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.
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
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:
I began teaching composition approximately 45 years ago. In all that time, I am not sure that I managed to help many novice writers become more effective writers of expository prose. However, I did read hundreds of essays and write many comments. Over the decades, I found that the same few bits of advice remained constant: narrow and focus the topic, have a clear thesis, give specific examples, and do not overstate.
I am thinking of about expository prose today because I am struggling (again) with my own writing. How will I be able to distill a six week road trip into a narrow and focused thesis-driven post that includes specific examples and which does not overstate? I don’t know–maybe I won’t be able to manage it–but I can comfort myself with a bulleted list. I don’t understand writing, but I do believe words have power.*
- Our Route: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia
- Birds: I hauled along my new binoculars (see Vision Quest), but I didn’t use them much. The binoculars seem a little heavy around my neck and they annoy me when they bang on my chest when I walk. Still, I think I spotted a few golden eagles this trip, and perhaps a bald eagle. We saw hawks, Steller’s jays, a red-headed woodpecker in Wind Cave National Park, a hairy woodpecker in City of Rocks National Reserve, and more.
- Favorite Set of Facts: “Roosevelt credited his Dakota experiences as the basis of his ground-breaking preservation efforts and the shaping of his own character. As president 1901-09, he translated his love of nature into law. He established the US Forest Service and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He worked with Congress to create five national parks, 150 national forests, and dozens of federal reserves–over 230 million acres of protected land” (From the National Park Service information pamphlet for Theodore Roosevelt National Park).
- Not narrowed, not focused, not in proper order, but here is my thesis: We traveled home the whole six weeks of our journey.
- Home was with my brothers and sisters-in-law. We visited them in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan at the beginning of the journey. Later on, we were lucky to be able to travel in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah with two of these dear ones.
- Home was with our friends in Salt Lake City and near Cromberg, CA.
- Walking through mountains, forests, prairies, and canyons felt like home.
- I am from Michigan: Water has always felt like home to me.
- North Rim and Zion: it was old home week for the soul.
- Kind strangers we met along the way made us feel at home. (Tom just suggested that I need to be more specific. Haha, see one of the bits of advice, above. I am talking about the bellman at North Rim, the tour bus driver in Zion, the server at the Duluth Grill, fellow hikers on the trail, people in line at the Huron Mountain Bakery in Marquette and many others.
- Tom and I were on the road again, but we were at home together.
*NOTE: Because of the ongoing Kavanaugh debacle (my home is about 4.5 miles by foot from the U.S. Congress), I am somewhat sad and angry today. Thinking and writing about beautiful places, family, and friends helps me feel somewhat hopeful.
Yes, I am at the Mirage in Las Vegas this afternoon. It seems like an accurate name to me: This place is just a mirage to me. The North Rim is what is real to me. I remember again the words of J.W. Powell in his The Exploration of the Colorado and Its Canyons:
Still farther east is the Kaibab Plateau [including the North Rim], culminating table-land of the region. It is covered with a beautiful forest, and in the forest charming parks are found. Its southern extremity is a portion of the wall of the Grand Canyon….Here antelope feed and many a deer goes bounding over the fallen timber. In winter deep snows lie here, but the plateau has four months of the sweetest summer man has ever known. (p. 102)
Tom and I like to go on road trips. We are on a road trip now. In the 25 days since we began this journey we have:
- stopped in Pittsburgh to see our son Robert (Rebekah was working). Note: We saw Billy and Sarah and Mike before we started out. We just wanted to tell our children, “we love you.”
- visited my dear brothers and sisters-in-law (in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan).
- camped above the Straits of Mackinac and took the ferry to Mackinac Island.
- smelled forest fire smoke through Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.
- visited the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, S.D. (Little House aficionados: we camped by the slough)
- we took an “easy” 3.4 mile hike at Wind Cave National Park and discovered that all of our city walking really wasn’t the same as hiking a rocky track on a warm, sunny afternoon.
- we listened to an Oglala Lakota NPS ranger from Wounded Knee tell us a strong story about the importance of naming. From now on, for us, Devils Tower is Bear Lodge.
Note: I have many more items for this bulleted list, but I will continue it another time soon.
We are old now, but Tom and I like to keep traveling on. Now, the early mornings are cold (unless we are staying in a motel). We don’t even light the camp stove. We drink our coffee cold.
We keep traveling on because we want to see the country and family and friends along the way–while we are still on this side of the great divide. We want to keep learning. We see, listen, touch, and smell the beauty all around us.
Here are a few photos: