Monday, December 31, 2012

Oh! Oh! Aliens!

The world may not have ended on December 21st,
but weird things have been happening around my home this past week or so.
I looked out my window Thursday,
and there they were:
strange marks in the snow!

I looked out again on Friday,
and there were more!

I began to think of my favorite labradoodle,
Sophie Doodle,
who found some mysterious tracks recently.
I was beginning to get a little creeped out.

On Saturday:  MORE!
I had to go on walk 204 outside!
No way I was going by myself!
I made Terry go with me.
Seriously, have you ever seen anything like this?

I'm thinking ALIENS!  Just like Sophie, I'm outta here!

My husband, who would never think of aliens,
thinks I'm ridiculous on this cold Saturday morning
running around with my camera
snapping pictures of these weird marks in the snow.

Too late!
Suddenly a UFO swoops in for a landing!

Give me a break!
It's the d-a-r-n Canadians again!
Even more are coming in for a landing!

"Don't call them Canadian geese," said Terry.  "They are Canada geese."

"I'm a Canadian, and ..."

"You're American now," the Ever-Patient reminds me.

"When I lived up North among the Ojibawa, we called them Canadian geese!
They are Canadian geese!  Period!"

"Sorry, Honey, 
but the Canada goose was named for John Canada who first identified the bird.  
Remember when the librarian pointed that out to you."

"That's some urban legend. 
 They never did find any taxidermist or taxonomist named John Canada."

"Who's 'they?" said the E-P.


"You google it when we get home.  
I bet you've never googled it.  
You're just set in your Nanook of the North mentality.
You're such a Canuck!" 


Terry calls me "Nanook" or "Canuck."
He likes to push my buttons. 

My brother calls me "The Yank."
He likes to push my buttons.

I can't win!
That's why I have my own flag!

"Look at these damn birds!" said the E-P with rare exclamation marks.
"They're everywhere!"

"The Canadians are taking over!" I agree.

Strange marks explained!
Just a little piece of Canada outside my home! 

I googled on the sly when I got home. 

Carl Linnaeus was the first to use the term 'Canada Goose' in his Systema Naturae in 1772.
James Audubon followed suit in 1836.
The name Canada originated in the Iroquoian word kanata which meant "village" or "settlement."

The scientific name for the Canada Goose is Branta canadensis (meaning goose from Canada).
The Canada Goose is also known as the Canadian Goose or Canadian Geese (in large numbers).
I just call them "The Canadians."

There is some debate over whether or not the use of the name Canadian Goose should be discouraged.

But other sources accept it.

For me, they will always be Canadian Geese,
and one of the most indelible memories from my childhood is
watching in awe as great flocks of honking and cackling geese
migrated overhead in their sinuous V-shaped formations.

Canadian Geese V-Shaped Formation

Friday, December 28, 2012

White Christmas

We had a bright and beautiful white Christmas in Colorado.  
Not to mention cold Christmas!

We quickly warmed the morning up with our traditional Christmas bubbly!


Time for a little Christmas morning fun.
Santa came!

Time for a good walk before that big Christmas dinner with friends!
A Brisk Walk!

The Fashionista-NOT strikes again with her Viking hat complete with runes! 


Arapahoe and Douglas County Lines along fence running back into the picture

Natural Flocking

Closing in on home and completing Day 200 of my walk to St. Anthony, Newfoundland

Wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy, and Fulfilling New Year!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Not Another Starbuck's Christmas CD!

They call Terry and me "The Clones" on my side of our family.
My brother Roy calls us "Thing 1 and Thing 2."
He's been pushing my buttons since he exited the womb.
Thing 1 and Thing 2
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess

After thirty years together, I'm thinking:  Not so much!

For example, I am a collector.  He is not.

Now, I admit, T has a closet stuffed with a serious collection of clothes;
but he is not a collector of clothes.
He just suffers from serious separation anxiety - especially if I so much as look at
a ratty old workout shirt of his
while holding a bag for Goodwill, or God forbid, a rag bag.

He also has a serious collection of papers in his study;
but he is not a collector of papers.
He just suffers from a serious case of procrastination.
I don't look at those papers holding any kind of a bag.
I just close the door.

But I am a collector.
I have decades of letters,  hundreds of maps,
thousands of photographs,
numerous Tolkien books, and
at least 80 years of National Geographics
(with the most recent 50 years complete).

Not a pretty sight!
I admit it;
and, now that I'm retired,
I'm working on getting my beloved Geographics organized.

Nothing raises Terry's hackles more than my Geographics!
My collections of Christmas things come close.
With much prodding, he has cut me back to Frosty Friends, all things polar, and birds.
Seriously, could anything be cuter than these?


