse as time goes by.   And what I’ve come to is that GPS is what’s making it worse.  Prior to the internet and GPS, if you went to a friend’s new house, you’d call them up and ask for directions.  You’d usually get a mix of “go two miles, then turn left at the Shell station, then go four blocks and turn left on Discovery Street, we’re the fifth house in on the left, white with green trim.”  This seems highly sensible to me.  Now I just turn when I’m told; I’m not keeping track of how many miles or blocks I’m going and not paying attention to what’s on the corner when I’m turning. 

Anyway, the new app that YA likes shows where there are traffic signals along the way.  It also shows some landmarks (although not helpful in terms of where to turn).  As we were driving over the 94 bridge toward St. Paul, I noticed the GPS noting “The Witches Hat Water Tower”.  I looked up and there it was – as clear as day over the trees – and definitely living up to its name.  The water tower, which sits in Prospect Park, was built in 1913, designed by Norwegian-born architect Frederick William Cappelen. 

I used to work in St. Paul so I used to drive over the 94 bridge 10 times a week, not to mention all the other times I’ve driven that direction over the decades.  I have not once noticed that there is a water tower that looks like a witch’s hat.  Not once.   I’m thinking that maybe I should keep using the app that YA prefers – who knows what else I’ll find!

Once you’ve driven someplace, do you remember how to get there the next time?

Never Enough Dragons

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned dragon books.  Right after that, one of them came up for check-out at the library – Here, There be Dragons by James Owens.  It’s part of a series called Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica and true to it’s title, we had imaginary creatures (dragons) on the first page. 

As the story unfolded we also got references to King Arthur, Captain Nemo, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, trolls, dwarves, centaurs, Pandora’s box, Stonehenge and, of course, talking badgers.  Although the story starts out in WWI London, almost all of the story takes places in the “archipelago of dreams”, a world which is apparently one of many alternative realities. 

As the first in a series, this one was a little bogged down by all the explanatory bits related by various characters, but the fascinating weaving of all kinds of myths and stories into the plot was just enough to keep me going as well as the quote: “Did he now?” said Charles as a smile began to cheshire over his face.”  That alone was enough to make me want to pick up the next volume.  And no spoiler alerts but the last chapter was worth its weight in gold, in terms of pulling together the strands of the story and leaving you with a tingling feeling that you should have known it all along.

If you could make one fantasy/imaginary place come alive, what would it be?

Lipstick

Most mornings YA and I share our schedules with each other.  Not specific details down to the hour but general “what I have on my plate for the day” schedules.  On Saturday morning, YA told me she was going to the gym and running a couple of errands.  

I was finishing up cookies and after about an hour I realized that not only had she not left the house, but that I could hear the hair dryer running upstairs.  I was a little surprised as I would never shower and do my hair and makeup (not that I ever wear makeup) before going to work out at the gym.  I always save the shower for AFTER the workout.  I shook my head at what the younger generation gets up to.

It occurred to me that every generation shakes its head at the younger one but then I thought about my mother.  When I was growing up, my mother’s standard lipstick color was flaming red.  If she ever wore another color back then, I wasn’t aware.  And she did not go out in public without it.  I have a very clear memory (probably because it happened so often) of her applying a fresh layer of lipstick in the rearview mirror of the car before getting out to run whatever errand was on her agenda. 

So here am I, stuck between the rearview mirror lipstick application and the showering before the gym generations.  I’m guessing that YA probably has a long list of my actions that she just doesn’t understand.

Any habits of yours that another generation just doesn’t get?

Light My Fire

In searching for something on my laptop last week, I came across a list of books about dragons.  Looks like I made this list six or seven years ago (last time it was saved was six years back) and I’ve read a few of the books on the list since then.  I’d completely forgotten that I had this list.

Dragons, of course, are widely varied in literature.  My least favorite kind are the mindless, evil dragons (think Smaug in The Hobbit).  I prefer intelligent dragons who can communicate if they choose (like Ramoth in Dragonflight or Temeraire in the Novik series).  My current car is named after a dragonrider of Pern (Brekke – one of the rare dragonriders who can communicate with all dragons, not just their own). 

