Saturday, July 28, 2012

Other People's Food

Friends stayed at my place while I was away in Michigan, so I came home to the stuff they left. Good stuff.

My first night, July 23, I found a package of Trader Joe Chicken Korma with Rice all sealed up and ready to microwave. True, the package said, "Use by July 14," but what did that really mean? I had traveled all day, I was tired and hungry, and I ate it. With the cooked broccoli they had stuck in my freezer. And their Whidbey Island Dairy vanilla ice cream for dessert.

They left a cucumber in the fridge, plus Greek yogurt and crumbled feta; this made a lovely salad with a bit of my balsamic vinegar. I had their leftover Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup one day for lunch.

Uh oh. A half-bag of Trader Joe chips made of rice and beans. I don't buy salty snacks: you can literally never get enough. I ate them all, but I managed to take a couple days to do it.

They left a small container of Dove body wash that is meant to have visible softening results in only one week! I sure hope it works, because it smells awful. (I'm holding off on using their body lotion, since I want a true test of the body wash.)

They left two books. One looks like a beach read, called Beach Week, which doesn't tempt me much, but the other is old -- 1906 -- and in one of the old green cloth bindings. It's called The Lady of the Decoration, purporting to be the letters of a worldly young widow off to Japan to teach children in a mission, prior to and during the Japanese war with Russia. This one I can hardly put down. It's completely un-PC, but then, that's the way they were. (Just found it available free as a download.)

It's funny, but all this unfamiliar stuff has made coming home feel like another vacation. Where am I?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sunny and Scared in Seattle

I had a great time in Michigan with my mom, including a lot of good discussion, especially about Jonathan Haidt's book, The Righteous Mind. I got home Monday night, went dancing, with a lot of gratitude for the men who held me in their arms. My body is still on Michigan time, so I wake early and worry about climate change, feeling that so much of what I consider normal life is in its final decade. (Remember when you could swim in the lake all day? Now only careless people are out between 10 and 2. But anyway, my last weekend, the Lake Michigan beaches were closed due to high levels of e. coli.)

And I miss Mom. So I'm a little blue. This is the email I sent her this morning.

Hi Mom:

Here's a link to the McKibben piece on how many decades we have left:

And here's a link to a New York Times piece on how drought affects energy production:

I don't know whether to hope reading them won't scare you as much as it scared me, or that it will. I'm feeling like I'm in pre-Nazi Germany trying to talk people into leaving. A couple fairly quick things we could do would be ending the huge oil industry subsidies and imposing a carbon tax, but nobody -- in a presidential election year! -- is even talking about it! Oh, I've got one more link for you:

Wish you had a different daughter?!

On a lighter note, but not too much lighter, read a terrific book that you'll like, I bet. We Learn Nothing, by Tim Kreider. Essays. He refers to Haidt's book, and it's the kind of book you'd write if you were a political cartoonist-essayist, which he is, and read Haidt's book, and wanted to be a more open, balanced person. Here's a recent piece he wrote on anxiety, and how the real danger of biking can eliminate all the other fears, which is my plan for the day! I'm going to bike! It's lovely out.

I love you, Mom.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Birthday Pie for Mom

Here I am in Michigan with Mom, where it is "hotter than blue blazes," as Mom would say. It was over 90 yesterday, and felt hotter -- you know, the humidity.

At 4:30, we drove in the car(!) the three blocks to the alleyway where Mom has rhubarb-picking privileges. We left the car idling(!) so the AC would keep working, while we madly plucked an armload of fat rhubarb stems, then jumped back in the car and took off like robbers in a getaway. Leaving Mom in the lovely cool car, I ran the rhubarb into the kitchen, came back and drove us to the beach, two blocks away(!). We went as fast as we could over the beach to get to the cool water.

Did I say cool? That water is colder than blue blazes! But since the air felt like an oven, we quickly plunged in. It was like being a hot fudge sundae, I guess, cold on the bottom, hot on top, where our heads bobbled on the surface.

I made the birthday dinner, a quick saute of chicken with garlicky greens, then turned on the oven to bake the rhubarb pie I had assembled. Believe me, nobody wants to be in that kitchen while the oven is on.

We invited two neighbors to share our pie, which was what Mom wanted instead of a cake this year, her 83rd birthday. That rhubarb pie was tastier than blue blazes, I can say in all confidence and modesty. Because who ever tasted blue blazes?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reading Conrad Richter

I've been going through kind of a bad patch lately, fiction-wise, meaning I can't seem to find a book I want to stick with. I'm even struggling with The Waters of Kronos, Conrad Richter's 1961 National Book Award winner.

But everything else I've read is superb. His first, The Sea of Grass, should be a companion to Tim Egan's The Worst Hard Time. It'll revise your ideas of the cattlemen-versus-sodbusters shows we grew up with on TV.

And I highly recommend the trilogy that finishes with The Town, the 1951 Pulitzer Prize winner. The first book is The Trees, and then The Fields, and finally The Town, all set in frontier Ohio. The idea of Ohio as frontier had slipped my grasp since junior high American history. But this Ohio was as dense with frightening forests as the Bellingham, WA, country Annie Dillard describes in The Living. It's too dense to grow food. Mostly they eat game, and the mom makes a wry joke of calling white meat "bread."

Life is simple and hard. Folks expect to lose a few kids before they grow up, and I guess a life expectancy of 40 wasn't unusual.

The writing is terrific, simple and hard like the people. I was struck by this, in The Town:

He hadn't much faith in his mother's philosophy, but one of her expressions came to him. "You'll have to live it down," she used to say. That's what he'd have to do now.

I know the expression, "You'll never live that down." But I hadn't thought about what it means to actually have to do it, to live something down, going on with your life and proving by your behavior that you're more and better than the things you did that got you into trouble or bad repute.

And I like this, Richter's description of the main-character pioneer woman reacting to political talk. "Sayward looked mildly grave. Now that wasn't very partial to facts."

I want to use that line. "Now that wasn't very partial to facts." I'm thinking the opportunities will be plentiful.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Part-time Marketing Associate

That should be me, or so I am trying to convince Seattle Arts and Lectures. They want somebody to help increase their audiences, and I'm thinking, with my experience filling my bed and breakfast on a shoestring budget, I'd be good.

You, dear readers, already know my love of books. You have already read my comments on author evenings at SAL and Town Hall and Central Library. Can't you just see Wendell Berry and me, his appointed escort, riding into Seattle together on the Link from Sea-Tac, on our way to a thrifty happy hour at The Brooklyn before his lecture?

And wouldn't I be good at facilitating an after-hours happy hour for people to talk over the lecture they've heard? Because you often want to talk about it, but unless you're me, and happen to have made friends with Margaret on the bus home, where will you find someone to care whether Richard Ford is too flippant for words or just a typical Southern gentleman, and whether Elizabeth Strout is -- God forbid! -- ditsy?

Anyway, I think SAL hiring me would be like giving all of Seattle their own personal Mary Davies to call up and say, "Hey, let's go hear Jennifer Egan Thursday night!"

And if they don't hire me, you, my treasured readers, you've still got me.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I Call Mom

My mom told me, when we spoke a week ago, that the heat is getting to her. I'm well aware of Menominee weather since my Google home page shows it along with Seattle's. I could have taken the low road, and told her how lucky she is to be hot, compared with us in gray, chilly Seattle. But I held back.

Then I noticed this week a string of 88+ degree days in Michigan. I called to check in Friday morning. Mom said it wasn't bad yet. Too warm to be on the porch, but comfy enough in the living room where she was reading and making notes.

"Oh," I said, "what are you reading?"

It's a thrill to have a mom who says, as mine did, "The Righteous Mind." I had heard author Jonathan Haidt at Town Hall and told Mom about the book, but whereas I'm still #211 on the library wait list, she already has it. It was especially fun to hear about it, since just that morning I'd read Chris Hedges' (sort of snotty) review in Truthdig.

On a previous call I'd said to Mom, "What's on your mind today?" (I like trying to find the phrase that will elicit the good stuff.) She said, "Interesting you should ask that. I've had something on my mind all week. I read your sister's recent book, A Story like Truth, and I've been thinking about what it is to see a shared experience from someone else's point of view."

I'm so lucky to have this mom. I'm off to see her in eight days. And I'll be warm!

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies