Saturday, August 30, 2008

On Focus on the Family's Call for "Rain of Biblical Proportions"

From the Denver paper, the Rocky Mountain News, dated August 11:

Focus on the Family Action pulled a video from its Web site today that asked people to pray for "rain of biblical proportions" during Barack Obama's Aug. 28 appearance at Invesco Field at Mile High to accept the Democratic nomination for president.

Focus on the Family spokesmen said the video was supposed to be "mildly humorous." I watched it before they pulled it. It was neither mild nor humorous.

Also, I grew up in Colorado, where the Democratic National Convention was held. It always rains in Denver on August evenings. But for some reason, it didn't rain that night.

Next item. From today's news:

Officials with the McCain campaign and the Republican National convention are considering changing the event's agenda as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast.

Sen. John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, plans to meet with officials in charge of the party's convention planning in Minneapolis-St. Paul on Sunday to review the latest news on Hurricane Gustav and what their options might be and then consult with the presumptive presidential nominee to determine what changes may need to be made.

Perhaps this is God's way of saying, "Stop trying to involve me in your petty partisan politics"?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Post in Which I Visit Canada and Once Again Wish I Were Bilingual

My husband and I just finished up a long weekend in Vancouver, BC. More on that later.

But, as I've said before, here's what I love most about Canada: It's a bilingual country. Everything is English/French. Whenever I get within 30 miles of the border, I can listen to Radio Canada, which is the Francophone radio station. (97.7, if you're in the vicinity and wanting to practice your French.)

And every time I go to Canada, I am reminded of one thing: Damn. I am not bilingual.

It is SO not my fault. They've done research showing that the prepubescent human brain has an incredible capacity for language learning. If a young child is exposed to multiple languages, he/she will learn multiple languages and not mix them up. Once puberty hits, though, our brains become like rubber bands left in the sun. They can stretch, but not nearly as far or as easily as they could before.

So why the heck is it that most US language instruction doesn't start till Junior High? I blame the people who made this decision for every word I do not understand. Because is it my fault that my rubber band was fried before I was given the opportunity to learn French? I think not.

Yet I try, a little bit at a time.

And on this trip, for the first time ever, I actually felt like I was making progress!

Of course, it's a bit easier for an Anglophone (English speaker) in Canada, because the accent is more...American/English, I guess. This is as opposed to France, where the accent is, y'know, French. In France, my mind runs about three steps behind the speaker. In France, my mind will still be deciphering the second word of a sentence while the speaker has charged on to the twentieth word. And, since pretty much everybody in French tourist districts speaks English, by the time I move onto the third word, they've lost patience and translated the whole sentence into English for me. And I'm thinking, "But...but...but wait! I wanted to figure it out myself!"

Which is where TV and radio come in handy. Because they don't wait for you. It's like jokes on Frasier. No explanations. If you don't get it, you don't get it.

But this trip, sometimes at least, I did.

In the three days I was in Canada, I listened to (and kind of understood) stories about musicians' new albums, about Barack Obama's VP choice, about certain birds' adapatation to the urban landscape, about the use of solar power. And I was amazed to realize, afterwards, that I mostly understood what they were talking about.

But the really fun thing? Sunday, while my husband was working, I watched the movie "Mississippi Masala," dubbed in French. It's from 1991, with an impossibly young Denzel Washington. I saw the movie once in english, years ago, but had forgotten everything it was about.

Watching it today, in French, though? I pretty much understood it. (!!) This is the first movie, ever, that I've watched in French and been able to comprehend.

Maybe my rubber band can still stretch a little after all.

Today I called up Comcast and added the French station, TV5 Monde, to our cable package. $9.99 a month, which is a bit spendy for one channel. I'm justifying it because it's now the only channel where I can watch French Ligue 1 soccer games now that Setanta has gone all Anglophile on us.

So I'll now be listening to French on a regular basis.

I'll let you know if my brain breaks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

There is a Bear in My Woods

This picture is not our bear, but...

There is a bear in my woods.

You have to understand that I live in the city. Well, perhaps not city. But definitely heavily populated suburbs. The Microsoft corporate headquarters are just a few miles away. Our suburban downtown is right down the hill from us. When I am feeling so inclined, I can walk to city hall, the library, the grocery store, and my downtown church. (Walking down is not a problem. Since I live toward the top of a steep hill, it's walking up that is the issue.)

I also live across the street from a wetland. Ten acres, give or take, all of it surrounded by houses and apartments and the people that come with them.

But we have that ten acres. And in that ten acres are lots of woods and hills and steep ravines. Hiking trails run in and out and around. At the bottom of the hill, a spring bubbles up out of nowhere and creates a little creek. Every March or April, we know winter is finally leaving us when start to hear the frogs.

On any given day, when you walk through, you'll see a handful of rabbits. Lots of squirrels, too. Woodpeckers, and some red-tailed hawks.

Once I was hiking up a ravine and a blue heron landed in a tree behind me and squawked until I left.

It's not a place you want your pets to visit, though. Coyotes live there, though they spend most of their time hiding.

And last summer a post went up warning that there had been a cougar sighting. There was great panic in the neighborhood until the kid who actually saw the creature said that no, in fact, it had just been a bobcat. (Still scary for your little kitties and puppies, but less so for your kids.)

Now, though? We've had three black bear sightings in the past two weeks, presumably of the same bear. Two of them from the baseball fields nearby that butt up against the forest.

Oddly, there's been no panic. I wouldn't even know about it if it weren't for our neighborhood blog, which linked to some "how to deal with a bear" instructions from the forest service.

And you know what's odd? I want to see him.

People aren't generally at much risk from black bears, unless it's a female separated from her cubs, which doesn't appear to be the case here. Mostly, they want to get away from you about as much as you want to get away from them.

It's funny. We know that animals like this live in our sphere, but it's always such a shock when our world intersects with theirs. And yet there's something magical about that intersection, that collision, that place where the wild things take their places in the spots we have claimed for ourselves.

Since I've lived here, I've seen a coyote, jogging along beside the bike path where I was rollerblading. I've seen myriad blue herons, lounging in the river, waiting for their dinner to come by. I once saw a huge buck standing ten yards away from me, watching me as closely as I watched him.

I've discovered a place in the river, an intersection with a smaller creek, where two-foot-long salmon rest, twenty or thirty strong, gathering their energy in the bigger river before heading up the smaller creek to spawn. I once saw a bald eagle swoop into this river and come back up with one of those salmon.

Each time, magical.

I hope for it, look forward to it, with that same part of myself that thrilled to catch a rattlesnake a few years back.

I was helping out at a camp, and the rattlesnake came to visit, and somebody had to do it. It was just the camp director and me. So we cornered it against a tree, then I took a garbage can, and he poked the snake with a broom. With a hiss and a rattle it slithered into the can, the one I was holding. I flipped it upright, trapping him inside, and looked down in awe as he reared up and hissed. The rattle reverberated against the sides. I'll never forget the sound.

The camp director then put a lid on the can, drove him up the valley to an unpopulated area and let him go. Again, and oddly, magical.

I know it's not entirely safe for humans to meet up with bears. Yes, I do know this. In my head. But in my heart I'd still like to see him. Not up close. But up a tree, or across the woods, or down a trail. I want to experience that collision, that intersection, that place where their world meets ours.

Pure adrenaline, pure excitement.

I want to see the bear.