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Arcol-o-Gist



The gist of things here in my hometown, set within the arcs of things in the wider world, all from my uniquely biased point of view. Feel free to extend the horizons with your comments.



Updated: 2017-12-14T19:11:29.865-06:00

 



On Hypocrisy

2017-04-17T18:56:13.488-06:00

I talk about climate change.

And I travel by car sometimes. Sometimes I walk, or ride the bus, but sometimes I take the car. Once in a while I even go by air.

Does that make my talk of climate change hypocritical?

I don't think so.

If there were viable alternatives, and if I were refusing to use them while talking about the need for them, that would be hypocrisy.

But there is nothing hypocritical about working to bring those alternatives into existence. And that's what I'm trying to do by talking about climate change.

So to all those who use the charge of hypocrisy to hinder discussions of climate change, I say: If it weren't for your obstruction of progress, we'd have better options by now. Low-carbon lifestyles would be readily achievable and accessible across society.

And someday, when those options are available, then hypocrisy will be an option, too.



Lake Arcola 2013

2013-05-03T22:43:31.483-06:00

I happened by on the day that it peaked (Monday). I think there was really just that one day that the water ran much; mostly it soaked in. We still have some snow in the bush.




Don't try to save me; I'll just argue.

2012-11-09T11:32:57.940-06:00

I am wandering in my studio apartment--studio: the name breathes beauty, creativity, and airy space--picking up clutter.  It is everywhere, teetering on every horizontal surface, of which this space has too many.  One of them is the glossy upper surface of my closed laptop, and the tiny green light of its charger stabs at me: "Go, the way is clear"; and my resistance rises to meet the invitation.  I toy with the "why" of it, but it is illogical.  Logic's supercilious voice says "you will get paid, and you will feel better," but I am feeling better putting things away--a roll of tape and a tea towel and one dish out of many in the rack and then--yes, I will practice the hymns for Remembrance Day.  I approach the chair at the piano, and from its seat I put away some guitar books, and displace the songwriting binder to a new perch, which I first clear by tossing some empty electronica boxes in the direction of their kin.The amp bangs to life, and the piano flickers through its boot cycle while my fingers hover on the smooth surface of the keys--no clutter here, just a bit of grime.  Another thing to take care of, before I share these keys on Sunday.  There is an old upright piano in the theatre, but I don't trust it.  I don't know if they even attempt to tune it.  Each year for November 11th, I haul my own keys there and perch the folding stand on the sloping floor in the side aisle, adjusting one leg longer than the other, getting the keys approximately level and ignoring the tilt of my own bottom on the tilted chair, the compensatory distortion of my spine.  I wonder, if I opened up the old piano and sank my fingers into those yielding slats of ivory, would my braced nerves receive the expected jolt of dissonance?  Or would my breath flow out in a wash of astonishing harmonious pleasure?The home screen appears, and I sink my fingers into the familiar resistance of the weighted keys, but the sound is faint.  The master slider is way down, and as I bring it back up, my right hand still holding a chord, the notes well up like the swell of an obedient choir.  I repeat the opening chord, move to the second, and the faint ache in my chest wells, floods, carries me.  "Let there be peace on earth."  There are more words, even that contentious phrase about "brothers," but I am in the music.  How many repeats?  It doesn't matter; I'll pencil a note in that day; for now I take them all, and then some, riding the swells of these sweet progressions again and again, each time feeling them anew.Here comes my mind again, narrating, analysing: music turns my aches into sweetness, takes me back, no, lets the adult clutter fall away so that my okay-ness can surface, sail, and soar.  And my okay-ness smiles at my busy mind and leaves it behind.But there is that buzz in the amp . . . just the one note? The low F?  No, it's there in that delightful accidental in the mid-range, too, turning its pleasant tension into something grating, turning the resolution into sheer relief that the buzz is gone.  The song has to start winning me all over again from that point.  I'm running my hand over the surfaces of the amp, repeating the trigger notes, searching for the spot where the buzz will stop under my hand, but it doesn't stop, and I go back to the song.  My mind is playing with the metaphor: things left untended, irritations growing into burdens that breed and multiply--but I'm tired, and I just want to play.  I tune out the buzz for a while, but the intimacy is ended.  I leave the piano turned on, untouched, while I carry a chair to the desk, flip open the laptop, and write.  I'm not getting paid.  I'm not feeling better.  I still don't know why.[...]



