Sunday, February 28, 2021

FULL SNOW MOON

grey fox crossed the road
in front of my headlights,
his tail erasing his form.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Links to some of my foodie bloggies

I was compiling a bloglist of foodways for my latest food blog, expecting to find a mere handful. Instead, I found 25 blog posts, and when I compiled a growing list, for some inexplicable reason, Blogger erratically erased the correct links. I had to redo this list too many times to count. I no sooner fixed three dead links, then when I reformatted it, other links went wonky. And so on. For every step forward, I retreated two steps. It took me most of the day to undo the damage. Shame on you Blogger for once again making what once was a relatively simple task into a logistical nightmare. Ditto that with your dogged changing of spelling in the search window. Foodways is a real word. The links are in no particular order, but are mostly chronological in nature. I'm sure I missed a few.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

MY AMERICA haiku

My America 
is a hummingbird hovering 
at an empty feeder 
crawling with ants.

2/23/21

Cleveland Elementary School Days 1-3 teaching notes: LOVE IS LIKE, IF/THEN, MY, HOPE, Ms. Loeser’s 4th Grade, Journal

2/9 Well, this is a first, I came late to my own class, thinking it began on Thursdays, not Tuesdays. Oops! This pandemic messes with my sense of time. It took me quite some time to get into the Zoom meeting as well, which made me even later yet. Egg on my face. What a funny saying. First you have to be eating eggs for breakfast, second you have to be eating them so fast that they’re all over your face. Then you need to be in such a hurry that you don’t even have the time to wipe your mouth. That about sums it up. I never quite caught my breath the entire class. Wipe your mouth!

I am a great one for over-preparing, but this time I had to teach ad hoc, off the top of my head. Luckily the poem I chose was a phrase by William Butler Yeats, Love is like a lion’s tooth as a starter place. Mary did not receive my PDF handouts, so I had to teach, and simultaneously send her the lesson plan via email, talk about multitasking. But we did it.

I did a brief intro—who I am, my relationship with poetry, why I write. How dyslexia, feeling mute, and the urge to share all these feelings shaped my poetic persona. How I arrived late to this class, and also to poetry, I was turning 30 before I wrote a poem, I was late, all out of breath. 

During independent study, or while they were waiting for me to show up for class, students wrote a short bio on Google Docs. A great use of time.

We opened our class with comparisons. I read Yeats’ fragment, Love is like a lion’s tooth. I asked students what they thought it meant. There were some interesting comments, I asked them to write their own version. And there were some great examples. We expanded our ideas into longer poems. Kids are eager to share their poems in this crazy cyber world.

During recess, we had a breakout room. A first. Paloma shared her screen, so we worked on line breaks, a rarity. One thing that came up several times was how to deepen our images. How do we make something generic versus specific? I told her I can’t see the word “bad,” can you give me an example so I can see it? How do we deepen? How do we create a picture that the audience too can see? I tell them, Poetry is a picture made with words. 

Kids wrote in their journals but will transfer their poems to Google Docs which Mary will share with me later. I did not get a chance to record some of the examples that we spontaneously made up, and they were good. Next time. 

I designed a quickie heart card and shared it, saying that since Sunday was Valentine’s Day, they should consider taking one of their love comparisons and putting it inside a valentine card to give to someone. I also mentioned the presidential inauguration youth poet Amanda Gorman was a CPITS student. Kids were sufficiently shocked. They liked the idea that poetry can travel well beyond the boundaries of this classroom.

On being bullied in school

I read with interest a HuffPost article on someone who tracked down and interviewed the bullies she met in school. Coming to terms with your accusers without laying blame. going beyond, and discovering the reason why your tormentors were tormented. 

Few know that I was bullied in grade school and high school. I withdrew into my art, and kept my circle of friends small. At the time, I had no idea I was being bullied. I blamed myself. We did not have the words for it, and it wasn’t immediately obvious. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t liked. We blamed different cliques and went on with our lives, not knowing that bullying behavior needs to be acknowledged and called out. 

In retrospect, I wish teachers had given us some social skills or tools to cope with that kind of behavior—rather than forcing us to take Home Ec. What on earth did those popular girls and cheerleader types have against me? It was the birth of hippiedom, the age of the Summer of Love. Grudges and differences fell by the wayside during the social revolution that ended the 1960s.

