Of Kookaburras and Unicorns

“The time has come,” the lock-downed said,
   “To laugh at many things:
Like shows—and books—and fairy tales—
kookaburra that sings—
And pink rainbow unicorn hugs—
And beavers safe in springs.”

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

― J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

OK, so coronavirus is still a thing–indeed, cases and deaths are rising here in North Carolina and the Southeast, the region that most quickly embraced re-opening…and still the President is threatening to move the Republican convention from Charlotte if our Governor can’t guarantee a full, unrestricted convention by next week. It’s the third? day of rain from Bertha, the second tropical storm to hit the Carolinas before the hurricane season has even started. There is terrible racially-based violence in Minneapolis and Louisville, which is ramping up the fight between the President and Twitter.

So, yeah, the weather is dreary, and the news is worst. Or at least the mainstream news that gets the headlines. At the same time, there are instances of great grace, of love and joy, and of incredible creativity. So as the incomparable J.K. Rowling reminds us, let’s look at those for a while.

Speaking of whom, Rowling certainly turned on a light for me with the release of her fairy tale, The Ickabog (which I wrote about Tuesday). For the past three nights, after I’ve done all my bedtime routine and said my prayers and done my meditations, I turn off the lights and pull my laptop into bed and read that day’s chapters of the book as the last thing before going to sleep. What a wonderful way to end the day! I’m really enjoying the book so far. It demonstrates that children’s books are really everybody’s books when written by a talent like Rowling.

And for an update on Wednesday’s blog post, I went to drop off my library books yesterday as soon as the return period opened, and you would have thought they were giving away free tubes of sanitizing wipes! A steady stream of cars filled the library parking lot. People parked and carried bags of books to the collection bins–and, of course, they were all wearing masks. When I got to the bins, seven minutes after the event had opened, one of the three bins was full and the other two were half full. Plus, the librarian told me, they had already taken three full bins inside! It was so great seeing citizens doing what they could to help the libraries reopen in a safe way.

Yesterday I also finally announced my plans for the classes I will be teaching in the Fall. It’s taken me a while to figure out how I can teach classes effectively when there is no guarantee we won’t still be under stay-at-home orders, but now I feel really confident about my plans for augmenting my usual physical classes with technology. I’m going to teach World Mythology this year, which I’m really excited about: The M&M Challenge (Myths and Multiculturalism) for middle school, and First Heroes: Reading World Mythology for high school. For more information, you can visit my Heroic University website: http://heroicuniversity.com/classes.html.

Those are just little things that I’ve done to turn on the light around me. But look at some of these examples where people are shining through the darkness!

First, of Kookaburras, look at this…

Yes, it’s a giant laughing kookaburra being driven around the streets of suburban Brisbane by its creator, artist Farvardin Daliri. The 65-year-old said he was just trying to cheer people up during these dark times. “If a bird can laugh, why not me?” said Mr. Daliri. “I think this is a time we need to reach out to each other. We may not meet all the requirements of people’s material happiness, but spiritually we can make them happy.”

The 15-foot sculpture, originally intended for an arts festival, has a frame of steel, with the body made of steel mesh, welding rods, bamboo, fiberglass, and ceramic. There is a car battery inside that powers the beak and speakers to broadcast its distinctive laugh. Mr. Daliri, who was born in Iran and worked as an artist in India before moving to Australia in the 1980s, began the piece around Christmas but gave up because it seemed so complex. But with plenty of time on his hands after Australia went into lockdown in March, Daliri obviously figured it out.

Aren’t we all glad that he did?

Up in New Jersey, which has been a hot spot for COVID-19, some grandparents will do ANYTHING to get to see their grandchildren again:

Good job, Grandma!

In London, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has run out of videos of his productions to show for free. But…#TheShowsMustGoOn, right? So instead of a Webber show, this weekend, we get the infectious musical, Hairspray Live:

May it inspire us all to find a better way of working our differences!

For the past fifteen years, our neighboring town of Durham, NC (a community that unfortunately has one of the highest rates of infection in our state) have held a unique fundraiser on behalf of the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association‘s conservation activities. Entitled The Beaver Queen Pageant, it commemorates community activism spearheaded by the Duke Park neighborhood to successfully protect a wetlands area that was home to a den of beavers that the NC Department of Transportation wanted to pave over. Now the vision is to clean up the entire 20 mile span of the Ellerbe Creek, which had been one of the most polluted rivers in North Carolina, from Durham to Falls Lake in North Raleigh.

So what is the Beaver Queen Pageant, you might ask? Well, contestants dress up as beaver characters and compete in tradition pageant categories (wetlands ready wear, talent competition, and personal interviews) for the honor of being that year’s Beaver Queen. The community votes for their favorite contestant by donating $5 per vote, with the proceeds going to the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association.

It’s a fun, creative, wacky, community event held at Duke Park that draws…let’s just say TOO MANY people for social distancing. But potential Beaver Queens aren’t going to let the coronavirus get in the way of cleaning up their river! So this year the fun will take place online as a virtual The Beaver Queen Pageant. This year’s contestants include Dr. Beaverly Crusher, Pain Fonda, and Beaver Sanders, with celebrity judges such as Justin Beaver, Tooth Beaver Ginsberg, and Arnold Schwartzbeaver. To give you an idea, here is a video of the theme for this year’s competition, Beavers in the Stream:

The contest itself will be held over the next two weeks (broken up for different parts of the contest), with the CORONAtion of the Beaver Queen on Saturday, June 13 at 6 PM. However, you can watch contestant videos and VOTE/DONATE from now until June 13 at: https://beaverqueen.swell.gives.

Finally, if you prefer your beauty contest with human contestants, on Saturday, May 30 you may want to tune into the livestream of Miss Quarantine Pageant. In this pageant send-up, 10 comedians, ages 22-81, will compete for the title.

You can watch the show starting at 9:00 PM Eastern Time at: https://www.miss-quarantine.com or on the contest Youtube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBZz_d7_Lc8ZoMkAyLRvZfQ/

So there you have it. Surely at least one of these things can help brighten up your days this weekend. Or if you know of other things that are helping to turn on the light around the world, share them in the comments below.

I’m very thankful for all these light bearers, along with the many, many others who are shining through the darkness in ways I don’t know. So I will end with this quote from Albert Schweitzer:

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.


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