Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tanyard Creek Nature Trail and more

Today I ventured out to Bella Vista and hiked 2 miles on the Tanyard Creek Nature Trail. It was quite warm and very humid, so it was not as enjoyable as it might have otherwise been. Also, I broke several of the major rules, I did not bring the trail map, I did not bring water and I really did not consider the weather as I should have. Brought my umbrella but fortunately did not need it. Where is the bug spray and sunscreen...?
Later on, after I got home, I rode my bike for five miles and managed to get caught in a late day shower, it felt good and refreshing so no complaints here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday, Group Meditation Day

Before I went to my meditation meeting tonight I paged through a book that helps one to ‘find their voice’ for writing and spiritual development. I stopped at an exercise where I had to ask myself: “who am I?” Well, if I had the answer to that one and the other question that has haunted me for quite some time “what is the meaning of life?” I suppose my journaling would finally produce something worthwhile. I am still back at the beginning though; mostly just asking questions and prodding around for pieces of the answer. It is way too early to have all the answers, but not so early that I don’t have some.

If one could answer the question who am I, I think the rest of life’s conundrums would fall into place and not be so troublesome. It seems to be an ever moving answer though and that is what makes it so difficult. We are never the same; even minute to minute. Subtle changes in thoughts and occurrences have an effect on us that render us different each time we approach the question. At once we are an employee, or a friend, or a parent, or child, or lover. In another moment we are a spiritual essence receiving insight from a higher power, or a whimpering human begging for mercy or grace. This is all before we start to put any of our emotions or feelings into the question. Once that happens, it is nearly impossible to stay focused.

The priority of the moment seems to dictate the knee-jerk response to “who am I?” Yet, it is the priority itself that is smoke-screening the answer. If I ask myself the question while I am at work, my position in the company will be high up on the list when I respond, but am I that? Am I the accountant or the administrator? Am I not more than that? Yes, I am. I am a conglomeration of many things, talents, feelings, emotions and energy.

It is the mixture of all of this and how I use it, that seems to make me what I am. At any given moment I can direct my ability and emotion in a positive way, to help myself or others; or be less giving if so desired. It is up to me to be what I chose to be for myself and the world. The circumstances going on at the moment will certainly have some impact on who I chose to be, but I most definitely chose to be who and what I am all the time.

What I chose may be a clearly and deliberately orchestrated response or a hap-hazard knee-jerk reaction to a situation outside of my control. I will be judged and evaluated based on my part in the scene. Being mindful and ‘in the present moment’ will help to make the decision of who I am the most truthful. Sadly, if I am lost in a past event or dreaming of something in the future, my reaction to a current situation may speak very poorly about who I am.

I am still wrestling with the question ‘who am I’. I am closer to a viable answer every time I can respond from present-tense position; one of mindful presence and awareness.
Right now I am a curious individual, seeking an answer to a question whose parameters are constantly changing; knowing the answer may really be a list of traits, talents, emotions and feelings whose composition changes often. One who is willing to accept that the more things change, the more they remain the same. That is where I am now.
In a few minutes, who knows?

Ellen Rossopoulos
June 28, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Making Manicotti--from scratch I

First start with olive oil, a diced onion and lots of garlic....cook enough to soften and add a can of cut up plum italian tomatoes. Simmer for twenty minutes, slightly covered and let rest for 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper and fresh cut basil just before using. While the sauce cooks, make the pasta batter and make the pasta like you would a crepe, a thin layer in a nonstick pan for moments on each side, don't brown them. Roll up 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture in the pancake and put in a baking dish, spoon sauce over the top, sprinkle with mozarella cheese and bake for 20 mnutes at 350degrees. A glass of chianti and spinach salad finishes it nicely.

Making Manicotti -- II

The eating it is really the best part. This is a photo of Mayumi, she is working with me weekly holding English conversaiton meetings and we have discoverd that there is always plenty to talk about when it comes to food!

Monday, June 25, 2007

A New Take on Old Proverbs

First grade teacher in Virginia had twenty-five students in her class.
She presented each child in her classroom the first half of a well known proverb
and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb.
It's hard to believe these were actually done by first graders.
Their insight may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these
are first graders, 6-year-olds, because the last one is a classic!

1. Don't change horses...........................until they stop running.

2. Strike while the................................bug is close

3. It's always darkest before...................Daylight Saving Time

4 Never underestimate the power of ......termites

5. You can lead a horse to water but ..... how

6. Don't bite the hand that ....................looks dirty

7. No news is......................................impossible

8. A miss is as good as a ................... Mr

9. You can't teach an old dog new ........ math

10 If you lie down with dogs, you'll .......stink in the morning

11. Love all, trust ................................. me

12. The pen is mightier than the ............pigs

13. An idle mind is.............................the best way to relax

14. Where there's smoke there's .............pollution

15. Happy the bride who.......................gets all the presents

16. A penny saved is ..........................not much

17. Two's company, three's ................ the Musketeers

18. Don't put off till tomorrow what ..... you put on to go to bed

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and.
.... you have to blow your nose

20. There are none so blind as ............ Stevie Wonder

21. Children should be seen and not ......spanked or grounded

22. If at first you don't succeed ............ get new batteries

23. You get out of something only what you ..... see in the picture on the box

24. When the blind lead the blind ......... get out of the way

And the WINNER and last one

25. Better late than................................... pregnant

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Feste Italiana

Several of our meditation group

John Two Hawks on a double flute

Benedicte Lampe is moving on to Milan, Italy. After spending two years in the Fayetteville, Arkansas area. She has a wide network of friends from Gregorian Chant group, French speaking group, meditation group and her work group. I am from the meditation group and delighted that she invited me to this very well planned send off!
The fact that we had John Two Hawks to play for our small group of 100 people was indeed a special honor. I could not pull myself away until he finished at 10PM!

Welcome Summer

Every summer I have a ritual. I perform it by me and for me...and once I perform it, Summer is officially here. Sometimes I don't get to do it until July or later. But this year, I did it today.
The ritual involves getting a garden grown very large tomato and then making the biggest honkin' Bacon and Tomato sandwich on an English muffin with tons of mayo.
As you can see...I made two.
Welcome Summer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Now For Something New...

This is my 2004 Red Subaru...she got me over some very steep hills during some heavy snow in New Jersey, she took me on one helluva road trip in 2005 half way across the country in 105 degree weather. Finally helped me move here to northwest Arkansas. Served me very well and now I live in a flatter and less snowy place. So here is my new baby...a 2007 Toyota Prius. My Blue Butterfly will quietly and gently take me to many new adventures.

The GOOD news is: won't need a new sticker 'till August 1...

A Special Day at Work

Today we celebrated Sandra's Birthday. Her card said she was 29....one more year to cram in all that living, before she turns into a pumpkin!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

How to tell if your feet stink...

This one is for you and you know who you are!

Fear not!
She only fainted. She is NOT dead!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Crossroads of Life

I got to thinking about those milepost events that happen in everyone’s life. You know the ones where life as you have come to know it is never exactly the same, once it has passed. Examples include your first day of school, religious confirmation or similar rite of passage, graduation from high school, graduation from college, getting married, and your first child. These events bring us to a place of accomplishment in that we have earned this recognition or dignity or responsibility; they also bring with them invisible barriers that preclude us from ever returning to where we were before the event. It seems it is an unwritten code, once you pass through this doorway…whether by choice or circumstance one rarely returns to the previous lifestyle. For a brief moment one is living on the edge, a place they have never been before and from which they cannot return. This must be why each of these events is normally celebrated with great fanfare and support from friends and family. The crossroad is one of growth and so support is offered for the newly initiated to hold onto until familiarity and strength are instilled.

Some events are not so celebratory and yet are important markers in each life such as the divorce of parents, the death of a loved one and the betrayal of a friend. Each of these confirms that no matter what, things will certainly change. When our world is smashed by the destruction of things outside our control the result is a different kind of scary; true you are in a place you have never been before and you cannot return to your previous life but it isn’t anything you have earned, you have been dealt a new hand. One that is missing the good and comfortable life you have come to know; one that has replaced your inside straight with a pair of threes. Indeed, life will never be the same after this.

There are others that will leave each person in a new place where life will once again never be the same, but are silently celebrated. This is so, because these events are seen as bringing us closer to the end and are not really seen as positive. Your children have just graduated from the university or are getting married or you have finally retired. Another milepost but what is to happen to your life now? Another scary place you have never been and this time you notice there is little fanfare about its effect on your life when compared to the other life events. These events have left you with an empty spot in your life rather than the prospect of a new exciting life. These are the events that often you have not adequately prepared for and if not handled properly could actually be the beginning of the end.

When we have gotten on the ‘other side’ of the big events it is important to see them for what they are in our life as opposed to what they are in other people’s life. Those events that are silently celebrated can be the most liberating events of all if we give them the respect and attention they deserve. For the first time in most of our lives we are free of significant obligations, we are mature, relatively healthy and about as fiscally responsible as we will ever be. In English, we are at the top of our game. Finally, here is an opportunity for us to express ourselves as only we can, to enjoy life as we may have always wanted and to share the depth of experience as never before.

Here is where we have to be sure we have properly prepared ourselves. We must be sure we have not become so enmeshed in our job or our children’s lives that we have forgotten how to stand alone; that our love of life is still satisfying to us, that our dreams and excitement about life itself are very much alive. This is the reward for all that hard work, guidance and support. It is a time for us. We must be absolutely certain that we are still there. Otherwise, these final mileposts will be pure hell moving us ever so slowly, step by step to a quiet oblivion.
E Rossopoulos
June 21, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Fairy Dust Blessing

She was a tough old bird

She was just a slightly built woman. Couldn’t have been more than five foot one and maybe 105 pounds soaking wet. She had ice cold light blue eyes that peered out over the wire rimmed glasses that sat on her slightly hooked nose. I sometimes perceived it as a beak. She was just built that way.

She had been in the waitress business all her life. From my perspective, that seemed at least sixty years. In truth it was probably more like fifty. Youth can be so unforgiving of older folks. She had a shell that was built from all the years of dealing with the nastiness that this job can dish up. That is what made her special. I knew the outside was hard, impenetrable, and invincible but I also knew that inside there was a marshmallow heart. Don’t ask me how I knew this, I just did. I respected her for it. I was my secret. I knew she was really a softy, but had to have the shell for protection, for existence itself.

I kept my distance, just in case I was wrong.

We worked together for some time. She put up with most of my youthful blunders and misplaced priorities. Sure I needed the money but I had no intention of making this my career, so I had different feelings about the job. She knew this was all she would ever do as far as a working career was concerned and she did it well. No, she did it better than anyone I had ever seen. It was pure poetry in motion to see her handle a busy breakfast.

What’ll be Sam? The usual? Yeah, Terry, three eggs sunny side up, rye toast, no butter and lots of home fries and a cup of coffee. The coffee was in front of him before he finished his order and she waltzed into the kitchen singing his order: Nick give me three on one looking at you, whiskey dry, all the way. She loved it and it showed.

I loved it too, the show. She was great. Sometimes she would talk of her daughter and how she missed having her around. She passed away several years earlier leaving only memories for Terry. She would not talk about it much, but it was clear that the memory of her relationship with her daughter was a guiding force in her life. That’s how I knew she had a marshmallow heart filling up the hard exterior shell.

Once while admiring her ability I thought I would try a little conversation. I knew that you could make more money if you worked the dinner shift instead of breakfast. It was all percentages; the tab is bigger at night. Why don’t you work the dinner shift, I asked. She said she would never work the dinner shift again. There is a certain danger for a single woman to be coming and going at those odd hours. Her daughter begged her before she passed away to promise that she would never work the night shift, that she would never take that risk. She made that promise and was honoring it.

I enjoyed watching her deal with the cranky customers too. She could handle anything, or so it seemed. It was amazing this little skinny woman was ready to take on anyone at any time. The day she dealt with the grumpiest biggest nastiest looking guy I think I have
ever seen she won me over. I’ll never forget it. This guy was just looking for trouble and was the type who would really take advantage of someone who was smaller and weaker. It was clear he was going to be dishing out grief for Terry the entire time he was here, because he could. He was a steady customer but was much grumpier than usual; she took it in the beginning. But it seemed to get harder and harder for her to ignore his insulting comments. I was curious how she was going to handle the situation, it was clear that something had to give.

Then in the way that only she could do, she walked up to him and tilted her head up so she could look him right in the eye. She pointed her right index finger at his nose and shook it in a choppy up and down motion causing the loose skin on the back of her upper arm to shake back and forth and said…Joe you need to go and take a good poop for yourself, then you’ll feel better.

It was amazing. She tamed this giant of a man and by the time he was ready to leave they were laughing and joking like old friends. He left a tip larger than anyone in the place could recall him leaving and said something about seeing her tomorrow. When he left I had to tell her how impressed I was with what she had done. She replied that sometimes she had to play rough, but usually people just want to be noticed. I guess this one needed a two by four. It worked.

E Rossopoulos 2003

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Hands of God

Back in March of 1987 I was working for an accounting firm. It was the middle of “tax season” and my work life was about as demanding as it could possibly be. Every year at this time the same thoughts would creep into my mind: I have to get out of here, this is crazy, no one should have to work this hard, there must be a better way and others. My imagination must have really taken over because I had a dream that was so vivid, moving and inspiring, I still relive it after all these years.

It was short but powerful. Everything was black; there was no background. Then two hands appeared. The hands were very similar to the insurance company that uses the prop “you’re in good hands…” I looked at them as they first appeared before me; they grew very large and then I was sitting in the middle, being held. My mind heard the phrase “You are in the hands of God” and an enormous peace that flooded over me was indescribable. I looked and saw only hands. The wrists melted into the black background. I could not detect any arms or body attached to the hands. Three days later, (through all the tax returns) I still felt the peace. The pressure that I had been going through, seemed to become meaningless. Work was something I did, it no longer ruled my life. I was enveloped in a protective cocoon and the usual angst couldn’t touch me. Still, I had questions.

The one that kept repeating itself was “Why did I have such an awe-inspiring dream when things were not really that bad right now?” My logical mind just could not fathom it. I had been through much more demanding stuff in my life, why this dream? Why now? I had no answer. I accepted it with graciousness, but I had no answer. Years passed. I still had no answer. Finally, after mountains of rationalizing, I began to understand the dreams meaning. It started with the unraveling of the limits that I was placing on the dream: timing, current circumstances, pressure of day-to-day life and detachment.

Every book that I had read on interpreting dreams and their meaning had to do with where one was in life; it is a reflection of all that is going on around you. That was the smoke screen. This dream had nothing to do with what was going at that time; it was much grander in scope. I needed to become an historian and I needed to live a little more. Meditation on how events unfolded, how things always seem to work out and how bitterness did not poison my mind played a large part in revealing the true meaning. Two years after my husband passed away and I went through the metamorphosis of becoming me all over again, it dawned on me. I still have my sanity, my sense of humor and a kind of special appreciation of life...even after this. Yes, I must be in the hands of God. How else could I have come so far?

