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Cause to Kiss the Ground

by Vic Shayne

A teenager of eighteen years goes off to war in 1941 and is sent to the Pacific Theatre. In 1945 he returns a man who had spent years in a dreadful Japanese POW camp, tortured and forced on a death march. He barely comes out alive and loses all of his closest friends. He never thought he’d survive the war. After liberation, he’s put on an army hospital ship and sent home to the United States. After a week at sea, with shaky legs and a broken body, the young man steps off the military ship with legs that can barely carry him and once off the gangplank, he falls to his knees crying and kisses the ground.

In the winter of 1944, a Lieutenant in the Army Air Force flies his P47 fighter plane in formation out across the English Channel over Nazi occupied France. His squadron comes under attack and all his buddies are shot out of the sky. With his own plane riddled with bullets and an engine on fire, somehow the young pilot, only twenty years old, lumbers back to England. With damaged landing gear, he manages to crash near the runway on a British base. With his plane on fire, the pilot pulls himself out of the cockpit and barely scrambles away to safety just as his plane explodes in the field behind him. With British ground crew trying to extinguish the blaze, the pilot lays down on his chest and kisses the ground.

Kissing the ground. Such is the visceral relationship between we humans and terra firma. In moments of high emotion, we are moved to show affection for the earth beneath our feet, recognizing the permanence of earth, holding steady and true as madness reigns on its surface. Home can be anywhere. If you’re in the sky, it can mean no more than the ground below you. Or if you’ve been away, it can mean your own country. Or even more thought-provoking, for many the ground to be worshiped belongs to the land of their ancestors.

Consider the man or woman who has faced death and suffering, found redemption then falls prostrate to kiss the ground.  The sentiment — usually impromptu — seems to be one of embracing life in a way that you never seemed to appreciate it before.

The famous Persian poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, nearly eight hundred years ago, said, “Let the beauty you love be what you do … there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

Eight Reasons to Love Spiders (Or At Least Spare Them)

Crumpet on the prowl
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sappymoosetree

Let me start this article off by admitting how petrified I am of spiders. Every man in my life has been transformed, at some point, into an all-powerful spider warrior.

It goes like this: my fiancé will be working quietly in our home office when, suddenly, he’ll hear a shriek from the kitchen; he’ll fall out of his chair and come running with a penny loafer, our 180-pound mastiff galloping alongside him, fur flying. I’ll be in the kitchen when he gets there, pointing wildly and jumping furiously in place.

So, I’m writing this article to spare both my fiancé and me increased potentiality for cardiac arrest in our mid-twenties (no need to worry about our mastiff – he needs the exercise). From everything I’ve been reading, there’s a bunch of reasons not only to get rid of arachnophobia, but to actually embrace spiders (not literally…dear god, not literally) as a wonderful part of one’s natural –– and sometimes home –– environment.

Here are a few that have impressed me as viable reasons to love/tolerate spiders:

  1. Spiders have been revered in hundreds of really awesome myths and folk stories the world over. Sometimes they’re cast in the role of Creator, sometimes as gods and goddesses. Check out some of the stories, if you ever have time. They’re fun reads. Here’s one about Anansi the West African spider god:
  2. In North America, at least, only two kinds of spiders are truly harmful to humans – the brown recluse and the black widow (and, by all means, get rid of them). The rest actually just eat other insects we usually find pretty scary, including mosquitoes carrying malaria (the world’s #1 fatal disease) and flies carrying cholera.
  3. The presence of spiders in your house is a sign that 2,000 fewer bugs per spider will be there every year.
  4. In your garden, spiders eat those bugs that love to damage your plants! In fact, they’re used in organic cotton farming for exactly this reason.
  5. It’s actually rare for most spiders to bite humans, unless they feel threatened in some way. A spider will probably not find its way into your bed more often than once or twice a year, and on those occasions, will most likely not bite you. It doesn’t want to suck your blood – it just wants to eat insects. Most spiders are unfairly blamed for bites when mites, fleas, and bedbugs are the real perpetrators.
  6. Spiders love to eat mosquitoes. That’s a terrific reason to keep them around. Mosquitoes actually want to eat you; spiders are terrified of you, and only want to run away from you.
  7. Like I said, spiders generally don’t want to bite you. A spider can’t even see you until you’re about a foot away from it, since spiders have horrific eyesight. Thus, it’s not going to aim for you when it falls from the ceiling (it’s probably just lost its grasp) or when it sees your foot on the floor.
  8. Spiders are generally a sign of good luck in many cultures the world over!

Okay, and one incredibly cool fact that I discovered while on my quest for spider awesomeness: Spiders can’t die of natural causes and there are apparently these spiders living in China that were hatched in the Mang-Tsun dynasty 2,800 years ago; they’re known as “holy spiders”!

Now, if you still can’t stand your 8-legged friends, videojug offers a lovely instructional video on how to delicately remove the little monsters from your house:

Random Hilarity:
How To Catch A Spider

Flamingos Flamencos!

In all parts of the world, single flamingos attend a sort of synchronized dance party as a way to attract their mates. Enjoy this fascinating video that’s reminiscent of Lord of the Dance with South American passion!

A Flower’s Worth a Thousand Words; A Guide to 10 Flowers in Your Grocery Store

Whether they’re for your mother, girlfriend, secret admirer, sister, professor, manly man-friend, or someone else altogether, you’ll want to take care when selecting which type of flower to send to him or her so that you don’t give off a wrong impression or freak someone out or something. Didn’t think that flowers would be this complicated? Well, think again. 

Most varieties of flowers have specific meanings ascribed to them, so that in giving them as a gift, you’re also sending a pretty clear message. Ah, the power of a flower!

Now before you just throw in the towel on this whole flower idea and reluctantly opt to give something that’s utterly vacuous, like a Hallmark card featuring a happily-colored sky and topped off with a neat little truism dressed up as a poem, I’ve taken care of the research and made the process of flower picking a cinch.

Here’s a quick guide to the most common flowers found in grocery stores:

Eine rote Rose

Creative Commons License
photo credit: MrOmega
1. Roses

Colors: Tons of different colors

Associated Meanings: Each color has a unique meaning.

Your Color Breakdown: Red: Passionate Love (but if you’re giving only one of them, the message is clear: Sex); White: Humility and Innocence; Yellow: Friendship; Pink: Gratitude; Orange: Enthusiasm and Desire; Purple: Love at First Sight.

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: Obviously, give Reds and Oranges to your Lover, Purple to someone you’re infatuated with; Whites are given at wedding and baby showers; give Yellows to Friends if you’d like to wish them well; Give Pinks to say thank you to Professors or someone who helped you out.

Smile to the world...

Creative Commons License photo credit: Parvin ♣( OFF for a while )
2. Lilies (Stargazer)

Colors: There’s a range, but you’ll most commonly see White and Pink

Associated Meanings: Each color tends to have a unique meaning

Your Color Breakdown: White: Sympathy; Pink: Wealth and Prosperity

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: Give the White variety to someone who has suffered a loss, and the Pink one to newlyweds, a business partner, or adult to whom you want to wish a happy future, like a college graduate.

Cream White Carnation

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photo credit: David Blackwell (back to black)
3. Carnations

Colors: Wide Range, with every color being unique in meaning.

Associated Meanings: Every color tends to be unique in meaning, with the overall theme being Love, Luck and Fascination. The striped ones are exceptions, though, standing for Regret and Refusal.

Your Color Breakdown: White: Pure Love and Good Luck; Light Red: Admiration; Dark Red: Deep Love and Affection; Purple: Capriciousness; Pink: the Undying Love of a Mother; Green: Luck of the Irish; Yellow: Disappointment and Dejection

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: You can obviously give the White ones to anyone you want to wish luck and the Dark Red ones to your lover; it’s probably a good idea not to gift the Purple ones; Light Red is good for professors;  Pink works for Mother’s Day or if you want to earn some brownie points with your mother-in-law; Green is all the rage on St. Patrick’s Day; Yellow is good to give in situations akin to the following: you’re a stockbroker, the market just crashed, and you have several meetings that day – buy some Yellow Carnations for each of your clients.

Wild Abandon

Creative Commons License photo credit: dandy_fsj
4. Daisies

Colors: There’s a Wide Variety

Associated Meanings: Joy, Happiness, Innocence, and New Beginnings

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: Great gift for people embarking on new business ventures, Newlyweds, new parents, etc. Also good to just give anyone for a happy occasion

Purple Iris

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photo credit: nickwheeleroz
5. Irises

Colors: A few different colors, but you’ll mostly find them in Purple

Associated Meanings: Communication, Messages, Wisdom

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: Because this flower can convey so many emotions, it’s seen as appropriate to give to just about anyone.

white snapdragon

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photo credit: jmtimages[waka waka…]
6. Snapdragons

Colors: There’s a range, but you’ll most commonly see White and Pink

Associated Meanings: Graciousness and Strength (though it does have a flipside, in which it can stand for deception – but we’ll choose to ignore this since it would be kind of creepy, crappy, and weird of you to buy someone a flower because you intend to stab them in the back somehow)

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: This flower’s appropriate for just about anyone, particularly those who find enjoyment in life’s little things and would like popping a flower’s mouth open and seeing it snap shut.

bronze chrysanthemums

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photo credit: Martin LaBar
7. Chrysanthemums

Colors: Wide Range; From Reds to Yellows to Purples to White

Associated Meanings: Love, Optimism, and Joy (Really Cool Tidbit: the Japanese have an annual “Festival of Happiness” to celebrate them)

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: Basically give them to whoever you’d like to wish that person a happy, long, and healthy life.

