“All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.”    Grant Wood

“It’s a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn’t even know you were aiming for.”
Lois McMaster Bujold

I didn’t mean to retire; it just happened. After working in Asia for twenty-two years, I decided to come home to the U.S. I knew the transition from teaching at elite American schools to U.S. public would be too drastic, so I signed up with an agency that finds jobs at private schools. I did several Skype interviews, but received no offers even though I heard phrases like, “you’re an excellent candidate,” “you have quite the range of experience,” and “that’s the best answer I’ve ever heard for that question.” With no job or even the promise of one, I packed up and moved my belongings to Arkansas. I had sold my home in Washington in the spring. The things I deemed too valuable to give away or sell, I placed in storage. Basically, my life was contained in boxes. Once on American soil, the interview process seemed easier, certainly the time difference was minimal if it existed at all. I ended up with two offers and the promise of another, but each one was either in a huge expensive city or a crime-ridden hot place in the middle of a desert. I was sorely tempted by the challenge of the desert place and think I would have loved working for that principal, but in the end, none of the positions afforded me enough money to live and to travel to see Ken more than the three times a year I had been visiting him from overseas. Wanting to spend more time with him was a big reason I left my six figure job, that and I was pretty worn out from teaching. That last year had been a doozy since I was given students with special needs instead of students learning English. I expended enormous amounts of energy which was worth it—it is always worth it to help kids learn and feel better about themselves.

But now, I find myself living at a much slower pace, in a country setting, with a wonderful partner who pampers me. I discovered I had some income available through a couple of sources and set it up. I got my Arkansas driver’s license, registered to vote, and bought a car. I started telling people I retired. It was official. says the meaning of the word retirement differs depending on the context. It can mean to retreat as in warfare; to withdraw to some place, especially for the sake of privacy; to leave an occupation; and to put out in a baseball setting. Definitions 2 and 3 fit my situation although a case could be made for definitions 1 and 4. Ha!

Fast forward (and it does feel like it went by quickly despite Covid 19) one and a half years. I love being retired. While I could sleep in, I usually don’t. Instead, I sit on the front porch swing watching my birds come to the feeders while throwing the ball for the dog. Or sometimes I rock on the back porch using my binoculars to scan the snags and hay bales for red-shouldered hawks, bluebirds, and meadowlarks who are hunting for breakfast. The backyard is quite often filled with activity: at least three species of woodpecker are picking at the suet, Northern cardinals eat the black sunflower seeds, and the house finches—about four families’ worth—perch on the white millet feeder. On the ground, squirrels, chipmunks, and hispid cotton rats scavenge the leftovers.

Our house is surrounded on three sides by open lots, two of which get mown for hay. How to describe our view? Bucolic or pastoral? Both words fit this view because pleasant aspects of the countryside are there to behold and cattle do graze on the lots. I prefer the word pastoral despite my love of cacophonous words. (I think this is so because bucolic sounds too much like bulimic.)

I read—a lot. In August I completed the Sealey Challenge which was to read a book a poetry each day in August. Non-fiction, fiction, and poetry fill my shelves, both actual and digital. The creation of the Kindle was the best thing ever for a book lover like me who also lived in a foreign country and who traveled frequently. It has turned out pretty well for Amazon, too, since with just one click, a purchase is made. These days I am taking greater advantage of the ebook library systems I have access to. There’s something about having a stack waiting for me to dive into that is satisfying. According to Wikipedia (always a go-to, if not the most reliable source), “Tsundoku (Japanese: 積ん読) is acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. The term originated in the Meiji era (1868–1912) as Japanese slang. It combines elements of tsunde-oku (積んでおく, to pile things up ready for later and leave) and dokusho (読書, reading books).” Maybe I’m just dokusho since I do read the piles of books eventually.

I enjoy taking photos of birds and writing poems about them. I spend a great deal of my time writing, mostly poetry. I’ve gotten very involved with the Poets Roundtable of Arkansas serving as their newsletter editor and coordinator for their collegiate contests. I joined the Master Naturalists and am their continuing education coordinator. Somewhere in there, I decided to learn how to make jewelry and open an Etsy shop. I’ve learned many new words (findings, bails, rondelles) participating in these activities which makes me very happy.

While I am retired, Ken is not. When the afternoon rolls around and he comes home, we move to the backyard to take in the sunset which is usually spectacular. Just as the light is diminishing, we see bats fly around in their random fashion. It turns out I should have been teaching my science students an additional word along with diurnal and nocturnalcrepuscular. There are animals (bats for example) that come out during dusk and dawn. Crepuscular can also refer to anything related to twilight and dim light. We often see crepuscular rays as we watch the sky turn from yellow to orange to pink, and as we rack our brains trying to name each nuanced color. As much as I love words and as many as I know, sometimes I can’t find the one I want, but I keep trying. I guess that’s the poet in me or maybe the logophilia.

The Joy of Birds (not directly about words)

It’s been a good bird week. In our yard alone, in addition to the brown-headed cowbirds, chipping sparrows, house finches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, Northern cardinals (There is the most gorgeous male I’ve ever seen that comes to the backyard feeders.), tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, Eastern bluebirds, American robins, blue jays, mourning doves, and Northern mockingbirds, I’ve seen American goldfinches, a rose-breasted grosbeak (a few times!), ruby-throated hummingbirds, brown thrashers, Carolina wrens, an indigo bunting, a white-crowned sparrow, an Eastern meadowlark off in the field behind the house, and just this morning, a pileated woodpecker held us captive at the window as it went after the stump in the backyard. We didn’t dare move so no photos. It was fascinating watching it chip away and insert its beak and then, not in our sightline, extend its tongue to get at the termites or other insects living in the rotting wood. It angled its head this way and that. It was there a good long time before it lifted its head, sounded its Woody Woodpecker call, and flew off. It was an awe inspiring way to start the morning.

