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Archive for October, 2010

Orbs In The Barn

Orbs In The Barn, Glenwood, Minnesota, May 2006, photo © 2006-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s Halloween, the time of year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Have you ever taken a photograph and were later surprised to find you had captured an orb? Orbs are small, floating, transparent balls of light, most times unexplainable in the context of the photograph. Some claim that orbs are the building bricks from which ghosts are formed.

Do you believe in ghosts? When I was in high school, we would drive around looking for abandoned buildings that might be haunted. We rarely saw anything supernatural and most times managed to scare ourselves silly. But in the years since, I have been visited by two ghosts. One was from my grandmother in Tennessee the night that she died. She came to see me in (what I thought) was a dream, and told me she loved me. The next day I called Mom to ask if Granny had passed away. She said, “Yes, how did you know?”

The second ghostly visit was from my friend Leslea not long after she died from pancreatic cancer. She appeared in my bedroom, pulled on my toe, and knocked a writing book off the shelf at 3am in the morning. It was one of those cover your head with the sheets moments. I didn’t want to see, but could not forget. There are many TV shows that deal with the paranormal these days. Ghost busters and ghost hunters who travel the world documenting the presence of ghosts. What are your ghost experiences?

In his new book Ghost Hunting — A Survivor’s Guide, John Fraser documents a brief history of ghost hunting and explores definitions of poltergeists, doppelgangers, animal ghosts, and crisis apparitions that occur at the point of death or near death of a loved one. Fraser has several chapters on methods of ghost hunting. He divides ghost hunting tools of the trade into scientific and low-tech. Many of the paranormal ghost hunters we hear of today are using high-tech, scientific methods.


High-Tech Ghost Hunting Equipment

  • EMF Meters — commonly called ghost detectors and used to measure electromagnetic fields of various frequencies. These devices measure fluctuations in electromagnetic energy in the environment. [Last week I heard a radio interview with a psychic that said many times EMF detectors are not useful because ghosts like to hang out where there is an abundance of electrical currents like airports or malls.]
  • Cameras — used in ghost hunting for well over 100 years, commonly to capture orbs or mists
  • Thermometers – traditional mainstay of a ghost hunter’s kit used to register changes in air temperature. Digital is the best today. Some use infrared thermometers for target spotting. The theory is that ghosts often suck up the warm energy around them, leaving cold spots where they hover or stand.
  • Tape Recorders — Ghosts and poltergeists often make audible sounds or electronic voice phenomena called EVP. You will hear EVP’s recorded with digital recorders in many of the ghost busting TV shows.
  • Camcorders – camcorders are placed in paranormal hot spots and later reviewed for images or disturbances
  • Night Vision Scopes — for open-air locations where mediums feel more comfortable operating in the darkness
  • Barometers & Motion Detectors — compact and digital, to measure changes in air pressure. Like EMF meters, barometers do not detect ghosts but indicate a change in the environment or warning of poltergeist activity.
  • Spirit Box — a regular portable AM/FM radio modified to continually scan up and down the dial without stopping. The radio produces small snippets of clearly distinguishable voices as it scans the stations, noises that are clearly not part of any broadcast. Many believe that the spirits, who lack a voice of their own, are able to harness and manipulate radio signals to give voice to their thoughts.


Low-Tech Ghost Hunting Equipment

  • Graph Paper — for drawing clear plans of the haunted site
  • Rulers or Tape Measures – used to measure distances of objects moved
  • Watches – digital and viewable in the dark for timing events, synchronized among investigators
  • Voltmeters – used to check electrical power faults and cuts
  • Strain Gauges – to measure the force it would take to open a door or drawer, or the weight of an object that has been moved
  • Magnifying Glasses — for closer viewing of evidence
  • Transparent Envelopes — safe place to store unusual objects collected
  • Flour – simple device for sealing off a room, sprinkling a large area, seeing if footprints are left by any intruders
  • Black Thread — for sealing rooms to detect and prevent hoaxes
  • Torches – to light dark ghost hunting corners, castles, and caves
  • Candles – for lighting and to detect air flow changes
  • Whistles – to call for help if needed. Can also use a two-way radio.
  • Survey Maps -- to document history of what the property may have been used for in the past
  • Chalk - to make temporary marks showing the location of objects before and after they have been moved


Many ghost hunters also use human sensitives, intuitives, psychics, or mediums to help detect paranormal activity. If you want to read more about ghost hunting, your local library is a great resource for books on the paranormal, including the newest from John Fraser. Get your ghost hunting kits ready because tonight is Halloween. We’ll have a fire in the fire ring and candy in hand, ready to stave off tricks in favor of treats.

