Sunday, November 29, 2009

These are a few of my Favorite Things

Actually, this song is not really among my favorite things, though I like it much more than I did before we played the pit in the Sound of Music. The movie came out when I was a youngster and popular radio stations alternated that tune with 'Climb Every Mountain' and 'To Dream the Impossible Dream'. Remember, it was the Great Society and we could make everything better just by trying.
But I do love the American songbook and familiarity makes that affection stronger through the years. And that familiarity can, to a great extent, be laid at the feet of the Brownville concert series. I don't know what made us first decide to attend a concert in Brownville; its been quite a few years ago now. I know we first heard Herb Ellis play guitar and the concert was in January, so perhaps we had made our perennial New Year's resolution: that is, to listen to more live music. Tough resolution, huh. But we are habitually spur of the moment, and concerts and tickets require planning ahead or driving long distance, so we don't do it as often as we'd like.
Enter the Brownville concert series. It isn't far away and every other month, one has three opportunities to hear the artist of one's choice. We can make up our mind at noon, or four, or five, call over and still reserve our seats. The venue is more intimate than any cabaret or bistro because the performance is the reason and the audience respects the musicians. No clinking glasses or loud cross table conversations. We can talk to our companions any old time but we can't listen to Tony deSare, or Klea Blackhurst, or KT Sullivan, or Joe Cartwright. Well, I guess we can go to Kansas City and hear Joe nearly any time, but those other folks are only in Nebraska because Jim Keene sought them out in their normal haunts on the East coast.
There are a goodly number of regular attendees, mostly Nebraskans, I guess, though we often see folks we know from Rock Port. There is usually a table or two of travellers, in from Omaha, or Lincoln. The crowd can vary from 100 down to 30 or 40. Those smaller numbers make for a great experience for the audience, but its such a shame when that occurs; we are missing major league culture right in our backyard.
We Midwesterners are clearly interesting specimens to the performers. Two appealing brothers who were raised on Broadway melodies made their first trip to a Super Walmart in Nebraska City during their booking in Brownville. They even took pictures. Even without that quintessential outing, all of the musicians note the inarguable smallness of Brownville and the comparative bigness of the country in general and Nebraska in particular. We in the audience laugh in agreement; yep, we know we're small and we know we are odd specimens to them. Wouldn't it be fun to know what they say when they go back? I look at my fellow concert goers and cosmopolitan is not the first word that comes to mind.
We come back from the concerts finely tuned and humming. Refreshed and optimistic again about living where we do. We've never had the chance to see the Christmas extravaganza promised in our email, but this year one of our favorite performers will be there. Even the family Scrooge is looking forward to it! Wonder if he'll buy a CD?......

Friday, November 27, 2009

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In defense of Martha, no, no, not THAT Martha! Not the Martha whose recipes either don't LOOK like those pictures, or, worse, don't TASTE like the description. Not the Martha whose Christmas craft we discarded after going to great lengths to find and purchase the accordion paper that was the main component. Not the Martha whose Thanksgiving decorations this year featured a palette of violet and silver. Un-uh.
No, I'm talking about biblical Martha whom the Lord chastised, albeit gently, for not choosing the right thing. Is there a hostess born of man who has not harbored secret empathy for this Martha as she hustled and bustled about the home, trying to make it perfect for her perfect Guest?
That's who I was thinking about this past week as preparations for a family Thanksgiving feast led me to dog ear recipes in magazines, make repeated trips to the HyVee, and leave great puddles of oil, grease and butter on the counters and tile of my kitchen. That Martha would also have counted chairs, counted spoons and forks (had they existed !) lit the fire, turned on all the lights, and lit the candles just for beauty's sake. Probably she also had way more food in the house than anyone could eat as each guest brought a dish that someone in the house liked better than anything. I don't imagine a hush in the house...surely there was the same sound that precedes a concert, the hum and buzz of anticipation that crescendoed as their household welcomed one more guest to meet Jesus.
Our house was happily loud with conversation after our dinner prayer. Gabe came over to hold my hand so we could pray together, then sounded a hearty 'amen'.
After we'd divided the leftovers, sending the rest of the paper plates with meals for the morrow, I waited up to load the dishwasher a second time. I washed the glasses by hand and set them to drain, but ignored the smashed crackers in the dining room. Were we too concerned with the material matters of the day? Oh, I guess. I'm sure no one cared if there were napkin rings, or if the little tea lights in the windows were lit, or even if there were centerpieces at all. Magazine Martha would have blanched at the fact I only have one set of salt and pepper to my name. But trying to make a pleasant evening for those you love is also an act of service in a small way and acknowledgment of what we've been given. I'm not second guessing the Lord's priorities here, don't get me wrong. Rather, sorting the last silverware on Thanksgiving evening and shoving the last Ziploc in the fridge, I felt peaceful, and prayerful, and thankful, and close to the verse that admonishes us to, 'Be still, and know that I am God.'

