A Rose Is A Rose By Any Other Name? Not Quite: How perception doesn’t equal truth

 

Arctotis_stoechadifolia_P._J._Bergius,_Frühlingsblüte_West_Coast_N.P._P1030626

I’m studying a picture of an Arctotis Stoechadifolia, or an African daisy. Characteristics of the plant aren’t different from any other daisy I’m familiar with—elongated petals in a sunray around a dark bulbous button—it’s a daisy. According to Wikipedia.org, the flower can be found innately in one place, the west coast sand dunes of South Africa. If I were to leave the information at that, confined to one Wikipedia page, it’s interesting but not fully formed, much like anything without background and context. One could argue that perception is reality and that reality is only as one perceives, but is that true? What is truth, anyway?

The Arctotis Stoechadifolia aka the African daisy got its name from the Greek words Arctos, meaning bear, and Otis, meaning ear, or bear’s ear in English. The title refers to the spidery dark middle amongst petals of yellow or white. I’d say it’s more akin to the all-seeing-eye over a bear cub’s listening device no matter how hairy the center. Still, does this mean the name should be changed according to my perception of what it looks like? Hardly. Context, details, and origin are crucial and add to developing one’s perspective on the way to finding the truth—in this case, truth is a fully formed understanding of something bigger.

An accepted fact is that giving little detail can skew information for positive or negative—everybody knows that! Here’s what I mean, I was the first runner-up in a Beauty Pageant and was featured in the newspaper. At first glance, this comes across as prestigious, an honor even. However, once some background is given, the title deflates like a three-day-old Mylar balloon.

At the time of this contest, I was five-years-old living with my parents and six siblings in a cramped apartment in a mining town called, Green River, Wyoming. My mom entered me in the pageant, I had no idea—by the way, it was called a Beauty Pageant back then, not a Scholarship Pageant like they are today.

Two females came to our brown apartment building. One curled and brushed my hair at my kitchen counter. The other woman had me hold a hand mirror and then took my photo. My best friend, Margaret Couch, was also there, getting her hair done and holding a hand mirror—she was crowned Little Miss Wyoming. Does this mean that Margaret Couch was considered the most beautiful girl in Wyoming and I was the second? No, and I think most people understand that. Still, even with the smallest amount of detail, it was a good outcome—for me at least. Ever wonder what happens when scant information is given and taken out of context?

In 1938, Orson Welles, the actor, writer, producer/director made notoriety after his radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Sci-Fi, The War of the Worlds, where alien beings rove the earth eliminating humans.

After the program ended, approximately a million people piled onto America’s highways, and scavenged for gas masks, confident that New York City had been taken over by toxic gas spreading Martians.

However, not all million people had actually heard the program. The ones, who had, even though they knew they were listening to a storytelling program, which consistently featured fiction, became so enamored with the tale that they spread their emotionally biased views like a virus, convincing others who hadn’t heard the program at all.

So does me winning the title of first runner-up and having my picture in the local newspaper or America’s biggest spoof in history (even if accidentally) producing wide-spread mayhem mean this is what life is? Partially. Each situation is added to a larger picture—but each is a filler experience, not the whole enchilada!

In the States, daisies are stand-ins—an attractive ground cover, a stabilizer for sand bases, a filler flower in a bouquet of roses. As flowers go, daisies are a hint of flirtation, not a full-bloom romance. Although people do like bouquets of happy daisies, for the most part, they are an understatement of intent, and not an infiltration of what’s to come, but then, few things are.

For the last year and a half, a term has taken center stage in politics—Fake News. Of course, it’s known as other things—unsubstantiated rumor, fiction, and lies. One specific expression that rocketed out of near extinction beyond a high school classical reading list is “alternative fact.”

When George Orwell created “alternative fact” in his book, 1984, it pointed to a horrific future—two opposite ideas fused to complete an unquestioned picture. Orwell meant it as a cautionary prediction, not a pattern for creating a slight of hand as it is used today. So how can this fictional idea be used so often without folly?

