Palm Sunday 2020

Let us consider that Friday, March 13, 2020 was the beginning of The Apocalypse here in the United States.  What were you doing on that day?  Little more than three weeks ago, yet I cannot remember what I was doing.  My last diary entry on March 12, 2020 reads “what happened on this day?  I don’t remember.  Time has passed so quickly in this time of Corona virus and yet so slowly.”

Last Palm Sunday, I was ruminating about my “Surprise Garden” and portable toilets for The Moxie Festival.  You can read about it here.

My mother will celebrate her 82nd birthday this Wednesday and she doesn’t want me to bake her a cake.  She is afraid of ‘Krona.  Not unreasonably so, based on her age.  I look back on a visit from her last year.  What were we talking about?  I don’t remember the details, other than Helen boldly announcing “we could live to be 100.”

God bless her.

While I am sad I cannot bake a special cake for my beautiful and industrious mother, I’m encouraged to think I may have another 17 years (at least!) to perfect her birthday treats.  She likes lemon-flavored sweets and I was thinking of a lemon cake made in a loaf pan with a glaze-soaked crust.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Next year, Mom!

I have not blogged about this much, but prior to The Apocalypse, I was an occasional French-language lector at The Basilica in Lewiston.  I volunteered because there were not enough lectors to read in French and although I am not bi-lingual or even fluent, I am a good actress.  I would bring the selected passage to my mother and record her reading it in French.  I’d practice a few times with her and then listen to her recording.

Je pense que j’ai fait du bon travail.

Many times, as I stood in the ambo at The Basilica, I would look out at the congregation and think “these institutions are dying.  What will become of these traditions?  Who will remember the prayers and creeds?”  The thoughts were heartbreaking to me and sometimes I would leave church feeling the weight of The Basilica’s North Jay white granite pressing heavily against my heart.

And here it is Palm Sunday, 2020.  We cannot attend church, we cannot wave our palm branches during the processional.  Those of us who remember cannot weave our palm fronds into crucifix accessories.

We will have to make do with other things.

Palm Sunday 2020

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

I hear the birds singing outside.  I am reminded that “they neither sow now reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”

May you be well today and know that your heavenly Father feeds you because you are of more value to Him than the birds of the field.  If you remember nothing else today, remember your high value.

Posted in Weather and Seasons | Tagged , ,

The Apocalypse Brisket

Friday was the first full day of Spring.  It was overcast and damp; unlike many of my fellow Americans, I got paid. I did the duties of the intellectual sweatshop to the best of my ability, taking occasional breaks to tend to the brisket.

It seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago.  As a purist, a perfectionist, and a student of the domestic arts, I ordered a “whole packer brisket” from Pat’s Meat Market in Portland.  It weighed in at around 12 pounds and was exquisitely trimmed and tied.  My friend Shelley said “it sounds like a baby.”

When I unwrapped it from its beautiful swaddling clothes, it provoked the kind of anxiety only a giant piece of meat can.  Oh, I’d been driven to oven door prayers before cooking my first turkey.  Or maybe it was that candle roast.  There have been so many meat anxieties over the years and yet, here I am.  Still standing.

I’d watched a number of videos on full packer briskets and couldn’t figure out why mine was folded over and wrapped in twine.  So I unfolded it, cut it into 3 pieces and tucked each one in a separate brining “cradle.”  There were two small pieces and one large.

“You’ve got triplets!” said Shelley.

The triplets were submerged in a robust assortment of brining ingredients including but not limited to Kosher salt, juniper berries, and the controversial Prague Powder No. 1.  Nothing could go wrong.

“It will be delicious,” they all said.

And it was.  Two of the smaller triplets were served a la boiled dinner and I was fascinated and pleased with the online instructions from Cook’s Illustrated that recommended slowly simmering the meat in the oven instead of boiling the life out of it on the stove top.

But Friday’s piece was so large.  Too large, even, for the 10 quart cast iron Dutch oven.  So I cut it in half again.  Does that make it a quadruplet brisket?  Three down and one to go.

Yesterday’s brisket will be made into hash and today’s will become Reuben sandwiches.  Homemade Russian dressing is brewing in the refrigerator.  Shhhhhh….don’t tell anyone I’m colluding with the Russians.

I told a young co-worker about the brisket.  Such a nice young man, he says he only eats take-out.

“I want you to cook for me and be my mom,” he said.

It warmed my heart.  I could always adopt him for a few family dinners after this strange time of social distance is over.

All Is Well With The World

Brisket babies, Lady MacBeth-like hand washing, and a lack of traffic on Route 196.    I really could not have made this up.  So onward we go; all is well with the world.

Posted in Abundance, Cooking and Food | Tagged ,

The Conundrum

February came and went; we even had an extra leap year day.  I sat down last night and tried to write a February blog post about the benefits of “getting outside” every single day.  For 60 consecutive days, I have walked, snowshoed, hiked, trudged, and explored the natural world around me.  It has been immensely enjoyable during the actual hours of being outside.  But it has not created peace and calm within me, I am not sleeping more soundly, and I am still mired in the midst of a life conundrum.

This act of going outside every day has changed me, somehow.  I look at my watch at the middle of the day and I want out.  I crave the silence of the woods and trees.  It seems almost unbelievable in reflection that I am this person walking around in the forest every day.  When I first started this endeavor, I considered a walk around town to adequately meet the requirements of “getting outside.”

Now, after spending a late afternoon hiking through the snow and woods of our family property, sitting in a tree stand 30 feet in the air, or watching a moon sliver rise, walking about town seems boring and less than satisfying.

God's Fingernail

How did I become this “wild woman?”  Is this my true self?  My best self?  I have spent the majority of my adult life working in an intellectual sweatshop, removed from the natural world.  I have enjoyed cities and shopping and an economically appropriate number of first world acquisitions.  Yet here I sit, dissatisfied, anxious, and overwhelmed.

Where do I go with this new love and passion?  Is this the “real me?”

They say reinvention is an arduous task, not for the meek.  If money or time were no object, I would throw off the many things that are hindering me right now and run with great speed and endurance towards these new love and passions.  I would QUIT these “busy projects” that clutter my mind.  I would not back down when I’m asked to reconsider staying with a busy project for just a few more months.  My “no” would mean “no.”  The busy “projects” currently cluttering my mind are not my passions; I do not want them to define me.

I don’t want them eating, locust-like, at my spirit.

Waiting for revelation and working towards conundrum resolution is hard work.  I am impatient; yet I want to believe everything is happening for a reason.  One of my spiritual readings says “all is happening according to plan.  Have patience and feel grateful while you wait.”

I will consider this.  Thank you.

Posted in Just Writing | Tagged , , ,

One of the Nicest Days of Her Life

On Sunday, November 26, 1972, Maine food writer Marjorie Standish’s column featured recipes for Ritz Cracker pizzas, broiled cheese on sesame rounds with onion salt, and Helen Robinson’s Seafood Newburg.  Who was Helen Robinson?  I don’t know, but I’ll find out.

The column headlined “Try These Snacks on Football Fans” and Marge said the mini-pizzas were “so delicious” that “you will find the men especially like them.”  The recipe was courtesy of Mrs. Sylvester (Marion) Poor of Augusta.  (I’ll find out.)

I have a sleeve of Ritz Crackers in the cupboard.  I may cook up some mini-pizzas for Sunday night’s Super Bowl feasting.  So what if the New England Patriots aren’t in the mix?  The playoffs were relaxing and enjoyable without football’s “evil empire.”  Is it the end of the dynasty?  I don’t know.  I had to tune out the Boston sports chatter after the team’s crushing defeat to the Tennessee Titans on January 4.  I was free to cheer Mike Vrabel’s Titans past the wretched Ravens and love Patrick Mahomes like a son as the Chiefs piled on the points against the Texans.  The NFC?  They had teams playing too.

Countering the post-holiday torpor and tonnage, I’ve been outside every day since January 1, walking, hiking, or snowshoeing.  And I just finished an intermittent fast so I can fit into my “skinny jeans” for the real Super Bowl competition, Beyoncé and Shakira.  The men I’ll be watching football with “especially like them.”

Marjorie Standish was not only Maine’s first foodie, she was a football fan.  She wrote about it often in her fall and winter columns.  In the Ritz Cracker column mentioned earlier, she wrote that December 1, 1962 was “one of the nicest days of” her life.  This was the day she and her husband George went with friends to the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.  She said they took the train from Penn Station in New York City and she remembered the picnic hampers, the thermos bottles, and heavy coats as everyone piled into the trains.  She said “it would be hard to describe the color and thrill of the traditional pre-game activities.  That day we watched Roger T. Staubach play for Navy – he is now with the Dallas Cowboys.”

She remembered surprisingly seeing acquaintances from home in the midst of the thousands of anonymous faces.

After the game, she recounted “then walking down the platform to our train, we saw a group gathered on the track next to ours.  There was the presidential car with John F. Kennedy waving and smiling to us all.  We watched the train pull out into the late, beautiful afternoon sunset.”

Marjorie Standish wrote about her Maine cooking life, simply highlighting the joy of Ritz crackers, friends, and sunsets.  It was a different world, for sure.  My own “get outside every day” in January project has been filled with beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and a few Ritz Crackers.  Like the Norwegians, I’ve embraced the winter weather without complaint.  Things like long underwear, insulated boots, and a mink coat have helped.  And here we are, the last day of January, 2020.

