Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Alli's Team

I’ve discovered another joy in being here with family in Sylvania: my granddaughter Alli’s volley ball games! Northview HS just beat Perrysburg in a fun and exciting game. Excellent teamwork, most of all. Alli was great, but the team was fantastic. That made all the difference: how well they played together, implemented plays they had rehearsed all summer; cheered each other on; remained positive with every play. I can’t think of a more important life lesson than this: learning early in life how to play your part in a greater effort, how to give and take, how to shine and help others shine. The moms gathered around Michelle to ask about the baby, about how things were going. Mostly they were there to cheer their girls on. How great it is to be part of a community of shared goals, experiences, and dreams. Alli made a special show of pointing me out, her Nana, to her teammates. I was so proud! Most of all, I was happy for Alli, that she was part of a great team, having the experience of a lifetime, and learning a lesson that will always be with her and bodes well for her future. Go Alli!

Loren's Memorial Bench

Loren’s Memorial bench overlooks Lake Talquin. The lake, known for its great fishing, is a resevoir located on the Ochlockonee River between Leon County and Gadsen County in North Florida, near Quincy, just west of Tallahassee. It was home to Loren.

Loren loved nature, the environment, all of Florida’s state parks. He hiked and explored most all of them. He worked on trail maintenance, conservation, and other projects for many of them, with the Florida Trail Association, the Sierra Club, St. Marks, and other nature preserves and parks. He loved nothing better than walking in nature, and I loved walking with him.

Howard Pardue, who was instrumental in getting the memorial bench and is active with the Florida Trail Association, said Loren loved this area. It sounds like a nature lover's dream of rolling hills, pine forests, and bald eagles, osprey and other fantastic birds. Loren felt at one with nature and the goddess in these places. May his spirit, my beloved brother’s soul, rest in peace.

The New MLK, Jr. Memorial

photo from MLK, Jr. Memorial website.

I wonder what my brother Loren would have thought about the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, DC. Loren dedicated his life to King’s dreams. They were Loren’s dreams, too: a world where freedom, justice and empathy reigned and the American dream of democracy applied to all people.

The new memorial is a huge granite stone out of which King is emerging, arms crossed, kind of half done. Why not a full statue, I wonder? The whole man. Arms open to embrace the world, to embrace all humankind. Sure he was a rock, and he was determined. I understand the metaphor the stone embodies: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” This was, apparently, the inspiration for the statue.

But I think something more whole would have made a better, a more fitting, monument for the ages. The inspiration might have been “At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love.” So many fine quotes from this master speaker and leader. Universal. Transcendent. Humane. King, like Ghandi, Mother Teresa and other visionay leaders, rose above single issues of the time, evolved into spiritual leaders with transcendent values for all time.

I don’t think this memorial rises to the level reached by King and these heroes. I think Loren would agree that this MLK, Jr. memorial is more a symbol of its time, even a retro image of socialist realism, than a splendid icon of humanity for all times.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Making Jam

My neighbor Judi and I went to the farmers’ market, held every Thursday in Sylvania, and bought fresh zucchini, yellow squash, onions, red bell peppers, a large purple eggplant, corn on the cob, and tons of fresh raspberries. What a stilllife! We have lots of tomatoes, green peppers, and herbs in our own kitchen garden, ala Luba's garden (огорад) in Starobelsk. I wanted to make ratatouille and Judi wanted to make jam.

"Can I help you," I asked.


"Do you boil the raspberries for a long time on the stove and add stuff, like they do in Ukraine?"

"Oh good heavens, no," Judi said. "No boiling on the stove. You just mash the raspberries, add sugar and serta, put the mix in jars, and freeze."

So easy. Jam for the winter, jam year round.

So that started my first foray into making jam. My main job was buying some sugar and mashing the raspberries. And, oh I forgot, you add two teaspoons of lemon juice, too. We filled about 12 jars, and Judi gave me one for my freezer. "Give it a few weeks," she said.

I went upstairs to my apartment with my little jar of jam, feeling quite virtuous. I am cooking up a storm, Starobelsk! Now on to the ratatouille!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's in a Name? The economy sucks.

"The Art of Survival" in economic bad times, Jeff Largcoon for Insights on PBS Hawaii.org

Depression? Recession? Stagnation? What difference does it make what you call it, when the economy is hurting workers more than anyone else, when more than 15 million Americans are unemployed or have given up looking for work, when new jobs are not being created, companies are not hiring, and don’t have to, and there is little hope on the horizon. Call it what you like. It’s all the same to those most affected: working people, the middle class, the elderly, women and children, homeowners, the most vulnerable. And there’s no end in sight. Just more haggling about the definition of this bad economy, like philosophers in the Middle Ages debating how many angels were on the head of a pin.

Now Republicans are calling for huge cuts, but won’t tax the super rich, won’t listen to the likes of Warren Buffet, refuse to provide stimulus to boost opportunities for the average middle-class American and the working poor. Look at the growing and huge number of workers who have to be on food stamps in order to survive (Kristina Cooke, "Food Stamp Nation," http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/22/us-usa-poverty-foodstamps-idUSTRE77L45Z20110822).

The rich get richer, the working poor poorer. There's no sense of "the common good," economic justice, or "the greatest good for the greatest number," at least among those extreme Republicans who have held us hostage over economic issues. Paul Krugman calls them "America's #1 political problem now." Call it what you will, the economy sucks, and it is hurting ordinary, hardworking Americans most of all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


"There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another." I Corinthians 15:40. Above, "Hologram of a Crystal Globe," flickr photo by Will S, a detail from the front cover of National Geographic, December 1988, which I am sure Loren saw and savored.

My brother Loren would have loved to see his new nephew Chase. Maybe he’s sending greetings now that only Chase can hear. Loren was eight years younger than me, but we were always close in spirit. I miss him every day. Brotherly love.

So I am happy for my grandsons Josh and Kyle, who now have a new brother. Josh is 14 years old, Kyle 9, and Chase one week old today. That’s

quite a gap in years between them. But I hope they will be as close in spirit as my brother and I were, as we continue to be.

One day Chase will join Josh and Kyle on his bike and ride over to see me. It’s one of the greatest pleasures of being here and so close to my children. Just a bike ride away. Like me and Loren in the quantum hologram of forever.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm Cooking Again

When I was in Ukraine, living with Luba on Panfelova, I didn’t cook at all. She was queen of the kitchen, a great cook. She always served fresh produce from her garden, and made wonderful soups, borsch, varenyki,
Easter bread, salads. In winter we had her wonderful preserved fresh vegetables and fruits.

I did try cooking a meal once. Thought I'd surprise Luba. Alas, my attempt at lemon chicken was less than splendid. Neither she nor her son Sergei (at home at the time) liked it much, though they were polite. I think it just confirmed to them that Amerikankas can't cook! That was it for my cooking debut.

When I moved over to Natalia’s on Kyrova, in the center of town, I told her I'd do my own cooking. She just looked at me and smiled. My efforts didn't last long. Maybe a few weeks. Natalia always had food in the fridge and on the stove, enough
to feed an army, and urged me to eat it. How could I refuse? I remember the fresh pork from those cute little pigs that Tonya raised on her farm. Best pork ever. So I hardly ever cooked
at Natalia’s either.

Now it’s a different story altogether.

I am shopping and cooking a lot, mostly for my kids and grandkids. Doing some gardening, too. Michelle and Chase got home from the hospital yesterday (at last!) and I brought over a meal. Good excuse to see the baby! The grandkids pop in frequently, so I always have something for them, pasta salad is a favorite, and spaghetti. I have meat in the freezer. Always have milk, cereal, bread and snacks. I even bought ready-made cookie dough, just in case. The kids love baking.

I am cooking again. Taking a lesson from Luba and Natalia, I go to our little apartment household garden and pick tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. The basil, parsley and rosemary are fantastic. I mix up a good meal. I’m checking out new recipes. My granddaughter Alli saw a PETA documentary on cruelty to animals, burst into tears, and has become a vegetarian. I went to Borders (going out of business sale, sadly) and bought some vegetarian cook books. I’m cooking up a storm. Luba and Natalia would be surprised!

Friday, August 19, 2011

From the Womb, Into the World!

Josh and me with 4-day-old Chase, my 6th grandchild, Josh's 3rd sibling!

August 16, 2011, Tuesday. The yellow daisies and red impatiens seem brighter than usual under sunny blue skies. It’s 82 F, not too hot. The air smells sweet and fresh. The trees are peaceful, few signs of changing seasons or troubled breezes. I listen to Enya while my grandkids, Josh (14 years) and Kyle (9 years), play with the treasure box I've always kept under my bed since Julia, my first grandchild, was born, 23 years ago. I refill it all the time. Josh's and Kyle’s sister Alli (16 years old) is at volleyball practice. All Michelle’s kids are accounted for as we await word from the hospital. This is the day Chase is to be born.

