Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who Are These People?

 Why are these strangers in my pictures taken at Longwood Gardens? After visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, numerous times for over 44 years, I have concluded that taking pictures of flowers can become more interesting when including the pictures of the many people who also enjoy the flowers. It becomes a group experience even when people are strangers. It is a great opportunity to strike up a conversation with anyone because almost everyone in the gardens shares a love of nature and exquisitely manicured displays.

As I took a picture of this rare blue orchid, another visitor said, "Sorry, I ruined your picture." I replied to him, "Not to worry, I crop everything." It was the opening to a conversation while a group marveled at the special techniques they used to get the orchid to soak up blue dye to produce the effect not found in nature. Yes, I could crop everything in my photos, but it spoils the total view to try to exclude the other people enjoying the gardens and the flowers. It would be like trying to exclude the fans in the football stadium and taking a picture only of a football.


Everyone has cameras and often take turns photographing friends and family in front of special displays. We volunteer to take pictures of others so the whole group can share the picture. It is an easy way to interact with new people.


Eavesdropping is fun because the number of languages spoken is fascinating as the Gardens are a must-see attraction on any regional tours, and traffic clogs local highways on special occasions. It is a good opportunity to play good-will ambassador for the region and to be friendly to people from other countries.


I still like to take close-up pictures of flowers, but sometimes it is more fun to photograph a toddler sniffing a blossom. The children's section of the garden is always filled with little people playing in water spouts or kissing dragon noses.


When I look at pictures of the gardens minus people, it seems sterile and sad. I like to see dozens of people moving around the gardens enjoying the hard work of countless volunteers who plant the flowers and tend the outdoor gardens. So I take many pictures of plants with many people enjoying them. The Gardens are a regular stop for my family because we live so close and the variety of activities makes it appealing.


We have member passes and visit as often as we want during the year. There are some special events for members and some events have special admissions tickets. It would be easy to take this entertainment venue for granted, but I haven't reached that point. Just when I think I have seen everything, they surprise me with something new like this harp concert.

No matter the event or display, what a great place to spend a day! The kite display was very popular.

Their tulips compete with the best in the world, even those from Holland.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don't Judge Me

Don't judge me. You don't want to go to the places I've been, or see the things I have seen. My life isn't an open book because no one should know the things I've learned. This journey through life has gathered many burdens and the load gets so heavy, at times parts of it must be unloaded. I grieve for the ones who carelessly tossed those burdens to me and I grieve for the ones to whom I unthinkingly toss those burdens. Why do those burdens even exist? Who invented them and dumped them on humans? Questions that shall forever be unanswered. Walt Kelly who drew the cartoon strip "Pogo" wrote,  "We have met the enemy and he is us."

If I could fix this mess we call "life as we know it," I would. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all the sorrows go away. I wish I could smile on people and make them love other people. I wish I could make everyone empowered and happy. I wish I could make everyone have everything they ever wanted without it bringing them more problems.

Alas, it is not to be. We all muddle through, cursing the worst and loving the best. When we are gone from this plane, it will continue as before--the pushing and shoving; the quest to be--me first. 

--Musings from R.J.

"Anguish"  a drawing by Bruce Sommer is the lament of a soldier who served 22 months in Vietnam. The original was donated by his widow to the sister of another Vietnam Vet who committed suicide. She donated it to the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago. It has a fascinating story.

The Fifth Witness

I was eager to get my hands on Michael Connelly's latest Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) legal thriller called The Fifth Witness. I finished it yesterday after racing through it while procrastinating on the cleaning, and laundry but I remembered to eat!

I had to giggle because he fooled me again with another zinger. I love his plots with the twists and turns and I like how he leaves a trail of hints of possible guilt for various possible criminals. Motive, Means, Opportunity--All the parts of the puzzle were available but the pieces didn't fit until the end. That is a compliment considering that Michael Connelly says in an interview with Amazon that he doesn't outline his books in advance. This book, he says, began as a police detective point of view and after a hundred pages, he started over, and switched it to a defense attorney's story. The main character, Mickey Haller, is defending a victim of the mortgage foreclosure disaster who is accused of murdering an employee of the bank that has foreclosed on her home. It explores how banks granted poorly secured mortgages, bundled the mortgages and sold them to large banks, who then foreclosed and turned them over to collection corporations owned by partners connected to organized crime. It just reinforced my beef with banks that build branches on every corner in my neighborhood and charge me to take out funds in my account if I go to the bank that isn't mine. In the day of computers, why do they need so many brick and mortar establishments? I digress.

