A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Whale and calf in the warm waters of Hawaii, photo by Bill McDowell

When I first saw this photograph I was struck by its beauty: the blue waters with an island in the right hand corner background; the Humpback whale’s tail, its graceful curve as the ocean water cascades off of the flukes. Then I noticed the clear image of the baby in the left foreground. What a magnificent shot!

I kept looking at the photo, entranced by it’s clear delineations, especially of the calf. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a photo like this. On further study, I noticed that the right fluke of the Humpback (in reality, it would be her left fluke) is not only damaged, but half gone. When I went to sleep, my last thought was what could have caused it? In the morning, I started researching. Two hours later, I’ve learned a lot.

For the last four years, my husband and I have lived in Hawaii in the winter. (When we were younger, we’d say that when we got old, we’d do just that. One day, we looked in the mirror and decided unanimously that it was now or never. The time had come!) We love the Big Island (Hawaii) and love sighting the whales that come by from December through March. But I wasn’t extremely curious about the whales–just accepted their presence while marveling at seeing them breach and slap their tails loudly on the water’s surface.

photo courtesy of Jennifer Muscatel

I knew that the Humpbacks left Alaska in the fall, but I didn’t know their annual migration of 6,000 miles is one of the longest of any mammal’s. It takes them six to eight weeks to reach Hawaii. This is where they mate, give birth, and begin nurturing their calves. A calf spends about a year with its mother.

But seeing the injury made me curious. I now know, for instance, that it’s called lobtailing when a whale sticks their tale into the air, swings it around and slaps the water. It’s thought that lobtailing could be a form of communication or a way to loosen parasites from the tail. It’s very loud.

So back to the injury. What could cause it? In my reading, I found out that there could have been a killer whale attack, or a collision with a ship. But the number one reason for the whale tail injuries is that the whale becomes entangled in some fishing gear. Of course, I have no notion of what caused this Mama Whale’s injury. I just wish the both of them well on their long trek back to the reality of icy waters in Alaska.

  • Whalefacts.org has a lot of other great information.

Double Exposure

I had the most interesting experience yesterday—it was also enlightening.

On my walk every morning in Hawaii, I pass by the Canoe Club, a private facility for members of Hualalai Club. Yesterday as I chugged up the incline I noticed a photo shoot in session. Since I do the Members Blog, I stopped to take my own picture of this Hualalai happening.

Ah hah, I thought. This is the demographic they aim for: a young woman and a middle-aged man.

I took several photos of the set up and then of the silver haired photographer taking the photo of the couple lounging by the Jacuzzi. I guessed this photo would end up in a magazine, either advertising life style or the swimwear the two wore. I could see the woman was young and beautiful (although I never saw her face). Although I was at a distance from them, the man looked much older than she was.

I left and walked back home, creating a whole story about the modeling session, the models and the photographers. It was a good story with all kinds of judgments and critical assessments. I was happy with the picture I’d taken and the picture I’d created in my mind.

Then last night, I met all of them: the photographer, his assistant and the two models. It was a mind blower! I didn’t want to give up the story I’d woven for the actual reality, but what are you going to do when you’re confronted with the real people?

The man was much younger looking close up than from a distance. The woman looked just how I thought she would even if I’d imagined her.

“So here’s what I thought,” I told them. “Whoever you were shooting for, the demographics were a young woman with an older, successful man.”

“Thanks a lot, I think,” the man said.

“You look much younger, now that I’m meeting you,” I said.

He grinned, looking even more boyish.“ Now that’s good to hear.”

“How old are you?” I asked.

It turned out he was 53 and she was 40.

“Ah, so I wasn’t far off.” I gave them my know-it-all smile.

I told the photographer I’d taken a picture of him photographing the couple. “I hope I framed it well,” I said.

I turned to his assistant. “It was so early this morning it looked like you needed a cup of coffee to keep you awake.”

She looked startled and then gave me an embarrassed smile.

It turned out they were all from Oahu. The man was a teacher who worked with students from the Marshall Islands. I’d worked with students from there the year before when I volunteered at Palamanui Community College, so we chatted for a while.

As my husband and I walked away I said, “I feel like was just in a Woody Allen movie.”

“What do you mean?”

“Remember in “Annie Hall” when Marshall McLuhan shows up? That’s how it felt. Kind of like a bent reality.”

As I tried to fall asleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about meeting the real people who’d become figments of my imagination. It was interesting. But also a bit more than unsettling.

When did I start Creating Stories?

People often ask me when I started writing. I seriously began when I was in seventh grade, writing poetry. But I started story telling much before that. I remember creating stories for my sister when we were little. They were always dramas involving our paper dolls, who survived only with the help of scotch tape.

Recently when I should have been writing, I got caught by an internet website, which showed famous people when they were young and what they look like now. A couple of them were photos of our movie star paper dolls.


