365 Days of Earrings

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 243: Two Thirds of a Year Down, One Third to Go

I looked at this pair of earrings this morning and thought, "Hmm. Didn't I already wear those this year?" I'm trying to separate the earrings I've worn from those I have yet to wear, but sometimes I slip up.

I googled arkadangling + dragonflies and found another, very similar pair that I'd worn on March 31, the 90th day of 2011. My Year of the Insect, I called that post. I'm gearing up to teach a reading and writing project in which my 3rd graders explore the animal of their choice in depth. I'll share my research about dragonflies, and some of what I've written about them.

On March 31, my house was under siege by another insect, the brown marmorated stinkbug. In June, they headed back outside to feed and breed.  The house has been stinkbug free for a couple of months. But now, they're back. They're snacking on the lilac bushes just outside our door. They're big and fat and juicy. And they're ready to find a place to over-winter. I have cups of soapy water waiting in every room, ready to drown these invaders. I even wander around outside, encouraging them to drop off leaves into soapy water. I live with a sense of dread of the 100's, 1000's, 10,000's... Could they be even more plentiful this year than last? I shudder.

Today marks 5 months (153 days) since my last dragonfly/stinkbug post.

But it's also Day 243 of my blog: two-thirds of a year have passed since January 1, 2011 when I wrote the first of my 365 Days of Earrings. Only one-third of a year to go: 122 more days. I can handle that!

But how many more stinkbugs? I've captured 16 since I started writing. 

One day at a time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Peripatetic Outing

This morning I chose to wear my Calvin and Hobbes Shinky-Dink earrings. I made them back on a snow day last winter, thinking I'd wear them on July 5th, Bill Watterson's birthday. But I forgot. So I wore them today to go for a hike at Sky Meadows State Park with my friend and colleague Janie.

One day last year, Janie told me how tickled she was that her son could define peripatetic. Especially because of the source of his knowledge.

"Doesn't that have something to do with moving from place to place?" I asked.

And she quoted her son's definition, having to do with a school of itinerant Greek philosophers. "He learned it from Calvin and Hobbes," she smiled.

Learning is like that. Our minds latch onto what is meaningful to each of us. Will wanted to understand Calvin and Hobbes. Today Janie told me that Will's college application essay is about all that he learned from Calvin.

What can you learn from a cartoon? Clearly, he gained an expansive vocabulary. And probably a lot about interpersonal relationships, philosophy, perspective...

And the value of imaginative play. Hobbes is a stuffed toy. He only comes to life when he and Calvin are alone. Through play, Calvin works through the issues that plague his life.

I worry that children no longer spend as much time in imaginative play. They spend time in front of screens; in scheduled lessons, practices, and games; and striving to master academic skills years before my generation felt such pressure.

Janie's daughter is teaching three-year-olds in a program designed to accelerate them to success. They are expected to master letter sounds, something my cohort did not do until 1st grade. Through play, these children will learn to communicate, to listen, to cooperate. Through art projects, they will learn to express themselves and gain motor skills. Through dance and singing, they will learn self-control and group dynamics.

We had a great hike celebrating the end of summer. We shared ideas and imagined what might be. A peripatetic outing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Parrots Name their Young! Who Knew?

I don't remember where this pair of earrings came from. I recall wearing them when one of my kindergartners chose pirates as the theme for a day in May. I know that I used to wear them when I taught about birds and flight. I vaguely recall a catalog, a ridiculously low price, free shipping with 3 or more pairs... But however it happened, I own a pair of parrots.

Yesterday my son read me some excerpts from an article on the humor website http://www.cracked.com/. According to researchers from Cornell University, Venezuelan parrot parents name their young and communicate with them by name. Here's a quote from cracked.com:

Dolphins, primates, and crows  have all been observed using unique calls when they want the attention of specific members of their groups. This means that, at least among these species, individual animals actually have the equivalent of their own names. Most perplexing of all seems to be parrots, because according to pirate-movie logic, it should scientifically turn out that every single parrot ever has the same name.

Parrots are in some pretty illustrious company. No wonder I wanted a pair of parrot earrings! (I've been watching politicians engage in revisionist history. Thought I'd try it out.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures

About 20 years ago when my son was small (he's now 23, 6'1", and home for just a few days), he left one of his plastic dinosaurs on my desk next to my little wooden ark. I was struck with the symbolism: the dinosaur had missed the boat.

