Thursday, March 04, 2021

Feedbag Dresses!

 Image

Cozy Thursday

 I get a cozy Thursday feeling hearing the trash truck with robotic arm emptying all of the barrels on my street.

Sweet Potato Sourdough

 Added cooked mashed sweet potatoes to my sourdough. We'll see what happens in 48 hours.

Forgotten Cats

 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-fukushima-anniversary-pets-wide-idUSKCN2AV2XO

Juniper (Juniperus)

 Still going strong!

Napping

I have a blackout curtain I made from an old corduroy bathrobe and by golly it is the secret to napping along with a fan, heavy blankets and my dog beside me. 

 https://www.sleep.org/how-long-to-nap/

Niksen

 Are you doing too much? Let the Dutch introduce you to the art of ‘niksen’

‘Nothing’ is hard to do – and to define.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/The Experiment Publishing

At the end of most of our sessions, my therapist asks, “How do you feel right now?”

For a long time, my answer was, “I feel productive.”

“But … ‘productive’ isn’t a feeling,” she would say, politely.

“It isn’t?”

I used to feel productive — or unproductive — all the time. Those were almost the only two things I felt at all. Productive meant good. Unproductive was very bad.

Until the early months of the pandemic. Suddenly, I was sitting still, and I couldn’t do much because I wasn’t supposed to. I was working from home, but when I was done, I just sat there (I’m single and don’t have kids). No matter how many Zoom calls I had with family and friends, there was more time ... for nothing. Because of that, all of the real feelings I’d stuffed into boxes for years came flooding out. Grief, loneliness, fear, and weird spikes of happiness. There were new feelings related to the pandemic — like guilt, for having food, work, and shelter.

My therapist said all this new feeling was healthy, and as an advice columnist, I knew she was right.



Nothing was very good for me. Weirdly, it made me better at doing something later.

That’s why when I saw two self-help books — published in the last year — about niksen — the Dutch wellness practice of doing nothing — I grabbed them. I wanted more nothing in my life, but I wanted to do it correctly. We’re supposed to do nothing to be healthy, niksen supporters say. It’s not being lazy, it’s just ... being.

Olga Mecking’s “Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing” was released in January as a response to her 2019 New York Times article about the practice, which went viral. In the book, Mecking, who was born in Poland and lives in the Netherlands, writes of her article, “It became very clear that I had hit a nerve. The whole world wanted to know about niksen. Media from around the globe were sending me emails and interview requests. Literary agents and publishers were asking to represent me. I was ready to dismiss it as much ado about nothing (literally), but there was something about niksen that seemed to appeal to people everywhere.”



People were doing too much and didn’t know how to stop. Even when they had time away from responsibilities, the act of mindfulness — another wellness concept — felt like doing something.

She writes, “I had people near and far asking me for advice on how to find more niksen time. ‘I don’t know,’ I would say, ‘sit down for five minutes, and just do it!’ That wasn’t very helpful, I’m afraid. Doing nothing doesn’t come naturally to everyone. ‘Just do it’ bypasses important questions. Why can’t we do nothing? Why is it so hard?”

Mecking struggles to define what it means to do nothing. Much of her book is about why we do everything but. She delves into wellness trends and the influence of technology. She considers why we’re so busy — including how public policy and government affects what we carry in our brains all day. In a chapter about why Dutch women might be happier, she writes, “Dutch women rarely experience the burdens felt by women in other countries who are required to take care of not just their children but also their aging parents. Most Dutch people will agree that caring for children is the parents’ responsibility but caring for the elderly is a job for the government. State-run homes for the elderly are a fact of life and accessible for all.”



As far as a how-to goes, I got a surprising amount of guidance from another book, Dutch journalist’s Maartje Willems’ March 16 release, “The Lost Art of Doing Nothing: How the Dutch Unwind with Niksen.” It looks more like a coffee table gift book, partly because of the lovely illustrations by Lona Aalders. Some pages are just quotes from famous people. But there are questions to answer and exercises to try. One page offers a pretty illustration, just to look at. I focused on the tiny pictures of bees. A later page suggests switching your phone to airplane mode. Yes, easier said than done.

There’s also a running theme about time (Mecking writes about time, too) — that maybe niksen happens when the clock is irrelevant. It’s not like meditation, something you might schedule to do for 15 minutes or an hour. How can you do nothing if you’re on a clock?