I also like dragons who adore treasure – not sure why, maybe because it’s such a longstanding bit of dragonlore that it feels right when it is included.  It’s interesting that the Greek dragons who were set to guarding treasure have morphed into beings who lust after gold, diamonds and jewels.  Of course I also read somewhere once that gold is a good conductor of magical energy and that dragons NEED it to exist. 

The biggest problem with this list is that I have already reached the limit of books that I can have on hold at the library – with probably be at least a week before that changes.  Hopefully in a week, I’ll remember I have this list of books I want to read! Maybe I’ll start yet another tab on my reading spreadsheet.

Tell me about a mythical animal that you think might improve our world if it existed!  Or just if you have a favorite mythical animal.

Drive-Up

I have a dear friend whose husband is dealing with a serious, life-shortening illness.  She’s been away from her home for over a month now while he’s been at Mayo and they are looking down the barrel of a long series of treatments.  I visited her on Sunday and she told me that she had woken up the day before with a better attitude.  Apparently another friend of hers had just been to a funeral for an infant who had died of SIDs.  The realization that there were other tragic things going and if others are getting through their horrible stuff, she could too.   It’s not an easy thing to do – try to find some balance in the face of trauma and grief.  And the last two years have certainly given us plenty of that.  a

It seems pathetic to suggest that pandemic has brought us anything good, but as I was thinking about all this, I placed an order at Target for pick-up.  You select your items on the app, pay for it online, tell the app when you’re leaving for Target and when you get there.  Then you sit in your car and they bring it out to you.  Easy peasy.  You can wear your sweatpants, you can have spilled your lunch on your shirt, you don’t have to comb your hair and better yet, you don’t have to search for a parking spot and you don’t have to go in the store!  There is yet one more advantage – no impulse shopping; if all you need is grenadine and diet pop, that’s all you get.  No cookies or chips off an endcap!

While I cannot wait for us to be able to say we’re looking at pandemic in the rear-view mirror, I am hoping that the drive-up option remains.  I am so addicted already.

Any other silver linings you can think of these days?

Great Ideas, Lost

Husband and I have 4×6 inch note pads lying around all over our house. Husband is an inveterate list maker. I want to have pencil and paper handy whenever a potential blog topic comes to me.

I decided to straighten up a bit last weekend, and I found a bunch of blog topics listed on the note pads that I can’t, for the life of me, remember what I was thinking when I wrote them down. Here are a few examples:

Hydrologic Engineer

Dentures

The Ludicrous Life

What Would Ian Altman Think

Naps

Wondrous Vs Wonderful Life

Boccherini at work

I think I need to put a few more details about what I am thinking instead of just writing the topic or title.

How is your memory these days? Come up with some esoteric blog topics. Looking at the above listed ideas I forgot about, what questions would you pair with them?

By Any Other Name

Tofurkey calls it a sausage.  I call it a brat.  But despite the fact that we’ve been eating them for years, when YA went to the store last week, she came home without them because I had written “brats” on the list and the product on the shelf said “sausage”.  Sigh. 

I grew up without sausage or brats.  Bacon and hot dogs were our porks of choice; I don’t know why.  I actually had never even heard of a brat until I was married and moved to Milwaukee.  By that time I was a vegetarian so never delved too deeply but has always seemed to me that a brat is just a fat hot dog.  Go ahead… pile on. 

Tofurkey’s Italian sausage is a brat to me, because if it were sausage, in my world it would be smaller and something I might have for breakfast.  But according to YA she didn’t put it in the basket because it didn’t say brat.  I won’t say we actually argued about this, but it was the first time in a long while that I’ve gotten to roll MY eyes.

Is a hot dog in a bun a sandwich?

Misery Loves Company

“Cyril, a good judge of human mood, nudged gently at his side.  Canine body language for “I understand”.  Dogs understood misery.”

This is a quote from The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith.  It’s a fabulous little book that I’m about half way through.  But quote above is in the first chapter.  Bertie, who is seven, is disconsolate over having to attend a mostly-girls birthday part.  Cyril is the next-door neighbor’s dog.  When I read this, I was immediately reminded of a time when I was about seven and was completely heartbroken over something.  I don’t remember what the issue was but I do have a snapshot in my memory of sitting on the wide stairs of my home and crying as if there were no tomorrow. 

