fragility

“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it,
that we discover the possibility of true joy.”

Desmond Tutu


(a spent monarch butterfly lifeless in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

You may remember that I once wrote a post about the life expectancy of butterflies…
and surprisingly, it is very brief.
Often times just a matter of a few short weeks.

Which is a bit hard to wrap one’s thoughts around when this yard of mine
is awash with the comings and goings of what seems to be hundreds of
butterflies in every size, shape and description.

I also know that some butterflies even migrate from life here in the south down
even further south to Mexico and as far as even South America.
I don’t know much about the life expectancies of those particular travelers
but for such a southerly jaunt, I’d imagine stamina is key.

Yet despite their brief lives, it is always sad finding one having given up
the ghost…

I don’t think I really need any more reminding on the fragility of
life…
however, having spotted this dead Monarch in the grass,
that’s exactly what I got when I was out watering the plants…

It is amazing to me how I can look at a dead butterfly and feel such a sharp pang
of sadness.

For despite my own spate of life’s current sadness, which is currently running
amuck in this little world of mine,
seeing a butterfly lifeless, in a fading clump on the ground, sends a rush of
melancholy washing over my heart.

Life, be it a butterfly’s or our own, is oh so fragile…
And yet we rarely think of it as such.

Our own ego and bravado coupled by the current run of angst and anger…
all run counter to any notion of life being fragile…

Life which is actually something to be savored caressed and
counted as a joyous gift not merely taken for granted or even worse,
purposely attacked.

I wonder what it might take for the majority of this angry Nation of ours,
what could move the hearts and minds of those filled with such hate
and intolerance…
what could possibly stir in the hearts of the gang members, those who
choose to relish in causing pain and suffering …
what could open the eyes of man to his fleeing fragile nature as he races
forward toward his own death and demise….


(a daredevil Tiger Swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.

Psalm 39:4

I have the perfect solution. . . does anyone know where I can get an anteater or two??

“As regards intellectual work it remains a fact, indeed, that great decisions in the realm of thought and momentous discoveries and solutions of problems are only possible to an individual, working in solitude.”
Sigmund Freud

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(Sleeping anteater at the Vienna Zoo–isn’t he a cutie? Julie Cook / 2012)

How delightfully appropriate that the subject of today’s posted image, as well as the author of today’s quote, both hail from Vienna. Not originally mind you as Freud was born in Moravia which is currently considered a part of the Czech Republic and our little cute sleeping beauty is originally from the wilds of South America, yet both made their permeant homes in Vienna. I am thinking however that our sweet little sleeping friend did not come to Vienna by choice, but I digress.

I have decided that I desperately need to procure an anteater, maybe even two.
They look easy to keep. I can certainly provide a place for them to sleep. I can water them, brush them as that coat of theirs looks like it could do with a nice brushing. They seem docile enough. Surely that little mouth of theirs isn’t filled with fierce teeth and I bet they wouldn’t scratch the furniture like the two knot heads, aka our cats of which my husband so lovingly refers, who happen to call our house home and who scratch with a relentless zeal—hence why I sit on tattered rags. . .digressing.
I bet I can even provide said anteater with a smorgasbord of delectable foods.
An endless and amble supply!!

In fact my yard is full of their food!

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(one of hundreds of ant mounds hiding just on the surface of the South / Julie Cook / 2014)

There have been three recent incidents which have lead me to the desire of the procurement of said anteater–all of which have been of the Alfred Hitchcock variety. . .or more of the Rod Serling Twilight Zone variety. . .or perhaps more like a B grade horror flick. . .or maybe just all three rolled into one.

The latest “episode” transpired earlier this week.
It was late and I was ready to call it a day.
I was just getting into the shower when I looked back noticing Percy (aka one of the knot heads that I dearly love) staring intently at my shirt, the one I had dropped on the closet floor as I was preparing for my shower, intending to take it to the laundry room once I finished washing up.

Now mind you I was currently naked as a jaybird, as that is how I prefer to shower–plus I had removed my glasses as I also prefer to shower with naked eyes. As Percy wouldn’t stop staring at my shirt, I hesitated shutting the shower door, preferring to lean outward just a tad to get a better look at my discarded shirt.
Why was it appearing to twinkle or vibrate or move in place?
Hummmmm.
With the water running, I step out of the shower to inspect this odd phenomenon. Even without my glasses I can immediately figure out as to why my shirt is “moving”
AAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
I run screaming from the closet and bathroom, yes, still naked as a jaybird, shower door wide open as the water is still running. And please, don’t let your mind go there as it is not a pretty sight.
My poor husband, who had fallen asleep in his favorite chair watching the late night news, jumps from his chair as if he had just been catapulted heavenward.

“ANTS ARE IN THE CLOSET!! GET THE POISON!!”
This as I make a mad dash in search of poison.
“Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?
My confused, tired and bleary eyed husband asks in great annoyance.
He seems to think company is always about to ring the bell any time day or night whenever I decide, out of grand necessity mind you, that I must make some scantily clad dash here, there and yon.