Stipa in My Socks

2012-07-10T20:13:23.898-06:00

As requested - the picture. Wish I had one of a coworker in flared leg knit pants similarly adorned - they were gorgeous!



Five Best Things about Stipa in Your Socks

2012-07-10T17:25:02.376-06:00

5. Elegant decoration. I could have said "fashion statement," but with Stipa, you state that you wear whatever is beautiful, and inspire others to see beauty anew.
4. Healthy ankles and beyond. Stimulates circulation, exfoliates, draws attention to an often neglected part of the body, and may even stimulate some acupuncture points!
3. Botanical research. Back home, you can verify whether you were walking through stands of Stipa curtiseta, S. comata, or some of both. You could even analyse variability in awn length or sharpness, but you would have to consider possible collection bias.
2. Climate adaptation. If you remove the Stipa seed and drop it in a suitable site somewhat north of where you picked it up, you may be helping our beleaguered prairie vegetation to shift along with climatic zones.

And now, the ultimate good thing about wearing Stipa in your socks:
1. It feels so good when you stop.



How to Have a Messy House

2012-06-30T12:48:23.346-06:00

1. Live alone and never have company to care how it looks.
2. Get lots of dishes, so you can cover the counter before you run out of anything.
3. Put off decisions about where stuff goes.
4. Work two or more jobs, and have some volunteer roles as well. Bring stuff home.
5. Have lots of creative ideas, so you can always start a new project rather than finishing an old one.
6. Move often. This will keep a lot of your stuff in boxes, get those boxes out on a truck periodically so you can clean once per residence, and keep you optimistic about a fresh start.



Unspoken

2012-05-10T21:35:00.986-06:00

That slight smile that rests so easy, always there, from the corners of your lips to the depths of your eyes, always - and yet when you turn it my way, it seems only for me - mercy! Do you have an uncle?



Bare Hills

2012-02-04T23:07:40.082-06:00

Last year in a graduate course in education, I searched for childhood memories of significant moments in nature. Trouble was, most of my memories were in natural settings - significant moments in cities or indoors would be the exceptions! I found myself writing instead about the places we frequented, our ways of being there, our rituals.
There was one special moment that became a treasured ritual. We waited for it in late winter, watching from the school bus for the first glimpse of a dark patch amid the snow on the crest of a steep ridge that we called the South Slopes. Then off we would go, down through the meadow and up, up, up the ridge, toiling through snow that rolled unhelpfully under every step.
Oh, the joy of that last step from the shifting snow to the bare, solid earth! We stood on it, jumped on it, danced on it. We shouted and laughed. We lingered, stilled again by its immense stillness.
When would that have been? Early March?
Today I walked again in sloppy felt-lined snow boots, down by the meadow and up the ridge. I toiled a little, but the snow was not deep. I reached the summit, took a picture of the lifting fog, and then, through my viewfinder, saw my feet on the bare ground.
Trouble is, this winter, the bare ground is commonplace. I bet I could have stood on a bare patch on that ridge every week. The novelty would be to see it blanketed in white.



Top Ten Things You Can Do for the Environment

2011-12-29T12:28:09.565-06:00

It's the time of year for top-ten lists.  Here's mine:

