Monday, September 21, 2009

Virtual and Real Exposure to New Things

My first effort with a digital camera went very well. In 11 days, I shot 370 photos, including at least 3 rather nice ones from 30,000 feet on the plane. (The one shooting down at Mt. Hood was particularly good.) They are downloaded on my computer. But I haven't learned the simple process of scanning into my blog, and talking about Oregon without pics is kinda like, well, like salt-free potato chips.

One reflection. When I lived in New Mexico, my dad, an avid garderer, had a velvety lawn of close-cropped blue grass and clover, a delight to bare feet. We had rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, potent desert scorpions and vinegaroons (if you scare them, they let out a smell like someone spilled maybe a gallon of strong vinegar), so we were careful where we stepped. But we didn't have chiggers. I learned about those in the 60s, when I moved to Dallas. And every now and then, I would forget and end up with a number of unbearably itchy bumps.

Then, in the 70s, fire ants reached the Metroplex and life changed forever. No more gardening without heavy socks over my jeans and long sleeves and gloves even in mid-summer because another queen might have landed in the tilled soil, undetected. The thing about fire ants, they run toward the disturbance, not away, and they all sting at the same time. And they leave painful bites that develop pus before subsiding. Not life threatening, but very unpleasant. So we all automatically became extremely conscious of where we stepped. Or sat. Lying down? Outdoors? Ha!

I hadn't realized how accostomed I am to this until I saw people Sleeping On The Grass in Oregon. My kneejerk reaction was concern, even alarm for them. Unsafe! Unsafe! but of course it is perfectly safe there. They don't even have poisonous snakes. That added a lot, I think, to my relaxation in the environment. Here, one stays a little bit vigilent outdoors, always. But it was a noticeable shift for me. Where we live is our norm. We interact without even thinking about it. When it changes, we notice.


I want to recommend two books I've read lately.

The first is "Julie and Julia" by Julie Powell, the story of a blogger who won the lottery, i.e., wrote a book based on one of the first blogs in existence, and sold the movie rights.It is tremendously funny--her writing reminds me in some ways of Crystal's style--and I found myself laughing out loud.

As most folks already know, this non-cooking picky eater set out to cook--and also eat--every recipe in Julia Childs' first cookbook. Crazy. I shudder at some of the things she ate--pounds and pounds and pounds of butter, kidneys(I think I could eat them but I don't think I could cook them), and brains (no, thank you. ick.) Oh, and turnips. This woman didn't even like carrots and raisins when she started. I am bemused. You have to say she was anal-compulsive or she wouldn't have finished the project, but she is so full of life. Hugely full of life. It's a good read.

The seond book is "Banana" by Dan Koeppel. The bananas in the stores today are Cavendish, which may be doomed in the next 10 to 30 to find out why. Still, many varieties of bananas exist throughout the world, some with seeds, most cultivated ones without (plants are grown from cuttings, so are clones of each other) He goes into ancient history, segueing into the rise of the tremendously profitable U.S. fruit companies with holdings throughout the world. (O.Henry coined the phrase, "banana republics" in 1905.) He also covers the genetic manipulation of this fruit and general produce in easy to follow prose about a complicated and tedious process.

He's an excellent writer and obviously an exhaustive researcher.

In the last year, I have made it a practice to pick out a couple of non-fiction books each time I go to the library. My only requirement is that it has to be something totally different. It has added a lot of enjoyment to my life.

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