Friday, October 18, 2019

Cause and Effect

Thought for the day: We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results. [Herman Melville]

Are you familiar with the butterfly effect? I took that picture on the left when we were at a butterfly festival, where a monarch butterfly took up residence on the top of my head for a good while. It was actually very cool, but the effect that particular butterfly had on me after doing his itty bitty business on my head is... when we got home, I washed my hair.

But um, that isn't a bona fide example of the butterfly effect. In essence, the actual effect, or principle, says that a tiny change within a complex system may have a huge effect. Originally, the phenomenon was ascribed largely to weather, in which American mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz, who established the chaos theory, as well as theories regarding weather and climate predictability, offered the metaphorical example of how the specifics of a tornado's path could be influenced by something as minor as the flapping of a butterfly's wings.

It speaks to our larger expectation that the world should be comprehensible... that everything happens for a reason, and that we can pinpoint all those reasons, however small they may be. [Peter Dizikes, journalist]

[image courtesy of wikipedia]
Just to be different, I'm going to go in the opposite direction. Instead of moving from a tiny cause leading to a huge effect... I'm going the other way. I'm going to start with a mastodon. 

Can't get much bigger than that!

Would you believe that something these behemoths did back in prehistoric times contributed to the survival of a tiny butterfly still living in Georgia today?

[image courtesy of wikipedia]

The paw paw tree is fairly common here in Georgia. In the springtime, its flowers are quite lovely, but they, um... STINK. Literally. Kinda like dead fish or rotting meat. Matter of fact, the leaves and bark have the same distinctive stench.

But these trees also produce a fruit, as shown in this picture, and it's the largest edible fruit indigenous to the U.S. They range in color from a yellowish-green to brown, and their insides are creamy and similar in taste to banana custard. Or so I've been told. I've never eaten one.

[image courtesy of wikipedia]
But lots of animals devour them. But they only eat the sweet fleshy part.

See, the seeds range in size from 1/2 to 1 inch, which is too large for any living animal to swallow whole.

Not a problem for our ol' pal the mastodon.

Mastodons gobbled 'em up, seeds and all... and then they continued their meanderings around the state. What goes up must come down, and what went in had to come out.

Meaning, as these mastodons wandered around the state, they um, sowed these undigested seeds wherever they went, and thus assured the spread of this species. The diet and excretion of these creatures from eleven thousand years ago directly led to the paw paw patches that are still seen around the state today. But how about that... tiny effect I mentioned earlier?

[image courtesy of wikipedia]

Meet the zebra swallowtail. Yep, a butterfly.

The only thing its caterpillar will eat is the foliage from a paw paw tree. So, no mastodon poop containing paw paw seeds, possibly no paw paw trees today, and no zebra swallowtails.

One thing kinda interesting about these butterflies. The stink I mentioned from the trees? It comes from a chemical, a naturally-occurring insecticide called acetogenins, and after eating the stinky foliage while in the caterpillar stage, the butterflies retain a trace amount of the substance for the rest of their lives, which provides an effective protection from predators, who evidently, don't like smelly food.

So, in essence, this lovely little butterfly, which we saw at the festival, owes its existence, in part, to the eating and pooping habits of a creature which lived in the very distant past.

Cool huh?

There is a deep interconnectedness of all life on earth, from the tiniest organism to the largest ecosystem, and absolutely each person. [Bryant McGill]

The moment you realize your bones are made from the same dust as the planets, your lungs breathing the air of migrating butterflies, and your blood is pumping because of the love and care of thousands is when you realize you're not as broken or alone as you think you are. You are full of the world. [source unknown]

Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. [Leonardo da Vinci]

Cosmos is a Greek word for the order of the universe. It is, in a way, the opposite of chaos. It implies the deep interconnectedness of all things. It conveys awe for the intricate and subtle way in which the universe is put together. [Carl Sagan]

                                                Another kind of paw paw flower...

[image courtesy of unsplash]

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, October 11, 2019


Thought for the day:  Don't confuse your path with your destination. Just because it's stormy now doesn't mean you aren't headed for sunshine. 

[image courtesy of unsplash]

There's a certain amount of comfort in knowing that no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun is still up there, waiting to shine its rays on us again. Just because we can't see it at the moment doesn't mean it isn't there.

No relationship is all sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together.

Smarticus and I are huddled under an umbrella right now, but trust me, we're still smiling.

Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. [Victor Hugo]

[image courtesy of unsplash]

We've been married for more than fifty years, so we've seen lots of eclipses together, and we know that no matter how surreal everything looks while the moon is upstaging the sun, it always steps aside in the end so we can once again see the sunlight in all its glory.

