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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Anything I care to pull out of my tickle trunk

Ahhhh. The first sip of a piping hot yerba mate latte on a quiet Sunday morning. I have travelled a-couple-of-weeks-shy-of-fifty-years through life to get to this point: able to enjoy a quiet morning when I can snatch one.

Bands of early morning sunlight stripe across the chairs next to me and suffuse the room with amber tones. Birds declare their business outside; Twitter in its original and purest format. Every tweet is short and compressed with content, informative and yet melodic beyond the range of human comprehension.

Sunday yawns in front of me as the rare uncommitted day. There is nothing I am intent on doing, nothing scheduled, nothing of the sort that passes for the illusion of certain we usually operate under.

This Sunday could be the Mr. Dressup of my childhood.

Growing up near the Canadian border in the days before cable television, we used to get Canadian programming more reliably than anything coming out of Seattle. Mr. Dressup (think early Mr. Rogers) would dive, at some point in each episode, into his "tickle trunk" and pull out a costume for himself or for the two puppet regulars, Casey and Finnigan. The costume would become the story of that show.

Today is like that. It can be anything I happen to pull out of my tickle trunk, whenever I decide to look. Probably it will include some about-the-house/yard chores, and likely it will include time to read, rocking on the back deck in the promised beautiful weather today. If I'm really good, I will ignore email today, too. We'll see.

Mary Makofske's poem Planting The Meadow catches this mood beautifully:
I leave the formal garden of schedules
where hours hedge me, clip the errant sprigs
of thought, and day after day, a boxwood
topiary hunt chases a green fox
never caught. No voice calls me to order
as I enter a dream of meadow, kneel
to earth and, moving east to west, second
the motion only of the sun. I plant
frail seedlings in the unplowed field, trusting
the wildness hidden in their hearts. Spring light
sprawls across false indigo and hyssop,
daisies, flax. Clouds form, dissolve, withhold
or promise rain. In time, outside of time,
the unkempt afternoons fill up with flowers.

My mate latte is almost gone, time to decide what today will be. And then again...

Today's full playlist: TBD

- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cynicism and the tollbooth

What a beautiful weekend! Here in the Pacific Northwet we are currently in that long-running stage of the seasons where a day of sunshine is worth so much, and we got most of two sunny days, three if you count Friday. What larks!

Monday morning, alas, brings the return of the grey and wet. The forecast calls for a redundancy of weather icons as far forward as the forecast reaches. Sure enough, a fine mist materializes on the windshield as I drive in this morning, wipers occasionally pushing the tiny drops into a merged stream running away to my vision's periphery.

This morning's commute shuffle-playlist is smoothly varied. It switches gears from a lively piano jazz rhumba to Rod Steward trying to croon, from R&B in both Spanish and English to Booker T. Jone's Crazy.

Listening to the latter, a series of thoughts/connections dash through my head (the commute is slow moving, traffic is heavy, lots of waiting at traffic lights, time for part of the mind to wander). Crazy; crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result; heading into the campus again on a Monday morning; working to effect change; "Why," as Bruce Cockburn sings, "does history take such a long, long time?"

Cynicism! Fresh on a Monday morning after a beautiful and satisfyingly productive weekend, cynicism. Really? So readily to hand? This brings me up short and causes me to take a quick mental inventory.

Hmmmm... I don't feel cynical about my life, my work, my commute, the college I am commuting to. So why did a simple train of thoughts deliver me so quickly to that spot? Maybe because cynicism is the low-hanging fruit of intellectual reasoning. It is like the Island of Conclusions in Norton Juster's wonderful children’s book, The Phantom Tollbooth. You reach it’s stranding shores simply by making a mental jump (thus the phrase, jumping to conclusions). Cynicism works much the same way, and is dangerously easy to fall into.

And cynicism begets more cynicism. Worse, sometimes it seems witty and even smart, which makes it acceptable in polite society as an entertaining substitute for a bad attitude. But, a monkey in silk, a sow's-ear purse, or, to use the variant that saw more recent political usage, so much lipstick on a pig.