The more I read Mecking’s and Willems’s separate interrogations of how we got so scheduled, and how we can make space, the more I figured out how I achieve “nothing,” and how, for me, it involves some spontaneity. You can’t always plan for it, and that’s sort of the point.



Sure, I might try for some good niksen on a wandering walk around my neighborhood, sometimes noticing a bird. But then birds make me think of my colleague and friend Ty Burr who loves birds, and then I think about how I miss my friends and I should call them (hey, Ty). Then I’m back to the to-do list. It’s no longer nothing.

Mecking argues that Netflix and TV are not nothing. But I disagree.

These books made me realize I’m in a deep state of niksen — real nothing — when I watch “Castle” with my friend Lilly.

Yes, I mean “Castle,” the procedural crime show that ran from 2009 to 2016, the one that’s “Bones” meets “Murder She Wrote.” Lilly and I watch and talk about the show on an app from our two homes. Sometimes we just grunt approval when the detectives solve a crime. It’s not that I’m not thinking about anything while we watch, but I’ll be honest, my head is mostly empty. A crime discovered, a crime solved. Characters evolve, but in no way do they make me think about my own life. I rarely notice the clock. I’m not even watching it to be part of a cultural conversation; the show had its finale years ago.

I would have thought of it as gluttonous behavior, but now, partly because of therapy and these books, I don’t.

The experience just is. It is not productive, but it feels serene. I no longer find it strange that after a night of Castle-niksen, I wake up ready to do. To be a good person in the world. To feel. To be happy.



Meredith Goldstein and Christina Tucker are delving into self-help books once a month. Tell them about self-help books you like – and how you practice niksen – at Meredith.Goldstein@Globe.com.

Funeral Crashers

 https://www.vice.com/en/article/bjqbxq/ultimele-bocitoare-din-romania

The Women Who Crash Funerals to Loudly Cry

"Wailers" are women who go to the funerals of people they don't know – and cry loudly.
August 26, 2019, 5:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE Romania.

Growing up, I'd heard about professional mourners – people who attended strangers' funerals to cry loudly and sings sad songs. They're known as "wailers", who I'd always pictured as old ladies in headscarves, wearing all black and yowling by a corpse. Accurately, it turns out, because that's exactly what they are.

When I heard recently that the practice was dying out, I wanted to find the few remaining wailers still trying to keep the ritual alive.

I contacted some of Romania's most prominent historians, but most of them told me the tradition had disappeared in their area; that they didn't know of any active groups of wailers left. Luckily, I eventually reached Gabriela Herța – a primary school teacher in the tiny village of Romuli, in the far north of the country – who told me I wasn't chasing ghosts: that there are a few wailers left in Romania, and that they were happy to share their stories.

The snow is heavy as I arrive in Romuli. I park on the main road, then climb a hill toward the only visible point in the distance – an old turquoise cottage that looks like something straight out of a fairytale.

Gavrilă Catrina, Ana Heidel and Anica Bulz greet me on the threshold of the house with a collective "God bless!" and a glass of blueberry brandy that instantly makes my cheeks flush. They knock theirs back with ease. At Herța's request the women have dressed up in local traditional outfits: white shirts, plainly embroidered with black thread.

Their job is pretty simple: the wailers attend every local funeral, without an invitation from the family or any money for their services. They cry and sing mournful songs, often written specifically for the person who has died.

The women whip out their trusted manual: "100 verses for the dead – Funeral songs for young girls, children, women, and men", a book published in 1930 that the women use as inspiration for their lyrics. Often, the wailers will meet up before the funeral and prepare specific verses for the person they're mourning. They take things out, add them in, improvise a little, but the final product is largely based on this 80-year-old book that's been passed down generations.

I ask them if they're up for singing one their funeral songs. They turn to each other, agree on a verse and clear their throats.

The song book that the wailers use to construct their verses.

The women are aware that the tradition is dying out, and have accepted that they just might be Romania's last crop of professional mourners.

"Young people don't want to sing for the dead," says Bulz, who, at 60, is the youngest of the three wailers. "It's as if they're ashamed of doing it." Bulz can't remember how old she was when she first started wailing, but says she's always enjoyed doing it.

