“What is a country but a borderless sentence, a life?
What is a country but a life sentence?”
“What is a country but a borderless sentence, a life?
What is a country but a life sentence?”
Later, I graded papers and watched part of John McCain’s funeral, some of which almost brought me to tears. I often disagreed with him but never did I question his passionate love of country, his courage, his willingness to buck the norm, to defy convention when he thought it was the right thing to do. I think he and I shared certain values on which this country is based even if the country as a whole rarely lives up to them. These include the conviction that all people are equal, that everyone deserves justice, and each person carries the right to find his or her own share of happiness without judgment and condemnation from others who may think differently.
Later, while working on the latest book I am writing, I found handwritten recipes written by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Nellie Narcissus Duke (Kaiser),whose father came here from Switzerland as a child. One, for dumplings, remains readable. The other written in pencil on the front and back of thin paper is fragile. It is for Strawberry Shortcake. If Grandmother Duke ever made dumplings, I do not remember it. Mother did–chicken and dumplings. I wonder if she used this recipe. I do remember conversations about the shortcake because Dad did not like strawberry shortcake even though he liked strawberries. I took photos of these two recipes written decades ago in my grandmother’s handwriting.
Mom filled the white bowl with black raspberries.
I pour Bossie’s white milk over them,
watched it form a pattern,
flowing around the raspberries–
a design in deep purple and white.
I thought it almost too beautiful to eat.
I was seven.
Now I rarely find black raspberries. Red ones won’t do. They lack intensity, the beauty. Every year we went to Hunt’s Orchard north of Amazonia, Missouri, to buy black raspberries, took them home, sorted to discard the imperfect ones, then threw them way behind the garden next to the timber–huge trees, oak and hickory. Eventually, these imperfections transformed into thriving black raspberry bushes. We had our own patch, created from the discarded, the imperfect.
Mom fed us fresh raspberries for a few days. The rest she used to create her famous pies, froze a freezer full. Baked, they transformed a winter kitchen into the warmth and sweetness of my mother’s family devotion.
I bake pies, many kinds of pies. I have never made a black raspberry pie.
Note: this will be published in an upcoming publication by the Story Circle Network. In July my daughter, grandson, and I went to Hunt’s Orchard–yes, it still exists. I asked about black raspberries. We were too late; the season was over. The timber behind the garden area was to the right in this photo. The person who bought the land years later bulldozed down all the big trees.
Mom made fantastic pies of all sorts so much so that when she took a pie to a potluck, people would rush to get a piece even before they acquired any other food. The only pumpkin pie my grandson likes is Mom’s. He seems to like the idea that he is eating something his great grandmother created. Today, I taught him to make homemade pie crust and Mom’s pumpkin pie. Here he is crimping the edges after rolling out the dough and placing it in the pie pan.
We made two pumpkin and one pecan today. Here is the recipe for Mom’s pumpkin pie. He ground the cinnamon–pieces of bark from a friend’s mom’s tree in Ethiopia–using an old fashioned, wooden grinder.
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups milk and cream or evaporated milk ( I use 1 can evaporated milk)
3/4 cup brown or white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg ( I grated this fresh)
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Dump everything in a blender. Place your hand on the lid before starting the motor. Blend a few seconds, until smooth, and pour into pastry-lined pie shell. Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes longer or until firm in the center.
Placed with Mom’s original typed recipe is this note: “Juliana, if you use half evaporated milk it gives a wonderful flavor and I like white sugar best.” I use white sugar.
The finished product looks like this.
This recipe makes a lot of filling so if you do not have a large pie pan, you will need to bake some of the filling in another pan. Since we made two today, we baked the left over without a crust in another oven proof dish–pumpkin pudding.
No females in my family had long hair.
Dad did not like it,
said it showed male domination
Once when grown and gone
from home, I began to grow mine
When he saw it, he told me
he thought it unbecoming.
I cut it.
Mom said she had long hair
when she was young.
Her dad forbade her to cut it.
In her twenties she chopped her golden locks
off, flapper style, then hid her head
in a scarf, afraid.
Note: This poem is from the family section of my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”.
Yesterday I left Canyon, Texas, headed for Alpine. If you decide to drive south to the Big Bend area from the Panhandle, be prepared for a rather long and boring six hours of driving.
First, you pass at least an hour of looking at camel colored dry grass in all directions. I had not realized the grass fires had reached south of Amarillo but in one area burned grass stretched across both sides of I-27 and on the medium in between. I would not have wanted to be driving down the highway while this was on fire.
Close to Lubbock the cotton fields begin. With spring planting approaching, most of the fields were already cultivated ready to plant. This “scenery”, except for driving through Lubbock, continues for at least another three hours. About 1/2 to one hour before the Odessa/Midland area, you hit the really ugly. Since I am one of those people who can find beauty just about anywhere, if I say it is ugly, most people would find it even worse. Miles and miles of nothing but mesquite, brush, and oil rigs stretch endlessly in every direction. Why would anyone want to live here? Money, money, money. Apparently, they expect to make even more soon because new drilling rigs popped up within sight of the road everywhere. In the short distance where I cut off on a two lane highway to get from I-20 to I-10, I saw five new drilling rigs. The scenery does improve a bit in this area because you can suddenly see the Davis Mountains looming large not too far away. It reminded me of my childhood when my family would head across eastern Colorado and how excited we became when we could see our destination, the Rockies, in the distance.
Once you drive two minutes or so on I-10 and then cut off south toward Fort Davis, the scenery becomes dramatic, something to really see and enjoy. Although it is too early for the grass to have become very green, the cottonwood trees have leafed out and what a sight they are. Huge is an understatement. It would take the width of at least six of me to make one of these impressive trees. Apparently, I was not the only one who viewed them as something special. People were driving off the highway to stand by them. One woman stared up into the newly green leaves, a look of wonder on her face. I thought I was late to meet friends in Alpine so did not stop. In the end we arrived at Alpine at the same time for our yearly get together–friends since college when we were roommates with her husband who went to college with us and another friend.
After a fabulous dinner at the old hotel here, we retired to our rooms to get ready for the real adventures of this week: the Observatory-today’s goal, Marfa, Big Bend. I really tried to sleep late, but alas I should have known better. Here I am writing away early in the morning.
This poem praises my mother. It is page 17 of my memoir in poems, “On the Rim of Wonder”. It seems appropriate to republish it here for Mother’s Day.
Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed, and blond, my mother,
one fearless, controlling woman. Long after Mom’s death, Dad said,
“Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one and nothing.” They married
late: 34 and 38. He adored her unconditionally. She filled my life
with horses, music, love, cornfields, hay rides, books, ambition. Whatever
she felt she had missed, I was going to possess: books, piano lessons, a
college education. Her father, who died long before I was born, loved fancy,
fast horses. So did she. During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my
hysterical night coughing with stories of run away horses pulling her
in a wagon. With less than 100 pounds and lots of determination, she
stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri River Bottom,
strong, willful, free.
Yesterday, I learned several new aspects of the religious debates surrounding the teachings of Jesus, Christianity, Mormonism., and how Easter is viewed. Mostly, it followed a discussion on a post about Jesus, Good Friday, and Christian politics. Whether most modern Christians want to believe it, Jesus’ teachings were radical, revolutionary. However, most modern Christians pay much more attention to the teachings of the misogynist Greek, Paul. The debate centered on comments after this particular post about the politics of Christianity.
It centered on Mormon beliefs about Easter. According to the comments, Mormons do not use crosses because they focus on the teachings of Jesus and his life. They use these teachings and his life as a guide. I thought to myself: what a good idea. If the whole world followed his teachings, the world would be a much better place full of peace, equality for all, not just the powerful few, tolerance, understanding–the list is long.
The contention of many of the so-called Christians commenting is that true Christianity focuses on the death of Jesus and his subsequent rising from the dead, that what matters is that he died for their sins, and rose on the third day, that Mormons are not Christians because they focus on his life. Really?? Not only did I find this information new–and perhaps this is what many Christians believe–but astonishing. Although my family celebrated Easter in a big way, I was always taught that Jesus’ teachings held the center of belief.
I will admit that although I grew up in a mainstream Protestant, Christian denomination, I no longer consider myself a Christian. I firmly think (notice I did not use the word believe) the world would be a much better place if everyone followed the teachings of Jesus!!!! Religion, as most practice it, is ruining the world. Perhaps if everyone focused on Jesus’ teachings instead of arguing over who is right, we could attain some sort of mutual respect and peace. As Jesus taught:
-respect one another
-love one another
-treat others as you hope to be treated
May your day be filled with joy and peace!!!
Previously I mentioned that I decided to try WordPress’ class to see if I could discover something new, broaden my horizons, play, explore. In completing assignment for day eight, I found a blog with a photo of an old barn. Old buildings fascinate me, lead to daydreaming. Who lived or worked there, how old is it, why did they abandon, move on? Several miles down the road from where I live stands an unusually large, faded, red brick barn. On the edge an even taller, circular silo stands. Part of the roof is falling in, a few trees shade the east side. I used to drive by this barn every day, twice a day. Still when I drive by, I think what a unique restaurant or house it would make. Meanwhile, slowly it deteriorates; I feel sad.
While writing this and looking at the photo mentioned above, I remembered the old carriage house where I grew up. It stands, the only building remaining where my father was born and lived until he reached the age of ten. I still own the farm; the young man who farms it cannot bear to tear the building down. When I was there 2 1/2 years ago, it housed a piece of farm equipment. I remember large elm trees and the hollyhocks growing next to it, making hollyhock dolls as a child. Who will remember when it is gone?
Mom was tiny, tough, and pretty. She acquired the name Lewis because my grandparents had hoped for a boy and, for reasons I do not know, wanted a child named Lewis. My grandparents named her younger brother Louis. The following poem about my mother is one of the prose poems in my new book of poetry, On the Rim of Wonder, published last month by Uno Mundo Press. Currently you can purchase it from Amazon or if you are in Amarillo, at Hastings on Georgia. Shortly, it will be available on Kindle and signed copies can be ordered from me.
Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one
fearless, controlling woman. Long after Mom’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was
afraid of absolutely no one and nothing”. They married late: 34 and 38. He
adored her unconditionally. She filled my life with horses, music, love,
cornfields, hayrides, books, ambition. Whatever she felt she had missed,
my sister and I were going to possess: books, piano lessons, a college education.
Her father, who died long before I was born, loved fancy, fast horses. So did she.
During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night coughing
with stories of run away horses pulling her in a wagon. With less than one hundred
pounds and lots of determination, she stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying
across the Missouri River Bottom, strong, willful, free.
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