So, I look back on the dream now with a very special appreciation. I did not grasp the depth of its meaning when it happened. Although for a week I felt as though I was a changed person. It was a “lifetime” dream. Now, suddenly everything falls into place. All the suffering through my childhood melted away. This was something that had to be, and the Hands were there. The fears and anxiety of struggling with college and subsequent professional life dissolved. Everything that was my life had been stripped away and yet I felt peace. This is omnipotent power. Knowing a power greater than what one’s own efforts can produce defies description. I have felt it and I know it is all around me and it gives me peace. As I detach from the events of life and enjoy the essence of being, everything is as it should be without much input from me. Where will all this take me is anyone’s guess. I am confident that this is the right road; the direction will be apparent at the right time. Every need will be met as the dreams meaning materializes. My burden becomes much lighter now. I need only look for direction and to point my efforts, the rest requires only patience and allowing the Hands to smooth out the wrinkles. I realize too that I am not the only one. We all are in the Hands of God. It is so much easier when we believe that.

E Rossopoulos
July 23, 2003

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Alternate plans

Dwarf Oklahoma Redbud

Italian Golden Fig

Lake Wedington was hosting the annual solar boat races this weekend, so no way was I hiking it.
My ear problem grounded me by Saturday afternoon, gave in, took a pain pill and slept the day away.
I am better today(everything is relative) and looked at my plants that almost died this April from the freeze, they have survived nicely. I think I will too!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Interesting facts...then there's that pig thing

If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months and 6 days you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee.

(Hardly seems worth it.)

If you farted consistently for 6 years and 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb.

(Now that's more like it!)

The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps out to the body to squirt blood 30 feet.


A pig's orgasm lasts 30 minutes.

(In my next life, I want to be a pig.)

A cockroach will live nine days without its head before it starves to death. (Creepy.)

(I'm still not over the pig.)

Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories a hour

(Don't try this at home, maybe at work)

The male praying mantis cannot copulate while its head is attached to its body. The female initiates sex by ripping the male's head off.

(Honey, I'm home. What the...?!)

The flea can jump 350 times its body length. It's like a human jumping the length of a football field. (30 minutes... Lucky pig! Can you imagine?)

The catfish has over 27,000 taste buds.

(What could be so tasty on the bottom of a pond?)

Some lions mate over 50 times a day.

(I still want to be a pig in my next life...quality over quantity)

Butterflies taste with their feet.

(Something I always wanted to know.)

The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.


Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people.

(If you're ambidextrous, do you split the difference?)

Elephants are the only animals that cannot jump.

(Okay, so that would be a good thing)

A cat's urine glows under a black light.

(I wonder who was paid to figure that out?)

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

( I know some people like that.)

Starfish have no brains

(I know some people like that too.)

Polar bears are left-handed.

(If they switch, they'll live a lot longer)

Humans and dolphins are the only species that have sex for pleasure.

(What about that pig??)

40 things southerners will never say

40. Oh I just couldn't. Hell, she's only sixteen.
39. I'll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex.
38. Duct tape won't fix that.
37. Lisa Marie was lucky to catch Michael.
36. Come to think of it, I'll have a Heineken.
35. We don't keep firearms in this house.
34. Has anybody seen the sideburns trimmer?
33. You can't feed that to the dog.
32. I thought Graceland was tacky.
31. No kids in the back of the pickup, it's just not safe.
30. Wrasslin's fake.
29. Honey, did you mail that donation to Greenpeace?
28. We're vegetarians.
27. Do you think my gut is too big?
26. I'll have grapefruit and grapes instead of
biscuits and gravy.
25. Honey, we don't need another dog.
24. Who's Richard Petty?
23. Give me the small bag of pork rinds.
22. Too many deer heads detract from the decor.
21. Spittin is such a nasty habit.
20. I just couldn't find a thing at Walmart today.
19. Trim the fat off that steak.
18. Cappuccino tastes better than espresso.
17. The tires on that truck are too big.
16. I'll have the arugula and radicchio salad.
15. I've got it all on the C drive.
14. Unsweetened tea tastes better.
13. Would you like your salmon poached or broiled?
12. My fiance, Bobbie Jo, is registered at Tiffany's.
11. I've got two cases of Zima for the Super Bowl.
10. Little Debbie snack cakes have too many fat grams.
09. Checkmate.
08. She's too young to be wearing a bikini.
07. Does the salad bar have bean sprouts?
06. Hey, here's an episode of "Hee Haw" that we
haven't seen.
05. I don't have a favorite college team.
04. Be sure to bring my salad dressing on the side.
03. I believe you cooked those green beans too long.
02. Those shorts ought to be a little longer, Darla.
01. Nope, no more for me. I'm drivin tonight.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I signed up for a trip to Soquel, California; it is just below San Francisco and near enough to the coast to get the cool but foggy morning weather and spectacular afternoon sunshine. The sponsor, Elderhostel, is an organization whose purpose is to provide interesting yet educational travel programs to varied destinations, for seniors. It was late August; the transition from summer to fall. Appropriate enough for the program I was attending: “Living, Aging and Dying,” which was being presented at a Buddhist Center located in a mountainous area populated with redwoods.

Everyone attends this kind of program for a particular reason. The question was asked by one of the early presenters, in order to get an idea of what prompted a group of oldsters to spend precious time on this presumably morbid topic. The answers from the audience ran the gamut of those who were seeking meaning at the end of life, those who were still seeking the meaning of life, husbands who were pleasing their wives by acquiescing to this week long program, those who simply wanted to get away to this particular location and the rest seemed to be a kind of blend of them all. I was in the latter group.

The program offered several different yet related activities which included: early morning meditation and chanting in the temple area of the private retreat, daily Qi Gong lessons, stress reduction through self massage, nature walks through the 170 acres of redwood forest, acupressure, discussion of meditation techniques, key Buddhist principals as they relate to living, aging and dying and all the vegetarian meals one could hope for. This was not a program for the faint of heart. There was only one public phone on the property; cell phones would not work because access to a tower was not available, no television or radio and evening activities ended by 8:30 most nights. Clearly, one must be rather devoted to the cause to find comfort or a growth experience under these circumstances. Most were.

It was the afternoon of day two of the five day program. A nature hike was scheduled for the group; we would walk up the mountain around a loop in the redwood forest, to a future shrine site and then finally to a memorial shrine which contained a Buddha statue easily 25 feet tall and was a place, for those who chose, to store the ashes of loved ones. Most of the group went, some opted for a pre-planned golf outing (not part of the program) others idled by the pool or signed up for a massage. We learned about the plant life in the area and how far straight up a steep hill we could walk before a stop was in order. It took three stops to reach the top. It always amazes me how much seemingly old people can do. Once we got to more or less level ground, there were several built-in resting/meditation stops along the loop, complete with bench and a sign with philosophical phrases. I took a picture of each one, mostly for future reference and to avoid switching from sunglasses to bifocals be able to read each one. This is just another one of the annoyances of getting older.

The hike had taken about an hour as we approached the last stop: The Memorial Shrine. This was clearly a special place, surrounded by Tibetan Prayer flags, a parking lot off to the left and flower gardens at each corner of the temple, which was surrounded by a raised wooden deck, which served as an entry to the building. I got off the walkway and snapped a few pictures of the garden, got to the deck and realized I needed to remove my sneakers if I wanted entry into the Shrine. No problem. Then I saw the Giant Buddha. It was awesome. I had to get a picture, but it was too large so I lay on the floor and pointed upward; I got most of it. What a moving experience; a truly a holy and mystical place. That is when I realized it. I had lost my reading glasses.

They were no longer hanging from the collar of my sweatshirt. I performed a panic pat down, hoping they were in a pocket, on a belt loop or anywhere, but they were definitely gone. I frantically looked around the room, by all the shoes just outside the door and they were no where to be seen. We needed to get back to the retreat center for the next scheduled program.

I mentally reviewed all my actions before the hike. Maybe I never took them. We were walking in bright sun after all. Maybe I had left them in the room…I thought to myself doubtfully. It was consolation enough to get me back to the center, but a scan of my room confirmed they were most definitely lost. It would be impossible to write anything now and difficult to see well in the remaining classes. I was trying to decide what the next step should be when a fellow retreat member, Joan offered to repeat the hike we had just made at the end of this next program. It would still be light enough. The plan gave me some comfort, as I tried to pay attention to the presentation on massage for stress reduction. I could use a little stress reduction right now.

We scurried back up the steep hill and retraced our steps in reverse order. We decided not to go to the Shrine, since that is where I realized I had lost them and the area was pretty well scoured already. We reasoned that it wasn’t likely that they would be there. Rest stop by rest stop, we walked and looked and prodded and poked but we were not successful. We returned to the retreat center in time for dinner and the next session. I was starting to think about a plan B solution.

During the next session, I thought if it were possible to find a place that makes prescription glasses in an hour, I could get an exam and have a new pair made in the next afternoon, since we were going to have some free time then anyway. At the break I asked if there was a listing in the local phone book of such a place. There was, and I had a workable solution in mind. Joan suggested we meet at 7 AM and do the entire hike again when it was lighter. I was willing and happy for the company. I reasoned to myself everything would be covered with dew and things might be easier to see then. For now I had to get through this session without taking notes.

We started at different times but still met at the top of the hill at just after 7. I brought the six foot walking stick with me for protection. You never know when a gopher or a rabbit might pop out of the woods. We did the hike in the same order that it was originally presented. We took our time at each rest stop, thinking they may have gotten worked into the mulch that was around each bench. Still nothing. Just because, I suggested that we go back to the Shrine. Maybe they were in a corner or someplace that I hadn’t looked yesterday, Joan was ok with that. So we looked again. I went off the path in the same place I had yesterday, took pretend pictures to repeat the same actions. Went to the deck looked all around. Still nothing. Well, it was at this point that I realized they were lost yesterday, and so I was ready to accept it. I admitted it out loud as we started walking the path that led to the road that would take us back to the retreat center: “OK, I accept it, they are gone.” We consoled ourselves by saying we did the best we could and moved on. I was walking in front of Joan and she had stopped to read the prayer flags that hung over the walkway.

They were a bit different than any of the others I had seen at the center. These had stenciled figures of animals and plants and little handwritten prayers on them. Each one was unique and seemingly written by a child. These must be for the ashes enshrined in the Memorial Shrine behind us, I thought to myself. They were so heartfelt that I had to step back a read a few myself. They were positioned a couple of feet above our heads and so were hard to see. One said: I wish that all animals would not die. Another said I wish happiness for everyone. I had moved to the right of Joan and the path and read one for myself. It said: I wish for my mommy.

I paused and then said, “me too.”

I looked down on the ground to the right and there were my dew covered glasses.

By: E Rossopoulos

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One Man's Trash...

Today is garbage day and I couldn't help but remember this incident of a few years ago:

Driving home recently I noticed a mattress and box-spring set placed beside the road presumably for the trash men to take it away. It reminded me of a similar circumstance a friend of mine had years ago. She had called and asked if we could help her. She had been renting out a spare room for several years and the lady moved out leaving an old mattress and box-spring set behind. It was definitely past its prime and too much for one person to carry.

We were happy to help bring it out for pick up. It was one of the most used mattresses I had ever seen. The middle was totally mashed down and only about three inches thick. It spread close to the perimeter, which still maintained some semblance of the original nine-inch depth. The original color of the cover was no longer discernable. It was now superimposed stain upon stain. While I didn’t say anything, I thought it would be a good idea to really wash up after this task was finished.

We visited for a bit afterward. Two hours had passed and as we were saying our goodbyes I looked at the spot where the mattress was and some people had actually slowed down to assess it. It actually looked as though they might take it. I thought to myself that the old axiom must be true: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Still, we had difficulty believing that anyone could possibly find any mileage left in it, it was really used up. What did we know? There are apparently very needy people in the world. They drove on slowly.

Shortly after we got home the telephone rang. It was my friend. She was very excited. The people that slowed down to look at the mattress had actually come back with a pickup truck to tote the thing away. Unbelievable.

Several hours later the telephone rang. It was my friend. She was laughing, I actually had to wait for her to calm down before I could understand what she was trying to say. She said, “They brought it back.”

Sometimes one man’s trash is just that…trash.

E. Rossopoulos

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Original Musings from the String Bean Patch

The String Bean Patch

“You’ll be doing Grandma a real big favor, if you go on out there and pick all the beans that are ready in the green bean patch.” Grandma had a way with words. I believed that no one could pick the beans the way I did. It was an honor to do it too, because I knew she had special plans for the ones that I picked. They would be delicious, no matter how she would make them. Off I went, bucket in hand, to my enchanted place.

The vegetable garden was outside to the left in the back of the house. The bean patch was at the far end. It had to be that way because the beans grew taller than anything else. Being on the far perimeter of the plot; they would not block the sun from the other vegetables. Where the bean patch was located, wasn’t anything that I gave any thought to at the time. It was far enough for me to dream and close enough for me to see everything else that was going on. No one else would have seen it quite the way I did. It was a haven, a safe place to be, dream and imagine life as an enchantment. It was perfect.

The primary mission was beans and the journey would take me past the herbs and lettuce, beyond the tomatoes, through the peas and around the carrots and finally to the beans. I always started at the end closest to the house, so I would be seen picking right away. That way I would have peace and quiet for my visit to the bean patch.

The bucket filled quickly because the crop was always abundant. Picking beans was a lot like going to church for me; I reflected on the process. Planting the dried beans in the spring when everything was still gray and cold was a clear demonstration of faith, but the warm days that followed would awaken the beans and sprouts would shoot up as if by magic. They were the fastest growing plants in the garden and I believed that if I watched them closely enough, I could see them grow. With a bucket almost full, I sat down to try it. Never did see them grow but my musings about life blossomed every time I tried.

I wondered about clouds. What would it be like to sit in the middle of a big fluffy one and float around the world? Imagine stopping it when and where I wanted, so I could step off and see what things were like in other countries; then get back on and float away again.

Occasionally a garter snake would appear and I would wonder how they lived and why they had no fear. I was much bigger and yet they were content to slither around my arms and hands then go on their merry way. Birds were the same. They would stand right next to me and peck at the ground, happily chirping away, munching on a worm or bug and then fly away when the spirit moved them. These were my great fantasies.

I wondered about people too; in general people did not seem happy. This was a big mystery to me. It seemed everyone always wanted something that they did not have. It could be money, things, relationships or a host of things. Every time I overheard conversations, I would hear talk about not having something or someone else having it instead. So I would try to personalize these desires to understand what they meant. I couldn’t.

I would try to imagine what would make life better. These were tough questions that I was pondering. It was the same whether it was on a global scale or between neighbors. People just disagreed. Well there you have it. I would get on my cloud and help people become more agreeable. Happiness was sure to follow. Those mental journeys were always fun for me. I was still young enough to imagine away any troubles, and wise enough to know that down the road life could dish up serious stuff.

These flights of fantasy were possible because in the green bean patch I believed I was safe from anything that could happen in life and I was surrounded by love. I needed nothing else. They began at the very best stage of my life and allowed me the creativity to innocently question some of life’s toughest conundrums. The answers that I found in the green bean patch were not the end-all solutions; they were the beginnings. Though the green bean patch is long gone, my lifelong search for answers continues still. I believe I am getting closer.

Ellen Rossopoulos
August 2002

Don Zeiller author of "So, You Like Turtles"

Evan, my neighbor, learning all about turtles from Don.

You’ve built a what?

I thought I was hearing things when you said you built a turtle sanctuary in your back yard. Pictures ran through my mind of your entire yard being a turtle cage. Why would someone do it, how would they do it, aren’t turtles on some endangered species list? Don’t turtles live to be 130 years old and more? Who will take it over when you are no longer here to care for them? Oh, the list of questions goes on and on.

It started when you were a little boy playing in the empty field that is behind my office. Just a toddler of five or so and in your romping imagination through the field you came face-to-face with your first box turtle. I too, know that love at first sight can be quite overpowering. Surely it was infatuation, something that would fade as other more exciting things came to you. No, this was real. This was love at first sight and it was meant to last a lifetime.

Studying turtles was not enough to satiate your appetite. On the contrary, when you found out that turtles have more natural enemies than most creatures and that the ever-expanding suburbia was destroying their natural habitats faster than they could find a new safe place to survive, the mission became apparent. You must build a sanctuary for the little ones to grow and flourish, away from crushing automobile tires, raccoons, birds, woodchucks and a host of other animals that can live quite nicely with people and on turtle meat.

When I visited your sanctuary, I tried very hard not to have any predetermined ideas about its appearance or how many turtles lived there. I wanted my experience to be pure. I wanted to absorb the essence of the place. I knew it would be a special experience. I was right.

Your sanctuary has everything a turtle needs for life: A place to be born, a head start enclosure where the little ones grow unencumbered from the threats of a normal everyday life. It is a place where a larger, more natural surrounding is open to the older turtle to romp around and play with other turtles of a similar age. All the while you keep a watchful eye to make sure everyone is well, growing and protected.

The larger turtles aged are free to walk the entire sanctuary at will. The perimeter is caged and safe from any natural predator and inside they have a choice of two ponds, various vegetation areas and assorted places to sun themselves. Mulch banks are everywhere, should the urge come to hibernate or just hunker down for a while. This is turtle heaven. Too bad a turtle can’t smile, because if they could, these guys would be grinning all the time. The sanctuary is home to turtles of all ages and varieties too, painted pond turtles, spotted turtles, box turtles and wood turtles. Wow, it boggles the mind.

I remember once walking in the forest with my dog and we came across a box turtle on its back. I felt sorry for it. It was just lying there hopeless with its legs in the air. No chance of it turning over in the position that it was in. You taught me that turtles that have been fighting for territory, and lose often end up like that. I turned the little guy over and felt like I really did a good deed that day, maybe so, if turtles live to be 130 years old. Or maybe he lived long enough to lose another territorial fight the following day. No matter, I felt that tinge of love at first sight and know what it feels like to help a turtle.

There may be more earth-shattering things to do in one’s lifetime…open-heart surgery, atom-splitting or running a fortune 500 corporation, but I doubt that any are more rewarding than your sanctuary. You have begun the care and feeding of a species that outlive the average human being, talk about a legacy! Having visited it and seeing how you have made provision for every need, even the eventual hand off to a nature center, when the time is right, is a testament to your dedication.

Turtles of the world unite, give thanks! Turtle-man is here and life is good.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

NW Arkansas Botanical Gardens

I actually found this place by accident, I was looking for the entrance to a park with a 5mile walking trail.
Since I had been wanting to visit it for some time, I stopped to check it out. When it is done it will be wonderful, but for now there are only small sections that have finished plantings and all the rock formations and water falls are under construction.
The childrens area has a bridge, a nest to play in, waterfalls and hollowed out 'tree trunks' for hide and seek.
I may have enjoyed it more today than later when done, because today, I imagined how it would be finished, the reality will likely be something entirely different.
Never took the hike, went printer and car shopping instead.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


This is my pet Cockatiel. KC which stands for kisses and cuddles, since he is so affectionate. We do all sorts of things together, like sing, whistle, dance and share meals. He is way more fun than I thought a bird could possibly be. I know it is a boy bird 'cause he hates the vacuum and can't stand to do dishes.

KC: Stay tuned for how she came to purchase me...

You need something alive in the house

During my early working career I dreamed of having a dog. There is something about animal love that is different than people love. Remembering the dog I had as a child brought back so many happy memories, the desire to have one again just wouldn’t go away. Each time the urge came over me I was able to put it off by reasoning why “now” was not the right time.

If you really love the dog, how can you think of leaving it alone for so many hours everyday when you work? Are you sure you want to destroy your nice furnishings? Who will watch him when you travel on business and vacations? You are going to walk it everyday in the rain and snow? Is it fair to the animal? Is it fair to you? What would your husband say about it? All these questions I easily answered in the negative and could comfortably put off any further decisions on dogs until retirement was a real possibility.

Time passed and I became a widow. I saw my life through a shattered prism. I learned the meaning of grief and the soul searching that is required curriculum. I discovered the differences between alone and lonely, two very different things. I questioned my very existence and whether it should continue or not. I went to therapy.

Therapy is interesting. You get to share your innermost pain, happiness and fear. When you think you have established some kind of relationship with the therapist, they ask you a question that is so off the wall, that you wonder where it came from. I had just gone through, in gory detail, the events leading to my husband’s death. I talked about how I was holding up…I talked about how I wasn’t holding up. Yes, I love my job. It keeps me sane. Yes my friends are very supportive. Yes I go out and do things like shop, eat, visit with friends and see a movie.

What’s that? Who lives with me? No one.

Pets? No, I don’t have any.

That began a lengthy discussion about how I needed something alive in the house. The first suggestion was a dog. I had all the answers for that argument; I went through it so many times before. But she wouldn’t let up. She said, “What about a cat?” No I don’t want my sofa ripped to shreds. She said, “What about a fish?” The conversation in my mind was now bordering on pathetic. How could I get close to a fish, I wondered? I simply said no, I don’t think so. I suggested that we talk about some of the real problems that I was going through.

So, we talked some about widowhood. Then in the middle of the discussion, she said, “You should get yourself a cockatiel.” I said, “I don’t think so” and tried to get on with the conversation. Couldn’t she see I needed to talk about this other stuff? What is it with therapists anyway? Finally, back to the previous discussion, I thought I was making progress. The therapist was asking relevant questions and we were moving through the topic. As the conversation was coming to an end, the idea of a cockatiel began to appeal to me. I said, “A cockatiel, huh?” The therapist responded with a dry, matter-of-fact “Yes, they are very good companions and don’t require much attention.” Humm.

The hour was almost up and I found I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. As we said our goodbyes, I said I would think about it. “Yes, think about it indeed. Kazimirs on Anderson is a great little pet shop, go there and ask about Cockatiels,” she said.

I went to several stores looking for Cockatiels and had discussions about them with people in each shop. I learned a lot about these birds and became more comfortable with the idea of having one, but, of course, it would have to pass my standard pet argument list that I used so many times to put off getting a dog. Mentally running through the list, I ticked off each one and found that I ended up with a definite maybe on getting the bird. I began to get excited about it.

I returned to Kazimirs and put the plan of acquisition into place. They had a breeder that lived close by and would let me know when the next brood would be ready to leave the nest. A colleague told me to be sure to get one that likes me, otherwise I could be asking for big trouble. I wasn’t sure how I would do that, but the warning stuck in my brain.

The weeks seemed like forever and finally the call came that four birds were ready to be sold. They would be available at the end of the week. I went to the store that day to get all the paraphernalia that would be needed: the cage, food, toys, millet sprays, and a variety of other things. In the three days it took me to fit the trip into my schedule to pick mine out; two had already been taken. Panic started to take over in my mind. Only two birds left and one of them has to like me.

I went directly to the store after work and began the arduous task, still not knowing how I was going to figure out if the bird liked me or not. I saw them instantly, both gorgeous. “How am I ever going to pick which one is for me?” I wondered. The owner showed me the birds and said, “Which one do you want?” The time had come…which one? I had no clue but had faith that somehow there would be a sign and I would know. So I took my time, I looked at each of them and tried to decide. I could not. They were both perfect. Just when I was about to say either would do, the one in the back made a loud screech. The rest was easy. I took the other one.

She was right you know. The therapist, I mean. I did need something alive in the house. The bird has really made a difference in my life. There is most definitely something about animal love. Yes, the bird likes me and we have a great relationship. Another baby step in this forlorn journey of widowhood. It’s just the two of us making our way in this our new life together. Thank you Kazimirs.

Copyright 2002
E Rossopoulos

Tuesday, June 5, 2007



from the ashes of a burned out life
a lonely ember flickers and struggles to be
not grow and take over
but exist among the ruins
for as long as it takes

to become a whole being
able to love, share, comfort, excite
depend, nourish, grow and meld
with a kindred spirit

Allowing the heart to speak
the silent language of love
through touch, space and time
allowing the flesh physical expression
of our hearts unbounded joy and peace

In Mexico, the connections first spark.
Last week as we came to know
our passion driven hearts and
Now, when I picture your face and
imagine your touch
my heart has substance, to build a love
strong and tender, ethereally solid and
joyously sacred.

E Rossopoulos
copyright June 7, 2007

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Volo Bog hike

We hiked the periphery of the Volo Bog area which is about 3.5 miles long; there is a shorter interpretive trail into the bog at 0.5 miles.

The bog itself is surounded by beautiful prairie grass, tried to capture it as best I could.