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Archive for the ‘Philosophy of Life’ Category

Getting our solar array constructed and connected was a lot like seeing an avalanche set in motion.   At first, just a few balls of snow break off a cornice and start falling down the mountainside.   As they gain momentum and pick up a little more snow, the slide becomes larger and more noticeable.   Suddenly, a huge mass of snow breaks loose, and running faster and faster down the slope it finally crashes to a stop in the valley below. While the installation of our panels was nothing like the destructive power of an avalanche, the way the whole thing happened was a lot like that.   First there were all the preliminary steps like moving dirt, cleaning up piles of wood and rock to do.   Then we decided that rather than put the inverters into a shop that needed refurbishing and then have to work around them, we would do the refurbishing first.   And then it seemed like the holes would never get dug. But once they were, the whole thing took on a life and momentum of its own and it was a positive dash to the finish. Last Thursday was the “witching hour” when our local utility company sent a crew out to replace our one meter service with the two meters required for grid tie solar.   Our own electrician was here too, to make the actual physical connection of the solar power to the meter. Here is the progression, in photographs. The solar array: DSCF0618 DSCF0627 DSCF0626 The pole: DSCF0625 DSCF0633 DSCF0630 DSCF0634 DSCF0636 Incidentally, I want to say a huge thank you to all the people who worked on this for us.   Our designer, Stan Kramer was an invaluable source of information and expertise, not to mention a power house of a worker on the physical labor side.   Our electrician, Harold Ewing was a true craftsman, efficient, and fun to talk to.   The crew from Laclede Electric that did the meter installation were also artists in electrical work, efficient, professional and pleasant. The inverters: DSCF0621 DSCF0637 The million volt lightning arrester (there are three, one per inverter and one at the meter): DSCF0622 The reason we have two inverters is because of the generating capacity of the solar array.   It turned out to be less costly to buy two smaller inverters and hook them into the grid in series than to buy one inverter with enough capacity to serve the whole array.  Each inverter has a panel that gives you information about how much power is being generated right at the moment you look, how much was generated each hour during the past hours, how many kilowatt hours you have generated that day, and then it also tells you how many megawatts have been generated since the system was operational. These are the two panels taken yesterday afternoon: DSCF0660 DSCF0661 So, of course the question always comes up as to how much did it all cost and was it worth it?  The total cost of the whole thing (not counting the improvements to the barn) came in just shy of $18,000.   We will be receiving a 30% tax credit for the system on our federal income tax.   That credit can be spread out over a couple of years because the caveat is you can’t make your tax bill less than zero. Yep.   That’s a lot of money.   But since the system has been running we have generated 125 kiloWatt hours of electricity.   That is in five and half days.  Two of those days were overcast and on one it actually rained.   The system still generated power that day. We are expecting a return on our investment of between 5 and 6 percent annually.    If that doesn’t sound like all that much to you, I invite you to investigate just how much interest you get on a savings account.   Around here they are paying 0.05% on a savings account.   Our stocks and mutual funds did not lose money this year, but they also did not earn anything.   So a guaranteed yearly ROI of 5% looks pretty good to us. Also, let me just point out that we don’t expect the price of electricity to be going down any time soon. (!)  Every time the rates go up, our ROI will get better. Plus, it is putting our money where our mouth is:  cutting back on our carbon footprint in a pretty big way.   That feels really good right now!

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Flaming is a hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users, often involving the use of profanity.

Flaming usually occurs in the social context of an Internet forum, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Usenet, by e-mail, game servers such as Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, and on video-sharing websites. It is frequently the result of the discussion of heated real-world issues such as politics, religion, and philosophy, or of issues that polarize sub-populations, but can also be provoked by seemingly trivial differences.

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Of course, the above definition does not point out that often the “seemingly trivial differences” are never trivial in the eyes of the flamer.

You might wonder why I would mention flaming, and the reason, of course, is that I have been flamed recently.    I think anyone who uses the internet either has been flamed or will be sometime in the future.   The person who flamed me has done so before, and even before the internet was prevalent or we had a vernacular name for this sort of personal and vindictive attack.

