Proud to be eel-free and wide awake

Many terrific images swipe across my inside eyelid photo display after my trip to Oregon. There's the requisite view of the PDX carpet. My grandson watching an earthworm on the wet pavement. A first big boy barbershop haircut with no meltdown! Toddler soccer class with kiddies running in circles until they fell over. Marshmallow celebrations with a little nudist after potty-training victories.

In the more haunting reel, there are eels. National Geographic documentary nocturnal eels slithering over wet grass. Eels from Maine raised in China for sale to Japan. And all just before our staff lunch at a Japanese restaurant! Can you say "bento box", boys and girls?

More alarming than the prospect of eels in your lunch! More terrifying than eels in your backyard while you are shivering out there barefooted waiting for your seven-pound schnorkie to pee! Can it be? Yes, the passenger ahead of me on the airport shuttle bus began yelling, "Wake him up! Wake him up! Wake the driver up!" This awakened all of us, and is not something you ever want to hear. Thank heaven the driver was not asleep, and didn't go ballistic over the accusation.

Slightly less troubling is the revelation Sigmund Freud spent four weeks dissecting hundreds of eels in an inconclusive search for their male reproductive organs. That's gotta warp a guy!

Next month I'll be teaching gyotaku fish prints. We will use fake rubber Texas native freshwater fish, not the real deal. James Prosek is the artist in the National Geographic Nature documentary making the really cool gyotaku eel print art.

The best places for eels are in crossword puzzle clues on the last pages of morning newspapers with a cup of coffee, black:

  • elusive ones
  • slippery sorts
  • snakelike fish
  • smoked in England
  • poached in Maine
  • enigma to scientists
  • sacred to Maoris
  • unagi in bars
  • chopped in dam turbines
  • sushi staple
  • nocturnal slitherers over land

Don't let the eels drive the bus!

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Dense fog on Memory Lane

Sitting there in America's best airport staring at the carpet while my Kindle recharged and my fish tacos digested, I gradually noticed folks in my gate having way more fun than usual. Their jackets said "The Spinners", and their guitars gave my brain a little poke. Musicians. What decade? What hits? What recent casino gig? Headed back home to Detroit by way of Dallas. Couldn't just walk up and ask them. If I had a smart phone I could google, but deferred gratification is a sign of maturity.

So back to my eBook, Olive Kitteridge. It was fitting to read about old married people and old widowed people, especially blunt and abrasive ones this month. And you know, that amazing actress was in a tv show I didn't watch based on the novel. That "Fargo" pregnant actress who was married to Bill Murray and in love with Bruce Willis in "Moonrise Kingdom", but I kinda think is married to a Coen brother. Can't google her either, so I'm feeling more mature by the moment. I might even wait until I finish the novel to google the actress!

I sense an S in her name and a Mc slowly rising from my deep subconscious. The Magic 8 Ball says It is decidedly so. About the Spinners all I get is memory fog, Oregon drizzle and, "Your call is important to us, please stay on the line..." 

So I'm working my way back to the answers:
Could It Be I'm Falling In Love 
Spirit Mountain Casino January 18
BONUS: Yes, I had suede sandals this color that year
 (and even double-knit wide-cuffed bell-bottoms)

© 2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Lumosity, the gateway drug

After a hard day making the world a greener place, it's good to come home, plop down in front of the computer and zone out on some major Lumosity. Bring on "Splitting Seeds", a short test of eye-squint estimating with chirpy birds, a revolving stick, and sunflower seeds. Try a few rounds of "Trouble Brewing" as a drive-thru barista to reassess your competence and career importance. Then on to where Guy Noir, pet poop in plastic bags, and Car Talk converge! Yes, multiple rounds of "Pet Detective" until geezer bedtime about eight.

Om. I am not younger.
Om. I am not smarter.
Om. I am home. Om.
Om. I am humbled and can not sneer at people who invite me to play silly games on Facebook.
Om. I hope I'm not ready for The Home.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Pass reception

On the advice of the son formerly known as Woolly Mammoth, I bought an antenna for my t.v. in November. With the little antenna I can sometimes get three or four channels, including a Korean pop music channel. Once in awhile I get "Big Bang Theory". Perhaps it runs 24/7/365. Other times I get old Westerns in black and white.

This morning I gave the t.v. another chance while ironing all my slacks. I could only get "Meet the Press". Listened to Andrea Mitchell, David Brooks, Eric Holder and the steam sighs from the iron, while watching squirrels and sparrows out at the feeder.

Wondering how the cold, damp day and the Cowboys at Green Bay would impact attendance at my nature class, I turned on the t.v.. Lo and behold there were the Cowboys on Fox. I can get lots of channels IF I set the ironing board just right and don't touch anything. If I pick up the extension cord, no reception. Or the iron. Or if I nudge the ironing board an inch. What a high tech life I lead!

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Like desperadoes waiting for a train

Tomorrow we will celebrate the life of A Real Character, William Lloyd Maness, 1923-2014. "Wild Bill" is grinning and winking and wearing shined shoes in whatever version of an after-existence fits your beliefs. He may even be carrying a concealed weapon tucked into his pajamas, just in case, out there. I am proud to have known him.

Last of the true condo cowboys. Wild Bill would lean against his old Caddy, that cloth-top all covered in bumper stickers, and tell me stories of being shot down in the Pacific, or of dropping documents down a well when he got sick and tired of shredding. Always the gentleman, he would offer to carry my things when he was so frail he could barely make it from his car to his front door carrying his mail.

