Wed, 26 October 2011
Halloween has become a bigger and more celebrated holiday over the past few years. I suspected that it would. There is something innately fun about being scared, and telling scary stories. Parties and dressing up appeal to the child in all of us, of course. But I've noticed just how the machine of materialism is driving these occasions. There are Halloween cards now in the shops, so the expectation will soon be that you must give your friends and family a 'Happy Halloween' card. The decorations for Halloween have also increased and become extremely varied. It's not just a pumpkin and a skeleton anymore. People are beginning to put up lights, as they do for Christmas. It's not a bad thing in itself; it does get dark early this time of year, so lights are a good thing. It's just that our actions tend to be driven by what is sold in the shops and what is seen on television. For example, if a large shop like Walmart advertises a cute Halloween scene on television in which we see lots of purple and orange lights, children happily dressed up, plastic pumpkins, skeletons, witches, people giving eachother cards and presents, then the expectation becomes that of doing the same thing. In a way, we are dictated to. Or you could say that we follow like sheep. Now, don't get me wrong, I love to decorate my house, and to have special occasions to look forward to. However, where does the materialism end? Even Martha Stewart, who is the American guru for home decorating and cooking, has a line of elegant Halloween decorations for the home. I was curious to see what exactly they were when I found them on sale in a craft shop. So, I bought a couple of packets. They are pre-cut shapes of rats, crows, and spiders that you stick around your house. It's actually a good idea if you want to add a little spookiness to your home without overdoing it. The shapes are simple but artistic, they catch the eye, but they aren't overpowering like some other Halloween decorations. So, am I a sheep? Was I dictated to by a big, money making corporation? Maybe. Ah, but these decorations were on sale. Plus, they satisfy my need to decorate the house. And I haven't given in* to the whole* card thing. That's where I draw the line: I won't buy 'Happy Halloween' cards, so there! And you know what's coming next, don't you? Thanksgiving. One of my favorite holidays. It's all about being thankful, and spending time with friends and family. Perfect. No presents, no cards, no stress. My prediction is, however, that that is changing. Last year was the first time that I have ever seen Thanksgiving cards in the shops. I believe the manufacturers' angle* to encourage sales is thankfulness! "I'm thankful for you on this Thanksgiving day," say some of the cards. Mark my words*, next it will be presents. So what's next? Gifts and cards for Bank holidays?
Related vocabulary and expressions: to have an 'angle', mark my words, to give in to, the whole .... thing.
1. The angle of his argument is that businesses should have more freedom.
2. I know you don't often listen to me, but I was right about him, wasn't I? Mark my words: he's trouble!
3. She gave in to the pressure to shave her head with her friends. The next day she regretted the decision, and wore a paper bag over her head.
4. I just don't have time for the whole "look at my expensive car, aren't I great" attitude. Who cares what kind of car you drive?
Fri, 21 October 2011
During my visit to the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery, there were several Native American displays. One was a story telling session, inside a large, colorful, inflated salmon. Two ladies from the Yakima Indian tribe sang songs and told a couple of stories. One was about salmon. As with many Native American stories, the main characters are animals with superpowers and human characteristics. It was an emotional story, told well by the ladies, wearing long skirts, and braided hair. It begins with the Creator giving humans the gift of salmon, along with instructions as to how to take care of them. They were never to be greedy or wasteful, only taking the amount of salmon that they needed to eat. For the first few generations, the people were obedient. However, their attitude changed and they became wasteful. Before long, there were no salmon left, and the people started to go hungry. Seeing that they had been disobedient, they were desperate to find a way to bring back the salmon to their rivers. One day, the story says, some of them found a dead salmon on the side of the river. "If we can bring it back to life, other salmon will return." They tried jumping over the fish five times, as legend said that that would revive the creature. Nothing happened. "Let's call on Old Man Rattlesnake. He is wise and has great powers." He lived away from the people, and was so old that he took a long time to walk. As he was on his way, Coyote, the shrewd and sneaky one, tried to trick the people into believing that he had great powers. He wanted to be famous. He quickly jumped over the fish, and at the fifth jump, knocked it with his stick, claiming that he had made it move. However, the people knew not to trust him. Then Old Man Rattlesnake arrived, and with great effort jumped four times. At the fifth jump, he suddenly disappeared into the fish which sprang to life. The salmon then returned to the rivers, swimming upstream. The people had learned their lesson about being greedy and wasteful. To this day, if you cut open a salmon, and look at its spine, you can see a long, white line of flesh which is the mark of Old Man Rattlesnake, and how he revived the salmon.
Related vocabulary: braids, wasteful, shrewd, sneaky.
1. Her mother braided her hair every morning. She would part the hair into three sections and fold them over expertly.
2. The Yakima Indians learned not to be wasteful with the Creator's gift of salmon.
3. She is a shrewd business woman. She thinks and plans carefully, making the most of every opportunity.
4. Watch out for him. He's like a sneaky fox. He'll know your private information without you realising.
Wed, 12 October 2011
Yesterday, I had the most unusual thing to do. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I could see myself doing what I did yesterday, I would have told you that you're insane. I delivered a Bobcat to a taxidermist. Take a while to chew on that sentence*. I will explain. My husband recently developed the hobby of shooting. He started by acquiring a rifle, a shot gun, and a pistol. Fine, I thought. Then, the passion took hold* more substantially. His gun safe became quite full, he learned the hobby of loading his own bullets (that will be a whole other podcast), and several full length camouflage suits can now be found hanging in his closet. His obsession has grown. I'll give you some background to this situation, so you can get a clear picture. First of all, in this area, hunting is a major sport. There is a wide variety of wild animals, including predatory animals, that you can legally hunt. This activity is controlled and monitored by the Fish and Wildlife department of Washington State, which is responsible for preserving all of the native animals, and controlling their populations. Some years, the deer population explodes, which in turn, leads to a huge increase of cougars over the next few years. Crops and gardens can suffer because of too many deer, and farmers' livestock disappear with the increase of cougars. So, in a relatively short space of time, the situation can get out of control. It's great to know that there are plenty of the native animals in this state, but a safe and healthy balance needs to be maintained. Another reason for my husband's new love of hunting, is that all of his cousins (who live in a small, rural town about an hour away) are hunters. They are the type that always have hunting permits ready, and carry guns in their trucks, on the off chance* of running into a wild beastie. One of Tom's cousins is a cattle rancher. He and his hired cowboys take the cows up into the hills to pasture*. "The place is crawling with cougars," he has said to Tom. And he has often lost cattle to the cougars because they are so healthy and well-fed. There are no predators of cougars, so they need to be controlled through hunting. Anyway, my husband so far has managed to get a coyote, and a bobcat. I knew that it would be up to me to take the bobcat to the taxidermist because my husband leaves early for work, and comes back late. So, with mixed feelings, I took this beautiful cat to Tubb's taxidermy to be turned into a rug. How bizzare. The first thing that I saw when I walked into the building was a huge cylindrical machine that was humming, and inside were a couple of dogs. "Are those dogs?" I asked the owner. "Yes," he replied, and explained that they were beloved pets that were being freeze-dried for their owners....As I looked around the room, I felt, actually, as if I was the one being observed. There were animal heads and skins everywhere, and all eyes were on me. Even the massive moose head on the wall seemed to say, "What are you doing here, you silly woman?"Well, I went over the details of the kind of rug we want, made a deposit, and had a quick, last look at the stretched out skins, the hanging furs, the skull molds, and the freeze drying Foofy and Bingo. I made a quick exit. I've come to the conclusion, that being a helpful wife can often open the door to strange experiences, and good material to write about.
Related vocabulary and expressions: take a while to chew on that, the passion takes hold, on the off chance, to pasture.
