Liminal Space

Here in the soybean field we are less than 12 hours from evicting 2020. I will not be sad to see it go.

In our personal world, Hubby, Oakley, and I were pretty lucky. We stayed healthy (except for a rather stubborn bout of colitis in Oakley’s case) as did our families. No surprise expenses; no crises. For that we are truly grateful.

In the wider world, however…dear Mystery, when will this end? There’s the horror of COVID-19 unfolding in real time around us compounded by an administration that has no problems with the elderly and minority segments of the population dropping like flies while health care professionals and workers who come into contact with the general public lay their lives on the line daily. There’s the shock that so many of my fellow Americans have been taken in by conspiracy theories that defy any logic, and believe the lies of the ones who want to subvert the will of the people to keep the current occupant of the Oval Office installed. And how many want Civil War Part II. That frightens me.

Comfort came in rereading Emily Carr’s Hundreds and Thousands, a collection of her journals from the late 1930s into almost the end of World War II. She was an artist and writer who lived in Victoria, B.C. with her dogs, monkey, and a domestic rat or two. Her New Year’s entries remind readers that this high and wide pile of uncertainty and dread mixed with hope that we sit on this season is nothing new, especially the entries from war time. What will this world get itself up to next year, she asked more than once. She leaned on her faith, kept busy with her visual and written arts, and relied on the company of her sisters and fur-bearing companions to find peace in the tempest of war.

As I wait for the stroke of midnight to launch us into 2012, I find myself doing the almost the same thing. Phone calls to check in on the siblings and friends; journaling; walks with Oakley are what keep me sane these days.

So does the hope coming up over the horizon. In the not too distant future, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will officially take their oaths of office. Since their election, they’ve shown more leadership than the current hot wet mess of an administration ever did on issues related to the pandemic.

We still have 20 days until they take office. Until then, we need to celebrate survival, or at least bask in relief that we’re still here. On behalf of Oakley, Hubby, and myself, I raise my glass to you, Gentle Readers, and wish you a calmer, prosperous 2021.

How to Build a Bigger Table

When you have more than you need, build a bigger table, not a higher fence. John Pavlovitz.

I’ve had Fourth of Julys spent huddled under desks with Oakley and Orion that felt more like end of the year celebrations than this season has. Holidays and I don’t get along really well to begin with, so forgive me for sitting this month out except for New Year’s Eve. I look forward to the books being closed on this plate of lutefisk with a colonoscopy prep chaser of a year.

In the personal world, the holiday get together with my family has been postponed. There’s no way Sister and Brother in Law can get down here safely, and they’re both in risk groups. Brother and Sister in Law are in risk groups. Hubby is in a risk group because of his age. Trinkets and tokens of affection will get exchanged somewhere along the line, I’m sure, though, but in person is contraindicated until further notice.

For now, anyway, it’s time to put the focus on what can be done, especially in the wider world. As we’ve seen, there’s a lot that needs doing. As I write, we have 31 days until President Biden and Vice President Harris are inaugurated (I know it’s technically -elects, but they’ve been acting more presidential than some occupants of the West Wing I can name). Even with the incoming administration, the damage done in the last four years and exacerbated by the pandemic this year is not going to be repaired overnight.

Just like the best way to wash a stack of dishes is to grab a plate and start washing, the best way to help with the mess caused by COVID-19 is to pick an issue and take action. For us, making sure people eat is first and foremost. “Appalled” didn’t begin to cover our reactions to the videos of people waiting in lines for hours to get food. Hubby and I donated to https://solvehungertoday.org, the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

In addition, I’ve been spending more time on Twitter retweeting articles on food insecurity to my elected reps and articles detailing what the populace can do to help their neighbors who may be in dire circumstances. For ways to help in your area, please go to https://www.feedingamerica.org.

If you can donate, great. Even a dollar or five can help (they can create eight meals out of every dollar per the food bank). Even an extra can of tuna or jar of peanut butter means an extra sandwich or two. And don’t forget soap, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and masks. Those are not covered by SNAP.

Another way to donate is to buy a gift card and leave it with the cashier. That way if someone comes up a bit short at checkout, the cashier can use it to discreetly help the customer.

Everyone can contact their reps at the state and local levels. Email. Call. The US Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. If you have a rep who’s not responsive, support another candidate in 2022.

In the meantime, wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance…and here’s to gathering at a larger table next year.

And Yourself?

Hi there…been a while since I wrote anything here. Thanks for your understanding, but the COVID-based need for isolation has caused the days to smear into each other in grey tones. And there are so many times that one can write about gratitude and simple joys and all that before it sounds as if one had been smoking Hallmark cards.

