Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Rodent in the Sun

Prairie Dog (a fairly close relative of groundhogs) popping up in Jasper National Park (where the glacier was not that long ago) to wish you and yours a happy groundhog day. 

Metaphorical sunshine and warmth are always good, but for many
organisms literal cold and snow are necessary.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Frosty Glow

Spike Frost.  Saturday, January 23.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Starboy and Joy on Two Festivals of Light

The weekend of December 13, the third weekend of Advent, the weekend of Joy, was bordering on disaster in our household.  The dishwasher wouldn't drain and we took it apart and kept it apart as we kept trying to clear something. The van wouldn't start and we couldn't jump it with the Prius, so we were late to a birthday party.  The party was outside and it rained. We learned how easy it is to destroy a microwave just by pushing the wrong button.  Dianthus cut himself when he tried to saw open a pecan with a bread knife.  I cut myself moving the hot fried microwave.  I mixed a bunch of expensive saffron into the start of a dough-- at Dianthus's insistence we were making St. Lucia buns-- before I realized that the odd amount of yeast required (1.7 oz.) amounted to 7 packets of yeast and I had one.  On the day we were taking treats to church, the Mister went early to sing with the choir and the boys and I were late due to frosting issues due to caterpillars crawling in our mixer in the cupboard.  To top the weekend off, the Raiders beat the Broncos.
And it was a great and joyous weekend.
In the time since, I've thought about how to write this post.  I could portray the weekend as a comedy of errors in which so much went wrong that I had no choice but to laugh at the absurdity of it all, like this weekend back in 2011.
The Mister happened to have my Christmas saffron waiting?
I could portray it like the children's book Fortunately: "Unfortunately the van was dead, fortunately, we had another car; unfortunately, the Mister had choir practice on one side of town and the birthday party was on the other; fortunately, a good friend has a boutique near the church; unfortunately shopping made us late for . . "  "Fortunately, I knew something about the St. Lucia buns Dianthus wanted to bake. Unfortunately, they required more saffron than we had.  Fortunately, the Mister had ordered saffron for me for Christmas (! completely out of nowhere). Unfortunately, we had no clean dishes as we kept thinking that we could repair the dishwasher. . . "

But neither accurately describes the weekend.  It was an absolutely joy-filled weekend during which a bunch of things happened to go wrong.

I've spent time trying to ponder the weekend and why it felt so good.  I've come up some answers, and they are complete cliche.  They might also be right.
It was late at night following a complete change of recipe,
but it turns out I can still work dough 
The first is that, because I was caught up on my grading (it was the weekend between classes and finals), I did not bring any work home.  I was fearlessly living in the moment.  I had heard, multiple times through the advent season, to "be not afraid" and I was not.
I also chose to have a joyful weekend.  I rejoiced in that I still knew the "baby's bottom" feel of well-kneaded dough.  I was excited that Dianthus and Aster were arguing about who got to be the Star Boy and who was St. Lucia. I was charmed they wanted to celebrate Hanukkah.  So we lit the candles and we sang and we embraced the light.

Star Boy without his dunce cap
I know the darkness is real and so are the problems of the world.  It feels completely tone-deaf, as well as cliche, to say that one can just be joyful by not being afraid and embracing joy. But sometimes it works.  I'm afraid (here I go again with the fear) that's what I've got. Along with a fixed dishwasher, a new microwave, and two boys who are fighting to serve me sweet rolls in bed next December.

Our menorah, of sorts

Sometimes the snowman is looking the other way.

Keeping lighting candles.  Keep finding joy.


I read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli sometime in the fall, and couldn't write about it for a while because writing about it just seemed too much for me.  The book is all about high school drama, so italics seem completely apt, although I don't recall Spinelli using any.
Stargirl is a "young adult novel" narrated by Leo, a high school junior when the events happen, about the new girl in school, "Stargirl".
Jerry Spinelli's Newberry Award Winning Maniac McGee helped me through my first major break-up (along with Robyn McKinley's The Blue Sword), so I was prepared for a crazy world: that the book starts with a collection of porcupine neckties did not phase me.  I was not prepared to be so angry at the narrator, and thus myself, for being a non-committal, caring-about-his-image high school student, instead of living fully in the moment like Stargirl.  It made me embarrassed to be the kind of person who appreciates eccentricity but wants to live as a conformist. When I finished I was shaken.

Then I forgot Stargirl until I read The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman last week and many of the same emotions emerged.  The books are very similar, both excellent young adult novels narrated by high school guys who realize, too late, that they didn't treat the titular characters well.  That's despite the completely different settings and premises: Stargirl transforms her high school while Calvin Schwa passes through life unseen.

Stargirl was part of my "glowing" book series, along with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon  by Grace Lin, which I found magically beautiful.  All three books, along with the many others, like The Wednesday Wars, The Dairy Queen, Just Ella and Princess Ben, have been part of the unintentional "a good YA book is so much better than a mediocre adult novel" series.  The Wednesday War and The Dairy Queen were Shakespeare-based, which I did not realize in advance, and Just Ella and Princess Ben fairy tale based, which I did realize.

What are you reading?  Is it about glowing?  Does it glow?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Planetary Convergence

Just a reminder for all of us who are up before dawn-- look up at the planetary line-up over the next few weeks.  Five visible planets if you look up and get lucky with mercury (six if you also look down).
And also a reminder that I am still around.  I had no idea it had been over a month since I'd written.  I've thought lots of posts.  They're just stuck in my head.  I've even taken some glowing pictures. They're just stuck on my camera.

Go look at the stars and planets and be good to yourselves.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Solitary Snow Goose

Walking to work this morning (a brisk clear morning after a gray weekend), there was a single flashing flapping spot of bright white traveling south in the  brilliant blue sky.  My best guess it was a snow goose.  I didn't see any others.

I have no idea what that portends, symbolically or biologically, but since I am noticing migrations these days, and signs of love and peace, I thought I should mention it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

On Peace and Pumpkin Pancakes

On Sunday, before lighting the candle of Peace at my church, I made pumpkin pancakes.  Because I am a vegetable evangelist and because Dianthus and Aster love pumpkin pancakes, I thought I should blog about the recipe.

And then I hesitated.  Practically, the pumpkin pancake recipe is good, but I think it could be great with tweaking that I haven't done.  Thematically, it felt discordant: "Now we interrupt this series on bringing warmth to the world to give you a recipe."

I toyed with some big ideas to connect pancakes and peace-- that as someone living with abundance and peace, I have a near-obligation to appreciate it,-- or that peace is a concept different at different scales, and that large-scale peace depends on individuals with inner peace.  But neither idea really works. Certainly, NOT enjoying the minutia of my life is NOT going to help with people living with strife, and when my family eats tasty healthful foods, we are better able to share figurative warmth, but those aren't really the same idea. Beyond that, the more I think about it, the more clear it is that peace does not scale directly.  We must not wait until we our content with ourselves to work for a more just and peaceful world.  Conversely,* we cannot wait until the world is peaceful to appreciate our pancakes.

Which is probably about as far as I am going to get in thinking about peace.  I apologize if you thought I was going to have the answers.  My conclusion is to directly disregard the message of advent.  Don't wait.  Don't wait to make the world a better place.  Don't wait to enjoy your life.  And then rephrase the message of advent.  Do prepare.  Prepare now.  Let's prepare a better world.  Today.

Let's talk about how.

Today, for instance, I am leveraging my privilege as a wealthy, educated, Christian, parent, to encourage the public school not to have Easter Egg hunts at school.  The non-Christians in my town have enough to deal with without being asked to buy plastic junk in celebration of a religious holiday they don't observe.

I am going to smile at the students I meet, regardless of their race, religion, national origin or even class attendance.  It is the last that it the real challenge for me.

I am going to share an image of my friend Sunflower Spinner in her peace hat. She is also trying to make the world warmer and wanting to discuss how.   I remember being with her as she designed the peace hat in 2001.  It felt really good to help create a tangible, if small scale, manifestation of our large scale hopes.

Yesterday I wore my peace hat to work. It was a small and relatively insignificant gesture, but I needed to do something in face of the bigotry, hate, and vitriol in the world right now. Maybe we need a peace sign selfie day. Then a conversation about positive actions to take to show the human race isn't all about hate.

I made the hat not too long after 9/11. The reason it is my peace hat is not obvious. Here's the story. The hat is made from Peace Fleece. (http://www.peacefleece.com/). The blue was a special edition called Baghdad Blue, and the proceeds from the sale of this yarn went to a joint Jewish/Islamic organization promoting peace. The patterns on the brim of the hat all say peace in different languages, with the letters having been translated into binary and then mirrored (to get a pretty pattern). I no longer remember what all the languages are, but I do remember that I chose languages representing as large of a geographical area as possible.

I am going to share my imperfect, untweaked recipe for pumpkin pancakes because they are tasty and they re-heat well.  I felt better about breakfast this morning knowing that my sons, eating leftover pancakes, consumed far more vitamin A and fiber than they frequently do at breakfast.  They are a good idea now.  Why wait?   

What else should we do?

Untweaked Multigrain Pumpkin Pancakes
(based very loosely on my mother's oatmeal pancakes, and less loosely on the different versions of pumpkin, banana, sweet potato and carrot pancakes I've made this fall)
1 can pumpkin
2 C buttermilk
1 1/2 C oatmeal
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C cornmeal
2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
2 Tbs. oil or melted butter
1/4 C. molasses (or some brown sugar)
1/4 C. cottage cheese or Greek yogurt if you have it on hand
1/2 tsp. maple flavoring
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pecans or raisins (optional)
cooked or grated sweet potato or carrot (optional)
mashed banana (optional)

Mix all ingredients.  Let the batter bubble for a while.  Form into pancakes and cook (I use a little electric fry pan set at 350).  Serve with maple pecan banana topping or syrup.

*This just led to a fascinating conversation with my colleagues about formal logic terms.  I have great colleagues.