I had one tiny problem with the details in the book. The murder weapon is noticed to be missing from a garage pegboard where it is a part of a set. Who keeps tools on a pegboard which is outlined, labeled and neatly hanging where they belong like a picture from a Sears advertisement? Hubby has his share of "Tool Time" Craftsman boy toys, but they are kept in tool chests with drawers and in no particular order. People who use tools seem to be more interested in using than in displaying them. I've heard it said,  "Show me a clean desk and I'll show you someone who gets nothing done." Nevertheless, it is fiction, and works within the plot to mislead the reader into thinking Some Other Dude Done It.

I'm a big fan of Castle on ABC and saw Michael Connelly on the 4/11/2011 episode as a member of Castle's poker group. His advice to a new author with one successfully published legal thriller was: "When I had my first published hit, I shut up and wrote 23 more books." In past episodes, he has commented, "You only wrote one book this year?" He is a tough taskmaster and his hard work on his books produces very readable, enjoyable plots.

I like to be fooled and this plot  succeeded. I was totally suckered into the client's story and the end blew me away, no pun intended. Well done! It makes me think Matthew McConaughey has another Lincoln Lawyer movie on the horizon. I am eagerly anticipating Michael Connelly's next book called The Drop (Harry Bosch), due in October, 2011.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Darkness--Part 2

Complete darkness in the bedroom seems to be working very well. All lined curtains have been closed at night, windows have been blacked out at night with black-out liners. All doors are closed at night and all LED lights have been covered with cardboard flaps. There are no night lights on all night. I have a flashlight on my night stand in case I want to head walk to the bathroom.

Having taken all of those steps to have complete darkness in the bedroom, I have discovered that I still regularly wake up two or three times per night. The difference is that when one sleep cycle ends, and I come out of a deep sleep, the room is so dark that I doze briefly, then go back to sleep. Because the room is very dark, my brain seems to know it isn't time to wake up so I go back to sleep. 

My mind doesn't seem to start the laundry list of things I think about during the day and doesn't try to solve all the world's problems before five a.m. I don't lie awake watching the trees outside the window swaying in the breeze. I don't look at the full moon shining through the skylight in the bathroom. My sleep cycles are continuous rather than constantly interrupted. I was interested to read the discussion of sleep stages analysis online and this statement was especially enlightening:  

Older people are more easily awoken by disturbances in the environment[63] and may to some degree lose the ability to consolidate sleep.

When my son was an infant, he would wake up completely several times per night and wouldn't go back to sleep without attention. We had a night light in the hallway so I wouldn't trip going to his room. There was never complete darkness in his room. We used to talk about his inability to put himself back to sleep between sleep cycles, but we didn't make his room completely dark. Parents of infants fear that it will unnecessarily alarm small children to awake in a dark room. It makes me wonder. Maybe we did more harm than good. The angst of parents.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

And Let There Be Darkness

After experiencing a lot of insomnia at various times and blaming it on caffeine, or too much liquid before bedtime, or menopause, I am willing to consider a different cause and solution. I am not a person who would even consider taking a sleeping pill because I can't imagine deliberately rendering myself unconscious and helpless. I wonder how I could survive something like an unexpected housefire, a break in, a bad storm, or any number of other catastrophic events that would require me to wake up and manage my survival. No sleeping pills for me. The only leap of faith I am willing to take is in case of medical procedures that require sedation.

A new solution for managing my insomnia has become necessary because I often find myself wide awake at two or three in the morning and often for several hours. The master bedroom in my house has two side windows and a large trio of windows in the front since it is a corner room. The neighboring houses are not really close, but I have begun to notice that outdoor lights from the two houses that we can see from that room are turned on at strange hours.

If we have snow on the ground, the reflections coming into the front windows are so bright, we have to close the curtains. A skylight in the adjoining bathroom lets in so much light when there is a full moon, it is like daytime so the door must be closed. One neighbor has a garage on the same side as our bedroom and they have outdoor lights turned on almost all night so the two windows must have closed curtains. Even so, there is too much light in the bedroom. The curtains have linings, but not for complete darkness. I will now have to install blackout shades to get complete darkness in the room for effective sleeping. I don't think I want to wear a sleep mask.

The movie Insomnia comes to mind because the main character is going a little crazy because he can't sleep in Alaska where the daylight hours continue for much of the 24 hours. The bedrooms require blackout shades for people to sleep.

A little research tells me that complete darkness in a bedroom is required for effective sleeping. Melatonin has to be produced in the brain for healthy, sound sleep and that only happens in a room that is completely dark. It is worth a try; it is time to make our bedroom completely dark with blackout shades and it won't matter whether my neighbors leave their garage lights on until 3 a.m.