[image courtesy of unsplash]

I have faith that just like an eclipse, this, too, shall pass. But it's gonna take a little while.

When I met Smarticus for the first time, I was 12 years old, and even then, there was something about him that I found irresistible. I mean, he was reeeeally smart, funny, and a bit of a smart ass/bad ass. Even though he was a good boy, there was something of a bad boy aura about him, too. I mean, he worked on cars and smoked, for goodness sake! And ohhhh, he looked so cute with that cigarette hanging from his mouth... Yeah, I know. Dumb. Well, I'm pleased to say he finally quit smoking a couple months ago, but now he's a different kind of bad ass. His body's all marked up. Not with tattoos, though, With markings to show where he's gonna get zapped with radiation. Yeah, I know. Scary. I'm only telling you guys this because I didn't want to simply disappear from the blogosphere without any explanation. To make a long story short, Smarticus begins radiation and chemo next week and it'll be for five days a week, which means we'll both be spending a lot of time at two different medical facilities for quite a few weeks to come. I know some of you have already faced (and overcome!) cancer, and I know we aren't unique. This is just something we have to deal with, and we'll do it as best we can. Whether or not that will include blogging remains to be seen. Not that I don't love you guys. But I love him more.

Honest, I wasn't planning on saying anything about this at all, and he might prefer that I kept it to myself, so I'm not going into any details. (Lucky for me he never reads my blog, HA!) What made me change my mind was a tiny article in the newspaper about a couple of Florida teenagers with Down syndrome, and how the girl's mother took a video of the young man inviting her daughter to the homecoming dance. About how their faces shine with love... and how he asked her to be his sunshine. Just like my Smarticus has always been to me and I think I've been to him. I looked for the video mentioned in the article... and found it. Be ready to smile. The way I see it, love and sunshine are always something worth smiling about...

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
                                           Keep smiling and never EVER give up hope.

P.S. I've already written rather lengthy blog posts for the next two Fridays, but once they go live, anything I write after that may be shorter than usual (Stop cheering!) or might even be re-runs of oldies-but-goodies. For that matter, they may be non-existent. We shall see.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Respirational Therapy

Thought for the day: Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow. [Lawrence Clark Powell]

Yep. It's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. I'm telling ya, this group offers better support and lift than the world's most expensive bra. (No underwires, either!) To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Nothing much to report on the writing front this month. The editing work has slowed down a bit, too, because real life has gotten in the way. (Dontcha hate it when that happens?)

Okay, without any more blah-blah-blah, I'll jump right to this month's question:

It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

[image courtesy of unsplash]
What are my thoughts?

Why in the world would someone who doesn't enjoy reading books have any interest whatsoever in writing one??? That makes about as much sense as someone who prepares delicious meals and then throws them into the trash because he doesn't like to eat. Or someone who's afraid to fly deciding to become a pilot. To me, reading and writing are the opposite sides of the same wonderful coin, and I can't imagine one without the other.

May I never be so blind that all I see is my own small world, nor so self-satisfied that all I am is all I ever hope to be. 

To the best of my recollection, those are the words a guest speaker wrote on the blackboard before teaching an adult Sunday school class many years ago. They resonated with me then, and they continue to resonate, which is why I still remember them.

How can anyone be so self-satisfied with their own world view that they don't want to expand their understanding of the world by reading what other writers have written? How can anyone think his ideas are new and original if he has no idea what other ideas exist? What point of comparison does he have?

Like most of you, I'm an unapologetic book hound. As a child, one of my favorite things to do was climb an apple tree at my grandmother's house... with a book. Sheltered in the tree's branches, I was nurtured by both words and apples, and I was transported to other times and places, and my imagination was sparked by the tales I read, both fiction and non-fiction.

It's hard to fathom how someone who doesn't feel that same spark about books can truly care about writing one.

[image courtesy of unsplash]

Are you familiar with the song I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face? One line in there says ♫♪like breathing out and breathing in.♪♫

That's a great way to describe my concept of reading and writing, too. Like breathing. When we read, we inhale knowledge, new ideas, different ways of thinking and living, and thus inflate our understanding of the world and the people we share it with. When we write, we exhale the stories we create, and we share a bit of our hearts and souls with our readers in the process.

How can someone exhale without inhaling? There's gotta be something in there before you can let it out, right?

So, in case it's unclear, I strongly support the point of view that says reading and writing go hand-in-hand. To write effectively, I believe a person must also read voraciously.

Oh... and have cats.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Read! When your baby's finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like "Eat, Pray, Love" or ''Pride and Prejudice,'' or my personal favorite, ''Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea, a Clinical Study.'' Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my plan was for taking down the Christmas tree. [Tina Fey]