Thursday, July 1, 2021

Word of the Year: Joy 7: Birdsong


Mockingbird by Andy Morffew.


Mockingbirds may be my muse. 

(Or maybe I just like that alliteration.) 

The singing of birds bring joy. 

There is joy in the musicality.

There is joy in the gift of hearing. 

There is joy in that the singing is simply present - we don't have to hunt for it, find that right channel, that right app, that right song, download it, look at a screen for it, plug it in, recharge it, or venmo it. 

No, the birdsong is for the birds; our bystander enjoyment of their conversations is a serendipitous side effect.

A reason I chose my Opelousas apartment back in 2015 was that, just outside a living room window was a tree, and on that tree was a melodic mockingbird


And there were the conversational tunes from the mockingbird outside my bedroom window in Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. 



In Birmingham, Alabama, which I left only a few days ago, there was a pair of mockingbirds in the front yard outside my living room windows, quite talkative, though not as melodic as their kin in Louisiana or Caucasus Georgia. They seemed more interested in succinctly pronouncing their claim to the yard in case squirrels or other birds had eyes for any of the juicy menu items the yard offered.

But I am polyamorous when it comes to birds and their songs. 

The mourning doves' low talking in Alamogordo, New Mexico, made for an audio wallpaper at home:

 (Not that I didn't sometimes wish the doves weren't quite so chattery.)

 In COVID's early days, I sometimes surrendered to the joy of birdsongs gathered by kind souls, such as these:


Listening to these birdsongs from my past writings remind me that even in times of profound sorrow or fear or uncertainty, one can feel moments of joy. 

We can immerse ourselves in birdsong, like a restorative soak in a bath.


Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Peculiar Blindness, Part 5: Missing Dates


Museum and Tourist's Center list of Important Dates in history of Washington, Louisiana. March 2015.
Museum and Tourist's Center list of Important Dates in history of Washington, Louisiana. March 2015.

I'm in Birmingham, Alabama.

Juneteenth 2021 is coming up this weekend.  

I've been going through past photos, editing and organizing. 

I bumped into a photo I took in 2015: A list of Important Dates in the history of the historic village of Washington, in Louisiana. 

Apparently not a thing in Washington, Louisiana:

  • Slavery
  • Civil War
  • Emancipation
  • Opelousas Massacre (with its catalyst in Washington) (or heck, even call it the Opelousas "Riot")

Nor are these noteworthy events: 

April 9, 1866: The first civil rights act in the United States, which overturned the Black Codes and which established that "all persons" (including Black persons) born in the U.S. are citizens. [But: The Act specifically excluded most Native Americans from citizenship.]

July 9, 1868: The 14th Amendment to the Constitution re-affirmed that all persons born in the U.S. are citizens. [Note: But voting rights were denied to all women and to most Native Americans. The 14th Amendment was generally interpreted to deny citizenship to most Native Americans, as well.]

June 2, 1924 (less than 100 years ago!): The Indian Citizens Act allowed as how Native Americans are U.S. citizens, too.

Here in Alabama, the state scrubs out the federal holiday that commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday by bleaching it with a state holiday that honors Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. 

In fact, Alabama has three PAID holidays that honor those who fought and died to protect their right to enslave fellow human beings.

In good news, there are efforts afoot to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. 


A couple of days ago, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. 

Yesterday, the U.S. House voted in favor of same, over the objections of, yes, two of Alabama's four representatives. (On the other hand, Governor Ivey recently proclaimed Juneteenth as an important day.)

Related posts


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

10 Years Ago: On Being Location Independent


Internet cafe, Vakhtangisi, Caucasus Georgia.March 2012.


Stuff has happened in the last 10 years re: location independence for working people.

My 10 year-old article on location independence for workers was a snapshot of that time. 

Today, we might put location independence into three buckets:

  1. #vanlife digital nomads: The worker lives out of a home on wheels (car, van, bus, RV) and relocates with their wheeled home every few weeks or months.
  2. Tourist digital nomads: The worker lives out of hostels, short-term rentals, or house-sits, and relocates every few days, weeks, or month(s).
  3. Settler remote workers: The worker settles in a community for a year or longer (hey, like me!):  More and more cities, states, and and countries are trying to entice such workers to settle in their communities. Such as here and here.

