Sometimes I Do Other Things

Five minutes with enlightened

21 June. The word is enlightened.  A perfect word for the solstice, in my not-so-humble opinion. Not that enlightenment and light have any direct relationship, but in the realm of nouns that connect on the concept level, yeah. Light.

Today is the day of longest light from my self-centered Northern Hemisphere perspective, and it marks the turn towards days of more light in the Southern Hemisphere. A theme of light either way.

I know, enlightened doesn’t mean light-light. It’s all about mindful awareness an increased awareness/understanding of the universe and even feeling a sense of oneness with everything. It’s seeing things as they are, (Or that’s what I have at the top of my head as its meaning. I didn’t look it up.)

But it’s considered a goal, a good thing, an aspiration. People are encouraged to aspire, to become enlightened.

But when I hear enlightened, contrarian I am, I wonder why we associate good things with light and darkness with ignorance, bad things, and even evil. Why can’t we feel at one with the dark of night as much as the light of day? Why is sight the only sense we associate with knowledge? Why can’t we seek comprehension by digging into the lightless, dense depths of spirit and thought, and soak ourselves in understanding?

Or something like that. Hey, I only had five minutes here.

Word provided by Esther Olson

Five minutes with brewer

19 June. The word is brewer.

Mmm, beer. Wait, no. Beer maker is the concept I should be focusing on. Or, I suppose I could ponder a singular member of a professional baseball team from Milwaukee. No, I don’t think so. Nope, nope, nope. I know even less about baseball than I do about beer-making. I need focus, geez…

Brewer. Someone who makes magic with water by the act of adding grains and herbs or spices and whatnot. Especially the whatnot. And then cooking it all, simmering and sampling and filtering and all that other activity that happens in vats and such. yeast is involved. And time. (I’ve been on brewery tours. I’ve read books. Multiple. Do I remember details? Pffft. No. I know where the books are shelved, though.)

I don’t much like the taste of hops, so I best like the magic potions made without it. The heffeweissens, aka wheat beers, and the stouts that have so much dark yeasty goodness they should count as breads…oops, I’m wandering off course into beers and not brewing again.  Rats. Beer is distracting.

I have friends who brew beer. Really good beer. One brews mead, commercially even. (That’s wine made from honey and spices or herbs and whatnot, and it’s not technically beer for reasons I forget…)  Brewers, like bakers and all those who take basic forms of sustenance and create from them delights for the senses instead of mere nutrition–they are magicians, and artists, and creative maestros.

And that’s my say on the matter.

Word provided by Starr O’Hara

Five minutes with perception

15 June. The word is perception.

Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, They’re all senses, but they’re not perception. Perception (to me) is a little of all those things wrapped up together. Or all of them working together. Perception is knowing. It’s where identity and the world meet.

There’s a tangent beckoning, something along the lines of “perception is inherently and irredeemably flawed, we can’t know anything, truly…” but that’s philosophy, and I’m not in the mood. So let’s go  the self-improvement route instead.

Perception leads to revelation. Knowing is half the battle, it’s said, and while I think that’s generally baloney, I will agree it’s part of the battle. Perception is the line in the sand, the no-one’s land where change begins. Can’t change if you don’t see a problem, basically.

Once you know the enemy, even when it’s yourself, you can plan and strategize and go on the offensive. Or you can defend yourself better against an enemy from without, depending on what you perceive as the problem.

I just think change and growth and self-defense part takes a lot more than half the effort, is all I’m saying.

There. Short & not sweet. But short.

Word provided by Shawn A Cosby

Five minutes with forgiveness

14 June. The word is forgiveness.

This is a tough one. Thinking of what to say, I mean, not forgiveness itself. I have a hard time holding a grudge even when given a bucket to put it in. I’m easy to rile up, too and maybe that’s part of it.

Forgiveness is a powerful healing force, and when I’m dishing it out I would rather err on the side of responsible, respectful generosity than withhold it and kill off something that really needed a dose of it. Which isn’t to say I don’t sulk, or never demand apologies or reparations. I can sulk like a champ, and I am usually embarassingly forthright about demanding redress for wrongs.

I just don’t ask for penance and then keep being angry. Bygones are gone.  I hae to work hard to stay angry when I’m wrong, even when I know I should hold onto it. I see others save up wrongs and slights all the time. It has to be like living in a cloud of smoke. . Maybe knowing how easy it is to do something harsh in the heat of the moment, makes it easier for me to forgiving those who trespass against me?

