Friday, June 29, 2012

Mankind as Meat

Peter, a former rector of mine with whom I had a friendly but occasionally chequered relationship, was mildly intrigued, and possibly repulsed, that my job as an orthopedic surgeon involved cutting into the human body! He often greeted me with the salutation, "How is Chop-Chop today?" It was never a question, though he may have believed it was. I believe he thought this was funny. I was never able to cope with this greeting satisfactorily. I brushed it off as his unique sense of humor and shrugged with a smile. It is however, a classical example of words that betray thoughts. It did provide me with some insight into the gestalt of some, that we are made in the image of God, but it is not important to embrace the fact that we are meat. We are meat, and God and Nature, all his handiwork, is one; and much of his handiwork is meat. Luckily for me, my son, also a rector, was with me one day when I was greeted by my friend Peter who said gaily to me in his usual fashion, "Have you done any Chop-Chop today?" My boy looked him over and asked in response, "Have you done any Mumble-Mumble today?" It's a blessing to have someone stand for you. Peter's wife, who was party to this exchange mused about Chop-Chop. "Maybe what Peter asks is rude!", she thought aloud. I think not! It is all a matter of perspective. "I worship, therefore I am!", we say. "I think, therefore I am!", we say. "I cut meat: I screw bones together, therefore I am!", I said.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Unheavenly Host

And there came to Lotus Island in the year of the Dragon, the unheavenly host of tent caterpillars, targeting and ravaging the soft leaf trees, devastating the landscape thoughout the island. I am reminded of the drought years of the early 40's on the bald prairie with the grasshopper clouds, eating every grain in sight, leaving so much bodily debris and grasshopper juice on the grill and windows of one's car that it was difficult to travel. They even constructed grasshopper screens for the car grill in those days. The windscreen looked like a deluge of tobacco spit from the spittoon. A repeat worm plague today on Lotus island, resembling the plague of locusts in old Egypt and Kindersley from yester-millennium and yesteryear. The tent caterpillars on Lotus Island have now left the trees and are in cocoons, metamorphosing into the adult moth form in mid July. There is, I am happy to report, a glimmer of light on the horizon, at least on the patch of ground of the pianist and the elderly eclectic gentleman. I took apart and examined 50 cocoons on my blueberry patch. The cocoons are of an intricate construction. They comprise an inner sack that contains the headless black nymph, awaiting transformation from Cinderella to Princess. This is a secondary oval silken sack, finely woven and close ended. The outer cocoon is a loosely woven primary sack designed initially by the worm to secure the later inner sack to the leaf and branch. 50 compound sacks were investigated by me yesterday. There were only 5 sacks containing a healthy black, headless instar that will transform to a moth.The balance of the sacks contained dead or immature worms in a state of dissolution, empty sacks without exit holes, or parasitic larvae, not identified, foraging on worm carcases. There were no further gestating nymphs in metamorphoses. Today I see the devastated trees are beginning to re-leaf and the meagre 10 percent cycle success suggested by my admittedly short and local series, still gives me some cause for optimism that the plague cycle has peaked. I may be dreaming in vain but, unlike Joseph,I can not interpret a dream. Nevertheless, like Pandora's box, Hope remained available in the box, while the Evils spread their wings and entered the world.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Good Worker

If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times in my growing up period on the bald prairie! It may have been one of those prairie truisms that arose out of pioneer stock and depression realities. It was a black and white judgement and it comprised largely criteria that if you were one of those workers it entailed, time spent, muscle, consistancy and promptitude, rather than cleverness! My dad had a lot to say about people who were for him, not good workers; a beard was an indication of this, as well as those who had their hands in their pockets. Imbued as I was with his mantra I never wanted to appear as if I wasn't in constant motion, doing something, almost anything as long as there appeared to be action to avoid being labelled a bad worker. As an old man I still have an unreasonable fear to be seen lolling about if a cleaning woman or gardener or some sort of tradesperson is here serving us. I race to get dressed in my work clothes before they arrive. Loath to be seen as one of the idle rich! I drive the pianist crazy with my eye on the clock when an appointment looms as if I may not appear on time. I have never grown a beard or put my hands in the pocket without immediately withdrawal of something from it; anything! When we first went to England as a young man in 1961 to live and work as an orthopedic registrar, the pianist and I were invited to a large cocktail party by way of initiation to the community, a mixed gathering. One gentleman of about 40 that I met, I asked in the usual Canadian manner of starting a polite conversation, "What do you do?" "Nothing," he said, "Mummy left me pots!" He smiled indulgently! Canadian eh! I don't think I have ever heard that since, nor had I heard it before, given as a simple statement of fact without a scintilla of embarrassment. Coming from a working class prairie environment I found myself in awe of his genuine self satisfaction that didn't need to scurry around and appear to be working in order to justify one's existence! I don't think I ever achieved that sense of comforting entitlement. Still haunted by reward and punishment. Who knew!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Maple Pole Bean Mania