Next to the genre of nomad, the most important variable in location independence is the worker's internet access needs: Do they need real-time, on-camera internet access (and how often) for 1:1 or group meetings or is most of their work in not-real-time? Do they have lots of stuff to upload? If yes, do they need to upload daily, weekly, or less often? 

And what's their budget?

Sadly, I've not yet been able to find writers in categories 1 and 2 who offer realistic, reliable, under-the-hood information on how they manage the technical aspects of their remote work. 

Instead, there is a glut of writers who litter their sites with the words like "you should do this, too!" and "freedom!" and "amazing!" as if internet access were universally accessible, reliable, and fast enough for the nomad worker's needs.

There were informative nomadic writers I used to follow, but who, since I published the 2011 post below, have turned to other interests.

Because I teach English online most days, and require real-time, on-camera, upload/download reliability and speed, neither #vanlife nor tourist nomad life are realistic for me. Not for the lack of trying, but my experience has shown me that one cannot rely on the internet service in hotels, motels, airbnbs, so-called free wifi spots at cafes, libraries, or even at friends' houses in a Major Urban Center.

Quel dommage.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Being Location Independent

In my view, working "location independent" will only get more popular as technology and imagination gloriously expand, freeing people to live where they want. Location independence could rejuvenate small towns foresighted enough to invest in distance technology for their current and potential residents.

From asimov wikia
Puts me in mind of an Isaac Asimov series with robot Daneel Olivaw and robot-phobic and agoraphobic police investigator Elijah Baley. The Spacers can live and work on huge estates, in physical isolation, but in virtual proximity to anyone, anywhere.

A comprehensive site on location independence:

Location Independent: Connecting You With All the Resources You Need to Live and Work Anywhere You Choose [2021 UPDATE: The link is thanks to the Wayback Machine aka Internet Archive, as the site owners moved on to new endeavors since 2011.]

One example of Location Independent's resources is house-sitting, a concept I thought went the way of schemes such as "vacation for free while delivering a car across the country!" or "see the world as an airline courier!" But apparently house-sitting is alive and kicking. On further reflection, this makes sense - I'm guessing pet care is a common expectation for house sitters.

Agencies the site recommends, among others:

House Sitters America

Mind My House

House Carers


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Word of the Year: Joy 6: Color


Colorful coverlet, Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.
Colorful coverlet, Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.


At the thrift store, a cotton coverlet called to me from atop sedimentary layers of cloth.

The colors!

Sweet 'n juicy cantaloupe, butterscotch hard candy, periwinkle blossoms, hot-skinned August tomatoes.

My spirit soaked 'em up like a parched plant does water.

I felt deeply satisfied. Joyful. I even sighed, I think.

I brought the coverlet home. I shook it out, let it fall floaty-like onto my airbed, and smoothed my hand over the slightly nubby surface. I'm pretty sure I sighed again. These colors, like a dawn that cracks a crevice of red-orange-yellow light from behind the dark.

A few weeks later, I saw a flash of a young woman on the street in a summer dress, ostentatiously, outrageously, loudly, flowery colorful. So fresh! Ah! 

And then, and then ...... when I stepped into a Target, I saw more splashy, happy, joyful colors!  A produce stand of a summer's first fruits. 


Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.
Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.

Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.
Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.

Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.
Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.

The colors bring hope that the end of a long sepia COVID winter is coming. They bring joy.




Monday, May 3, 2021

Rootless and Portable: A Thought Experiment: Fulltimer Tenting


My Oliver Lee State Park campsite, outside Alamogordo, New Mexico. September 2012.
My Oliver Lee State Park campsite, outside Alamogordo, New Mexico. September 2012.

I've flirted with the idea of becoming a full-timer for more than 10 years, always in a modest arrangement. A smallish camper or, more recently, ChezP.

In the past five years, I've gone on innumerable video tours of folks living out of their cars. I've imagined how I might make it work for me at some future point. Over time, I concluded that full-timing out of my car was not a good fit for me. Too cramped.

But in the past year, I toyed with the possibility of full-timing in a tent (with ChezP as my back-up when inclement weather dictates). 

A tent is roomier. Living in a tent also frees up one's vehicle for transportation.  

What's out there to inform full-time tentfolk on the practicalities?