While I cried, our family dog, Princess (aka Princess the Wonder Dog) crept over quietly and sat down beside me.  She laid her head in my lap and I clutched her to me as I bawled.  I remember this as if it happened yesterday – the feel of her clearly sympathizing with my misery.  It’s true – dogs understand misery. 

I can’t wait to finish this book; I’m assuming there may be some other nuggets that will speak to me.

Do you remember when you found out the truth about Santa Claus?

Hello – Goodbye

I had a hard decision last week.

Even though the last thing I really need in my life is another dessert cookbook, I could not resist Frosted by Bernice Beren.  It presents some more complicated techniques than the usual sweets cookbook but in a way that made it seem like I could take them on. 

But you know my rule.  The cookbook shelves are full – if a new cookbook comes in, something has to go.  This has been easier in the past but it took me a few days to finally choose.  I have a handful of cookbooks that I have never used (not even once) but because they are cookbooks from my travels, they have always been protected by the “something has to go” rule.  For many years I would pick up a cookbook while on trips but most of them have just sat on the shelf for all these years as a testament to where I’ve been.  The Hawaii cookbook is a case in point.  It wasn’t very expensive and had a pretty little cover, but I’ve never made one darn thing out of it.  Hawaiian food isn’t one of my favorites and this particular little cookbook is mostly meat and fish recipes. 

When selecting a “to-go” cookbook in the past I’ve always felt like I shouldn’t oust a travel cookbook.  Having them felt like a statement.  But last week when trying to decide I realized that nobody stands back there in the breakfast room reading through all these titles.  I’m not making a statement to anybody but myself.  And I certainly don’t need an unused cookbook to do that.  Even if I don’t remember where I’ve been, I actually have a world map (in the very same room) with push pins of all the places I’ve visited around the globe!  (This is not the first time I’ve had a revelation about keeping books around for the statement I think they make, but the first time I’ve applied it to my cookbook collection)

So the Hawaii cookbook is going to a new home in my friend’s Little Library.  I expect some of the other travel cookbooks will also make an exit one of these days, although Scandinavian Cooking (from my Baltic cruise) and The Africa Café (from my first trip to Capetown) will stay, since I have used them repeatedly!

Anything you’re hanging onto because of a statement it makes?

Little Cat Feet

Now that the dark is hanging around a bit more in the morning, I don’t really notice the outside work until I step onto the back porch.  Last week, I left the house early, about 6:15 a.m. and as I pulled out of the driveway realized that there are a lot of fog.  Living in the city as I do, this is an unusual occurrence and combined with the dark and traffic-less streets, was quite eerie.

As I was driving along (pretty slowly), it made me think about how often I’ve seen fog described in poetry.  Of course, the most famous is probably Carl Sandberg:

Fog
The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

And I also remember a couple of different fog poems by Sara Teasdale that I like:

Gray Fog
A FOG drifts in, the heavy laden
Cold white ghost of the sea—
One by one the hills go out,
The road and the pepper-tree.
I watch the fog float in at the window

With the whole world gone blind,
Everything, even my longing, drowses,
Even the thoughts in my mind.
I put my head on my hands before me,

There is nothing left to be done or said,
There is nothing to hope for, I am tired,
And heavy as the dead.

White Fog
Heaven-invading hills are drowned
In wide moving waves of mist,
Phlox before my door are wound
In dripping wreaths of amethyst.

Ten feet away the solid earth
Changes into melting cloud,
There is a hush of pain and mirth,
No bird has heart to speak aloud.
Here in a world without a sky,
Without the ground, without the sea,
The one unchanging thing is I,
Myself remains to comfort me.

A quick search on the internet turns up tons of fog poems.  I haven’t done any research whatsoever but I wonder if there are more fog poems than thunderstorm poems or sunshine poems?

Then as I kept driving, I realized that I don’t know one darn SONG about fog.

Anybody?