Friday, August 24, 2018

When We have this Dance, it Rains

Photos this week are from Hovenweep National Monument 

I am continuing to push myself  through Ancient Peoples of the Southwest by Stephen Plog. His focus is mostly south of places we visited, which makes it harder to picture, but gives me a few more locations for future plans.

I've reached the point in history when the places we think of as ruins were left behind and people moved to the pueblos that are still occupied today. Archaeologists look for signs of drought and conflict. The descendants of these people say it was simply time for them to move on.

I was touched by a quote from Don Talayesva, a Hopi Sun Chief, about how new clans were integrated into villages:

              Other peoples began to arrive. Whenever a new clan came, a member of the party would
              go to the chief and ask for permission to settle in the village. The Chief usually inquired
              whether they were able to produce rain. If they had any means of doing this, they would
              say, "yes, this and this we have, and when we assemble for this ceremony or when we
              have this dance, it rains. With this we have been traveling and taking care of our children."
              The Chief would then admit them to the village.

It made me think about what I bring to my village. I cannot produce rain. I'm not great at pottery or baskets either, but I can knit.

(This might be problematic in a Hopi village where spinning and weaving is man's work.)

I can also write and tell stories. I spoke briefly at my church two weeks ago. I write this blog and share my podcast.

I don't think this contribution would get me admitted. Maybe my ability to do laundry almost every day of every week and to load the dishwasher daily would be valued more.

I cannot produce rain, but someone near us can. It started as hail, then melted into a downpour that flooded my in-law's basement and threatened mine.

My husband and sons dug a trench next to the sidewalk to channel the water in a safer direction. Meanwhile, the dog and I stood by stupidly as if communal wetness was a contribution to the labor.

Once we were safe, my sweetheart and Oldest took the shop vac to Grandma's to help with the mess there while Youngest checked the sky and the trench every ten minutes to make sure our home remained safe.

We cannot produce rain, but we have managed to teach our children to take care of their parents.

THE PODCAST Is about a famous Dickinson poem, "A Bird Came Down the Walk." It is a cute description of nature, but I had a hard time getting into it until I found "’Tis not that Dying hurts us so—’Tis Living—hurts us more—." I'm feeling that this week. This cheerful little number goes on to compare death to migration, so there is a bird tie-in.

THE KNITTING is a bit better. I finished my goat sweater. There was one day that my eyes started itching and I was afraid my mohair allergy was acting up, but it may have been due to sunflower pollen because I haven't had a problem since. It is currently drying and looking quite nice. If I try to wear it and just can't because the fuzziness makes me crazy, I guess I'll put it up for sale, but with lots of warnings.

I've also started knitting my "Christmas cards." The plan is to give knit ornaments to anyone I would give cards to. The sheep are from other people's patterns, available on Because they are not my design, it would be wrong to sell them in my shop. If you want one, you may have to bring me cookies.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Time Travel, Truth, and a Tens Machine

Wupatki National Monument Near Flagstaff, Arizona

Not eager for the future (health insurance, disability hearing, unemployment for my sweetheart), I've tried diving into the past. Two time periods are in my sights--June's wonderful vacation and the 1000-1300 AD time period when the Archaic Pueblo sites we visited were thriving towns. I'm trying to reach both by reading Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest by Stephen Plog. 

So far, it is a struggle. Although not technically academic writing, this book sure feels that way to my addled and idled brain. I feel like I'm getting lots of information on climate patterns and dating techniques. These are important to understanding how and when people where able to thrive in this difficult area, but I''m wanting to know more of what archaeology has a hard time telling--what was daily life like for people? I want to know what they wore and ate, how they spent their time, what their religion was like. 

The book is only beginning to describe the time periods of sites we visited, so there is a lot yet to learn. I will need to seek out newer books as well. This one is from 1997. I keep forgetting that the nineties were a long time ago, back when my now-adult babies were born.

I've found a source for very current archaeological topics through the Archaeology Podcast Network. The shows are intelligent and there is one focused on Native American perspectives, so I can hope they will eventually cover topics I want to learn about.

For future travels, I probably need to investigate Hopi tribal information to seek web pages and museums sponsored by the living descendants of these people who may be qualified to speculate. 

The Museum of Northern Arizona, which we hope to spend lots of time visiting in the future, may be able to link me up with some good sources of information as well. They do a better job than the federal parks themselves at describing both the history and the geology of the region. They also seem to be working with Native Americans to obtain information on the past and the present.

One issue from the past that may require a time machine to resolve is the purpose of the ball pits at some of the Southwestern sites.

Sadly not the germ-ridden ball-pits I let my kids drool in, these are actually ball courts similar to ones found as far north as the Colorado Plateau and as far south as Maya areas in Central America. Since so many pueblos had them, Archaeologists think the game had to have deeper meaning than just a game. Maybe there was a religious, status, or trade element to the ball games.


I'm a Mormon. Most of our church buildings in the US, and many world wide have basketball courts inside. The courts fill one purpose of a large multipurpose room we call the "cultural hall." This room is used for wedding receptions, talent shows, scout meetings--anything that requires a big room. It also serves as overflow space for our chapels. 

As back-row worshippers, my family has been praying under a basketball hoop for years. I would love to travel to the future and see what archeologists guess about the religious or community status purpose of basketball may be .

Though I keep trying to make things up, I have yet to find the relationship. 

If there is anything sacred about basketball, BYU is sinful in its emphasis on football. 

While reading, I have been playing with my brand new tens-machine to see if it can do anything to help my locked-up shoulder muscles. Throughout my first three 80 minute sessions, I wasn't sure anything was happening at all. I didn't feel anything resembling a massage, but thought maybe the electricity was doing something. Finally I dropped the machine. accidentally changing the setting, and actually felt something. 

I can now program in 8o minutes of pounding and vibrations. It is at least distracting from pain while the program runs, but I'm not sure it is any more effective than stretching. 

THE PODCAST this week is on a poem called, "Before I got my eye put out." It is about how cautious the speaker is now about the vision that remains.

THE KNITTING consists of a sweater made from most of the rest of the recycled yarn from my Shakespeare adventure. 

I'll need to work up a Christmas inventory soon, but will probably start the fuzzy goat sweater first .

I also need to get a lot of stuff listed in my shop.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hope is a Non-native, Invasive Species

In her famous poem, Emily Dickinson paints hope as a positive, necessary life force. But I've found hope can also be dangerous. For me, hope can easily grow into wishful, even magical thinking.
Supposedly, a Shakespeare fan imported starlings.

We married young and poor and made money mistakes that made things worse. My contribution to those mistakes was mostly hoping that a check would come in the mail, maybe even a winning sweepstakes check. I entered all the sweepstakes, surely a small win was inevitable. We don't have enough money to buy this right now, but surely a check is on the way.

To save our budget and our marriage, I had to pull that sort of hope out by the roots. I now consider it a nuisance, something unwanted and out of place, like starlings, raccoons or kudzu.

Butter-and-eggs, pretty wildflower supposedly out of place.
Magical-thinking hope troubles everyone living with health problems or caring for someone with such problems. Everyone hopes for a miracle cure.

Each new biologic I try might be the one that doesn't only allow me to function a couple hours a day with a lot of pain meds, but really turns my life around, a miracle.

But miracles are miraculous precisely because they almost never happen.

I'm on this topic because something unusual happened at my latest rheumatologist visit. As usual, I gave a run-down of my aches and pains. The definition of both rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia is that everything hurts and always will, so I wasn't expecting anything new.

But after I described the shooting pain I'm having in both shoulders and arms, my doctor said that wasn't caused directly by either of my issues. Knowing we are facing employment/insurance changes, he booked me for the soonest possible MRI appointment.
My sweetheart said "no" to the goat. Maybe a cane toad?

Apparently I'm not horribly claustrophobic because the MRI wasn't bad. Lying still with my head and legs slightly elevated is one of my favorite hobbies. The room was pleasantly cool in contrast to the cozy heated blanket that covered my feet.

It was noisy, and not the whirring sorts of noise I expected, but a lot of irregular pounding, like someone was using a sledge hammer to test the acoustic properties of different parts of the machine. But I taught middle school for 25 years. Noise is fine if I don't have to control it.
Dyer's woad makes pretty blue dye, but takes over range land. 

The next step was to wait and try to stomp down sprouts of unrealistic hope. My worst fear is the most likely answer. I have one more painful situation that there isn't a cure for, but hey, aspirin helps some people.

My first extreme hope was the MRI would reveal something so weird and obvious that the imaging tech would say something, but he was a total pro.

Magical thinking hope was that something could be done to allow me to sleep without having to choose which pulsing shoulder to lie on. Ideally something that won't involve surgery on or near my spine.

I've always wished someone would discover a rare deficiency that causes all of my problems and if I simply took some supplement all would be well. (It happened on House all the time.)

Possums: okay in Australia, invasive in New Zealand.
But continual hope comes with repeated disappointment. I do best with acceptance. Acceptance and a gentler type of hope.

I can safely hope to feel a bit better after a nap. I can hope to have a good day after a bad day. I can hope there will always be one more biologic that will slow my disease and prevent the extreme crippling that once happened to people with RA.