I came to terms with some of the bullying, or rather, I faced it, when I went to my 10th high school reunion, thanks to a high school friend friend Ken Bullock who enticed me to the after party picnic, and to old grade school friend, Dennis De La Montanya who welcomed me with open arms. That was the first snakeskin shedding. The first healing had begun. Poetry gave me back the world. 

By my 20th high school reunion I had left that old world far behind, having grown a thicker skin, and by my 30th reunion, the pain was barely recognizable—those days were an afterthought. But it was ossified. Writing had so completely become my world, my realm, that all was fodder for the gristwheel. But I couldn’t write about it. I think on some level, I had long since forgiven my tormentors, and moved on, but more importantly, I forgave myself. However, I was angry for such a very long time. The pain was still there.

Now facing my 50th, actually my 51st high school reunion since we missed our 50th due to COVID, it is interesting to revisit some of those old feelings. Those old stomping grounds had become a kind of fiction. But also they shaped my persona, and how I react to others bullying people is an indicator of what I experienced. I must admit that when I witness bullying now, I am all tooth and claw.

It comes as quite a shock to realize that you’ve carried that albatross for so long around your neck, like a holy relic, but it also informs your personality, makes you even more who you are. This constant process of becoming.

With thanks to Paula Friedman

Monday, February 22, 2021

YOUNG BOBCAT


1.A young bobcat, all tawny and golden, 
bounded in front of me at Nicasio Creek 
as I was driving towards the bridge at dusk. 
His undulating spots were mesmerizing
as his undersides flashed rufous and amber. 
The white tip at the end of his bobbed tail, 
was like a small searchlight or a shooting star.
I didn’t even attempt to reach for my camera.
Sometimes it’s OK to just let it go. 
Be in the present. My heart felt lighter for it.

2. Then there are those darker days 
when I don’t reach for my camera, 
I try to keep it close at hand,  
but I don’t always succeed 
at keeping the rough beast at bay.
My camera, a small beacon of hope 
on a treacherous coastline.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A note on native foodways in the British Isles vs. foods introduced by Romans



I read an interesting post in a Facebook group, British Medieval History, on foodways where someone said, “Introduced by the Romans to Britain: Apples, asparagus, turnips, peas, garlic, cabbages, onions, leeks, cucumbers, artichokes, figs, chestnuts, cherries, celery, wine, plums, etc...”

The list struck me as wrong. I was off and running when I saw that the thread commentor, Paul Davis had credited the Romans with bringing apples to the British Isles. I told him, I suspect if you dig deeper you’ll find that apples were not introduced by the Romans. 

Specific species of apples, cabbage and onions, probably were probably introduced, but apples, kales, and wild onions too were part of the northern European Neolithic landscape. And there were plenty of native brassicas as well. Don’t forget the color woad comes from a brassica. 

Cabbage was domesticated in Western Europe ca. 1000 BC, probably by the Celts. Brassica is from from bresic, a Celtic word for cabbage. Whether native or feral, brassica species favored the white limestone cliffs of Dover, and the Isle of Wight. Brassica oleracea has successfully crossed with native brassica species so it’s impossible to tell them apart. And then there’s another continental shared species, arbutus, or strawberry tree, native to Ireland, but curiously not to Britain. 

I am no botanist or scientist, but I did extensive research on apples, because the information struck me as wrong that apples were introduced to the British Isles via Rome, via Kazakhstan. Also, apples, specifically crabapples, played a significant central role in Irish and Welsh mythology. Then there’s Avalon, the isle of apples. The reason being that certain plant species were circumpolar, such as the corylus, rosids, vaccinium, malus, prunus, brassicaceae and allium—sort of like reindeer/caribou, foxes, etc., so no one region can claim species origin. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

BEAUTY IS NOT ONLY SKIN DEEP

What the mirror said
I learned the hard way
I was born a cygnet
and when I shed my baby teeth
not knowing I was a swan
I thought I was an ugly duckling
I looked away from the mirror
it always lied to me and told me big fibs
but I didn’t see that
the fowlish water was made of crocodile tears
and the rain fell in concentric circles
a stone skipped and danced
across the surface of the pond
I was mesmerized by a shattered reflection
I never learned the truth that
beauty comes from within.

