Monday, February 27, 2012

The Verdict

The jury has deliberated and a verdict has been reached:


...and Cat...

...On the evidence provided to me throughout the investigation I hereby find you both guilty of attempted murder.

Cat, I have not heard your horrific screeches in six days. You must have fled town upon learning of this trial. Good riddance. Please stay where you are, and leave all three-legged grasshoppers alone. And should you ever return to my grassy knoll I will have to sentence you to the pound for...forever.

Dog, I know you were only the goofy, pushover accomplice to the evil, conniving cat. But you are still guilty. I hereby banish you from my patio for one week. Unless you look at me with your chocolate brown eyes, in which case I will wrap my arms around your golden mane and smother you with kisses.

Court adjourned.

*I would like to give a special thanks to those of you who participated on the jury for this trial, both here and on Facebook. I am forever indebted to your keen intuition and skills of deduction.

© by scj

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Adventures of Mascot Continued: An Almost-Murder Mystery

To read about Mascot's previous adventures and how he's teaching me to savor the small stuff click here.

It was a dark and stormy night in the Heights. The kind of night that chases average Joes inside and into bed, and lures murderers out of their lairs and into the violent darkness where they can commit unspeakable crimes.

[Enter: the sound of thunder, rain pelting the windows, and spooky music].

Okay okay, it was actually a sunny morning, and the most violent noise to be heard was the roar of the lawn mower. But it was still the kind of morning that lures murderers out of their lairs and into the open and entices them to commit unspeakable crimes. Killing crimes.

The crime: attempted murder
The place: the geranium patch on my back patio
The time: between 7:30 P.M. last night and 10:30 A.M. this morning
The almost-victim: Mascot, my three-legged grasshopper
The perpetrator: Well, that's what we need to figure out, isn't it?

It all started when I was sipping a cup of tea on my sunny patio, thankful that the horrific screeching of the wild cats living nearby had been drowned out by the rumble of the lawn mower. As is usually the case on days like this, I became so engrossed in the morning that my tea grew cold. Cold tea is, quite possibly, the only thing that can rouse me from my chair when the sun is shining so happily.

I got up to warm my tea in the microwave, and that's when I saw Mascot clinging to the uppermost corner of the window to the right of my french door. Any higher and Mascot would have been climbing onto the roof. I knew something was up. Something—dun dun duuuuun—nefarious.

I quickly searched Mascot's geranium home for Alpha Hopper, but he was nowhere to be found. That's when I saw this:

Evidence of digging in Mascot's geranium patch. Wild, frantic digging. The kind of digging that takes place when someone is trying to capture and kill a helpless three-legged grasshopper that isn't as slow as he looks.

Thank goodness Mascot's got hops.

Fortunately, I have years of experience reading children's stories in which big creatures try to bully little creatures, and I was able to deduce from the evidence that a four-legged creature with paws is most definitely our criminal.

I spent the rest of the morning compiling a list of all the possible perpetrators that could have been on the premises at the time of the crime.

Suspect #1:

The family dog.

I love this dog. She keeps me company when no one else is around, lies protectively across my doorwell at night, and likes going on walks as much as I do.

But she digs. Oh boy does she dig. Without discretion.

And she steals. Oh boy does she steal. Without shame. Most recently she stole one of my favorite flip flops and my favorite kitchen rag (yes, I do play favorites with my kitchen rags), and then promptly buried them. No one has seen them since then.

Her frisky track record does not exactly work in her favor.

Suspect #2:

The coyote that lives on the grassy hill beyond my patio.

This coyote is aggressive. He kills living things for kicks. I know this for a fact, but I will refrain from telling you how I know this because this blog is rated G. Just trust me and know that his track record does not not not work in his favor.

Suspect #3:

The wild cat that lives somewhere close. Too close.

I do not have a picture of this cat, but if its piercing shrieks are any indicator of its appearance, then it looks like this:

Looking for this photo may have been the most disturbing google search of my life

I don't know anything about this cat's track record, except that it keeps me awake, often late into the night—at an hour that, incidentally, would be perfect for committing an unspeakable crime. Also, the mere fact that she is a cat does not, in any way, work in her favor.


Alert: It has recently been brought to my attention that the pool guy was on my patio at approximately 10:00 on the morning of the crime. And although he has only two legs and hands instead of paws, his presence automatically makes him suspect #4.

His track record is one of cleaning debris out of the pool and bumping my patio chairs with his pool-cleaning gear. It's my fault. The chairs were in his way. And as far as I know he does not carry a shovel with him, or have any problem with three-legged grasshoppers. His track record actually works in his favor.

Suspect #5:

The rat that scurried by me while I was sipping tea last week.

This rat startled me and made me sit upright in a hurry. My rapid movement startled the rat, and made him drop the date he was carrying in his mouth. This means he may not have eaten that week, which means he may be very hungry for, say, a grasshopper. It also means he may have a bone to pick with me, and his hunger for vengeance may have led him to attack the ones I love.

His hypothetical hungers do not work in his favor.

So there you have it, readers. The crime scene has been inspected, and the suspects investigated. All that's left is to determine who the guilty party is. And this is where I need your help.

So, whoooo done it?

Read my verdict here.

© by scj

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Presenting: a Produce Production

Recently, the friend from whom I'm renting my studio told me she'd bought a huge bag of carrots. Too many carrots to eat, she said, and would I like some?

Not one to pass up free carrots, I stepped inside her kitchen and watched as she opened the fridge and pulled out the biggest bag of carrots I have ever seen. Somehow, she managed to wrestle it onto the counter and open it up.

The moment she untied the twisty that held it closed we both knew this bag was different.

It was a Broadway Bag.

Curious carrots—carrots with character—burst out of the bag, singing and dancing as only broadway stars can.

First came the Crookneck Cougar Carrot.

"IIIIIIII will catch you" she belted in a shrill soprano, as she chased a particularly handsome—and much younger—carrot across the granite counter top.

A couple of times she just managed to hook him with her leathery crook-neck, but each time she leaned in to kiss him him he twirled away.

"Thank God," he sang quietly as he spun.

"Thank Gooooood," his voice grew louder.

"Thank God, I took ballet," the music quickened.

"Thank God I took ballet so I. can. get. awaaaaaaaaaaaaay....."

And then he pirouetted professionally off the counter and into my empty plastic bag.

The disappearance of our dapper young dancer didn't daunt the Crookneck Cougar, for out of the bag plodded three more young male carrots.

They didn't dance, really. They sort of tripped their way across the counter.

"Fresh prey..." Crookneck Cougar sang quietly. "...Won't get away, get away, get awaaaaaaaaaay" and she ran eagerly across the counter toward the trio.

But she encountered two problems as she feverishly tried to hook the three.

First, they each had two heads. How to snag both necks with such a slender little hook?

Second, whenever the trio tried to dance to the left some sort of invisible force took over and they lurched to the right. Anytime they tried to move forward, they'd end up stumbling backward. This made it practically impossible for the Crookneck Cougar to aim her hook at their necks with any sort of accuracy.

"We are the Stumbling Stooges," the three sang together, their deep baritone voices lumbering through the air.

"We vacillate, and hesitate, and fluctuate, but please don't haaaate"—the music accelerated into double time—"because we have two heads! What else would you expect?!"

At that point one of the Stumbling Stooges tried to jump into the air and click his heels, but just as he went to jump his other head took over and he leaned into a summersault instead. His flailing body knocked the other Stooges down and they all three tumbled into my open plastic bag.

The Crookneck Carrot was still not disheartened, for there was more movement in the large carrot bag. And then, another young carrot marched onto the stage.

But the poor, miserable carrot had no head or neck. Thus, the Crookneck Carrot couldn't hook him and he paraded freely across the counter and into my open bag.

There is a silver lining in every dark cloud.

At that point it was getting late and my tummy was growling, so I swept the Crook-Neck Carrot into my bag. My friend and I each closed our respective carrot bags. We stared at each other a little bit dazed, and then parted ways.

And that was the end of that.

© by scj

Monday, February 13, 2012

Embracing Loss As Gain

Trees, like decaying ghosts, line Pakistan’s farmland, cocooned in the sticky webs of spiders. They found safety in the trees’ branches during last year’s monsoon floods. Some worry that Pakistan’s hot season will be unbearable without the shade of the normally luscious trees. Others are thankful for the spiders, noting that the expected malaria cases after monsoon season are considerably fewer, thanks to the abundance of sticky webs that have been catching the malaria-carrying mosquitos. After a tragic 2,000 monsoon-caused deaths last year, these ghostly trees appear to be some kind of grace.

Click here to read the rest over at Positively Human.

© by scj

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I'll Take Some Salt and Pepper on That

Sometimes, when anxiety and insecurities tear through my soul, I stop everything to step outside and breath deeply.

 If it's daytime I tilt my head toward the sun and enjoy the potporri of southern California smells: jasmine, orange blossom, and eucalyptus.

 If it's evening, I watch the moon rise over the grassy knoll just beyond my patio. My body relaxes as its silvery fingers reach out and brush the nightscape with pale light. And then I wait for it. For that faint chorus of crickets, growing louder as the moon shines brighter.

