Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Thoughts on the Deen Controversy

Like everyone else it seems, I've been listening to the stories about Paula Deen. Unlike most of the reactions I've read, this is not a condemnation. Truth be told, I am a fan. I enjoy her effervescent personality and many of her recipes, particularly her chocolate bread pudding--mmmmm. (Evidently the Food Network hasn't erased her from their website yet.

But her butter-drenched recipes are not the reason for her present problems. It's her use of the "N word"--a word so offensive we now have this shorthand substitute. When she was asked, under oath, if she had ever used that word, she replied, "Of course," and people gasped. What else did anyone expect? If any 60-something person raised in the South had answered, "No," that would have been laughable. Of course, she used it THEN. 

True confessions here--I have used the word. When I was growing up in the bluest of states, I learned eeny meeny using that word. I had no idea what it meant. Ironically it was my friend Kay who told me her Alabama-raised mother had taught her to use tiger instead. I didn't know why THEN, but I learned. I learned as I watched the frightening images on my black and white television of angry white people yelling at innocent children walking to school. I learned as I saw peaceful marchers being beaten. I learned the hate contained in that word. 

And I learned that hatred was not confined to the South. At a Methodist Youth Fellowship meeting back then, I was expounding on my horror at what was going on in Little Rock, when one of the mothers there, in her sweetest tones, warned me that if I kept talking like that, people would call me a n----lover. Wow, I remember thinking, bigotry exists even here. 

I do not know if, as Deen insists, this is not a word she uses now. I hope so. But I do know that most of us have learned a lot in the last 50 years, and I do know that racism then and now is not confined to one 6-letter word.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Strawberries on My Oatmeal on the Summer Solstice

Driving home from Westfield the back way, I passed a sign that I can rarely resist: Native Strawberries. These signs start popping up here in Western Massachusetts early to mid-June. They promise  access for a short time to these sweet red mouthfuls of deliciousness. The Big Y or Stop and Shop may offer something called strawberries every day of the year, but those are alien berries seeking asylum from someplace called Driscoll. No, the native berry is distinct, sweet and deep red through and through. 

Strawberry season is followed shortly by raspberries, then peaches. When the apples start coming in, it's time to put on sweaters and drag out the rakes. Today is the first official day of summer, so I have been thinking about seasons--fruit and otherwise. Clearly everyone on this planet is aware that there are four seasons, even those Aussies who are now heading into winter. Living in New England, though, seasons are more obvious. We avoid them at our peril.

Seasons mean change, whether moving from strawberries to raspberries on my oatmeal, or moving all the porch furniture back to the garage and moving the potted plants indoors. If you live in a climate where seasons are distinct, you accept this, or grumble and talk about moving to Florida. 

Thinking about this the other day, I came up with a question: Is there a connection between the fact that the northern part of the country tends to be more liberal and the South more conservative and the seasons? Does the fact that living in the South doesn't necessitate change in everyday living mean that those who live there are more resistant to it? Hmm, still contemplating this one. Now back to my oatmeal.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Lecture I Missed

Because I had about 45 minutes before the lecture started, I decided to take a break from the business of the conference and take a walk around Gull Pond. I had always tried to sit near the window at meals so I could enjoy looking at the pond, but I'd never ventured out, so here was my chance. 

I was walking at a relatively brisk pace, intent on enjoying the walk, but with an eye on my watch, when, halfway around, I realized the pond was larger than I thought, and I wasn't going to make it back in time. My frustration was momentary. This meant I could slow down, take my time, and really enjoy this walk in the woods.  

After all there were trees to enjoy--the trees I'd been writing about--one whose roots clung to a rock face like old arthritic fingers. There were frilly mushrooms. There was green velvet moss on stones.  

And then a lady slipper,
then two,
then a whole patch of them.  

When I was young it seemed all I had to do was step into the woods and they were there--hundreds of them--tiny pink valises, each on a single stem. I picked them, handfuls of them, even after I heard it was forbidden. I wanted to have them, hold them, own them. 

So here they were again--the same tiny orchids hiding in the shade of the pines--but I had changed. I no longer wanted to capture them, but only to stop and wonder and be reminded that there is still beauty in dark places that is best beheld and not held.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

If at first you don't succeed...

OK, so I am still learning this blog thing, and in the process deleted my entire first entry, so I'm going to try to recreate it here.

Why "Musing Over My Oatmeal"? Most mornings start out with my sitting with my bowl of oatmeal, looking out the window, and reading and writing, so I decided to locate the blog rather than give it a theme because I expect I will be writing about a wide variety of topics.

I'm interested in a lot of diverse things from the poetry of Wendell Berry to the Red Sox to the intricacies of my new iPad to why people choose to climb redwood trees. Being a writer and retired English teacher, I also love words, and am apt to expound on them.

Monetize is a word that I keep bumping into. Just this morning I read Joe Nocera's column "How to Monetize Plagiarism." Those who use the word talk about how to turn whatever is being discussed into something measurable, valuable, i.e. cash.

This morning I am looking out at the rhododendron which seems to be coming back to life after looking pretty sad earlier this spring. My gardener friend said to water it religiously. I began doing that, but then Mother Nature took over.
So, my question is, (I should have added that I have a LOT of questions) if it comes back, can I monetize that? What if I don't want to monetize it? Does that make me unAmerican? If I turn on the sprinkler every morning when it's not raining, does the fact that my water bill goes up affect the monetization?

Well, the sun's finally out, so I think I will take Riley for a walk.(more on him later)

Friday, June 7, 2013


Once a number of years ago when I told someone who created astrological charts that I was a Gemini, she said, "Oh, Gemini, spaghetti-brain." It's always stayed with me because, whether it's because of the stars or genes or being weaned too early or too late, my mind frequently dashes off on whatever tangent seems important or interesting at the time. Hence you see the confusion below.

The pile on the left includes numerous books about trees for the collection of poems I am in the process of putting together with trees as a theme. Then there are the books for book club, covenant group, and poetry that I like. There is also a journal in which I write when the iPad is upstairs.

The empty boxes once housed my iPad and its cute red keyboard. When I read Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs--which I thought was extraordinary as well as his bio of Einstein--I remember that Jobs was meticulous about everything he produced including the boxes, and they are very well constructed boxes, so much so that I  hate to throw them into the recycling bin, so here they sit.

In front of the keyboard is the empty oatmeal bowl and the morning paper still in its orange sheath. That paper lies on a few others I haven't gotten too yet, being understandably distracted by other things like writing a blog.

The basket is full of index cards which were intended to be used for tree references, but usually are grabbed when I need something to write on or a bookmark.

The yellow tulips are silk and distract me from the rain outside--not a bad distraction!