(Now read it again from the bottom up).

Shrove Tuesday on the fly

Laissez les bons temps rouler!  I just realized it’s Shrove Tuesday! I made minimalist buckwheat pancakes on the fly—sans crêpe pan. Stuffed with Laurel Cheney’s cranberry goat cheese and drizzled with maple syrupl, they were divine, but too fragile to flip as I didn’t get a chance to let the batter rest. I forgot to flip mine, does that mean I’ll not be shriven? So they didn’t roll up as nicely as they should have, but they went down the hatch just fine. Burp. 

Somehow this post got lost in the shuffle, or flat out disappeared, when I was compiling a list of food blogs. I found it again on Facebook. So all is restored. Sort of. I don’t have the final rendition.

I used buckwheat pancake flour, an egg, some oil, a little sour cream and milk to thin the batter. Butter for the pan.

The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolise four points of significance at this time of year:
Eggs ~ Creation
Flour ~ The staff of life
Salt ~ Wholesomeness
Milk ~ Purity 

Monday, February 15, 2021

San Geronimo! and Freedom School, Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement

This is a rather odd, convoluted story. I hardly know how to process it. Seemingly unrelated events converged at rhomboid angles when I tried to find the news clipping on a play I was in, called San Geronimo! in 1965. The Marin County librarian had no luck finding it, so when Newspapers.com was free today, I slogged through a decade’s worth of newspapers. Unrelated segue no. 1, I was part of that Marin City mounted entourage from the San Geronimo Valley. I played Joseph leading Mary on a donkey, Dec. 1964. Yeah, I was dressed in white bedsheets pulling a recalcitrant ass through the streets of Marin City. Meanwhile, the good folks of San Geronimo Valley had raised money and made a massive book drive to furnish Indianola Freedom School in Mississippi. Someone’s local son taught there. They needed books. We gave. Many of Marin’s young folks also joined Martin Luther King, marching from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Unrelated segue no. 2. More of a prequel as it set everything in motion. Cathy Barbano who lived on our road, was killed in a car crash in Mexico in 1965. Then her grief-stricken father, Ed Barbano shot himself. Meanwhile, there was Selma Alabama. Bloody Sunday, March 1965. Well, Freedom School was razed to the ground, and Mississippi was burning. So SGV folks began raising money and collecting books all over again to help rebuild that school—and our play, San Geronimo! was a fundraiser. Why I had trouble finding the article was because the lead was buried. Literally. I kept seeing references to Freedom School. Curiosity finally got the better of me. I was so sure I would never find that article. Maddening. And lo, there was the slippery article that had evaded detection for decades. Our fundraiser, the rebuilding of Freedom School was a memorial tribute to Cathy’s father, and our playground teacher, Ed Barbano. See Harold Gregg’s rousing letter at the end. Synchronicity works in mysterious ways.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Day 5, post vaccine blues, round 2

Day 5: So far, so good, but then, I’m still lolling in bed. I awoke at 6AM, bummed that I didn’t sleep in. I am both restless and exhausted, a lethal combination. I decided to wait out the side effects of the Moderna vaccine at a friend’s trailer, as I was feeling far too weird to drive home. I’m totally spaced out—like being high—without the munchies. I have no appetite at all, and I’m trippin’ without the Grateful Dead.

I’ve spent the past few days dozing while listening to audiobook CDs in my car; the warm winter sunlight amplified by all those windows is heavenly—I must be morphing into a cat. Barb’s cat is jealous of my new digs, she wants in. At least I'm not snoozing on the hood of my car in front of God and the neighbors who were already craning their necks as it was. 

Yesterday I slept in, which helped enormously. Nothing like a full-night’s sleep to make you right as rain, as my grandmother might say. But when I went to my care giver job, I was easily overwhelmed and distressed by mid-afternoon. Not quite ready to burst into tears, but close, I felt so out of sorts. Thickheaded.

The first few days after the vaccine I was freezing, cold as the morgue, a place I’m actively trying to avoid like the plague. I just couldn’t get warm. The first night I crawled out of bed and took a long hot shower to raise my body core. I was hovering at 97° flat. I was one cranky human popsicle. I took more showers during those first three days than the past month. If only I had access to a hot tub. I began to fantasize using a small horse trough as a hot tub. I even priced them out on Amazon. Totally doable.