Ghosts make for good Writing Practice too. Whether haunted by figurative ghosts or the real thing, there is juice in ghost writing. Write the word Ghosts at the top of your page — 10 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 31st, 2010

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What's Under My Fridge - 297/365

What’s Under My Fridge – 297/365, BlackBerry 365, Golden Valley, Minnesota, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


On October 17th my brother had his third liver transplant. By all accounts, it is a miracle. And something that’s hard to wrap your mind around. It all began with a text: 10/17/2010 @ 9:48am — they called me with a liver. going to Philly now. Will let you know if they will be doing the operation. I’ve been trying to write a piece about it ever since. Eleven nights have passed; the day to day ekes away energy and time.

If you put all the days together, well, that’s a lifetime.

We think we can prepare for what lies ahead, try hard to be in control. Sift, collect, let go, wait. Sift, collect, let go. Wait. Yeah, we spend a lot of time waiting. The best laid plans fall hard. Somewhere between collect and let go, there are surprises. Laundry spins, rattling the floor, defying gravity. Water and fire boil, cooking spaghetti for dinner, but only as fast as the barometric pressure will allow. No amount of wishing can make the dust bunnies go away.

You would think that would be disappointing. You would be wrong. Vacuum under the desk, behind the piano bench, above the paper towel holder. Slide the giant green bottle brush under the fridge again and again and again. Thick rolls of cotton batting dust slide easily over freshly mopped floors. But what are those brilliant points of light, gleaming stars through the Pigpen fog?

Exactly 26 Mr. Stripeypants balls. Silver, gold, and the primaries, blue, red, green and yellow, lost to the swipe of the mighty Pants paw. He loves the small ones with the soft sparkling spikes. He would keep me playing fetch for hours every morning if I didn’t grab the purple lunch pail and fly out the door, late for work. Liz has a big heart for the animals. She carefully peeled and plucked the dust off of every tendril, washed each felt ball with warm water, and sat the bunch on the counter to dry.

Life can change in an instant. You can’t come back the way you came. It’s the simple things that make the day. They are as big as the miracles that make me a believer. In something bigger and better on the other side. Are there dust bunnies in heaven? I like to think they hop to a different beat.

My brother came home from the hospital on Tuesday, Frankenbelly 3 in tow. His 4:25 text said: on the turnpike – ETA 6:45 to 7:00 PM. I’ll eventually write the piece about his transplant. Tonight culminates in the midnight ramblings of a harried woman….and a plane ticket to Pennsylvania. ETA November 9th, 11:28am.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 29th, 2010 – 1:45am

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — MY REFRIGERATOR, yellow sock haiku

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HaNoi ceramic wall (one)HaNoi ceramic wall (two)
HaNoi ceramic wall (three)HaNoi ceramic wall (five a)
HaNoi ceramic wall (six)HaNoi ceramic wall (seven)
HaNoi ceramic wall (eight)HaNoi ceramic wall (nine)
In a flash, HaNoi’s Ceramic Mosaic Mural as seen from the taxi, October 2010, iPhone photos © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.




Entering the city of Hanoi last week, I immediately notice that the ceramic wall is done. This four-kilometer-long work of art, which has been in progress for the three years since I started visiting here, runs along the city’s Red River dyke system. Earlier this month, just in time for last week’s celebration of Hanoi’s 1000th birthday, the completed wall officially became the world’s largest ceramic mosaic, as recognized by Guinness World Records.

The idea for a ceramic wall along Hanoi’s Red River came from young journalist and painter Nguyen Thu Thuy. About the world record, she said:

We are very proud to have successfully gained a Guinness World Record achievement. This project reflects the vibrancy and complexity of Vietnam’s capital city, and is the ideal way to commemorate Hanoi’s 1,000 year anniversary. The integration of international artists and children’s art depict many different moods, cultures, eras of history and styles, and they have all been created with the greatest craftsmanship. We hope that this achievement brings pride to Hanoi and that the people of the city enjoy the mural’s beauty for many years to come.


The collective public work of art—Vietnam’s first—began in 2007. The mural is organized in 21 sections and was designed by 35 professional artists from ten countries and supported by hundreds of artisans from traditional ceramic villages in Vietnam, Vietnamese and other children, and students from fine arts colleges throughout the country. The murals depicts Vietnam’s landscape and peoples, and is said to be a visual narration of the country’s history.

The mural embodies the country’s rich tradition in ceramics, of which I barely scratched the surface during a day of sightseeing to the town of Bat Trang. The entire village, it seemed, was dedicated to the making and selling of gorgeous plates, cups, vases, sculptures—you name it, they made it.

