Reflections on Independence Day


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When I was a child, we lived on a farm where it rains around 40 inches annually.  On the Fourth of July, Dad always shot off a few Roman candles, and we had small firecrackers and sparklers, nothing fancy, just fun.  Even then I knew about the Declaration of Independence, revered its message.  Still do.

Now I live where it is hot and dry.  The neighbor’s fireworks display rivaled those found in cities–beautiful but dangerous in brown grass country.  I wonder if they give any thought to the history, to why anyone celebrates this day.

For the first time in the decades of my life, I did not celebrate Independence Day.  Why?

Born decades ago, I originally went to college in Virginia where I experienced the shock of real segregation; I had not grown up where it was like that. I was horrified, lasted only one semester, then transferred.  Later I attended a college which shut down in protest over the Viet Nam War, I supported The Civil Rights Movement, I helped create one of the first intercollegiate groups to advocate for abused women, and with an ethnically diverse group I taught diversity classes for teachers.

Now in 2020, I feel that even with all that hard, determined work, progress has been too limited.  It is as if I have been transported back to 40 years ago.  People need to learn from the history most do not even know:

-Cotton Mather, the leading intellectual and Puritan minister in the colonial era, actually helped butcher King Phillip (Metacomet) like an animal.  What did he do to deserve this?  He tried to save his Native people.  Cotton Mather later writes about tearing Metacomet’s jaw from his skull.

-In 1676, when poor whites joined enslaved Africans to rebel for a better life and decent living conditions, fighting for justice against the wealthy planters, those rich planters realized they had to get poor whites to hate Blacks.  They took land owned by Blacks and gave it to poor white people and then paid them to hunt down and abuse, even kill, people of African descent.

-Later, the same Cotton Mather mentioned above, learned from his slave that in Africa, Africans had been taking pus from a smallpox infected person and inoculating others with it to prevent smallpox from spreading.  He refused to believe any African  could be so smart even though he inoculated himself and his family after learning this.  Later, he wrote this about his African slave who had told him the story that may have saved his life: “…brokenly and blunderingly and like Idiots they tell the Story.”

-Of course, we all know that the intellectual giant, Thomas Jefferson, held the deed to the woman who would later bear him numerous children while he proclaimed those famous words that all people are created equal.

The history of racial and ethnic hatred goes back to the inception of this country.  It continues to poison progress and hope.  It never seems to end.  I am tired of it.  Enough is enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gallo Pinto


Last eve a friend came over.  Both of us have been careful during this difficult time and felt it was safe to see each other. I cooked a dish I ate every day when I visited Costa Rica, gallo pinto.  Usually it is served with platanos fritos.  I did not have platanos so served it with a mixed salad.

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Poblano, red and yellow bell peppers, finely chopped, and  ready to cook.

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Finely chopped onions already sautéed and now the peppers are cooking.

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The finished dish–left over rice, black beans, the pepper and onion mixture, and a little cumin–served with fresh salad. The recipe for this dish and the salad are in my upcoming book.  As soon as I know the date to preorder, I will let everyone know. The book will also be available at Burrowing Owl in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas.

 

 

In Honor of My Father


The Nap

He lays on his back on the cold, hard, blue linoleum floor after

the midday dinner of homegrown roast beef, potatoes, wilted

lettuce salad, hot coffee, coconut topped cake.  His left arm

forms a right angle at the elbow as the back of his wrist rests

on his forehead, touching the slight curliness of his not quite

black hair.  His left leg stretched out straight, right one drawn

up, knee jutting out.  The sleeves of his worn, pale blue dress

shirt rolled up; his overalls show signs of wear and washing.

Every day after dinner he naps in the same spot in this same

position for exactly fifteen minutes before returning to the field.

 

My father.

 

Seventeen years after his death, one day as I napped, slowly

driving off, astonishment stuck.  There I lay exactly as my

father used to so many years ago, my left arm forming a right

angle, wrist on my forehead, left leg stretched out straight, right

one drawn up, knee jutting out.  I remember not just in heart

and mind.

 

The body always knows.

 

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Taken at the top of Mt. Evans in Colorado when I was a child.

 

 

Covid19–Creative Cooking


This is post number six as I continue to quarantine.  I’ve lost tract of exactly when I last went to the grocery–not for at least three weeks.  In an effort to avoid going unnecessarily, I’ve come up with all sorts of creative cooking by looking to see what I can find in the pantry and refrigerator and inventing recipes, using what I already have.  Here are three of my inventions.

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When I was in Italy last November, I ate pasta with lemon creme sauce in two different restaurants in two different cities.  I have managed to duplicate it using bucatini from Italy, lemons, and heavy cream.  For two servings, cook about 1/2 pound of pasta.  While pasta is cooking, use a potato peeler to peel of strips of rind from one lemon.  Chop these strips into smaller pieces.  Cut the lemon into quarters.  When pasta is al dente, drain.  Turn down the heat and melt 1/4 stick butter in the pan, add drained pasta and lemon rind.  Take the lemon quarters and squeeze the juice into the pasta, add cream to taste–do not add too much. If you do not have cream–this time I had none in the refrigerator, do not worry.  It is yummy without it.

I was out of most salad ingredients so the above salad is chopped cilantro topped with feta cheese, various kinds of olives, and olive oil.

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While scrounging around in the freezer compartment, I found half pound of hamburger. I defrosted that and found a can of kidney beans in the pantry. I sautéed the lean hamburger in olive oil, then added the kidney beans.  I did not have any tomatoes or tomato sauce so I dumped in a little organic ketchup.  After stirring this together, I added berbere, a complex and a little hot spice from Ethiopia.  I served this on top of basmati rice from Pakistan–I buy this in ten pound bags at an international grocery.

The salad ingredients were a gift from a friend who had to harvest all his arugula and lettuce because of freezing weather. While both of us were outside, he handed me a bagful of these goodies.  I added some red cabbage I already had.  Finally, I grated asiago cheese all over the top of everything.  Cheese is a favorite food so I always have lots on hand.

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The other food I always keep in the freezer is fish, usually salmon and cod loins.  For this recipe, I defrosted the salmon and marinated it in teriyaki sauce and chopped up some onions and crystallized ginger.  I sautéed the onions in olive oil, then added the salmon and crystallized ginger.  When the salmon was almost done, I added some chopped, frozen,  poblano peppers (when I knew this stay-at-home order was likely, I bought a lot of poblano peppers and froze them) and arugula.  I served the finished dish over basmati rice.

Sometime in the next month or so–no definite date yet–my memoir/cookbook will come out, “You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.” It is filled with recipes using ingredients and methods I have learned in travels and growing up with my mom. Many of the recipes are vegetarian and could be vegan with minor adjustments.

Covid19-5-Spring Beauty


In the midst of being home for about a month now, it is spring most of the time.  Saturday was 80 something. Now it is snowing.  When it was 80 plus, I walked around outside and took photos of some of the wild flowers and the orchids blooming in the window above my kitchen sink.

I had planned to post several days ago, but I am so busy teaching English and Spanish online, I hardly have time to do much else. I did mow for several hours Saturday morning, did some gardening, cleaned horse runs, let them out to run. My students are studying the works of John Steinbeck, reading Animal Farm, The Odyssey, and Oedipus Rex–I teach four different levels of English.  Designing lessons they can do online with little assistance takes forethought and planning.  I thought I would hate it, but there are some things I really like and when we go back to class, I probably will continue.  In the meantime, I will read, think, garden, care for my horses, hike my canyon, teach, write, and dream.  Take care.  Be safe.

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Covid19–4


The cases and deaths rise; yet I see positives in all this mess. People are posting photos of food they are cooking at home for the first time in years, families sitting down and eating together.  Neighbors are keeping their distance but talking to each other.  People call friends to check on them.  Others are using the Internet to communicate with friends they rarely see or cannot see now, in some cases people they are too busy to connect with on a regular basis.  Some work on the stack of books they never had time to read before.  Several of my musician friends are posting concerts online.

Many of us who teach may be learning new skills like using all aspects of Google Classroom, searching the Internet for innovative ideas to use in our online classrooms. I used to play the piano daily, even competed in high school.  Then I quit.  My current goal is to relearn a piece, Fuer Elise, that only ten years ago I could play from memory effortlessly.  The music I am using is the same I used in high school, decades ago.  It is discolored, edges torn.

I do know how to sew but rarely do. This weekend I will get out the sewing machine my parents gave me more than four decades ago and make a mask.  I printed out a page of directions yesterday.  To be safe, I work from home, rarely leave my property except to go to the mailbox at the end of a long drive.  Luckily, I live in the country, have horses, and a lot of space.  It is easy for me to get out and exercise. Added to that I joined an online Zumba class with an invitation from someone I met years ago, a horn player in a mariachi band in San Antonio–I love mariachi.

Going to and from work took 1.5 hours each day so now I have all that extra time.  In the last three weeks I have read two books and started a third, caught up with magazine reading, and started FaceTime with my college roommate and her husband in California and also my daughter and grandson who live nearby but I cannot visit now. I have gardened, mowed, hiked, and photographed spring flowers and sunsets.

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Yes, living in the country with space makes this easier I rather imagine, but I feel confident if people really search, they can find new and interesting adventures inside themselves and around them.

Be safe, take care, dream.

 

Covid19–3


Internet and modern technology make quarantining easier. Today is my birthday and for the first time in my life I am alone on this day.  It could have been a lonely, sad day I suppose but it has been good; modern technology has enabled me to FaceTime with my college roommate and her husband in California, to exchange messages with three of my former exchange students scattered across the world, France, Italy, Thailand, receive birthday wishes on Facebook from around 80 people I know from everywhere, and message family and friends.  Some of them and I have exchanged little conversations, catching up on who is doing what where.

This morning I almost finished all the work I need for Google Classroom this week.  This afternoon I have spent a sizable chunk of time outside watering, fertilizing bushes, chopping down some weeds.  After I finish writing this, I will go back out and complete the watering.  Mostly I have plants for our dry climate and water only what is necessary.

Yesterday was the perfect sunny weather for taking some wild flower photos.  Everywhere yellow flowers carpet the land. Here and there white ones appear as well.

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Inside an orchid that resisted blooming for two years has changed its mind and several other plants are in full flower.  All this beauty makes hanging out at home so much easier.

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Stay home.  Be safe.

Covid19–2


The saga of staying sane, learning new skills, keeping occupied continues.  When I posted Covid19–1 a couple of days ago, the Panhandle of Texas had two cases, now we have ten, one of whom, at the age of 39, has died.  Another 30 something is in critical condition.  A case was announced this morning at Cannon Air Force Base just across the state line.

Yet, I can think of positives arriving from this:  people at home reading, spending more time with family, cooking, playing games, relearning old skills.

What have I done recently?  I teach high school English and Spanish.  Starting Monday, we will be teaching online using Google Classroom.  I have used it before but not for over a year.  Probably overkill, but yesterday I spent something like four hours taking a class on how to use it and relearning.  More to come today.  I have the English lessons hand written, all planned out.  Now I have to convert them to Google Classroom. Perhaps with Spanish I will change course totally and use Duo Lingo for many of the lessons.  Did that last year, but not this one.

Luckily, living out in country, having horses, having lots of gardening to accomplish makes this quite a bit easier.  Horses have to be fed and cared for, weeds require hoeing or mulching, dead wood must be cut out of woody plants, the tasks seem endless.  Since we are having a heatwave and temperatures are considerably above normal, I can hike, walk the long drive to the mailbox, eat lunch on the patio as I did yesterday.  The mustard weeds out by the barn suddenly grew more than two feet tall; it was driving me nuts–I cannot stand mustard weeds.  Yesterday afternoon, I got out the tractor and mowed.  They are tough.  When I fed the horses this morning, I saw a few had regenerated themselves and were sticking up again. I might have to do this over.

