Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Back to blogging after a lovely couple days canoeing the Kickapoo River. I have a newfound respect for Wisconsin--it's really beautiful. We finally got off I-94 and got to drive through hilly farm country. It had what I adore about the Midwest--big sky, huge sense of space even when you're surrouonded by trees, small towns with huge amounts of space between them--but unlike where I lived in Minnesota this area was hilly and well-treed. If you check out the map, you can pretty clearly see the change topography in the SE corner where we live and visited: the glaciers never hit there. You can basically see the line where they stopped.
Everything is lush and green now. The Kickapoo gets its name from an Algonquin word meaning essentially "goes this way and that." In some places, this river was 200 feet from being ox-boxed. Hugely serpentine, which was a great challenge on the canoe. Plus, we saw bald eagles, red tailed hawks, redwing blackbirds, swallows working in a tandem to building their mud-nests against the joints of bridges. There is no end to the list of things I want to learn about. Birds is now on that list.
We drove home through towns of less than 1000 each with lots of farmland and cows in between. Nearly every house we passed as we left Ontario, WI had a sign announcing the sale of quilts, braided rugs, eggs, custom-built barns, leather tooling, baked goods, fireword. Everyone doing a little business on the side.
And, after only 5 years of living in the wide, beautiful Midwest, I can now say I've been to the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. One of them, anyway. This is the Little House in the Big Woods in Pepin, WI.
Pa Ingalls worked hard to find remote locations for his family to farm in peace, and those this one is in now surrounded by fields and has a road near by--the "big woods" were cut down and are now in the process of being regrown--it is still very remote. 7 miles outside of a small town. While we were there on Memorial day, two other cars and 3 motorcycles drove up to see the fun. It is indeed a little house for 5 people. The doors are just over 6' high, if that helps your perspective.
Caddie Woodlawn lived only about a half hour away, by car, though in comparitively much nicer conditions. Saw her home, too.
Thumbs up, Wisconsin.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Last week I had the pleasure of hanging out with a number of long-time co-op users, including two local organic farmers who seemed to know pretty much everything under the sun. They were currently living mostly off nettles, because they were out and growing on their property. I was there basically for the free meal and the company, but I guess you could say I was useful because I represented the "bottom line" voice: people who will even shop (shhh, don't tell, but it IS the major place to buy things in my town of 16,000) at Walmart sometimes for the lowest price. But they got me thinking.
When it comes to food, I feel like opposite pressures of pocket-friendliness and environmental friendliness are winging me back and forth. I go to the co-op so I can refill my old containers with spices, oatmeal, nuts, pasta, dish soap, etc. Cutting down on waste, that's a good thing. But I don't even look at their beautiful produce section, where it seems like everything is at least a dollar more, even if it is probably higher quality. Likewise, I don't like most of Walmart's practices--bullying producers, shutting out other stores, paying their workers too little--but we are on an extremely tight budget, and saving $10 a week on groceries is huge. And then of course there's the thought of just what kind of carbon footprint we're making, trucking all this food all over the place. Frozen foods are the worst as they have to be shipped frozen, which costs more energy. I say that, but is there a frozen pizza in my freezer? You bet. For those times when I work long days or have simply run out of fresh food and need to make something for dinner.
cost vs. health vs. time vs. shipping costs...(back, forth)
I'd say this all comes down to when I think about myself vs. when I think about the earth, or in Christian terms, being a good steward in how I spend my money, but it's not quite that easy. I know several people who just plain can't afford to buy anything other than the cheapest food possible, along with supplements from the food shelf. I'd like to introduce them to the co-op people who only eat organic (since when did kinder-to-the-earth become elite? that's another story). Some of them would get along beautifully. Some of them live on different planets. I"m grateful to know both, don't get me wrong. I guess you could say I'm floating in the space somewhere in between.
What to do?
We're almost in June, and I figure that the least I can do is to buy local produce during the next 4 months, when everything's growing and available at the local farmer's market. I know what to do in August and September, when everywhere you look there are fresh local bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, egg plant, zucchini, basil, bok choy, etc., but what about now? What is growing now? I've heard whispers of broccoli and asparagus, but I hardly know anything about these things. What comes up in June other than strawberries?