It doesn’t help that I was born under the cranky sign. When I was a child, my granny said she couldn’t wait until I was old enough to drink coffee. Yesterday’s weak coffee didn’t help, it was limp-wristed milquetoast. I was still cranky as fuck. I needed a quad latte, only I wasn’t fit to drive over the hill into town. Driving while under the influence of Moderna is a real thing. The thought of double-clutching around wild curves, staying within the double yellow lines and avoiding entitled cyclists was too much. Stop signs and nuns didn’t count.

Multi-tasking was completely out of the question. Even mono-tasking was problematic, so attempting to do my caretaker job was painfully hilarious—especially the laundry. I was ADHD. Oh look, shiny. It took me three different attempts to finish one afternoon’s worth of work. The concept of pacing myself was not working out. I had no stamina, and it seemed as if my brain was having a three-martini lunch elsewhere, say, Victoria’s Station, ca. 1976, without me. Those everyday autopilot tasks were overwhelming as I had to actually think about how to do them. Sequential was not in my daily arsenal. My little gray cells were definitely on strike. For all I knew, they were probably calling their union rep for gross misrepresentation.

For example, I had three simple tasks, to check the laundry, maybe start a new load, and bring in the dry clothes. I managed to accomplish one task at a time, sequentially, replete with three separate trips to the laundry room, forgetting to carry over the new load twice. 

You know how when you retrace your steps to the last place you were, in order to retrieve an escaped thought? Well, I had to return to the kitchen three times in order to finish the laundry. I don’t think memory foam shoes with homing pigeon instincts would’ve helped much, I was willing to consider it after my third trip back to the kitchen to remember what I forgot. What is it with the kitchen anyway? Why does it becomes the hot thought spot in the universe of forgotten tasks? Please don’t tell me the answer is 42. That reminds me, I forgot to wash the towels.

The rest of the afternoon followed suit in a similar crazy pattern of random memory breaks. Clearly multi-tasking, something which I am particularly adept at—one might even say I was the reigning champion of multi-tasking—was simply not in my domestic arsenal. 

I was also easily fatigued which exacerbated the problem. And I was restless, niggling about like a homeward horse worried about the state of the barn. I couldn’t seem to rest. An odd combo of adrenaline rush compounded by fatigue and an absence of thought. Finishing sentences and following trains of thought was not on the agenda. I kept thinking, so this is what dementia is like, wanting to apologize to my dead grandmother for not understanding. 

I am rather dogged, and tend to finish my tasks—no matter what. But yesterday was a challenge. I left many things undone. Time was an odd, if fluid concept. I was in a quagmire located in the land of forever, so just to make chicken soup and do the dishes was like being caught up in a domestic Godot walkabout. I dumped the pot of chicken soup I was making on the floor.

Driving home to Sonoma Co. from W. Marin was a more of a challenge than I had anticipated, I just wanted to pull over and sleep by the side of the road. I did pull over by Nicasio Reservoir to gather my wits. It didn’t work. They were off with the fairies. I should’ve just stayed over another night in W. Marin, but I wanted to be in my own bed. It was too difficult to be a guest, in a strange bed not my own—especially when I felt so out of sorts. 

I fell asleep while listening to an audiobook, practically in my dinner plate. At least it was Blue Willow.  I have no idea what audiobook. TG I was already in bed. Dressing for dinner during these Covid times revolves around which flannel nightie to don. So I was battle ready, girding my loins with plaid flannel. But at least I’m vaccinated. If I can make it through the next two weeks, I’ll be home free. No more masks. But now the scuttle is that Covid is morphing ahead of the curve. Hello mask.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

OCCASIONAL POEM FOR PAMELA

If that is supposed to be yellow,
well then, I am a monkey’s uncle.
Chartreuse by any other name
I’d say, with a tinge of ochre. 
Give me Naples yellow, or give me death.
Give me cream and sunshine.
Give me limoncello over ice
on a Mediterranean balcony
in deep summer with a long lost friend.
Or a newfound one.
Now, that is the secret heart of yellow.
Not mug passing for light.
Give me sunflowers and dandelions,
and Van Gogh enough for Pamela, 
she with the fiery halo of hair,
who resides in the snow country 
amidst the dreams of sheep.