Hummingbirds and Pineapples

No Hummingbirds Allowed

The Inverted Pineapple

Pentecost 93 & 94


Note: This post was originally supposed to be two posts but I feared one would get read without the other so today you have two posts combined.


We’ve all heard the old saying about a “fish out of water”.  It is a figure of speech used to describe something or someone that is out of their element.  A book entitled “A Fish Out of Water” was written by an author as she completed a six-week stay at a hotel while her home was being renovated.   Many thought this was the impetus for her book until she jokingly referred to her final draft as the 9, 373th version of the book”.


This book was actually based upon a short story written by the author’s husband, published eleven years earlier as a short story.  With written permission from her husband, Helen Palmer Geisel published her book eleven years later, expanding on husband Theodore’s original premise of a fish that is fed so much it grows too big for its fishbowl in his short story “Gustav the Goldfish”.  Most of us know her husband better by his pseudonym – Dr. Seuss.


In the book format, the fish is purchased by a young lad who received instructions for his care and feeding from the pet store owner.  The young boy overfeeds his fish, however, and soon must call the fire department to assist with his fish that has grown much too big for not only his fishbowl but also the family bath tub.  The fire department takes the fish to a local swimming pool and the pet store owner is consulted.  He dives under the water with the fish and eventually surfaces with the fish its original size. He again tells the young boy not to feed his fish improperly and this time the young lad listens.


While people have assigned morals to many of Theodore Seuss Geisel ‘s works, those of Helen Palmer seem to stand on their own for what they were published, beginning children’s book that encouraged young readers.  On most of the book jackets of her writings, Helen Palmer is said to be married to an eccentric writer listed as “LeSeig”, the name Geisel spelled backwards.


Theodore Geisel said he wrote to entertain but many of his own books have been used in educational contexts.  The lesson of Gustav, as the fish is called in the original story, or Otto, the name given in Helen Palmer’s book, illustrates the dangers of taking a fish out of its natural habitat, giving it something more than what it needs.  Nature is precariously balanced on such a premise.  Take for instance, the hummingbird.


Hummingbirds are delightful to watch as they “hum”, beating their wings up to fifty times each second.  They originated most probably in Europe and Asia about forty-two million years ago. Considered a New World bird, they migrated to the Western Hemisphere and found themselves firmly established in South America twenty-two million years ago.  As they evolved, a taste receptor developed which allowed the hummingbird to locate nectar.  Within the past ten million years over one hundred and forty different species of hummingbirds have developed.  Three years ago, a fifty-million –year-old fossil was discovered in Wyoming which is considered to be a predecessor of the hummingbird so obviously history on hummingbirds continues to be written,


One place they are not found, however, is in Hawaii.  It is illegal to import them to the fiftieth state of the U.S.A.  There they are not only considered to be a fish out of water, they are not wanted.  Most of us, if we are honest, would admit to feeling like that at times.  Whether it is at a party or other event or just because we are new, we feel we don’t fit in.  Sometimes it is something as simple as wearing an outfit that did not fit in but sometimes, we feel it is because of who we are, who we truly are.


So how does this relate to pineapples?  Pineapples are the reason one cannot import hummingbirds to the Hawaiian Islands.  Hummingbirds drink the nectar of flowers and by doing so, they have changed pollination of these flowers forever.  Sometimes we meet people who want to be social but are afraid of people.  Many breeds of dogs suffer anxiety issues when their owner leaves although the dogs themselves are not particularly cuddly animals.  The pineapple is a bit like that.


You see, pineapples seeds need pollination but the presence of seeds can harm the quality of the fruit of the pineapple.  A herbaceous perennial, one pineapple can produce as many as two hundred flowers.  Then the individual flowers join together to create what we call the pineapple.  The hummingbird can disrupt this cycle so it would definitely be a “fish out of water” in Hawaii.


The fruit of the pineapple is protected by its thorny exterior which is how it got its name.  Early explorers from Europe came upon these plants in the Americas and thought they were pinecones due to their similarity to the seeds of pine trees.  As people we too can create for ourselves a thorny exterior to protect ourselves.


We need to realize that we each should soar in our lives.  Much of this series discussing how to make the ordinary extraordinary has been about helping others.  When we help others we also help ourselves.  Some of it has been about showing thankfulness, expressing gratitude.  We do, at times however, need to look inward and take care of ourselves.  There are elements of that that no one else can do.


In order for us to soar, we should not continue to seek what makes us uncomfortable just because it is trendy.  We need to seek out what is right for us and then do it in such a way that no one else is harmed but all benefit.


Earlier this week the skin of an anaconda was discovered in Maine.  Anacondas are not native to Maine and if one is around in the forestation of the area, it will not survive the brutal cold of the winter season fast approaching in the area.  At first it was thought to be a prank but experts have verified that the skin is indeed that of an anaconda, recently shed as they are wont to do at this time of the year.  The large non-native, fish out of water reptile is most likely a pet that someone has abandoned.  Wildlife authorities are searching for it in order to save its life. 


