Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Defying Certain Death In Three Acts


Please, no autographs right now. I know I star in this blog, but I have to go play. Or climb something. Or both.

Please, no autographs right now. I know I star in this blog, but I have to go play. Or climb something. Or both.

Well, Memorial Day weekend got off to a big start Friday, with three death-defying acts:

Act I
When Amelia Shows She Can Climb

We had three grandkids overnight, and no, exciting as that is, it does not count as a death-defying act. After a morning bike ride with Amelia, Audrey picked up Nikayla at preschool, and we headed off to Willow Park in Marion for a picnic lunch/child handoff.

Where Amelia, unsurprisingly, defied death.

They have a climbing wall thing at that badly named park (badly named because there was no willow in sight at Willow Park) that consists of four plastic climbing walls, and two different types of side ladder things, one a metal spiral, the other I don’t recall but it doesn’t enter our story anyway.

The climbing walls lead to a platform perhaps 5 feet off the ground. The walls seem built maybe for kids ages 5 to 8. Amelia turns 2 today, and is small for her age, but nonetheless, she had little trouble scrambling up the climbing walls, even if it was a bit scary to watch her. Still, that was not yet defying death even if the action sequence was a bit exciting.

Once she was atop the mountain, the idea was to get down and repeat. The metal spiral ladder thingie was her chosen route. Now, we’re ready to defy the ultimate demise.

Amelia grasps poles on the platform with either hand, and slips her body off of the platform. She’s now hanging there by her arms. She stretches her legs out and finds the spiral with her feet. It’s a rather long reach for her peanut-sized body. The first time she got into this position, she accepted her mother’s help to move her arms to the spiral metal ladder, which she then descended on her own.

Of course, having survived once, her goal was to do it again immediately. Up the climbing wall, onto the platform, over to the spiral ladder, precariously hang there, swing your feet out, barely reach the spiral and then prepare to move a hand across the abyss, which requires you to stretch your arms to their maximum reach.

Amelia’s mother offered her aid, again. “No!” Amelia declared emphatically, and shook her head for emphasis—then she groped across space, finally securing a finger hold on the spiral. She then used said finger hold to lift her whole torso so she could move her other arm. All onlooking adults were poised for disaster, breaths held—but Amelia was unconcerned. She latched on, and quickly scrambled down, climbed, hung, groped, reached, scrambled down, climbed, groped, reached … etc.

Death was successfully defied. At 2, she has not learned the meaning of fear. Everyone who knows her has.

Amelia at park.

Amelia on the platform. In front of her are the two poles she will hang onto and dangle from. It may be scary to watch, but she’s not worried a bit.

Act II
An Act That Is Not Toni Safe

Fair warning, there definitely are creatures with multiple legs.

That afternoon, Audrey suggested that we take the kayaks out for the first time. It was a cool morning, but it was a nice afternoon, so Ben and I agreed. Ben and I loaded the kayaks and equipment while Audrey packed sodas. And we’re off to Pleasant Creek Recreation Area Lake near Palo.

The water was super cold and the lake a bit choppy. Ben and I went out first, and we headed west to the cove where a canoe rental area was once located.

We don’t know if it’s because the water is high this spring, but Ben and I found that the western cove extends to a narrow waterway that is apparently this lake’s turtle club. We saw multiple turtle sunning themselves on partially submerged logs—about a dozen in all, including one log crowded with six turtles. Many of them slid into the chilly waters as we neared, but we still got pretty close, and it was pretty cool to see.

The waters of the lake were very clear, and we could watch many fish swimming around. We saw a rabbit guarding the woods, a lone goose that we wondered about (others seeming to be more social) and a large bird that at first we thought was a hawk, but as it got close appeared not to be a hawk, but was fun to watch, whatever it was, anyway.

All in all, a fun first kayak outing. And, despite chilly waters, wind and some waves, not really death defying, but it serves as prelude. Cue ominous music.

After Audrey and Ben went kayaking, we drove home, and while Ben and Audrey went inside, I unloaded the kayaks. Ben came out to help carry in the other stuff, such as the towels.

Then, I went into my bedroom to change into a lawn-mowing outfit. My plan was to mow before taking my post-kayaking shower. As I was picking out my blue jeans, something tickled my right ear. I reached up to brush off the ear, and felt something moving on my neck. Again, reflexively, I brushed my neck with my hand, and something plopped to the ground at my feet.

Something with eight legs. Something that was rather large with eight legs. Sorry, Toni, but true story.

Now, the odd thing is that I didn’t scream like a girl or like a bonobo or like an owl or like any other creature. For some reason, the appearance of a Very Big Spider that had, let me remind you, been crawling on my neck didn’t disturb me at all. My reaction was to call Ben—not for rescue, but because I knew: A) He would want to see the spider and B) He’s a more experienced spider wrangler than I am.

That’s right, blog fans, sometime between my childhood and now I’ve become so blasé about arachnids that when I find a huge one which has been tickling my ear, my first reaction is: “How can I safely release this one?”

So, armed with a magazine and Tupperware, Ben trapped said spider, which he then released on our deck. And post release, I snapped its picture as it was escaping to the other side of a planter.

Yes. The spider defied death. Honestly, I was not at risk. It was not a brown recluse or black widow, blog pals, so I was really never in any danger. It was.

Spiker on planter.

