flowers, photography

Poinsettia on Thanksgiving Day?

Tho sad that Xmas activities keep moving earlier and have intruded on Thanksgiving, I bought an irresistible poinsettia prematurely.  Then I noticed that it fits in with Thanksgiving after all.
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While shopping for food on the Monday before Thanksgiving Day in 2019, I noticed an especially good poinsettia with the salmon pink leaves edged in pale yellow that I like.  Too early for a Xmas decoration?  Yeah, but this plant’s not so glaringly out of season as the older choices of bright red or stark white.

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In the morning on Thanksgiving Day itself, the plant looked even better and insisted on being photographed.  Between shots, I noticed ways that the plant fits in with giving thanks after all.

  1. I can spend an unplanned $4 at the market w/o skimping on necessities.  (This was not always true.)
  2. The builtin flash on a modern camera is sometimes useful.  (Yes, I have an external flash.)
    poinsettia-pnk-grn-flash_840x598
  3. I can still shoot at 1/20 sec in available light w/o needing a tripod.  (The colors seen at the time were between what the images show.)
    poinsettia-pnk-grn_840x625
  4. I still live among people who accept the diversity symbolized by this poinsettia variety.  Marxists, racists, sexists, and tribalists all pretend that knowing where somebody fits into their categories tells U most of what’s important about that person.  Not so.
    poinsettia-diversity_840x650

Yes, I am posting this small Thanksgiving celebration a little late.  One reason is that I let things rest a while and then edit again before publishing.  The other reason is that the wheels turn slowly at my age.  That they still turn is yet another reason to give thanks.

 

haiku, photography, serendipity

Between Seasons in 2019

Where I live, 11-19 is usually too late for fall colors and too early for snowflakes.  Recent past and near future met when Fortune smiled on an out-of-season CDHK challenge posted 2019-11-14.
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Carpe Diem #1781 The Quest For A New Masterpiece Continues … colorful autumn

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Between Seasons #1
|Lost autumn colors,
|but garden flag remembers.
|Snow on power lines.

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The rules and examples for this challenge allow marking the cut with punctuation and tweaking the cut when swapping the initial and final lines.  Let’s do that.

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Between Seasons #2
|Snow on power lines.
|But garden flag remembers
|lost autumn colors.

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enlightenment, ethics, fiction, humor, photography

Satori from a Consulting Gig

The who and how of sudden enlightenment might transcend ordinary logic.  To illustrate my short story about a weird instance of satori, I edited a NASA image formed by combining data from five telescopes.  While the image is for real, the story is neither the literal truth nor a bogus claim to tell it.
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Management consultant Frank Dow showed no surprise at the new client’s evident desire for a genuine consultation rather than a canned endorsement of plans already made.  Though unusual, the client’s sincerity was still less surprising than the client’s identity.  The client was God.  Dow listened intently as God began to describe His problem:

“Forget any twaddle you may have heard about omnipotence and omniscience.  The universe is too immense and diverse to be micromanaged, even by Me.  Roughly speaking, I built a big machine and let it run.  But it’s not boringly deterministic.  The universe is all about probabilities.”

As God continued, the proud-parent joy in his voice was clear:

“The probability that a randomly chosen planet will be suitable for life to appear at all is tiny.  The probability that creatures with any ability to understand and appreciate the universe will evolve is tinier still, but not exactly zero.  On the other hand, there are a lot of planets in the universe.  There’s no need to crunch the numbers right now.  The bottom line is that a few planets luck out.  On your little blue planet, life thrived and your species evolved advanced abilities to observe and learn, to imagine and reason, to build bridges and write poems.”

With joy replaced by sadness and frustration now, God explained what He hoped Dow could provide:

“While I mostly let things run, I am not absolutely hands-off when a planet has intelligent life that blunders into being cruel or stupid.  I nudge them in good directions by inspiring a few of them.  In your planet’s case, I have had a little success and a lot of failure.  I keep it simple and age appropriate, but they oversimplify half of what I tell them and obfuscate the rest.  The Golden Rule gets through as something to proclaim but not as something to practice.  Absurdly, much of what they think has been revealed to them is just their own bigotry and bullshit.  The way they distort My message is so alien to the corporate culture here that nobody has a clue about how to handle it.  As someone who is closer to the problem without being part of it, you may be able to help us.”

Given a temporary office with read access to the case histories (and full access to a plentiful supply of coffee and nutritious snacks), Dow went to work.  A recurrent pattern emerged:

Inspirations that did not fizzle attracted disciples, often with authoritarian personalities.  Authoritarian disciples misinterpreted God’s nudges and stridently claimed they could speak for God on all kinds of topics, now and forever.  Many of those who were strident were also willing to coerce people they could not convince.  Many of those who were willing to coerce were also willing to kill people they could not coerce.