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grandpa in his overalls 2007

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Clothes make the Man

Tonight, as I have for more than thirty years, I folded a pair of overalls and stuffed them into the armoire. The armoire is not an elegant cabinet and the clothes inside are a motley bunch. The first shelf is full of t-shirts and flannel shirts; the bottom shelf has overalls and some shorts. The white t shirts need to be bleached. The colored shirts are bleached by sun and Maytag. The summer t shirts have an 'x' marking the spot where the overall straps protect fabric and farmer. The winter shirts are snagged, fringed, raveled. They are usually consigned to the rag bag when there is more elbow than sleeve.
There is a closet with clothes on hangers; several fairly nice suits, probably a half dozen shirts under a year old with clean unraveled collars. A half dozen more that will pass for casual or family events. A rainbow of 'Farm Bureau' polo shirts. But the closet doesn't tell the tale of the man and his occupation.
I know farmers cannot be lumped together and categorized neatly by a single stereotype. Not every farmer is an overall aficionado. These days more sport jeans as a uniform; my great uncle, a Western rancher, wore pressed jeans with his cowboy hat. Those were his work clothes. But as a generalization, as an illustration in any book you can name, a farmer wears overalls.
There is good reason. My husband's overalls can carry nearly every item essential to almost any situation he's likely to encounter during a typical day. He'll have gloves in one back pocket and a bandanna in the other. His billfold and cell phone and pen and reading glasses are in the chest pocket. Half a roll of paper towels, wadded up, a handful of self tapping screws and a sample of whatever plant tags we are using could be in one deep pocket. During fall, a big enough test of whatever grain we are harvesting. Usually, lots of change, a straw wrapper, maybe a wadded up styrofoam cup, a couple of receipts. A pocket knife, if he hasn't set it down somewhere.
But the business end of the overalls is the pliers pockets...two screwdrivers, one each flavor. Pliers. Vise grips. Box end wrenches. And the hammer in the hammer loop. The pliers pockets on any pair of overalls were never intended to carry the tool box this farmer wields; they are always the first to wear and tear, to much weeping and gnashing of teeth. This farmer will never sneak up on anyone; like a knight of old, the clanking of armor announces his arrival.
I am not doctrinaire with regard to overalls. During these thirty years, I've bought Dickies and Big Mac, overalls from J.C. Penney and Sears, overalls of denim and duck. Overalls with the engineers stripe. The blue and white striped ones always remind me of Grandpa H. His overalls were faded nearly to baby blue and as soft as flannel. His shirts were chambray and soft as well. He could have been tinted like the oldest color photographs were, the colors were so pale and fine.
A well worn pair of overalls is even cool in the summer. Nothing binding with lots of space for the breeze to blow. Overalls are cozy in winter with plenty of room to layer with long johns.
I know the image of agriculture is not always well served by overalls. Our forebears in the 30s looked worn, weary, beaten down in the photographs that are preserved. Some farmers have used overalls as a political statement, defiantly proclaiming their inability to either adapt or succeed with their apparel. But that doesn't keep me from admiring the sheer utility and versatility of the garment: rather like the man who wears them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Manger scene at Spruce