  1. Grow a garden.  Yes, you.  This has finally started to turn up on a few lists, long overdue, but it's usually way too far down the list.  Don't have a bit of land?  (Are you sure?  Think small, even a planter or a window box.)  Help a friend.  Get a community garden plot, and again, maybe go together with a friend on this.  The most important tip for a beginning gardener: start small.  It might seem insignificant, but you will be surprised at what you can produce.  And transportation of fresh produce is a big part of our ecological footprint, so a successful small beginning at gardening may have just as much impact as any other green project you could do. 
  2. Take up hunting or fishing.  Yes, you.  Yes, kill something.  Do it close to home, and you will have to learn about the natural habitats of your own area, where they are, what sustains them, and what threatens them.  They need you.
  3. Eat what you kill.
  4. Eat smaller portions of meat: a piece about the size of your palm and the thickness of your pinkie finger is plenty, even with all that vigorous gardening and hunting you will be doing.
  5. If your hunting and fishing doesn't fill your reduced meat needs, look for domestic meats that are grown locally in harmony with the natural habitats you learned about in #2.  In my area, that means range-fed beef, which uses self-guided cow-power to harvest and fertilize natural grassland instead of plowing it up and using fossil fuels to cultivate and fertilize grain crops.
  6. If, after all this new recharge time you are spending in your garden, on the trail of a deer, or on the water with your fishing rod, you still feel the need for a holiday from your life, take it close to home.  Check out nearby parks, festivals, galleries - try your local tourism agency if you need ideas.  Try something different: a bike tour, or paddling lessons; a retreat to learn about the enneagram; a music camp where you can learn to play an instrument.
  7. Buy less, but when you do buy, spend more.  Buy quality, to last a lifetime.  Help the economy shrink back so it fits within the biosphere instead of mining the Earth.
  8. When giving gifts, show your caring through the time and thought you put in, instead of the dollars.  In my family, for the last couple of years, CHRISTMAS stands for Consumeable (or Cookies), Homemade, Recycled (if you're not using it much but someone else would, why not?)... and I have been trying to extend the acronym to include Indirect (a gift to charity), and then the rest of the letters make an excuse for buying something Specific to that person and Terrifically Magically Awesomely Spectacular... such as the lightweight plastic trombone we found for my Mom to help her continue marching in parades well into her 70s.
  9. Don't have time for all this?  Do it anyway, and with the money you save, quit working.  Give up that second income, or the overtime.  Change jobs if you need to.  Take back your life.
  10. Tell your local political representatives what you are doing, and why.  Destroy their argument that we can't make changes because the public won't change.  Change, and show them.



Lake Arcola 2011

2011-04-25T12:06:14.613-06:00

(image) My not-quite-annual picture of the "lake" in town, close to its peak (I believe) on April 12th, when I just happened to be in town to go with James to the music festival. He thoroughly impressed me at that, with a lively clarinet solo and a lilting duet with a flute player from the next town.
On the way home from the festival, we had to drive through water flowing over the highway between Arcola and Carlyle. I've never seen it flood there before.
The water in Arcola was very high as well, but I think it might have something to do with the new culvert they put in where there used to be a drainage ditch across a vacant lot. Now there is a very long culvert with a house on top, and that culvert just doesn't seem to be doing the same job that the ditch did.



Parsnip - unedited

2010-10-07T07:37:20.186-06:00

(image)
Remember "Rootabigga"? I think this root is actually bigger. Mom and Dad have a great garden on a spot where they used to feed cattle. That fertile soil combined with the non-stop rain this year produced some sensational parsnips (and carrots, and beets, and lettuce that kept producing all season instead of bolting in July).

The boy is definitely bigger. In about a year he went from shortest in the family to tallest. I don't think there was anything special about growing conditions that year; it was simply time to grow.



I don't find the Olympics hopeful...

2010-02-14T08:35:56.332-06:00

What if the athletes had to get to the games under their own power?

What if they played on whatever snowy slope or frozen lake was available?

What if people came to play instead of to watch?

In response to all this Olympic striving:

Life is not about being best.

It is about being you.



Daylight on the Bus Route

2010-01-13T14:08:39.931-06:00

When I was in high school, I played the clarinet in "Division Band," which was a wind ensemble composed of students from schools all across the Arcola School Division. Or was it the Arcola School Unit? I remember something about Unit 10, and the office was actually in Arcola, housed in the old Land Titles Office, a wonderfully solid brick building with a brass elevation marker in the yard. The building has since housed a museum and gift shop, and more recently the offices of a trucking company. The school division has become much larger. Back then, though, we would wait after school on Monday for a bus coming from Stoughton and picking us up on the way through to Carlyle for band rehearsal. To fill the time and tide us over, we always had a bit of allowance money to go downtown to Chan's Cafe for a chocolate bar or a little bag of chips. Chan's Cafe stands vacant now, and my daughter works next door in the new "Michael's Cafe and Bakery." She played in Division Band for a while, but the bus was no more, and my understanding is that the band itself fizzled out a few years ago.

Little snapshots of memory remain, not of the music itself, but of scenes: our instruments in their cases waiting on the sidewalk by the gym; an older student silhouetted oddly in the hallway during a break; my favourite conductor Mr. Patterson's smile. We did get a standing ovation at one concert, for our performance of the William Tell Overture. But what I remember most was that particular Monday each winter when we would come out of rehearsal for the bus trip home and find that it was not yet dark out.

Back then it took a week's change for it to be noticeable, but back then I wasn't the bus driver with the watch. These days on my morning run to the school, I notice the difference in the sky from one day to the next, as I turn south or east toward the sunrise: how much brighter it is than when I passed this spot the day before.



