Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ode to Lady Mondegreen

Lady Mondegreen is an imaginary person created by American writer Sylvia Wright when she was a young girl and misheard the words "...and laid him on the green" in a Scottish ballad as "...and Lady Mondegreen.    

In 1954 Wright coined the term a “mondegreen” meaning “a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning.”  It is the only word that I can think of that is in itself an example of its definition.  Some commonly cited examples of misheard lyrics are “Jose can you see..? from the U.S. National Anthem and “Gladly the cross-eyed bear” from the Protestant hymn with a similar sounding title.
One of my own mondegreens was, as a youth, loudly singing ‘an M, an H, and a P” instead of  “heaven and nature sing!” during the singing of the Christmas Carol "Joy to the World."  I guess I didn’t have the lyrics in front of me and wanted to be one of the gang.

Ode to Lady Mondegreen

Bald-headed woman –
'Scuse me while I kiss this guy.
I’m gonna leave her.

Bee Gees’ “More than a woman’
Jimi Hendricks “Purple Rain” (“Scuse me while I kiss the sky.”)
The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer”.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Living Color

It’s a classic New England winter picture – snow covered ground dotted with black bare-naked tree skeletons and a single red cardinal as the only spot of color.  Mars and I witnessed it from our family room window just the other day after a total of 18” of white stuff brought to us by storms “Chris” and “Diana”.  Other than the russet patch on the shoulders of some of our gray squirrels it is the only non-monochromatic hue in our front yard landscape. 
(These squirrels have their own feeding station – a corncob holder attached to one of our oak trees.  This provides a daily flash of yellow, which lasts about as long as the time it takes for one of the tree rodents to wake up and rediscover that their first meal of the day is back again.  They then move on to search for seeds that I may have scattered on the ground the night before.)
The male cardinal was visiting our sunflower feeder.  We presume it was half of a paired couple that we have seen periodically on our property – singing from the trees throughout the spring, summer, and early fall – rummaging for food during the winter, but only it seems during a snowfall.
According to wild-bird-watching.com it turns out that, in spite of their inclusion in the illustration on our bags of oily black sunflower seeds, cardinals really prefer to dine on insects, spiders, wild fruits, berries, and weed seeds. In the winter, they load up on seeds and berries since insects are much, much harder to come across.
This makes me feel much better about the periodic lack of birds, and particularly cardinals, at our feeders.  For one thing Mars and I, in fact, have several fruit bearing perennial plants in our gardens, which we do not cut them back during the cold weather, for the very purpose of nourishing the berry-eaters.  Moreover it takes away the guilt that the bird-feeder denial movement tries to induce with their allegations that providing store-bought sustenance to our avian friends makes them weak-willed and will lead to their death by starvation should this entitlement not be their some day.
We were actually considering adding a covenant to the deed to our house requiring any future owner to continue this long-standing charitable activity in order to forestall any type of ravenous avian insurrection.
It seems that “our” birds will do just fine on their own.
Now the squirrels on the other hand….