At 79 years old, Ana Heidel is the oldest and funniest member of the group.

"I mean, what? You think you can get rid of us?" she asks. "Be it rain or snow, we'll come sing for you when you're dead. We served in the Patriotic Guards [a voluntary paramilitary group created under Ceaușescu’s communist regime to resist foreign interference in the country]. You think we're afraid of anything? We can shoot machine guns!"

Chatting to these women, death becomes less something to be feared, and more a mundane part of life. But that doesn't tell the full story: wailing does take a toll on them. Catrina says she often dreams about the person she's mourned for days after the funeral. The same goes for Anica, who recently lost her sister and is finding wailing particularly hard at the moment.

Heidel doesn't dream about the dead like the others, but they all say that funerals involving people who died young, or where the families are completely devastated by grief, are incredibly hard. Still, they see the tradition, and their role in it, as a fundamental part of the community. It brings people together, they say, by showing the bereaving family that they are not alone, and that their grief is shared across the village.

Corina Bejinariu is the manager of the Art and History Museum in Zalău, a town in northern Romania. She studied funeral rites as part of her PhD and explained to me that most people keep their pain to themselves, and that this often makes things words. The wailers can be effective if they are able to successfully normalise public displays of grieving, allowing "the mourning process to unfold".

"Nowadays, we have lost the will to mourn publicly," Bejinariu tells me. "Death has become increasingly taboo, crying has turned into a sign of weakness in a society that privileges strong individuals."

According to Bejinariu, young people aren't the only ones to blame for the fact that wailing isn't as popular as it used to be: "In an effort to become the only authority on death, the Church has tried to do away with what they believe is a pagan ritual, inconsistent with Christian teachings."

It's fairly clear that the Orthodox Church in Romuli is not a big fan of the wailers. The village priest, Father Nicolae Târgoveț, has made considerable efforts to stop this "un-Christian" practice, as well as other traditional rituals. When he arrived in Romuli four years ago, he says, he was shocked by a lot of the practices in the village.

"People were burying their dead with an actual cross at their feet," he remembers. "I thought the gravediggers had gotten drunk." The villagers told him the dead would need the cross on Judgment Day, to prop themselves up and rise again. "I couldn't believe the explanation," said Father Târgovet. "It took me about two years to convince them that it made no sense. So wailing isn't the only tradition I've had to push back on."

Târgoveț argues that wailing goes against Orthodox tradition because funerals are meant to encourage hope in the face of death by reminding people that their loved ones will be resurrected in the afterlife.

"During the sermon, I try to give people hope, and a belief that death is not the end of the road," he says. "And what do [the wailers] do? They come in and cry with these dramatic lyrics that do nothing but trouble the grieving family even more. Honestly, it's a whole, nonsensical theatre performance."

Târgoveț goes on to add that he has tried to appeal to the wailers many times, because, deep down, he knows they are women of faith. But they never listen, he claims.

"Is that what the priest said?" asks Anica Bulz, surprised. "He'll come around. Imagine not singing to our dead just because that's what the priest wants!"

 

A Visit with Nancy

I met with my friend Nancy yesterday.  She lives on my street. I walked over with the homemade mint chocolate pudding I promised.

 Her father  Al who lives in the same house in the apartment next door opened his window and told me Nancy was delayed. Al is my friend too. He said Nancy could see me sitting on her porch thru her camera.  I was enjoying the visit and watching the clouds and the sunset in the cemetery across the street. Nancy finally arrived and she made me a coconut almond coffee and laughed a lot about stuff.

High tech Nancy, I tease her. She has an automated vacuum and a smart speaker in her kitchen on a tiny decorative chair next to the range.

What kind of music do you like?

All kinds but I keep the classical station on in my house and office to keep me calm. The station is WCRB out of Boston.

Hey Alexa, play WCRB Classical music! Nancy said. And Alexa did.

I also love opera. 

Hey Alexa play Luciano Pavarotti. 

Now isn't that amazing?

He has quite a voice.

 As I got up to leave Frank Sinatra was playing

This is not Pavarotti? I said.

Hey Alexa what are you playing? Nancy asked.

 "Luciano Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra,"  Alexa replied.

We both laughed. I guess they did an album together.

Seneca

Fate leads the willing, and drags along the reluctant. 

Seneca

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

A Sign

I found 3 unopened boxes of spaghetti and a pressure sealed package of toothpaste with toothbrush. I lifted it out of the gutter and a woman offered me a bag. I accepted and she told me all of the items are good but her tenant moved out leaving it behind. "Why let it go to waste?"

It's a sign I told myself. After all, I was going to make spaghetti tonight!

Farai Chideya

I am the logical outcome of my family's tenacity and belief in the power of the truth. I was both enticed into and warned about journalism, and despite plenty of tsuris it's given me purpose and joy. 

Farai Chideya @farai

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Tom Shaker on the Celebrity Club

 Listen to the story of Rhode Island's Celebrity Club 
https://anchor.fm/rhodyradio/episodes/The-Celebrity-Club-The-Story-of-New-Englands-First-Integrated-Nightclub-eokd2r

Opera Arias - (Pavarotti, Netrebko, Deborah York)

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPMWJx91sxY

Janet Frame

"I am not really a writer. I am just someone who is haunted, and I will write the hauntings down."

 - Janet Frame (1924 - 2004)

Harm Reduction by David Byrne

 https://reasonstobecheerful.world/cahoots-eugene-oregon-police-harm-reduction/

Reasons to be Cheerful is hiring!

 https://reasonstobecheerful.world/events/reasons-to-be-cheerful-is-hiring/

Atlanta

Atlanta Has Created the Largest Free Food Forest in the Country

It’s one piece of the city’s plan to snuff out food deserts.

The city of Atlanta’s free food forest joins more than 70 others that have been planted across the US.
Photography courtesy of Shannon Lee, the Conservation Fund.
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The city of Atlanta is growing a solution to address its food deserts. 

On seven acres of what was formerly a pecan farm in its Browns Mill  neighborhood, the city has transformed the land into what is believed to be the country’s largest free food forest. 

In the edible space, 2,500 pesticide-free plants and mushrooms are growing, providing fruits, vegetables and nuts for the underserved Browns Mill area. In the southeast neighborhood, one in three residents is reported to live in poverty, with the nearest grocery store being a 30-minute bus ride away. Throughout the city, an estimated one in four Atlantans lives in a food desert. 

Food forests, also known as forest gardens, are low-maintenance, sustainable arrangements of edible plants that are designed to mimic natural ecosystems. Comprised mostly of perennial plants, there’s no need for tilling, weeding, fertilizing or irrigation. While food forests first became popular in European and North American gardening in the 1980s, the concept has taken off in recent years as cities have started to integrate edible public spaces in their planning. To date, there are more than 70 other free food forests that have been planted across the US. 

Atlanta’s food forest development began in 2016 when national non-profit the Conservation Fund purchased the land on which it exists. Prior to 2014, it was illegal to grow food on residential lots in Atlanta. The project is part of a more recent city plan to bring healthy food within half a mile of 85 percent of its residents by 2022. 

Last year, ownership of the land was transferred to the city. Its department of parks and recreation manages and maintains the space along with more than 1,000 volunteers. Grant funding from the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service’s Community Forest Program, Open Space Conservation, Trees Atlanta and the Conservation Fund has allowed the food forest to continue to exist. 

And despite the intent to create a sustainable food source to tackle food insecurity among residents, city officials say it’s been so much more than that. The forest, they add, has been a valuable tool that continues to build community, foster relationships and teach residents about urban agriculture.


 More here https://www.aglanta.org/urban-food-forest-at-browns-mill-1


Summer of the Mind

 https://food.fnr.sndimg.com/content/dam/images/food/fullset/2013/11/6/0/fn_houston-amazon-grill-family-friendly_s4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.616.462.suffix/1385046029611.jpeg

New Study

 Article https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=new-study-published-on-racism-and-dr-seuss

Anne Lamott's New Book: Dusk Night Dawn

EXCERPT:

My body felt better after a week of sobriety, but it took a long time for my soul to be restored. First I needed to learn to pay bills, take care of my teeth, dispose of a shoe box filled with sedatives and speed, clean up the moral and financial wreckage of my past.

Defeat has been, for so many of us, the portal to soul.