The lovely French foodie blog Chocolate and Zucchini was talking the other day about using radish leaves to make pesto, arguing that pesto is basically green leaves, hard cheese, and olive oil ground up. Intriguing, though I haven't spotted radishes with or without leaves during my grocery store forays to pick up, I confess, stuff for the next cookout. The chocolate cake posted for today also has my attention.
I'll keep my eyes out. This matters. I'd love suggestions.
Monday, May 18, 2009
19 months after submitting my poetry, 6 months after being accepted, I was thrilled to receive in the mail today my copy of the brand new anthology Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude from Holy Cow! Press. The cover is lovely, though the copy of it here scanned bluer than the actual cover is. Find it here. Scanning the list of those 150 poems, I truly feel like I'm walking among greatness: Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Adrienne Rich, William Stafford, Basho, Li-Young Lee, Denise Levertov, Marvin Bell, Lucille Clifton, etc., etc.! It seems like a brilliant idea for an anthology, for when do we pick up poetry if not when we are in a time of contemplation, seeking wisdom, comfort, perspective...? I hope it sells well.
I can't help listing a few of the things I am grateful for. Don't worry about reading this list; you can insert your own:
- perfect temperature today
- constant breeze up on our hill that makes me feel like we live on the ocean
- the inauguration of our grill, with actual steak! Matt got for his birthday
- homemade cherry cheesecake, also for Matt's belated birthday (and also the fact that we have low cholesterol levels)
- a sense, after the craze of getting grades in, that today was Saturday (it's really Monday) and there was nothing I had to do, even if it took getting over a migraine to make me slow down and stop trying to do everything anyway
- going for a walk at sunset and looking at the pink streaking the sky
- an upcoming canoe trip
- lovely rest and peace.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Anyway, read the blog!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
(Those are lobster ornaments on either side. Too big to fit on the tree!)
But then one night in January when I had nothing to do and so I went to buy a converter box and antennae. We picked up 6 channels, 3 of them PBS. And what came on exactly at that moment, that Sunday night? Masterpiece Classic's production of Wuthering Heights. I am in love. If you've never seen Masterpiece Classic, check it out here. They turn classic novels into excellently done miniseries(es) with no commercials. I love having a bit of epic drama in my life (especially when you can turn it on and off).
Having watched or read most of Dickens' work, I've got a formula now:
take one poor, noble, innocent, and selfless character (either an orphaned boy or a girl with one male guardian of obnoxious character, whom she serves devotedly)
- bankrupcy (if you weren't there already)
- several members of authority who range from cruel to stupidly incompentant (but who make it their goal to thwart the main character)
- one helping hand, who is noble and wealthy and has
- at least one terrible secret
- which often comes out by way of a poor servant (who is most likely out for himself)
- several more completely quirky characters who stick in your memory from monthly installment to monthly installment
- sudden riches (thanks to the helping hand or to a long-lost relative who made his/her fortune abroad
- a heartfelt reunion for the now-not-poor-but-still-selfless main character
- most of the bad people getting what they deserve, but
- sometimes nice people are crushed along the way
The advantage of doing an entire Masterpiece Classic series on Dickens is that you can reuse much of the set. Down-and-out London and all.
I sound like I'm mocking. I am, only a little bit. But I had a hard enough time waiting week to week for the five installments of Little Dorrit.
Dickens strikes again.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The wonderful thing about the academic system is that is has regular beginnings and endings. It has a rather unnatural setting (a whole group of people of the same age-ish together in a small space, deadlines that don't correspond with the rest of the world) but I'll take it because it understands how to step back and admire accomplishments. So few places have this. Think about it: in the business and nonprofit worlds, when, outside of retirement celebrations and fundraising events, do we stop and see what we have accomplished? time passed, projects completed.
Some of my Intro to Lit. students saw their first professional play and attended their first poetry reading this semester. They've started using the word "postcolonial" and know more about southern India than they probably ever thought they would, thanks to Arundhati Roy's gorgeous novel The God of Small Things. I think that is so neat, and I'm so proud watching them grow as readers and discussers of literature in its various forms.
It's a lot easier to notice what other people have accomplished or learned than to notice the same in ourselves.
I grew up in a family that celebrates occasions. Birthdays. Christmas. Easter. Did I mention birthdays? They're huge. Matt's family didn't. They note the occasions, but they don't make a big deal. They give gifts at random times, rather than waiting for a date. I like both systems. But I still like occasions. Points that allow people to stop and look and celebrate. What can you celebrate in May?