Earthiness

2010-01-08T14:50:57.247-06:00

I wonder if the acupuncture addiction treatment that Madcap was talking about could cure whatever keeps drawing me back to the ivory tower. She gave me a belly-laugh today, with a devilish edge to it. Please do go look at her definition of fundament. (Yes, before you read the rest of this.)I just checked Merriam Webster online, and found her definition under #2, but #1 is intriguing: "an underlying ground, theory, or principle" - and oh, #3 could get me going: "the part of a land surface that has not been altered by human activities."I am back home on the farm, for now at least, but my perceptual apparatus is tuned to the academic, the literary, the textual."Dirt is so 20th century," declares the slogan on the box Mom and Dad brought back from the city yesterday. I declared that I could write a deep analytical essay about all the societal attitudes and assumptions wrapped up in that slogan. Inside the box is Mom's Christmas present, an AeroGarden. I have been teasing her mercilessly, but I can appreciate her desire to have "her own" lettuce in February. And maybe the saving in trips to the grocery store in town would justify the spending on plastic baglet strips of precisely formed nutrient pellets. I just think I would rather use dirt, thanks.Not that I have ever actually gotten around to it.I was getting closer, when I (well, we) got those big windows put in. All I had to do was to get the construction debris out from under them and a shelf of pots in its place. Even one little shelf. Or table or stack of boxes or board on sawhorses or whatever. Something to hold the dear little green things (and their pots of dirt) up in the sunlight.But now the sunny house is sheltering my kids and their father while I wander forth and not quite back, forth to further schooling, and now back to school-bus driving and seeking more lucrative short-term endeavours as a way of hovering nearby to be a little more present for those kids. Most dear, they are, and not nearly so little, but still needing me a bit closer for a while, or so I like to think.I have been "home" since Christmas, all for the sake of the kids, but so far I have spent very little time with them. When I am not driving the school bus (cancelled for today because of the windchill), or chasing leads on employment and accommodations in town (closer to the kids), or attempting to impose some order on the debris of piles and boxes that one might (mistakenly) represent as my "roots" (though I would sure like to put them securely down somewhere), I am reading and musing and catching myself staring at some little phrase that captures my mind. Or sometimes I am just staring out the window at the sparkling frost on the winter-dried native grasses and wildflowers standing up through the snow. And thinking about something entirely different. I am sure it was a thesis topic, a fine one, but it's gone now.There will be another. Or the same one disguised in another grand-sounding phrasing.Yes, I am thinking theses. Further degrees. Yes, I am actually thinking about a PhD.Of course, I am aware of the clever little wordplay that starts with a barnyard interpretation of the initials B.S. (ignoring the "c" in my B.Sc.), proceeds through M.S. (more, and never mind that mine was an M.A.) and concludes with the initials for "Pile Higher and Deeper."Manure is good.Although maybe not so good when too much of it is piled up in one place . . .[...]



Not Forwarded but Shared

2009-06-24T20:51:00.288-06:00

...because I refuse to forward such things but the prayer speaks to me deeply right now. It's not so much a prayer as a benediction, I'm thinking...


Saint Theresa's Prayer


May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be confident knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.




Over to the Dark Side

2009-06-15T12:41:16.791-06:00

Confession time. Oh all you homeschooling hard working real living friends of mine, please forgive me. I have applied to go back to school (again) and study (still more) to be a high school science teacher.

I figure it this way: I dabbled in growing my own food and making my home less dependent on gas and electricity and so on, but I didn't go far enough, and I didn't succeed in bringing my family along with me. Our kids seem to want fairly conventional careers - although Ruth is fascinated with "tiny homes" and may study architectural technology - so it doesn't matter how many vegetables I can grow in the back yard, when they will be needing money for tuition and accommodations. The marriage breakdown adds another layer of formal obligation, too, since the legal people will be looking at whatever agreements we come up with to see whether the children are provided for adequately (and I am sure they will be looking at dollar signs, not bushels of food). This teaching program is the fastest way I can see to get back onto a fairly lucrative career track while still making use of my science background, being able to work in my home area, and being able to cultivate a little more ecological awareness. I know, walk the walk. Well, at least I will have late afternoons and July and August for gardening.



Bring It On

2009-05-19T10:29:40.826-06:00

Nobody ever told me that divorce is hell
until I made up my mind
and then I heard it twice in a week.