A prominent trait to anything is having a seed of believability, a partial truth if you will, or else it would go ignored altogether. Still, there are some excellent uses for Fake News—they are attention grabbers, job generators, cautionary tales, and filler in a bouquet of dry factual information—fiction with a bit of fact sprinkled in.

Of course, one could argue that perception is reality and that reality is only as one perceives, but is it? Christopher Columbus discovered America—well, kind of. The Pilgrims broke break with the Indigenous peoples for Thanksgiving, and the two became all-time Besties—what genocide?

Another fairytale guised as truth is that the victor writes the history books. Sure, the last one standing in a fight is probably the only one who can write what happened. It is also true that they can write whatever they want without a whole lot of proof. Does this mean it’s a pure fact? No, it’s perceived information founded on experience—it’s emotionally based to either trump up or to pat down the truth.

We’ve seen this idea done over and over again with the present White House—a slight of hand to misrepresent the truth. So who cares? The people in the White House are the victors! They write the history, right? Nope.

The difference between penning history books and a White House press conference is the amount of time it takes to get the information and the margin of anticipated error. For one, by the time a piece is researched, written, edited, published, and distributed, it’s assumed to be outdated—especially today, where information is constant and instantaneous. Also, for any written report, a correction can be presented, a retraction sited—an apology can be made—it’s standard.

As for the presidential second, the material given is live—the world is a captive audience watching, listening, and trusting. During a Presidential news conference, corrections and retractions shouldn’t be standard, and though an apology could be made, in this presidency, one never seems to be uttered, creating a fictional blur of what’s right and what’s not, or rather, what’s right and what’s disastrously wrong.

But that’s just politics and some Science Fiction reference, right? Wrong. Limited information of any sort leads to misinterpretation. Take the Arctotis Stoechadifolia —to the untrained eye, a blanket of flowers springs out of the sand along the coast of South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope—by the way, the Cape of Good Hope was actually a tumultuous journey where most people died in transit. The African daisies are charming, interesting, and harmless. But are they? Charming and Interesting are perceptional biases. What about it being harmless? It’s a plant that is surrounded by nothing but sand. Can we know anything about the flower if there is nothing to corroborate it?

Recently, the African daisy has been transplanted to places with eroding beach-y landscapes such as North America’s west coast and Australia, and in its new digs a phenomenon has come up.

In its native home, a sand dune without a single blade of grass, the African daisy stands straight, it’s petals open to the sun, producing a blanket of budding glory. In California, however, this particular flower knows no bound. It grows across the sand, suffocates grasses, and overtakes gardens—it’s thick hollow stem like a straw, siphons all nutrients of its fellow life forces—it’s an organic form of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. This just in, alien forces infiltrating the earth sucking the life from its Indigenous peoples! Run! Hide!

So what can we make out all of this? Experience adds to information, which adds to our perception of fact. Context, details, and origin along with gaining many insights from various sources are where truth (truth as in a fully formed understanding) is found.

With all our technology, our fingertips hovering over our ergonomic keyboards, what’s the point of knowing what’s really going on in the world if we can’t see the forest for the trees, or for that matter, see the petals for the overgrown flower garden?

 

Doggie Duet

IMG_0005

Last week I was in my car, windows rolled partially down, my dog Zoey sunbathing on the passenger side when Blister In The Sun by Violent Femmes came on the radio. I turned it up and began singing because I’m sure it’s against the law not to do so. As I belted out the inappropriate and dated words that I looove, Zoey made a strange whining-wailing noise I’d never heard before.

I switched off the radio to hear her better. She stopped and turned her long neck so she could see me. We regarded at each other. Nothing seemed wrong, so I turned the radio back on and got back to singing.

Again, I heard Zoey over the speakers, her head lifted, nose pointing into the wind, yowling. Of course, I was offended. My dog hated my voice! It was auditions at my high school’s competition choir all over again. I thought I was a decent singer until those tryouts—but then, everyone’s a great vocalist behind the steering wheel or inside the sound safety of hot running water in a shower.

When I stopped singing, Zoey stopped moaning. My heart sagged and felt as if it turned dark brown. We finished running my errands with the radio down low and me not humming a word. Thank goodness David Bowie didn’t come on, I wouldn’t have been able to help myself, and Zoey would have jumped out the window!

Later, during dinner, I repeated the story to my kids, but they both didn’t understand why I felt defeated.

“Zoey was singing with you,” Lorrin said.

“Yeah, she probably was.” Nate agreed though neither had experienced this with our dog before.

It hadn’t occurred to me that her cry wasn’t a reflection of how badly I sang, but that she wanted to croon along. See, it’s proof; you just can’t help yourself when Violent Femmes comes on, and that’s why it’s probably against the law to remain silent when one does.

I’m tempted to try out this theory, blast Blister In The Sun once more just to verify that Zoey’s a singer and not a critic, but what if my dog doesn’t sing after all?

 

 

 

Is This Shirt Yours?

IMG_0147
Nate is the kid at the top of the photo in navy.

A few days ago, as my family and I sat in front of the television and folded laundry, I came across a shirt I didn’t recognize. It was black rayon with long sleeves and a scoop neck and according to its label was from the Women’s Daisy Fuentes collection—from where I have no idea.

“Whose shirt is this?” I asked.

“Yours, isn’t it?” they replied.

I’d never seen it before, and it wasn’t in my size. We talked about where the foreign blouse could have come from everything ranging from a friend of my daughter or son to a burglar who didn’t quite understand how to burgle. We discussed its origins for a few minutes until it occurred to us that we accidentally stole it.

Over the weekend, my son was competing at a Track and Field meet at Taylorsville High School that was hosting over five different schools in the Salt Lake Valley. It was bitter cold that morning, and my husband and I brought blankets. We sat in the stands watching the events among other spectators and competitors waiting for their event to start—most everyone sat shrouded in blankets.

After several hours, the sun came out and burned across the stadium seats making blankets and layers unbearable. People began peeling off anything extra and discarding items at their feet.

When my son’s events were over, my husband, daughter, and I piled up our gear and headed to the car. In doing so, we must have inadvertently picked up an audience member’s spare shirt.

I don’t know what to do with this shirt. I have no idea to whom it belonged or how to go about returning it. So if you know someone who is missing a shirt, let him or her know I may have it! Or if you want a new shirt, I may have what you’re looking for—Mother’s Day is coming, and the shirt is clean.

Later this afternoon, my son has another track meet, only on a smaller scale. My goal is to leave with the exact amount of objects I bring. Wish me luck!

 

Ice, Ice, Baby!

a drink and a smile
Close-up of woman’s smiling mouth and soft drink

Yay! I can have ice, again. I sit at my kitchen table and to my left is a glass of Strawberry sparkling water floating in ice! It sounds silly over triumphant, I know. I’ve been off ice for close to a decade—not because I was addicted to the stuff and not because I’m a European enthusiast—I am, but not when it comes to ice—the issue was the blunt pain that radiated through my weak enamel and hammered at my gums whenever ice cream or an icy cola entered my mouth.

I was told of my sensitivity condition when I went to a dentist—one who was highly recommended by, I suspected later, people who hated me—to fix a filling in a tooth. I must state, that I have a brother who is also a dentist, a good one at that, however, he lives one hundred miles away from me, and so, I decided to try someone local. As the new guy used a water pick infused with what seemed to be liquid nitrogen squirting my gum line, I howled.

“You have sensitive teeth,” he told me.

I’m always fascinated with two abilities dentists all seem to have—the capacity to understand a patient with tools, cotton balls, and a vacuum jammed in his or her mouth and still manage to carry on a conversation, and how dentists always state the obvious.

“Looks like you have a cavity.”

Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m here.

“I haven’t seen you in a while.”

That’s because you’re a dentist and next to nose-diving towards the earth in a fiery plane, dentists are the next most terrifying things there is—that and sharks.

Besides my mouth, what’s there to talk about with a dentist anyway? Does anyone just hang out with his or her dentist, I mean if they’re not related to you?

While Mr. DDS was testing his theory of whether or not I felt pain, spraying my mouth with cold and the hot water—me, wincing and jumping—he insulted me.

“You know, you should start buying Sensodyne toothpaste.”

Sensodyne—as in old people toothpaste?

“Aren’t I too young for that?” I garbled.

“No, you’re close to forty, right?” He stepped back and assessed me.

“No!” I wasn’t yet, thirty-five!

“Oh, well, your teeth think you are.”

Nice.

Then, the appointment got worse. As the man was dismantling an old filling, he accidentally punctured my root with one of his miniature diamond pickaxes. I saw blinding white for thirty-three seconds before I tasted rusted pennies on my tongue.

“Oops. Sorry.”

FYI, oops and sorry should never be uttered during any procedure—ever!

He went on to tell me that he wasn’t qualified to perform a root canal, but had a buddy whom he’d call, and request an emergency appointment. Root canal? Emergency appointment? My teeth think I’m forty-years-old? He left.

After a few minutes, the dentist returned.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but my buddy can’t see you for two hours. So what I’m going to do is numb you up real good, and then you can see him this afternoon.”

I have no idea how much Lidocaine the man shot into my gums and cheek, but it was enough to make the whole right side of my face lie immovable.

Killing a couple of hours, I decided to head to a nearby Barnes and Noble. Along with books they also have a place to order a sandwich.

When I got in my car, I checked out my face in the rearview mirror. I was poufy but looked fine—until I smiled. An invisible line seemed to wall off one side of my face from the smiling side. I looked like I had had a major stroke and recently.

I had two choices; I could drive all the way home to wait for my appointment watching daytime television—ugh! And then drive all the way back a few hours later, or I could suck up what I looked like and go to church—aka Barnes and Noble. I reasoned I rarely had the opportunity to do nothing but read in the afternoon, so I chose option B and drove to the bookstore.

At a corner section of B and N, was Starbucks and I scanned the menu items above the barista. As I opened my mouth to order a sandwich and a drink, a thick string of slobber spilled from the sagging right side of my face and puddled onto the counter.

Horrified I snatched a handful of napkins from a dispenser and sopped up my juices. I tried saying sorry, which led to more drool and pitying looks from “Becca” behind the cash register.

“That’s a grilled ham and cheese and a diet coke without ice, right?” she asked, enunciating each word. I nodded and handed her my credit card.

“I’ll bring it out to you,” Becca said, producing a damp yellow rag and mopping up my saliva.

I tried convincing myself to stay, fighting the adrenaline spike prompting me to run out of the building, to my car, and drive somewhere dark—somewhere in the shadows to hide.

To my surprise, I didn’t run. I found a book. I found a table, and I sat down. This is good I kept telling myself, this is a social experiment—what it’s like to be at Starbucks and Barnes and Noble with partial facial paralysis.

After a few minutes, someone other than Becca brought me my order. I popped a corner of sandwich into my mouth and tried chewing off a piece. I bit my cheek instead. I ripped off a section by hand and shoved it passed my lips. The bread slipped out of the right side of my mouth and landed on the table in a wet mess.

Not Becca was watching me from the counter. I felt his stare boring into the side of my broken face. I pretended not to care. I tried taking a long drag on my straw, picturing the dark liquid shooting through the tube like my own stubbornness, but this too just poured out the side of my mouth and splashed onto the tabletop.

Becca and Not Becca hurried to me, holding handfuls of napkins and a damp yellow cloth. I couldn’t handle it. I packed up my things and hurried out to my car vowing never to go to any dentist other than my brother and that maybe I should start using Sensodyne toothpaste?

Today, I sit sipping sparkling water on ice—though it has nothing to do with using old person toothpaste—that stuff doesn’t really work. Recently, I found a toothpaste containing fluoride, and within a week, here I am with an icy drink! Miracles do happen!

 

So, We Meet Again, Again.

 

IMG_3866

Today, I was almost mowed down by Nicea DeGering. You know, the local television personality on Good Day Utah? I mean, it could have been her doppelgänger or sister—I’m always mistaken for my sister, Em. Of course, we both wear bug-eyed sunglasses and drive the same car, soo…

Anyway, I was navigating the endless maze of road construction heading to McDonald’s. I had to get into the left lane, but a massive GMC wouldn’t let me in nor would it allow me to slow down and go behind. The woman driving the mega SUV was steadily talking on her cell phone and kept in exact pace with me. I slowed down. I sped up. She mirrored my moves while simultaneously ignored me.

As I approached the road where McDonald’s is, the small car ahead of me sped up, and I was able to dodge into a spot. Still, the white GMC continued driving the same speed and was soon looming over me in my rear view mirror. That’s when I recognized who it was—or at least her twin.

I turned left. She turned left. I drove into the drive-through lane at McDonald’s. So did she. The whole time she was ordering, not once did her cell phone leave her ear. It was strange as well as surprising. I can’t drive, talk on my phone, and order all at the same time!

This is not my first run-in with the news reporter. Several years ago, when the gym, Life Time Fitness opened, I met her—kind of. One day I noticed a tall blond in the dressing room. We were both dressed, so it wasn’t like I was inappropriate when I approached her. I walked up to her and said hello. I told her I was a fan. The whole time she looked all around as if searching for someone to save her. I took the hint and turned around mid-sentence.

I returned to my locker and pretended to look through my bag. I saw her race passed me and out the exit. I waited a few minutes before leaving. That day, we both happened to take the same group fitness class. When I walked in the room, before the music started, I saw Nicea dart into the back corner. She pushed the woman accompanying her in front of her so I couldn’t see her anymore.

I felt terrible. I hadn’t meant to scare Nicea—for the life of me, I had no idea what I had done or said to make her fear me.

Typically, for a Zumba class, I take a spot as far away from the front of the room as possible, but that day, I couldn’t very well go to the back. Nope.

To my horror, the last remaining spot in the room was right smack in front of the instructor who, in the microphone attached to her head, made sure I knew I lacked dance ability.

“No honey, you’re doing it wrong,” she’d boom. I knew I was! I was too worried about offending the semi-celebrity in the back of the room to focus on a dance routine—that and that I’m not a great dancer anyway.

For weeks afterward, whenever Nicea and I saw each other at the gym, we’d run in the opposite direction. Soon I stopped going to that particular dance class. I also stopped going into the dressing room, at least for a while.

There have been a few more times where I’ve been at the same place at the same time as Nicea DeGering. Luckily, she doesn’t recognize me anymore!

 

 

 

 

The Boy in The Blue Trench Coat

 

IMG_0064 (1)

I saw him again, today, the boy in the blue trench coat. He is probably fifteen or sixteen-years old. He had on a camouflage hunter’s cap, the kind with flaps that lay over the ears.

The coat wasn’t purchased for him, evident from its enormous size—the way the epaulette straps extended over his arms. The way the sleeves hanged and the amount they bunched around the outsides of the pockets his hands were shoved into. The belt was knotted and cinched at the waist—although it was not purchased for him, he owned it now.

The boy’s chin was down, at a slightly descending angle. His eyes fixed to a few paces ahead. His shoulders rigid and pulled forward as if he were heading into a bitter wind or combat.

I was in the student loading and unloading zone at the school. My son had exited. The line of cars behind me swelled, urging me to move on. The boy went by me in a flash. It wasn’t the first time he had.

I’d seen the kid a few days ago. I was driving to pick my son up after school. My daughter was with me, and so was my dog. I was late. The stoplights were off forcing me to stop and start, stop and start, and then wait some more. It was cold. The sun was out.

In the distance, I saw a figure in a long dark coat sprinting through a field. The snow was deep. White ice like frosted glass coated the roads and sidewalks and he ran in the opposite direction.

We arrived at the school. We picked up my son, and we headed towards home. After a few miles, I saw the boy in the blue trench coat out of the corner of my eye, still sprinting, still speeding as if he had all the energy, and the air and ability in the world.

