Road Trip to Palm Springs


Life brought me to the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California late last summer. A few months later, my childhood friend from elementary school in the farmlands of Northwestern Missouri moved back to Palm Springs. Today I drove out to the desert to see him, Craig Prater. I arrived a little early so drove around, took a walk downtown, and took some photos. We were so intent on catching up and visiting, I forgot to take a photo of Craig and me together. Here are photos I took as I walked and drove around.

Palm Springs shopping area.

Desert mountains surround Palm Springs. It is hot compared to where I live. When I returned to my car after lunch, the thermometer said 121. It really was not quite that hot, only 103. 1.25 hours later when I arrived back home, it was 87 at my house.

I took this to include parts of the palo verde tree and the mountains. Palm trees are everywhere as you can see from the photos.

This is one of the largest palo verde trees I have ever seen. I want one for my backyard. You see them everywhere in the desert. Now that LA County has water restrictions, it would seem to be a good choice.

Palm Springs is Mid-Century Modern architecture country. This photo and the following photos are some examples of the types of houses I saw as I drove around.

While some houses still have grass, the trend is desert landscaping to save water.

There is a house behind all this desert vegetation.

Ponies


Mom loved Shetland ponies.

not so much the stocky, chubby ones,

the fancy show ponies.

We had so many, I’ve lost count–

black, pinto, dappled grey with silver

mane and tail–the fanciest one.

Midget, a pinto, was the first one.

They bought her so I could learn to ride.

I was six.

At the country fair, I rode her.

She zigged; I zagged, fell off.

Utter humiliation.

On rainy days my sister and I would

put a few in the barn, dress them up,

play games with them,

living toys.

We even rode them when in high school

along the cornfields, across the terraces.

My last memory–riding, ambling along, not paying attention,

suddenly lots of noise in the cornfield,

an animal running through the cornstalks.

Pony bolted; I jumped, landed wrong,

limped for days at school, climbing

up and down the steps.

Did I ride again?

I don’t think so, not for years and

then I rode horses.

Easy Vegetarian Chili Dinner


I had some Soyrizo in the refrigerator–chorizo made from soybeans–and decided to try making chili with it. I sautéed one finely chopped onion in olive oil and added the Soyrizo after removing it from the casing and breaking it up into small pieces. After the onion was translucent, I added one deseeded and chopped red bell pepper and a deseeded and chopped poblano pepper. To this mixture I added one can undrained black beans and 1 small can chopped tomatoes. I let this mixture cook on low for several hours before serving. The Soyrizo makes it a little bit spicy, but if you want more spice add berbere, chili powder, etc. to your taste. I like thick chili but if you want it more like the consistency of soup, just add some broth or water.

The salad was made with a mixture of greens, chopped red bell peppers, dried bing cherries, and sliced leeks broken up so you can see the circles. These bowls have been in my family for decades. They were the everyday dishes my mom used when I was growing up.

Note: For those out there who question, and rightfully, some of the ingredients in meat substitutes, I do get it. However, once in a while I like to jazz up the food a bit.

An Old Bowl and the Silver Spoon


My Aunt Julia, Mom’s sister, lived to 94. She loved fine antique china, linens, and French furniture. The ordinary bowl in this photo defies those inclinations, its origins a mystery. How did she acquire such a plain bowl and why? I will never know. In spite of its age, cracks, dull finish, I have used it every morning for decades. It is my breakfast bowl, filled with yogurt or cottage cheese with dried blueberries and a handful of walnuts, or, occasionally, oatmeal.

The spoon, on the other hand, is not ordinary, but rather good silver from the set Dad gave Mom on their first wedding anniversary. Unlike Mom, who saved her good silver for holidays and special occasions, I use these spoons daily and think of her unconditional love, strong will, determination, and love for beauty.

Fuerte


An “exercise” to write a poem about ones origins with the words I am from… inspired me to write this poem.

I am from the dark side of the moon, blood born, secretly shining.

Fuerte

I am from puma, stalking your memories, invading your minds,.

Fuerte

I am from Gottlieb, who left Swiss mountains 150 years ago at 18 to avoid

becoming a mercenary, moved to Missouri, created a farm. His cultivator

sets in my front garden.

Fuerte

I am from persons Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, who sailed seas, met strangers, loved.

Fuerte

I am from Esan, a Nigerian tribe about which I knew nothing until a DNA test revealed,

ancient, black, beautiful.

Fuerte

I am from Latin America, Colombian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican–wanderers, explorers.

Fuerte

I am from Slavic peoples. Byzantine, Macedonian, Alexander the Great.

Fuerte

I am from brave wandering ancestors–Asian, Latin, Toscani Italian, French, German, Swiss, Slavic, Iberian.

Fuerte

I am from J haploid group, people who left the northern Middle East 7000 years ago,

wandered, explored, populated Western Europe.

Fuerte

I am from farmers, Doyle and Barbara, who grew corn, wheat, soybeans, Hereford and Charolaise cattle

to whom I carried salt blocks as a child.

Fuerte

I am from Sacred Corn, the nourisher, singing on hot summers, growing.

Fuerte

I am from the sweet smell of Jasmine, Roses, Honeysuckle, winding up walls, overgrowing gardens,

giving people hope.

Fuerte

I am from lemons, figs, dates, pomegranates, golden, dark, red, tropical, lingering.

Fuerte

I am from Stars, universal child, born on sacred ground, singing infinite songs.

Fuerte

Christmas Baking


Some years I do a lot of baking. Not so much this one because not going to see so many people because of Covid. Today I baked anyway, made pumpkin bread using Mom’s recipe. Many go out and buy new appliances. Not I. In this photo you will see the electric mixer my parents gave me decades ago. Yes, it looks a bit used and rough; it still works perfectly–metal, not plastic, but not heavy like the popular brands now.

Mom always baked her pumpkin bread in cans like this and gave some for presents. One can is just plain pumpkin bread, the other two have chopped walnuts. Mom’s recipe is on page ten in the cookbook, “You’re Gonna Eat That!?” I alter it a bit and here is the general way to make it:

Sift 3 cups flour with 1 tsp cinnamon–I used cinnamon from Ethiopia, 1 tsp grated nutmeg, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda. Set aside. Mix 2 cups sugar with 1 cup oil–I used avocado, add 3 beaten eggs and mix in the mixer until thoroughly blended. Add 1 tsp vanilla and a couple drops of clove essential oil. Add I small can pumpkin; mix. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Blend thoroughly. At this point I spooned the mixture into one of the cans. Then I added a cup of chopped walnuts to the rest and spooned that mixture into the remaining two cans. Bake at 325 for an hour or until tester comes out clean. Cool on rack and remove from the coffee tins.

Tomorrow I will make Mom’s pumpkin pie also in the memoir/cookbook.

Happy Holidays to all of you!!!

The World in One Room


 

Four jaguar heads stare at me,

Mexican, Costa Rican.

A third guards the mantel,

partially hidden in tropical plants,

attack ready, tail raised, jaws open,

teeth bared.

 

My feet rest on a coffee table

carved in Kashmir.  I look at the photo

of the young man whose family made it.

He took me home to meet his mom,

to the floating market.

Once peace reigned there.

Now I wonder if he is safe, alive.

 

The Hoop Dancer raises his arms,

the Acoma pot exudes ancient

black on white beauty, painted

by the tips of yucca stems.

The Thai Spirit House begs

to appease evil spirits.

I should put food and flowers there;

I never do.

 

Corn plant of life–for Navaho, Hopi,

me, painted, growing up my wall,

blue and red birds flitting through

the stalks, singing ancient songs.

Corn Maiden rug hanging on the wall;

an Isleta Pueblo girl won a contest

with its design.  Four Corn Maiden

Kachinas watch the room.

Corn everywhere–Sacred Corn.

 

Three Ethiopian crosses, St. George

and the Dragon, Frida Kahlo doll,

Argentinian Madonna, Tohono O’odham

baskets, a painted cow skull, Nigerian carved

wooden elephants, including a Chieftains chair,

the stained glass transom window from the house

where my dad lived from birth to ten.

 

In a room filled with windows, there

is little room for paintings, yet–

purple bison glide across the prairie,

an Iraqi woman flies through an azure

sky filled with dark blue birds,

a 15th century mystic, Kabir, tells

a tale in poetry, Navaho spirits,

pumas walking toward me–

my obsession.

 

Rugs scattered–Kerman,

an unknown Persian city, Afghani,

Egyptian, Indian, Zapotec, scraps of old

Turkish rugs sewn together.

 

In one cabinet, Grandmother’s china,

Mom’s Czech crystal–a wedding present

decades ago, Grandson’s painted art,

the silverware Dad gave Mom on their

first wedding anniversary,  Mom’s

everyday dishes–flowers blooming.

I use them every day.

 

These objects–a testament to who I am:

World wanderer, seeker, citizen.

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The Christmas Tree


In childhood, no fake tree for us.

Just after Thanksgiving, the family search transpired.

Mom and Dad preferred Douglas fir, six feet tall.

Dutifully, we kept the tree holder filled with water,

never used real candles.  We put on lights, big ones,

blue, green, red, an inch long, then carefully hung on delicate,

colorful, round balls.  The most difficult task: the icicles,

long, silver, reflective.  They had to go on just so.

Years later, children gone, Mom and Dad bought an

artificial tree, fake Douglas fir, incredibly real in appearance.

 

When they left Missouri for Arizona every winter after harvest,

they abandoned Christmas trees, gave me the fake Douglas fir.

I still have it.  How long?  Decades, several at least.  State of the art

when they bought it, it requires work, assembly, strings of lights.

Every year, I tell myself it is time to get one of those new trees with lights

already installed, so much easier to take up and down.  I never buy one.

I cannot bear to part with Mom and Dad’s tree.  One year, annoyed with

putting on lights, I decorated it lightless.  I missed the lights.  Now every year,

decades later, I assemble it, take the time to string the lights.  Some of the lower

branches no longer stay, but I work around that, hang the colorful, delicate

Christmas ornaments I love, collected over years and years, wrap the base in

the red and white cloth given to me from Africa. On cold evenings, like this one,

I turn off the other lights, drink tea like my mother did, and remember my

childhood.

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