Except for one. Election Day, 11/3/20. That was one for the books. Both Hubby and I voted early, so we just sat back and ate pizza. I made an election cake from the recipes that dated from colonial times when voting was a cause for celebration. I don’t know what happened, but it turned out really dry. Basically, it’s a yeast-levened spice cake that is traditionally soaked in brandy. Maybe that was the problem, but since Hubby doesn’t do alcohol, that was a no-go. The cake was OK, but not worth the hassle.

However, as the counts tricked in, I could have used a snifter or five.

We both exhaled when the results were finally called by CNN at about 10:30 on the following Saturday. Hubby drove around and leaned on the horn as he drove past houses in our area displaying signs and flags signaling support of the current occupant of the White House. While he was out, I quietly wept in relief, then made a celebratory lunch for us.

The countdown to Inauguration Day is on. I’ll likely fix another celebratory meal. Don’t know quite what yet, but it will be on the elegant side.

First, though, the holidays or what there is of them this year. We had our usual turkey while watching the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving. Christmas gatherings are cancelled for us. Between my siblings, our spouses, and the niece and nephew benign various risk groups, any in-person gathering would amount to a suicide mission.

If it means I can keep my siblings and sibs-in-law around longer by sacrificing this year, I’m fine with it. I’m not hugely in to Christmas, anyway. Except for the cookies.

However, I am into New Year’s. I look forward to this year of lutefisk followed by a colonoscopy prep chaser going out the door at midnight in about three weeks, and I for one will not be upset if the door hits it in the butt on the way out.

Notes to My Younger Self

two adult women beside each other
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Here I sit, about a month give or take before my next birthday. It doesn’t end with a five or a zero, but it is significant for an astrological reason. It’s the end of my Saturn return 

What is a Saturn return? Astronomically, Saturn takes about 28 years to complete an orbit around the sun. Astrologically, it returns to the sign where it resided when you were born and sits there for a couple of years. Saturn has to do with all things involved with being an adult. It has to do with taking responsibility for your life choices while forgiving yourself for past failures and mistakes. And death, not necessarily your own, but that of people you’ve cared about, and what no longer serves you. 

In the throes of my first one, I completed my master’s degree, had a “normal” job. My father and maternal grandma went on to the next life within six months of each other. I realized that the job wasn’t right for me, and began living an artist’s life. 

As I wrap up my second one, there are many regrets that I wish that I could rectify. Not Oakley and Orion, never ever. Before them. I wish I could advise my younger self about boundaries (it is OK to say no to positions in groups; it is OK to leave circumstances that sap your soul). Your dreams are yours. Do not change them to appease and placate others.  I wish I could tell her that the relationship advice in magazines like “Cosmopolitan” is not healthy and actually is pretty detrimental. Career wise, it is OK to have an honorable job that supports you, even if it’s not what you were expected to do by your parents and other influences. And that the tremendous pressure about attending church, especially the one she went to in order to appease her family, is not about grace and salvation as much as money and controlling women. That she is her own best authority on her body and to listen to it, and listen to it well, especially in matters of what truly nourishes her and the size her genes dictates. Most of all, it is fine to be single, and if the guy in question does anything to cause discomfort, it is OK to take off in the other direction. 

And now I look to the future. The adulting has to do with accepting and preparing for my next return by making sure I have a will and related paperwork in order and managing finances to secure my later years. 

Once done, it’s time to create and play.

And develop a new set of dreams. 

 

 

 

There’s Always That One Storm….

Image courtesy of https://thegraphicsfairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Fall-Landscape-GraphicsFairy.jpg

Thunder followed by rain pattering against the window woke me up at 5:30. I closed the windows and dozed for an hour or so, listening to Oakley snore from the comfort of his new bed.

In any other time, I would have been picking him up after sleepover camp at Ms. Lanette’s. Hubby and I should have been at Ren Faire yesterday, but fates and COVID-19 said otherwise.

It is what it is. And what it is in this case is The Storm. The storm that marks the transition to cooler fall weather. It’s usually the week after Labor Day, sometimes the holiday weekend itself. It sounds different, slower, as if taking its time to give the earth a good soaking.

We’ve had two of these storms announcing fall’s arrival (even if it’s astronomically the 21st or 22nd of September) when Hubby and I have been at Ren Faire. Usually, it starts raining late afternoon as we debate if we want to see another act, go to the book store, or start heading home. When that happens, we usually bid a fond seasonal farewell to Bristol and head home.