Today I finished reading Tracy Chevalier's 2009 novel, Remarkable Creatures, based on historical accounts of the lives of two women who collected fossils on the beaches near Lyme, England in the early 19th century. Fossils that did not resemble living organisms created a religious challenge, since church teachings insisted that God had only created perfect creatures and would not have caused any of them to become extinct. An early explanation was that perhaps Noah had not taken all animals on board the ark. But many believed that fossil hunting was sacrilegious. I was inspired to don a pair of Noah's ark earrings, a gift from my mother-in-law.

As often happens when the world an author crafts inspires my imagination, I became so attached to Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning that I find myself missing them and the fossil beds of Lyme Regis. I am grateful for this glimpse into the 200-year-old questioning of religious dogma. Scientific evidence led people to question established beliefs--slowly, uncertainly, faithfully. Today, many Americans choose creationism over evolution, longing for the comfort of God's perfect creation.

Mary Anning's discovery of plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs unsettled her world. I'm grateful that Tracy Chevalier used her story to help me understand why people turn away from such remarkable creatures.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sheltering from Irene

Just two weeks ago today I snapped this photograph during our backstage tour of The Lost Colony on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These actors told of fires and hurricanes that had devastated the production in the past. They pointed out the rocks that have been placed outside the fence to protect the storage facilities from hurricanes.

Today, Hurricane Irene is battering the Outer Banks. A weather channel reporter had trouble standing as the hurricane winds began to hit the beach this morning.

When we were at the beach, I collected shell fragments to make into earrings. My favorites were the shards that glistened white and purple when the surf receded. They dried dull and colorless, but clear nail polish revived their shine. Today I made a couple of pair of earrings, one to wear and one to save for another day.

I knew I wouldn't find images to match them in my Peterson Field Guide to the Shells of the Atlantic, but I looked anyhow. Rubbed smooth, they offer no useful clues to me, with my unpracticed eye. I'm guessing they once housed clams, but maybe scallops, perhaps another shell-dweller. Fragments from the sea, preserving my memory of summer at the shore.

I picked them out of the surf two weeks ago and brought them to our mountain home. Now they're dangling from my ears as I listen to Irene's arrival here on our Blue Ridge foothill.

I'll be surprised if we don't lose power tonight. I'm blogging early, just in case.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Reclaiming Madison's Constitution

I went on a pilgrimage today. My husband John and I drove southeast, through the Virginia countryside, to the home of James Madison, the father of the United States Constitution. For me, this is truly hallowed ground.

As a senior in high school, I read many excerpts of the Federalist Papers, learning through primary documents about the arguments that Madison used to persuade his countrymen to ratify the constitution. We learned that Madison devised the "Virginia Plan," creating the balance of powers. He was the only member of the Constitutional Convention to arrive with a comprehensive plan. He lobbied, he negotiated, he worked it out. Ever since, I have thought of Madison as a master researcher, writer, compromiser, and persuader.

I last visited Montpelier in 2000 when my daughter Phoebe, age 8, was fascinated with Presidents. She took notes. Montpelier then belonged to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and much of the tour showed renovations done by Marion duPont Scott, an heiress who hosted large parties related to the horse-racing venue she created on the property. Since 2003, the Montpelier Foundation has restored the house to the conditions when James and Dolley Madison called it home. Montpelier now rivals the greatness of Monticello and Mount Vernon. Of the three, it is my favorite.

Today I sat in the second-floor library where Madison spent the winter of 1789 to 1790 crafting the Bill of Rights. According to the film shown there, in preparation for writing the constitution, he read 400 books in 7 languages. I sat within those same 4 walls. Looked out the same windows toward the frontier. The floorboards are original. A hallowed place.

Our government is paralyzed by people who refuse to compromise, or even to listen to each others ideas. Our founding fathers conducted research in foreign languages, wrote persuasive essays, negotiated and made deals... That is the spirit in which the constitution was written.

Madison did his best to cobble* together a document that was acceptable to the people of our infant nation. Then, he persuaded them to add 10 amendments, our Bill of Rights. Stone by stone he built a foundation. We need a modern mason to come along and restore the spirit of Madison's constitution--not to restore the archaic beliefs like slavery and misogeny that were accepted in Madison's day. It's time to reclaim the constitution for Madison.

*"Cobble together" is a shoemaker allusion. But cobbles are stones. I cobbled together these earrings a few days ago. Stone by stone. That's how progress is made. Stone by stone.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rock Solid

A couple of days ago, I felt the earth shake beneath my feet. My first earthquake. Like pretty much everyone I know, I spent a good 10 seconds listening and wondering before realizing I should MOVE.

I heard a geologist state that the seismic waves travel well through east coast bedrock because it is solid and old, unlike the young, soft rock in California. Soft rock? Isn't that an oxymoron?

The epicenter of the earthquake that rocked the east coast was in Mineral, VA. When I was a baby, we lived just 18 miles from there near Beaverdam, VA. My parents rented half of a duplex from a farmer who raised Black Angus cattle. My dad managed a titanium mine in Louisa County. That earthquake and I emerged from common ground.

I chose these stone earrings and my stone bear pendant this morning. I bought the earrings this summer during a deluge in Berkeley Springs, WV.

I've been thinking about rocks's impermanence. Nature recycles rock all the time. Moss and lichen--tiny, simple organisms--help eat away at this boulder in my yard. Rain and ice and wind will weather it. More dramatic changes take place constantly deep underground, as rock metamorphoses through heat and pressure.

In sixth grade, my desk sat next to a window that looked out towards the Washington National Cathedral. For 9 years, I attended Friday worship services in this inspiring gothic edifice. I gloried in the music, the language, and the stone. I loved nothing more than walking past the stone masons at work carving limestone to add to the structure.

On Tuesday, the earth shook and toppled some of those  stones.

Solid as a rock. Really solid. But sometimes solid is not the best goal. Sometimes, maybe it's best to aim for flexible, adaptable, willing to change. Like a rock, hosting moss and lichen, exposed to wind and rain.
Nature is busy recycling. It's a very long term plan. Like softening old rock.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Not-so pleasant Cycle

After lunch today I loaded my bike on my car and headed out in search of a pleasant local ride. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, pleasant is in the experience of the pedaler. Some love barreling down single-lane tracks over rocks, through underbrush. Some prefer challenging paved roads with steep hills to climb and descend. Some like a busy bike path where they find safety in numbers. But for me, pleasant is a lonely, country circuit; with the occasional not-too-steep-or-too-long hill; without too much gravel or too many washboard ruts. Oh, and no head-winds.

I did not choose a pleasant ride today. I challenged myself more than I wanted to be challenged. Long, steep hills; long stretches of gravel; speeding pick-up trucks; and so many ruts that my arms still feel as if they are vibrating. And how could I have ridden into the wind in both directions?
I wore these earrings that I bought at the Delaplane Strawberry Festival from a vender from Blacksburg, VA whose stall I visit every year.

I rode hard today. I walked up a few hills. I talked to myself a lot. Need to be more fit. Maybe the tires need more air. Should have driven the route first. Should have gone somewhere more familiar. Stop whining. Just ride to that next rise.

The worst moment was when I realized that I didn't have the stamina to ride the long circuit that I'd planned. I had to turn around and ride back up those gravelly hills I'd just come down and down the rutty inclines I'd been unable to climb.

I made it back to my car. Tired. Disappointed in myself. I rode through idyllic pastoral scenary. I worked hard. Stop whining.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Like a Seed in a Cage

Seeds in cages. That's what I saw when I spotted these earrings this morning. My daughter Kathe made them for me years ago. We'd seen beads wrapped up like this, and she'd wondered how it was done. So she figured out how.

Seeds in cages. That's what I think of when I look at the people who live in places like Gaddhafi's Libya. No chance for growth. Not even access to basic human freedoms, like choosing where to live. Living in poverty while their country's wealth flows into the coffers of a few.

Seeds in cages. That's what I think of when I hear stories about American knowledge of geography, history, and science. How can we expose American minds to the wonders that surround them? Set them free to learn about polar ice caps and Persia and evolution? Prevent more Americans from slipping into poverty while their country's wealth flows into the coffers of a few?

Seeds in cages. Waiting for fertile soil, soaking rains, and the sun's light to warm and enable them to feed themselves and grow...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Memories of Squid

One of the most glorious experiences of my life was swimming up to a school of tiny squid in Bermuda. For some reason, when I saw these earrings for sale at the Bermuda glassblowing shop I thought of squid. These were the only earrings that I bought that summer in Bermuda some 11 years ago. I bought them on my last day, a souvenir to remind me of watching squid in the aqua water.

I was in Bermuda learning about how to conduct in-depth field work. I got to snorkel through coral reefs, freshwater ponds, caves, and coves. I made transects and graphs and learned to identify hundreds of species of endemic, native, introduced, and invasive species. I even got to swim with dolphins. But squid captured my affection.

Why squid? They move in a graceful, coordinated dance. As a team. As if they are playing follow the leader. I hovered next to schools of squid as long as they would allow, trying to determine who they were following as they tilted left, scooted right, zipped off in search of food.

On reflection, these earrings look nothing like squid. But to me, they still capture the wonder I felt that summer in Bermuda. And they're indelibly linked in my memory to squid.   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Symbolism of the Starfish

I wore these pewter starfish today, the last pair from this set that I bought while living in Savannah some 20 years ago.

I've been following the news from Tripoli all day, hoping that Gadhafi would leave before causing further misery. My hopes are symbolized in the starfish. Here's how WikiAnswers describes it:

The Starfish has been used to represent the Virgin Mary (Stella Maris which means Star of the Sea) who creates safe travel over troubled waters and is also seen as an emblem of salvation during trying times. The Starfish can also be seen as celestial symbol and as such, represents infinite divine love. In addition to love, the Starfish also holds characteristics such as guidance, vigilance, inspiration, brilliance and intuition. To see a starfish in your dream, suggests a period of healing and regeneration. Alternatively, it may indicate that you have many options to weigh and decisions to make.

Salvation during trying times. Healing and regeneration. And so many options to weigh and decisions to make in the coming months.

CNN is showing images of people celebrating in Green Square. So far, the Gadhafi forces seem to have disappeared. May tomorrow bring stories of vigilance, inspiration, and brilliance.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A new flag for Libya

I made this pair of earrings back in March, when news from Libya looked very grim. Moammar Gaddafi was threatening to kill everyone in cities where the rebels had gained control. I read a story about the pre-Gaddafi flag that had been adopted by the rebel forces: red, black and green. Gaddafi had created his own solid green flag to symbolize his regime.

I decided that I'd save this pair to wear when the rebels could claim victory. I hope that I am not premature, that today will truly be the day the Gaddafi flees Libya. But I was so taken with this story in this morning's Washington Post. It tells of the preparations that the insurgents have made to ensure safety and democracy.

I know that chaos may ensue in spite of careful planning, and that democracy will be difficult to achieve after decades of totalitarian rule. But I admire the way that one city after another has become part of free Libya with very little violence once Gaddafi's forces left.

I hope that this new flag will fly over Tripoli very soon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Keep it simple

I dressed up a bit this morning, adding a necklace to my earrings and t-shirt, before heading to school for a team meeting and some work in my classroom. I hoped that the ensemble would help me with my goal for the next couple of weeks: Keep it simple.

I have this tendency toward complexity. I get caught up in intricacy. An idea pops into my head. It starts small, and then tendrils begin to spread in all directions--connections to draw, parallels to research, tangents to touch upon. Once my mind is whirling, I try to synthesize the mass of information into a logical whole. 

Six large, bulletin boards hang empty on my classrooms' walls. Ideas keep popping into my head. A simple image of how to display student work or create an interactive learning center. And then the tendrils begin to grow. Today, I felt the shell dangling against that dip at the base of my throat--my supra-sternal notch, I guess it's called--and reached to touch my earrings. "Remember, keep it simple."

I made this pair last spring one day after buying a few bags of jewelry findings. Oval rings. Bendable clasps. The simplest of hooks. As I played with the beads and findings, this pair emerged. I like their simple elegance, and that they appear more complex than they are.

That's my goal. Keep it simple.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Building Towers

Today I visited my 3rd grade classroom, went shopping for classroom supplies, typed and printed labels and lists, and brainstormed a bit about the opening days of school. Just dabbling, getting my feet wet; not quite ready to plunge in.

These earrings seemed perfect for the day: two stacks of beads-- one, two three. That will be my goal over the next couple of weeks: build two matching towers, my theoretical curriculum and the classroom materials that will enable me to implement it. I have lots of components in files and bins and notebooks, but I need to polish them up, make sure they fit together to make a balanced pair. Math, language arts, social studies. Tied together with a hidden wire to form a unified whole.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beads and Seeds; Paper and Ink

Today I wore this pair of earrings made of wooden beads and seeds that my daughter Phoebe gave me for Mother's Day. Today was an important day for both of my daughters, and I knew I'd be thinking about them all day.

I took my car to a mechanic to get a flat tire fixed and ended up spending the entire day killing time while my poor Subaru got the new belts and spark plugs and adjustments that it's been needing for a while--oh, yes, and the flat tire. They fixed that, too.

While I waited, I went to Borders Bookstore for their close-out sale. I'm in mourning about Borders. I used to shop at the one-and-only Borders in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I even went to a party or two at the home of Tommy Borders; my boyfriend worked at the store, where the staff was a close-knit group of intellectuals: a composer ran the music section; a former teacher tended the children's books; my boyfriend, a poet, lovingly shelved the poetry. I read on-line that that store is closing now, too. I really mourn that closing.