Poring over the case histories was depressing, but Dow kept at it (with the able assistance of good coffee and good snacks).  Eventually, he was ready to offer God a suggestion:

“I believe there is a personnel issue here.  You have been inspiring people who mean well but score high on credulity and low on humor.  Maybe it would help to go outside the box.  For example, You could inspire a nerdy atheist who digs sacred music and pushes the envelope of haiku poetry.”

God was skeptical: “Does anybody like that exist?”

Frank Dow smiled the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile that sometimes appeared when he was moonlighting as a Zen master.  He leaned forward and spoke softly: “Does anybody like You exist?”

At that moment, God attained enlightenment.

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Sources

How to illustrate the concept of satori?  For this post, I cropped a NASA image of the Crab Nebula and told the Retouching tab in my photo editor that each star was a blemish to be removed.  If there is intelligent life on any planets orbiting those stars, I hope that nobody will be mad at me for dissing their sun.  Oh well, it’s a big universe.  I will be long gone before they have a chance to find out.

In its present form, this post’s story first appeared in Volume 1 of The Rabbit Hole, an annual anthology of weird stories.  None of the stories there are illustrated, and I had no good ideas for an illustration anyway.  How I came to write a story about God hiring a consultant whose recommendations are outside the box is yet another story, somewhat weird but entirely true.

haiku, humor, photography

Fall Frolic

October is Chores Can Wait Month.  I took a short walk that inspired a haiku, but the chore gremlins got their revenge when the haiku generated yet another chore.  That’s OK.  Writing about the nuts and bolts of haiku beats raking leaves.
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Fall Frolic #1
|Dancing on the breeze,
|ignorant of gravity:
|red leaf in blue sky.

Nuts and Bolts

My haiku has “#1” in its title to distinguish it from a similar haiku Fall Frolic #2.  I prefer #1.  Why bother with #2 at all?  The answer to that question helps answer some others.

Fall Frolic #1 implicitly poses a riddle, then provides the answer.  Who is the ignorant dancer?  More subtly, why is (s)he said to be dancing “on” (not “in” or “with”) the breeze?  The basic structure is the same as in Jane Reichold’s classic

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Haiku © Jane Reichold superimposed on
Photo © Vladlena Azima | ShutterStock

Now consider swapping the initial and final lines of my riddle haiku:

Fall Frolic #2
|Red leaf in blue sky,
|ignorant of gravity:
|dancing on the breeze.

While #2 describes the same scene #1, it lacks the suspense and resolution of the riddle structure.  While both versions work, #1 works better.  I still owe U an explanation: why bother with #2 at all?

The first draft for what eventually became #1 had initial and final lines that were very close to the corresponding lines in #2.  The middle line had an entirely different way of hinting that the leaf’s freedom is a temporary illusion, between being stuck on the tree and stuck on the ground.  The first draft’s hint would have been too obscure w/o either an appropriate picture or the explicit scene setting done by the initial line in #2.

Already unhappy with the first draft’s middle line, I swapped initial and final lines on a whim.  The resulting riddle structure was motivation to get serious about clarifying the middle line.

Some haiku poets strive to have the initial and final lines be interchangeable.  Unless I am responding to a challenge calling for haiku that work just as well when the initial and final lines are swapped, I usually do not consider swapping.  Too gimmicky and arcane.  But a swap while revising might help answer the eternal writers’ questions

Am I saying what I want to say?

Am I saying it clearly?

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haiku, humor, photography

Gray Squirrel

North American gray squirrels are famously good at raiding “squirrel-proof” bird feeders.  At best, the obstacles persuade most squirrels to look elsewhere (most of the time).  Dunno about Japanese squirrels, but they do have a tradition to uphold.
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Carpe Diem #1765 Squirrel …

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Gurērisu
|Jump! Grab! Swing hips up!
|Nimble ninja hogs the seeds.
|Birds have a long wait.

haiku, humor

And So It Goes

When I posted an ant haiku in 2016, I had no appropriate image and did not know the Japanese word [ensō].  My response to a CDHK prompt for an ant haiku embellishes the haiku from 2016 with a new image based on a freehand circle.  Ensō it goes.
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Carpe Diem #1764 Ants …

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Kiss Overlay © OlyaTropinina | 123RF Stock Photo

Mission Accomplished?
|Ant with wings staggers,
|then dies. Did I see him smirk?
|Had he banged a queen?

haiku, humor, photography

Enemy of My Enemy

To a female mosquito, I look like lunch: a big bag of nice warm blood.  So the mosquito is my enemy.  But I also have a friend.  My haiku about their interaction could respond to a prompt for either the friend or the enemy.
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Carpe Diem #1762 Mosquitoes …

One day in 2015, I happened to arrange my lunch veggies so as to look a little like a dragonfly, with snow peas as wings.  Hmmm.  Maybe I could pull more veggies from the fridge and make an arrangement that looks a lot like a dragonfly to me.  (No real dragonfly would be fooled.)  This little project reminded me that a dragonfly is the enemy of my enemy, and thus my friend.

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What’s for Lunch?
|Mosquitoes in flight
|are seen as meat on the hoof
|by a dragonfly.