One arrived mid-afternoon. We squeezed into a pottery shop next to the stage where the band we’d planned to see was scheduled to perform. No matter. The band squeezed in with us and did their set and some more to boot.

When the storm tapered off, we walked the rain slicked lanes through the last sprinkles to do a bit more shopping, see maybe one last act before we parted for the season. Too wet to sit anyplace, so we stopped at another pottery shop before heading home. I found soup bowls and salad plates, substantial weight, dark green with a design inspired by pine boughs and cones.

Those became my go-to for cool weather meals and pasta dishes year round. When I pull them out of the cupboard, I revisit that day, how the wind played the music for the leaves’ dance, how the band put a little something extra into their performance, and laughing at myself trying to navigate the muddy streets in my Birkenstocks.

And I smile, remembering.

Welcoming September

autumn forest near calm clear pond
Photo by Mat Reding on Pexels.com

After an interminable string of hot, humid days, the weather gently cracked Monday night. Off and on showers and light silvery storms popped up yesterday to open the first day of meteorological autumn.

Astronomical autumn doesn’t start until the 21st or 22nd. That’s fine. My head and heart have already switched into fall mode way ahead of the curve. The transition starts when the very first faint tinges of gold and scarlet rim the edges of the leaves and the acorns begin to drop. Then a bare handful of leaves in full fall colors drift to the ground on the soft wind. Next come the geese honking their way into flocks, just a couple here and there, gradually  increasing in numbers as they find their places in the V-shaped formation gliding across the sky.

And then noticing that the lights need to go on earlier, and a little earlier the next night, and stay on a little later the next morning.

As the days grow shorter, this not-so-young woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of comfort food. Two recipes I want to try this fall are risotto–I’ve never made it but have wanted to do so–and  two new soups. One is Finnish salmon soup which kind of resembles chowder; the other is plokkfisker, a potato and fish dish from Iceland that looks like chowder on steroids. I will report on the results.

Books are a necessity any time of year, but more so in the months where a person needs to gather by the hearth. I started rereading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley over the weekend. Ms. Bradley retold the Arthurian legends from the point of view of the female characters.  It weighs in at over 700 pages and a couple of pounds, but worth the time and (physical) effort. In addition, I have a couple of cookbooks requested for my birthday next month, Mimi Thorrisson’s newest, Old World Italian, and The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson. I’ll review them after I play with them.

In the mean time, there are preparations to be made. Blankets? Check. Go through the pantry and freezer to inventory what we have and what we need? Check. Get outside and enjoy it while we can before the really cold weather sets in? Check.

Bring it. I’m ready.

 

 

I’ll Crumble for Ya….

 

oatmeal platter
Photo by Monserrat Soldu00fa on Pexels.com

 

Oh, did you need an ear worm this morning?  One to provide a soundtrack for this entry?Substitute “crumble” for “tumble” and here you go.

Crumbles are great for scratching the dessert itch while providing a lot of fiber, not a lot of sugar, and fruit. They go together pretty quickly and only take about 30 minutes to bake. I make them in a 9″x9″ pan. It fits in my toaster oven so I don’t have to heat up the house with the big oven.

My method is a spin off of the one in Trina Hanhamann’s The Nordic Diet. I cut the recipe in half and added some extra spices and leave out the chopped almonds and use different fruit.

For four servings, you will need:

Fruit, enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Apples are great as are pears. Cherries  (pitted) work as do all berries except strawberries. Fresh, canned, or frozen all work well.  Toss with a couple of tablespoons of flour or cornstarch and a couple of tablespoons of your preferred sweetener and cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to taste. I use coconut sugar.

Oatmeal, preferably old fashioned rolled. Steel cut would not work in here at all–they just aren’t intended for baking.  About a cup and a half will nicely cover the fruit. Mix with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Add a third of a cup of sugar, a dash of salt, and pour over the fruit.

Dot the top with butter, either dairy or vegan.

Now pop into a 375 (350 if using a glass pan) oven for about 30 minutes. When the top is nicely browned and the fruit is bubbly, it’s done. Let it cool for about 10 minutes or so before tucking in to it. A dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt makes a nice topping as would a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

And with all that fruity and oat-y goodness I see no reason why you couldn’t have some for breakfast. I know I have, and I will do it again.

A Slightly Wild Ride

 

brown and beige wooden barn surrounded with brown grasses under thunderclouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Monday (8/10/20) just felt weird energetically.

I took Oakley out to tend to morning business. As we sauntered around the back yard, the sun that spilled through the cracks in the clouds was intense, the breeze blew cold, and the air felt as if a wet towel had been draped over everything.

Well, storms, probably severe ones, had been in the forecast since Friday. Once Oakley freshened up his boundary markers, we went inside and turned on the TV to check the weather.

And I was greeted with special reports about overnight looting in downtown Chicago. All I could do was watch the footage of windows getting smashed and the shards of glass glittering in the early morning sun.

Finally, they went to  weather. This was not an ordinary storm; this was a derecho coming at us. A couple of years ago one trashed the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota. It’s a huge (in this case from well into Wisconsin to Peoria) storm complex with  thunderstorms, straight-line winds of 58 miles or more, and 240 mile wide swaths of damage. It wasn’t expected until after lunch time.

Even though Chicago proper is some 50 miles east and this wasn’t going to impact us directly, it combined with the storm to relieve me of the desire to leave my house. “Oakley, just tell me when you need to go out, but I don’t think we’re going to go anywhere today,” I told him.

Oakley didn’t mind since I gave him a liver cracker while I told him about the change in plans.

Now what? Plug in phone. Have candles and flashlights at the ready. Bring in the trash can and lawnmower. And wait. And keep the TV on but muted.

It finally arrived around 2:45. My phone went off with news of the tornado watch as the crawlers on the TV rattled off the counties under watches and warnings. Off in the distance the siren wailed a song of incoming danger. On the TV the weather guys posted a red rectangle stretching from Sugar Grove (about eight miles north of me) to one of the tiny towns on the Route 47 corridor about five miles south).

And then we lost power.

Not much to do. I grabbed a biskie for Oakley and joined him in his storm shelter between the coffee table and the love seat. A bit of thunder. A bit of lightning, but mostly wind driving the hail and the rain into the windows.

I don’t know how long it lasted, but it had tapered off by about five. Called the power company. Made my report and waited.

And waited.

Checked to make sure the sump pump pit hadn’t overflowed, hauled a ladder upstairs so I could pull a smoke alarm that sang its own death knell out of the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, and then sat and read.

And took Oakley out so he could touch up his boundary markers.

Thankfully, all the shingles were in place and the car parked outside was intact. Windows solid. Everything looked good.

Still no power and no signs of when it would be back. I lit several candles and read while Oakley sat next to me and napped.

I called the power company one more time, but the system had crashed. Turned out that about half a million people were in the same electric-less boat.

We went to bed a bit early. Not really anything else we could do. I took the battery operated lantern upstairs and read some more while the cricket songs floated in through the open windows accompanied by the rustle of the wind in the cornstalks.

The next morning sunlight filtered through the gaps in the curtains, gently waking me up. I went downstairs about 5:45. Just as I was putting water to boil on the stove, the electricity came back.

Again, I turned on the TV for weather. Seven confirmed tornados, including one in Chicago proper and one that damaged a church on the Wheaton College campus. A possible eighth one is being investigated about twelve miles to my west, suspicion raised by the downed utility lines and other damages.

Other than not being able to get to one of the forest preserves for a walk due to cleanup operations, it blossomed into a predictable Tuesday. Oakley went to daycare; I did some bits and pieces around the house. I picked Oakley up. He came home, inhaled dinner, and fell into a deep nap.

Cleanup at the little forest preserve continues today. The big forest preserve was open for business this morning, and we walked there to celebrate safe passage through the storm.

Somehow, we didn’t need to do anything else.

 

 

 

 

Points of Refuge and Respite

woman meditating on rock
Photo by Felipe Borges on Pexels.com

I watched too much TV yesterday and Saturday. Granted that a lot of it involved watching Rep. John Lewis make his final trip over the Pettis Bridge, but still too much of it. It wasn’t the worst thing that I could have done, but it may not have been the best.

In other times, I would have seen who was available for lunch or gone to physical yoga class. But not these days. We have the accursed COVID-19 still in play, messing with most restaurants and many retail establishments. The yoga studio went back to online classes only. And we have had a long stretch of days topping 90 (I wilt at 85 and curl into a blackened ball over 90, especially when humidity comes into play) that’s been interfering with our ability to walk.

But these are extraordinary times we live in. Not unprecedented, since we’ve had the Spanish flu about 100 years ago and the sweating sickness and before that the Black Plague. And countless other epidemics that didn’t get recorded. Oh, and the political upheaval on this scale is nothing new.  Just highly unusual.

How, then, does a person cope?

I’ve been reading. A lot, specifically rereading Jane Austen. The rogues, rakes, and scalawags in her books behave with a modicum of propriety and panache, unlike the miscreants grabbing the headlines of the moment.  Otherwise, it’s a steady diet of books and websites about England, France, and Italy. I’ve found inspiration and entertainment through reading menus from places such as Cafe de Flores, one of the great literary hangouts in Paris. Sigh.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to France, or finally to England or Italy, but I’ll be ready. Thanks to YouTube, I’m learning Italian. I feel confident that I can order coffee and something to go with it. Plus I’m picking up more of what they’re really saying when I watch an Italian mystery on MHz and not just what the subtitles say.

And there’s period dramas. Still on the hunt for something to replace “Downton Abbey.” Or at least fill in the gaps. (Yes, I tried “Poldark,” but when Ross came home  from fighting in the Revolutionary War to find that his father had died and his girlfriend was engaged to his cousin all in the first five minutes put me off.) (Oh, and “Victoria?” They killed off two of my favorite characters. One they had to for historical accuracy, but the other was a shoddy way to advance the story line.)

But there comes a time when one must turn off the tube, put down the book,  and get outside. The problem is finding the sweet spots of the day when it’s relatively cool and the forest preserve isn’t overrun with other walkers, especially the ones who don’t mask up or respect social distancing. Technically, the preserves don’t open until 8 AM, but as long as you don’t bring a marching band with you, the workers pay no mind if you sneak in at 7:30 give or take a few minutes. We go after 5 PM when the hoards thin out. If we walk on the back trails and horse paths, it’s not too hard to avoid other walkers.

If the nuances of weather and thinned crowds fall into place, we walk out to the observation platform on the east end of the preserve. I sit for a few minutes and watch the river tumble to the southwest while Oakley sniffs around the  the platform’s edges to see which critters have been there.

Refreshed, we walk up the trail to meet the common world, ready to take on whatever gets shown at us.

 

 

A Story for Wednesday

 

 

arid barren clay cracks
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Ed. note: something completely different…a conversation between two goddesses. Popped into my head last week. Hope you enjoy. 

 Gaia couldn’t remember the last time she’d really felt well. Parts of her had turned brown, and the vines that flowed from her crown as hair would on a mortal were limp and yellowed. The cough triggered by the lingering stench of human-made pollution wouldn’t really go away. She closed her eyes, willing, visualizing some new growth, some fresh green somewhere, even on a toe. 

The click of stiletto heels crossing the floor announced the arrival of Kali. Without a word, she slipped a hand beneath Gaia’s shoulder and supported her as she rose into a sitting position. Tug this pillow, straighten the edge of the comforter with the other hand. Guided Gaia into a reclining position against the freshly adjusted cushions. “Comfy?”

“Yes, thanks.” 

Kali’s straight raven hair brushed against Gaia’s face as she pressed a sisterly kiss onto her forehead. “Let me get you something to drink,” she said as she pulled a dark green bottle and a chalice crafted from silver and an enemy’s skull out of her black tote bag.

 Gaia inhaled, then froze as the skull stared at her.

 Kali poured some of the contents into the chalice. “Here.  It’s vegan. Lots of antioxidants.”

Gaia raised her eyebrows at the chalice’s appearance. “Um…”

Kali turned the face of the skull away from her. “The chalice is reusable. Just have to get in there with a brush to scrub out the crevices.”

Gaia still hesitated.

After an awkward pause, Kali admonished her, “Honey, just drink it. A blend of juices from black plums, black and red grapes, and pomegranates. Plenty of antioxidants to help you heal. No enemy’s blood.”

Gaia sipped, then smiled. “This is really tasty. Thanks, Kali.”

“How are you feeling, Gaia? Really?”

“Tired, mostly, but angry and sad as well.”

Kali pulled out a second skull chalice and poured herself a drink. “You’re a lot calmer than I’ve been about how they used and abused you. I was in touch with Hecate. We planned to open a can of whoopass on them, but there was no need to do so after the last reactor incident and the virus.”

Gaia began coughing. Kali raised her to a sitting position and held on to her as the tremors ripped through her body, triggering tsunamis, causing mountain ranges to tumble into dust.

She fell back against the pillows, then looked down at her body, new rivers streaming from her eyes. “This didn’t have to be.”

“No, but you get greedy mortals who willfully disconnected from you and sold you out for the almighty buck and everyone suffers. Suffered.”

“Suffered.” More tears slipped from Gaia’s eyes.

Kali gently dabbed the tears away. “But you know the sad part? Hecate didn’t have to lift a finger. Nor did Ma’at. She’ll take care of them in the afterlife. And I didn’t have to take any action, either.”

“I know. I never wanted you to.” Gaia covered Kali’s hand with hers.

Sighing in resignation, Kali said, “We didn’t have to. They did it all to themselves.”