Since Ken is working from home, he’s been creating scads of wonderful nature and conservation education videos. Sometimes I get to help, either with my photos or holding something. Occasionally, I spark an idea for a video. The biggest benefit for me is I get to accompany him as he obtains video footage and photographs. Yesterday, we were recording a skit to help people identify birds. At the end, the bird is identified as a blue grosbeak. We finished recording and within two minutes, I spotted a blue grosbeak just a few yards away. It was as if it heard us talking and came by to lend a hand with the video. As we moved on through fields of wildflowers, I took pictures of butterflies and bumblebees. I saw an Eastern kingbird, another blue grosbeak, a white-crowned sparrow, a red-tailed hawk, and a great blue heron’s tracks in the mud. Also I took photos of barn swallows and ruby-throated hummingbirds at his center. (We aren’t allowed in, but we can observe the outside.)

I’ve heard plenty more birds recently, too. There’s an Eastern phoebe somewhere nearby. A pair of Bobwhites call to us from the field. Ken can whistle and elicit a call from them. We heard a whippoorwill last evening. And of course, there are bird calls I hear that I can’t identify, but I’m working on learning them. Audubon offers online help with that and the guide books describe the various calls although I don’t find that as helpful as actually hearing the call.

I derive so much joy from watching and listening to birds. With so much uncertainty and hardship surrounding us all, I feel fortunate to be able to sit on the front porch swing and take in the beauty of the nature in front of me. I encourage you to find that joy, that beauty in nature, too. As Ken says, “Be outside often.”

New Position

I have been sleeping on my back these days–something I almost never did. Sure there were those occasions in a sunny field that I may have dozed off or while lying in a hammock in the backyard, but generally, when going to sleep at night, I turn on my right side before drifting off. I can sleep sitting up—that gets proven night after night in front of the television—but I remember times when I was “back-flat” in need of sleep and just couldn’t do it. What’s changed? A few things actually and as a former science teacher, it troubles me not to be able to pinpoint the one factor (variable, if you will) responsible. I retired, (something that keeps popping up in these articles), I am sleeping beside a partner again, I am sleeping on a large waterbed, and my carpal tunnel is bothering me.

For ten years, I slept on a couch, not a pull-out couch, just a couch. I lived in a studio apartment in Taipei, Taiwan and that was my bed as well as my awake sitting area. It was wide enough for me to sleep on my back, but it seemed more natural and comfortable to turn toward the padded back and tuck in that way. When I visited my home in Washington, I slept on a king-size bed and often started out on my back, spreading out my arms and legs, enjoying the space, but always ended up turning on my side before succumbing to slumber. In the economy section of airplanes, I was forced to sleep sitting up but even then, I’d angle my body, turning as much as my seat belt would allow.

But all of that changed when I sold my home and retired to Arkansas.

I am much more relaxed now that I don’t teach anymore. Being relaxed may contribute to sleeping in a different position. You might think sharing the bed with someone would push me to the edge, but that is not the case. Perhaps I’ve become assertive in my retirement, staking claim to my half of the bed! And it is a big bed—a king-sized water bed. Sleeping in a heated water bed could be a big factor in my new position since it cradles its warm self around me, adding to my sense of security, although my partner gives me most of that sense of security.

I call the position I sleep in now the Frankenstein because I am flat on my back, arms at my sides with hands open, and legs out straight. When I was teaching, I decorated my classroom a lot for holidays and Halloween was no exception. I used to hang a cardboard cut-out of Frankenstein’s monster on the wall, and it is this image I remind myself of when sleeping. This position has proven to be the one that keeps my carpal tunnel at bay. I am a fist clincher it seems. There are scads of photos of me as a little girl with my hands balled up and placed in my lap. (If you are wondering if I am an angry person, I am not.) So this idea that I need to keep my hands open and flat while asleep is something I am working on. Even when I turn on my side, I remember to flatten my hands under my pillow or under my cheek. I wear the braces (mine are blue, my favorite color) and they help a lot, but they are most effective when in the Frankenstein position.

How does this connect to my theme, Logo-phi-lia? Sleeping in this position actually has a name and it isn’t Frankenstein. The word is supine. I think most everyone is familiar with the term, prone, supine’s antonym, but you almost never hear anyone describe a person as lying supine. No, rather, the description is wordier—lying on his back or flat on her back. While sleeping supine pretty much guarantees I’ll snore, it is the recommended position to keep your face from wrinkling. So there’s that.

I didn’t come upon the word, supine, until several years ago when I was searching for a word for a poem. I like the sound of it. I like that it has “pine” in it which can take you into a forest or relate an emotion. Supine is just a cool word, much cooler than prone, in my opinion. When I think of the word prone, I think vulnerable, but in fact, wouldn’t you be more vulnerable to attack, let’s say, when lying on your back with all of your organs just a sword slash away from disembowelment? If you are prone, the attacker has gluteus maximus to saw through before hitting anything too vital. Although, I suppose a swift slice of your spine would result in a critical situation.

Supine has another meaning according to Merriam-Webster online: failing to act or protest as a result of moral weakness or indolence. I’m not sure why in our current political climate this word hasn’t become more popular as it seems to fit some of our Congressional leaders rather well.

See if you can work supine into a conversation this week or perhaps welcome it into your bed tonight.