This is Arlene Dahl who is now 93. I read up on her–six husbands and three children. She is very into astrology and is still very beautiful. Of course being me, I wanted to change her eyebrow color immediately. A little microblading?

Ann Blyth was another movie star paper doll who had adventures in our playroom. She was born in 1928. At 90, she’s still a stunner! She’s the mother of five children.

I still remember when my mother gave me a dollar to buy ground round for meatloaf for our family of five. I walked the mile to the grocery on Broadway, feeling very important. There was enough money left for me to go next door to the drugstore and buy paper dolls. What a luxury.

Radio Days

Well, I haven’t been able to do much blogging, and I have a lot of ideas I want to explore. Which makes me frustrated. But I have been busy getting my short story collection, “Radio Days” off the ground. It took a lot of organization and detail work, which is not my forte. Neither is self promotion. A couple of people have asked me about my book sales and I’ve looked at them with horror. Book sales? OMG!

I do feel good about myself that I followed through on this. When you’re young, you feel you have so much time to accomplish all you want. And then 70 hits you in the face. My motto has become, “Do it now. While you still have a chance.” Tick tock.

So here’s my book. You can order it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Also go to my author website at cyndymuscatelauthor.com to watch the book trailer and learn more.

Here’s a little blurb on the book:

 

Conflict and character are the basic ingredients of a story well told—and Radio Days is brimming with twenty-three such stories. Spanning decades, the stories in this thoughtful collection follow very different characters: the rich and the poor; the young and the old. Many are on a hero’s journey along a path to self-knowledge. Others never face reality.

And from the early part of the twentieth century until today, the radio has played in the background of our lives—just as it does in each of these tales. In “My Father’s Story,” set in rural 1924 America, Sidney, the son of immigrants, tries to stop his father from burning down the family store. “Khrushchev In My Dreams” centers on a teenager’s fear of annihilation during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. “Eruption” recounts a family’s urgent journey to survive the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. And “Confessions of the Hot Flash Queen” follows a twenty-first century woman coming into her own with humor and strength.

 

 

An Old Dog Learning New Tricks?

I think I’m so smart but I’m as stupid as ever. One of my NYRs was to slow down and see the world around me: to not be in such a rush; to not cram more into a day that can fit; to not rob Peter to pay Paul. But give me a chance and I’ll do them all.

Take this morning. I started my day right with a walk and yoga. But on my walk to yoga, I talked to my daughter the whole time so I was basically in two places at once. I attempted to stay in the present during yoga but my mind wandered to places all over the world.

But that wasn’t so bad. It was on the way home that I really blew it. I started doing my email, thinking that I could do it then and save time when I got home. Fortunately something made me look up and I realized what an idiot I was being. My walk is on an ocean pathway that is gorgeous any day. But today it’s very windy (there’s a storm somewhere) and the surf is amazing.

The waves in front of me hit the rocks with such force that the spray blossomed like a fireworks flower.

Why was I looking down when all this glory was around me?

“Put your phone down,” the actually wise part of me said. “Quit multi-tasking and enjoy!”

A lesson learned? I hope so.

 

Radio Morning

So I did the radio interview. I did a two-hour preparation for the eight minutes, consolidating and outlining my main points. I’m not much for promoting myself but I knew this was an opportunity to push Radio Days so I had half a page just on the book. Someone advised me to spread out the pages on my desk so I could see all of them at once, which I did. But the time went quickly; I didn’t have time to look at the color coded pages. Eight minutes goes so fast that I left some important things out. Like thanking Writer’s Relief for guiding me all these years.

 Not to say I’m an anxious person, but I did wake up at 4:30 in the morning—of course I did. Even if I’m in the elderly category, I’m still a nervous jervis. As my Aunt Lil always said, “Where ever you go, you take yourself with you.”

Besides, when you’re in the senior aging department, you have more to worry about than simply failing. You have to make sure your hearing aids have fresh batteries and are tuned up. You have to make sure your voice will be clear and not hoarse. (This required gargling with salt water, drinking tea with honey and sucking on a cough drop.) Another problem I have as a senior is sneezing a jillion times. Since they mowed the grass today, I had to use the Neti Pot and take Sudafed. Also, I only get two bars on my cell phone so I had to remind myself not to move while I was talking.

One good thing though about radio—it didn’t matter how I looked.

Renewing My Vows

The last time I wrote a blog for A Corner of my Mind was two months ago. A lot has happened since then, good and bad. A lot of it was crazy making stuff that took me away from my writing. Yesterday, amidst a lot of stuff going on (all good), I looked at this wrinkled scrap of paper I’d taped to my computer. It contained my New Year’s Resolutions from a couple of years ago. The last item was, Write a blog every two weeks.

I’d managed to do that pretty well until November. As I sat there yesterday, I vowed that I would get back to doing so ASAP. Nothing like the present to achieve that goal.

