Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Sparrow has come to tell us….

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Unknown to the majority of Americans or many outside his home country of Serbia, Jovan Jovanović “Zmaj” wrote patriotic and romantic poems, fables and children’s poetry.  “Čika” or Uncle Jova was Serbia’s  most beloved poet writing prolifically from the 1850s through the turn of the century, endearing himself to both children and adults.  If we could package the feelings Americans once felt  for Longfellow and Shel Silverstein, then mix it with Robert Frost and a bit of Jack Prelutsky, we might have an understanding of how much “Uncle” Jova was, and is, loved.  Although Jovan Jovanović Zmaj sets the following poem about a little sparrow’s word of gratitude at the waning of winter, the birds about my January feeder put me in mind of this piece.  I have searched for its English translation throughout the internet with no success.  Even so, I want to share it with you, even if it is only a poor reconstruction.  Please forgive my lack of experience in translating poetry.  Here “Uncle” Jova reminds us to be kind.

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Došao vrabac da nam….                                                A Sparrow has come to tell us…

Živ, živ, živ!                                                                            Alive, alive, alive!

Hvala bogu, ja sam jošte živ                                              Thank heavens, I am still alive.

Oprostite, molim lepo,                                                        Forgive me, kindly please,

Ako sam vam štogod kriv,                                                  If I have somehow wronged you.

Živ, živ, živ!                                                                              Alive, alive, alive!

 

Živi bili i vi svi,                                                                       Long may you all live

Što me niste gonili!                                                               Since you have not chased me away

Zima većem prolazi,                                                             Winter  has largely passed

Proleće nam dolazi,                                                               Spring is on its way.

Danas, sutra biće zima                                                         Today or tomorrow winter will be

Nama svima za leđima.                                                        Behind our backs.

 

Da ne nađoh oko vaših kuća                                               Had I not found

Lepe sitne hrane,                                                                  Nice bits of food about your house

Ja bih zimus provodio                                                          I would have spent

Vrlo posne dane.                                                                    Some very lean, winter days

 

Možda bi mi zeludac                                                          Perhaps my stomach would have

O prazninu zapo,                                                                Ached from emptiness

A možda bih, sirotan,                                                        Or perhaps, poor me,

Od gladi i skapo.                                                                 I would have collapsed from hunger.

 

Jeste li vi to meni dali,                                                     Whether or  not you intentionally fed me,

Il su dari sami pali.                                                            Or those gifts fell on their own,

To ne mogu da rasudim                                                    I cannot discern

Mojim mozgom malim.                                                   With my little mind.

 

Tek ja, evo, dođoh,                                                        Even so, I have just come here

Vama da zahvalim…                                                     To thank you….

Nemojte me terati,                                                        Don’t send me away,

Ja ću vam pevati.                                                            I will sing to you a song.

 

Ne baš kao slavuj,                                                      Not exactly like a nightingale,

Al bolje neg žabac,                                                      But better than a frog

Svako peva svojim glasom,                                     Each sings with his own voice,

A vrabac je vrabac.                                                    And a sparrow as a sparrow.

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Window Ornithology

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Wagner’s birdseed with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts and cracked corn boasts that it will attract the widest variety of birds.  I believe it.   Dark-eyed juncos, tufted titmice, Northern Cardinals, Starlings, and House Sparrows.  House Finches, Nuthatches, Chickadees – A and I  have an ongoing conversation about whether these are Black-capped Chickadees or Carolina Chickadees.  And an occasional visit from Blue Jays – whom I love regardless of their less than popular ways- Downy Woodpeckers and even a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  They are all fluttering about our feeders in the morning and at noon, which often delays the start of our gathering for morning school work, and prolongs our lunchtime.

But the ones who have surprised me the most are the Robins.

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They are still hanging around.  I guess I was not aware that not all these harbingers of spring migrate each year to warmer climates.  They are certainly appreciative of the bright red berries on the Green Hawthorn(?) tree outside our sun room.  All these grainy, poorly focused photos were taken with my phone through the window.  All those berries were gulped down by about fifteen Robins in one day!

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Scanning the internet for bird quotes, I alighted upon this one.

The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.

-Eric Berne

How would you even mistake a jay for a sparrow? I realize I do not have a a context for this quote; I randomly pulled it from Goodreads, but I don’t really agree. Neither would Vladimir Nabokov.  A likely apocryphal story has a Cornell University student seeking advice as a writer.

“What kind of tree is that?” Nabokov supposedly inquired, gesturing out the window.

“I don’t know,” shrugged the student.

“Then you will never be a writer.” returned Nabokov discouragingly.

Perhaps he meant to say that details are important.  The more we know something, the more we have the capacity to love it.

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All day the sun has shone on the surface of some savage swamp, where the single spruce stands hung with usnea lichens, and small hawks circulate above, and the chickadee lisps amid the evergreens, and the partridge and rabbit skulk beneath; but now a more dismal arid fitting day dawns, and a different race of creatures awakes to express the meaning of Nature there.

-Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

 

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Whether flitting about the feeder, scratching on the ground or taking shelter in the bushes, I take great delight in the presence of all the birds.  I love all their markings, crests and patterns.  My children have picked up on feeding patterns and seed preferences. We are even able to predict at what time of day our favorite feathered friends will appear.  Each of us has our own favorites. We are cultivating friendships, and there is something joyous about providing for them.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

-Matthew 6:26-27

 

Parallel Quotes

While I do not want to present any arguments regarding diagnosing historical figures posthumously, or overgeneralize on a topic, or even get hung up in any way on labels, I found some of Tesla’s thoughts intriguing.  As I have mentioned in my last post, I have been reading a biography on Nikola Tesla entitled Tesla: The Life and Times of an Electric Messiah by Nigel Hawthorne.  Several aspects of his work ethic, idiosyncrasies and, in particular, this following quote made it easy for my mind to drift to another scientist, from today, an agriculturist and spokesperson for autism.  Of course, I mean Temple Grandin.  Here, I lay their thoughts, separated by nearly one hundred years, parallel to one another.

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“…nature has given me a vivid imagination which, through incessant exercise and training through the study of scientific subjects, and the verification of theories through experiment, has become very accurate in results, so that I have been able to dispense, to a large extent, with the slow labour, wasteful and expensive processes of practical development the ideas I conceive…

When I turned my thoughts to inventions, I found that I could visualize my conceptions with the greatest facility.  I did not need any models and drawings or experiments, I could do it all in my mind, and I did….When I got an idea, I started right away to build it up in my mind.  I changed the structure, I made improvements, I experimented, and I ran the device in my mind.

It is absolutely the same to me whether I place my turbine in my mind or have it in my shop actually running in my test.  It makes no difference.  The results are the same….I then construct it, and every time my device works as I conceived it would, my experiment comes out exactly as I plan it, and in 20 years there has not been a single, solitary experiment which did not come out exactly as I thought it would.”

-Nikola Tesla on accepting the Edison Medal, New York City on May 18, 1917

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“When I was much younger, I assumed that everybody perceived the world the same way I did, that is, that everybody thought in pictures.  Early in my professional career I got into a heated verbal argument with an engineer at a meat-packing plant when I told him he was stupid.  He had designed a piece of equipment that had obvious flaws to me.  My visual thinking gives me the ability to “test-run” in my head a piece of equipment I’ve designed, just like a virtual reality computer system.  Mistakes can be found prior to construction when I do this.  Now I realize his problem was not stupidity; it was a lack of visual thinking.  It took me years to learn that the majority of people cannot do this, and that visualization skills in some people are almost nonexistent.”

-Temple Grandin in The Way I See It, p. 15

 

New Year’s Ramblings

With this blog post I send out my best wishes for a happy 2016 to all reading this, and to all those who aren’t.  While New Year’s is a holiday which is apparently supposed to inspire us and rejuvenate us with the excitement of a fresh, new year, I often feel tired after the holiday season.  Christmas, while a lovely season, is also frenetic at times.  Once the shine  has dimmed from our new gifts, I often feel weary, heavy-laden with the drudgery of returning to a school/work schedule in the midst of winter.  This is even true this year when much of the country is experiencing the mildest winter weather in years.  Possibly  due to this winter blues, or possibly due to the fact that I tend to rebel against expectations, I have never really made any new year’s resolutions.  Usually, I reflect back on how I succeeded with daily Scripture reading.  Some years I commit to reading through the Bible chronologically, some years  I prefer to concentrate on specific books or themes.

Over the holidays my husband and I have enjoyed  cooking together more.  Being in the kitchen involved in more intricate, slow-food preparation has been a wonderful way for us to slow down and reconnect.  One recipe had us chopping up three and a half pounds of onions, and sautéing them slowly down with a pork shoulder into a thick, rich sauce.  The last couple of years I almost exclusively cooked with garlic, whether crushed, minced or in whole cloves, neglecting the onion.  The sweet richness of that slow-simmered sauce may have convinced me to bring back the onion to my kitchen in 2016.  You might say, I have resolved to do so.

While we continue to go through our own challenges, as I look back on 2015, I recognize so many blessings our family has enjoyed as well as so many things for which to be grateful.  However, I have hurt , as I am sure you have, this year as our family witnesses so many friends and loved ones enduring truly difficult times.  I long to be a follower of Christ who shares in the troubles of those around us.

Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

I want to be reminded daily to see through eyes with better vision.  To be more focused, loving, prayerful, to seek out ways to serve and to have the wisdom to recognize when and how to do so.

Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the LORD.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction faithful in prayer.  Share with the LORDS’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

Romans 12:9-13

And in between the triviality of onions, and the weightiness of greater spiritual vision, there lies the desire to read more.  Have you seen the Pinterest photos of armchairs with shelves built in or cozy, airy nooks tucked away in sunlit-drenched rooms?  No, I don’t have access to those either.  But I have been inspired by Russia’s online live readings of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  I don’t believe I have read it in its entirety since I was pregnant with my twelve year old.  The hefty volume sits on my bedside table.  I look forward to Pierre, Prince Andrej and Natasha, and even to Tolstoy’s philosophical view of history.  Please note the translation is by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.



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Reading through Story of the World,  volume 4 with my guys has reminded me of another Slavic thinker, Nikola Tesla.  While browsing through Half Price Books back a few days prior to Christmas, I ran in to this biography full of photographs and mini bios of his contemporaries.  You know Half Price Books, right?  That is the books shop chain where you save money because all their merchandise is so cheap, but somehow you invariably drop $50 to $60 each time you walk in?  I am about three chapters short of finishing Tesla: The Life and Times of an Electric Messiah by Nigel Cawthorne.  While the Serbian visionary’s work ethic and commitment to research is something beyond what I am capable of, it does provide me something to marvel at in the new year.

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Do you care to share any resolutions for the new year?  Or are there things you are continuing to work on?  I would love to hear from you.

Happy New Year to all of us!