I dunno.  I know that odd phrase is always my go-to when pondering forgiveness. From the Lord’s Prayer. The way I learned it, it went, “Forgive us  our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  As an adult I recognize it’s not meant as a contingency–for those who believe in the Christian God, acceptance is not based on performance in the forgiveness arena or anywhere else–but the proximity of the two ideas does set a good example, which is a thing kids and adults can always use.

When it comes to fiction, especially screen fiction, I think forgiveness is often horribly mispresented. Characters shrug off betrayals quickly and on emotionally shaky grounds, and they dismiss hellacious wrongdoings for the slimmest of excuses–as long as the plot requires the characters to get along, or as long as they are both Good People, ( however good is defined in the plot.)

There’s a scene in a late season of Angel where one heroic character –for Good Reasons–badly wrongs the protagonist, resulting in an un-fixable loss. The scene showing their first meeting after The Badness starts off playing out the way such things usually do, with apologies made, and acceptance and understanding discussed…and then the wronged protagonist goes for the guy’s throat.

The scene sticks with me because I was braced for the usual disappointment of powerful pain being played for drama without consequences. It felt real in a way television rarely did at the time.

Forgiveness is a powerful force. Misrepresentation does it a disservice by making it appear trivial. And I think the way that distorts expectations might actually be dangerous.

But I’m already way over time, so I won’t be discussing it. Forgive me? I’ll leave that exercise to the reader.

Word provided by Maria Turner

Five minutes with cat burglar

13 June. The word is catburglar.

All the dictionaries think it’s two words, but it’s a singular concept, so I’ll happily roll with it.  (yes, I checked online first. For the purposes of this challenge I consider looking up definitions cheating, but I will always double check spellings. Because perfectionist.)

ANYway. Cat burglar.

I had a hard time with this one as a child.  The explanation that it was not someone who stole cats got through, and I accepted that it didn’t refer to a cat who sole things,  but I had a hard time understanding why someone would call somone a cat burglar for any other reason.

I had Serious Issues with the concepts of simile, metaphor, and so on until the age of 10 or so. Before then I understood them but it was in a concrete way that to this day I have a hard time explaining. When told, for example, that Aslan was a stand-in for Christ in The Lion the Witch & The Wardrobe, I suffered a meltdown of bafflement.

Because of COURSE there were parallels, of course they were alike, that was glaringly obvious, but they WERE NOT THE SAME, because Aslan was a lion. PFFFFT. DUH. My English-teacher mother and I went round and round on those points.

I can still clearly recall the anguished frustration on Mom’s face. I am sure she was afraid I would never Get It. (This was a theme throughout my childhood. The family meeting over my inability to use a dictionary at age 13 was a scene for the ages…)  But I did get it. Eventually it clicked.  Well, sort of.  What clicked was the realization that other people didn’t see the ideas the way I do, so I learned to acknowledge concrete descriptions as figurative ones, because it made people happier.

(But to me, they’re still real as real. The fog creeping in on cat’s feet? As real in my imagination as a thief of felines, or a feline thief.)

This one went long. No remorse. Two words, twice the time, that’s fair, right?

Word provided by Jill Turner

Five minutes with guava

The word is guava.

I ate a guava once. We had a guava tree in the back yard of the house where my family lived in Tustin CA (Right after the blizzard of ’67, my parents moved to a part of the country that never, EVER saw snow, go figure.)

There were orange groves here and there in Orange County back then. And it was Tustin, not Tustin-Santa Ana.  Lots of vacant lots, construction, and streams that ran in concrete channels between the two cities back then, That was a different world.

And as a post-toddler raised in the manicured-grass, barely-any-trees suburbs of Chicago, every single thing was exotic.  Bougainvillea. Eucalyptus. Bottle brush trees. Bird of Paradise plants. Royal palms. Dichondra lawns and weird, gnarly evergreen shrubs I never did learn the names of.  Snails and slugs. (And guavas.)

It was like moving to a tropical jungle only without water most of the time because there actually are rainy and dry seasons in SoCal, and not everyone had a swimming pool in Those Days. (Google Earth confirms  every house on my old block has an in-ground pool now. Some yards, that means the whole yard is pool and patio. No more jungles. The world turns and changes…)

We were told guavas were edible but warned not to eat them. They never looked appetizing. Fuzzy little lumps. The one I tasted on a dare was awful. Furry on the outside, mealy and seedy inside, not sweet or sour, just…nasty.

That might have been a 5 year old’s palate, or an issue with ripeness or proper presentation (I could do a whole ‘nother reminiscence post on olives and how little the ones on the trees resemble the salty goodness I nibble on these days.) Or I might not like guavas. Never tasted another, so I may never know.

They made fine missile weapons, though.  So did the olives. But I’ll save the olive wars for another time.