I love those cricket symphonies. They remind me that the world is full of magic. For the moon's light is so enchanting that the insects cannot keep quiet under it. And so they rub their wings and legs together and, of all things, music escapes from their spiny bodies; poignant and melodic. Magical.

Some nights, long after the crickets have finished their moonlight serenades, a lone voice quivers. It is unfortunately close to the door of my studio. So close, I occasionally think it has gotten into my house and is singing its sweet, loud song on my pillow. Next to my head. Where I'm trying to sleep.

I try to ignore it, and when that doesn't work (because it never works) I try to focus on the song's beauty. But that only works for about 7.6 seconds, and then I remember that I really, really want to sleep. So I turn on the lights and check every surface and open every cupboard looking for with no luck.

In general, my sentiments toward that cricket have been...negative. Until one day four months ago when I discovered him chilling in the geraniums outside my door. And would you believe it, he's not a cricket after all: he's a three-legged grasshopper, with only one large back leg. How he sings so loudly is beyond me, but props to him for making such a noise with limited assets.

Over the months I've grown fond of my three-legged soloist. He and I are the same, really, singing our way through life a little off balance, a little handicapped—not what we were supposed to be when God first created, back before sin and sadness came on the scene. He's become my mascot, and so that's what I've named him. Mascot. Everyone needs a three-legged Mascot.

I love seeing Mascot enjoying the lush shade of my geraniums each day, and I take extra care not to disturb him when I garden. He is my musical companion. I count on walking out my door and seeing his beady eyes peering up at me.

But one day last week he disappeared, and this place erupted in drama.

First, I found a FOUR-legged grasshopper in Mascot's place. For a split second I was overcome by a surge of joy: Mascot had been HEALED! And then my boring, imagination-less adult common sense kicked in and convinced me that Mascot had not been healed; he'd gotten the boot by an entitled alpha grasshopper.

And then I got mad.

And sad. But I swallowed hard, gathered my wits, and willed away the ache in my stomach before going about my morning.

The next morning I rolled out of bed, walked outside, checked for Mascot, glared at the four-legged creature that was still in his place. and spun around to go inside.

That's when I saw Mascot clinging bravely to my door.

Relieved and delighted, I devised a cunning and daring plan to give Mascot back his home: I moved the four-legged intruder to the bark mulch next to my holly bush.

I almost passed out from the wild excitement of it all.

In the middle of the relocation it occurred to me that Mascot could have found a wife, and was enduring a marital dispute in which he had been banished to the "couch" for the night.

But my gut told me something far more sinister was going on. It also told me the four-legged hopper was a male. So that ruled out the whole marital dispute option.

My gut was right. Three days have passed since the dramatic affair and Alpha Hopper is nowhere to be found. Things have returned to normalcy, and Mascot rests comfortably in his geranium home. Although, many of the geraniums have been recently devoured by a vicious fungus, so there could be more relocation drama next week. I'll keep you updated. Never a dull day here on the compound.

In the meantime, I've been trying to figure out the moral of this whole story. There is always a moral to a story in which the main characters are insects.

It could be that it's unwise to become too attached to a grasshopper, especially of the three-legged variety. But I don't think so.

Life is too short not to delight in its magic, even if the magic only lasts for a moment. And so I think the moral of the story is to keep noticing things. Small things. Easily missed things. Because small things are the salt and pepper that season bland days. So I'll continue to let Mascot teach me to savor my days. I'll smile when I find him hiding in my flowers. I'll listen close when I hear his quivering voice. And I'll feel loss when I find my friend is gone. Because a string of seasoned days makes a feast for a hungry soul that's growing.

© by scj

Others May, You Cannot

I have an admission: I skip the long quotes featured in blog posts, articles, and books. I don't even bother to read texts that feature more quotes than original ideas.

I have analyzed and reanalyzed the psychology of this vice in an attempt to eradicate it, to no avail. I will continue to be a sheepish long-quote-skipper.

But I have no problem asking you, dear reader, to plow through a blog post that is almost entirely a quote from someone else.

My mom introduced me to this short essay last semester. I have revisited it over and over. I will probably continue to revisit it for the rest of my life.

I hope it encourages you like it encouraged me.

“Others May, You Cannot”
George Douglas Watson, 1845-1924
(Public Domain)
If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writing, but the Holy Sprit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for him and get the credit of it, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own.

He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His…slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

© by scj

Thursday, February 2, 2012


"The songbird singing stops what I am doing at the sink."

-A Japanese Proverb

© by scj