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Baby Jesus

The little kids have started rehearsing for their Sunday school Christmas program. We are going to be quite traditional and stick close to the Christmas story that pre-dates all others: we will have shepherds, and wise men, and Herod, and angels. Unlike the big church pageants, nothing will fly and no snow will fall. No interpretive angels in our church. Two children are going to be Joseph and Mary. At church on Wednesday, the little girl who will be playing Mary smiled all night down at the baby doll who will be Jesus. She cuddled and rocked him as we all sang Away in the Manger. I almost cried right then and there at the innocence and love displayed by that little girl.
But don't you think that was part of God's design when He decided to send His Son as a human baby? Nearly all of us have memories or experiences that bring us close to the Nativity scene. When I was growing up and visiting grandparents at Christmas time, one of the houses on Greenberry road had a life sized Nativity scene. Not only was there a stable, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and angel, but the shepherds brought life sized sheep (though not real ones) and, best of all, the kings led life sized camels! It was marvelous and, because the house in question had a tower room, almost magical to me. Our manger scene at home was simple but the figures were lovely and dignified. My mother would place it on cedar branches so it would smell of the outdoors. Baby Jesus must have had good circulation though because I don't think he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in his manger bed. The creche' at Granny's had been played with. All the figures were separate from the scene and could be arranged to suit the viewer except for Mother Mary. It didn't bother us as good Lutherans, but she had lost her head at some point and each year received a new blue Kleenex as a mantle. I have another manger scene in my closet now from Granny's house; I place it on the bookcase with lots of fake snow and blue lights as starlight. All the figures are stuck down; that is probably what preserved it all those years at her house.
Over the years our family has participated in the Live Nativity at our church. Millie is one of the creators and originators of many of the robes and costumes for the production. Several of the king costumes are king-sized reflecting the stature of her sons and now grandsons and grandsons in law. There are little shepherd suits and little angel suits constructed when first her grandchildren and now, great grand children, grew old enough to stay outside for the half hour stints as play actors. I say "stay"and not "stand" outside deliberately, because some of the finest and funniest moments we've had as family have occurred when the littlest shepherds have taken a notion to chase chickens or climb the straw bales or break the silence that is supposed to accompany the recitation of the Christmas story.
Everyone should be part of a live Nativity at some point. It is one way to nestle closer to the heart of Christmas and our Lord's birth. To stand silently for a length of time and hear Scripture and hymns is to contemplate the miracle of God's love. To stand silently with all one's family is a blessed time of shared faith for youngsters and oldsters. It is a shining example of joy and fellowship as we eat soup, dress up, add gloves and hats, gather up kids, wait our turn and share our faith with our community. What a wonderful combination of earth and heaven!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sidewalk Chalk

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against a paperless society

Abbie is an artist. I do not yet know whether she will write, or draw, or just doodle on the sides of the notes she takes in class. I do know that she will sprawl out on any flat surface, whether wood floor, carpet or concrete front porch, and she will draw.
Right now, her favorite figures are circles. She will draw circles in different sizes and they will represent different things. 'Gma, do me', she commands and I draw a smiling round little face with Abbie's hairdo. 'Do shirt', she adds and I draw arms and mitten hands and pants and little shoes. After Abbie, we invariably draw Gabe, Lizzie, Mama, and Grandma. She especially notes G'ma's glasses, a variation on the round faced smiling noseless theme. Today there was a big oval face with eyes and a mouth on her jumbo sized drawing pad. 'Abbie, is that yours?' I asked, ever ready to pounce on any praise-worthy action. She didn't claim it; it wasn't happy, so perhaps someone else drew it.
Drawing was the cheapest of entertainment when I was growing up. I remember considering coloring books a poor second to sheaves of blank-on-one-side blueprints or letters or other unintelligible scientific papers. My father brought home lots of waste paper from his work and we drew on it all. Cartoon horses, little stick faces with big mouths, landscapes, picture stories...I even wrote some stories on his waste paper. I cherished the box of 64 crayons, but a new set of Venus colored pencils was even better.
At my grandma's house, the scrap paper was the back of blueprints and other civil engineering plans. The paper was often screwed onto wooden backings which made it possible to both sit in the lazyboy and draw at the same time.
My sister was a better painter than I by far and I have kept several of her childhood water colors in frames in our house. But I could doodle with the best and covered margins of college notes with fantastical machines of dense and intricate curlicues. No offense, Mr. Professor... but the margins are too good to waste.
Well, let's be honest, even as a grandma. Abbie is probably NOT going to be a true artist. But she will never be bored if she has an ultra fine Uniball pen and a note pad on hand.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Durham Western Heritage