Cynicism also fails to present either a real vision of the world or a meaningful path forward. It often creates a justification for doing nothing and going nowhere. It could be the subject of this passage from The Phantom Tollbooth: "...if something is there, you can only see it with your eyes open, but if it isn't there, you can see it just as well with your eyes closed. That’s why imaginary things are often easier to see than real ones." And as Juster also points out in the same book, "The only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that's hardly worth the effort."

By now, the Weepies are singing, startlingly presciently:
Guess I'm getting old wandering this way
Wondering what's wrong and right
You try to move along but the traffic holds you still
Or did I lose the will to fight?

Monday come like Tuesday
You were something else, I will admit
I remember what you told me
Only I wish I could forget
Only I wish I could forget

[I tell you, somedays I swear there is something sentient about the iPod's shuffle of music.]

I purpose, then, to forget to be cynical, to focus instead on the reasons I do the many things I do each day, and to be thankful for the opportunity to do them. I purpose to walk with my eyes open and to ignore the things best seen through closed eyes. It takes very little more effort to do.

As one of the Tollbooth's characters points, out, "'s not just learning that's important. It's learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn the things that matter."

Today's full playlist:
- Michael Camilo: Armando's Rhumba
- Rod Stewart: The Way You Look Tonight
- Raymond Castellon: Tu No Me Quieres Na
- Traveling Wilburys: Cool Dry Place
- Booker T. Jones: Crazy
- The Weepies: Wish I Could Forget

- Posted via Hermes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Small victories

Sunshine yesterday afternoon, top down drive home, whoop! The top was still down this morning, though the skies were decidedly glowering. Still, it tosses back up quickly enough if necessary, so I braved the drive in leaving it down. The closer I got to the college to the more it looked like I'd be reaching back to quickly pull the top up over my shoulder, but I made it top-down all the way in! This feels like a small victory against another record-set tingly wet recent few weeks. Why must climate change only emphasize the worst weather characteristics of any given region?

Take a look at the near-term forecast and you will see why these small victories matter. I think pretty much all of these lines are trending in the wrong direction (screen shot from Seasonality Go for the iPad) :

The other sunshine in my life returned yesterday, too, though. My wife had taken the oldest grandson with her for a short visit to her sister's place in eastern Oregon, and I had to fly solo for a few days. I find I have a very different routine when I am on my own. I take comfort in keeping busy even more so when the alternative is talking only with myself. Oh sure, I also talk to the dogs, but they just cock their heads and look at me trying to figure out what kind of treat or exciting activity I must be offering them.

So, between the lousy weekend weather and the increased need to stay busy, I managed to bake four loaves of bread (yerba mate shredded wheat loaves), two batches of the ginger-citrus soda referenced here a couple days ago, and enough really good pizza dough to set six dough balls into the freezer for quick thaw-and-bake use later, among lots of other lessor accomplishments. Didn't get the lawn mowed, funnily enough.

Music for today's drive in was all Belle & Sebastian, from a mix of their albums (good stuff!):

- I Took a Long Hard Look
- For the Price of a Cup of Tea
- Your Secrets
- A Space Boy Dream
- Mornington Crescent

- Posted via Hermes

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ginger-Citrus Soda (a recipe)

A while back I came across a recipe on a food blog. It was one of several versions of essentially the same recipe, which probably means there is an original version out there somewhere, but it is hard to tell which is the original and which is a copy.

I have modified the recipe (upped the citrus, toned down the ginger, cut the sugar substantially). Here is my rendition (photo taken during preparation, just because it was so colorful!):

Ginger-Citrus Soda (non-alchoholic)

3-4 ounces fresh ginger, coarsely chopped-no need to peel
2 limes, zest and juice
1 large blood orange, zest and juice
1/2 cup raw sugar
4 cups boiling water

In the bowl of a food processor, process ginger until grated. Remove to a large heatproof pitcher or measuring cup. Add both lime and orange zest and juices, and sugar. Add 4 cups boiling water, then stir until the sugar dissolves. Cool, strain, then chill.

To serve, half-fill glasses with the ginger beer and top off with the soda, tonic water or sparkling mineral water.

If you have an Isi beverage carbonation thingie ( you can carbonate this recipe for a delicious fizzy soda.

- Posted via Hermes.