Yes, it was big. Yes, it was on my neck. Yes, it was safely released in the wild. Later, we watched “Ruthless People.”

Act III
When I Mow and Plant and Trim The Dangerous Tree

We’ve arrived at our final death-defying act, friends. I mowed. Ben and Audrey, meanwhile, went to Home Depot to buy geraniums, and while there were kind enough to get me a new butterfly bush.

I had two in the front garden, but neither survived the winter. Butterfly bushes are touchy plants in this climate—they normally die down to the soil line, but usually come back. Not this year.

But, I do like this kind of bush, partly because its flowers are cute, but mostly because it does live up to its name and attract pretty summer fliers. I can’t say the butterfly bush defied death since it actually died, but hold on, blog fans.

The drought last year, followed by a long winter, was a bit rough on some plants. Of 10 Arbor Day trees planted last year, three survive this spring—a maple, a sweet gum and a dogwood. That’s OK, because I am not short of trees.

The butterfly bushes expired. Some other bushes in back survived, but have more than the usual level of dead limbs. It was a tough year. See more of my May 24 garden photos here.

And in the front yard, 2/3 of the hawthorn tree bit the dust. So, after mowing and planning my new butterfly bush, my goal was to cut off the dead top of the tree.

With old rusty bush trimmers, which meant holding the tree and gnawing at it for a while. It’s a hawthorn tree, so called because “haw” is an old name for “berries,” and this tree is supposed to bloom and produce decorative fruit. The other half of the name is because this pretty flowering tree sports 2-inch spikes of death, which I defied by cutting 2/3 of the top of the tree off.

Luckily, no blood was shed. And yes, I consider cutting the top of a hawthorn to be a much more dangerous act than having a giant spider climb on my neck.

Hawthorn tree.

The tree, trimmed despite it’s thorns of death.

So there you have it. Friday was a good day. The grass is mowed, the turtles seen, the spider released, and Amelia still showing her monkey skills.

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A Waving Flag for Memorial Day


Flag

Flag that I put up by front porch, shown waving. It’s upside down in this and some other images only due to where I was standing, it’s not being displayed as a distress symbol, nor is any disrespect being shown to Old Glory. It’s just where it is and I am where I am. I like the way its appearance changes as it waves in today’s wind.

The American Flag is not a political symbol, in an ideological sense. It belongs neither to the left nor the right. It’s not a Republican or Democratic banner.

It’s us. The U.S.

I am blessed to have not experienced the violence of war in my own life. I came of age, I turned 18, in 1976 in an “in between” time, after Vietnam had ended and before future interventions took American troops to various foreign places.

Being for or against those interventions is neither patriotic nor not. You can oppose a war and love your country. But it’s also true that one of the great sins of the 20th Century was the shabby way Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home.

Today’s vets face special challenges. The percent of the population that is in the military is fairly low. Today’s warriors come disproportionately from rural and small states—like Iowa. It’s too easy, in a huge rich country of well over 300 million souls to forget that we are actively engaged in warfare today.

And that today’s wars, with their exposure of a high percent of the deployed troops to guerilla, frontless combat, and their resulting tendency to drag on for years, are particularly hard on those who choose to serve.

Not that our wars have usually been easy. The Revolution, with its volunteer, untrained soldiers facing the world’s most professional armed forces of the time, wasn’t a cake walk. Our own Civil War still looms disproportionately in our psyche and history—we forget that on a per-capita basis, it was by far our most consuming conflict, beating even World War II.

And in the 20th and 21st centuries, our fighters have been asked to travel the globe, fighting for us as far away from home as it’s possible to get without blasting off for the moon.

We owe an unpayable debt to those who, in Lincoln’s words, gave the “last full measure of devotion.” So here, on this Memorial Day, is a waving flag and a tip of the hat to all those who served and serve, all those who died and all those who suffered so that we, us, the U.S., would exist and continue to be free.

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Remembering the Fallen


Flag

Flag hung on my front stoop for today.

Memorial Day—first weekend of summer.

In the past, my memory of the weekend was my dad, puttering around on some endless project like scraping paint, while the radio blared the Indy 500. My dad was not a sports nut, but there were a few things he tuned into—the Kentucky Derby (although I think that was because of the penny pool my mother ran), the Indy 500 and possibly one Purdue football game a year.

The Indy went by yesterday completely out of my mind, until this morning, when I was thinking of Memorial Day.

It’s primarily a day to remember those who died in wars fighting for America, although many people will call to mind all kinds of loved ones who have passed.

Uncle Bill’s funeral is tomorrow. Mike died earlier this spring. My parents are both gone now, as is Audrey’s father. Doug’s first wife. Michelle’s first baby. As life goes on, many who we know are with us mostly in memory.

It might seem a little weird to wish someone a “happy Memorial Day,” but one reason to have a day to remember is that there usually are good things to remember. I never cared who won the Indy 500. But it was nice to have the old man around, planting or painting or making wooden stilts. Or Mama putting some Lipton’s Onion Soup powder on a cut of beef—one of my favorite tastes that I haven’t had in years.

America is still fighting this Memorial Day, and some family members are in the Army. May they and their brothers and sisters in arms serve safely, may fewer in the future have to pay the ultimate price of liberty, and may all of the fallen, those in the service and those who served simply by being engaged citizens, be remembered.

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