Word provided by Mark Heller

Five minutes with bird

9 June. The word is bird.

Bird is the word. That reminds me of a song lyric from…Grease? No matter.  Birds are also the things with feathers, the animal  Emily Dickinson chose as a metaphor for hope in one of her poems that can be sung to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texas or some other unlikely tune (I might be remembering it wrong.)


Bird is a word that’s fun to say in a high, childish voice, tremendously versatile as an exclamation of happiness, petulance, neediness, or even sadness. It’s like the “I am Groot,” of single words.

And that makes me think of the way birds say so much with song. There are scientists studying the vocabulary of birdsong these days,  now that we have the computer data-crunching power and the fuzzy maths to recognize the patterns that were there all along. It turns out birds have a lot more to say than we thought. They’re really quite sophisticated. It isn’t just me-me-mine the way naturalists used to assume.

When we go outside our usual range, we pick up what we don’t know.  Birds are good at going places. Wings, and all. Another bird-related  expansion — it’s turned out that bird-brains like parrots are a lot smarter than some people (even scientists) previously assumed.

We learn a lot when we stop and listen and let ourselves look past what we know we know.  I think that’s why I like to collect information. If I collect enough (like a bird finding twigs and shiny rocks, ha, another bird thing!)  the collection always connects together into something interesting eventually.

And that’s it for today.

word provided by David B Beaver

Five minutes with bunnies

8 June. The word is BUNNIES!

Who wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with a soft, long-eared, twitchy-nosed harmless, little bunny rabbit? They’re so FLUFFY!  I can think of a few. The character Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer would decline, for one. (She has a great song about evil bunnies…) The Knights of Mony Python’s Holy Grail, for another. And me.

I have a love-loathe relationship with rabbits.

I had a pet rabbit as a child. Yes, an Easter bunny, but not one abandoned or neglected at season’s change. He had a hutch in our California backyard, he was fed until he was happily fat and HUGE (I believe the pet store bought culls from a fur farm, so the adults reached 25-35 pounds, dwarfing our 6 lb female Siamese cat…) he got to nibble on backyard grass, and he lived to a ripe old rabbit age. I do love the soft feel of rabbit fur, and they are adorable to watch bumble around being cute.

But rabbits as members of the wildlife community? I would happily shoot, skin and stew those idiotic little monsters. (Alas, killing and butchering wild animals within city limits is illegal and impractical)  Why the antipathy?  Every year the first batch of babies in the neighborhood learn all about how nasty tulips and daffodils taste by biting off the heads of every single one I plant.

Thank goodness they’re so stupid they nest right in the middle of fenced yards full of dogs, otherwise they would eat the world bare. I want them dead and gone.

So I curse the bunnies when they’re in my yard where I don’t want them, wish them into the bellies of coyotes, hawks, owls, and crows…but I coo and smile at their adorable cute selves when they’re anywhere else.

There’s a message about humanity in that somewhere, I’m sure.

word provided by Rick Rossing

Five minutes with Aluminum

7 June. The word is aluminum. Aluminium, actually. Best said with a posh British accent.

I chewed aluminum foil when I was a little kid. Not often or hard, but I liked the taste. I liked the smell of leaded gasoline too, and the flavor of pennies but not dimes. (All this was before age five, mind you, and yes, it worried my parents and they watched me closely.) Weird child, that was me.

Aluminum always reminds me of Napoleon, because of the cannons story, and the tale of science discovering how to get the metal from bauxite (bauxite, right? Whatever) ore, and mostly it reminds me of my calculus professor freshman year in college.

He was Irish. Not Irish-American, Irish-Irish, from Dublin. And it was calculus, with all the Greek letters and British pronunciations only complicated my massive confusion. (Silly me, thinking a class called “pre-calculus” in High School would in any way prepare me for calculus…chalk and cheese, my calc prof would’ve said.

He also said mysterious things like “Look at Epsilon-not as a function of upsilon-not,” and expected us to understand what he was saying while he combed the few remaining ten-inch long strands of his hair over the bare top of his exceptionally large round head.  The distraction was not helpful.

It took me WEEKS to figure out that he meant naught, as in zero, not not as in negation.  (This makes a difference in calculus.) He digressed a lot during lectures, and some tangent involving  “al-loo-min-nee-um” finally alerted me to the sheer enormity of of his pronunciation differences.  I couldn’t say why it helped, but that’s when the light bulb lit.

And honestly, I needed every clue I could get.

That’s my aluminum story.

Word provided by Elizabeth Byrne Lobdell (note: the request included it be pronounced the British way. This was another request made by multiple people-including pronunciation.)

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