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. ( 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.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Where There is Warmth Out There

World news did not become "lighter" in the days since I posted about hope and candles. There's been pain and hurting at all sorts of levels, from the personal to geopolitical, and I can imagine some of my readers, reeling directly from these hurts or shriveling a little from just observing the pain, asking, "Where is this warmth of which you write?"

I'm directing you to a few very different places where I have found warmth abounding this week. Obviously, these are not "cures" but these are places where the light shines through.

Tear Jerkers

In some of the crazed discussions about refugees and safety, Brandon Stanton probably gets my vote for best use of media platform.  His voice of sanity and compassion shines through as he lets others speak for themselves.  If you are not one of the 16 million people following HONY (Humans Of New York), you may have missed his migrants in Europe series (re-compiled here earlier in November) and his on-going profiles of the Syrian refugees already cleared for the US have sent shivers down the spines of braver souls than me (I'm sitting here waiting for the next installments of the young brothers who want to start a dinosaur museum, despite interruptions like being in a second grade classroom when their school was bombed, but I'm afraid, like the family with the autistic son, crushed because he had been making such progress in therapy, that I will just be left hanging in uncertainty).  You can read about the future paleontologists and many others at Humans of New York (or follow it on many other platforms).

Somehow related in my mind is Rory Feek's blog, This Life I Live.  For several year, I've known of the existence of Joey and Rory, a couple of country singers with a cafe and a tv show, because of the Mister's Parents.  I'd never been all that impressed with what felt like their "cuter-  homier- and holier-than-thou" overly packaged television presence.  It was a friend of a friend who alerted me to Rory's blog a month or two ago, and it is raw and beautiful.  Joey has terminal cancer, and is home with hospice care. They have a daughter, less than two years old, with down syndrome.  I can't read the blog without crying, but I want to read more because of the great warmth and hope that radiates from it.

Practical Notes

It's warm in the Caribbean.  My Friend SalSis in Haiti is successfully teaching ecology to students both young and old.  Some of the stories are chronicled here.

Hope, fear, and action can be approached religiously, as Pastor Elizabeth does on her blog, both generally, and with a particularly personal set of devotions about advent and infertility (or lack of children despite wanting them).  Elizabeth recognizes that waiting is hard, sometimes unbearably so, but chooses to face the world with hope.

Taking a different approach, a different friend of a friend linked to this list of practical things to improve the world when it looks awful (written last week. I have no personal knowledge of Katherine, the author), and yet another suggested that we go our and recycle our unused bras (I lost the funny link.  Here's the practical one: Bra Recyclers.)

And the warmth all around

Following three days fully encased in ice, the roses on campus are blooming,  Geraniums are blooming by the PE building. The kale in our garden is ready for thinning.  The library native perennial planting along the south side of library is full of gold and purple blossoms.  My ecologist self might take this as evidence of the strength of microclimates.  My spiritual self also notes the signs of abundant life continuing.