He dashed along a hilly trail that wove in and out next to the road. He ran and ran, fast and hard.

Gray jogging pants hanged below the coat hem grazing his calves. He wore tennis shoes. Bright red ears poked out on either side of his head. His hair was brown, crew cut on the sides and back and kept long on top. Loose strands jumped and bounced with each of his steps.

As we passed, I glanced in the rearview mirror. White puffed from his mouth making him look like a steam engine. His cheeks blotched ruddy. A giant smile spread wide across his face. He was running. He was running and fearless and constant. He was inspiration. He was music and poetry.

At the stoplight, the green arrow signaled us to turn left. The boy continued on the path that dodged to the right and disappeared.

I saw the boy in the navy blue trench coat, this morning, before the sun was fully up, among the swarm of teenagers wiping the sleep from their eyes, staggering into the orange brick building where school was to begin. He was different from the first time I saw him. He was drawn into himself. He was ready for a day of battle.

I wished they could see him, the way he was a few days ago, sprinting through the frozen world, speeding past the broken world, pushing beyond the humdrum, the teenaged politics, the dread of another day. Because if they saw him when he ran, it would change their lives forever.

A Chiweenie with Thumbs

 

IMG_4734
Zoey in the Princess Leia buns she despises!

I think my dog, Zoey, wishes she had thumbs. For now, she has wicked claws on either side of her two front paws that curl, as if she’s holstering daggers like an old-school Arabian warrior.

If Zoey had opposable thumbs, I think she’d drag a kitchen barstool over to the fridge and raid the meat and cheese drawer several times a day. She’d ransack the pantry and get her own snacks and treats without having to perform first.

With thumbs, Zoey could fix her sweaters when she steps wrong and misses an armhole. Sometimes this leaves her wearing what looks like a one-armed knitted toga or a black and white strapless, or even a skirt without a top, which is just plain scandalous. She wouldn’t be above stealing cashmere sweaters from my closet or anything else of mine that is toasty, soft, and warm like socks.

During the winter months, I don’t bathe her like I do when the sun is out. This results in long periods of uncleanliness and stench that embarrasses her.

She sits on my knees, head bowed, muzzle pointed at her chest, ears down, shaking and looking up at me. Her expression is of shame as if she’s thinking, “Look away! I stink! I’m a monster!”

Then I feel bad and take her to the kitchen sink. I fill it with warm soapy water. I place her inside and leave the faucet running on sprayer mode.

Zoey with thumbs would probably draw her own bath, filled with Epsom salts and essential oils—something along the lines of orange blossom and vanilla. She’d lean on the sides of the sink with her two front paws out, her bottom half submerged and watch out the kitchen window for birds on the backyard fence or mothers pushing strollers down the street. She wouldn’t wait until her body aroma overpowered us all.

I picture her with her own vanity set; a silver metal mirror and matching horsehair brush she’d keep on my dresser. She’d comb through her fur every night counting a hundred brushes from ears to tail before coiling up on the goose-down comforter she stole from my bed.

My dog suffers from thumb remorse. I bet she wishes she could drive the car and go from fast food restaurant to fast food restaurant—because that’s all I seem to do when I leave the house without her.

She’d drive a car and be meticulous about it, stopping at stoplights, staying the speed limit. She’d blast the heat, turn up the seat warmer and keep all the windows rolled down. I think she’d be a good driver, as long as teenage boys aren’t getting off a bus somewhere close where she could aim at them with the front of my car.

Zoey wouldn’t run errands though—no dropping off or picking my son up from school or stopping at the grocery store for a gallon of milk. She’d do what every typical lady of leisure in the suburbs does and go to Starbucks.

Instead of having to be tied to a metal table leg outside, Zoey would go inside Starbucks. She would order a Grande of nothing but whipped cream, and she’d sit at the round table in the corner—the one where two wall-sized windows butt together.

She’d sit with her back towards the rear of the store, and her head pointed at the entrance and watch through the glass for magpies and people on the streets. If my canine had thumbs, life would be sooo sweet!