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rocks and the road atlas

From Livingston to Palestine said the text on my phone. How delightfully enigmatic, I thought. Could be a reference to British colonialism (Dr. Livingston, I presume? the protectorate of Palestine?) Or the names of American towns? (Livingston, Montana. Palestine, Illinois ) Nope this time the names were towns in Texas and part of a song lyric by Lyle Lovett. Nearly made me reach behind the toybox to pull out Rand McNally. I am a road fiend, a travel junkie, and I can quote the lyrics to prove it. "Mama knows the highway now by heart" sings Hal Ketchum. There's 'roamin' Wyomin'" and "Abilene", songs we would warble on family trips as we pointed west. I only need to hear one line and I'm ready to "drive south" with Suzy Bogguss (just leave these legs showin, it gets hot where we're goin'). I don't have the towns in 'I've Been Everywhere" memorized, but I know the ones on "Route 66" and have been through most of them. How far do you have to be from home to be actually gone? In our parlance, past Lincoln and probably Grand Island. Past Kansas City for sure, that's local. Past Omaha's farthest reaches. Past St. Louis for a real journey, though its a fine destination itself. I have a certain inner sympathy with those who declared the 100th meridian the West. That's the line near Cozad, home of Robert Henri', whose Nebraska origins are invisible in the artworks displayed in the humble frame home there. But you can be gone before you've traveled that far. Go south through the Flint Hills and you are somewhere foreign, maybe the steppes, maybe some prehistoric vista where the ancestors of the horse will peer through the tallgrass. Go north to the Sand Hills and humanity's oases shrink into themselves and huddle behind screens of cottonwoods.
When I was growing up, I saw my first milo in Nebraska just east of Beatrice. Nebraska was exotic to me then. Iowa had looked like more of Illinois, but Nebraska entailed crossing a mighty river. The Oregon Trail was synonymous with Nebraska and the Platte was unlike any river I'd ever seen. I still enjoy travel along the Platte and the journey to its headwaters is a trip into our
Western saga. I saw my first irrigation though in Utah, on my great uncle's ranch. Lovely, organized ditches ferried the water to the alfalfa fields that fed his cattle during the winters. My aunt and uncle and their family were Mormon and we were steeped in the history and legend of the founding of Salt Lake City while we visited. What ever one thinks of Brigham Young, he had a fine sense of theater; is there a better climax to a tale than "This is the Place!"
I was lucky to traverse the country while I was young; early on I had good measure of how immense our plains states are because we drove them from end to end. We took the trains to the West coast and Utah. We took the train to Washington D.C. and I had the train's eye view of the emptiness of the West and the industrialized backyards of the East.
Traveling with our family has always been a much beloved production. The kids would pack their own suitcases which meant that sometimes vital items would be left at home. Big piles of books would come along; maybe or maybe not enough socks and underwear. One trip Ann didn't bring a long sleeved shirt and the temperature in the mountains of Colorado never budged from the 50s. I would bring out the big coolers and pack picnic lunches and breakfasts for a week. For years, that meant a mess of fried chicken made the night before departure. Nowadays, it means grilled steak for sandwiches. I would hoard rolls of film, stashing them in all kinds of crannies. Before our trip, I'd gather up the travel books and brochures; we wouldn't plan our stops or sights per se, but with one, two or three kids in the car, driving stints of more than four hours at a time were not relaxing. From the time I was old enough I had clipped the "free brochure" cards from my mom's magazines and sent them off. In a few weeks, glossy magazines from faraway states would arrive in the mailbox. I drooled and dreamt over these promises of beauty, history and magic for months and haven't really grown out of that habit yet! Now I get the 'Moon' books at Barnes and Noble, or look for inns on the internet, but we still have the hint of risk, of adventure, when we take an exit off the interstate or pull off into a little town with an intriguing name. There are chunks of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming in my garden. I haven't marked them so I don't remember where they all originated, but I know they are fellow travelers and that's satisfaction enough.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the Union Pacific

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Where I Come From.....Little Houses on the Prairie

My first memory of the house and town where I grew up is looking for marbles in the dirt. The dirt in question was our was a brand new house in a brand new development (code word for subdivision) plopped down on the flat black peat like soil of southern Cook county. This was the 50s so our house, like its neighbors, had gutters, but no eaves. It was a corner lot and faced Highland Ave. I still remember the address 15032 and the phone number Fieldbrook-9-2870. One wall phone, hanging in the dining room.
 The house was originally painted white with blue trim and shutters, but the blue faded mercilessly and one year the shutters came down and were repainted barn red. That's adaptation, you know. Barns lasted longest when red or white, so why not shutters. The house had a big paned picture window in the living room. The folks have lots of pictures of two little girls looking in and out of that window. The kitchen and dining room shared the same space and the whole house was floored in indestructible brown tile, very very hard. I lost teeth to the floor and the hard maple dining room chairs. My sister lost blood and gained stitches on the corner of the hard maple hutch. One of the foolish things I liked to do in that house involved running hard down the hallway, then sliding on the floor. My parents kept the floor shiny and slick and at least twice, I sprained my ankle playing that forbidden game.
Our house didn't have a basement so the floors were brutally cold but we had nice rugs, not carpet, so the chill only bothered the bathrooms. I can remember shopping for the rug in our bedroom...we went downtown to Marshall Field's, I think, and up the elevators to the floor with the high ceilings and big rugs hanging from swinging bars.
 It was great fun to flip through the big rugs, like thumbing the pages of an enormous book. They were so beautiful; it was news to me when I started visiting my friends' homes later on and found they had wall to wall carpet.
Our living room was dominated by a baby grand piano. I don't know how old I was when we got it; it wasn't new but I don't remember it arriving. I was younger than six though, because that's the age my parents bought piano books and I started learning to read music. Music was always the background of my life. I do not recall a time growing up when my father didn't get his clarinet out and practice for a half hour before leaving for work. There were two big speakers in the dining room which played the classical music stations of the Chicago area from early morning to my parent's bedtime.
 Even then, the radio would play until midnight and sign off. That was a time of dread for me in later years when I went through a bout with insomnia. As long as the radio was on, it wasn't late. After the radio went off, there was just worry about sleep and the chiming of the clocks every half hour. The music wasn't soft; my father loved the German composers and one could not stay in the front of the house when a Bruckner symphony played. I learned the German legends behind Wagner's Ring cycle and the Copland music and Sandberg readings associated with Abraham Lincoln's birthday, a holiday in Illinois. On Saturdays there was the Texaco Opera quiz at intermission during the Met broadcasts.
I wasn't very old when we actually went to the Lyric Opera. The performance was the Beethoven opera 'Fidelio'. We were way up there so the singers were just stout and beautifully costumed figures without binoculars. Laura and I amused ourselves during intermission by counting fur coats. The story of Fidelio is highly romantic and easily captured a little girl's imagination, though even then, the idea that a woman could pass as a man was fantastic to me. I know the evening was long, but the thrill and excitement of the live orchestra has not faded with memory. We also saw Don Giovanni another year; another exciting story with the added benefit of special effects as we awaited the descent of the Don into Hell as the Commodore hauled him off. From our lofty perch, we couldn't actually see the statue speak, but we were impressed nonetheless.
The Opera house was beautiful and baroque, especially lush on the lower floors and boxes, which we could glimpse on our way up the stairs. I loved going Downtown; the train trip from LaGrange, past the zoo in Brookfield....
 ...deeper and deeper through the older suburbs like Berwyn and past the well known streets like Cicero. Even then, the train station held boundless potential....maybe, just maybe, this time we would get on a long passenger train, not a commuter, and wind up out West, looking out at pony wells from our Pullman car with the cunning little combined sink and toilet.

I engaged in the same wishful thinking whenever we drove south through LaGrange, for on the outskirts of  town was a set of Golden Arches. Maybe, just maybe, we would pull in and I could have a chocolate milkshake......