More than anything, Hanoi’s Ceramic Mosaic wall reminded me of the color and buzz and energy of Hanoi and all of Vietnam.

You can read and see more about the wall, including video clips showing artists working on the mural, in the official Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural website. The Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural blog includes many interesting photos, such as the original Photoshop artist renderings of the mural back when it was only a concept. That site also talks about the artist and staff of the project. Finally, this Travel Blog entry includes close-up photos of the wall in progress.

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purple eggplantIt’s that time again. The harvest is winding down. Jim bought a small basket of red and green chile so we can roast, peel, and freeze a few baggies to pull out in the middle of winter, when our bodies crave the chemical capsaicin (which produces the heat in chile). The air conditioner is closed up, and the heater turned on.

But it’s also time for one of my frequent journeys to Vietnam. I’ve stopped counting how many this makes — surely I’ve used up the fingers on both hands and am now onto my toes. I can tell you that each time I prepare for another trip, I go through the same bizarre process of mental gyrations.



green (and purple striped) beans Wagner's chile




Roma’s Five Stages of Travel Preparation


Stage One: Avoidance. As soon as I know I have to go on a long trip abroad, I put it out of my mind. After all, the trip is weeks, maybe months away. I sometimes neglect to tell even my family; I don’t want them to fret any earlier than necessary. Although I’ve gotten better about this, it would not have been unusual a few years back to hear the following conversation in my household:

ME: Hey, Jim, I did tell you that I’m leaving on Monday to (fill-in-the-blank-country)?

JIM: What?? No, I had no idea.

ME: Oh, I’m sorry. It was spur-of-the-moment.

JIM: You mean, they only gave you four days’ notice?




Stage Two: Nostalgia.
I walk around my house, the patio, my yard, the girls’ rooms with a sweeping sense of loss and dread. How can I leave all this? I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go!!



jelly
Corrales Growers Market with the iPhone, all photos © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Stage Three: Guilt.
Surely my children will be damaged by all my globe-trotting. Don’t people ask me every time I tell them I’m off again, “What about the girls?” I rush around like a crazy woman, trying to make my absence more bearable. I take Em’s Halloween outfit to the seamstress so it will be ready by the time I return. I hang up Dee’s clothes in her closet so she could find them easily while getting ready for school. Jim gets a homemade apple pie–his favorite. So this is what inspired Superwoman, I think.



Stage Four: Panic.
This is the frenzied state I find myself in the day before I leave, my suitcase still not packed. I am relieved to find that my multientry visa is still valid. Whew! It would have been disastrous had it expired. (Been there, done that.) At 8 pm, the hour I should be hitting the sack given that I have to wake up at 3:45 am, I start flinging clothes into my suitcase. It’s cool in Hanoi, hot in the south. Whatever I forget to pack, I’ll just have to buy there. Hmmm, was that a goosebump I just felt?



yellow peppersred potatoes (big ones)
Roma tomatoes




Stage Five: Calm.
Bags are checked, boarding passes in hand. I got an upgrade on the leg from ABQ to SFO. Wandering through airport stores, it dawns on me that I forgot to pack my neck pillow. Pick up a super soft one to add to our collection back home. Also picked up two books I’ve been wanting to read: lit by Mary Karr and Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves. Between the books, my writing and doodle journals, plus a presentation and a bit of writing for work, I will make good use of my alone time. I’m ready for this. Let the fun begin!









A Sampling of (Recent) Vietnam Posts


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Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County

Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Bob walking 10,000 steps on the beach, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sitting, walking, writing with the Midwest Writing Group on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. This is the 7th time we’ve met. The first was October 2007 at McCreedy’s in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Somewhere in the middle, there was Kansas City, Missouri. The last retreat was on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota.


We arrived on Thursday; the Moon was new. The mornings and afternoons are silent. Here’s our daily schedule:

  • Wake up in Silence.
  • 9am to Noon — Sit, walk, write.
  • Noon to 1pm — Lunch in Silence.
  • 1pm to 4pm — Free Time. Read, write, walk, sleep, stare out the window.
  • 4pm to 6pm — Sit, walk, write.
  • 6pm — Dinner. Free to talk and break bread.


 

Writing Home, Lake Michigan

Writing Home, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


If you’d like to join us, here are the first 14 Writing Topics. During Day 1 of Sit, Walk, Write (Natalie Goldberg style) we wrote 14 practices at 10 minutes each:

  • Reading under a blanket
  • Fortunate life
  • Friend of the family
  • Piano lessons
  • I’m waiting for
  • Bits of garbage
  • Should I stay or should I go
  • I guess I’m doing alright
  • Walls
  • A path through the weeds
  • Cries for help
  • Don’t tell me it will be alright
  • Distractions
  • Luckiest person in the world


 

Sit, Walk, Write

Sit, Walk, Write, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


Observations:

  • Took all of Day 1 to debrief & unwind from busyness
  • Travel days take a lot out of you
  • Resistance high on Day 2
  • Breathing deeper on Day 3
  • Staring at the lake calms me, blood pressure drops
  • Walking the beach spurs fresh creative ideas. I’m part of something bigger than me.
  • After 3 years, I feel comfortable & safe with these writers. We’ve worked out the logistics of living, eating, sleeping in close quarters.
  • Everyone holds the space
  • Grateful to the timekeeper who holds the structure
  • Writing about family, place, home, writing projects
  • Free time is essential. Sleep & rest without guilt is essential. Silence is essential.


Back next week. Get out your fast writing pens and spiral notebooks. We follow the Writing Practice rules. And try to Make Positive Effort For The Good. Sit, walk, write.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 10th, 2010

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ChambersThermadorBig Chill (one) Big Chill (two)
My appliances: Chambers stove, Thermador oven, Big Chill fridge
(front and side), photos © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






Chambers, Thermador, Big Chill
hot, hot, cold
duck, duck, goose







-Related to posts PRACTICE: My Refrigerator and FridgeFotos – Assateague Island To Frozen Trolls

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My refrigerator looks old but it’s not. We bought it this year, from a company in Boulder, Colorado, that makes retro appliances. Our fridge is a crisp white, matches the old Chambers stove, which really is old. Both have rounded edges. The fridge has a Whirlpool motor and doesn’t make a whole lot of sound, not the way some old fridges do. But I guess that’s because ours isn’t old; it’s new. Most importantly, it fits into the predefined space for the fridge, a space that happens to have been designed in the 1950s, when the house was built. Which means it won’t fit a year 2010 refrigerator, even if we wanted one.

Which we don’t. No, our retro fridge is a handsome appliance. It makes me think about Pablo Neruda’s sensuous Oda a las cosas. Ode to things. Our refrigerator is shiny, and the name of the company that manufactured it appears on a nameplate with retro cursive handwriting, the kind that evokes images of old majestic cars from the 1950s. Buick. Cadillac. Chevrolet.

Honestly, I don’t even know what the majestic cars were back then. I was born in 1961, but most of my memory is set in the 1970s. I suppose this fridge of ours is reminiscent of June and Ward Cleaver, but I like to think it could also have fit in the home of the Brady Bunch. You know, Alice, the maid, and how she wore that blue dress with the white apron, and the six kids, three boys and three girls, all the exact same age, who often filed down the stairs and ended up in the kitchen, hungry.

I bet when they looked in their fridge they found things like big Kosher dill pickles. Mom always bought us some generic brand pickle, not the crispy Koshers that I buy for the girls. Although when I was a kid, we ate our generic pickles without complaint, and when we finished them off, we drank the pickle juice. And we ate carrots that we peeled and dipped in white vinegar, with salt.

Our fridge, it gives me a good feeling. I guess because it’s such a perfect thing. Why did fridges have to change so much anyway? A few years ago, when we were doing a home remodel, Jim and I went refrigerator shopping. The fridges were so complex. There was the SubZero and the Viking, and the way the salesmen talked about appliances, you would have thought we were buying cars. I think you could keep different parts of the refrigerator cooler than other parts, the way in new cars you can heat one person’s side yet leave the other person at a lower temperature, and the kids can watch movies in the back while your car tells you how to navigate to the grocery store. So it goes with fridges. You want apples at a temperature where it doesn’t hurt your teeth to bite into them yet they stay crisp for weeks? I bet newfangled fridges can do that for you.

Our refrigerator is new but it’s humble. It looks good, and for someone like me, often the way it looks is more important than what it does. It’s not because I’m shallow, although it’s certainly within my repertoire to be shallow. But in this case it’s a visual thing. Jim’s functional, but even he seems to enjoy the new fridge. It is wide on the inside, not too many shelves. We need to bend down lower than with the more sophisticated fridge that we bought for the kitchen remodel but couldn’t use in our new house because, well, our new house is actually an old house.

Maybe I love our refrigerator because it reminds me of days when I ate cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches on soft bread. Not Gruyere or dill Havarti, but plain old yellow cheese. Before we knew that mayonnaise would clog your arteries and that soft bread would make you soft, too, and when the only people who ate chewy bread was the woman in the Nude Drawing class who wore her long braids in two buns on each side of her head, and the only way she got chewy bread was by making it herself.



-Related to posts WRITING TOPIC — MY REFRIGERATOR and FridgeFotos – Assateague Island To Frozen Trolls

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