My policy previously has been informed by my dear spouse, who has advised me that this person gets furious, vents, fumes, sulks (sometimes for years) and then eventually lets go of the issue and everyone can move on.   The best thing to do, he has told me, is to do nothing and not worry about the situation, which will eventually resolve.

This has indeed been the case in the past times.   The problem is, when one has been viciously attacked, even when the attacker has let it all go, it is hard to forget the previous attacks.  One tends to be on guard, and careful.   The explosion is never pleasant.

I let my guard down recently, and the inevitable attack occurred, via an email that was a huge “FUCK YOU” written with a pen dipped in poison, expressing feelings engendered by misinterpretation. It was painted in terms that were insulting and mean, and contained assumptions, inaccuracies, slurs, innuendos, and character assassination.

I have refused to respond.   And I will not.   Nothing is accomplished by flaming except the wonderful power of being able to hurt people by doing so.

Of course I was hurt, deeply, but mostly I have recovered.   At present I have found deep compassion for this person.  While my compassion is there, I have learned my lesson, finally.   I have no need to ever see this person again, or to exchange any words, nor will I.  This means that I will not have to suffer another flaming episode, as I will know not to read any further correspondence from that quarter.

I read my Tarot cards about the situation, doing a four card layout I like, called “clarification of a situation or emotional condition.”  After you select the cards, they wind up in a square layout.  The card in the North is the actual theme which is really of concern at the moment.   The West card shows what you are receptive and open to.  The South card shows what you are expressing and showing of yourself outwardly.  East is the key; pointing a way in which to overcome the problem actively.

This was the layout I got:

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Honestly, I really was not expecting such a group of positive cards.  The theme card, 10 of Cups (Satiety), indicates that I should let things develop by themselves, and that everything comes to me at the right moment.   What I am open to is the 3 of Cups (Love), and indicates that I have something especially valuable to share.  I must be open for the people who can share these feelings.  They are a gift and I don’t need to look for them.  What I am expressing, Prince of Wands, indicates intensity, blossoming love, intuitive creativity, and moving out of the darkness into the light.   The key, the way to overcome the problem, is 9 of Wands (Strength).  I am advised to use the power gained through unifying conscious and unconscious energies, and demonstrate wholeness.

Nice to know that I am surrounded by love and am coming into my true power.  I certainly know I have something valuable to share!  I feel this truth more and more in my professional life.  Last week, two different people called me a miracle worker because of the effect my body work had on their health and pain levels.

A beloved, powerful, miracle worker:   I can live with that.

 

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There’s a certain amount of irony involved in life, you know.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was out working in the Stroll Garden, specifically the “Scree Slope” portion where I have all the sedums and hen and chicks planted.   There are wonderful dianthus there too.

Here’s a fairly recent shot of the area, taken from within the Japanese Rock garden.

Truly, it is quite wonderful right now.   But if you zero in on the rocks in front of the sedums, you will see that the maples propagated themselves quite nicely this year.   There are “helicopters” all over the place.

I spent about an hour and a half out in the area, removing the maple seeds, in addition to cleaning out the leaves that blew in last fall.   There were plenty of weeds to pull as well, which is sort of how I justified the rather obsessive compulsive clean-up I was engaged in.

So the irony is I can spend hours hand picking weeds and trash out of a garden, but at the same time pulling my vacuum cleaner out of the closet and running it around the house just seems like too much effort.  I am GOING to do that job as soon as I’m done with this post.  And I am NOT going to photographically document the grass clippings in the hall that rode in on my bare feet, or the dust kitties under my desk, nor the drifts of Ruby’s fur that have accumulated at the edges of the dining room (spring is shedding season, you know).   I shall leave all that to your imaginations.

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I find this ironic too.   This was our weather forecast for this area for this day.

Today: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 1pm. Some of the storms could be severe. Partly sunny, with a high near 75. Breezy, with a south wind between 22 and 29 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t that pretty much sound like “We don’t think it is going to snow, but we really have no clue as to what is going to happen, so be prepared for just about anything.”

