Archive for December, 2008

The Day It Was

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

December 24, 2008. What a day to remember! Snow all night. More than three inches and at four thirty in the afternoon snow still falls. The temperature went up as predicted and so the salted sanded snow is dirty looking and slushy. There is record snowfall in Bellingham in just the past week. Nancy shoveled every day to prevent the depth from getting too much to clear away at one time. Of course before she finished shoveling the walks all around the yard a new white film covered them. I’m not sure anyone actually measured the total amount in any one place. Nancy can only calculate the total here on Iowa Drive from her daily work and she reckons it to be around 15 – that is fifteen – inches.

I arrived in Bellingham via Portland on Amtrak December 15 after dark and amid falling snow. The following day we went off to shop for stuff, especially groceries because we believed the forecast of snow would isolate us at least for days. And it did. Jerry canceled the Price party that would have been held on December 21 because of ice and snow conditions too hazardous for Irma and other sisters to travel. Less snow fell in Linden where other Price’s live but no one wanted to drive, not that Jerry was certain that cars could make it up the hill here on Iowa Drive.

Nevertheless we did go out on Saturday because not to would have driven us stir crazy. Gift shopping was on the top of necessities, even though protein for meals was very high on the list. Stores were crowded and maneuvering the aisles with a full cart was tough. We got our provisions just in time. More snow. And more days to stay inside. Ryanne was here for several days and she and Nancy played in the snow which was light and fluffy. Indoors card and other games were lively and fun. I read many books and worked on self published novels. I even decided to knit spiral socks to warm my feet.

Nancy planned to have a Sherer gathering today but that was also canceled due to more snow and, oddly, rain. Temperature got up to 38 degrees sometime in the night and today the precipitation varied between blowing snow and some rain. The unusual weather is not likely over but December 24 will go down in my journal as being noteworthy for the above reasons.

Other parts of the northern hemisphere are experiencing odd and unwelcome weather also and that may be noted in Guiness World Book of records. But for me it is a day with a few more minutes of sunlight which will also increase until the winter season turns into spring in less than 90 days. Reason enough to be optimistic without the need for further celebration.

Who Cares About Ants?

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Science fiction writers often take the position of an alien from outer space looking down upon a street crowded with people. “What are those strange creatures? What are they doing? And as the alien observes, it sees many creatures coming out of openings in the buildings going in different directions. Many going in the same directions, and many others going in an opposite way. Exchanging places, if the alien has such a concept. Regardless whether the movement makes sense, the creatures appear to be doing something. They have energy. They are busy. Do they have a purpose? If they were like a river, the water appears to be obstructed by rapids because they do not flow in the same direction as water would. Are they going on their own incentive? Is something someone driving them? Or directing them?

Before you know it, the Sci Fi writer is favorably comparing the energetic creatures on the busy street to an ant society where the individuals appear to be orderly about their actions. The comparison is misleading. Ants do not act on the direction of a leader — theirs is a group behavior stereotyped and determined by innate mechanisms. They have no capacity for learning, and lack the ability to develop a social tradition based on accumulated experience. They are doing what evolution designed in them millions of years past.

One ant taken out of their society will die. In a colony there is no such creature as a single individual. Even if two ants are taken together out of the colony they cannot take action. They need the colony to direct them. Not at all like humans. Take a human out of society and he/she will survive and find a place, not necessarily completely alone, but each will make their own place, their own way, searching for food, creating protection, avoiding danger. They will create their own society, for humans are social animals and adapt to group behavior.

Sociologists study groups and the animals that gather in those groups. They find that individuals act quite different from what they would when alone or in pairs. So it is not surprising that an individual finds himself/herself acting in ways by conforming to the group that actually may be in conflict with their desires if they were acting on their own. Many times they will not stand firm on their own standards. However when one does stand against the crowd the individual discovers there are others who feel the same, that individual changes the society. So it is that one individual can change the world.

In many ways human society differs from ant colonies. And I am happy for it.