I’m not sure what sent me off the rails. True, I didn’t have the use of a computer around Thanksgiving. When I did, I was dealing with police detectives investigating our burglary, and with contractors who were rebuilding our home after our flood.

Then the fun stuff started with our grandson’s visit with three college friends to our condo in Hawaii. After the friends left, the whole rest of our family came for the Winter Holiday. We have three grandsons in college–a whole subset of culture. One night I cleared out my freezer by making every kind of junk food stored there–perfect college fare. Then we have two granddaughters. The seven-year-old adores her sixteen-year-old cousin!

I love watching my family interact–it’s a grandmother’s delight. I didn’t want to miss a moment of pool time hi-jinks or even just sitting around talking. We’re only together now for a short time, once a year, so forget writing.

But by the time they left on January 3rd, I’d gotten out of the habit of sitting in front of the computer and putting my thoughts on paper. I started doing things like making soup, watching football and ironing. Fortunately, I started teaching my memoir writing class on January 7. This got me back on track with a chapter in my own memoir. And I remembered the feeling of being in the zone that I can only get from writing.

So once again, I’m baaaccckkkk! Happy New Year!!!


Oh, What To Do? An update!

I’m in trouble. I’ve lost my calendar which is akin to losing my mind. I had it yesterday, but since it’s coming onto December, I thought I decided not to take it with me. But it’s not on my desk where I thought it would be.

I’ve been trying to remember what other data I have in the calendar besides places to go and things to do. I’m afraid of what could be on those empty pages, like my credit card numbers. Yikes!!!!

Besides, I’m totally flummoxed. I can’t do anything and I’m feeling deja vu all over again. It’s like I’m in a chapter of “Toad and Frog”. Did you ever read those books? One day Toad loses his list of things to do and that’s it for him. He can’t do a thing for the rest of the day.  That’s me right now. Besides hunting for the darn thing, I haven’t done a darn thing.


This is so bad that it might push me to convert to using the calendar on my phone. And that is something I’ve been resisting. I’ve used the same format for years and I love it. Or loved it.


Last year’s 

I’d write more, but I’ve got to get back to hunting for my calendar.

The above blog is such yesterday’s news. I found my calendar where I’d left it when I was leading the book club. Well, someone found it and turned it into Security. Which means someone probably read my list of what stresses me out that was tucked into the calendar. That’s embarrassing as it’s mostly just white whines. Oh well. Oh hell. At least I now know what I’m doing tomorrow.


Oh, To Just Be a Hypochondriac!

So my hair is falling out. With my fine, sparse hair, I need this to happen like I need a new hole in my head.

In today’s world of taking photos all the time, I could go back and see when it started. My hair (for me) looked full and healthy in June at our grandson’s high school graduation. It looked fine when I had cataract surgery in July. It looked okay in August when my daughter and granddaughter visited. By September, the truth was becoming obvious.

I went to see the dermatologist about it.

“Oh yes, “ she said with relish. “Your hair is definitely falling out.”

You want your physician to have a positive take on things but I thought this was taking positivity a bit too far.

“I started using some products in August that were supposed to give my hair more volume and body. Maybe they were too harsh,” I suggested.

The doc shook her head. “No, it’s not caused by damage. Your hair is shedding at the roots. “

Oh great, I thought. I just threw away sixty bucks of product for nothing.

“It’s called Telogen Effluvium.,” she continued as if she didn’t see the distress on my face.

“What causes it? Does it last forever? Am I going to be completely bald?”

I actually only asked the first two these questions, even if the third was uppermost on my scalp.

“Stress is the major cause,” she said. “Are you under any stress?”

“I’ve been under terrible stress since November 8, 2016 and it hasn’t gotten better as time goes by,” I said. “When they started taking babies away from their parents who were trying to get asylum, even my always low blood pressure went up.”

She looked at me as if I were speaking a different language. “Pardon me?” she said.

“Never mind,” I said. “Yes, I’ve had several stressful months. My husband has been sick.”

“Have you changed any medications?”

I nodded. “Several.”
“How’s your thyroid?”

The conversation continued this way for a while. I left the office with something called “Women’s Alopecia Solution” and an information pamphlet.

When I told my husband the diagnosis, he said, “What stress?”

I’m telling you, my main stress producer said this with a straight face.

“Let me count the ways,” I said.

There’s nothing like hair loss to make me want to create change. I’m actually doing things to reduce my stress. Number one, I don’t watch television or read the news. I’m meditating a bit and slowing down. And I try not to think about the thinning that’s reduced my bangs to a teensy bang.

“Worrying about losing your hair is only going to stress you out,” my husband had advised. That seemed true.

As I clean the hair droppings out of the sink, I try not to freak. The good news is that at least I know I’m not just paranoid and delusional.

But oh for the good ol’ days when I was only a hypochondriac.

 

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