About thirty minutes ago I gave myself the choice of spending the afternoon finishing Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, watching an afternoon NFL football game, or–now that summer appears over–putting up some final summer flower photos. I think the novel is wonderful, but it is too emotionally challenging for me today. I love football, but I was in the stands when Michigan beat Maryland yesterday; that is enough. So, I am posting some photos. With them, I send my (still) hopeful wishes for us all.
I have always felt lucky to have grown up in Michigan. I always bought into the state’s motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” I spent my childhood looking about me: Higgins Lake, Kensington Park, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron (I think I only met Lake Superior when I was a bit older). The Detroit Zoo, Belle Isle, Boblo, Greenfield Village, Scotty’s Fish and Chips, Cape’s Ice Cream in Milford: the list is diverse and goes on and on. A few weeks ago, Tom and I were lucky enough to take a trip to the Lower Peninsula. Below are some photos of the trip.
I am still here. However, it has been 82 days since I last wrote in this space.
First, some words about clothes, and then some other words.
In the winter, especially when I wear my pink coat and my little aqua hat (rimmed with pink), people sometimes offer me their seats on the Metro. Some of the people who offer me seats seem pretty old themselves. Most of the people who offer me a seat are immigrants. I am learning to either politely accept or politely decline. It’s difficult, but I am what I am–older than I used to be. It’s just that I wish that that fact wasn’t so apparent to everyone on the train.
In the summer, I mostly wear two hats. I say mostly because my daughter gave me a third lovely broad-brimmed summer straw, but I almost lost it to the wind walking across Key Bridge, so I hesitate to wear it much. Instead, I wear a Michigan ball cap and when I wear it I look like Michael Moore. I like Michael Moore, but perhaps it is not my best look. The other hat I wear is a loose, rustic straw hat. When I wear this hat, I feel like Ma Kettle. Now, I just googled Ma Kettle and I see that she wore a variety of hats. In any case, I feel like a rube and I can only hope to emulate Ma’s good sense.
- I have had a good spring and summer, so far. I have walked with my beloved one in many lovely gardens. Actually, we have also walked in the same gardens many times over and watched the plants change week by week. I have visited with many friends and family here in Washington, D.C. and Virginia and also in Ohio and Michigan. Tom has been on a cooking spree from Francis Lam’s kimchi and Spam fried rice and Jacques Pepin’s paella to Ruth Reichl’s chocolate jewel cake. It’s good that we spend so much time walking and going to the gym.
- And yet, there is a pall on my heart and in my mind. I feel like I am wandering in Minas Tirith when the darkness from Mordor starts to roll in. Let me see if I can explain. Every day on Facebook, I click furiously on angry and sad emojis: destruction of our lands-click; rampant racism-click; women’s (and everyone else’s) health and well-being assaulted-click; children ripped from their parents and put in cages-click, click, click; mass murders of innocents-click, click, click, click. You get the idea. I pray–and that is hard for an agnostic–for the light to come in the morning, I want to be as brave, cheerful, and effective as a hobbit. I am not, but I try.
- Some are sick and some are well. I am not the only one growing older. A friend dies unexpectedly and a sweet baby girl is born.
- Some days my glass half-full mantra irritates even me. That my close to the ground cheerful wishes could stand up against all the lies and the forces of hate? Do I really believe that? Well, yes, much of the time. I believe in kindness, generosity, earnestness, hard work, bravery and good humor. I see it in my life and I hope to die before I give up on such ideals.
- Beauty helps me, so I will end with that. See you in the gardens, mountains, lakes, and deserts and at the marches and maybe on the ramparts. Maybe I will be wearing a hat.
Although it has been 74 days since I lasted posted an article, I have not been hibernating. It was more like being in a fitful sleep full of bad dreams: children in cages, floods in the countryside, the demise of civil discourse, and lies, lies, lies. That’s in the night and also when I compulsively check the latest news throughout the day. Otherwise, Tom and I take lots of walks.
A Good Sign Every day for the last four days I have caught myself sounding like my mother. When she was happily focused on a task, my mother sometimes vocalized a low, mostly tuneless, hum. It seemed to be the sound of contentment. I have been humming as I work around the condo and as I pull up invasive weeds in the nearby parks.
Spring has come to the Washington, DC area. Everywhere I walk, I see extravagant and exuberant beauty. I see the beauty not only in the flowers, but also in the commuters, the joggers, the protesters, the school groups, and other visitors to the capital city.
I try to look at the glass as half full. Some days and weeks–especially in our current social and political climate–that is difficult for me. Thinking about my mother and walking through the springtime helps restore my optimism. Below are some photos from recent walks. Happy Spring.
- You can find more information about the REDress Project here.
Right now here in Arlington, VA, Accuweather claims it is 34 degrees (feeling like 22) with maybe some flurries in a bit. It’s windy, too and I don’t think I will make it outside today. Still, that’s nothing like the Polar Vortex millions are experiencing in the Midwest and Great Lakes states.
I am thinking of my dear ones in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I wish I could make them soup and bread and send them flowers. Please stay warm and safe.
Soup I have loved making soup ever since I learned to make my mother’s vegetable beef soup many decades ago. Then came the back-of-the-bag split pea soup, Julia Child’s French onion soup (back when I could get cheap beef bones for stock), chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles, spicy lentil soup, and many more. One of our favorite soups is Diana Kennedy’s recipe for sopa de albondigas (meatball soup). This recipe comes from Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking: Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados (Bantam Books, 1989). This soup is fragrant, flavorful, and somehow light and hearty at the same time. I looked online and saw several adaptations of this recipe. I prefer the original recipe for the directions on making the soup broth, but I think the online recipes should also be okay. Bon appetit.
Bread I have always loved making bread. I think bread making was part of my brief attempt to be an earth mother. I never really fit that description, but I have made dozens of kinds of bread. Earth mother style, I guess, because I never use the stand mixer or a bread machine. I like to knead by hand. Many loaves have been successful, some have not. My current favorite bread recipe is entire whole wheat bread from the 1984 edition of The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by (the nonpareil baker) Marion Cunningham. This bread takes some time, but, if one follows the directions, the bread is delicious and cuts well. Again, except in a used book store, I think it might be a challenge to find this vintage recipe, However, there are many similar Fannie Farmer wheat bread recipes online. Note: I made this bread a couple of hours ago. I am promising myself a piece of toast and butter when I finish this post!
Flowers The flurries have started outside. With all the wind, the snow is flying almost horizontally: a tiny taste of what those in the northland are experiencing. The flowers below are to remind you of the spring and summer to come. Love, Lynda
Almost every morning I watch the sun rise over the Potomac River. Bands of pink, orange, red, aqua, grey, white, and, finally, sometimes, azure amaze me. The sky amazes me so much that I remember to mention the beauty of nature in my daily words of gratitude.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on Years ago, while getting ready for a move, my husband almost threw away my ice skates. Although I was shocked and upset, it was not an unreasonable idea he had. The skates probably hadn’t fit me since some time in my early teens and they were dirty beige, not the preferred pristine white. I carried the skates as a talisman with which I hoped could conjure up perfection like that to be found skating on a winter’s night. Maybe I thought that I couldn’t remember without tangible proof. (Note: I finally parted with the skates about six years ago).
Once more to the lake Early in the winter there might be a night when the lake was frozen solid and there was just a dusting of snow to keep the ice from being too slick. I did not have to teach my feet to fly. I could skate from our house to the other end of the lake in magic time.
On the lake my brothers would make a hockey rink that they would use until there was too much hardened snow to shovel off. They also fished through the ice using something they called a tip-up. For more fun, every winter and then again every spring we would walk out on the ice as far as we could before it cracked and broke. One time out on the ice in front of our house, my brother Mike really fell through the ice and I saved him with a hockey stick.
Later on in the winter when the ice was many inches thick, my oldest brother, Roger, would drive his junker car fast on the ice and then hit the brakes. I’m not sure my parents knew about that trick.
Also Before our family moved to the lake, in the winter my father would make an ice rink in the back of our Detroit house so we and the neighbor kids could skate. I was little and my dad would lace up my skates for me. The tears are running down my cheeks now and if I were outside in Michigan winter, the tears would be freezing as they ran. Our parents would take us to Lola Valley to skate or the Redford skating rink and by ourselves we could go down to the Rosedale club house to skate. It was always freezing cold, hard, sharp, and perfect. At the Redford skating rink I did put my tongue on the metal fence. It did hurt, but I got it loose in time to avoid something horrible.
The skates I carried with me for so many years were a metaphor for winter just as hickory nuts, dried plants, rocks, and shells were metaphors for the other seasons of my childhood.
I go into 2019 with trepidation about the state of human rights, our government, and the environment. I don’t have my skates or hickory nuts anymore, but I have retained much of the optimism from my happy childhood. So, I can say with some joy and hope: Happy New Year!
*(adapted from Losing It: Deconstructing a Life, unpublished work © Lynda Terrill, all rights reserved)
All day I have enjoyed watching the rain, sleet, and snow through my living room window. I love such weather–if now more on paper than by actually venturing outside in it. Today mostly, though, I have been thinking of flowers, trees, and the other parts of nature that give me solace.
It has been a challenging fall here in the capital area, and in many other places. Flowers for family and friends, for the Carolinas, for Pittsburgh, for California, for the separated parents and children, for Bears Ears, for the sick, the hungry, and the lonely. As a secular humanist agnostic, I don’t exactly pray, but I do remain hopeful (mostly). I send good vibes. I mutter or whisper or chant: May you be well, may you be happy, may you have peace. At least, here are some flowers: