Day 203 Clitellum

June 30, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th years where I write and illustrate a blog on each day’s gift.)

It’s not that I love earthworms so much but rather the sensory awakening that occurs when they crawl onto the sidewalk after a rain. I like the darkened drama of a summer storm—gray sky, cracking thunder, rhythmic rain, earthy scent of freshly moistened soil.  The gyrations of the annelid’s tiny glistening body remind me of the slithering of seasons through a lifetime and the comfort of seasonal repetition.

I wonder why this creature has left its natural surroundings for hard concrete. Many people believe it is to avoid drowning in the rain but it was not in danger of drowning. The rain actually makes travel easier for earthworms because they can move without drying out—a matter of life and death for them. They breathe through their skin, which must remain wet for oxygen to pass through it. 

My high school biology class dissected a worm. At that time, I thought it was the most uninteresting thing we could have dissected. I missed most parts we were supposed to identify, with the exception of the girdle, which is the organ near the middle of the body. I never learned in high school science class that this is called a clitellum, which swells and secretes nutritive liquid that makes reproduction possible. Was this too delicate for an all-girls high school class in the 60’s? Our teacher missed an opportunity to spice things up with a little sex and make us wonder if these two words have anything in common—clitellum and clitoris.

My gift today is a seasonal slither.
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Day 202 Serendipity

June 29, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th years where I write and illustrate a blog on each day’s gift.)

After years of teaching 150 students each year, it is impossible to remember every one. However, some teaching memories linger because of a special spark, intelligence, creativity, misbehavior, a single incident, kindness, a comment or even a note.  

I remember one 9th grader from the early 70’s who had an insatiable well of questions, a drive to find answers, a passion for connection and learning, an affinity for humor and a talent for all of these. When she wrote, she led readers to explore nuances, and when she spoke, her honesty was evident but you knew there was more. I always wondered how such a teenager came from an unsupportive family background. And I continued to wonder what adult she had become.  Sometimes I searched online, but the chances were slim of finding a woman with the surname of Kelley that had not been changed in marriage.

Serendipity and not technology brought answers. One day in Costco, I heard a voice call out, “Mrs. Caples!” (My past alias.) I turned toward the woman’s voice. “You were one of my favorite teachers.” How could she have recognized me after so many years? When she told me her name, of course I remembered her—one of my nicest students. I gave her my card, received a Facebook friend invitation, joined a Facebook group for Ben Franklin Junior High and asked if anyone knew how to get in touch with Darlene Kelley. Someone responded with information that led me to a Reverend Kelley in upstate New York. 

After all these years, Darlene Kelley and I reconnected and it is obvious that all her special qualities have grown stronger with age. “You don’t know what a difference you have made in my life,” she told me yesterday with a catch in her voice. With a catch in my typing fingers this moment, I say that her words make a difference to me. 

 My gift today is a tribute.
You can find links to my other posts on this project here:

Day 201 Where Gnome One Has Gone Before

June 28, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day’s gift.)

David Ettlin with Buck Showalter gnome.
After storms postponed yesterday’s game, the rescheduled Orioles game tonight against the Cleveland Indians ended with an 8 to 0 Baltimore victory.  A highlight of the game was a fantastic and dramatic stretched diving catch by Travis Snider, who also hit one of the game's homeruns. The Orioles showed gnome mercy to the Indians.  

What a fun time with husband David and friend Stacy. It was a game honoring Orioles manager Buck Showalter and a huge crowd of Baltimore fans lined up to enter the stadium and claim their free Buck Showalter garden gnome. Of course, we all rooted for the gnome team.  At the 7th inning stretch, we sang John Denver’s Thank God, I’m a Country Boy instead of his well-gnome song Country Roads Take Me Gnome.

