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This is Avocado – Avo, for short – facing the cold, blustery world of Bellingham, Washington. When he’s not looking out the window, he’s snuggling, cuddling to the point of being so contentedly limp as to slide off a lap, and perfectly happy being resettled, purring as loudly as I’ve ever heard a cat purr. He, along with his brother, (Indiana) Jones, are new to the world of my daughter and her wonderful housemates. Found far away from civilization, in a field on a nearby reservation, they are clearly bonded, and love to be loved. And I love them, and my daughter, and her housemates. I flew out to surprise her for her 20th birthday, which was yesterday, and she was indeed totally surprised. It was just how surprises are supposed to work. I have spent today, when she still had class and other social obligations, watching the wind and rain in the tall cypress in their front yard, snuggling cats, reading, writing, and meeting her marvelous friends. I’m not used to being in a house with more than one other person (or animal, for that matter), so it’s been an amazing sensation, to feel surrounded by lots of people who laugh, love, and respect each other, who have strong feelings and opinions about our world and the future, and who delight in each other’s company. Adventures to follow…

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Bellingham, Washington.

Quote of the day: “Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” — Colette

Daily gratitudes:
Music
Peaceful times
Smart souls
Laughter
My daughter’s love and openness to letting me into her life

It has been a lovely birthday…iTunes card… key fob from a grand old hotel on St. Thomas… “Green Slime” movie poster… perfect cards… a “hold” on a Maine Coon senior cat at the Humane Society… great lunch (and I am anticipating a great dinner)… and some other mysteriousness in the living room as we speak, courtesy of MKL. My Kelsea wrote me the best letter ever, and left me a rose, chocolate, and two bottles of San Pellegrino in the middle of the living room floor, where I couldnt’ miss them.  It is a happy day.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the Day: “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.” — Robert Frost.

(My Kelsea is a diplomat. I am, perpetually and thankfully, the same age in her birthday greetings. And MKL has not once made a reference to my actual age – nor will he. I know him.)

Daily gratitudes:

Loving family and friends

Peace

Happiness

Tequila

The thoughtfulness of others

How thankful I am for my own parents for giving me life – I miss them.

I’ve been neglecting your history lessons, haven’t I?  Well, I’m feeling better enough to compile one for today, and it’s been a busy day in history, so prepare yourself…

Today is the 3rd International Day of Awesomeness!  A grassroots holiday to be sure, it is the day to celebrate your own awesomeness, because, yes, we are ALL awesome.  And while you’re at it, share the awesomeness — celebrate the awesomeness of your friends and co-workers!  Why?  Because YOU CAN!

It’s also “Learn What Your Name Means” Day.  Here’s the meaning of mine:

 

I think that’s rather nice.  In one of the weird and rare coincidences that happens in life, I was once walking on the weedy edge of a parking lot on Tybee Island, Georgia, talking to Kelsea on the cellphone, when I looked down and saw something dully shiny in the dry grass.  Being magpie-like, I picked it up.  It was a small brass plaque, with my name on it, and the words “…means beloved.”  Seriously, what are the odds? 

It’s the 124th anniversary of the first telephone call from Alexander Graham Bell to Mr. Watson.  He’d received his patent three days earlier.  I doubt he’d ever imagined what he started.  Below, I provide you with a brief photo history of the telephone. 

Young people today (god, I sound old) can’t imagine not having a cell phone.  In my childhood, we had one phone, in the kitchen.  It didn’t go anywhere.  You couldn’t have any privacy (my parents eventually put another line upstairs in their bedroom).  When we went out of town, we couldn’t be reached.  There was no voice mail, no answering machine, no 24-hour access.  If you wanted to make a phone call from the house at the beach, you walked to the phone booth by Mr. Godwin’s store.  How times have changed.  Do you think we’re missing some past serenity here?  How could it be that we and our work have all gotten so important that we can’t be off the grid for a day or two, much less a week or two?  I suspect it’s all an illusion.

It’s the anniversary of the Courrieres Mine Disaster in France, the worst mine disaster ever in Europe, killing 1099 people.  It was believed to have been caused by a coal dust explosion, contributed to by miners using open flame lamps.  The Davy Lamp, which provided a closed flame, was available, but was far too expensive for most miners, who were required to supply their own lamps, including candles from the company store at top price.  A group of 13 survivors were found within the 70 miles of impacted tunnels 20 days after the explosion – a singular miracle amid this tragedy.

Dog spectacles were patented in England today in 1975.  I can’t see that the English made much progress with this initiative – the Swiss were working towards this goal in 1939:

 

And now an American company called Doggles (www.doggles.com) seems to have cornered the market.  (The image below does not depict Doggles, just a really cute dog wearing goggles.)