In the midst of this crisis, I have noticed far too many people around here seem not to take this seriously.  It appears, looking at the news, that this is a problem in many parts of the country.  Do we want to be like Italy?  I received a message from Martina there.  More and more dying and no end in site.  When I stepped out on the patio this morning to take the photo that appears below, the traffic on the main road was as loud as it is when nothing is happening, when people are not asked to stay home.  Is no one complying?  Why?

Meanwhile I will take advantage of all the positive things I can find in this–communicate with friends and family all over the world, garden, cook, learn more Google Classroom, relearn some pieces on the piano, water before the predicted wind for tomorrow occurs, brush the shedding hair off my horses, read, and perhaps join the online Zumba class in San Antonio at 4.  Life, even in times of crisis, is what you make of it.

Be safe!  Learn something new!  Laugh out loud!

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Covid19–1


Will many record their experiences during this difficult time?  I have no idea.  However, a thought came to me yesterday that I should–not sure why, just that this is something I should do.  Interesting because I am not really into “shoulds.”

Because Martina, the exchange student who lived with me this time last year, lives n Milano, I have realized the seriousness of this for weeks.  She and her family have been quarantined for so long that I have lost track of just how long.  A couple of days ago her mother had to go to the grocery.  It took her four hours to get through the line.  She has a grandfather over 90; they worry about him; he is scared.

Yet, here in the Panhandle of Texas, many fail to realize just how awful this can get.  Until yesterday, when they had no choice due to the statewide mandate, they went out to eat, exercised at the gym, congregated in mass at bars, you name it. Now schools are closed until April 3 when the situation will be re-evaluated.

In the last ten days the only places I have gone are the grocery, the doctor’s office–for an awful allergy attack.  Luckily, I live out in the country, have horses.  They have to be fed twice a day, their runs cleaned.  Today it is 70, the patio doors are open; I might even take a little hike later.  Just me and Athena, my black, standard poodle.

Luckily, it has been spring break so I have had plenty of time to think about what to do with myself as I keep myself quarantined–I am not even going to my daughter and grandson’s house–I really miss seeing them.  What do I do:  have read two books, almost finished crocheting a poncho, worked one warm day in the garden, graded all the papers I brought home and posted them, cared for the horses, cooked, communicated with friends worldwide–Covid19 is everywhere, watched some TV, mostly news and documentaries.  One thing I will do every day is act as if I am actually going somewhere, put on my makeup, get dressed, have a plan for the day.

This morning I went to the grocery.  What did I do when I returned home?  I left the bag outside to air–will disinfect it shortly, I took off my clothes in the laundry room and put them to wash.  Then I took a hot shower.  Why all this you ask?  The virus can stay in your clothes for 24 hours.  There were more people in the store in the morning than I expected.  Are they healthy, virus free?  No idea.  In the county where I live, there have been two cases already.  I do not want to risk it.  Although I am healthy, I am in one of the higher risk categories due to my age.  I do not mind dying, but who wants to die from this?  I don’t.

It is a nice spring day outside, the wild flowers are starting to bloom, and I need to relearn how to use Google Classroom because that is how I will be teaching English and Spanish until who knows exactly when.  I have used it before over a year ago.  I need to refresh myself.

Here are a few pictures of the wild flowers around my house.  After this, review Google Classroom and maybe play the piano for a bit.

Take care of yourselves.  Be safe. Be wise.

 

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Desert


Give me the long view

the endless space,

let my bones gleam white

beneath a desert willow

where a diamondback seeks shade.

 

Let me walk through red rock, climb to eternity,

stretch arms into the azure, crystalline air,

laugh out loud.

 

Give me the long view,

let me laugh out loud,

look down the Kaibab

Plateau into eternity.

 

Let me sing songs to emptiness,

to stark, open, free,

dance in sun, moonlight,

laugh out loud.

 

Give me the long view.

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