My first Frosty Friends was a Christmas gift from my parents in 1982.
The collection started in 1980.
I once considered paying $500 on eBay for a 1980 Frosty Friends;
but, only briefly.
I, my Frosty Friends, and my Geographics would have been out on the sidewalk in short order!
Terry doesn't get it.
He is not a collector.

"Not another Starbuck's Christmas CD!" says Terry.
He is NOT the Ever-Patient when it comes to my Christmas music collection.
"You have more Christmas music than you could play in a year of Christmases!"
He exaggerates.
I can play it all in the month of December.
"Just stay away from Starbucks!
I'll make you a full pot of coffee before I go!" says he.

Oops!  I already bought this year's.
That cute little Barista guy (there are no baristos!)
kindly went back into the storeroom to dig it out
since it wasn't on display yet!
Santa was going to put this year's Starbuck's Christmas CD Under the Mistletoe
in T's stocking like he has for years,
but maybe he'll put a lump of coal in the toe instead!

So yesterday I put the CD on as the blizzard winds howled and the snow flew horizontally,
and I remembered exactly why the Starbuck's Christmas CDs are irresistible.
Every year, there is some incredible song I have never heard before.
This year was no different.
I discovered "Winter Song"written by Sara Bareilles.
She performed it with Ingrid Michaelson and the U.S. Coast Guard Band
at the 2010 National Christmas Tree Lighting.

Now I am not a musician nor a music critic,
but I know what I like,
and I love this song!
From the moment I heard its heartaches chords and its first words, I was hooked.

"This is my winter song to you.
The storm is coming soon.
It rolls in from the sea.
Ocean Waves and Stormy Skies

"My voice, a beacon in the night,
My words will be your light
To carry you to me."

Barb with Range Lights, Flower Cove, Newfoundland

Maybe "Winter Song" will haunt you too!
This is the cut on Starbuck's Under the Mistletoe:
Ingrid Michaelson and Sarah Bareilles, "Winter Song", White House National Tree Lighting, 2010.

Terry liked the CD too.
After all he is the one who said early in our marriage,
"We really need to get some Christmas music to play at Christmas."
"Overboard Louise" as he likes to call me thinks
Mission Accomplished!
Have a good one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A New Hobbit

Last Saturday afternoon,
Terry and I were flying through our walk
because it was cold and the sun was dropping in the sky.

"You're quiet," he remarked as we passed the by tornado siren.
"What are you thinking?"

"What to say in my blog about The Hobbit movie," I answered.


"Whoa, big surprise!" he said with a hint of sarcasm.
"How about: She loved it?"

"Be serious!  Yes, I did love it!
But I wasn't sure at the beginning."

"I fell asleep at the beginning," said the Ever-Patient Terry.
Hobbits and dragons, dwarves and elves are not really his thing.
He only went to humor me.

"You what?!  How could you fall asleep during the unexpected party?!

"It was a little boring.  Bilbo.  Frodo.  Gandalf.
All those dwarves and all that food."

"I have read that to countless kids, and they all found it funny!"

"Well that's just it.  They were kids," said the E-P,
as if intelligent adults did not deign to seriously think about hobbits or dragons.
"It didn't really get going until that big dwarf showed up."

"You mean Thorin?"

"The bad guys were kind of cool," Terry continued.  "But the goblins were too big."

"Too big?  Bilbo is small.  The dwarves are small.
The goblins were the right size compared to the dwarves and the hobbit."

"That big goblin wasn't small."

"You mean the Great Goblin, the goblin king?"

"He was creepy!"
Finally, something we could agree on - the Great Goblin was disgustingly creepy!

I have read and studied the works of J. R. R. Tolkien for decades.
I have read The Hobbit aloud and silently more than any other book in my life.
When the movie began, I found myself off balance.
My dissonance came from trying to reconcile my vision of the story with Peter Jackson's.
Once I let go of mine and relaxed into his,
I was captivated by this journey into a darker, richer, more mature Hobbit.
I think Tolkien would have appreciated Jackson's vision of Faƫrie
explored in The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.


In 1939 Tolkien presented "On Fairy-Stories"
as the Andrew Lang Lecture at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
The lecture was subsequently published in a now out-of-print collection of essays,
Essays Presented to Charles Williams, by Oxford University Press in 1947.

When Tolkien's published books gained worldwide attention,
his lecture was published again as an essay in a little book called Tree and Leaf
by Unwin Books in 1966.
The significance of the essay is that in it Tolkien explains his theory of Sub-creation.

My copy of this book is in tatters from much use!

Tolkien considered Sub-creation as the goal of fantasy.
Fantasy begins in the human imagination,
that faculty of the human mind capable of creating mental images
and combining them into secondary worlds.

It ends in sub-creation,
the mental images captured and preserved in a concrete form,
whether painting or book, sculpture or film.

What separates successful fantasy from unsuccessful fantasy
is the quality of the art
linking the secondary world of the imagination
with the expression of the sub-creation.
If the sub-creator's techniques are good enough
to achieve an inner consistency of reality within the work,
then the fantasy succeeds.
If not, it fails.

While I have seen only the first part of The Hobbit movie trilogy,
I think Jackson's fantasy succeeds.
For me, Jackson's movie rang true.
It achieved that inner consistency of reality,
the moment I let my vision go and relaxed into Jackson's.

Jackson has taken a short children's story
written before Tolkien had conceived of The Lord of the Rings
and transformed it into a longer, more adult tale
by incorporating material from the appendices of  LOTR's Return of the King.
Appendix A, Part III recounts the history of the dwarves or Duran's Folk.

Tolkien wrote in Part III:
"But at last there came by chance a meeting between Gandalf and Thorin
that changed all the fortunes of the House of Durin, and led to other and greater ends beside."
(LOTR, Vol. 3, "The Return of the King," 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 1967, p. 359)

Gandalf was concerned about the rising power of Sauron
and Thorin was troubled by Smaug, the Dragon of Erebor, among other worries.
What came out of that chance meeting of the two in Bree on March 15, 2941
was the quest of Thorin and his twelve dwarf companions
to kill Smaug and reclaim Erebor as their home.
Gandalf arranged for Bilbo to accompany the dwarves on their quest,
and one of the results was that Bilbo brought the One Ring back into play the world,
not hidden at the roots of the Misty Mountains.

By starting the first Hobbit movie with Bilbo, Frodo, and Gandalf
and linking it to the beginning of the movie The Fellowship of the Ring,
Jackson has found a way to weave all six movies into a poignant tapestry
that illuminates the human heart.

One final word on fantasy.
Based on my study of "On Fairy-Stories,"
I think that to Tolkien there was no life's work more valuable than the writing of fairy-stories.
Tolkien said,
"Fantasy remains a human right:
we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made:
and not only made,but made in the image and likeness of a Maker."
(Tolkien, Tree and Leaf, p. 50)

Tolkien and Jackson are Sub-creators, and their stories and movies are Sub-creations.
I think that Tolkien not only would have appreciated Peter Jackson's movies,
I think he would have respected Jackson's cinematic vision as successful fantasy.

Poor Terry!
He made the mistake of asking me what I was thinking.
We walked a long way, and I forgot all about the cold.
I'm so into Tolkien!
It's good that the E-P is used to me and loves to see me happily engrossed in my passions.
The sun was down by the time we made it home.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hobbit Who Loved Dragons

J. R. R. Tolkien entered my life on a dreary winter day early in 1966.  I will never forget the moment, even if I don't remember the date.  I had been fighting bronchitis, strep throat, and a high fever for a number of days, and I was completely miserable.  My only comfort was a blue Sony transistor radio that was sitting on my stomach as I lay in bed.

(Referenced this way because of length)

Radio CJFX, Antigonish, Nova Scotia:  At that time CJFX played country, pop, rock, and Celtic music, and I listened to it hour after hour, day after day.  I tuned in for rock; but, because of CJFX's variety format, I was forced to develop an appreciation for Jim Reeves, the Clancy Brothers, Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence - not to mention John Allan Cameron and Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald.  However, the most important impact CJFX had on my life was introducing me to J. R. R. Tolkien.

That Saturday morning CJFX broadcast a program for teenagers that featured J. R. R. Tolkien and his book The Lord of the Rings.  I listened spellbound, and when I heard a passage from LOTR read aloud I was caught, for life:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Vol. 1, "The Fellowship of the Ring," 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1967.
Getting my hands on The Lord of the Rings in Stillwater, Nova Scotia, was not an easy thing.  The nearest store that might carry the books was 35 miles away, and I had little money.  It was a long wait until the end of the school year when I won a prize that covered the cost of the books and my mother had the time to drive me to Antigonish.

I read the trilogy nonstop for days, and then the hunt was on for The Hobbit.  I couldn't find it anywhere!  We moved over the summer to Freeport, Nova Scotia, and a new neighbor, who had a teen-aged son visiting down in the States, heard about my fruitless efforts to find The Hobbit.  The son returned home in the fall with the book for me in which he had inscribed, "May the hair on your toes grow ever longer!"  The story did not disappoint!  
I have been reading and studying Tolkien ever since.

This weekend I know I will see Peter Jackson's movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It will impact my Hobbit forever, just as Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies changed my LOTR forever.  So these past few days I have reread The Hobbit for the umpteenth time and Humphrey Carpenter's Tolkien for who knows how many times.  Just once more I wanted to journey with Bilbo and the dwarves from the Shire to The Lonely Mountain and back again with my visions of Middle-earth.

Carpenter, writing in his authorized biography of Tolkien, describes how Tolkien's imagination followed two different tracks during the 1920s and early 1930s.  On the one hand Tolkien was writing entertaining stories for children; and on the other, he was constructing his personal mythology that was eventually published posthumously in The Silmarillion.  The two tracks did not meet until one summer's day when Tolkien was marking exam papers.  Later in his life Tolkien could not remember the year this happened, but this is how he remembered the occasion:

     "One of the candidates had mercifully left one of the pages with no writing on it (which is the best thing that can possibly happen to an examiner) and I wrote on it:  "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."  Names always generate a story in my mind.  Eventually I thought I'd better find out what hobbits were like.  But that's only the beginning."  
(Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1977, p. 172)

From a sentence written on a blank page in an exam paper almost eighty years ago came the books that have captivated millions and millions of readers and continue to do so today.

Tolkien went on to find out a whole lot about hobbits and much, much more about Middle-earth.  When I first read Tolkien's books and Carpenter's biography, it did not take me long to recognize that Tolkien was the quintessential hobbit.  He recognized this himself and once wrote, "I am in fact a hobbit." (Carpenter, p. 176)

It is fascinating to read about Tolkien's childhood and to speculate about what might have influenced his later writings.  Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  When he was three he traveled with his mother and brother Hilary to Birmingham, England, because South Africa's heat was impacting his health.  While they were in England, Tolkien's father Arthur, back in South Africa, had a severe hemorrhage while recovering from rheumatic fever and died.  Suddenly, Tolkien's mother Mabel was faced with raising Ronald and Hilary on her own and with very little money.  She finally found a place for them to rent in the hamlet of Sarehole on the southern edge of Birmingham.  The hamlet, the Sarehole Mill, and the surrounding English countryside were transformed by Tolkien's imagination into the village of Hobbiton in his writing decades later.  (Carpenter, p. 176)        
Sarehole Mill

Moseley Bog, Close to Sarehole Mill

Mabel Tolkien began to teach her sons, and Ronald could read at four and write not long after.  Very quickly he demonstrated an interest in languages and drawing.  He loved to read, and his mother provided him with many books.  Ronald particularly liked The Red Fairy Book with tales collected by Andrew Lang because it contained "The Story of Sigurd." Sigurd is a hero from Norse Mythology known for slaying the dragon Fafnir.  From a this very early age, Tolkien desired dragons.  (Carpenter, p. 22).

Around the time he was seven, Tolkien wrote a story about a dragon.  Humphrey Carpenter quoted Tolkien's recollection of his early story:

     "I remember nothing about it except a philological fact.  My mother said nothing about the dragon, but pointed out that one could not say a green great dragon", but had to say "a great green dragon".  I wondered why, and still do.  The fact that I remember this is possibly significant, as I do not think I ever tried to write a story again for many years and was taken up with language." (Carpenter, p. 23)

From these humble beginnings in his childhood, John Roland Reuel Tolkien went on to become a world-renowned philologist, artist, and writer of high fantasy:  a hobbit who loved dragons.
J. R. R. Tolkien

I hope Peter Jackson's Hobbit movie is every bit as good as The Lord of the Rings movies.
I'll let you know what I think very soon!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Parker Christmas Carriage Parade

Starting this blog has had me doing all sorts of strange things,
like running around movie theaters making scenes,
scratching funny things Terry says on scraps of paper,
and bingeing on photos and writing.

Today, for the first time ever,
it sent me to the town of Parker
to enjoy the annual Parker Christmas Carriage Parade.
Thank goodness for gorgeous weather!
If it had been cold and gray,
I would have been home under an afghan in front of the fire.
The horses get lined up for the parade.

Spectators of all kinds line the parade route.

I was hoping to spot a beautiful Clydesdale named Boomer
whom I had "met" by following a Colorado blog called Moondance Ranch.
Considering the star-crossed relationship horses and I have had over the years,
it's ironic that I would go to a parade filled with horses:
big horses, small horses, ponies, and minis - even a donkey and a burro or two,
horses pulling carriages and surreys and stage coaches and wagons,
the kind of parade where the security staff urges you to stand back from the curb
in case the horses get "frisky" or "rambunctuous."

But I have always loved the big draft horses,
so off I went camera in hand to shoot this year's parade theme
Jingle Bell Christmas.

Parker Trail Riders

Spiffed Up for the Parade

Black Beauties

Help from the Boy Scouts

Chaparral High School Marching Band, in Parker, Colorado

Pretty Rodeo Cowgirls

Pretty Baby

Horses in Disguise

Yellow Wheels

Patient Spectator

Legend High School Marching Titans

Western Icon

Prancy Hoofs

Pretty Ponies

Could This Brown Beauty Be Boomer?
There were a lot of big, brown horses!


Santa at the End

Time to Go Home

A Great Parade!
A Great Day!
I'll be back next year.