I have a friend whose daughter accidentally killed a man a few years ago, and then tried to run. Ali was driving home drunk on New Year's Eve and hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk. I could have easily run over someone, too. I ran over a dog or a cat one night forty years ago, on the way to the only bar in the hippie town where I lived, but I did not have the courage to stop the car. Maybe it was a raccoon. At any rate, I drove on, electrified with fear and guilt. I was twenty-four at the time, almost ten years younger than Ali when she killed the man. My dad was dying of brain cancer in our tiny cabin up on the Mesa, I had just sold my first book, and in terror, I couldn't do any better than to speed on. Ali sped on, but a witness got her license plate.

I had been on the same road a few times already earlier that day forty years ago, to teach a tennis lesson and clean a house. The road was curvy, above the beach, lined with eucalyptus and nasturtiums, a constant interplay of light and shade, and teasing glimpses of the ocean. There was a monarch butterfly grove there, veils of black, orange, and white clutching the trunks of trees, at rest or clustered together for warmth, fluttering, undulating. In the past few years, drought and climate shifts have caused them to stop landing there during their migration.

Ali lived near a famous monarch grove, too, in Huntington Beach, with her mom. Everyone liked her a lot, but she was always finding fault with her own creative efforts, her studies, her body, and she had become directionless since dropping out of college. She hung out with her friends, smoked dope, worked odd jobs, went to outdoor concerts.

She was caught, convicted, and sentenced to two years in a prison two hours' drive from her mother's cottage in Riverside. It wasn't Robben Island, but it was hideous enough, all concrete blocks and isolation. A short, slight woman in her thirties, with dimples, Ali was nearly catatonic when she entered prison, except when she was in sheer terror.

I told my kids at Sunday school about her because the prison restored her soul.

"You've all had incredibly sad things happen," I said. "You've all had disappointments. Maybe you've shut down a little, or had to pretend you were just fine all the time. This can make our souls feel cloudy, like a streaky crystal ball."

A hand shot up. I smiled. When you've been teaching Sunday school for as long as I have, you know when you've hit upon a great topic.

"What is our snack today?"

Oh, well. Cherries and chips. Three thumbs up.

The kids in my class have had significant challenges: a crazy mother, absent fathers, a disabled brother, depression. Some of the older teenage girls who have passed through our Sunday school have already been through rehab, and some have been cutters. And when there aren't actual hardships in a child's life, it's still just damaging here on earth. Someday they will also feel smudged by the detritus of addictions, regrets, obsession with finances, chronic guilt about having failed their grown kids, sorrow over the state of their current marriage or guilt about earlier ones. Even now, they know that the world leaves grubby fingerprints all over everything: our hearts, minds, hope.

What would soul Windex look like? This is what I wanted to talk to the kids about. Who are we, and why aren't we being that person? How would we know? When I was a kid, the grown-ups in charge conveyed that we were our manners, what we succeeded at, failed at, looked like, how we obeyed, how we measured up.

What was so threatening for our parents that they avoided mentioning soul? The concept may have been too woo-woo and esoteric, and inefficient. And they couldn't control it or grade it. It was spacy and daydreamy. I was, too, and I was chastised for that. We got hijacked into socialization. Maturing meant conforming to a million rules set by our parents, away from a more seamless participation in life. We had to be herded back to the road from the hedgerows, where, if we were not careful, we would still be living out our days, mostly trying to avoid driving into ditches or being late for important appointments. Ali and I shared a struggle with perfectionism, the most toxic condition for the soul. The next most toxic is the ensuing and chronic contempt for oneself, the belief that one is secretly defective and less-than. The next is the obsession that one is right and better-than.

I told the kids about Ali, what an ordinary person she had been, and then what she had done. The girls put their hands over their mouths.

"Do you think she can ever forgive herself?" I asked.

They agreed, oh, no, absolutely not, not only for killing the man, but also for running.

"Well, would you forgive her?"

They looked at one another.

"It's okay if you wouldn't, especially if you knew the guy she killed. So how could she possibly begin to forgive herself?"

Pause.

"I'll tell you. She made a friend."

These kids' friends are their entire lives. All they want is to be with them, or on the phone, talking or texting. They don't particularly want to be with their parents anymore; horribly, they don't even want to be with their grandmothers as much. Yet hanging out with their buddies downtown instills them with friendly watchfulness and curiosity, the very qualities of soul.

All those years ago I'd made a mess of my life, although unlike Ali's, the outside package was successful, and even inspiring, with beautiful views. I betrayed my core values, and women friends who stayed at home with their kids while I partied with their husbands. I thought that I was beyond redemption, but I became friends with a few wild sober women, who insisted that my mind was not always to be trusted: half the time it was for entertainment purposes only. My mind was not who I was. I thought I was nuts and pathetic. The sober women said we all were. They said my soul was fine inside the rubble. They would help me clear it away, and when my cup had begun to fill again, I would pay it forward.

The soul is the lighthouse from which we see the vast celestial ocean, a kiosk from which we observe whatever passes by, the purest expression of our being alive, the one part they couldn't wreck, in the paranoid sense of the word "they." Charles Bukowski said, "If you don't have much soul left and you know it, you've still got soul." Plato said a soul is immortal and imperishable. My new husband-who still reads Plato, if you can believe it-is prone to the random Obi-Wan pronouncement, and he says that the soul is made of friendly awareness and the awareness of that awareness.

One of my Sunday school kids, a twelve-year-old, recently said she sees the soul as being like Pikachu, "a cat-bunny creature, kind and curious." The other twelve-year-old saw it as Casper the friendly ghost. A fifteen-year-old boy with acne said it's a tiny golden snow globe. I wrote all these down, for myself as well as for my own belief that the soul is a location, T. S. Eliot's still point, with a lorgnette.

Is the soul damaged by acne, political madness, rigid or unloving parents? I think so, damaged but not mortally so. It becomes callused, barricaded, yet it's always there for the asking, always ready for hope. Some poet once wrote that we think we are drops in the ocean, but that we are really the ocean in drops, both minute and everything there is.

Certain qualities are of soul, and not mind or culture. Curiosity is one way we know that our souls are functioning. So is a deep goodness. So is presence. When the soul is functioning properly, it tugs on your pant leg to slow down, but otherwise it observes, mostly quietly, but sometimes with its mouth hanging open and a wiggly fascination and sometimes with outright bliss.

I met my beloved two months before the election of 2016, so these years since have been a mixed grill: peaceful and joyous, romantic, crazy and hard. Marriage has helped me feel safe, in having been found by a kind man whom I love to talk with, my soul free to relax into the ploppy comfort of being known-of someone being so on to me, except when I am fixated on the fate of the earth or Neal's suspicious mole and imminent death.

I have several soul-mate friends, but living with my best friend gave my soul permission to surface in a new if sometimes tentative way. It has made me softer, less armored, way less of a perfectionist, since Neal sees me in my natural state almost all the time, slothful, gluttonous bear that I am. I can't even pretend to be my impressive public self. No wonder some of our parents forgot to mention soul, as it is apt to distract one from Serious Goals and Aspirations. It is as playful and inefficient as a kitten, as watchful as God or a baby. It rubs its back lazily against trees. It stops and gasps at beauty and is bathed in it. And sometimes it begins to weep.

The soul is the thing underneath that is so hard to express, because it is so far from regular expressable human endeavors. Rumi comes consistently closest. The teacher Adyashanti said that the part of you that sees that you are afraid isn't afraid. It's that watchful part in our consciousness that knows, that remembers to look up from the bar and the computer desk, the schedules and the phone.

I had one of the Sunday school girls read Mark 8:36, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?" Jesus says the soul is more important than the entire world. It is essence, pure love, our candle, our participation in the illimitable, our goodness.

One of the kids said the soul is no color and every color; another kid said it was clear. I have felt my soul go gray. The drinking and eating disorders, the deadening relationships I couldn't escape, the regrets about my parenting. My closest friends all have guilt and pain about their grown children, and financial anxiety, and existential sorrow at how quickly it all goes, how in a blink the children have grown and can still be mean to them-to adorable martyred them-after all they've done for them!

My Sunday school kids love how quickly life goes. They can't wait to be older and older. They love things to go faster-my story, for example. They're getting bored now. They want a chase scene, but as they also want their snack, they will hang in with me a while longer.

Marcus Aurelius said that we are little souls carrying around corpses. This is my understanding, but it's too scary for these kids, and besides, no one looks less corpsey than the girls in the class. I might ask them about places they've been where beauty has made them catch their breath. A mountaintop? The ocean? The redwoods? Where inside them does awe arise?

Soul is a place, the innermost Russian nesting doll.

I promised that after our snack we'd go outside and have soul time. Deal? I asked. They sighed: Deal.

So, I continued, Ali made a friend, a lifer in the same cell block, who happened to have gotten sober in prison. The friend was tall and strong and kept an eye out for her, shared books with her, and took her to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. Ali explained to the other women in the first few meetings that she was not actually an alcoholic, just a social drinker with bad luck. I love this in a person. I was just the same. The other prisoners nodded politely.

On one visit from her mother, when she shared with her this belief and her attendance at meetings, the mom said the most amazing thing a mother can say. She held back her scared, controlling opinions with her. She nodded politely and said, "Huh."

Ali kept going to meetings with her friend, because it got her out of the cell for an hour a few times a week, and the women at the meetings laughed and hugged. She was still depressed, flattened by what she had done, how it had damaged her victim's family and her own; by the year left to serve and the dismal future.

How could life possibly degrease Ali's soul? The same way it has always degreased mine, although our circumstances are so different. Yeats wrote that soul might louder sing "for every tatter in its mortal dress." You want mortal dress? Try prison garb.

But on the day Ali said she might just possibly be an alcoholic, when she said who she was, or might actually be, something flared: the pilot light, a watch fire. Ali still smelled the terrible smells, heard the clang and cacophony of captivity, but a switch had gone on. She looked up, away from the grime of her floor and plastic prison slippers, to the window.

Her blood alcohol level had not been that high at the time of the accident, .12, definitely above the legal limit but probably not drunk-drunk. I drove hundreds of times with higher levels than that; all of us bon vivants did at the time. I never got a DUI. I did get two fix-it tickets while in blackouts, as I discovered the next day. In our childhoods, the local police drove our drunk fathers home, handed them over to us at the front door if our mothers were asleep. But Ali was born in a time when we throw the book at drunk drivers, especially those who kill or maim, and that's a good thing. Ali's sentence almost seems extreme, given who she is, but she killed a man and left the scene of the crime.


Windy and Cold

I was prepared for the walk home in the 16 degree weather with 40 mile an hour winds. I was wearing thermals and a double layer plus my hooded winter coat that Sharon gave me, with two scarves and mittens. I was lucky, the wind was behind me pushing me home.

I was glad to see Mike in a big heavy coat sheltered from the wind at the Castle Luncheonette.  "Nice coat!" I said.

"Thanks, I just got it!" he said. Poor Mike usually ditches his coat after a few days believing there are electronic devices planted in them, spying on him. Perhaps he's ahead of his time.

When I arrived home there were two guys dealing drugs on the corner. Spring is here!

After eating last nights dinner for breakfast, I made a quick sriracha marinade for five chicken breasts and bagged them individually and froze them. I'm beginning to think that those five packs for 8 dollars at PRICE RITE are the deal of the century. 

Meanwhile  last night I made turkey meatballs from 3 pounds of ground turkey has been great fun especially using my bread and fresh garlic and onions in them. I feel like could become a meatball factory.

Swimming miles makes me think about food. What will I cook today? Spaghetti with defrosted homemade sauce? Perhaps. With meatballs!!

Louise Glück

 Writing is a kind of revenge against circumstance too: bad luck, loss, pain. If you make something out of it, then you've no longer been bested by these events. 

 ―Louise Glück

16 degrees

 I love the roar of the wind it makes me feel like I am at the ocean and now the comforting whisper of the radiator.

Dynamites a la Margo

2 1/2 lbs. Hamburg-fried

2 1/2 cups onions

2 1/2 cups peppers (red, green, yellow)


  Onions and peppers  (Sauteed a little)


  Add onions and peppers to Hamburg


Add  1 1/2 TSP Basil

Add  1 1/2 TSP oregano

Add  1 1/2 TSP Italian seasoning

Add  1  TSP salt (optional)

Add  1/2 TSP black pepper

Add 1 TSP crushed red pepper

Add  3 TSP garlic powder (optional) (or fresh garlic)

Add  3 TBS sugar (or Chianti)

Add  1 TSP Tabasco sauce


15 oz can diced tomatoes

8 oz can tomato sauce (or homemade)

6 oz can tomato paste


Simmer uncovered until cooked


VERY GOOD


Recipe comes from What's Cooking in Blackstone from Blackstone YouTube