On March 10, 1535, the Bishop of Panama, Tomas de Berlanga, his ship drifting and becalmed, accidentally discovered the Galapagos Islands.  Fresh water, which he and his crew desperately needed, was in scant supply on the island, and he reported back to the King of Spain that the islands were “worthless”.  This was, no doubt, the best thing that could have happened to the Galapagos.  In the centuries that have followed, the Galapagos have served many short-lived purposes: pirate hideout, operating base for whalers, botanists’ wonderland, sugar care plantation site, military installation, and finally, and most importantly, now a National Park of Ecuador.  Only 5 of the 18 islands are inhabited, and tourism, which is theoretically closely controlled, is the main source of revenue.  It’s a dream of mine to go, take a long sailing and diving tour, swim with the sea lions and admire the tortoises.

This was to have been the first graduation day for what is now New Mexico State University in 1893.  Unfortunately, the sole member of its graduating class, Sam Steel, was murdered the night before.   His murder was never solved.  The name of the I-10 Frontage Road in Las Cruces has been changed to Sam Steel Road in his honor.

Today, we say ” Halala ngosuku lokuzalwa” (which is “Happy Birthday” in Zulu) to:

Toshitsugu Takamatsu (1889-1972), recognized as the last practicing ninja. 

How cool is that?  Born to a family with samurai lineage, at the tender age of 13, he singlehandedly defended himself against an attack from a gang that numbered 60.  (He was unjustly arrested for it, too.)  When he was past 80, a Japanese karate teacher publicly called him “an old has-been”.  Takamatsu took this as a challange and called upon the instructor to retract his statement within three days or meet him to fight – a fight, Takamatsu said, in which he would, with his hands tied behind his back, kill the instructor.  The instructor retracted his statement.  Takamatsu went by many interesting nicknames in his long life, including Pure Water, Winged Lord, Cry-Baby, Little Goblin, Mongolian Tiger, Demon Horns, Running in the Sky Old Man, and Noodles. 

Chuck Norris.

What can you say about Chuck Norris that wouldn’t force him to kill you?  I don’t know, but I will provide you with this most entertaining link – www.chucknorrisfacts.com.

And I wish that Chuck and Takamatsu would make an appearance at the party for our next birthday boy…

Osama bin Laden.

Evil incarnate.  Enough said.

Lastly, today we acknowledge the loss of one formidable religious personage:

Agnes Blannbekin (died 1315), a mystic with some pretty strange “visions” (now, no one get offended here, I’m only the messenger).  Among her most “obscene” visions was her claim to have felt the foreskin of Jesus in her mouth.  Her visions seemed to be much more physical than most mystics experienced, and were often described as orgastic.  But she was a true believer, joining a convent at 16 and remaining in orders for her entire life, doing much good work with the urban poor of the time.  One original copy of her controversial revelations still exists in an Austrian convent.

 Thus endeth the history lesson.  Hope you feel slightly enlightened.

Today is Carmen Miranda’s birthday.  

The Brazilian Bombshell (or Notable Little One) would have been 101.  Born Maria do Carmo Miranda Da Cunha, she died at age 46.  As with our historic ladies I discussed yesterday, this vivacious woman, so full of life and spirit, found herself in a life that spiralled tragically downward. 

Trapped in an abusive marriage, addicted to amphetamines and barbiturates, and taking electic shock treatments for depression, she died of a heart attack following a performance on the Jimmy Durante Show. 

(She actually had a heart attack during her number on the show, but, ever the consummate performer, she carried on – she just came close to falling.)   After her body was taken back to Brazil for burial, the priest refused to  consecrate her soul due to her heavy make-up.  That little issue was resolved and millions of mourners lined up to see her interred at Cemitério São João Batista in Rio de Janeiro.

A hatmaker herself in her youth in Brazil (at a store called Olinda), she based her trademark towering fruit hat on the headdresses of the Baiana, the black women who sold fruit in the marketplaces of Bahia. 

While her father was not at all supportive of her musical aspirations, she became a wildly popular singer on the radio and club circuits of Brazil, and was invited to America to perform on Broadway.  She popularized the samba, which she performed in 6-inch platform shoes on stage, but she preferred to dance barefoot when she could get away with it.

Her path to stardom took her to Hollywood and the movie industry, and while it was not her first film, she attracted mass attention when she appeared as Rosita Murphy in Springtime in the Rockies.  (It’s actually the only film of hers that I’ve seen.) 

The hat, of course, came with her to LaLa Land, and at a diminutive 5-feet tall, the height of the hat no doubt heightened her image.  Talk in the town was that she refused studio chief Darryl Zanuck’s amorous overtures on principle — although I see nothing amorous about being chased around a couch by an unattractive half-naked man wanting my “tropical delicacies”.

While she retained dual citizenship in Brazil and Portugal (where she was born), her heart belonged to Brazil, and she was devastated when the Brazilian people criticized her for becoming “Americanized” when she visited in 1940.  But Brazilians can never completely fall out of love with a favorite daughter – visitors to Rio will find a museum dedicated to Carmen, as will visitors to Canaveses, Portugal, the town of her birth. 

A hot-air balloon called the “Chic-I-Boom” after one of her dance numbers, which portrayed a likeness of Carmen, was launched at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in 1982, and Chic-I-Boom II is still floating at festivals today.

But the hat….let’s talk about the hat. 

There’s one on display in the museum in Portugal.  They inspired a line of turbans and a line of Bakelite jewelry in the 1940s that are highly collectible today. 

The hat (and the lady who wore it) became the model for the Chiquita banana logo.  

You can find online patterns for the quintessential fruit hat, which typically includes bananas (a must), apples, grapes, cherries, oranges, plums, feathers, beads, and twigs.  Carmen’s tallest hat (described by some as ten stories tall, but I have yet to determine the true height) was seen in the number “The Lady with the Tutti-Fruitti Hat” in the 1943 Busby Berleley film “The Gang’s All Here”.

The film also included hundreds of chorus girls dancing with six-foot bananas (that had to be held at waist-level rather than hip-level to reduce the phallic implications.)

Carmen has unfortunately been the object of ridicule in cartoons throughout the years,

and the inspiration for so many things that are just wrong.

I recall my Mother being quite fond of Carmen – that’s where I first learned about the fruit hat – though I never saw her samba.

So please, take a moment today and have a banana in honor of this wonderful lady.

As an aside, today is Read in the Bathtub Day!  If you’ve never done it, there’s no better time than the present. 

Just make sure you don’t drop the book.  Having lived in a bathtub one winter, I can tell you that it doesn’t enhance the quality of the experience.

After yesterday’s whine, I started out today making lists in a new notebook.  It’s really garish, so should be hard for me to lose, even among the evil clutter of the cottage.  It’s good for me to make lists.  Lists serve as a second brain.  I suspect they will continue to do so until I can instill some stillness and quietude into my mind. 

One of my friends says that meditation is a good tool for adding stillness – and would be good for me.   I tend to think this might be true, but where does the time come from?  I am already making time for exercise.  And now I must add something else to the mix that involves taking care of myself ?  Preposterous!!

I never used to like meditating.  I always returned from a session feeling a little bit “off”, as if the universe had shifted just a hairs-breadth while I was away.  It was disturbing.  It reminds me of the feeling you have when you’ve experienced a very small earthquake, like something stable has been ever-so-slightly disarranged.  I voiced this concern to my Mother, who had recommended meditation to me during my turbulent teens.  Given how it made me feel, she agreed that it was probably wrong for me.  I know now that part of what she was saying (or rather not saying), was that I wasn’t protecting myself properly.

The concept of psychic protection is an interesting one.  I am only recently re-learning to surround myself with the white light, the blue eggshell, to take refuge in the safe spaces of my soul when dipping my toes into other realms.  Mother gave me some guidance around the white light, as did a few weeks at Theosophy Camp during the my 15th summer.  More recently, I have received some instruction in this technique from my wonderful Shaman.  It’s not something that comes to me readily, but I have a strong sense that it’s something I need to cultivate, especially these days.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think that meditation would require psychic protection.  But I guess in my case, it does.   Something related to that sensitivity or “shine”, no doubt, makes me more vulnerable to the strange swirlings of crossed-over worlds.

Anyway, I was reading a few things on meditation in my web travels last night.  The Zazen school insists you must take a class – can’t learn it from a book – and sit with a ramrod-stiff spine.  OK, I don’t buy that.  A couple of other sites were entirely too woo-woo.  “Just breathe and clear your mind – it’s that simple.”  Don’t buy that either.  I don’t want to contemplate my navel – it’s too hard to see past my boobs.   Thinking about the word “EON” makes my head hurt.  There’s got to be a technique out there that feels simpatico for me.  Maybe I just need to try it, instead of looking for the answer in the written word.  And as Yoda likes to say, “There is no try, there is only do.”  (He may have added “..or do not,”  but I don’t remember.  I’m not as up on my Yoda as I might be.)

I’ll keep you posted.

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I don’t want you to miss out on your history lessons for the day:

Today is Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln’s wedding anniversary.

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Lincoln wedding

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It’s also Walter Cronkite’s birthday.  He was my favorite anchorman of all time, the one I grew up with, and learned about the Vietnam War with.  He was slightly older than my father, and his daughter is about the same age as me, so I felt “close” to them.  His daughter must be having a difficult day today.  I know I am.  Today is my father’s birthday as well.  But I can tell her, as with everything after your father dies, the first one without him is the hardest.

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It is the 109th Anniversary of the Tube in London.  I have never had the privilege of riding the Tube, but I have admired the signs.

Mind the Gap
And it is – in what strikes me as a remarkable coincidence – the 676th and the 43rd anniversary of the massive flooding of the River Arno, which nearly destroyed Florence, Italy on both occasions.  No pictures are available from 1333, but here’s one from 1966:

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Finally, it is Zero-Tasking Day, and I have already been remarkably busy.  Time to celebrate by doing nothing!

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