“ANTS!!! FIRE ANTS ARE IN THE HOUSE!!! GET THE POISON!!!”
Finding a spray bottle of bug killer I make a mad dash past my husband who is finally making his way to see for himself, firsthand, the cause of my commotion.

Sure enough, my shirt is teaming with ants as a nice orderly line is coming and going to the baseboard along the outside wall of the house.

“KILL THEM” I scream as I precariously pick up my shirt and run to the back to door to fling it outside. Yes I’m still naked as a jaybird but its late and its dark out, I could run around naked all night in the yard and no one would see me so it’s okay.

I dash back in and begin wildly spraying the remaining mass and the now confused little trail leading to the baseboard.

“TAKE THAT. . .AND THAT” I shout in triumph of extermination.

By now my husband has made his way to the basement in search of his high powered poison and proceeds to make his way outside in the dark to spray the base of the house outside the closet as there is obviously a mound hiding in the pine straw a bit too close to the house for my liking.

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(I’m not trying to push this brand, but it’s all we had)

I finally throw on some clothes ( you realize that I can hear you sighing in heavy relief) as I proceed to spray and wipe up, then mop the closest.
“DAMN ANTS” I can be heard to wail and lament for the remainder of the night.

The two times prior to this invasion were each similar.
It always starts the same.
Percy begins staring.
One time it was at his food bowl–which was oddly, once again, moving—as there was also a nice little line of soldiers coming in from a kitchen baseboard, once again from an outside wall. My husband, most likely to avoid my high pitched screams of hysteria, immediately dashed outside, finding the mound in the pine straw, at the base of the wall to the kitchen and began spraying the spray of eradication.

The other time was in the laundry room. All with a similar scene of pandaemonium, chaos and poison.

Now you must know that I pride myself in the keeping a very clean, immaculate home. I scrub, mop, dust, vacuum like nobody’s business. I keep a neat and tidy yard doing my best to eradicate the damn mounds which liter the yard like weeds gone mad.

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(you can’t see them in this picture but had this been a video, the earth would be violently moving)

I spend hundreds of dollars on poison, sprays, powders—anything and everything in order to kill these most painful and even dangerous pests.

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(don’t inhale, it will kill you)

If you’ve ever flown into the Atlanta airport. . .as the next time you make your way to baggage, look up—there for all the world to see, is what some whacked out “decorator” thought would be cute—a sculptured trail of giant fire ants climbing the walls onto the ceiling. I find this to be a grave embarrassment for our fine state.
I hate the damn things, and here, for all of humanity to see, the airing of our dirty laundry.
Yes, we here in the South have a terrible problem with fire ants, and we can’t seem to do anything to fix it.

I won’t go into the odd dance performed by many a blindsided southerner who mindlessly ventures outside, rather oblivious as to where and where not to step. Any passing neighbor will quickly recognize the fire ant dance. One step, inadvertently on a camouflaged mound hiding in the thick cool summer grass and within a millisecond, ones foot, leg and lower torso is engulfed in searing pain sending the poor unsuspecting victim hopping, swatting and jumping around the yard madly striping out of any and all clothing.
It’s the only way.
Perhaps dousing oneself in gasoline is the only other option but I don’t recommend that.

All humor aside fire ants have been known to kill young calves, deer, dogs and cats not to mention cause grave concern for those who are allergic to bees. Their bites pack a painful punch and imagine timesing that by 1,000,000,000!

So I have decided on what appears to be the most sound and rational solution, not to mention the most environmentally friendly, riding my need of poisons all in the name of the eternal quest of the total eradication of these damned fire ants!

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(no, my yard does not have a drug problem, rather a poison problem)

Now if I could just talk the Vienna Zoo into letting me borrow their sweet little “pets”. . .

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(a sleeping mom anteater with her young draped over mom’s head / Vienna Zoo / Julie Cook / 2012)

Life lived in squalor and the healing power of music

“American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash–all of them–surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered in rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use.”
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”
Unknown

” A person does not hear sound only through the ears; he hears sound through every pore of his body. It permeates the entire being, and according to its particular influence either slows or quickens the rhythm of the blood circulation; it either wakens or soothes the nervous system. It arouses a person to greater passions or it calms him by bringing him peace. According to the sound and its influence a certain effect is produced. Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance. This shows that the same energy which goes into the form of sound before being visible is absorbed by the physical body. In that way the physical body recuperates and becomes charged with new magnetism.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan, Mysticism of Sound

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(an image of a small portion of the trash mountains which forms the base of Paraguay’s small city of Cateura)

As a veteran high school art teacher, I was constantly familiar with the ebb and flow of budgets.
In the lean years of the Economy–be it local, state, National, or all of the above–Educational systems would attempt their hand at creativity when it came to maintaining and offering a quality curriculum.

With losses in revenue, be they local, state or federal, activities and courses which were considered “non essential” to the learning process were always up for discussion as the yearly conversations would drift toward funding and budgets. Those programs being the initial proverbial lambs led to the slaughter of the chopping blocks were most often the Arts, Foreign Language, as well as Health and Physical Education.

One thing I always told my kids was that it has been and always will be the Arts— be it music, performance or visual, which have always given man his humanness—hence these being considered “The Humanities of Academia.

It is the Arts which makes us, man, civilized.

I could go on all day espousing the benefits of keeping the Arts in our schools. I could jump on my orator’s soap box, speaking to man’s responsibility when it comes to the Arts, as in understanding that there are parameters to creativity which are to be explored as well as respected—but I will allow a recent story as seen on 60 Minutes to speak for me and of the innate and essential relationship man has to the need for creativity–in this case, the making of music.

Sunday evening, the televised news “magazine” broadcast a story that had originally aired earlier in the television year. A story that I had originally missed.
It was the story of unspeakable poverty.
The wastefulness of man.
The creativity of Man.
As well as a story of the healing power found in both the creative process as well as in the making of music.
Hope in a sea of hopelessness.

The Recyclers: From Trash Comes Triumph
(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/recyclers-from-trash-comes-triumph-2/)

Once again it was the correspondent Bob Simon who shared the story of Paraguay’s unimaginable poverty and of the hope which rises up from the massive trash heaps–hope for the children who call Cateura, Paraguay home.

The story opens with shots of the acres and miles of trash which this small South American town has unimaginably grown up around. A city which emerged literally from the trash. Cateura is not far from the capital city of Asuncion and is the dumping ground for much of Paraguay.

As the camera panned the landscape, there was nothing but trash for as far as the eye could see. The buzzing sound of a legion of flies, off set by the sound of hundreds of birds, all looking to capitalize on some morsel from this sea of waste, was nerve racking.

And then I, the viewer, notice them—there amongst the mountains of garbage were hundreds of people, young and old, who were rooting throughout the trash, as say a pig might root through garbage, in search of anything salvageable to resell—be it plastic, glass, rubber, metal—anything that could be resold.

I, the viewer, was spared the unbearable stench but I knew it existed as many of those “digging” wore rags across their nose and mouth.
Let’s not talk about the health risks to such an endeavor. Let’s not talk about the generations of families who have made this sort of work their means of survival. Let’s not talk about how the children literally walk along narrow canals filled with feted waters and littered with trash as they navigate their way to school or anywhere for that matter. Let’s not talk about the city’s only source of water being highly toxic and contaminated. . .

It is almost incomprehensible that people live in Cateura.

And then the camera takes the viewer to a school with the unmistakable sound of orchestral music, albeit a bit out of tune, rising up from the dirty open courtyard. Suddenly we realize that the musical instruments the children are playing are not typical of what one would find in a school’s collection of instrument. These instruments give new meaning to the concept of “homemade”.

Rubbish instruments

These unlikely instruments were born from the creative thought of an environmental technician, Favio Chavez, who having come to Cateura, was amazed observing that the children of Cateura not only lived amongst the sea of trash, but they played here as well, just as other children world wide would play.

Next, meet Don Colá Gomez. Señor Gomez is a carpenter as well as a “trash digger” –but Señor Gomez digs not only for items of resale value, but he digs for something much more valuable. He digs and scavenges for items he can transform into musical instruments.

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I was amazed watching Señor Gomez cutting and shaping scrapes of metal and plastics, fashioning them into violins, guitars, cellos, clarinets, flutes, drums, etc. The tuning pins could be a broken wooden rod, a dirty and discarded hair brush. The strings stripped from pieces of plastics. Drums from x-ray plates, clarinets from old rusted pipes. A factory made violin would cost more than the average home in Cateura. Ingenuity truly having to be the mother of invention in Señor Gomez’s workshop.

The children gather in the dirty school yard each Saturday to learn to play an instrument. The older children, those who have already been playing for a while, teach the younger children. Favio Chavez explains to the reporter that “music teaches the kids respect and responsibility, not common commodities in the gang-ridden streets of Cateura.”

I imagine that the music making of which Señor Chaves explains is something much greater than that of teaching children various attributes of character but rather that the music and the orchestra is a life line for these children—connecting them to the very core of human dignity.

Señor Chavez is actually taking the children of Caturea’s orchestra on tour. There is even a documentary being put together about this ragtag orchestra “Landfill Harmonic” complete with a rather viral trailer available on YouTube.

I will leave you with the words of Mirian Rios, one of the children’s grandmother. . . “I would say it’s a blessing from God. People used to humiliate us and call us “trash pickers.” Today they are more civilized, they call us the “recyclers.” So I feel that this is a reward from God. That our children who come from this place….can play beautiful music in this way

May we all learn to play such beautiful music

Members of the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Cateura pose for the audience during a concert in Asuncion