1. He chewed over the situation in his mind before he confronted his boss.
2. The passion for sailing took hold of him at a young age; he's been sailing ever since.
3. I took my umbrella with me, on the off chance that it rained.
4. The farmer put the cows out to pasture early in the morning; now they're ready to come into the barn.
Tue, 4 October 2011
On my recent trip to Leavenworth, I had an unexpected opportunity to see a song and dance performance by the Colville Native American Indian tribe. As the salmon festival has expanded over the years, it now includes historical and cultural displays that are related to the salmon and wildlife of the Northwest. The Colville Indians, whose real name is the Shipwoyelpi, have a culture that is strongly tied* to salmon fishing. When European settlers came to this area, they gave the tribe the name of the river they were based by, the Colville. Salmon has always been an important part of their diet, and therefore, has deep cultural significance for them. I wasn't aware that any Indians at all would be at the festival. I walked around to see the different displays, taking with me a small group of children from the school that my son goes to. As we made our way* from one booth to another, we suddenly heard drums. We followed the sound until we came to a circular, sheltered area that was covered with pine tree branches. Underneath were displays of animal skins, antlers, bead work, and cultural posters. Inside the sheltered area was a large circle of earth where young men and women were dancing. They were very colorfully dressed, and had all sorts of bells and feathers on their costumes. One performance was just coming to an end as we sat down, so we settled down, and waited for the next. A different set of dancers from the troupe came into the circular area, and when the two singers started banging the drums rhythmically and singing, they started to dance. One young man in particular caught my eye; he was dressed as some kind of bird. He danced slightly crouched over, with jerky, pecking movements. I couldn't take pictures fast enough. The singing was also impressive; the two male singers sang in a very soulful, high pitched manner that certainly kept my attention. I only wish that I knew what they were singing. One of them stood up afterwards and explained that he and his friend inherited their love of singing these cultural and historical songs, and had learned how to do so by listening to others, and with the help of* tapes. More school children started arriving, and filling up the seating area. But soon we had to leave because our bus was going to take us back to Wenatchee. I was anxious to hear and see another performance, and disappointed that we had to leave. However, the images and sounds of the Colville were, for me, the best part of the day, and, at the very least*, worthy of a podcast.
Related vocabulary and expressions: at the very least, with the help of,to make your way , tied to.
1. At the very least, the famous sculptor deserves an impressive memorial.
2. With the help of podcasts, video clips from You-tube, and magazines, he became fluent in English!
3. We slowly made our way through the maze; it took a lot of time and concentration to get out.
4.His family is tied to the land; they have farmed here for generations.
Mon, 3 October 2011
It was field trip day last week for Robert who is in third grade. He was particularly excited because it wasn't going to be the ordinary kind of field trip that schools make, you know, to a park, or the fire station, or a bakery. It was to the town of Leavenworth which is about a half hours drive. Each year, among other celebrations, there is The Salmon Festival. On the outskirts of town, there is a salmon hatchery which opens its doors to the public. The salmon have returned from their long, long trip around the ocean, and have come back to spawn. It is an important part of the Northwest culture because the salmon are plentiful here, and huge. Because the Salmon Festival has been held for many years, it has expanded substantially. Now there are different sections that teach about other wildlife, and even Native American Indian history and tradition. Well, after our short trip on the bus, we got off, and walked to the Raptor section of the Festival. We sat in the shade of a pine tree, and listened to an expert on birds of prey. She had a display of four stuffed birds: a golden ealge, a bald eagle, an ospray, and an eagle owl. Though they weren't alive, the creatures were very impressive. We learned all sorts of facts about them. There are only two types of eagles in North America. That really surprised me, because there are 48 species in total. The golden eagle is larger than the bald eagle, which, you may remember, is the symbol of the United States. Unlike many predatory animals, the females are larger than the males. The lady who spoke to us really kept our attention. She had obviously spoken to children for many years, because she knew how to keep the flow of information fast and fun. At one point, she was talking about the wingspan of the birds. Two students held up a large banner that showed the 7ft wingspan of a bald eagle. One by one, children and adults stood with their backs to it, to see if their arm span was equivalent. Of course, nobody's was. Then she talked about the sound of wings, and how different shaped wings sound different as the bird flies. Eagles have feathers sticking out of the ends of their wings, so they make a swooshing noise. Owls, on the other hand are silent fliers; their wings are rounded and smooth, so they can sneak up on their prey. The children were very impressed with the talk. I could hear some of them telling eachother their own stories of seeing birds of prey in our area. We had a few free minutes to walk around afterwards, and I was really pleasantly surprised to find a live display of birds of prey. A shy looking golden eagle was held by a bird trainer, and several other birds were on perches observing the people as we observed them. The bald eagle stared with its well known piercing frown, and the osprey and owls just looked out with little expression; their minds must have been elsewhere, up in the clouds, I'm sure.
Related vocabulary: elsewhere, the outskirts, raptor, to sneak up on...
1. The newly released prisoner wasn't allowed to live in this town, so he had to go elsewhere.
2. The center of town is too busy for us, so we decided to live on the outskirts.
3. The eagle owl is an impressive raptor that is strong enough to bring down a young deer.
4. The cat quietly watched the birds play, planning to sneak up on them and perhaps catch one.