Actual results are worse than my worst fear--no  answer. My spine is fine but there is some narrowing of the nerve corridor at C5. After I answered the nurse with a hesitant, "Okay?" She clarified that if pain continues I should see a spine specialist and they will forward the MRI data to him. (I assume they think I know that doesn't mean chiropractor.)

There isn't time on the current insurance to see a specialist. As pain continues, I'll figure out how to navigate the new insurance.

In the meantime, I've ordered a tens machine. My sister recommended some exercises that helped her for tennis elbow and I followed them to exercises that should help with rotator cup issues. I'll try to help myself for a while.
Ballerinas were once non-native. I'll let you judge whether or not they are invasive

THE PODCAST is, surprisingly, about joy, which Emily Dickinson portrays by seeing herself as a ballerina. I've taught enough ballerinas (in my English class) to know how hard they work to look light and effortless, so if I was to imagine myself joyous, I'd probably be a golden retriever chasing a ball.

A much sweeter non-native invasive than I am

THE KNITTING consists mainly of secret presents, and my arms haven't allowed much progress otherwise, so I don't have much to show you, but I did finish spinning my goaty yarn, I should just have enough for a short sleeved sweater. It will be fuzzy and very warm. Dare I hope for winter this year?

Friday, August 3, 2018

My World's on Fire; How 'bout Yours?

All fire photos available at KSL News

Goose Creek fire in Utah
The American West is burning. Strangely, this is to some degree normal. Range fires and forest fires, usually started by lightning, burned large dry patches of the west every summer before Europeans arrived, maybe even before people arrived.

But it's getting worse.

Human negligence has long contributed to the problem through untended campfires, dropped cigarettes, fireworks, and heat and sparks from machinery.

But a more collective form of human negligence is increasing the problem--global warming is becoming a big factor. Cold places like the Arctic and Antarctic are getting warmer. Wet places like Ireland are experiencing unusual dry spells.

Millard County
Part of our fire problem is heat; summer is longer and hotter now. But the biggest factor is drought. Much of this country has always been a desert to begin with, but the dryer the vegetation is, and the sooner the landscape turns from green to brown, the more susceptible to fire everything is.

We had almost no snow and until March last winter. Little rain has fallen since. The reservoir  above our neighborhood is the lowest I've seen it in forty years.

California fires dominate the news every summer but we have them throughout the Rockies too. On dry years like this, they start before July and burn constantly well into the fall.

Remains of a fire at a wild bird refuge (wetland!) near the Great Salt Lake
I haven't personally seen any of this-year's fires. Though the mountains above me and the equestrian park next door often burn, we have been lucky so far.

We did have family camping plans cancelled because the area where our reservations were caught fire.

I'm happy to say that most of my neighbors observed the fireworks restrictions this year. I didn't see anything lit up near my home on the 4th or the 24th. The fact that a nearby home was severely damaged last year may have helped people realize that the restrictions are necessary.

Though we haven't seen fire, we are breathing the smoke. Every day for the past two weeks the haze has increased. The Salt Lake Valley is a huge bowl that seems to suck in and store pollution, especially when the air is relatively still in summer and winter. What weather we get comes through California and brings more smoke.

Today (Thursday) is overcast and there are predictions of scattered showers, which are good, and thunderstorms, which are bad. So far the clouds are high and pale, so I'm not counting on either, but the lower temperatures are appreciated.

There is an odd silver (or golden) lining to the smoke. Sunsets are more colorful.

Unfortunately this is not where I worship--Pinterest picture
THE PODCAST is about two perfect summer days. It is also about worshipping in nature instead of formally in church. As a church goer, I can see the appeal of Emily's argument. Unfortunately for Dickinson, neither worshipping in church nor in her own garden eased her anxiety about the afterlife.


There may be a solution, or at least a diagnosis coming for my arm and shoulder pain. My rheumatologist signed me up for an MRI this coming Monday night.

I was surprised because I assumed almost all pain fit into either the RA or fibromyalgia slots, for which I am already taking whatever drugs are recommended. I'm not sure what can be done about pinched nerves,  or alien parasites, or whatever else may be causing the pain, but it is nice to be taken seriously.

Due to the arm pain and the blues they cause, I've been working on fiber prep and have four colors of yarn blended and ready to spin.

I also have two scarves finished, the first made on the loom during Shakespeare when I couldn't handle not knitting. I'll probably keep it because the ends are too raggedy to put up for sale and because it''s very neutral. I'm working on a sweater for myself from the remaining recycled yarn--using knitting needles.

The second,  I feel like I've been working on forever, though I started it on the way home from my vacation. I was getting totally sick of knitting it, but now it is finished, I'm falling back in love. The yarn was spun from a blend of wool, silk, and flax. The color is great. I had initially planned to put it up for sale, but I'm thinking of keeping it now.