Category Archives: Nature

Storming the Bastille

I have had problems with insomnia since I was a child.  My current sleep pattern is to fall asleep easily, then wake up at about 3:00 am and not get to back to sleep until just before my alarm goes off at 6:30.

I know all the “sleep hygiene” and cognitive tricks for good sleep, but they often don’t work for me. I was gratified to read a recent New Yorker article on insomnia which described insomniacs’ cortisol levels  as so high as to look as though they are getting ready to storm the Bastille.

I know that anxiety and worry trigger the sympathetic nervous system to pump out high levels of chemicals which hinder sleep.  My anxiety and worry are all work related,  and I am hopeful that they will reduce over the next couple of weeks.  Until then, I think I will see if memorizing the lyrics to the Marseilles and repeating them over and over when I wake up at 3:00 will lull me to sleep once more.

How do you deal with insomnia? What puts you to sleep? What keeps you awake?

Baboon Dreams

I am not  proponent of analysing dream content for deep meanings.  If my dreams mean anything, they reflect my current degree of anxiety.  I had the funniest dream the other night, though, that I would like some Baboon help with interpretation. I should add that I had this dream  when I was particularly calm the night of Thanksgiving Day after a hectic month at work.

I was in a small house, at a party of some sort. Steve, Linda, LJB, Bill and other, obscured  Baboons were there. PJ arrived at the party with six enormous boxes of freshly picked garden peas still in their pods with vines attached. The boxes also had beautiful vases in them. While she doled them out to everyone, Bill was correcting my grammar in a very kind way as I spoke.

The scene shifted to a car with Steve and PJ. Steve was driving the car in a snow storm up a hill toward a group of building that were part of a college. It turned out to be a college I had attended. I took them around and introduced them to a psychology faculty member who is, in real life, an old college boyfriend from Buxton, ND who is a church organist and oboe player. He has never had anything to do with psychology. He was wearing academic robes.  We left the college and walked out in the snow, and Steve proceeded to explain the significance of various naturally formed snow and ice sculptures, Then I woke up.

That has to be the silliest dream on record. I have no idea what Freud would make of it.  I find it interesting that I dream about Baboons when I am  feeling  calm after hectic times.

If you were a psychoanalyst, what would you make of this dream? What is the silliest dream you ever had ?

Epiphanies

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

I once considered writing a book of personal memoir. The title was going to be Epiphanies. Not everyone is familiar with that word, which comes to us from the ancient Greeks. Epiphanies are those moments of sudden understanding in which a nagging problem is solved or a blazing new perception reveals itself. A less fancy definition would be “aha moments.” The word has special relevance to Christians, referring to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. My favorite example of epiphany in popular culture is that moment in The Miracle Worker when Anne Sullivan pumps water over the hands of little Helen Keller, teaching her how language is the key that will reveal the world to her.

For me, epiphanies are special, even magic. Of course, we all learn lessons as we experience our lives. Usually enlightenment appears after a slow, unremarkable, evolutionary process. Epiphanies, by contrast, surprise and shock us. Routine mental growth is like lighting a candle in the dark; epiphanies are more like skyrockets that explode to fill the skies with color and noise.

Epiphanies I experienced as a child are hard to date with precision. When I was a toddler—somewhere between three and five—my grandfather took me out for a treat. He bought us drumsticks, those ice cream novelties with wafer cones. Up until that moment delightful things seemed to appear and disappear randomly. But when Grandpa Clarence bought those drumsticks I realized that these and other treats existed all the time. They were part of the world. If you had this thing called money, you could exchange it for a drumstick. The world was more orderly and benign than I had understood before that moment.

I experienced an epiphany in third grade that I often remember. Our classroom had an American flag (just 48 stars back then). Large portraits of George Washington and Abe Lincoln hung on the walls. Our desks were bolted in place facing the teacher’s desk, which was mounted on a raised deck to allow her to look down on the little humans in her charge. Our teacher, Miss Maybe, called on a kid named Andy to deliver a report. Sitting in my desk on the right hand side of the classroom, halfway back, I grinned with relief. The voice in my head said, “Hey, that’s Andy up there, not you! He has to give a report and you do not. He’s Andy. You’re Steve. You aren’t Andy, and you don’t have to give a report!” I’ve always wondered if most people have a particular blazing moment when they realized they are a unique consciousness, not part of a larger group.

