On Vacationing

There was no way to personally search for the extra camera memory card. I’m sure I lost it in the rental car. I was returning from vacationing in Toronto, so I couldn’t return to the rental agency to request that they search for it. I was sitting in a cramped seat in coach in an Airbus A320 somewhere over Wisconsin when I decided to review some images on my camera.

I double and triple checked the camera bag and the small, zippered pockets that provided protection for small accessories like memory cards and lens cleaning wipes. I had last opened the camera bag inside the rental car before checking out at the airport.

Oh well. Thankfully, my trusty diary was safe and sound in another compartment of the camera bag. I always carry a small notebook wherever I travel because of my obsession with keeping track of my daily activities. Although photographs are preferable for vacation documentation, rough descriptions in a diary or journal work well enough to jog the memory. That said, at least the regular memory card contained plenty of other images of my old college buddy, Andy, who had invited me for a visit. There were dozens of photos of him, his circle of friends and some hot spots around the Toronto area.

Being retired, my vacations are usually not of the traditional type that I enjoyed when I took breaks from my job. Normally, I take short day-trips to places just bordering the Northeast Nebraska area I call home. I’ve been known to hop in the car early in the morning and drive to Valentine. The drive takes the lion’s share of the day-that’s why I start out so early.

Valentine is a small town in the largest Nebraska county. It’s situated near the South Dakota border, adjacent to the Niobrara River. I like to stay overnight at one of the mom and pop motels. The mini-vacations at the familiar getaway are welcome breaks from my usual daily routine. Also, I like to stargaze. Rural Cherry County is one of the darkest places in North America. There is little to no light pollution there. The raw, dark sky is at once beautiful and intimidating. I am reminded that I occupy only a tiny conscious place in the Universe whenever I meditate upon the sky over rural Cherry County.

One of the best parts of vacationing is the break from cooking. Wherever I travel, there are restaurants and cafes to check out. I prefer the small, independent eateries instead of the major chains. Small business restaurants offer regional specialties and homey atmosphere. They don’t have to be fancy or luxurious in order to provide a pleasant dining experience. For instance, if you haven’t eaten lunch in a mom and pop cafe or coffee shop located on Main Street, small town USA, you’re missing out on local culture. The food is close to homemade, and the service is friendly and genuinely personal.

Due to Covid, I haven’t been to Valentine for over a year, so I’m anticipating a daytrip later this year. I don’t plan to do anything particularly special. There are a couple of small waterfalls to see mixed in with the otherwise very flat landscape. It’s the dark yet starry sky I really like to see.


The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a quote from the world’s wealthiest person, Jeff Bezos. “The one thing that offends me the most is when I walk by a bank and see ads trying to convince people to take out second mortgages on their home so they can go on vacation. That’s approaching evil.”

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The dark makes the light meaningful. Negative allows the positive to become electricity. Tension is relieved by calm. Error is corrected by truth. Our mental worlds exist in a sea of opposing concepts.

Sometimes when the mind is idle, it’s fun to list pairs of opposites. People have probably been doing so since the dawn of time. The most obvious pair was likely that of night and day. The night must have been a very frightening time. Before the discovery of fire-making, there were none of the convenient light sources we take for granted today. On dark, cloudy nights, there was not even the security of the Full Moon, nor the glow of stars.

During the day, the mysteries of the night were revealed. People could see the dangers that lurked at night. It’s easy to understand how humanity’s concepts of evil and good were conceived. We use the contrast between evil and good as benchmarks for our belief systems and codes of ethics.

A couple of weeks ago, was that infamous Wednesday when the forces of ignorance and extremism were engaged to engulf the minds of seditionists towards violence against the “temple of American democracy”. I remembered an old saying by an ancient philosopher whose name I cannot recall. The sage reflected that violence and power are opposite notions. Violence is useful where power is threatened. When violence degenerates to anarchy, power disappears. The sage reminds us that where one rules, the other is absent. The violence of that Wednesday was a destructive stew of vanity that was served up to the world at the end of a political regime.

There is the popular notion that claims opposites attract each other. There is some truth to this. On the physical level, we say nature abhors a vacuum. Negative and positive poles exist on magnets. Dark is the absence of light just as cold is the absence of heat.

Have you ever pondered the extremes of such opposites? What would absolute darkness look like? Is there such a thing as absolute light? Science has determined that absolute zero is as cold as is possible–that would be the total absence of energy. One wonders if there is such a thing as ultimate brightness. This is difficult to imagine because we risk blindness at light intensity far less than that of the Sun. The Sun emits “dimmer” light than many other, much more intense stars.

Similar effects apply to cold and heat. The far reaches of Outer Space have temperatures approaching absolute zero. Do the most active, unstable stars have temperatures approaching some sort of absolute heat? The mind can engage is this sort of mental play for hours on end. I can only guess at the types of opposing concepts people the likes of Stephen Hawking ponder daily in their minds.

Today is Opposite Day, an unofficial holiday that celebrates the contrasts of our lives. We can take this celebration beyond the its light-hearted intent. We can contemplate deep truths that are revealed by studying extremes of dialectics. Profound, golden nuggets of wisdom can be discovered by contemplating opposites and the combinations of them. After all, we live in a world that is not all black and white.

Enjoy your Opposite Day, or don’t.


The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from 20th century novelist, poet, and painter, Hermann Hesse. “Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.”

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Viable humans have four qualities that enable freedom: consciousness, self-awareness, creative imagination, and independent will. Together, these give us the power to respond, to choose, to adapt, and to evolve our views. These qualities are manifestations of mental clarity and intelligence. We display them according to circumstance and need.

It is best to use our intellect and objective discernment as we encounter situations in our daily lives. While we are flexible and open to opinions from others, we remain grounded by setting boundaries around our sense of independence. At the same time, compassion and empathy are present in the mind; they provide a backdrop for effective, humane, yet independent thought and action.

Being able to objectively sense the what, when, where, who, and how of events allows us to become like a journalist in making sense of our surroundings and better understand our fellow humans. This type of thinking allows us to intellectually and emotionally connect with others without needing to follow lock-step every legal social demand.

When discernment is engaged, we can listen to the opinions and viewpoints of other people as we seek the truth. We’re able to sift out the hype and misinformation as we get to the heart of what’s important. We interact with people yet decipher their essential truthfulness and reject their falsehoods.

Often, through trial and error, we develop resilience and learn how to set clear personal boundaries. We call out people who trespass our boundaries firmly but not violently. We value our independence so we establish expectations as to how we wish to be treated and dealt with.

In so much that it’s easy to let emotions cloud over our effectiveness. Mental clarity allows us to figure out how our emotions distort perception and diminishes our objectivity. With this in mind, we learn how and when to use our intellect more and also determine which cases we need to use our hearts more. It’s wise to be alert to cues and signals to better understand what is happening in order to independently form the best decisions.

To many people, such an approach might seem cold and detached. However, they are unaware of the emotion and compassion we have deep inside. We don’t need to gush with emotion at the drop of the hat. Our empathy remains an ingredient while using assertion, discernment, objectivity, and careful consideration of other alternatives. The balance of heartfelt emotion with a cool head will serve others and ourselves better in the end.

It is entirely possible to understand the wheeling and dealing of the world without being off-putting and jaded. We maintain friendships and supporters. We can be independent, viable people without being intolerant, mean, and narrow-minded. The wise person discovers the balance between isolation and gregariousness and how to tweak this balance as needed. As we learn how to implement this balance we become not only respectable and respect others; but we effectively act on our own as necessary.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th-20th century Austrian architect, esotericist, social reformer, and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. “A philosophy of freedom must set out from the experience of thinking, for it is through this experience of thinking that a human being discovers his own self, finds his bearings as an independent personality.”

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On My Handwriting

Have you ever pondered your handwriting and tried to analyze it? Are there variations on its appearance at different times of day or when you’re under stress? Mine is smoother when I’m calm and more erratic after performing strenuous physical work. This is why I prefer waiting for an hour or so after heavy working before writing in my diary. This quirk came to mind yesterday, following some minor house redecorating chores then trying to write down a quick memo.

I remembered that regardless of the state of stress or relaxation, my signature is fairly consistent. It’s relatively easy to forge. The office manager at one of my former workplaces routinely forged my signature onto the weekly hourly time sheets that must be submitted so we could get paid. She mentioned this to me each time I’d forgotten to turn in a weekly report. We’d both chuckle about it because I couldn’t distinguish between my signature and her copy of my signature. I suppose a forensic handwriting handwriting expert could do so.

Although my signature is smooth, flowing, and maybe easy to replicate, my handwriting, in general, looks somewhat childish and artless. I used to use a block-printing style when writing memos, letters, and diary entries. However, a couple of years ago, I decided to revert back to cursive. Both my printing and cursive look awkward; but cursive is a much faster way to write. My cursive style is basically unchanged from its appearance during my high school years. This is mildly frustrating.

When using cursive in my default English language, I scrawl it quickly. When practicing Cyrillic cursive, I crawl slowly due to its personally relative unfamiliarity. Russian cursive is difficult to read, so I use hand printing when practicing language drills. My Cyrillic writing is quite primitive appearing.

In my opinion, it seems like our handwriting skills are suffering because of the prevalence of electronic devices. Tapping out emails, documents, and so forth is more efficient than handwriting or hand printing. Voice to text is handy and is a blessing for people with disabilities. Yet the keyboard’s ease is leading to the demise of personal handwriting.

A raft of simple skills are going down the same black hole. I used to be reasonably skilled at mentally calculating arithmetic problems. Using a calculator or calculator app has become a crutch that has diminished my math skills. The same goes for remembering my friends’ phone numbers. Caller lists have changed the need to memorize them. I do have a conventional Rolodex that contains names, addresses, and phone numbers hand-printed onto individual cards. It’s good to use one of those or keep an old-fashioned address book to physically write in names and numbers. Redundancy is a good thing.

Today, as I ponder a journal entry, I wish my handwriting was as smooth, flowing, and ascetically beautiful as the cursive some of my older relatives and friends have. My paternal grandmother was a schoolteacher with impeccable, English-style cursive skills. Her handwriting was nearly like calligraphy because she usually wrote with a fountain pen. The writing was pretty and it was easy to read. Evidently, fluid cursive is not an inherited trait.

With a lot of time and effort, my handwriting could probably improve. That’s a great suggestion, but I simply don’t have the time to devote to it. I guess handwriting isn’t a high enough priority.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes, the late filmmaker, visual artist, critic, playwright, and poet, Jean Cocteau. “Poets don’t draw. They unravel their handwriting and then tie it up again, but differently.”

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Basic Simplicity …Floral Friday

The timing, the conditions, and the materials all fell into place to help this week’s Floral Friday to work out according to plan. The basic idea was to assemble very simple arrangements using materials I already had on hand utilizing containers that have been in storage totes in the basement during the past few years. Then pose the projects as minimalist still-life displays.

The plan went off without a hitch with an added bonus. The day featured a cloudless sky allowing the effect of full sunshine reflecting on pristine white snow. The light coming through the windows was ideal for totally natural light photography. Who could ask for more?

The first project features a vintage McCoy wishing well planter. The inscription around the tiny pot reads, “Oh Wishing Well, Grant A Wish To Me.” I rooted a small houseplant inside the container. Some pocket change awaits my wishing session.

A loose cluster of small poppies livens up the room while nestled in the burnt orange department store vase. The Hotei statuette takes refuge beneath the flowers.

The mid-century vintage, gold trimmed, butterscotch glazed, Holley Ross pitcher vase features a modest stem of Camellia flowers. The gifted cat figurine is a hand-decorated collectible from Japan.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 18th century English portrait painter, Joshua Reynolds. “Simplicity is an exact medium between too little and too much.”

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The Hugging Has Been Canceled

It’s been a couple of months shy of a year since the pandemic abridged many of our personal and social niceties. One of those that I greatly miss is hugging my friends. I’m a very tactile person. I like to get hugged by family and friends; and I like to hug them in return. It doesn’t matter if it’s one to one hugging or a group hug; I’m all for hugging.

I want to believe those experts who claim that hugging is healthy for us. Hugging my family members, hugging my boyfriend, hugging my pals, and gently hugging a pet feels calming and reassuring.

Hugs are a way of expressing affection and empathy. A sincere hug is welcome at times of joy and times of sorrow. Think of all the hugging that happens at weddings and at funerals. Hugging is an instinctive, powerful way to communicate deep feelings for which words are insufficient. A simple hug expresses a primal need to physically show comradery and caring. Regarding the communication of positive emotion, there is nothing more powerful than a sincere, strong hug.

There is a special something about an innocent hug that warms the heart and makes life seem a little bit better. That’s why I like the family custom of hugging as a form of greeting when saying “hello” and upon saying “goodbye”. The farewell hugs always seem to last longer than the hello hugs. Even after the hug has physically ended, the memory of it lingers afterwards.

A former boyfriend, who was killed in a traffic accident many years ago, taught me an important practice regarding hugging and quarrels. Takeo believed that if either one of us felt anger or frustration towards the other, we should sincerely exchange hugs. The frustrated partner hug felt somewhat different than the happy hug. The frustrated partner hug wasn’t aggressive, but it was tighter and lasted longer. Even if words were not spoken, I could readily tell the degree of anger Takeo felt towards me. He said it worked the same for him. One beautiful thing about those hugs, is that they usually culminated in heart to heart talks. That said, I’m glad our affectionate hugs far outnumbered our frustrated partner hugs.

An interesting observation can be made if you are paying full attention to the other person during a hug. That is the aroma of the person. It’s not about the cologne, or soap, or any topically applied medication. There’s a very subtle, natural fragrance that comes through. Perhaps it is endorphins or some such biological mechanism. When you hug a significant other or close friend there’s a particular note in his aroma that signals whether or not he’s a member of your tribe. This comes through at a primal level that is difficult to put into words. That particular note of aroma is just more noticeable when hugging happens.

There are many reasons I’ll be glad when the pandemic passes and we can live somewhat normally again. Hugging will no longer increase our risk of passing along the deadly virus. After all, the world is a crazy, harsh mess. Our lives are difficult enough. To be able to confidently, safely hug our loved ones and friends every day will once again greatly enhance our lives. After all, hugging is one of the best uses of arms. When we wrap them around a special person, we give our emotional support and love.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Indian movie actress and fashion model, Tejaswi Madivada. “I like hugging, holding hands or monkeying around with the people I like. That’s my way of letting them know I like them.”

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Pondering Unity

“Where there is unity, there is always victory.”–Ancient Roman writer, Publilius Syrus

We generally assume that unity is a social virtue that is used to build a better society, achieve social justice, and benefit humanity. We hear a stirring speech that urges unity among the audience members and we feel “warm fuzzies” and inspiration to move forward with our dreams.

After carefully analyzing the concept of unity, one realizes that unity is values-neutral behavior. Ie. I may join with like-minded citizens in the struggle for our equal rights and responsibilities. Similar unified effort is adopted by our adversaries. The efforts both for and against civil rights are strengthened by unity. In my mind, unity can be used either for uplifting or repressive goals. If my adversaries’ unity enables their victory, their use of unity worked against my hopes and dreams.

Social movements of all varieties are energized by ideals and buzzwords. We are stirred to action by leaders who proclaim the goodness of freedom, justice, overcoming oppression, wisdom, beauty, and unity. At their cores, such words represent positive qualities. However, when tossed into politically inspired word-salad, they become mere slogans and Internet memes. Such slogans are equally useful tools in service of non-violent social movements and groups who rely upon force and violence. Unity has proven to be the most useful tool for organizers of groups of all types.

Unity is held in high esteem by us because we are social creatures. To work in concert with other like-minded people is rewarding and gratifying. In supporting the interest of the group, the individual receives feedback that supports her or his personal interest. Together, the collection of individuals finds it easier to effectively work towards “worthy” ends.

Social groups such as corporations, religions, political parties, activist organizations, and families strive towards unity. The harmonious efforts and beliefs serve to motivate each individual towards completion of a common goal. Organized, unified effort is not only efficient, it is emotionally satisfying to the participants. When we work together with others, we feel a sense of belonging. We are comrades or brothers and sisters fighting the good fight.

Human history demonstrates that unity equals strength. People have overcome adversity when individuals downplay differences and stress the common goals. More often than not, the combined strength has brought about change.

When all things together are considered, the concept of unity is not just a mere buzzword. In its most positive, helpful sense, unity is both a state of mind and a social tool in service of the common good. It behooves us to use discernment when deciding whether or not to join a social group.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Christian apologist writer, Ravi Zacharias. “Where destruction is the motive, unity is dangerous. For example, if I have evil intent and I galvanize that evil intent with many others, the capacity to destroy is immense. Where goodness is the motive, unity is phenomenal and actually has some good issues to it.”

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