Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Handkerchief

In the olden days most civilized men pulled out a large linen handkerchief for nose blowing, and women a smaller and more elegant hanky, for sniffles. I can't, in this day and age, think of a more unsightly and unsanitary act than expelling a big honk into a handkerchief taken from your trouser pocket and then stuffing it back to use again. On the other hand, when the pianist and I were in Prince George years ago she was intrigued by the consummate skill of a man who displayed finger nose dexterity with a big honk deposited directly on the sidewalk without a trace left on the face. I remember my grandfather and great granddad with monster wrinkled handkerchiefs blowing, wiping and stuffing without a qualm. The linen hanky was a favorite in days of yore as a Christmas present from the thrifty. It may have been embossed, if given to a women, or had a flower stitched on. If it was initialed at least it stayed in the same hands. No one traded their hankies! Thank goodness for Kleenex now. My great grandfather also kept on his person, in readiness, a gold tooth pick that had an ear spoon on the other end. We children waited in breathless anticipation to see the ear spoon used. We used to laugh that the "snot rag was common but the ear spoon was a sight to behold!" No kid used a hanky! He either sniffed all the time, "Go blow your nose!" , or hawked, or had a runny nose or a dangle-booger. The tailor always put a little breast pocket on the suit for the dress up handkerchief, but latterly it became no longer de rigueur so the pocket remained empty. Occasionally, when stepping out, a tiny fabric peak on a chunk of cardboard was inserted in the breast pocket to give the gentleman "style". Even though it was a fake, it was not a sorry, soggy , snot-ridden, specimen!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Thicket

The Thicket, even better, the Briar Patch,is sanctuary for small feathered and furry friends, the denser the thicket, the better! If in the well ordered and cultivated garden there are periodic small thickets, especially near your windows, you will enjoy an abundance of creatures and provide a measure of safety for them! Your abundance will increase since these thickets will be home and partial larder, for the broody! It's unfortunate that the urban dweller may have more difficulty establishing the thicket since they are necessarily untidy, and the briar patch even more so, and often an affront to the scrupulous neighbors. Here,in the rural garden on Lotus Island, Mother Nature's display of thicket, can go hand in hand with that controlled effort of the Elderly Eclectic Gentleman. Mother Nature gardens in her own inestimable way and I in my trial and error fashion. The bird feeder and the bird house, while of some value, do not supplant the thicket or briar patch in meeting the needs of the creatures. In fact they may foster a culture of dependancy that is counter productive to the well being of the vulnerable. Well meaning activity on the part of animal lovers toward the wild, may expose them to more predation and disease and interfere with the survival skills in an uncertain world. This applies to us and our children as well as the fellow creatures. We hominems also need a thicket sanctuary where we can return, after we venture out. We all live in an uncertain world and need survival skills if we are innately capable, rather than handouts. Blessed assurance however, is that our thicket may still be there. Kindness is:come as close to Mother Nature as you dare!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"What ,Me Worry?"

In 1943 and 1944 my mother would take my brother Ken and me on the Goose Line from Kindersley to Saskatoon and then put us on the Transcontinental to Uno, Manitoba,about 400 miles away. My uncle would drive up from Isabella, about 20 miles north, in the model A and pick us up at about 1 am. I was 9 years old and Ken was 5. I was always worried, since I was in charge, that I would sleep through Uno and Ken and I would get lost. We never did. I don't think Ken ever worried. The Transcontinental stopped for us at Uno, the conductor always was prompt to appear in the day coach at the time; I never lost our tickets, and my uncle never failed to arrive. Ken and I spent two happy summers on the farm but when I look back on it now it seems it was a real imposition on my uncle's family and moreover, we never brought our ration tickets. My little brother David visited us in Plymouth England in 1963 with my mum and dad. They went off on the Continent for a week and left David to take another train to Waterloo Station to be met by Great Aunt Dora, who he did not know nor she him. The pianist and I put him on the train. He was 11 years old. I was more worried than he was I guess, but he looked pensive through the train window as they left. Great Aunt Dora located him we learned later. It reminds me of Julia Child in the movie waiting with her friend Simone in the Paris train station for Ernestine , with whom she has corresponded, but never met. Ernestine was to be indentified by a coat color. When I was 3 years old I got on a street car ahead of my mother who was temporarily diverted and I travelled the crowded street car a few blocks alone.I was worried. I had never been in Winnipeg. I remember it as if it were yesterday, seeing her racing along but unable to catch the street car. It reminds me of the scene where Dr. Zhivago sees Lara on the sidewalk and races off the street car but cannot find her. My mother couldn't find me and I cried on the street until a policeman came by and took me to the station. He bought me an ice cream cone. He chided me because I didn't, at that age, know how to tell the police where I was staying. Eventually I was collected by my mother. I was worried and bawled again. I am still afflicted with travel anxiety. Silly me!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Change of Culture

The General Hospital in "Olympic City" was a teaching hospital. I A, was a medical ward where I was one of the two Junior Interns responsible for the day to day medical care of assigned patients. We were on the floor for the entire month of May, 1958, and became close to the nursing and other ward staff. The Senior Resident Staff and the Consultants came and went as necessary! The Professor of Medicine made rounds twice a week on preselected patients. He came with a retinue of Chief Resident and various medical students on what was a teaching round. Professor K was a kind and quiet man who accepted the due deference he was given with a certain ease.He never played the martinet that was affected by some of his surgical colleagues. My junior colleague and I were sitting on the ward, doing charts early, the morning the Professor was due to appear! The air with the nurses was electric! There was a buzz! Something was up! Hitherto, they had all stood up when the Professor appeared, and remained standing while he had his charts gathered by the Chief Resident, and when he made preliminary observations. When Professor K came to the ward station that morning my colleague and I stood up but the nurses all remained seated and appeared busy, except the head nurse who remained seated , smiled at Professor K and said, " Good morning Dr. K! Your charts are ready for you in the alcove and the patients are prepared, so I hope you find everything in order". She then ignored him and proceeded to do her job. I felt sorry for Professor K. He was totally nonplussed. The rug was pulled out from under him. He had received the first gust of a new wind that would eventually deconstruct the hierarchical structure. All change occurs gradually, in little increments, in peaceable kingdoms like ours, hopefully. It may be true that this episode will no longer be understood fully, other than by Old Nurses!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Plato and Aristotle

Plato was a deductive thinker! He learned and absorbed the thinking of Socrates. Aristotle was an inductive thinker! He learned from, and then rejected, the deductive processes of Plato. Plato deduced solutions by applying logic to situations and interior argument leading to reasoning. He said to his students " Go figure! " and they did. Aristotle, on the other hand, broke with his teacher,Plato, and set up his own school and said to his students "Go observe!" and they did. Inductive thinking is reasoning, first based on experimental observation. Solutions follow, or fail to follow as the case may be, but thereby, they are evidence based! Both processes still go on today. Both camps are useful. Aristotle was a physician amongst other things, so I guess he was one of the first researchers. It's probably why I like him better. So Plato was a top down thinker and Aristotle was a bottom up thinker. As an aside, we used to say that the top third of the medical school class made the best researchers. The middle third made the best doctors. The lower third made the most money! A little sarcasm when you find at the end of your career you have less than you wished! I suppose if you owned an Academy or Lyceum, as a thinker, you could earn a fair bundle, teaching on the side.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Heather and Heath

Walking on the Pentland Hills this spring with my son, a midlife eclectic gentleman, we observed the hillsides of Scottish Heather, burned in planned and programmed manner for renewal! Traveling a few years earlier , in the fall, with the pianist to Wick, through Sutherland and Caithness, the hills were alive with the purple heather and the yellowing fern. The heather belongs! It seems indestructible. The Heather is blooming today in my patch on Lotus Island. It is unruly, grey green with dusty purple bloom and greatly favored by all manner of visiting little flying travelers, most of which I cannot identify. I don't prune my heather and I can't burn my patch to renew it. It's cousin, the white heather, is also unruly and somewhat larger. It is so nice to have the muted colors of the fall bloom. Mixed in with the heathers are the heath. They of course are spring blooming mostly, so are presently at rest. They, in most of the Wet Coast Gardens are pruned rather tightly so the bloom is abundant and very showy. I don't think mine has ever had a haircut. Some of the heath in the patch is fuzzy, tall, shrub heath with small white bells in the spring. My patch all told, looks about like a population of adolescents. They seed themselves so some new plants come along, and new plants also take root from low branches, so they are a crowd, ranging in size and age and flowering! "Bless'em all, bless'em all, the young and the short and the tall!" Aside from water they need aught else! They are user friendly!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Eating Crow

If you rise to the first level of your incompetence you will learn to eat crow or not survive! The Peter Principal is easily the most obvious phenomenon in the career of the rising star! When training in medicine in the olden days, humility was learned early and often. As one gained experience and knowledge in what was really a rigorous apprenticeship there was a further step upward in the programme to new levels of skill and knowledge. Having skill and knowledge was never enough! The phrase used was not having, but " bringing skill and knowledge to the practice of medicine". Each step up was accompanied by more meals of crow. With time, crow becomes more palatable and more easily digested. You don't have to lie, or protect your ego, or remember what you said earlier to protect your tangled web! You just put on your bib and settle down to a new meal of crow. People knew that you would tell the truth because you had a cast iron stomach and could survive the vicissitudes of your marginally incompetent role. Over the crow eating meals, new skills are imparted by your nutritionist boss. You will become more competent as a result of crow flesh. You can enter the practice of medicine with the proper humility and knowledge that you are and will be an imperfect creature and that's OK! Enjoy your meal!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rototill Your Compost Pile