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I found this on Facebook the other day, posted by one of my friends.    It struck me as ironic, and wrong headed too.

Karma is a two-way street.

I’m thinking that one ought to look at that statement and contemplate the fact that NO ONE goes through life without hurting anyone.  Sometimes it is purposeful, sometimes it is accidental, sometimes it is a knowing thing, and sometimes it is from lack of attention.  Sometimes a person who hurts you is lashing out because you have hurt them severely.    Lots of scenarios exist here.

So, the question I think one needs to ask is something like, “Who did I hurt that is now watching me be hurt and feeling lucky because God let them watch?”

One can get philosophical here and meditate on the fact that Mass murderers go free, dictators reign seemingly unharmed, nations trample upon other peoples and remain powerful and profitable, Rupert Murdoch and Rush Limbaugh are rich and free.  You could wait a Very Long Time to see your nemesis screw up and pay the price.   Maybe even a couple of life times.

The other thing that occurs to me is that it is a pretty sick thing to find joy in the pain of others, or to sit by, gleefully rubbing your hands together waiting for them to screw up so you can watch them flounder around.

Perhaps the focus should not be so much on “You hurt me!” but rather on “Who have I hurt?”  Perhaps making amends for your  OWN transgressions is a better karmic path than sitting back waiting for the axe to fall on someone who you feel has transgressed against you.

Perhaps.

I could be wrong about that.  That would be ironic, wouldn’t it?

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Now, I believe I shall deploy my vacuum and maybe even a dust rag.  That way, if the tornado develops it will be destroying a nice clean house.

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There are all sorts of ways to wrap up a year.   I have seen people post the first lines of the first blog post every month of the previous year, and I have seen them post the last line of the first blog post, or the last line of the last post of the month.

For a change, I thought I’d go through my photo collection and select one picture taken each month.  This has actually been a very difficult exercise, as I have no idea whether I should try to select a shot that wraps up the month, or one that is a particularly wonderful shot, or… WHAT???  And how do I limit myself to ONLY ONE picture per month???

The selection criterion seems to be mutable.   So, with no particular rule in mind, this is what I came up with.

While there were several spectacular sunsets during the month, January wrapped up with a fine bonfire.  We sat and sipped home made limoncello while the fire burned.  In the background is the sauna.  To me, this picture is the perfect example of how we try to couple work and pleasure.

February was marked by a lot of snow.   While I did escape it for a little more than a week by running off to Costa Rica, this shot of our pond, mostly frozen, with the gold finches drinking from the open water of the water fall really epitomizes the month for me.

In March, the garden started growing again, I got some cool shots of the rain garden full of water, and there were some more amazing sunsets and sunrises.   But March was the month that Jim learned how to make a Tarte Tatin, and our lives have never been quite the same since.

April is always daffodil time at The Havens.   Since daffodils really are my passion (I have over 100 varieties planted around the place), I don’t see how I can choose anything other than a daffodil picture for this month.   This vaseful came from the gardens, front and back, and in no way represents all of what grows here, since the varieties bloom from the middle of March until the end of April.   This would be the middle of the season.

May means lots of things, but last year the whole thing could be summed up in one word:  Wedding.   Jesse married Lynette in our garden on May 23.   This picture was taken the day before the wedding.

June can be summed up in one word also:  Mallory.   The following shot was prophetic.   The toys scattered about in the background are a feature of the house.   In this room right now there are only four, but I can see a paper ball in the kitchen and I know that there are at least four or five toys in the living room.   There must be parity between the dog and the cat, you know.

So much went on in July I really have a hard time choosing one shot.   Now, there were LOTS of flowers, and bees and bugs, and garden shots.   But the main event of July was the construction of a new water line to serve the Stroll Garden.  I have numerous shots of Jim hard at work digging the thing; but honestly, using a pulaski and a digging bar does not lend itself to flattering photographs.   So I have chosen the positively gorgeous ditch after it was complete to symbolize the work and the worker.

August:   Harvest.   Of grapes, tomatoes, beans, flowers.   And there were thunderstorms, and the cat grew apace.   But out in the labyrinth, the naked ladies came up and decorated the corners.

September was the saddest month of all.   Jim’s brother died, and so did his best friend.   I went to Costa Rica but didn’t take my camera.   When I got home, the colchicums were blooming.

October shows just how depressed I was by all the events of September.   For days at a time, I never took a single photograph.   The clematis seed heads drew me out with their wonderful spiral forms.

The beginning of November wasn’t that much better, although going to see a therapist started helping.  Then we left the country, traveled to Spain and cruised home from there across the Atlantic.   The ocean is amazingly healing.

Home again, life sped up as all my massage clients made up for lost time, and we tried to get ready for Christmas.  It was a quiet holiday for us, but satisfying.   And Christmas day concluded with a young waxing crescent moon.

May you all be happy and healthy in the coming year.  Thank you for visiting me over the past 5 1/2 years.  Hard to believe it has been so long since I started blogging!

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At home

Had a dream last night.

I was traveling somewhere with a large group of people.   I’m not sure, but I think we were an orchestra on tour.   Not important.   We were getting on or off whatever it was we were traveling in:  a plane or a boat.   There was a long flight of stairs, I had a rather heavy bag.  It was packed with all my clothes, plus there were bottles of stuff in it:  perfume, olive oil, honey.

I sat it down at the top of the stairs, and somehow it fell.   I watched it cartwheel down the stairs, tumbling and bouncing, until it finally landed with a crash on the pavement at the bottom of the stairs.   I watched it fall helplessly, hoping that the bottles of liquid wouldn’t break when it landed.   Finally, I went down to investigate, only to discover that everything had broken and my clothes were covered in perfume and honey and olive oil.   I knew I needed to do something right away, so I took the luggage into the building and there was a laundromat there with two machines.

I sorted my stuff into light and dark, and stuffed the two machines with the reeking garments.   Even my shoes went in.   I had no change for the machines, so I went out and asked the people around if they had money.   They all willingly showered me with quarters, and I went back in the laundry and started the machines.   Shortly, the machines began to overflow with soapy water and clothes flowing out the top.  The floor was knee deep in water, reeking of perfume.

I realized I needed more space for the task, so I took an armful of the wet clothes that were overflowing out of the machine and went in search of another washing machine.   Sure enough, across the hall there was another machine and I put the wet things into it.   Then I realized I needed more quarters, so I went out to try to find some more.   As the person I was talking to was looking for change in her purse for me, the alarm clock went off and I woke up.

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I walked Ruby early this morning.   We left shortly after 5 a.m., while the world was still illuminated by stars and streetlights.

When I got to the Conservation area, it was very dark in the areas under the trees.   It is the dark of the moon, and a clear night, so the city lights had no clouds to reflect off of and illuminate my way.  I found that the starlight was enough to make the pale chat of the pathway glow dimly, I could find my way.   When I got to where the field was, all along the sides of the path in the grassy mown area there were the fall fireflies, to cold and tired to fly but glowing dimly.   Like always, I reflected on how much it seemed like the grass was reflecting the stars in the sky the way the river does.

I walked the dog, sadly, reflectively.   So much has happened, so much sadness.   I felt like this episode of walking the dog was so similar to my life right now, the dark times and experiences of the last few weeks make it almost impossible to find my way.   And yet, I have walked the path so often, I can find my way even in the darkest times:  my feet follow the way habitually.

Slowly, the sun began to make its presence known in the east.   I looked for the waxing crescent, but never found the young moon.   As the sun brightened, the stars dimmed, until finally I could only see the brightest ones and Jupiter shining high above.   Finally they dimmed too, but the path was ever more visible in the full light of day.

Now if only my heart would brighten too.