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Altitude Adjustment

According to United States Geological Survey, our future home of Santa Fe, New Mexico sits at an altitude of 7,199 feet. The same source puts the elevation of Mars’ and my current hometown of Wethersfield, Connecticut at 45 feet.  It doesn’t say what parts of town the measurements were taken, but we already know that Santa Fe rises to an elevation of 10,350 ft. at its ski basin atop the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.   So our current house, which sits pretty much in the geographic center of Wethersfield, may actually be higher or lower than a mere 540 inches above sea level.  This could be important to us – more on that later.
Still 10K-feet or so is a huge difference as Mars and I found out on our first foray to “The Land of Enchantment” in 1992.  That lesson was principally provided to us by Chimney Rock in Abiquiu, NM, and by some Sangria at a restaurant just down the street from the motel at which we stayed in Santa Fe.
The El Rey Inn had been recommended to us by our Primary Care doctor, who had recently vacationed in that part of the southwest.  Among the amenities was a complimentary breakfast of warm, soft tacos and jam during which one morning we fell into conversation with another guest who it turned out was a frequent habitué of both Santa Fe and this motor lodge.            
I don’t remember the conversation exactly, but he probably asked why we decided to come to New Mexico.  We doubtless told him that it was to see the places, which inspired Georgia O’Keeffe to create her (what we thought were) abstract paintings.  (We had recently seen a retrospective of her work at MOMA in New York City.)  But I do recall that he said we should go to Ghost Ranch (“the ranch, not the nature center”) where O’Keeffe had lived and painted from the 1930s on.  It was once a dude ranch – the Billy Crystal movie “City Slickers” was filmed there – and was now a conference center run by the Presbyterian Church.           
Several hours later as we drove onto the property we got our first glimpse of what turned out to be “Chimney Rock” – a not uncommon epithet given to tall rock structures of a smokestack shape throughout the western past of this country.  I remember commenting, “it would be really neat if we could go up there”, with absolutely no thought that we would possibly be able to do such a thing. It turned out however that the hike to Chimney Rock is one of nine trails at the Education and Retreat Centerwhose website says  “This hike of 1 ½ – 2 hours has wonderful views as the trail climbs from 6,500 to 7,100 feet. (Round trip – 3 miles.)  From the top there is an excellent view of the Piedra Lumbre basin.”            
We had with us a couple bottles of apple juice and some rudimentary snacks, so we wouldn’t dehydrate or starve; it was a beautiful day; the person at the visitor desk was encouraging; we exercised regularly at home; our adrenaline was flowing – so why not?
Certainly not just because of the “Plague Warning” sign that greeted us as we walked through the gate that begins the trail.  Mars and I were too caught up in the idea of reaching the summit of the red rock stovepipe to be deterred by some unhealthy rodents. 
 Here’s why not – because we had not, in any way at all, acclimated to the loftiness.  Even though we were not doing “high-altitude” hiking (considered to be 8,000 feet or higher) – some people can be affected as low as 7000 feet, especially those who had just flown in from an elevation barely higher than what the average white basketball player can jump to.  Almost as soon as the terrain upon which we were treading tilted upwards we began breathing in what can most charitably be described as desperate gasps for air.  Fortunately we both were carrying cameras, and our surroundings were photogenic and new to us, so we ostensibly had a good reason to stop every 15 – 20 strides to ”take a picture”.  About 1-½ hours and 200 snapshots later we were reclining atop the Chimney, snacking and quaffing, and looking down in amazement at of the Piedra Lumbre basin.
Coming down was easier, but not easy.  Gravity does not provide any additional oxygen.  By the end of our second week after several similar hikes we were still panting but in a less desperate manner – and still taking too many pictures
Our second altitude wake-up call came from a small pitcher of Sangria, that Mars and I ordered to accompany our dinner at a local New Mexican eatery (fortunately) just up the street from our motel.  According to tripadvisore.com  “The effects of one drink are magnified 2 to 3 times over the effects the same drink would have at sea level."
Mars and I are normally one-glass-of-wine-with-dinner-once-a-week alcohol imbibers.  We each probably had 2 – 3 glasses that night.  You can do the math.  Fortunately we got back to our rooms and into our bed without a mishap.  Unlike hiking we did not attempt a repeat performance.  Nor have we replicated it back home at 45 feet above sea level.
So for the past twenty-five years we have returned pretty much annually to northern New Mexico to hike, dine, drink in moderation, and do other touristy things.  We were never there long enough to adapt to the altitude, but we adjusted our expectations and our pace to compensate.  Eleven years ago our son and daughter-in-law moved to Santa Fe.  Soon we also will be relocating to “The City Different”.
But now there is an elevation-related hitch back in the land of no-altitude.  Because of all the uninsured homes that were damaged by floods caused by hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was ordered to reassess the flood threat in localities across the United States with the goal of compelling homeowners in “flood zones” to purchase their own high water damage insurance rather than being bailed out by the Feds.          
Our neighborhood borders on an underground stream known as “Folly Brook”, created by a badly executed water-rerouting attempt in the 1700s.  Most people around here have never seen Folly Brook’s waters, but nonetheless our residence and several of our neighbors are now declared to be in imminent danger of inundation  – necessitating any mortgaged homeowners to acquire flood insurance.  This can be an impediment to selling.  However there is something called The FEMA Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) that states the property or building is actually outside the “Special Flood Hazard Area”, and as a result, the mandatory flood insurance requirement does not apply.  For this we need a survey of our property, which hopefully will show that our height above sea level (or in this case brook level) is sufficient to keep us dry should Folly Brook swell up and swamp its surrounding areas.  We await the surveyor’s report.
This is not a problem we are expecting to have when we move to New Mexico where the Santa Fe River (defined as an “intermittent stream”) winds its way through the downtown area.  The entire waterway, which is a tributary of the Rio Grande, is 46 miles long and was dammed in 1881 to provide water for the city.  Water only flows through the main part of town when it is released from the barriers – something that Mars and I have never personally witnessed.

With time we will eventually become accustomed to the lower level of oxygen in northern New Mexico. Real Wethersfield-ites know the history of Folly Brook.  Real Santa Feans are able to hike heavenward without wheezing and pausing to ”take pictures”. 

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Sometimes Its Good Not To Be Needed

No one wants to be 
a non-essential worker
'til the snowstorm hits.