Cordiforme Butterflies

These butterflies are from the margins of the Cordiforme Chansonnier, a book of vocal music from the late 1400s. Its red velvet covers form the shape of a single heart when closed, a double joined heart when opened. This lovely book, when opened, is barely wider than the span of my two hands.

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And yes, these are cell phone grabs without a flash, from a morning in an archive with a facsimile. Bad photographer… distracted but enchanted researcher. 😀


Rosemary-Grapefruit Water

DSC_0202This one didn’t quite work. Not on any level. I wasn’t happy with the picture. And the taste… well, I like the complexity that adding an herb gives to fruit-infused water. But I didn’t have a very good red grapefruit flavor, even after I let it infuse for a day. Maybe it was just a dud of a grapefruit? The rosemary was a much stronger flavor, particularly the longer it steeped. Still an interesting change from straight citrus! And if rosemary is a flavor you enjoy and you live in a region where grapefruit are abundant and delicious…

Note: I started looking at alternative drink options because certain medications and medical conditions just don’t play nice with alcoholic and/or caffeinated beverages. . Incidentally, it turns out grapefruit doesn’t react well with certain medications, either! As always, be safe out there, fly high, fly strong… and check drug interactions before imbibing in anything. Even innocent grapefruit water. 🙂

Lemon-Blueberry-Basil Infused Water

DSC_0197Lemon-Blueberry-Basil water. A colorful drink with a slightly more complex taste, rather grownup. 🙂 When left to chill and infuse for about 12 hours, the lemon begins to take on the hue of the blueberries. My mom loves this one.

For one pitcher: about 3/4 of blueberries, a small lemon sliced thinly, and about 2 good sprigs or 8 leaves, slightly crumpled and rolled.

The longer it infuses, the more flavorful the water will be!

Indecision III. The Pain Scale.


Bickering skipper butterflies? They’re now my go-to when I’m being indecisive. Shot with a Nikon D5000, f/10, 1/250. Any suggestions for how to do this better would be appreciated! I’m still learning how to use my camera.

“On a scale of one to ten, with one being the least amount of pain and ten the most imaginable, what are you at today?”

Gosh. I don’t know. Is it a linear scale or a non-linear scale? Exponential? Should I calculate it like f-stops? How does this thing work?

The pain scale is something I run into a lot. I haven’t figured it out. I don’t think anyone has. Pain is, after all, a personal and subjective experience, but the pain scale seems to try to relate the subjective to the objective in some way. I understand the need for that. But then that scale runs smack into someone fogged with pain, indecisive at best, and desperate to get help and/or get away from yet another doctor’s office, emergency room, lab, or hospital room. In a word, me. Seriously. How is this thing even supposed to work?

“On a scale of one..”

Wait. Is one the level where pain actually starts to bother me? Because I know that a paper cut will heal, as will a mosquito bite. So now, no, that doesn’t really bother me. I don’t care. The pain from that is all surface anyway. Isn’t this sort of like calculus, where the math just gets harder and harder the closer you get to zero, anyway? Who bloody well cares about figuring out the least amount of pain when it’s the “whole lot more” that’s the problem?

“…to ten, with ten being the most imaginable…”

I can imagine quite a lot. That’s not a helpful guideline at all. Instantly my mind skips to the most imaginable pain… would that be when I’d commit suicide? Or just when I’d think about it? Or worst yet, the point when I wouldn’t care at all about the collateral damage to others, even other casualties that I might cause, in my effort to end this horrible pain? Yes, that would definitely be the worst imaginable, causing harm to a bunch of innocent bystanders, leaving that legacy for my family. Which would put ideation about suicide at about an 8… but while I’m still calculating, the question is still being asked. Maybe for the third or fourth time, by now.

“…which number are you…”

I don’t know, though… if their version of the pain scale doesn’t take into account that sort of calculation, then this is all for nothing anyway. Pain is humidity, constantly around you and suffocating. Pain is a sneaker wave, suddenly smashingly there and killing you by the sheer pure uncaring force of the sea. Pain is a cold winter’s morning, sharp gasps of dagger air, deceptive black gleam of death glazed on dark asphalt. Pain is a dense fog, a sandstorm, the ear-ringing silence after an explosively loud noise, a fire tornado. How could something that sometimes so thoroughly encompasses my life be reduced to a number?

“…at today?”

The poor nurse doesn’t deserve to have a patient like me. I feel horrible. Everyone’s being so nice about it, just waiting. I flip-flop around a few more numbers, debating the benefits of odds versus evens, rhyming possibilities in poems, primes, and the number of lives you’re normally given in video games. I settle on a random numeral. Whew! We can move on, maybe the next question will be easie…

“On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your…”

Oh. Bullocks.

Indecisiveness II

DSC_0144Skippers are the fastest butterflies.

Good ol’ Urban Dictionary came up with some great definitions of the term “social butterfly.” One is “player,” someone who flirts with many people, can fit into any environment, and isn’t looking for long-term relationships. Basically, a social butterfly flits back and forth between people, and maybe never makes up their mind about anything. A skipper.

