8.31.2009

Routines Begin Again

This morning I could take my time and stop and take pictures on my way to school. No students until tomorrow morning. There has been a draw down again this fall on Lake Roosevelt causing my favorite Barnaby Island to no longer be an island. Driving by this island above will be part of my routine every day now as I drive down the lake to school. I won't always take the time to stop.
I like the quiet time right before school starts. LH put new wax on the floor so the hallway just gleamed as I headed to my empty classroom. I sat and had think time as I filled in my daily plans. Routines begin again. Classroom set up, nametags out, pencils sharpened, lunch packed, clothes laid out, new shoes waiting, school bag ready to grab, nails polished, thermos ready to fill, camera packed, iPod charging, and alarm clock is set.

Tomorrow is my 32nd first day of school as a teacher. Each year of teaching has been new and different, but the excitement and anticipation never goes away!

8.30.2009

Sibling Assignment #105: Love, Kindness, and Beauty with Jane Kenyon

I gave the sibling assignment this week.
Other than family members, who has been an influential person in your life and why?
You will find Raymond Pert's lovely tribute to Rick Frost here and Silver Valley Girl's here soon.


Three Songs at the End of Summer

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket ...
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

Jane Kenyon


Thumbing through poetry anthologies a few years ago, I found numerous poems by Jane Kenyon. In Billy Collin's poetry 180 I was first introduced to Otherwise, in his book 180 more I first read Happiness. When Garrison Keillor compiled poems he read on Writer's Almanac into Good Poems for Hard Times I first devoured This Morning and reflected on Let Evening Come in Good Poems. The themes of Jane Kenyon's poems resonated with me. Images of the changing of seasons, rural living, and observations of everyday life in the country opened up to me the notion that simple pleasures can be captured in a poetic form. I continued to read and appreciate her poetry and learned more about her life. After graduating from the University of Michigan she married poet Donald Hall and they moved to Eagle Pond, New Hampshire where she continued with her writing life. She read and reread authors such as Keats, Chekhov, and Bishop. Not until I read Donald Hall's memoir The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon did I understand her struggle with depression during her adult life. Stricken with leukemia in 1993, she fought another batter and continued until her last days to write each and every day. She died in 1995 at the age of 48.

"There are things in life that we must endure which are all but unendurable, and yet I feel that there is a great goodness. Why, when there could have been nothing, is there something? This is a great mystery. How, when there could have been nothing, does it happen that there is love, kindness, beauty?" -Jane Kenyon

She influenced me as a writer because she disciplined herself to observe the world and write about it each and every day. Also, during her long walks with her dog each day she carefully noticed her surroundings. She captured the light in the hayloft, the silver moon, a beautiful fox. She was able to express her inner world , but didn't allow depression to become the centerpiece of her writing. She influenced me as a person because of her drive to do good in the world. She lived with depression, cancer, death of loved ones, and her husband's illness . She kept her routine and appreciation of life.

Knowing she wasn't going to live much longer she completed her final anthology Otherwise in those last days. She was reading, listening to her husband reread words, arguing over titles to include, still trying to wrestle with the right words. She never gave up that passion for words, love, kindness, family, and beauty. She continues to influence me as I immerse myself in her works. This is the first poem in that anthology entitled Otherwise:

Happiness


There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon.
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
-Jane Kenyon
I have posted the following poems by Jane Kenyon on this blog . You can read Otherwise here, Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks here, Let Evening Come here


Late Summer In a Jar

Wandering through the garden in late August I never know what I will find in bloom. This beautiful pink Unforgettable rose was a surprise. I love the combination of sunflowers, soon to bloom Autumn Joy sedum, and ivy geranium. I found one mum I could add to the bouquet, but many will soon be in bloom. I snipped the scented geranium leaves to add a mix to the fragrance as we enjoy late summer in a jar inside.

8.29.2009

A Photo Shoot with McDuff

For those of you that have been visiting here awhile, you have had the pleasure of meeting McDuff, our senior cat member, posing in a variety of pictures. He followed me around recently so I figured he must want to be photographed. Let me reintroduce you to McDuff. Above he paused for his regal look. He loves doing the side pose. As he was trying to pose for a shot walking away, Shelby decided she needed to just make sure that was our McDuff approaching the front door. When asked to show emotion, McDuff played it up with a look that says, "What do you mean you are out of cat treats? WAAAAAAHHHHH!"Ooops.... wrong cat. Kit had to have at least one photo in the series, or it just wouldn't be right. Here he is on the other side of the garden gate waiting for me to come in.

8.26.2009

Marginalia

Each day as I pull another date page of August off my desk calendar, I get more excited for school to begin. For some the excitement begins when they shop for new school clothes. Others it is finding a new metal lunch pail. My hair stylist last week would have said it is when all the high school girls come to get "their new dos". I work in an older building, which I love, because as I walked down the hall today the smell of new wax and the shine on the floor reminded me of my own school days.
Two of my former students helped me move heavy furniture and hook up computers for a bit this afternoon. A copy of a poem was on the table. This led to a discussion of poetry and what we had read and written and remembered. Both of these young men are remarkable poets. This inspired me to reread some poetry after they left. When I think of school and comments written in margins of books ( we now use sticky notes!), I couldn't help but think of this poem by Billy Collins. Thinking about all of us and marginalia got me even more eager for school to begin!

Marginalia

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony"
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
"Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
"Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!"
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."

Billy Collins


In the above book by H.J. Jackson she is proposing the poetics of marginalia. You can learn more about the book here.

8.24.2009

August's Last Hurrah!


I often feel that just when certain plants get with it and others are ready to burst into color, my time of photographing the garden during the day is ending. I can do early morning tours, evening tours, and of course the flowers will be here on week-ends, but these last few days I have enjoyed grabbing the camera when the light was good and catch some summer memories. Tomorrow I begin to ease into school mode with a teacher inservice day. Say hello to late August with an ivy geranium above, a lovely morning glory , an Annabelle hydrangea , pretty dianthus,and a rose shouting her last hurrah!

8.22.2009

Sibling Assignment #104: Rockaway Beach with Family

For Sibling Assignment #104 Silver Valley Girl, Raymond Pert and I will reflect upon our family's stay at Rockaway Beach and reflect upon what we enjoyed about being together as a family. Raymond Pert's is here and SVG's is here.
Remove Formatting from selectionFirst of all I was so pleased that we were able to plan ahead and gather for a trip to the Oregon Coast. JEJ was a new face in the group since last we stayed at the Oregon Coast. My nieces were older and could enjoy and remember more. All of us had new dogs to deepen the experience. What did I enjoy about being together as a family? That was a hard question.
I think the time spent at the beach is what I enjoyed doing with my family. We had great times gathering around the table for meals, hilarious board games in the evening, crossword challenges with Mom in the morning, but those activities can be done at other places and other seasons. The best times were at the beach.
Mom was determined to walk to the beach, new hip and all! I love this shot of her keeping up with her young and athletic granddaughter Z2 as they made their maiden voyage across the sand to the ocean.
It was so much fun watching the dogs and their first experience with the ocean. When you are not blessed with your own children, you have to capture the moments with the dogs. They ran, chased waves, followed seagulls, and just had a grand old time on the beach.
It was also very enjoyable to be with siblings , especially at sunset. We waited a few days for a sunset and the first one was spectacular. It was worth going back down to the beach to capture even more memories with the camera.
It was a new experience for JEJ to spend time at the beach. Whether it was walking the dogs, visiting with family along the water's edge, or hiking into sand dunes further north, he loved the sand and the Pacific Ocean.
Add my sister's dogs, sand castles, PKR running after Annie, struggling up the rocks, posing with my sister, and nieces posing in sweatshirts, and you could say it was a full experience at the beach. I hope we get to do it again soon.

8.21.2009

Honoring Green Beans, Garlic, and Dill and a Keeper from the Recipe Box

It is now time for the green beans to explode in the garden. With garlic left over from the salsa and dill just waiting to be harvested, it was time to can some Dilly Beans. After the time intensive salsa day, Dilly Beans are very simple. It took the water in the canner longer to boil then it did to get the beans ready. If you have a bumper crop of green beans, try this recipe. It is from the book Summer in a Jar: Making Pickles, Jams, and More by Andrea Chesman and contains easy single jar recipes . If you don't have enough to make a batch or don't want to feel overwhelmed, the recipes in this book work well for one jar at a time.

Dilly Beans
2 cups green beans, trimmed
1 cup white vinegar
( I used cider vinegar when I ran out of white)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 garlic clove
1 dill head or sprig of dill
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon pickling salt

By the pint

Trim the beans to fit the jar. Pack each clean jar with beans, garlic, dill, bay leaf, and salt. Leave 1/2 inch head space. Pour the vinegar in the jar. Add the boiling water. I just add the water until the jar is full. It may be more or less than 1/2 cup. Seal. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath or steam canner. Cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Do not open the jars for six weeks to allow the flavors to develop.

8.19.2009

Honoring Harvest and Hermiston Yellow Seedless

One of the simple joys of raising a garden is harvesting those first vegetables. Today JEJ gathered carrots, beets, and cabbage. I believe coleslaw tastes just a bit better when the carrots and cabbage are home grown. The beet is in a category all by itself. It looks beautiful as it is picked. It's red dye fills the pan with gorgeous color and the savory aroma of cooking beets just smells like late summer. What a garden feast we experienced!
We topped our dinner off with something we brought back from our trip. I found a Hermiston Yellow Seedless watermelon. When I saw the wedges on a plate to sample at the produce place, I thought it was pineapple. I think it tastes close to other colors of watermelon, but is such a beautiful color when sliced.

Now.... off to check those zucchini recipes for using the four that came out of the patch today!

8.18.2009

Top Ten Ways to Tell Autumn is Just Around the Corner

10. There are leaves around the yard that have started to turn.
9. It is time to start setting the alarm clock in preparation for a school schedule.8. The oak leaf hydrangea blooms are beginning to turn a deeper color.
7. The temperature is dropping in the evening.6. The beans have reached the top of the pole.
5. I am running out of canning jars.4. The leaves on the Virginia Creeper are up to the roof of the shed, which is Lily's favorite resting spot.
3. I feel this urge to wear fleece, heavy socks, and jumpers.2. The sunflower seeds are ready for the birds.
1. The number one way I can tell autumn is just around the corner... I have a zucchini that weighs 4 pounds!

8.17.2009

Honoring Tomatoes and Keepers from the Recipe Box

Today we squeezed, skinned, quartered, and sliced the 60 pounds of tomatoes JEJ harvested yesterday. The first project of the day was to make salsa. With all the chopping and mincing that is involved it certainly is a two person job. JEJ was a great partner in the kitchen as we put up sixteen pints of my Zesty Salsa.

The next project of the day was to make
Seasoned Tomato Sauce. This requires a bit more time than I realized. After the squeezing and quartering, there is cooking, then milling, then cooking more. After that the sauce goes into the hot water bath for thirty minutes. We just took out the last batch and now have fifteen pints of the sauce that filled the kitchen with savory aromas all afternoon and evening.
Here are the two recipes I used today. Both were adapted from recipes in
Ball Blue Book : Guide to Home Canning.

Christy’s Zesty Salsa

10 cups tomatoes (seeded, cored, chopped in food processor)

(About 6 pounds)

5 cups chopped and seeded green peppers

2 ½ cups chopped hot peppers ( Anaheim and jalapeno are mild,

poblanos and serranors are hot…….add a few seeds to make it hotter.

I mix these types……..usually Anaheim and jalapeno.)

5 cups chopped onions

10 cloves garlic,minced

2 TB fresh cilantro, minced

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)

1 cup cider vinegar

½ cup lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 min. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving ¼ “ headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Yield: about 6 -8 pints

Tip: If my tomatoes are watery I strain the mixture to keep the salsa from being watery/soupy!

Seasoned Tomato Sauce

25 pounds tomatoes

3 cups chopped onions

10 cloves garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

2 TB oregano

1 TB Italian Seasoning

6 bay leaves

2 TB salt

1 TB pepper

1 1/2 TB sugar

2 tsp. crushed red pepper ( optional)


Wash tomatoes, drain. Remove core and blossom ends. Cut into quarters, set aside. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a large saucepan. Add tomatoes, spices, and sugar. Add red pepper if desired. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves. Press mixture through a sieve or food ill; discard seeds and peels.

( At this point I used the food processor and left in the skins and seeds.) Cook pulp in a large, uncovered pot over medium-high heat until sauce thickens, stirring to prevent sticking. Reduce volume by one-half for a thick sauce. Again, for me if it is watery I cook it down more or strain it to get rid of some of the liquid. Add 2 TBs bottled lemon juice to each quart or 1 TB bottled lemon juice for each pint of sauce. Ladle sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/4 " headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Yield: About 14 pints or 7 quarts.

Tip: I don't have a pot big enough for this batch. I had to use three different pans, but then mixed them as the sauce cooked down.


8.16.2009

Gifts from the Garden

The gifts from the garden were here to greet us when we returned home. Tomorrow will be salsa and tomato sauce canning day at our house as we use up at least sixty pounds of ripe tomatoes we found ripened on the vine yesterday. JEJ also picked zucchini, a cucumber, green peppers,and lots of green beans. I love this time of year as we begin to harvest, put up food, and enjoy the bounty from our garden.

Gifts from the Sea

As I began to unpack from my ocean trip, I carefully unwrapped the gifts brought home from the sea. My cobalt blue collection is now richer with a lovely vase, a piece of deep blue handcrafted glass work that will work well as a sun catcher, and a set of polished rocks for a dish on the table. The white bag full of saltwater taffy caused much debate as we gathered around the table at the ocean. Which flavor is really the best? We were trying to decide between huckleberry, creamsicle, black licorice, tropical punch, and hot cinnamon. Of course, Flamingo Jim's gift shop provided both of us with new fleece jackets to remind us of Rockaway Beach. Sand still in our shoes, cheese curds left from the Tillamook Cheese Factory, and lots of photographs and memories remain as we adjust to our daily routine here at home.

8.15.2009

I Love My Nieces to Pieces!

Kiki Aru, Z2, and The Princess

After arriving home today I reflected on my fantastic trip and revisited all the photos I had downloaded on the trip. Reviewing these pictures reminded me how much fun I had with my nieces. They are funny, talented, smart, good at texting, and great models when I have my camera ready! They are always up for a game of Apples to Apples, Scattergories, or Jeopardy on television. They can take any simple event and turn it into something that makes me laugh so hard I choke on my Diet Coke.Yes, I love my nieces to pieces.

8.13.2009

Food, Glorious Food Always Helps Make a Vacation!

Our vacation has been made even more enjoyable by the glorious food that has surrounded us since we arrived. We will remember Tillamook ice cream in a waffle bowl, good coffee with family in the morning, fresh seafood night that included crab, Italian bread, and fresh clams.We will also remember Mexican mochas at Dragonfly Sisters,
soup night that included zucchini chowder with lots of cheeseand exceptional wine. I will miss these great meals with our extended family as we prepare to leave Rockaway Beach tomorrow.