Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Final Four: Who are you for?

My cousin of the heart, Amanda, lives in Wheelersburg in southern Ohio, on the border with Kentucky.  She works across the river, at the Boyd County Public Library in Ashland, KY, where she is the super communications person and chief cheerleader.  

She's changing her shirt! This was taken
a year ago Easter on a Toledo visit
with her kids. A flag of Ukraine is in
the background.  
But she lives on the edge, as it were.  How does it feel to be the only person at the Library rooting for Ohio State in the Final Four NCAA basketball games? How does it feel to be the only red shirt in a sea of blue shirts?  Is it like blue vs. red states in politics? 

The big college hoops games are tonight.  The Final Four.  If Ohio State beats Kansas, and if Kentucky beats Louisville (a rivalry within borders), it will be OSU vs KY in the national championship game.  The rivary is heating up, and Amanda’s up for it.  

When you live on the border, any border, anywhere in the world, it helps to have a good sense of humor.  Amanda has that in spades, the best mom, friend and fellow traveler in the world, and the funniest. 

Her insights and humor, her intelligence, tolerance and loyalty, touched me when I lived on the border of Ukraine and Russia.  She instinctively understood the ups and downs, cheered me on.

Now I live on the border of Ohio and Michigan and, sure enough, loyalties are divided.  Up here in  northwestern Ohio, where the state line is just a few blocks away, as many folks cheer for Michigan as for Ohio State, especially during football season, but for other sports, too.  Some Michigan fans might even be cheering for anyone but Ohio in the Final Four games.  It's a border clash.

With the championship games on the line, Amanda is at it again, in the arena, fully engaged in the battle of the day.  Showing her true colors.  She's in her red shirt, surrounded by blue shirts.  She is once again reminding me that living on a  border is one of our greatest challenges, and can be one of our greatest joys.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Dates of our Lives

One of my Mother's favorite flowers. blue hydrangea. 

March 30th is a special day in our extended family: birthdays and anniversaries, births and deaths.  My grandson Tony was born on March 30;  my mom died on March 30;  my cousins Maribeth and Jack were married on March 30 (and today celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary); my brother Loren drove me to the airport on March 30, 2009, to begin my Peace Corps adventure in Ukraine, one of our last long conversations and goodbyes. Bittersweet. Other family events swirl around this date, before and after.   

Certain dates stand out in our lives forever, like November 23, the day president Kennedy was shot in Dallas, or 9/11.  We vividly remember where we were on those dates, what we saw, how we felt.

Oh sure, our personal special dates are not national events or national tragedies. They won’t make the news or shake the world. 

But they profoundly affect our lives, bring utter joy and utter sadness, bring change and begin new chapters. They open the floodgates of memory.  They are turning points on our journey.

As I watch the greening of Sylvania, the budding of trees and flowers in early spring,  I think of turning points.  I remember them all.  I remember my mom.  I remember her gardens, her love of flowers, a love so thoroughly embedded in both my sister Andy’s and my soul, as if mom had planted her seeds to grow in us.

March 30. A day signifying transitions, the greening of memory, the flowering of new life.    

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

A circle of golden  light shone on the silk purple iris and white cherry blossoms in the large vase (really a Florida-themed umbrella stand) in my hallway tonight, around sunset.  I couldn’t tell where the light was coming from, it was so bright and so focused on those flowers in an otherwise dark hallway. 

Eerie.  It occurred to me it might be my brother Loren, sending me a message.  What a weird thought, I thought.  
Then I learned that poet and feminist Adrienne Rich died today, in Santa Cruz, CA, where she had lived for some thirty years with her partner Michelle Cliff.  She was 82 years old.

Truth be told, I had not followed her or read her poetry in many years.   But Loren had kept up with her all along.  “So that’s what Loren wanted me to know!” I looked back at the flowers.  The light was gone. 

Rich was among the pioneers of women’s rights, gay rights and  women’s writing in America in the 1970s.  She remained a progressive, feminist, and anti-war activist to the end.  

I remember when Of Women Born came out, in 1976.  I had just finished my dissertation and finally received my PhD degree in history at UW-Madison.  I was asked to teach a women’s history course, rare at the time, and at first I protested: “We didn’t have women’s history at Wisconsin,” I said.  “We didn’t even have a woman on the faculty.”  In fact, I was one of the few women in our graduate seminars, and only dogged determination and persistence saw me through to the PhD.   But friends encouraged me to develop and teach the course.  “You can do it!”  And I did.  I started the women’s history course at the University of Toledo, and taught it for many years thereafter.    At a time when there was little scholarship but burgeoning interest I jumped into the subject with enthusiasm.  I started at the beginning.

Of Women Born was part of that beginning.  That’s why Loren wanted me to know about Rich's death.     

My brother was still keeping track.  She was one of the many women writers he had collected and read thoroughly, knew them almost word for word, in his search for understanding and insight, during his evolving embrace of feminist spirituality.   Loren also loved Mary Daly (Beyond God the Father); Barbara Walker (Restoring the Goddess); and Charlene Spretnak (The Politics of Women’s Spirituality).   He carried these book with him wherever he went.  I have them now, lovingly underlined and written in his hand in the margins.  He quoted passage and verse.  He taught me.   

Rich would have loved to know Loren.   Maybe now they will meet.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reaching 72

 New year's day 2011, Luxor, Egypt.
Birthday card from friends in Ukraine.

The days pass.  The seasons pass.  The years pass. The pages turn. The children grow.  Grandchildren become adults, have children. Work becomes past experience.  College teaching is a highlight. Travel becomes stories.  Parents and loved ones transition into the unknown.  The losses pile up. The moments become memories.  The memories remain vivid.  And then here I am,  celebrating 72 years of a personal history.

It’s quite a journey: a long and winding road full of twists and turns, ups and downs, good times and bad, the expected and unexpected.  The student and graduate student.  The wife and mother.  The teacher and historian.  The nonprofit worker.  The sound and the fury.  The joy and the light.  The retiree.  The explorer.  The writer.  The coming to terms, the letting go, the reaching beyond.  The Peace Corps Volunteer turned 70 in Ukraine, voted by much younger colleagues as "the toughest” in our group.  And now, another chapter, the mom and grandmother, rooted in a place and time, coming full circle.   I’ve reached a number that the child in me never thought possible.       

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Food for Thought

My NYC friend Estelle said, half jokingly, that she doesn’t like people who do not like onions or garlic.  Why?  Because it demonstrates they don’t like to eat.  Spoken like a true bon vivant!

Come to think of it, how can you cook frajitas, tamales, huevo rancheros, any salsa, anything Mexican, without garlic or onions (yahoo photos above)?  For that matter, how can you cook any of our favorite cuisines from around the world--France, Italy, Middle Eastern, Turkish--sans these two basics?
     If you like to eat, if you relish a grand gourmet meal, if you're a true epicurean, you have to like onions and garlic. And a good glass of wine to savour with the meal. 

     For Mexican food, not the fast food kind you get in the US, you need onions, garlic, veggies and fruit, all full of flavor, fresh, and cooked with a love of the ingredients: tomatoes, avocados, mangos and papaya, various red, green and yellow peppers, lots of cilantro with a dash of off-the-trees lemon or lime.  

     Thankfully, San Miguel has lots of great restaurants that provide the best Mexican cuisine, and also great meals from around the world. It's a foodie's paradise.  This might convince some of my friends and loved ones to try San Miguel one day!

      So for starters, get out the onions and garlic and try this great quacamole recipe:
I'd add a handful of chopped cilantro, a few drops of olive oil, and a dash of lime instead of lemon.

Bon appetite!  Buen provecho! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Colors: San Miguel Street Scenes

Colors, a nice artisan's shop on Zacateros. Below, street colors.  
Color galore.  That's what makes San Miguel special.  These street scenes just wouldn't fit into a Ukrainian setting.  Mediterranean, Latin and South America, parts of the American southwest, maybe.  But these colors and styles in such grand abundance, around every corner, up and down the hillsides, around back alleys, in the center of town, and out beyond the Mercado, are distinctively San Miguel de Allende.  It lifts the spirit. 

Viva San Miguel.     

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