From my reading about chronic pain, it seems like many people may end up being reluctant skippers. I am. I need to make commitments and keep them. Some of them are basic — appointments for haircuts or the like. Some of them are the lifeblood of the important bonds of friendship — a lunch date, a birthday party, or a cup of coffee. Many relate to my job — am I going to be at this convention or not? Present this paper? Others are truly important for life, at some point — maybe someone helping me with the grocery shopping or giving me a ride to a doctor’s appointment.

Graduate students and newly-minted PHDs are a dime a dozen, and so if there’s even a shadow of doubt as to my abilities, opportunities could skitter away like water on a hot frying pan. Psshhzzz! Insta-steam. Every time I turn down an activity with friends, I feel those bonds that tie me to the world of other thinking, feeling human beings wither and die. I feel the shame of needing help to do something basic like grocery shopping or a doctor’s appointment, only to be an additional burden by canceling. And don’t even get me started on how long it can take to get another hair appointment! So in the meantime, I don’t look for long-term. I flit. I try to avoid committing without making it appear that I am, hoping for damage control, disguising the reality.

That might just be the way life has to play out for some things. But not all. See, that denies part of what I am. Pain does not define me. I am more than just pain, and the sadness and sorrow and isolation and depression that seems to go hand in hand with pain. I’m a bunch of other cool nouns and adjectives too, sometimes — musical, creative, photographer, student, water-burner, nature-loving, humorous, whimsical, absurd, loyal. But I can’t deny that pain, and dealing with it, is part of my life too. I for one have to accept that reality. And yes, show it to a select few people. Because until I recognized that fuzzy orange thing as a skipper, I couldn’t find out how to deal with it or appreciate it for what it was. Those that see, it, really see it and understand that it’s a skipper, realize they’re looking at a member of the butterfly world that can have a top speed of 37 miles per hour. THIRTY-SEVEN MILES PER HOUR. Skippers may be impossible to shoot, seemingly incapable of holding still, their wings a blur of motion… and that is because they are the fastest fliers of the suborder Lepidoptera. And once you know that, it’s easier to put aside the frustration and adjust absolutely everything on the camera to get a clear(er) picture.

What to say?

A while ago a news site ran an article about “empathy cards.” I didn’t click on it then, but recently had call to look it up. It can be difficult to know what to say or do to support someone going through difficult times, and even titanium butterflies need a boost now and again! : )

Check out

Indecision I

DSC_0142Skippers are named for their rapid, skipping flight.

I’ll admit it. I cheated on the picture of the orange skipper. I got frustrated, I switched my camera to — gasp! — sport mode, and I shot a picture of the thing. Why? Because like most butterflies, it was flitting back and forth in a frenetic and seemingly random pattern, like a Southern CA driver in a snowstorm for the first time, trying to avoid the flakes. Also, I’m still learning how to use my most excellent camera.

I’ve always been a bit indecisive, but even if I couldn’t always figure out what I wanted, I usually knew what I didn’t. And I was game for the big picture. Go to the opera? Sure! A day at the beach? Absolutely.

Pain has changed all of that. I’m now the epitome of that dratted skipper. There’s days when pain can slam into you like a cold sneaker wave when you’re bodysurfing in the ocean, and you’re freezing and spitting sand through your teeth in a heartbeat. It’s not the sort of experience that makes one prone to commitment. So instead I flit, dodging an invite to this, postponing that, nearly landing on one engagement only to skip to a different one seemingly randomly. That’s because it’s hard to figure out if a day is going to be a good day or a bad day when dealing with something like never-ending pain. Some days I’m just better at dealing with the pain than others, no matter the level. Other days are inexplicably more painful, or I know I’ve overdone something the day before and now can’t handle doing XYZ activity today. But because that pain is so variable, so am I. I really can’t say if I’m going to be up to going to a baby shower, a birthday party, a concert, a movie, dinner, a convention, or even a car maintenance appointment. Don’t even ask me about major holidays.

At some point, though, the only thing to do is to make the plans, figuratively aiming the camera at a likely blade of grass and pushing the 1000-shots-a-minute feature, and hope for the best. Sometimes, amazingly, it works out okay — maybe not great, but, really, okay. Grace sufficient for the moment.

Strawberry-Kiwi Lemonade

DSC_0006Guys, guys, guys! I bought a blender! So excited. The first experiments turned out to be basic fruit sludge and/or decoration for the kitchen ceiling. BUT then I figured out strawberry-kiwi-lemonade! The nice thing about making it yourself is you can adjust the sugar as desired.

1 small lemon, just squeezed in. (I haven’t bought a juicer yet.)

About 10 small strawberries

1 kiwi

~ 1/2 cup water

4 ice cubes

2 tablespoons sugar, to taste. (I ended up with a little more than I wanted thanks to dropping the spoon in the mix, but hey. It’s all good.)

Blend everything until smooth. Let set for about 5 minutes. Stir. Makes about 1 1/2 tall glasses worth.