Well thanks for the advice but
how the hell do you know?

I have a saying for you too.

A change is as good as a rest.



The Path Leads On

2009-05-12T14:59:37.623-06:00

I'm trying another little step here, to see if this blogging path is still right for me.  I have been keeping my head down for a while, wanting to sort things out for myself away from the din of other voices, other labels.  That and being very busy with a bunch of business that is nobody else's business, thank you.  Sure, I've still been up to lots of interesting remodeling and such, but that's not the stuff that rattles around my mind and demands to be written.

One thing that did get written was a song (surprise!), and in a circumspect way, it says something about where I've been.

The Path Leads On
© 2009 Laura Herman

Here's a hand
to help you back onto your feet.
Take my arm for awhile;
take my shoulder if you need it;
but once you're steady,
once you're ready,
the next step is yours...

The path leads on
from wherever you have fallen.
The path leads on;
it's a winding, narrow way.
There is no place
too far, too wrong:
starting just where you are,
the path leads on.

Here you are.
I know you think you should be there,
high above all of this,
and you're sinking in despair, oh,
but while you're hurting,
while you're searching,
you are on the way...

The path leads on
from wherever you have fallen.
The path leads on;
it's a winding, narrow way.
There is no place
too far, too wrong:
starting just where you are,
the path leads on.

Being "on the straight and narrow" -
what a sad, mistaken notion!
He said "strait is the gate" -
like Gibraltar to the ocean:
a narrow way that leads
to life
where your heart
and your horizons
open wide... open wide...

The path leads on
from wherever you have fallen.
The path leads on;
it's a winding, narrow way.
There is no place
too far, too wrong, too gone:
starting just where you are,
the path leads on.



Cultivating Our Roots

2009-05-11T17:37:13.034-06:00

My Mom has published a beautiful book:

(image)

She wrote it from the perspective of a retiring seed grower, which means it can give the impression of a technical manual for a very narrow audience, but don't be fooled. I say, if you live in my ecoregion, you need to see this book.

Even if you will never grow anything, you might want to get acquainted with these plants. Consider this: they're your neighbours. They were here before you were, and likely will be long after. They might all look like "just grass" to you, but once you take a closer look, you may be astounded at the diversity in a tiny patch of unbroken prairie.

But here's the tricky part. Have you ever looked at a grassland in early June or late August and tried to find pictures in a field guide to match what you are seeing on the ground? Good luck. If you or anyone you know wants to learn to recognize some of the most common grasses and wildflowers of the mixed-grass prairies in the northern plains of North America, I say: start with this book. There are excellent photographs of multiple life stages of each plant, so you stand a good chance of recognizing your leafy new friend throughout the growing season - even when it's not so leafy. You won't have to wade through pages of obscure plants that you will never see, because there are only 62 wildflowers and 22 grasses included - only the most common species plus a few uniquely interesting species like buffalograss (rare in our region but common farther south in the short-grass prairie). As you learn the plants, you can also learn to recognize similarities among species in the same plant family, since the book is organized by families and includes identifying characteristics for each. That way, when you meet a plant that isn't introduced in the book, you may well be able to say, "You look familiar - aren't you related to..." and all of a sudden you will have a nodding acquaintance with hundreds of species.

And of course, if you want to actually grow these plants, whether as a seed business or just as a minimal-input alternative to a thirsty hungry lawn, you could benefit from the tips on planning and preparing a site, the illustrations to show you how your plants will look (even as seedlings so you can tell what not to weed out of your plot), the germination information, and tips and pictures to help you collect your own seed to get started.

I used to do inventories of the plant life on proposed oil and gas well sites. I worked with numerous floras and field guides, and through struggle and persistence, reached a point where I can look at most common prairie plants and just know them, no matter how small or shrivelled. But when I first started, and even in recent years when I was working very early in the growing season, I wish I had had this book.

Oh and did I mention that it's beautiful? People here were buying copies as Mother's Day gifts, just for the pictures of the their mothers' favourite flowers.

Yes, I'm proud of my Mom.



The Solar Thaw

2009-03-05T20:01:27.085-06:00

I have been watching the south-facing snow banks along the street, wondering when the snow would begin to melt back wherever dust and dirt catches the sun. Today was the first sign of it this year. I think it takes a certain combination of sun angle, sunny days, and air temperature, so the date varies.  I have a picture of an advanced stage of the thaw from March 15th, three years ago,  here.