I know how to make a YouTube slideshow with my photos. There's no way but words to share a slideshow of memories. The soundtrack for that slideshow would be Guy Clark's "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train". It's been making me teary-eyed for about four decades.

Bill was three months younger than my father, and their experiences of the Depression and World War II were similar. Their aging was much the same, too, but while my dad was lost to dementia Bill was still sharp. Skinny as he was becoming, Bill needed suspenders to hold up his trousers.

Wild Bill worried that his loud t.v. disturbed my sleep. I never did hear that t.v., but I heard Bill's dog, Buster, whining on the back patio in the middle of one night. Afraid that Buster was whining like Lassie because Wild Bill was down the well, I climbed up on my air conditioning unit to look over the privacy fence. Poor Buster nearly had a heart attack when my scary apparition loomed over him. I went back inside and phoned Bill. Finally waking him up, he let Buster back into his condo. That wee hours call cemented our friendship, and led to many phone calls at more normal hours.

Bill liked to be the defender of my condo whenever I left town. He appreciated being apprised of any unusual vehicles that might be parking in our shared carport.

Sometimes you just need a good cry. The beautician handed me the mirror and twirled me around. There was my mother staring back. One blink and then it was my dad staring. All the DNA was just squiggling back at me like the time Carole's grandparents' wedding photo was being eaten by termites under the glass frame. January is an emotional time.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Lovely leaves, long memories

Our vegetable associations seem to be strong predictors of food choices over generations. This is absolutely not a scientific study. It's my report on visitor reactions to the cold weather crops growing in the garden at work. Something of an oral history with added fiber and vitamins compiled by a chilled observer with an artistic eye.

The food garden has been a complementary color feast for two months. After Halloween the last of the peppers, eggplants, watermelons, and tomatillo vines were cleared out of the garden. The loofahs were dragged away hollering and kicking.

Enter the cole transplants. Raise your hand if you thought your side order was "cold slaw" until after high school. Admit it if you thought it was like ye ole cole slaw. Thanks for being a merry old soul.

Elderly visitors to the garden when told they were looking at mustard greens said they had eaten way too much of that during World War II. Their reactions to the beautiful leaves of turnips and beets were similar. To them, cold weather vegetables brought back memories of very hard times. "We ate dandelions, too."

As we all know, Marsala is the new Radiant Orchid, and Swiss chard is the new kale (which was the new arugula back before that). We are hip. We are trendy. We are leafy. We are pushing back against a couple generations of cruciferous veggie avoidance.


  • Unknown Liska ancestor gets a root vegetable in his Ukrainian stocking, and feels immense gratitude for life's abundance.
  • 1930s Rutabaga becomes family joke Christmas gift tradition for fifty years.
  • 1955 Sauerkraut is such an early smell and taste memory I can't imagine holidays without it.
  • 1958 Try a radish. Ick. Stick to carrots.
  • 1960's Mom makes irrational kitchen endeavors of wilted lettuce with bacon and corned beef with cabbage. No harm no fault.
  • Mom and Dad decide I must swallow a Brussels sprout before I can watch "Peter Pan" with Mary Martin and Cyril Richard on the black and white television, about 1965. Although I generally wish them both a very happy afterlife they did not believe in, maybe a higher power could have them choke down one of those slimy puppies once a year.
  • 1966 At Camp Fire Girl camp I learn to eat canned spinach with vinegar, stewed tomatoes, pass to the right.
  • 1970ish Jolly Green Giant and Clarence Birdseye move America beyond Anita Bryant's frozen concentrated orange juice toward boil-in-a-bag broccoli and cauliflower existence with cheese sauce. These vegetables had NEVER existed before.
  • 1975 Perfectly rational people begin making salads and quiches with spinach, a fictional cartoon vegetable. This frequently happens in pods called "fern bars".
  • Late Seventies color trend--I had avocado accents in my home before I ever tasted an avocado.
  • 1980 Kohlrabi space exploration vehicular vegetable probes land in Omaha, Nebraska backyard. 
    Kohlrabi has landed
  • 1990s Sister insists turnips are edible.
  • 2000+ Youngsters have no memory of ancestors surviving on cabbage, and fall under the foodie spell of Kohlrabiens. Cults develop around broccoli.
  • Late 2014 Mashed potatoes with turnips and marinated artichokes satisfy taste buds. Greek yogurt and cream cheese help.
  • SEE ATTACHED home turnip bonus activity!!***(-:) 

2010: Brussels Sprouts
"Turns out that when you roast them (with bacon), they taste less like a punishment."


*** Reserve top of turnip or other root vegetable. Put it in a jar or vase with a little bit of water. Be properly amazed when a tiny island paradise appears.

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.

The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip...

The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.

The beet was Rasputin's favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”

― Tom RobbinsJitterbug Perfume

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Poetry rocks and rolls

It's clear I don't know doodly about grammar. Grammar was out of fashion in the educational fads of the late Sixties/early Seventies. We had paisley love-ins instead of past participles.

Teen volunteers created a set of poetry rocks Tuesday. Great kids, and soooo sharp. They asked if I had any gerunds. Well, no, I wanted to bake brownies for them, but hey...

No. Gerunds. Ing. Ed. And don't you think we need multiples of the conjunctions?

Haiku hike who? A poetry walk with owls...


© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Anatevka OR Red Wigglers on the Roof

This week some brave worms bundled their belongings in old coffee filters and set off to a new world. They said goodbye to family and friends, and left the only home they've ever known. They will create rich dirt in a new bin far, far away. And now I can't get the song "Anatevka" out of my head. Marc Chagall painted a backdrop. Tevye narrated the departure. Isaac Stern fiddled.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder