Monarchs on the Move

Butterfly migration season is starting to reach the High Plains of Texas. We’re on the western edge of the main migration route most years, because of our lack of watering sources. A few years, notably 2011 and 1995, it was so dry that we had two or three monarch butterflies at most. The rest stayed well to the east or west.

However, this year I’m starting to see monarchs and their associates, queens, viceroys, and fritillaries. The first true monarch butterfly appeared two weeks ago, fluttering around the crimson salvia. Then it moved on. I saw a few more on my way to work, and on Friday, one was pestering the butterfly bush near the driveway. I suspect the first part of the main wave will arrive late this week, following a powerhouse cold front that’s supposed to bring lots of rain and drop temperatures by, oh, thirty degrees. Continue reading


Musical Trails?

The other night I was watching that documentary about country music, and one of the central characters of the episode was Dolly Parton. She talks about her song “Jolene,” as do other people, putting it in the context of the time, and in the context of country music in general. But I sat up and listened, hard, because I was hearing something else.

The tune kept hanging around, but not quite the way she does it. And there was a sense of supernatural. The melody has a definite Celtic sense, and I was trying to come up with the folk tune. Since my memory has a huge stash of folk ballads stuffed into odd places, it didn’t take too many hours before the solution popped up.

It’s this setting of “Cruel Mother” or “Greenwood Sidie.” (Better acapella version at the bottom of the post).

My mother sang this to me as a lullaby with slightly different lyrics, and I listened to another recording of this version (Odetta? Judy Collins but with this tune? Nope, Ian and Sylvia) a lot growing up, enough that I remember it very well, and sing it from time to time. It is creepy, and the element of supernatural is very strong.

So Dolly Parton did not copy the tune, but she caught the “sense” of the tune. Which explains why I thought about a supernaturally beautiful woman as Jolene.

Well, the old ballad, and because my mind latches onto story fodder far too easily.

Ian and Sylvia:

Urban Uplift

No, not like they did to Galveston Texas after the big hurricane. I’m thinking more along the lines of “Dang it, every time I try to dig a sewer trench I hit old stuff.”

One of the things that took a little getting used to in Europe was how cities climb over time. What had been ground level in the Roman or even pre-Roman eras may be twenty or more feet (six or more meters) under the street level today. Not by deliberate action, in most cases, but because that’s what cities do over time.

Courtyard of the Poor Claires Convent in Krakow. Author Photo.

The cobblestones are the original street level. The gate is the modern street level. Krakow grew over time (since the early 1200s). How? Because people pulled down buildings, or dropped dirt, especially after the Mongol attacks and the great fire in the late 1200s, and built over the remains. Continue reading

Heading Home: A Flying Story

A rerun due to too much fiction writing in progress.

Another night, another, yawn, flight. The redhead sniffed the night air and stretched, rolling her shoulders before shaking all over like a wet dog. Just after supper a cardiac trip had paged out, bringing the King Air and its crew in to the capitol. The early autumn weather had played its usual tricks as cool Canadian air rolled over the still-warm ground. The not-too-thick clouds that resulted stayed a thousand feet or so above the fields and towns, with good visibility beneath their flat bottoms. Instrument weather, good practice, but nothing dangerous. The pilot looked at her pager and yawned again. She wasn’t really tired; it just seemed like the thing to do at midnight.

Catherine had just thanked the fuel truck driver and seen him off when her pager sounded. “Call Dispatch ASAP” flashed on her personal code. Another trip? A problem? Weather check? She trotted into the hangar and used the phone on the mechanics’ desk. “Dispatch. This is Melissa.” Continue reading

Hard Scrabble

Mom and Dad Red were watching the documentary on country music, and I listened in as I could around Day Job work. The series is, thus far, one of Ken Burns better efforts, and he uses the idea of focusing on one musician as the key stone, then showing the history through and around that individual. For this topic, it works, because each “generation” had two or three people who shaped country music in various ways. Maybell and A.P. Carter, Hank Williams Senior, Porter Wagoner, and so on, up to Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and more recent musicians.

One theme that runs through the series is how the music fit into the times, and how the musicians channeled events—personal and regional and national—through their music. The other theme, perhaps inadvertent, is just how dang hard people worked and were willing to work in order to support their families and put food on the table in a decent way. Continue reading

Meaning Shifts: Awful and Awesome

English is not quite as variable as Humpty Dumpty, who averred that words meant what he said they meant, no more and no less, but it does shift, reverse, and back-track when it comes to meanings.

I tend to get irritated when a perfectly useful term or phrase becomes taboo, or a euphemism that is just common enough that I can no longer utilize its services in my writing. DadRed steams when terms are watered down to the point of losing their meaning and power. I learned this when a not-too-bad 1980s youth choir anthem became a praise chorus. The core meaning of the music was lost, leaving a very different sense behind. Continue reading


Ah, the place where the “better sort” of humans retreat to at the start of the wet season on Shikhari’s southern continent. There are some practical reasons for the relocation, or were when humans first began living on Shikhari, but as with many things, fashion and the desire for vacations eventually surpassed practicality.

The original reason was simple: Sogdia flooded, and then was trampled by the wombeast migration. The first human settlement past the spaceport was in a lush, peaceful area away from Staré communities, with a small stream running through it. The plan was based on a few assumptions, including the eventual installation of a climate-limitation system (aka dome-like protective barrier) that would ameliorate the worst of un-tamed meteorology.

I can hear the groans and giggles from those familiar with Shikhari’s “famous” way with technology. Continue reading

Product Review: Salsa Mix

You come home from fairs with interesting things, some times. In this case, it was a new-to-me product that is a salsa mix, from Simple Salsa ( ). The can has the dry ingredients. All you do is add a can of crushed or diced tomatoes, blend with one scoop of the dry stuff, let sit for 10-15 minutes for the dry vegetables to rehydrate and the flavors to mingle, and you have salsa. Continue reading