Category Archives: Food for Thought

Sounds of Late Summer and Other Things

At our home in the woods in mid-August, crickets have begun their late summer song that will continue until a hard frost nips their sweet, high voices.

On Sunday, I sat on the patio, and two hummingbirds whirred by, chasing each other as they tried to defend the feeders. The fountain bubbled and flowed—a comforting sound. A male cardinal sang its trilling song. In the dense green of the late summer woods, the red flash of his feathers eluded me.

Next door, the rooster crowed, a high pitched warning to any roosters that might be nearby. (There were none.) The hens clucked softly as they pecked and scratched at the lawn, looking for tasty tidbits. Get those ticks, hens!

Cars went by. Even though we live in the woods, the road is nearby.  On this hot afternoon, there were no walkers.

Little Miss Watson meowed and trilled hello as she came onto the patio for a visit. I admired those little white whiskers.

The garden is nearly past its best, but I still enjoyed looking at it.

Sunday on the Narrows Pond Road.  I could almost pretend it was just another lazy afternoon in August, that a silent invisible enemy was not out there doing its worst.

At the same time, it’s hard to envision returning to the free and easy life we once had. Will we, even when a vaccine comes out?

That is to be determined.

 

 

 

Five Months into the Pandemic

Here we are, five months into a pandemic that is ripping this country to shreds. It feels as though the Trump Administration is following advice from a book called 101 Bad Ways to Deal with a Pandemic.  Seems as though they’ve pretty much worked through the list.  Deny science. Check. Inadequate testing. Check. Encourage people to not wear a mask. Check, check, check.

Nevertheless, despite the disastrous leadership, Clif and I, like many others, have adapted. We’ve figured out how to order most everything we need online. (Thank  you, Instacart.) We’ve only gone to a store once since March, and when I hear tales about how too many people have decided that masks are for sissies, I’m not eager to go back.

In truth, I really enjoy having my groceries and other goods delivered, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever go back to in-store shopping. We shall see.

Because of our age and our health issues, Clif and I haven’t strayed too far from home. Every few weeks, he takes rubbish to the Transfer Station. I’ve delivered cards to a friend. We’ve talked about having people over for a socially-distanced cocktail hour on the patio, but we haven’t done it yet, and I’m not sure if we ever will.

Because as it turns out, Clif and I are doing just fine at home by ourselves. We each have our various projects, and we are busy and engaged every single day. We are two introverted elders who think home is best, and this makes it much easier for us to self-isolate. And, we have each other. I really do feel for those who are alone and for extroverts whose joy comes from being around other people.

We are also lucky to have technology. While I know it has its dark side, for us technology has made staying at home not only bearable but also fulfilling and creative.

Because of technology, every day I start out the morning traveling around the world as I check out what my blogging friends are doing. I go to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and to many places in the United States. Always, I am inspired and moved by what these wonderful friends write.

Clif and I belong to a virtual film club sponsored by our library, and every other week we get together to talk about a movie.  What great discussions we have.

Our library also sponsors a virtual trivia night and book group. Clif and I are terrible at trivia, and last week we came in last. No matter. We still had fun. And book group is just as thought provoking as film club.

Once a month, I Zoom with friends from a media group I used to belong to.

Once a week, we Zoom with “the kids.”

Streaming services provide us with plenty of good entertainment—movies, docs, and television series.

NPR offers so many excellent Tiny Desk Concerts that I could listen for quite a while and not hear a repeat.

Naturally, if I were granted a magic wish, I would use it to dispel Covid-19, which has torn lives and economies apart.  I might be a homebody, but I would rather not have to be compelled to stay home because of a killer virus.

Plus I miss my kids like crazy.

But I don’t have this power so all I can do is adjust to the situation.

I hope you all are adjusting, too.

 

An Odd but Fruitful Fourth

Saturday was the Fourth of July. As Wikipedia puts it, the Fourth is a day, “commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on July 4, 1776.” As I’m sure most of you know, it is a national holiday.

For Clif and Me, it was the oddest Fourth of July we have ever had. Usually, we host a gathering of family and friends on our patio, and Clif makes his legendary grilled bread. But thanks to Covid-19, no family and friends this year and no grilled bread.

Unfortunately, for the past ten years, the weather has been beastly on the Fourth, very hot and very humid. This year, of course, the weather was absolutely perfect—sunny but not too hot and low humidity.

At around 2:00, Clif and I took to the patio and had grilled Beyond Burgers, a tasty vegetarian substitute for hamburgers. The weather was so fine that we stayed on the patio for the rest of the afternoon.

We talked at great length about food, and how we can eat better to enhance our health. Ever since the pandemic started, both Clif and I have been aware that not only are we at risk because of age but also because of health issues. Clif has type 2 diabetes, and I am overweight.

I have been working diligently at losing weight and am having success. I’ve also been riding my exercise bike five mornings a week, and I’m happy to report that my creaky knees are not as creaky.

On the Fourth, Clif decided it was time to get serious  about controlling his carbohydrate (carb) intake. A friend of ours who has struggled with type 2 diabetes for years is now facing the prospect of going on dialysis. Sobering, to say the least. And this really made Clif think about his own health, not just in this time of Covid-19 but afterward as well.

For the past year and a half, Clif and I have been vegetarians. This might be coming to an end as we add chicken and fish to our diet as we change to a low-carb regimen.  But strangely enough, being vegetarian has given us the courage and confidence to tackle low-carb eating. Giving up meat was not easy for us, but we did it,  and we radically changed the way we eat. Because of this, we know we can change the way we eat again.

Now, Clif is a computer guy, a geek, if you will. Because Clif couldn’t find an online tool for keeping track of carbs that worked the way he thought it should, his response was to create his own carb data base on his computer. The data base allows him to create his own list with net carb numbers and serving size. This makes it easy for Clif to keep track of his daily carb intake. He is aiming for 50 to 60 carbs a day, and yesterday Clif was able to do this and still have beer and nuts on the patio.

So onward, ho, to a new way of eating. One, we hope, that leads to better health.

 

 

 

 

Six for a Blue Monday

As I just wrote to a blogging friend,  although blue is my favorite color, I am feeling blue in the sad sense. It seems as though our country is far, far away from getting covid-19 under control. And yet out everyone goes.

Not coincidentally, cases of covid-19 are rising around the country. To me, feeling safe seems like a distant dream, and the same is true for getting together with family and friends.

To cheer myself up and to remind myself, yet again, how lucky I am to live here, I am sharing six recent pictures that I took around the yard.

A visit from Mrs. Cardinal is always welcome. It’s a pity I couldn’t get a picture of her being fed by her devoted husband, as she often is. When I am on the patio, I’ll keep my camera at the ready. Maybe I’ll be able to capture this sweet exchange.

Shannon and Mike sent me these flowers for Mother’s Day. I had to keep them inside for a while as the beginning of May was decidedly chilly.  However, the weather improved, and into a pot these impatiens went. Perky and bright, they make me smile whenever I go out onto the porch.

In the front garden, I find the colors and textures of the hosta and fern pleasing and soothing.

Unfortunately my irises did poorly this winter. Some pulled through, but there are few blooms.  But here is one for me to marvel over. I certainly hope that 2021 is a better year for my irises. (And for many other things as well.)

Wild daisies have sprung up in various places in my garden. Blown in, perhaps, or dropped by birds. Whatever the case, I leave them where they come up. It seems to me that it would be churlish to pull them just because they are not exactly in the right spot.

For the last one, back to hostas, to Frances Williams, a plant with leaves so large it looks as though it belongs in the Jurassic period. This close-up shows the textures and patterns on this giant of a hosta.

Onward we go. I hope you find at least six things to make you happy this week.

 

Friday Reading

For love of domination we must substitute equality; for love of victory we must substitute justice; for brutality we must substitute intelligence; for competition we must substitute cooperation. We must learn to think of the human race as one family.  —Bertrand Russell

As is my way, I have been reading a lot of pieces and articles in various publications to try to make sense of what is going on. Reading is no substitution for acting, but for me, anyway, it is an important first step. I might never succeed, but I at least want to attempt to figure out why things are happening the way they are. And what might be done to make our society a better, fairer place.

Below are some samples of what I have been reading.

From Vox, here is Terry Nguyen’s  nuanced take on looting: There Isn’t a Simple Story about Looting.

Civil disobedience is frenzied and chaotic by nature. People who take to the streets might not all share the same beliefs: Some protesters are looting out of the same anger that drives the protests, and other looters are not protesters at all. But because it’s impossible to untangle every person’s motivations and intent, it’s much easier to lump them all into a group to create a narrative of the event that fits our understanding.

Not surprisingly, President Obama writes clearly and beautifully about protest and change.  From Medium here is an excerpt from his piece How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change.

The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Finally, from my blogging friend, the inimitable Cynthia Reyes, who has put together an excellent list of suggestions and reading for those who want to go beyond expressing sorrow over all that has happened. (Full disclosure: One of my blog posts is featured.) The title of her post is 8 Specific Actions We Can Take. I’ve been making  my way through her suggestions and links.

I started this piece with a quotation by Bertrand Russell.  On the face of it, his words seem a little woo-woo, nice to read but not exactly a stern call to action. If it had a flavor, you might call it vanilla.

But think, for a moment, what kind of world we would have if leaders all over followed Russell’s advice.

Not perfect, which is impossible, but oh so much better than what we have now.

And despite the  seemingly bland flavor, very, very difficult to achieve.

 

Cracking Open

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.   —Desmond Tutu

The first six months of 2020 have been a doozy. Just when we think it can’t get any worse, it does. After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, I felt something inside me crack open.

I might be old, I might not have much influence or money, but I can’t sit back while our country careens out of control from one horror to another.

I have decided to become involved with the Poor People’s Campaign, an organization dedicated to “Building a movement to overcome systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the war economy.”

A friend of mine has volunteered with the Poor People’s Campaign for a couple of years and has told me about the good work they do. She has heard Reverend William Barber, the organization’s  founder, speak in Portland. (Awhile back, I read a profile of Reverend Barber in the New Yorker, and I was impressed by his devotion to civil rights.)

Change doesn’t happen by itself. It takes hard work. It takes organization. It takes many voices.

I have decided to be one of those voices, however small.

I have had enough.

 

A Shift in Tone

As I sit at my desk, I can hear the summer rustle of the new leaves as a soft wind blows through them. The leaves are nearly full size, and in a month they went from the red fringe of delicate flowers to yellow to a soft green and now to the deeper green of maturity.

Being of a fanciful nature, I usually stop to listen when the leaves rustle. It seems to me that they are talking, and if I listen hard enough, I will understand what they are saying as they tell the story of trees and woods and animals.

There are other stories around the yard in late spring.

Of lilies of the valley,

of dandelions,

of unfurling hosta leaves,

of chives ready to bloom,

of a little kingdom through the metal circle.

But there are other things to think about, too, and nowhere near as pleasant as the beauty of spring. Recently there was yet another brutal murder of a black man in police custody. In response, there have been protests. And riots.  Once more, the lid flies off the pot because the pressure has become unbearable.

2020 seems to be the year that keeps giving. Or taking, depending on your point of view.

Pardon me for the shift in tone, from rustling leaves to the murder of a man.

But there it all is, the sublime and the abominable.

I can’t look away from either.

 

 

Taking Stock: Over 100,000 Deaths

As the grim title of this post indicates, covid-19 has killed over 100,000 people in the United States. The sorrowful weight of it presses down on me, and my heart is heavy. And rightly so. With no vaccine available and places opening all around the United States, it is likely the death toll will continue to rise. How far? To 200,000? To 500,00? Who knows?

Whatever the case, a staggering number of people have died of it in a short time.

Eliza Mackintosh, of CNN, puts it in perspective:

In less than four months, the novel coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 Americans — more than in Vietnam, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan combined.

It is a story of lost mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, spouses and even children. An even bigger tragedy: They didn’t all have to die.

Stephen Collinson, also of CNN, expands on this:

A Columbia University study released last week found that had the US started social distancing a week earlier, it could have prevented the loss of at least 36,000 lives.

In the New York metro area alone, 17,500 fewer people would have died if the US had acted one week earlier, Columbia epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman said.

Shameful. Yet recently on Facebook, a friend of a friend commented: “The cure cannot be worse than the disease… We must resume to live.”

I wrote back: “The cure is worse than death? For the 100,000 people who have died of covid-19 in this country? For the many, many more who will surely die as standards are relaxed?”

An argument ensued, and nobody’s mind was changed.

All the while, our president has put the coronovirus in his rear-view mirror, as though the virus is a pesky driver that can be passed and left behind. Onward to the 2020 election, which appears to be what is chiefly on the president’s mind. Suffering and death? Not so much.

There have been glimmers of hope. Not every country has behaved as stupidly as ours has. As the writer Umair Haque writes, “New Zealand… didn’t just flatten the curve. It ‘crunched’ it, as epidemiologists say. Do you know how many people died of the virus in New Zealand? Just 21. Twenty one….That’s a stunning accomplishment….Sure, New Zealand’s a small country. But being a big country doesn’t give you a license to just watch helplessly as thousands die. That’s just a rationalization for negligence.”

Can the U.S. learn from New Zealand and its admirable prime minister, Jacinda Ardern? Again, who knows?

Despite my heavy heart, I live in hope.

Everything Is Waiting…

Despite the coronavirus, here we are at last, in spring, that green, blooming time of year. To paraphrase David Whyte’s moving poem, everything is waiting for me.

The ferns that continue to unfurl,

the tiny white violets on the lawn,

the tender blush of the newly emerging leaves,

and back inside, for our supper, a salad made with Farmer Kev’s greens and radishes, our neighbor’s eggs, and other bits and bobs.

Here is the last stanza of David Whyte’s Everything Is Waiting for You

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Even now.

Always.

 

Room for Snow

“We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
—Pema Chödrön