After a hot, dry midsummer, the rain came for a few days and I rototilled my compost pit! It's a great way to mix the working material, but a cautionary tale is, avoid the front tined tiller.The rear tine tiller gives much more control in mixing, and you are less likely to fall off the compost heap. The compost I have consists of shredded hedge cuttings with lots of leaf, and old straw bales used earlier for dahlia bulb storage. These take time to digest! I throw some balanced fertilizer on it to speed up the working, and some of my nephew's Happy Farmer Bokashi (tm), with SCD Efficient Microbes! These latter two things are less important than the adequate mixing of the materials,and even more crucial still, the tiller brings up from below, the thin residual layer of compost we always leave behind when we spread it on the garden in the previous fall. Last year's compost is like the sour dough starter yeast that the bread makers prized and perpetuated for years. How could a Old Sourdough manage to live and prospect without his cache of yeast to sustain him? Last year's retained compost layer is like the residual tea leaves in the cha-damari of Japanese tea ceremony raku bowl. A ceremonial tea statement that we never take all from the world! We return the compost to the land from whence it came, but leave a little behind as a starter for the next year's compost. This is practical. We also leave a little compost remaining behind because we do not take all from the earth. Like the raku which also comes from the earth, we leave a few tea leaves in the raku bowl, and compost in the pit, as a spiritual reminder that we always owe a debt to life!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Learning from Bad Examples

Pity the poor student, that in life, had only superb teaching and exemplary teachers. I learned much from my own failures and from those whose failures surrounded me. Periodic teaching from bad examples provides one with the zeal and stimulus to do better and emulate the best teachers you have encountered. The realization that you can do much better than that which has been offered will lead to renewed efforts on the part of the student. The stream of consciousness will be stimulated not only by good ideas, but in the right hands, often by ideas that are barren. There is not much in life that is absolute. Received wisdom has ebbed and flooded over time and often given way to a new and further temporary wisdom. We are hammered these days with polarized disputes on almost every subject imaginable. You have been given five senses that allows you to come to your own conclusions. A sixth sense is buried deep within everyone which can be awakened. The seventh sense is crucial to the scientist. That is, common sense! Observe the world around you on your own terms. Smell the roses and all else! Touch and feel the rough and the smooth. Listen to the sounds of the natural world. Taste the abundance you have been freely given . Wait and listen for the spirit to awaken you to fresh beginnings. Ask yourself "Does this make ordinary sense?" Know that all experiences are a teaching tool, good and bad. Accept it with grace. That's what moulds the collagen in character!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Importance of Being Silly

Humor and cultural differences often collide. The humor in Canadian culture, as frequently elsewhere, is often associated with self effacing speech and action, general silliness, and irony. The nature of my postings often include such an attitude. Being silly is serious stuff since it both reveals and conceals , mocks with a gentle rejoinder, and allows the author to remain attached to an unidentifiable point of view. I had some Asian comments on my various posts, but I was unable to read them. The few comments that have been translated for me, display what appears to be an identifiable difference in perception. That is, my humor is treated with an earnestness it does not deserve. I wonder, is the Asian character given to knee slapping, belly laughing, frantic foot stomping , aisle rolling, juice depleting, humor? I think not! Silliness may be seen as outlandish! What about irony? Is that seen as deceptive or sarcastic, rather than for it's own humorous parody? Is self effacement in humor considered degrading? Is there a cultural gulf in the way humor is expressed by the western and eastern parts of the Pacific Rim? I would be very interested in opinions as to what constitutes the difference, if any, in humor. You should know that an elderly eclectic gentleman brought up on material such as The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and Beyond the Fringe, would not be confined to writing exclusively in earnest! The Importance of Being Earnest is silly!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hedge trimmer

As an elderly eclectic gentleman I am too feeble to manage a large hedge, and a heavy, gas hedge trimmer, without some creative inventiveness! My Rube Goldberg apparatus was a simple structure that employed a crutch secured to a boat engine mount, both apparatus readily available in the household of a decrepit, who lives by the beach. When it was trialed it was somewhat awkward and only moderately effective. The hedge I have inherited was planted by Mother Nature and consists of, among other things, thorny 'rosa vulgaris' and blackberry vines. The object of my invention, as you can see in the attachment, allows the hedge cutter to perch on the handhold of the crutch which takes the weight of the 7 foot trimmer. The engine mount base can be moved every 4 feet along the hedge and the hedge trimmed in an arc-like fashion. The hedge height achieved is consistent, due to the constancy of the purchase on the crutch hand hold, which obviates the need for string or eyeball. I thought it was a good idea, but then my son-in law came along and just cut the hedge without my creation, since he is a youngish eclectic gentleman. Since my hedge is 6 or 7 feet deep, and to be 5 feet high at the lawn, and 15 feet at the water side, and 200 feet long, it is a daunting task! I was blessed with his help. I did the mop up work and shredded the clippings the following day.I have become parsimonious in my old age, since hitherto, I have spent about 400 dollars getting a strong man to do this job. A dollar saved is a dollar earned! Thank goodness for my son-in-law.If I am abandoned by my family and friends, I may have to revert to my invention, but it's current trial was a bit of a bust.