Not all epiphanies are so fun to remember. In the first year of my marriage, my erstwife and I spent a winter month housesitting the home of Arthur Naftalin, then the mayor of Minneapolis. On a sub-zero February afternoon my parents drove all the way in from their Orono home to visit us. After a delightful meal they left, walking down the steep driveway to where they had left their car parked on the street. I stood at a living room picture window to watch. When they turned up the sidewalk, my mother and father spotted me. As if they had rehearsed this move for weeks, they turned, smiled radiantly, raised their hands and waved goodbye, each one mirroring exactly the expression and movements of the other. Tears shot out of my eyes, and I staggered back into the privacy of the living room so my parents wouldn’t see me crying. Something about the moment—the crazy synchronicity of their goodbye waves—made me realize these two people I loved so much would someday exit my life forever. Of course, I had always known my parents would likely precede me in death. That abstract, dry fact became a moment of scorching awareness when they waved goodbye that afternoon.

Do you experience epiphanies? Can you share examples?

Leaf Vortex Conspiracy

YA and her boyfriend raked the leaves yesterday. If you live in the Twin Cities you’ll be saying to yourself at this point “the last yard waste pick up was two weeks ago – why did she wait so long”.  Well, I’ll tell you why.  I live next door to the tree that waits until every other tree in Southwest Minneapolis has dropped its leaves to start shedding its own foliage.  Every. Single. Year.

In addition, we live in a leaf vortex, right in the middle of the block. My neighbors to the south routinely have 5-6 bags of leaves, my neighbors to the north 4-5 bags.  My house this year – 20 bags.  I really think that my neighbors have figured out a way to get their leaves to blow into my yard at this time of year.

It doesn’t help that I detest leaf raking. Actually that’s not quite true.  I don’t mind the raking part.  It’s the bagging part I don’t like, especially now that we have to use paper bags; the paper bags are so unwieldy and hard to fill.  This is kinda how I feel about yardwork… I don’t mind the work, I just hate the clean up.  A perfect gardening day is when YA follows me about and bags up all the weeds and detritus from my work!

Anything you’re sure of, even if it doesn’t make sense?

 

Leaf Pile Loss

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

Have you ever lost your cell phone? If so, you know what it feels like to lose all contact with the outside world. A friend installed an ap on my computer recently called “Find my iPhone”. All you have to do is open this feature and it’ll make the phone sound alarms. I mistakenly thought I’d be home free with this feature, but without my phone, I couldn’t read what my password was in my contact list!

Today, I completed five days of blowing leaves into three very large piles – 3′ high and 15′ wide. Lots of leaves . Somewhere in one of those huge piles, my cell phone fell out of my pocket. Panic set in at the prospect of digging through the gigantic piles to find it.

It then occurred to me to then email a whole bunch of people, hoping one of them was home, labeling the subject EMERGENCY, and asking him/her to call my number until I answered it.

Mary, thank God, started calling me as I waited outside in the hopes of hearing the ring. It was like the old game of “Hot or Cold”. I frantically tried to follow the ringing. It took a few minutes to find it but not before tearing apart much of the work I’d done.  Last winter, I dropped my cell phone in a 2’ deep snowfall and had to dig up a lot of snow to find it. That time, I walked out to the country road, flagged down a car, and asked the driver if he’d call my number until I found it in the snow. He kindly did this.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s to never have my phone on me when blowing or snowing.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU LOST YOUR PHONE?

Are You Batty?

I’ll bet you didn’t realize that October is National Bat Appreciation Month, or that October 24-31 is Bat Week http://www.batcon.org/ . I learned this when I clicked on Tuesday’s bing.com photo https://www4.bing.com/search?q=Common+pipistrelle+bat&form=hpcapt&filters=HpDate:%2220181030_0700%22 

 where I learned that bats:

– help us by devouring tons of insects and forest pests

– and by pollinating some of our favorite fruits

– are one of the largest and longest living species on earth

– the smallest bat – called appropriately enough Bumblebee Bat – has a body about 1 inch long

– white-nosed syndrome has decimated some bat populations since being identified in 2006

When I checked in my Mammals in Minnesota Field Guide (by Stan Tekiela), I found that Minnesota hosts both the Big and Little Brown Bats, the Northern Myotis, and the Red, Silver-Haired, and Hoary Bats.

– these live 15-20 years – females often gather in “maternity colonies” of between 30 and 75 bats, depending on species

– some species live in holes in trees or even under bark, and either migrate or hibernate in winter

– others make their summer homes in attics, church steeples, barns and other buildings; spend winters in caves and mines

– most Minnesota bats are between 1-1/2” and 4”, with wingspans between 8” and 16”

Bats are our friends. One way to help them is to build or buy a bat box, giving them a safe place to roost:

http://www.batcon.org/resources/getting-involved/bat-houses

Got any bat stories? What actor played your favorite Batman, or your favorite Count Dracula?