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Yesterday was a wonderful day.   Jeri, her very good friend Monica and I were allowed to use Jeri’s friend Douglas’ car and we drove to the Pacific Coast and spent the day on a very beautiful beach, Playa Herradura, which is near Jaco.

Of course, in the tropical way, things did not occur according to the plan, which was to hit the road at 10.   No one woke up when they expected to.   No matter, the beach was not going anywhere.  We got a call near the time we were thinking to leave to let us know our driver was coming soon.   We waited, reading some good books.   Another call.   The car would not start, they needed a jump start.   A taxi was called from town to provide the necessary juice, which took some time.

That accomplished, she drove to the gasolinera where the lack of water in the battery explained the dearth of power available for ignition.   That remedied, she realized she had forgotten her phone and had to go back home to retrieve it.

Finally she arrived here, full of apologies, and we went off down the mountain to the beach.   The drive was great!   We made a wrong turn at Orotina, and had a little scenic side trip, but eventually we found the right way and arrived at the beach, which was still there, just as we suspected!

We found ourselves hungry, and found a lovely little beach-side soda where we consumed a delicious lunch of steamed vegetables, rice and slightly grilled fresh tuna, accompanied by the ubiquitous Imperial cerveza.  Our driver, very responsibly, drank only ginger ale.  Satisfied, we walked across the little street and found a place to spread our towels and enjoy the ocean.

Once again I was reminded of how important it is to not look too closely at the great beauty that surrounds me, for the close up view of the very wonderful coastline was marred by much trash scattered hither and yon.  I just don’t understand why humans everywhere feel it is just fine and dandy to throw their litter all over the landscape.   I never will.

After enjoying a swim with my two companions, I left them to sun themselves and walked about a mile down the beach to a spot where a lava reef broke the sandy expanse.   Since I was barefoot, I did not want to clamber over the wave polished rocks to the next small expanse of sand.   Instead, I beach combed my way back to my two companions, slowly.

When I arrived back at the towels, my two friends dutifully admired my handful of colored rocks and broken shells.   I could tell they were humoring my childish enthusiasm for the lovely things the ocean had given me that day, but not laughing at me.  It was fine.

It was such a satisfying day, plenty of sun for a while until the afternoon’s rainy season clouds mitigated the heat somewhat.   We lay on the beach, drinking water and talking.   I don’t know when I have laughed so much:   Monica has led a very full life during her 40 or so years, and the stories she shared were told with wry wisdom and satirical humor.

Her experience driving her BMW in Holland and Germany and over the Alps was quite evident as she expertly drove us back over the mountain to Atenas on the old road, past fincas and barrios and little towns, over streams full of rain, through rain forest decorated with bromeliads and ferns, the roadside ditches full of cosmos and impatiens.  Back at Calle Mimi, Douglas made us wonderful hamburgers for dinner and then gave us a ride home before he went off to his job managing a local bar/restaurant.

An altogether satisfying and wonderful day.

Today, I clean the bamboo shades and wash windows here in preparation for our departure, while Jeri goes to town to have lunch with a friend.   She really can’t be here while I do this, her respiratory system would NOT tolerate the huge dust that will rise during this chore.   I only hope that the dust has settled before she gets home.

There are some things we obsessive/compulsives are good for!

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I was sitting quietly in my easy chair filling in the crossword puzzle and watching Mallory exercise a paper ball when the kitchen window suddenly became effused with the most electrifying gold glow.   At the same time, the distant growl of thunder penetrated through the house.   I ran to the desk and grabbed my camera and went out there.

This is what I saw, which immediately suggested that I ought to participate in Skywatch Friday today.  While I was taking these shots, occasional bolts of lighting spiked through from cloud to cloud.  You can see where the early rays of the dawning sun are trying to make a rainbow.

We were right at the spot where the cold front slid under the warm front, and the clouds blossomed into amazing forms right before my eyes.

Those images were taken only seconds apart.  The sun was just coming up, so the side lighting of the blossoming thunderstorm makes an amazing image.   The dark cloud on the left is the lower atmosphere.

The light was amazing.   The cleomes seemed to glow in the rays being reflected from those clouds.

Yes, I was running around the yard barefoot.   For a moment, I became entranced by the work area in the back yard.  Jim has an ongoing project that he works on when he isn’t making pizza, schlepping boxes of produce around the produce department of the Commissary, mowing the lawn, or whatever else.   There is a faucet on the north side of the house that has never worked right, and has been fixed from dripping twice and now drips once again.  We have decided that what it really needs is to be capped off.  So, a new water line is being cut in from the line out to the vegetable garden so a new freeze-proof faucet will be located close to the stroll garden where it is needed.

I feel like this image is actually a portrait of Jim on many levels.   For example, the reason it is being dug by hand is that the ditch witch that is available for hire from the local equipment rental is too big for the job and costs too much.   So he stubbornly decided to save some large quantity of money by digging the ditch by hand.   But, look at the amazing symmetry and beauty of the whole thing, lining up with the hole in the fence where the new faucet will be.

It has taken much longer than he wanted it to, because there have been quite a number of things we had to accomplish in the betwixtwhiles, namely and to wit getting the rental house ready for occupancy, and we have been blessed by scattered rain during the course of events.  It is pretty hard to work on the ditch when it is full of water.   By the way, the storm we experienced this morning has left it full of water once again, which means that the fact that he is exhausted from a full days work at the commissary and doesn’t want to dig ditch tonight won’t make him feel guilty (hopefully).

The vegetable garden communicated a need to me this morning.   The garlic needs to be harvested, and I need to see what is going on in the potato patch.

I turned just slightly right from the view of the ditch, and found myself focusing on the view that gives me “uncompleted work” angst:   the pond.

Yes, there is a pond back in there, Ruby is drinking from it.   I really need to beat back that forsythia bush.   I need to do a lot of things.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes in that picture.   While I was shooting this whole photo essay, there were two pairs of wrens mustering their sundry troops of fledglings.   Imagine as you read this blog post that what you hear is the constant muttering of thunder and high winds aloft punctuated by the screechings of robins, blue jays, grackles and finches accompanied by the rapid fire of orders being hurled by the frustrated wren parents at their rather distracted younguns.  Here they are in the Stroll Garden, near The Bench.   The chick is perched on top of the drift wood piece, the parent can be spotted in the upper right corner, perched on the crepe myrtle, staring straight at the camera:  “What are you doing!”

While I was beguiled by all this miscellany, the storm continued to develop.   Quite a nice rotation developed up there in this cloud.   Glad there isn’t more energy in this system or we could be having our own little tornado here at The Havens.

Meanwhile, the light was amazing, and the day lilies garden and the rain garden were putting on quite a show.     Remember all this photography was accompanied by constant thunder and wren chat.

Meanwhile, the sun continued to rise, illuminating the developing storm that was coming from the north and west.

Then it proceeded to rain, monsoon like deluges.   There was hail; fortunately it was all pea sized or smaller and there wasn’t much of it.  Nor were there damaging winds.

I came back in to make a post, bake bread, and play with Mallory while I waited for the rain to be over.   There are quite a number of things on my list today:    dig the garlic that I mentioned previously, make pesto (which involves harvesting the first cutting of basil which you can see at the front of the whiskey barrels in the above shot), prune the crepe myrtles, and start trying to eradicate the lemon balm which has decided that it needs to completely own the garden behind the sauna.

It is nearly ten in the morning, and the storm line has finally moved through.   The timer will be going off on the bread baking, and soon I’ll be off to work once again, thankful that it will not be in the rental house now that the carpets are clean, the walls washed, the new vinyl flooring installed, the ceiling mended, washed and patched, and the only thing left to do is put in the quarter round moulding in the family room and varnish it.

If you are wondering why I don’t post more often, the above paragraph ought to give you a clue.   Some times I feel just exactly like Sysiphus, rolling my stone up the hill only to discover in the morning that it is back at the bottom.  At least it is usually a different stone each day.  Good luck with all your Sysiphian tasks, all of you!

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