I Love You January

There have been so many beautiful days in January it’s hard to decide which one was the nicest.  Dear sweet January, I love you from the bottom of my Baumer’s Field heart.  See you next year!

Posted in Cooking and Food, Weather and Seasons | Tagged , , ,

The Better Angels

In these late days of civilization, the internet provides us with an opportunity to connect the words we speak and write with their sources.  For instance, when I titled this blog post “The Better Angels,” I was curious to know where Abraham Lincoln sourced this phrase in his 1861 inaugural address.  Like many expressions in the English language, it goes back to Shakespeare (Othello) and then passes through Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge.  In the novel, published in 1841, Dickens wrote: 

“So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.”

Christianity offers a mixed bag when it comes to angels.  Generally, angels are presented as darling and cherubic images with only an occasional nod to the fierce and multi-eyed creatures of the Book of Revelation.  Angels wax and wane in home decorating although I have never seen any at a decorator show house.

I have two ceramic Christmas angels in my house, sentimental relics from my childhood.  They will not make an appearance on the blog today.

Here in Maine, the decade ended peacefully in anticipation of New Year’s Day.  I heard a few fireworks in the distance as I drifted off and I was excited and anxious about the first day of the new decade and another first for me.  Ice fishing!

2019 was a first-filled year…I rolled out a flaky homemade pie crust, I went deer hunting (took two shots), I drove an ATV, learned how to operate a snow blower, navigated a small boat, and drove a decorated golf cart in a parade.  2020 looks promising, with ice fishing added to the list of “firsts.”

What a glorious day it was on Upper Narrows Pond in Winthrop.  The sun was bright and the sky was cloudless when we got there with our traps and started zooming around the pond on a Yamaha Rhino.  Record that…my first time driving a Rhino on a frozen lake.

Here’s my first snow angel of 2020…

Snow Angels 2020

The angel was my totem of peace, safety, and good will for the day, the New Year, and the decade unfolding.  It turned out to be a busy day on the pond, with red and black flags popping up every time we considered sitting down and enjoying the sun.  We caught our bag limit of brook trout before we ate lunch and the clouds started rolling in.

As wonderful as the bright day was, clouds made the pond more magical as they cut the glare and sent many of the fishermen home.  Snow swirled in around 2:00 p.m., creating a shadowy snow globe-like feeling.  I spent a lot of time walking on the frozen pond, contemplating the day and the upcoming year.  Two eagles soared in circles overhead, eyeing our now-frozen fish.

The shadows of our own desires…if they are for good, can they really eclipse the brightness of our better angels?  Perhaps there is a compromise between the shadows of our desires and the brightness of our better angels, all working towards something wonderful for everyone involved.

Much of my 2019 energy was focused on cultivating “good vibes” in my life.  I kept coming back to this notion that I could choose to be happy.  I could choose to be grateful.  That faith could not co-exist with fear.  And that walking on a frozen pond on New Year’s Day felt a little bit like walking on water and I had no fear and no doubt that 2020 was starting out exactly as it should.

As one of the kindest people in my life often reminds me “how lucky are we?”

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The Lover’s Ghost

It’s Sunday morning, the second Sunday of Advent.  On this Sunday in the Christian tradition, we remember the preaching of John the Baptist, the man the prophet Isaiah anticipated as “one crying in the wilderness.”

With Heart and Voice, a syndicated radio program featured on Maine Public Classical stations, just played Orlando Gibbons “This is the Record of John.”  This beautiful anthem from long-ago sounds as magical and mentally de-cluttering today as it did when it was written in the early 1600’s.

You can find it on YouTube or you can stream the entire syndicated program of sacred choral and organ music on any public radio station; I listen to it when I can on Maine Public Classical, not to be confused with Maine Public Radio.  I am disconnected from the news of the world and Maine Public Classical interjects only occasional and tiny unpleasant bits of news into their daily musical playlist.  I experience minimal cognitive dissonance in the segue from Ralph Vaughan Williams “The Lover’s Ghost” and “we’ll discuss what political correctness means today and whether the idea of ideological purity has gone too far on Maine Calling at Noon.”

How long has it been since I wrote about cognitive dissonance?  And societal collapse?  I don’t remember.  These topics are not beautiful or soothing.  But like Boomer Esiason commenting on the Patriots’ 28 – 22 loss to the Houston Texans on the first glorious day of December, “there are problems.”

I was reminded of these societal problems during Tom Brady’s December 2, 2019 appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show.  Many, many media outlets have already chronicled Brady’s late-season funk and his low vibe.  Some thought Brady may have had a cold or a flu, as it was reported that other players on the team were sick.

The Greg Hill Show’s co-host Danielle Murr asked Brady if he was physically sick on Sunday.  She then asked him “…are you a giant man baby when you do…” have a cold?

I don’t care for The Greg Hill Show.  I listen to it on Monday mornings to hear Tom Brady or when I’m desperate for the sound of male voices in the house.  I miss John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, but I think their ideological purity went too far and “cancel culture” destroyed them.  They are mere ghosts of the airwaves now and instead we have Ms. Murr asking Tom Brady if he is a “giant man baby.”

Maybe I’ve changed as I’ve gotten older, but I don’t think I would ever ask Tom Brady if he was a “giant man baby” during times of sickness.  I wouldn’t ask any man that, even one for whom I had no respect.  Maybe such questions improve ratings, but they do nothing to promote human thriving, peace, and understanding.  And Tom Brady is too damn smart to go off script and fall for a “gotcha” question.

As I near the end of this long ramble, I’m sighing.  I need to get into my Christmas storage closet and find a bow, go to my father’s land to cut some more pine and fir boughs for decorating, and then prepare for the week ahead.

A letter from a friend reminds me that I must “continue standing against the collapse all around us.”  I will.

Pearl Harbor Day 2019

I was honoring the birthday of another friend yesterday on Pearl Harbor Day.  Warmed by my restyled vintage mink coat and fortified by four glazed molasses donut holes from The Cookie Jar in Cape Elizabeth, I stood against the collapse all around and the nineteen degree temperature.

Onward I go, to walk about the world and consider an invitation to join a garden club and learn to tend roses.

Posted in #showmesomethingbeautiful | Tagged , , , , ,

A Searching and Fearless Inventory

Articles and memes circulate on social media and sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two.  You know the articles…with titles like “Women Who Spend Time with Their Sisters Live Longer than Loners” or “Scientific Research Proves People Who Have Three Cats Make More Money than Those with Labrador Retrievers.”

In the last week, two different Facebook friends shared such an article, based apparently on research done by a professor of behavioral science.

“Unmarried Women with No Kids are the ‘Healthiest and Happiest Population Subgroup,’ Says Expert.”

I exercised a great deal of restraint when I saw these posts.  In my mind, I wrote a pithy and tart comment like “that’s a lie from the pit of Hell, but whatever.”

The hunting man and I have been out on the stand three times now; morning hunt, evening hunt, and rainy afternoon hunt.  We saw nothing and after the latter expedition, he dropped me off and said “you should go out on your father’s land by yourself.”  He suggested a familiar spot I’d written about here on this blog.

I was nervous.  I geared up early Saturday morning and went through the motions he’d taught me.  I drove over to our land 45 minutes before sunrise and parked the Jeep where I always do.  Baumer’s Field was breathtakingly beautiful in the dawn light.  I was drawn to that field and starting walking quietly through it and away from where I needed to be.  I looked down on my boots and thought of the Andrew Wyeth painting “Trodden Weed” even though my boots and the landscape looked nothing like Wyeth’s.  In a surreal moment of mystery and beauty, I was captured inside a canvas.  There was another painting I saw in my mind’s eye; I snapped out of my trance and turned around.  I was not where I needed to be.

I’m embarrassed to admit the first thing I did when I settled into my spot was post a picture on Instagram.  I wrote “I should be watching, but instead I’m thinking about #andrewwyeth paintings like #turkeypond and “troddenweed.”

Wild Woman

I put my phone down and looked up.

Damn, there was a buck in the field, halfway between the hackmatack tree and me.  I put the deer in my sights and noticed it had two small spike horns, about four inches high.  I would later learn this aged the buck at about a year and a half.  I took the safety off the rifle and watched.  The buck came closer and I sat unmoving.  My mind was racing.  Was it big enough?  What would happen if I killed it?  What if I missed?  How would I get it out of the field?

I forgot I had an “any deer permit” and I forgot rifle hunting season ends on November 30.

The buck looked up, smelled the air curiously.  It didn’t see me.  It eventually walked into the woods, looking bigger with each step it took away from me.  The title to the social media article I’d write would be “Maine Women Hunters Facebook Page Keeps Unmarried Childless Woman from Shooting Her First Deer.”

Moment of truth…I’ve been following the page on Facebook and noting all the big-ass bucks Maine women have killed this season.  Some of these women are really beautiful and put-together in their Cabela camouflage.  Comparing my potential buck to theirs influenced my decision.  The hunting man brought that to my attention last night as we talked through my future “hunting alone” strategy.

He hates social media.  I wish I did too, because I regret not taking that shot and going up to Butcher Boys in Bowdoin to have my deer weighed and processed.  Life is not a flat and sanitized canvass of images and feel good lies from the pit of Hell.  If you’d ever been to Butcher Boys at the end of a hunting season day, you’d know that.

Hashtag damn it all.

I’ve got to take a searching and fearless inventory of my refrigerator and cupboards today; get organized so I can go out hunting more next week and put a Thanksgiving dinner on the table.

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