August 16. Michelle’s C-section is scheduled for 1:00. p.m. We wait, and wait, our cel phones

at the ready. The call finally comes at about 3:00. Chase was born at 1:35 pm! Mom and baby doing okay. A new life made the journey from the womb to the world. The heavens sing, the family celebrates. Oh happy day!

Chase weighs 5 lbs, 14 oz, is 19” long; his feet are beautiful, 5 perfect toes, and his 5 perfect fingers are long and slender. He's a little early and needs a little help breathing so he’s in the neonatal intensive care unit for some oxygen.

August 16. A red banner day for us, but an uneventful news day, or rather just more of the same: the economy continues to slide, stocks way down; politicians cast blame here and there; the scaffolding accident at the Indiana State Fair brings more sorrow; it’s “Elvis Week” in Tennessee; turmoil threatens again in the Middle East. What will the news be in 10 years? in 20 years? What will Chase's world be like?

August 17, Day 2. Chase is pink and calm. Breathing much better. He has his first feeding, an ounce of milk Michelle manages to pump out. He opens his eyes for the first time, and we squeal with pleasure. A lovely cry brings tears of joy. Healthy heart and lungs.

August 18 and 19, Days 3 and 4. Better every day. Off all his tubes, out of incubator, in a regular crib, eating like a trooper. Maybe Michelle will go home on Saturday; not sure about baby yet. Home to Michelle’s new house, which she’ll be able to enjoy for the first time!

August 19, Friday, Day 4. I hold Chase for the first time. So does Josh. He remembers holding his brother Kyle. What a pro! Everyone’s looking forward to being home, and getting into some schedule.

Life keeps on going!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

From the Mountains, to the Ocean

The New Hampshire mountains are lush in summer, bathed in light, cool, with their green and blue pines, birch and maple trees serenely standing sentinel until they fade into black against the setting sun.

My cousin Fern King Meyers lives in these mountains, in a large house in Etna, near Hanover, surrounded by 23 acres of meadowland, some left wild, some cultivated with well-placed and well-tended gardens. Wild roses and hydrangea are plentiful. For some reason the Russian popular anthem runs through my head as I sit silently and absorb the beauty and spirit of the place where Indians lived until the English brought their homeland to the wilderness.

I visited a few weeks ago. Fern’s husband, Dr. Bob Meyers, had recently died after a long and painful struggle with Parkinson’s disease and the complications of a broken hip. His family and friends gathered at his home, under a lyrical white tent, on 6 August to remember him, a wonderful.man who loved history, art and music as much as he loved his own field of medicine. That's why the memorial service included two flutists playing his favorite music, poetry readings from Robert Frost, readings from Ecclesiastics ("To Everything there is a Season"), remembrances from his children, the loving display of artifacts (including a red toy VW) by his wife Fern, and the reading of Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address ("With malice toward None"), by cousin Ron King. Bob was a Renaissance man, pretty rare in these times, in the digital age.

Fern and I spent time together, remembering and savoring the moment. We enjoyed a lunch at Simon Pearce, her and Bob's favorite restaurant in nearby Quechee, Vermont, next to a waterfalls; spent time in Woodstock, once Bob and Fern's home and one of my favorite NH towns. We stopped along the way to admire the mountains and meadows, the Quechee gorge, the historic Billings Farm and Museum. We visited the King-Meyer burial ground, and also the new Nan and Alan King Bird Sanctuary, established in Etna behind the old Library, down the road from Fern's house and the land preserved and conserved by the King family, in memory of Fern’s, Ron’s and Maribeth’s mom and dad.

After the memorial gathering, Fern and I drove to the ocean and spent a few wonder-filled days in Rockport and Gloucester, MA, on Cape Ann, north of Boston. Rockport, and nearby Rocky Neck, are art-filled seaside paradises, and Gloucester is the old fishing village where “The Perfect Storm” was filmed. Signs of George Clooney and cast are here and there among the artist studios, gift shops, and seafood restaurants. We walked along a beach, gathered a few shells, and found even more shells at a shop once featured in Vogue magazine. The proud owner regaled us with the story.

The mountains and the ocean. What better places to rejuvenate and reminisce, to fill our senses, absorb the sights, smells, sounds, and to glory in sunrises, sunsets, and full moon rises?

We are blessed with the beauty of the earth, and we sang the old anthem at Bob’s memorial gathering in the mountains.

For the Beauty of the Earth (1838)
For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the sky,
For the love which from our birth, over and around us lies,
Lord of all to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.

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