We need to follow our own path and not just follow the trends.  No friendship is worth losing ourselves.  Ralph Waldo Emerson explained it best how not to end up a fish out of water:  “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”


Cultivating Self-Love

Cultivating Self-Love

Lent 7


Comments are the life-blood of any blog and mine is no different.  For me, though, they are also the fuel that drives the blog.  So today we are delving into a bit of history based upon a comment from this weekend.  “Why do you waste time on expecting people to better themselves?”


My instant responsive thought was like what many of you most likely would have replied:  “Why not?”  That quick comeback really does not do the question or the person saying credit.  In my case, I thought it sincerely since the whole series during this time is about just that very thing.  Still, I can certainly understand where such a question might come from and the frustration that created it.


Gertrude Stein was a very talented woman who gave the literary world a vast wealth of experimental prose.  She played around with organized formats of literature and defended every innovative technique she explored.  She is most famous, however, for her role as a hostess, a hostess to a group she labeled the “Lost Generation”.


For the beginning of the twentieth century, Paris was “the” place to be if one was an artist, a creative soul whose voice was illustrated through the fine arts.  Writers especially found themselves at 27 Rue de Fleurus, the salon of Gertrude Stein.  World War I had been depressing for the idealistic of the world and many of these found a haven in Gertrude Stein’s soirees.  Soon the world would call them home as World War II fired the once again destructive guns of anti-humanity and the winds of war scattered the Lost Generation.  For a decade, though, this group of talented authors found a community that allowed them to exist and thrive.  They found a garden plot in which to grow.


The point is that every generation has its “lost” element.  William Shakespeare utilized that “lost” element in each of his main characters and the fact that they have survived for over four hundred centuries tells us that we still search to better ourselves.


I believe in the ability of mankind to grow and become something greater than we were yesterday because we no longer are dependent to cook our meals on a stick over a barely lit campfire.  We have creature comforts in many parts of the world, comforts made possible because someone saw a way to make something better.


The problem is not “if” we can better ourselves.  The issue is “Will we?”  It takes courage to change our routines, to step outside of our so-called comfort zones and grow.  Courage is not only something that compels us to help save someone from a burning building.  It is also the key ingredient in our becoming better today than we were yesterday.


The person attempting sobriety or an escape from addiction is a tremendously courageous person.  The strength of character and the determination involved with living each hour trying to be better than the last is phenomenal.  Such a person is cultivating self-love and knows it is the hardest thing to do.  They not only must battle the physical cravings but also create a new environment in which to live, a new way of speaking and acting, and – most importantly – discover new paths to walk.


Hopefully, your gardening season does not require something so monumental but if it does, please accept my admiration.  Also know that I believe you can do this.  The rest of us also have a few hard tasks ahead.  We need to cultivate the soil of our souls and plant new habits that will lead us to better living and successful ventures.  Most importantly, we need to be at peace with our actions and ourselves.


Self-love is really self-knowledge.  Steve Maraboli has been quotes before in my blog posts and I quote him now.  “The most powerful relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship you have with yourself.”  Yogi Bhajan says it this way:  “You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are.”   Everything has its place but taking time to know and grow ourselves is the most important and lasting garden we can ever plant.


“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  Did Ralph Waldo Emerson know how scary it was to cultivate self-love when he wrote that?  I believe so. Carl Jung did when he wrote “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. “  Life is messy and scary but you know what?  We all live it every day.  I am just asking you to live with some love in your heart for you – real love, not ego.  Take time to care for yourself and find yourself.

Notes of Change

Rock and Roll
Epiphany 42

Wisconsin is generally known for being the home of the US football team Green Bay Packers and cheese. The people of Green Bay are proud of having the only publicly-owned American football team franchise as well as the many dairies that produces its fine cheeses. They are also rightfully proud of their history as beer brewers. A relative of the founder of the Valentin Blatz Brewing Company, young Lester William Polsfuss was interested in nothing for which his home state was famous.

At the age of eight, Lester learned to play the harmonica. Not being overly successful on the piano, he next took up the guitar. He had one problem, though. It took two hands to hold and play the harmonica and two hands to hold and play the guitar and Lester only had two hands. Period. And he wanted to play both instruments at the same time. His first musical epiphany came in the form of a harmonica holder which he designed to be worn around the neck. It is still being manufactured today using Lester’s same basic design.

By the time he had turned thirteen, Lester William Polsfuss was performing as a country music singer. The local roadhouses and drive-ins required a large sound so Lester looked for ways to make himself be heard. His next big epiphany was to wire a phonograph needle to his guitar and connect that to a radio speaker. He built his first solid body guitar while still a teenager from a piece of rail taken from a nearby train yard. By age seventeen, Lester dropped out of high school to become a fulltime professional musician, performing under the stage names of Rhubarb Red and Red Hot Red.

Young Lester continued playing guitar and developing better sound quality in solid body guitars. He also experimented with the “sound on sound” technique, recording tracks over previously recorded tracks. In 1988 he was elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; his guitars, their sound quality, and his playing having had a profound effect on the new musical style known as rock and roll. In 2006 at the age of 90, Lester, known to the world as Les Paul, won two Grammys, the music industry’s highest award.

While it may not seem like Les Paul was a conduit of peace, the sounds possible through his musical engineering have served to unify the world and bring about social change internationally. It was Pythagoras in the fifth century BCE who said: “There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacings of the spheres.”

Music has no language save that of the vibrations or tones. It is easily understood and felt by all. One hundred years after Pythagoras, Plato would claim: “The music masters familiarizes children’s minds with rhythms and melodies, thus making them more civilized, more balanced, better adjusted in themselves, and more capable in whatever they say or do, for rhythm and harmony are essential to the whole of life.”

A young Mozart once wrote to his father: “We live in this world to compel ourselves industriously to enlighten one another by means of reasoning and to apply ourselves always to carrying forward the sciences and the arts.” Each of us plays a song, whether we call it music or not. The actions of our lives provide the harmony to our melody of words. Will our song be one of discord or will we bring about a pleasing blend of chords as we walk this path of life with each other?

The list of artists with whom Les Paul play, performed, and collaborated is endless. At his death, literally thousands of musicians claimed his influence guided them in their careers. The young boy who designed first a way to hold his harmonica while playing his guitar and then revolutionized the electric guitar and a musical style that traveled around the world in popularity was himself an epiphany of what can happen when we let the rhythm of life resound in our lives.

We each are a part of the symphony of life. We each have a part to perform and all have value as being note-worthy, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, or ethnicity. T. S. Elliot said: “Music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts.”

Day Twenty-Seven

Day 27
April 4, 2014

Have a little faith

Imagine yourself hurling through space. You have just blasted off via seven million pounds of thrust. You have left the familiarity of the past behind and your present in now a blank slate. You can see nothing perforated with twinkling beams of hope. Such is the view astronauts see after their ride from launch pad through the layers of our atmosphere into the galaxy. Such is the new day presented to each of us each morning.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.” One of the Psalms appointed for today begins “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” How can we be poor of we have God’s love? How can we fear the best day of our lies, that day which we are about to live? I don’t know about you but sometimes, for me, it can be pretty easy.

In working with patients of mental retardation in the latter half of the twentieth century, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania adopted a Positive Approaches model. This included moving patients from institutional care to community living, providing better training to workers, establishing effective communication networks, developing resource materials, and increasing and improving monitoring of clients. In an accompanying publication, John McKnight explained it this way: “Our goal should be clear. We are seeking nothing less than a life surrounded by the richness and diversity of community. A powerful life that gains its joy from the creativity and connectedness that comes when we join in association as citizens to create an inclusive world.”

In his book “Living Your Strengths”, David E. Mullen uses positive psychology to encourage those wanting to live a richer and fuller life. Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on all involved in living a pleasurable and meaningful life. The reader is encouraged to utilize their strengths of gratitude, hope, resilience, and optimism in developing a positive approach to their own life. There is now a science with data collection regarding the effects of being positive and early statistics indicate that happy people live longer.

Lent offers us a chance to make our lives over. It is our chance to throw ourselves into that new day and face new horizons without having to sit on top of thousands of gallons of rocket fuel. The thing is, though, we have to trust; we have to have faith. No one gets to space by themselves. Every astronaut has had teams of scientists and machinists, physicists, even file clerks and secretaries to make that launch happen and then keep them in space and bring them back home. It took research, trial and error, effort, energy. Most of all it took a vision.

We need such a vision when we awake each morning. We need to begin positively, like the psalmist says and give thanks to the Lord. Then we need to prepare ourselves for the day and how we want to live it. We tend to consider ourselves failures or the day a total waste if we are not successful. Far too often we fail only in the realization that such a day is simply getting us one step closer toward our vision. Those are the trial and error days. Those are the days that teach us what not to do again. Each day needs our concerted effort to live our faith. Another reading for today is from I Corinthians, chapter 12. This chapter talks about gifts and yes, we all have them. It also addresses those negative feelings but ultimately, the chapter is about all being part of one body, the body of Christ.

How much faith do you have in the guy who was voted most popular? Maybe not a lot now but at the time, that guy seemed to have it all. What he had was a positive approach and that is how we should approach Lent. We need to not only have faith in God but in ourselves. We need to start each day off knowing we have gifts and that our vision is a positive approach to life. Hopefully, we can make faith our everyday life and approach it with a positive energy that will make those bright dots of hope into brilliant starbursts of joy. We can hurl ourselves into today. We just need to have a little faith.