15032 Highland Ave. circa 2014: the Schlueters drove by after their family vacation.
Still a home!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

lunch at the Laumann place. smashed potatoes

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The Big Farm Book

My kids loved 'The Big Farm Book'. The pages are yellowed and the binding is held together with black electrical tape. When Aaron was still little, Annie found another copy, also used, pre-colored with crayons and vowels. Now I have backup.
What is the 'Big Farm Book'? It is a lovingly illustrated story of a "family farm" published back in 1976. In it, the Baxters get up at 4, eat a huge breakfast, raise all kinds of animals, go to 4-H, skate, can fruits and vegetables, attend the county fair, grow corn and raise hay. They are a multi-generation family. So far, so good.
Lots of us either grew up or raised our families with that scenario. One of the defining characteristics of farming is the idea and/or ideal of the family working together across the generations. The Big Farm Book contains some anachronisms; there is a barn raising, for instance and Mama cooks on a wood stove. I'm not sure what kind of equipment Grandpa Baxter is using to plant the corn and Ben wasn't very old before he picked up on that fact. But it isn't a paean to some kind of back to nature agriculture either; there is a two page spread showing the airplane taking off, spraying the 'protective chemicals' on the food crops, and the beetles keeling over and dying at the bottom of the page. I always appreciated the inclusion of pests into this idyllic existence. A short quote: "Yearly pest control is an important part of farming." Isn't that nice? Haven't we regressed from that sensible world view that acknowledged the battle with the elements and nature that characterizes agriculture? I always picture farmers as "wresting" a living from the earth, "wresting" close enough to "wrestling" to describe the struggle to create order, defeat weather, weeds, insects, disease, and triumphantly bring to market the stuffs humans need to survive.
Well, this is what bothers me about the current idealized vision of food production. I can't really get the job done with a hoe; shoot, I don't even do that in my own garden! I want my food warriors up there on those giant combines; I want to see piles of grain waiting for the rail cars. A giant concrete grain elevator at a terminal is as much an example of greatness and prosperity as a Chicago skyscraper. 

If we can't have a prosperous economy without cities, how can we have a healthy populace without so-called industrial agriculture? If we travel a hundred miles to heal our bodies at huge medical complexes instead of our local g.p. or outpatient clinic, why do we assume a fellow with a four row planter is somehow better than an eight row planter? Why are we so hung up over the idea of scale in agriculture when we accept it as a normal fact of economic life in nearly every other occupation? Why is technology a boogie man for food when it is a miracle worker for medicine? Honestly, most people don't understand the workings of the machinery and pharmaceuticals of medicine any more than the mechanics of hybrid seed and pesticides. Why then does food bear the burden?
I assume much of this boils down to the animal issue. I don't know if we farmers can ever convince those who equate animals and humans that we are ethical in our occupation. That chasm between farmers who raise animals for people to eat and those who consider that each individual animal a soul itself is insurmountable. A chicken is a chicken. Look into a chicken's eyes and there is nothing there. My grandchildren are people. They were individuals from birth. Nuff said.
A gentleman in an airport shuttle with us last month asked how we could get more farmers. He was speaking from the viewpoint of a small d Jeffersonian. We really unloaded on him, defending both our industry and scale. We aren't the tools of any company; we aren't even the pawns of the government. We are still very small businessmen in very small places with ties to our communities and our families. That's why we are farmers, not because we have mystic ties to the corn gods. We think its a good thing that our crops are bountiful and abundant and uniform. And that's why I still like to read 'The BIG Farm Book' to the kids.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

when the leaves came down

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On the way back from taking dinner to the field yesterday I got behind someone's old grain truck laboring up the hill, so I changed my route. Its one of the beauties and conveniences of a dry fall day that if one section road is clogged with harvest equipment, you just drive a mile in any direction and that road will be just as good. And probably scenic as well. That was the case this time. I came out just below the Center Grove cemetery with a view of the gravestones gently marching up the hill to the east, the grass still green and free of leaves. Leaves don't linger away from the shelter of town and, besides, Center Grove's trees are primarily wind beaten cedars.

The beauty and peace of Center Grove reminded me of the dignified and austere silence of Arlington National Cemetery. Whether seen from a distance or experienced on foot, the place requires the same silence and reverence as a cathedral. I feel the same burden of history, the collective memories of many souls and the realization of our own insignificant slice of time and experience. Each life here is small as well, but immortalized and magnified by its participation in the great events of our country. Arlington carries the additional poignancy of its origin as the home of Robert E. Lee. There is a recurring sense of irony in the view from the front porch of Washington, D.C. and the monuments of the Union he denied in his loyalty to a state and his people.

Aaron and his class donned paper hats colored with red, white and blue stripes and stars. The hats themselves looked rather Napoleonic, but why quibble. Kindergarteners know nothing of dictators. They stood up in front of the school assembly and sang a little song someone penned about Veteran's Day and set to the tune 'Danny Boy'. They waved their little flags as they sang to some of the Atchison county veterans seated in front of the students. Aaron was particularly excited to have a chance to salute. The superintendent gave a very nice personal talk about his experience growing up a military brat, reiterating the difference between the freedom to conduct our daily affairs in thoughtless safety and the very real possibility of violence in many other lands.

I grew up with the violence and unrest of the Vietnam era. Even in Jefferson City the students broke windows and set fires. Even though I was young, I did not understand the impetus to disparage the members of the armed services doing their duty. Those demonstrating, or rioting, were not in harm's way; not facing a real enemy. It was an ugly time. The knowledge of war and the necessity for war fills me with dread, but this time around, our country has responded to those who protect her with honor, pride and respect. The citizens who fight for America deserve all this and we are a better country when we yield them our gratitude.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fall food for Thought

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Fall Food for Thought

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C'mon In!!

I just finished printing up my pretend menu for my pretend Thanksgiving dinner for tomorrow's home tour in Tarkio. The food would look pretty original intention was to pick some fancy recipes with even fancier titles...after all, I wasn't really cooking these; it was all for appearance. But, as so often happens with my cooking ideas, time ran out and I resorted to the old familiar reliable foodstuffs, even for my pretend menu. My pretend menu is not just my wish list. After all, if that were the case, there would be prime rib and cranberry sauce and brown rice and any of Millie's rolls and asparagus and that great spinach salad that Ann and Matt make. And, in my pretend world, there would also be room in my stomach for both cherry pie AND pecan pie AND a small piece of that new fangled pumpkin dessert. Then, I would sit down with a tiny little very hot cup of espresso and rock and gather assorted sticky grandkids on my lap.

Well, enough of menu porn. I did include olives, lots of them, for all members of the family. And sweet potatoes for most. And green rice for a smaller number. And cornbread pudding for the kids. Truth be told, I think I could farm out this menu and each item would come back prepared just perfectly by the person who has the comparative advantage for that dish. And isn't that one of the jobs of the hostess? To make everyone look good?

I'm posting my pretend menu on the front table. The front room is ablaze with fall hues in primarily natural though non perishable materials. Annie brought a dozen or so fruit jars of cut mums in a myriad of flower forms. Now the front room has come to life with jars of real live flowers on the window sills.

And the beautiful feast table is also graced by a regal bouquet in the gigantic crystal compote. Nancy sent that along to class up the joint. People sitting at this table will undoubtedly speak in complete sentences about whatever erudite subject is introduced. That's the influence of a formal floral bouquet.

I am not usually a big candle person; given the superior capability of electric lights, a candle is mostly a worry to me (did I remember to blow them out, I ask myself in the middle of the sermon). However, the local Hobby Lobby had some pillars on sale that more resembled marble or some other exotic semi precious gem or metamorphic rock. And these are gracing the piano and mantle, stunning even if I don't light them.

I do wish someone was actually going to be using the third floor. I banished Blow Up Santa to the utility closet until his time arrives. I dusted and set up a card table with coasters and decks of cards ready for cut throat pitch games. For tamer but no less competitive fare, there is a scrabble game on the bar. I even put the seat back on the white bar stool!! The fridge is empty though and won't be stocked until a party breaks out upstairs.

Its taken more than a few lists to finish this tale. But I've enjoyed telling myself a tale of a full holiday house. In among the props are real live loaves of pumpkin and apple bread and harvest wrapped Dove chocolates. And, in Kenzie's gift bag, a nice bottle of red that we can break out at the end of the day, put our feet up, and toast all our visitors.