Gladiolus with texture

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photo credit: tanakawho
8. Gladioli

Colors: Wide Range; From Reds to Yellows to Purples to White

Associated Meanings: Strength, Moral Integrity, Infatuation, and Remembrance

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: “Gladius” is Latin for “sword.” So in one regard, think of this flower as something appropriate to give to someone you’re proud, find honorable, or want to encourage. In another regard, give it to someone you admire to “pierce” his/her heart – in much the same was as an arrow from Cupid would – and make him/her yearn for you.

sun shining through

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photo credit: gorgeoux
9. Astroemerias

Colors: Wide Range; From Pinks to Reds to Oranges to Yellows to Purples to White

Associated Meanings: Devotion and Friendship

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: Give them to a friend, a professor, someone you care about in a friendly-kind of way to say that you appreciate him or her. Not quite the flower that says “I love you” to your mother or date/lover, or “thanks for all the hard work” to your postal worker.

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photo credit: sinkdd
10. Hydrangeas

Colors: Wide Range; From Reds to Yellows to Purples to White

Associated Meanings: Enduring Grace and Beauty

Give Them to Who? Give Them When?: Your Female Lover

There you have it: a decent knowledge of grocery store flowers. So next time you go to buy your love (or anyone else) a bouquet, pick prudently; give her (or him) a flower that means something!

Strangers Touching Strangers

While we touch those we are close with regularly and freely, touch among strangers remains taboo in our culture. We are apt to apologize  for accidentally brushing a strangers hand or pull away quickly should our knees touch the person seated next to us.

Consequently, there’s something very moving about these portraits by photographer Richard Renaldi in which he asks strangers to touch other strangers.

There is a certain shock value to seeing people together that we would normally view as from different worlds – but beyond that, these photographs evoke the potential for intimacy that we all possess should we bridge the gap of space and custom a little more often.

View the whole series here. And read a great interview with Renaldi about the project here.

The Art of Kissing Comes Naturally

Photo from TimothyJ

I’d like to know who it was that first thought, “hey, wouldn’t it be a fabulous if, at the same time as I kiss what’s her face on the mouth, I just stick my tongue out?”

I mean, it doesn’t really sound like a brilliant idea on paper. Is that one of those romantic things that were blamed on the all too convenient excuse: “it just…happened”?

I was introduced to the concept of the French kiss in second grade by one of my classmates who had just engaged her teenage babysitter in a rapid-fire Q&A session.

Classmate: It’s when you and your boyfriend stick your tongues in each other’s mouths at the same time.

Me: Ew!… And then what do you do?

Classmate: Well, you both move yours around.

Me: Really? Why?

Classmate: You’ll understand what it means when you’re older.

Now that I’m officially “older, ” I have to admit that I still don’t get it; sharing my tongue with my significant other still seems like a pretty ridiculous thing to do, regardless of whether I do it or not. Not to mention that for a long time after that informative discussion in third grade, I remained pretty repulsed by the idea – probably because I thought about it much too vividly, picturing the act countless times from the vantage point of my uvula.

But then again, I’ve always had a sort of phobia about other people’s saliva; the idea of sharing a drinking glass with anyone used to nauseate me – that is, up until I became acquainted with the college party scene (which, coincidentally, was when I stopped trying to visualize things from my uvula’s perspective).

Anyway, back to my original query: Who was this kissing innovator? For obvious reasons, I first looked to France for an answer; it appears, though, that the French don’t have any claim to the so-called “French” kiss, just as that which Americans call “french fries” did not originate in France.

And, after combing through different internet resources, it appears as though there’s no well-documented history of the French kiss evolution.

So I’ve settled upon my own theory: Primitive man made it up.

According to Thierry Lodé, a French biologist and professor of evolutionary biology, humans “tongue kiss” (the technical name for a French Kiss) to test a potential mate’s immune defenses. Therefore, I’d guess humans took up the activity prior to sophisticated communication, or else they’d probably just ask one another something like, “Hey hot stuff. How’s your health?” Plus, as far as I know, humans don’t really tend to criticize someone’s kissing style based on how healthy they perceive their make out partners to be.

Everybody Needs a Pet

Pets give us so much, make sure to give the pet in your life a little extra love today.

(If you know who the artist of this illustration is, please let us know – we’d love to give them credit!)

Lovely Love in the Park Animation

Cute Love-Filled Animation for Swarovski Diamonds called “City Park” with character design by Brigette Barrager.

We just adore the artwork in this piece – the soft colors and flickering tones on the animals are breathtaking. And as we know, we humans are not the only ones who know kissing matters.