So today, while I waited for my car--an 11 hour wait--I wandered about Borders and bought some books that will jumpstart my school year, books about Japan and math, biographies and novels and poetry books that I hope will inspire my students.

I wished Phoebe was with me to look at the pitiful poetry section, to buy a gem or two that she coveted. I bought a novel that Kathe recommended last year. I bought a book of Tennessee Williams play for my son. Then I sat and read at Panera, wandered about town some more, then went back and read some more. I'm not sure yet about the Tracy Chevalier book, but I highly recommend the other 3.

I guess I'll learn to live without bookstores. I love to hold a book, to flip it open and get a feel for the language deep inside. Amazon lets you read excerpts on-line. So does my Kindle.
But I'm going to miss bookstores. I hope that I don't live long enough to miss books, too.

Earrings made of wooden beads and seeds; books made of paper and ink. Simple stuff makes me happy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tall, thin, and quirky

I am tall and thin. That often makes me stand out in a crowd. But I often feel that I'm odd in other ways, too. I often feel alone, even in groups where I’m comfortable. Sometimes because my opinions (political, religious, social,  economic) are so different from those around me. Sometimes because I don’t know anything about American Idol or The Office or football. Sometimes because I just can’t handle the volume, and everyone else is enjoying the music, the conversation--to me, the noise. 

This pair of earrings was a gift from a student who went to visit her family in South Africa and chose these tall, thin people to bring back to me. “She was sure these would be perfect for you,” her mother said. “I hope you like them!?!”
I do. I love them. But I’m reluctant to wear them in public. I’m a tall, thin, white woman. Why would I dangle tall, thin South Africans from my ears? Maybe someone would think they were overgrown characters from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But I fear I’d appear racist. That I might be tempted to explain that I have a collection of Obama stuff on my fridge.
I had a long phone conversation with someone I love today. She was feeling different. Hard as she tries to believe in herself, someone “too cool for school” is undermining her confidence with looks and jibes. She feels alone.
Now that I'm 55, I've finally learned to accept myself for who I am. Tall, thin, quirky. Liberal, disappointed by organized religion, devoted to the golden rule, convinced that growing economic inequality is not good for America. I've learned that there are kindred spirits in the world. For each of us. But life can be lonely when you're tall, thin, and quirky.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bookends of summer

As the sun rose this morning in the east, the full moon was setting in the west. We got up early and walked along the shore, the moon to our left, the sun to our right.

When I packed my bag for a trip to the Outer Banks, I packed my beach earrings...shell cross-sections, sea turtles, star fish, and crabs.

This morning, I chose the crabs for my early morning walk. I remember watching crabs scampering about the beach whenever I got up early to go beach combing as a child. (Ghost crabs, spider crabs, not blue crabs, but crabs nonetheless.)

We saw no crabs, but then we didn't see star fish, sea turtles, or shells as big as these earrings, either.

I was amazed at the amount of development in the Outer Banks. I guess I should have known, given that every other car in Northern Virginia sports an OBX sticker. I also guess that if I were a wild animal, I'd have found it difficult to survive there along with all of the humans. 

So here are the two crabs seen on the beach today in Kill Devil Hills, NC. I brought them back to Northern Virgina tonight.

This pair of Jabebo earrings was a gift from my friend and colleague Susan who earned studied marine science in Wilmington, NC. She bought them for me at a science conference some 12 years ago. The first stop on my summer vacation was Bellefonte, PA to see Kevin Abbott, the creator of Jabebo earrings. Today, I returned from my final vacation adventure wearing a pair of his earrings. Bookends of summer, balancing like this morning's sunrise and moonset.

Chronicling Change

Sunday, August 14

On Sunday, I decided that lots had changed since the last time I was at the beach. Digital cameras, for instance. Last time, I used film, picking and choosing my shots. This time, I snapped away with my digital camera.

My daughter Kathe and I got up early to go for a walk together before breakfast. We each had a digital camera. Some things don't change. I still have high-arched, big feet.

And shore birds still get up early and breakfast on the beach.
Small children still build sand castles
using plastic buckets.
Who knew that surfers could now paddle
their boards into the waves using a paddle,
rather than their hands,
and no longer have to jump to their feet?
Or skip the paddle and the waiting
for a wave and just let a sail
catch the wind?

I bought a pair of earrings at the Kill Devil Hills Cooperative Gallery. Some things never change.