Cobble Hill Ruthie and I were talking bean stakes yesterday as she was having trouble finding suitable ones. Her pole beans are now up! I told her I used fresh cut Maple sapling shoots. They grow all over Lotus Island on the edge of the roadside ditches and are now 8 to 12 feet long! They are perfect for that use and they are free! If one is careful while cutting the shoot at the base so as to not disturb the cambium layer which protects the phloem and xylem, and uses a dibble to make the holes, they will root since they have Force Majeure and you must have planted a node with the germinal root cells well below the surface of the dirt. When the shoots are first selected while in the ditch, this Old One may seem a madman to the vehicular traffic as they whiz by on the road at eye-level. By now the shoots are branching from the nodes so they are trimmed and l leave the trimmings in the ditch. I leave an inch of branch on each sapling for the subsequent purchase of the bean stringers as they grow.The pole beans I use are Blue Lake, for no good reason, but because I always have. These plants are heavy but they have strong positive thigmotropism and could cling to a pig-greased pole, nevertheless it is best to augment with purchase points which will cause them to curl tightly and hang on. A good homemade dibble is an old broom. Drill a big hole 6 inches from the end of the handle and shove in a long bolt of matching size through the hole. Leave the worn out broom on as a lever. Your foot on the bolt plunges the dibble into the dirt and if you use the broom as a lever, you can wiggle your dibble. Stack the shoots around your bean sprouts and bind them together high up like a teepee. There are a lot of pluses to these stakes. As the stake begins to root, the beans begin to climb with considerable celerity. The weight of the beans causes the flexible cane to bend which tightens the bean stringers. The lateral stringers tighten too, so the bean-sapling unit becomes a taut one and therefore stong. The rooting capacity provides a firm foundation from both bean and shoot. The rooted sapling sucks up nitrogen but the bean is a nitrogen fixator and so, pays it forward. Isn't Mother Nature wonderful in its symbiosis? Success in human nature is no different than the bean-stake unit. Strong; flexible; rooted; teamwork; paying forward; bean counting;and self-sustaining. Standing up at your head height, where the air is clear and the sun is bright. As I thought about Ruthie yesterday, I also thought about Jack and his mother and his cow-for-bean enterprise. I have an interest in plant sounds, especially beans. Listen closely with each ear/ Batteries charged so one can hear/ Trill but soft, a little thrum/ Fee and Fie -- Foe and Fum!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Braided Cord

A braided hawser-laid cord of three strands bound together with one another, each strand providing a share of strength but the braiding allowing an elastic moment, tightening and loosening as the braid torque allows, but at no cost of strength. The strand of Reason weaves through and around the strands of Tradition and Scripture, imparting a horizontal moment without compromise of the strength; only the ability of the whole to stretch when weighted down. Where the first fibres that make up a strand arose from is a mystery, but they are called Spirit. Which strand was constructed first from these fibres, we may know from the history, but each strand is made of the same spun fibres of Spirit. The whole is more than the sum of its parts because of the integral moment of the braid design. What is certain is that, aside from which strand was built first, the whole cord was built, longer and longer with the strands meeting together, acting as one.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fondue and Artichoke

In the 60's, fondue was all the rage! Cool folks huddled around hot cooking oil in a communal pot on the dining room table. Cubes of beef sizzling on a sharp fork, falling off of it into the pot, sometime-chefs, poking around with the fork to find it and knocking off everyone else's meat. The product often crispy fried as a result, and then dipped in creamy dill or plum sauce. I hated fondue but the pianist liked it and also pursued chocolate fondue with strawberries and cheese fondue with bread cubes. There was always the greedy guy who quickly cooked more than his share of the meat, frequently almost raw, and poked his fork in your product as you cooked it ever so gently. He often put too much rapidly in at one time and cooled off the oil, dribbled the oil on the tablecloth and either burned his tongue, or poked it with his sharp two pronged fondue fork. For those who enjoyed a languid eating style it was a conversational bonanza while your little cube was cooking and a socially satisfying endeavor despite the rampant eater with his mouth full at the table head. I always,in fact, sympathized with the trencherman but restrained myself mightily from copying his technique in deference to the pianist. Fondue is just not a guy thing and mercifully has succumbed to the fast food ethos! The garden at Lotus Island has Globe Artichokes, another clone-like contributor of the Slow Loris eating industry! Sucking and scraping away at the sepals of the flower after dipping in garlic butter, the eater will have to bath and change his clothing to rid the grease and fuzz. Dipping the soft and tasteless bases of the calyx is a greasy act of slow dissection,ridding oneself of the nascent petals which guarantees the rest of your meal will get cold; while filling the garbage pail with the uneatable 99 percent of the artichoke.My advice to artichoke lovers is let them flower into their magnificent purple thistle-like flower head and put them on the table as a table centre with your meat and potatoes!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Formication and Slug Fest

The tent caterpillars are now dropping like rain from their webs after the feeding frenzy, having denuded most of the soft leaf trees on Lotus Island. They are now resting for two weeks on any object they fall on, including the unwary. As they fall on the neck or head or clothing of the passer-by they perform jactitations, swiveling and squirming here and there, giving rise to feelings like formicatiom that linger in one's mind into the night in bed when one wakes with the distinct sense that something is still crawling on the limb and trunk. Soon the worms that survive will cocoon 'til the middle of July and then emerge in force as yellow orange moths. Imagine the bizarre tactile hallucinations of the psychiatric patient afflicted with symptoms of formication and the desperation to sweep or swat what is not there. The rain forest on Lotus Island has also had a profusion of slugs as well, munching the vegetation below in concert with the caterpillars as the trees are munched above, the ground feeding especially vexing to the gardener of iris and dahlia. However,the nightly visits to the garden by the gardener, dividing the slugs in half with sharp secateurs as he weaves through the rain of worms, is the most humane and satisfying of pursuits. The small bodies of the slugs and caterpillars, oozing out the green juices of the gardener's vegetation, when chopped, is sweet revenge. Tossing at night,waking in a world of squirm and slime! Carpe diem!