The resources I seek address my specific vision of tenting full time for up to a year: 

  • Relocation every three to four weeks for new scenery, geographic interests, special events, or proximity to an expensive tourist destination
  • Although wifi welcome, I don't envision tenting full time as a digital nomad who requires daily, robust internet access, as this would seriously restrict my freedom of movement
  • Mild climate is a requisite
  • I don't want to tent for three or more weeks in places where fear of bears (or mountain lions!) are going to keep me awake, like here (oh my!)

Below are some sources that give me actionable intel on:

  • Practical realities of living full-time in a tent (power, water, location, weather, food, etc.)
  • Gear (tents, kitchens, power, furniture)
  • How to stay warm or cool; how to stay dry
  • How to mitigate invasions from water, insects and other small critters, and wind

 Living in a Tent Full Time? - TMWE S4E22


On Wikihow: How to Live in a Tent (With Pictures). There are useful relevant how-to articles on the page, as well, along with references. Simple, clear, very practical. 

From One Crazy House: 15 Tent Hacks to Make Your Tent the Comfiest Place on Earth. (Note: Manage your expectations, of course, but there are some good hacks here that were new to me.)

From Mossy Oak: Camping in the Rain: 7 Tips for Keeping Your Tent Dry


Source: ScoutmasterCG



Saturday, May 1, 2021

Word of the Year: Joy 5: The Science of Joy, Interrupted

Flower yellow and blue, Lafayette, Louisiana. January 2014.
Flower yellow and blue, Lafayette, Louisiana. January 2014.



I'm glad some folks study joy. 

I started to write this post on what science has to say on joy. 

But I got bogged down in my hunt for interesting research on joy.

In fact, the exercise became joyless

So, I say, fuck it. 

Which brings me a nano-flare of joy right there.

To fan that tiny flame, I'm just going to take a moment here ...................... and muster up some joy ........... by looking at the greenery outside my window and listening to the chatty birds outside. 

There we go now. 

So as not to let my preliminary efforts go to waste, read on if you wish:

From Grotto Network (a Catholic medium designed for Catholic millennials): How to Find Joy According to Science:

"The American Psychological Association (APA) defines joy as 'a feeling of extreme gladness, delight, or exaltation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction.'”


From the charming Badges For All: The Science of Joy and Happiness (for a Joy Seeker badge!)

 ... which applies a definition of joy by Ingrid Fetell Lee: "[Joy is an] 'intense, momentary experience of positive emotion.'"


In her 2017 abstract, Refining Research on Joy, Dr. Lynn Underwood proposed how scientists might refine the terms they use in reference to joy. An excerpt: 

To find out about joy using the tools of scientific research we must identify what
connects joy of all kinds for many people, something that comes under the wide umbrella of
joy, in order to find some common features .....The kinds of joy that happen
together with sorrow differ from unmixed joy. Variations in intensity may describe joy of
very different kinds. Quiet joy that looks more like deep contentment might be very different
from ecstatic joy. Joy that occurs with others, either with other people or a divine other, may seem quite distinct. ... And each of us is temperamentally different. Some of us
experience the most profound joy in solitude, some of us when with others. Some of us find
frequent calm joy, others have frequent highs in experiences of joy. For some joy is
inextricably linked to a sense of the transcendent, for others there is no awareness of
transcendence in their experiences. The words used to tap into this need to give space for all of these kinds of joy. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Birmingham, AL: Mulberries


Mulberries, George Ward Park, Glen Iris, Birmingham, Alabama. April 2021.
Mulberries, George Ward Park, Glen Iris, Birmingham, Alabama. April 2021.

Now that the cold winter has finally slunk away, every day in this springtime gives my soul bounce. 

When I spied the mulberries on the park path yesterday, oh sweetness! 

How they took me back to another welcome spring - in Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Georgia: The Tutebi are Here

Rustavi, Georgia. White tuta (mulberry)

There are black tutas and white tutas. In the plural, they are tutebi.

Mulberries! Beloved here. They do taste good.

The black tutas have peaked, I think, and all that I found at one tree were those which had fallen onto the ground.

Rustavi, Georgia. Black tuta (mulberry)

I had a mulberry tree in Missouri, but never saw any fruit. Evidently, it was a male, therefore fruitless.

Rustavi, Georgia. White tuta (mulberry)