Winter Severe Weather

2008-12-16T14:47:05.644-06:00

I tap the digits of the long-distance number and wait, half listening, for the point in the menu where I can press 4 for our region and 3 for our forecast. My mind tunes out the random clip advertising other services, but the echo of that voice returns at moments through the day: "Winter Severe Weather..."

In this land, this week,
severe weather is a violent stillness
creeping inward to the places where life
huddles
curling protectively around its own spark
waiting, hoping to last
until rescue.

Lasting until rescue, and knowing some will not, is a grim reality of life in this land. Small wonder that Connie Kaldor sings, "I come from a land that is harsh and unforgiving..." and tells the story of one who "tried to walk and froze to death, fifty feet from town." Sometimes summer too drains life away: again Connie sings of those still standing, stony faced with survivor guilt, "hoping to hold on so you don't end up like the neighbours: him and her, they're weeping as the auctioneer yells."

In a gentler song of springtime, Ian Tyson recalls the names of his neighbours and their ranches, where each in turn is pictured "pulling calves," helping with the birthing and rejoicing that they "made it through another on the northern range." In the last line of the song, though, he brings to mind the name of one more rancher, one who has pulled calves for the last time: "Gid's in the country where the tall grass grows..."



Annie Gardenbed's Song

2008-10-28T13:13:03.247-06:00

Your world is good for meand so I give you thanksfor soil and seasons, seeds and sun,for water and wisdom and work to be done.Your world is good for me(Annie Gardenbed) -Amen!This work by Laura Herman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.Sorry about the Noncommercial break, but I wanted Disney'slegal hordes to know that I'm not trying to profit by this.Your world.I don't say who "you" is, but there is no need. I am singing to one who is present, listening; why use a name? It would only drag us off into arguments about the connotations of the name, and then about which gender of pronoun we should use when the name is too burdensome to speak in its entirety.Isn't it rude to argue about someone when they are present?Your world is good for me.It is a whole world, and it is larger than my doubts and fears about what may be done to me specifically. It is a good place in which to choose my way.I give you thanks . . .and in so doing, I open my own eyes, and my whole being, to the wonder, blessings, and possibilities that are all around me, always, whether I remember to give thanks or not.Soil.Do I own it? Because I can surround it with survey stakes, do I really own the soil? If I turn and tear it with the movement of steel, driven by combustion commanded by cash, do I forget? It is much more ancient than I and my title. It is more fluid and changing than the lines on the deed. It anchors the roots of life, records the traces of centuries, and yet whole decades of its building can be swept away, to a new place and people, in a few windstorms or a single flood.Is soil, all too often, taken as a given instead of as a gift?Seasons.Dave Sauchyn of Regina, trying to create the few bullet points asked of him to somehow sum up a 448-page report on the impacts of climate change in Canada, said this:Canada is losing the competitive advantage of a cold winter.Seeds, sun, and water . . .the things we often remember in our thanks.There is so much more.Wisdom.If you find a little here, I am thankful.Work to be done!In our modern world we only deem something a success if we can stand back idle and watch it work. If any physical effort is required, it is an outright failure. . . . The very first thing we do when seeing something so elegantly simple and useful as this pump is scheme to make it work while we just stand by and stare at it.--EleutherosThere is a pitfall in being thankful for things given to us. The story of Johnny Appleseed is inspiring, but the popular version, as summed up in the merry little verse, drifts toward a "big-rock-candy-mountain" vision of idyllic idleness achieved at last, as a result of someone else's generous hard work. That vision entices, seduces, and robs us of the wonderful gifts of our own work: tending; bringing forth; growing strong; growing wise; being present; finding meaning.Through work we receive the ability to give.Your world is good for me!Amen.[...]



Annie Gardenbed

2008-10-22T15:18:01.386-06:00

I aspire to be known as Annie Gardenbed someday - but I aspire to be and do many things, and I can work on only a few at a time, so if someone else earns the name first, I won't be disappointed. I hope this blog post might help that happen.

Why Annie Gardenbed? Well, it's a little play on the name Johnny Appleseed. I'd like to be like Johnny, except that instead of planting apples, I'd be digging new garden plots and getting new gardeners started.

The popular legend is that Johnny wandered all over planting apple seeds almost anywhere, so that whoever came along later could gather apples. As with any legend, the reality is similar but different: John Chapman was a wandering planter of apples, but he planted nurseries in areas where settlers would soon be arriving, and had the seedlings ready to sell to the settlers for their homestead orchards. Still, the legend captures some of the spirit of his life and legacy, in that he lived extremely simply; he was generous in his dealings; and his undertaking was remarkable enough to earn him the nickname "Johnny Appleseed" by about halfway through his long life. The real story, or what we think we know of it, is richer and stranger than the legend, and definitely worth a look.

When I came up with the idea of "Annie Gardenbed," I knew only the popular legend of Johnny, and a related little song that we often use as a mealtime grace:
Oh, the Lord is good to me,
and so I thank the Lord
for giving me the things I need:
the sun and the rain and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me.
Alleluia, Amen!
Many people sing "Johnny Appleseed" instead of Alleluia in the last line. The song appears in many places unattributed, as if it were a folk tune going back to the days of Johnny himself, but thanks to Cathy's Grace Notes, and some further sleuthing, I learned that it is a verse from a song written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent for the Walt Disney Music Company in 1946, and sung by Dennis Day in the animated short "Johnny Appleseed" (part of Disney's 1948 release "Melody Time"). The sheet music is still available.

I'm disappointed. Today while washing dishes I came up with a little verse for Annie Gardenbed, but I don't dare tell you what the tune is, or Disney might come after me. I'm not afraid of ordinary mice, but . . .

I think I'll see about a public domain license for my verse, before I post it. That way at least I'll have evidence that I'm not trying to profit from Disney's tune in any way.

Or should I just go ahead an post it anyway?



Healing

2008-10-17T15:17:43.786-06:00

I can sleep on my left side.

I hadn't been able to do that in years - so many years that I can't remember when the first year was, or how long it took to realize that I might never sleep on that side again. All I know is that I used to try to ignore the clicking in my sternum, or near it; and I used to shift around and try to find a position where I could breathe without that soft click-click, shift-release, on and off with each and every breath; and it didn't hurt, exactly, but it felt very wrong, like it would certainly be hurting later if I let it carry on.

My theory was that some cartilage had been damaged somehow, so my rib cage wasn't quite as solid as it should be. And I didn't think cartilage could heal. So I slept on my right side.

I have never been able to sleep on my belly. On my back, yes, long ago, and still sometimes when I let down my guard. You see, a long time ago I woke suddenly, frantically, sitting straight up in bed from a dream of falling backwards, backwards, into blackness. I think it happened more than once, and then I just didn't sleep on my back unless I rolled there in my sleep without noticing. These days it's not that dreadful dream that wakes me, but the sound of my snoring.

It troubled me a little, having only one position to sleep in, especially when a limb would sleep longer, numb and prickling. Still, I lived with it.

And then I made a change in my life, a change that had nothing to do with the clicking in my chest - at least not as far as I was aware.

And some months later (a year, maybe?) I noticed that I was lying on my left, and my chest wasn't clicking. The click came back sometimes, gently, and I was patient, just trying that side for a little while each evening, turning back if the click returned. Finally it stayed away.

What a sweet moment that was, when I woke and realized that I was lying on my left side.



Harvest Home

2008-10-11T21:25:14.421-06:00

Picture this (because I don't know where to find a camera with batteries charged up):
  • onions and beets spread to dry on newsprint
  • cardboard boxes brimming with carrots, potatoes, and squashes
  • bags of dry beans, with the sides rolled down to let the beans dry a little more
This week I'll be storing things away a little better: tucking the onions into old nylons and hanging them on nails on the floor joists in the basement; cleaning up some of the carrots and beets and finding some room for them in the fridge, freezing some others, and maybe drying some for soups, too; and clearing some room in a not-too-cool spot for the squashes to sit with some air spaces between them. The dry beans are experiments. I have been growing Windsor broad (or fava) beans for several years, but never understood what they should look like when mature. Finally I read somewhere that they can be picked when the pods start to turn black, and realized that this was not a sign of disease! I let them dry on the vines, and today we gathered them. Also, as a sort of accidental experiment, we gathered the dry wax beans that we didn't get eaten as fresh beans in the summer. We eat a lot of kidney beans and some chickpeas, lentils, and pinto beans, but all of these are tricky to grow in our short summers, so I want to experiment with some other dry legumes. We'll see!

I am very tired, and very happy. I let myself be led away from the garden path for most of the summer and early fall, and when I heard the word "snow" in the forecast I feared I had left it too long, but the rain and snow held off and we got it all in.

Happy thanksgiving!