What’s more American than baseball and garden gnomes…and all the puns that follow. One fan informed us that it wasn’t weather that had postponed the original game but health concerns about gnomonia. Of course, when talking about gnomes, one must use the correct gnomenclature, as David reminds me. (I’m not sure if I’ve done this.) One fan held a sign: Buck Showalter—to gnome him is to love him. After the game, cheering fans left the stadium saying goodnight to their friends with phrases like, “Nice gnoming you.” And they returned home because there is no place like gnome. 

Gnome puns intended. 

 My gift today is a garden gnome.

> Day 202: Serendipity

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Day 200 Rewind

June 27, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th years where I write and illustrate a blog on each day’s gift.)

Art installation by African-American artist Paul Rucker forces us to"lean into" an uncomfortable conversation. He is a resident artist at Baltimore's Creative Alliance and recipient of the 2015 Baker Artist Award.
I am a member of the Creative Alliance and always put in one of my pieces for the annual Big Show. Tonight we went to the exhibit opening and the dance party that followed, but before the dancing started, we heard a cello solo by Paul Rucker that was unlike any cello music I have ever heard.

Rucker is an African American multi-disciplinary resident artist at the Creative Alliance. When we met him in his studio a little later, I was startled and uncomfortable because I was confronted with an array of KKK hooded garments on mannequins, which had been part of his Rewind gallery exhibit earlier this year. One grouping had robes of red, white and blue and small child figures wearing white robes.  I didn’t have to go far until I saw a throw rug with a lynching image on it. Rucker also took us to his loft where dozens of violin cases wrapped in the American flag were lying on the floor simulating caskets of enslaved children. This artist believes that we have to rewind and face the reality of social problems of this century in order to have an open dialogue. That means “leaning into the sharp edges.” 
I started following these stories of abuse by police, and their outcomes. And I started drawing parallels with lynchings. The same with the prison system—I started drawing a parallel between the prison system and slavery. There are all these parallels of old systems with new systems. That's what Rewind is about, connecting the past and the present, and asking how we got here.”

He says the problem is not about race but about power. I thought about Susan Brownmiller’s book Against Our Will where she paralleled this concept in saying that rape is not about sex but about power. 

I believe that it is not politicians who will solve our social problems but artists like Paul Rucker who help us make connections so we can understand and begin a dialog that will help us move forward. We have to step into our discomfort before change can evolve.

 My gift today is new understanding of a needed conversation.

For more in-depth information on Paul Rucker, please check out these links:

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Day 199 Turning Pages

June 26, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th years where I write and illustrate a blog on each day’s gift.)

New Zealand Couch Surfers join in the storytelling at Roman's.
It is an unusual day when I don’t pick up a book to read. Today was one. Somehow, life today seemed like pages from a book. We began by taking New Zealander Couch Surfers, Sally and Matty, to Roman’s where journalists meet every Friday for lunch. Table talk is often full of Sun stories. In light of the recent uproar over the confederate flag and current response to its use, David suggested that Maryland’s state song lyrics need further review. The words were written in 1861 but the song did not become our state’s official song until 1939.  It supports the Confederacy and mentions the “northern scum.”  Lyrics also refer to Lincoln as a “tyrant,” “despot” and “vandal.” It includes the phrase “sic semper,” which was shouted by Johns Wilkes Booth when he assassinated Lincoln. After lunch, we drove Sally and Matty around Baltimore, showing murals and graffiti and pointing out parts of Baltimore’s history such as Green Mount Cemetery where John Wilkes Booth is buried. David filled them in on Baltimore’s schizophrenia in the Civil War.

Our kiwi travelers also had stories to tell about their 3 ½-year adventure traveling to more than 50 countries. They have worked on boats, explored rain forests, gone scuba diving in St Maarten,  had a close encounter with a viper  and met the swimming pigs on the Exuma Islands.  

To finish the day, David and I attended Stoop Storytelling in Columbia and then friend Shawn dropped by our house for the night where we shared even more stories. 

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.” Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

 My gift today is stories.

More on the Maryland state song.

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