Ponder this:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Mostly irreverent thoughts about cheese

#182 - Cheese (Sunday Scribblings)

Some people like cheese at any time under any circumstances, and some people don't care for it.
I am of the former persuasion.


From Omar Khayyam
~ Edward Fitzgerald

Never mind the rest of the poem; think about this for a minute.

So these two lovers are out in the wilderness with their bread and their wine. Don't you really think they should've had some cheese to go with that? Think about the blood sugar alone! Is it pedestrian of me to think of a slab of cheddar or brie stuck in between thick hunks of that coarse bread, washed down by the contents of the jug?

Maybe it's been too long since I sang verses in the wilderness with a "thou."
My appetites lean more toward the gustatory than the romantic.


Years ago on Mothers Day I had the great idea of ordering up a singing telegram for my MIL. I phoned Zingagram simply to inquire about how to do that, but the young woman was extremely pressed for time, and wanted interesting tidbits right now! about my MIL's personality so that she could compose a personalized song.
I could think of nothing on the spur of the moment except that MIL loved cheese. I could hardly have a singing telegram all about MIL's deafness or her hypercritical nature or her husband the drunk.

Mother's Day brunch at our house:
A knock on the door.
Enter a slender young woman in brief tuxedo attire.
Young woman sings to MIL.
MIL cries tears of sentiment.
Mission accomplished.
No matter that the song might have been titled: Song of Cheese.


When I was very young, my father, gripped by a craving, would take the whole famdamily across the county to get the sharpest cheddar cheese obtainable. I think it was made by a local farm family, and I remember it being so cured that it crumbled as it was sliced. Dad would eat great hunks of it with immense pleasure.
It was years later that I heard the phrase cut the cheese, but my comprehension was immediate.
Thanks, Dad.


I call my dogs inside by yelling "Cheeeeezzzze!"

1965 memories of late night commercials for a local "Cheese House," the owner describing in delicious detail the kinds of cheese available and always ending with a recitation of the name of the place and the location and a perfect cheesy-tight smile. In those days I guess it was a pretty nice place. I was there a few years ago and the place was filled with flies, the cheese was sweating, and so was I. No cheese for me that day.

Atkins diet: "Have all the cheese you want."
I was in Heaven.
And I did lose weight.
No bread, that's why.

Sunday Stills: Signs of Fall

For *Sunday Stills, The next Challenge: Signs of Fall

(Click * to see other Signs of Fall, and in the southern hemisphere, Signs of Spring)

The verbena bravely flowers on, and the ninebark changes

from green to mahogany and bronze...

The birch leaves soften to green gold...

The morning mist settles in the valley....

And the long view gives me the best of all of it:
Color and faint, coy threads of cloud...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Canada geese know more than I

There is a pond across the hill where Canada geese gather for the summer. They present a picturesque scene, camped there in the wayback of somebody's house. I don't know how the human residents feel about hosting the gaggle; I imagine the gooseypoop ruins some aspects of their pond enjoyment. This time of year, the goose gang starts doing practice runs to get in shape for their long commute to the Jersey shore or wherever they go for the winter.

Yesterday as soon as I came home from work I got into fleece and sat on the front porch while the dogs ate their kibble supper picnic-style off the lawn. When the shady side of the house got too breezy and chilly we moved to the back and I watched two huge flocks of geese wheeling around the sunset-cloud sky, shouting to each other the whole way. I wished that I had my camera to catch the moments of flying bodies aligned with the gray-purple cloud rows, but I didn't want to take the time to run inside to get it and miss the sight.

While I watched, one lone goose traveled strongly, straightly, in a completely opposite direction, and silently passed his fellows. Several minutes later, after the whole gaggle had disappeared off over the hill and down the valley, here came The Solitary One, winging back in roughly the direction from which he'd come, and not in the direction I thought his flock would be. He honked at regular intervals; I could hear him long after he was out of sight. Watching his progress across the sky made me feel lonesome on his behalf although I'm sure he was following a plan unknown to me. I know crows have individuals who sit at intervals along a flight path to call directions to their groups; I wonder if geese have the same scout helpers. For all I know he might have been patrolling to round up the young ones who'd fallen behind. Maybe that's why his first, opposite, flight had been silent, so as not to confuse the mass.

I like that thought and I will choose, for now, to believe that.
I like being sure that there are natural rules of which I need to know nothing.
The world goes on according to plans over which I need have no control, no concern.


Last Sunday we went to a farmer's market and bought loads of sweet smelling vegetables and fruit. We walked out with many heavy bags of Good Food for fifty bucks. Tight-budded broccoli, bags of firm purply-white garlic, icy white cauliflower wrapped in its ruffly leaves, rich-smelling dark dark red beets complete with their hairy stems and dirt covering, a few acorn squash, melons, and two big bags of plum tomatoes to add to the couple dozen our garden has produced.

On Monday, I steamed and skinned the beets between my getting home from work and going back for an evening meeting.
Tuesday the workday ran from eight a.m. to eight p.m. I ate beets for lunch and dinner.

On Wednesday after work I was tired unto autopilot and thought I might as well keep the body moving while my mind was turned off. I filled three pots with tomatoes, with the barest part of the stem end cut off, and great leafy basil and parsley bunches that I grabbed by handfuls from the garden. I love throwing whole fruit and leaves and stems into a pot, knowing that the result will be the same as if I painstakingly prepared everything prior to cooking it. I feel sure that the first tomato saucemakers did it the same way, leaving the concoction to alchemize into a meal while they went out to slaughter animals or pound clothing clean on rocks.

Fresh juicy tomatoes take a long time to cook down into sauce and at bedtime I had to put the whole mess in the refrigerator. Next day I remembered that I own two six-quart slowcookers, and I filled up both of them with my sauce-to-be and let it simmer for twenty hours. When I got home last night there were still illusory whole-tomato and basil leaf shapes in the pots, but the little hand blender turned it all into a puree. Today will be ladling-into-freezer-bags day.

My autopilot cooking evening got the squash baked too, along with the three that appeared all on their own in our garden, in the same oven time that my thrown-together meatballs baked.

Fresh food . . . really fresh fruit and vegetables . . . is such a pleasure, such a gift.
Think of it: A seed lies on dirt and turns into edible stuff.
It's magic.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A little moth moment

This shy little moth was nearly perfectly camouflaged
against a building's brick wall.

This little beauty was resting on the bench
outside my office yesterday.

I get so happy when I notice these things!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 19, 7:30am

Carlyle said that how to observe was to look,
but I say that it is rather to see, and the more you look the less you will observe.
~ Henry David Thoreau, Journal, September 13, 1852

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I think, from time to time, if we're lucky, we have visits from angels. Just during our daily lives, while we're doing regular things.
This happened to me today.

About 2:30 I heard the sound of somebody thumping slowly with the aid of a cane down the hall toward my office. I was busy working and kept at it until out of the corner of my eye
I saw a tall white-haired old man appear in the doorway.
We smiled at each other and as he worked his way toward my desk, I shuffled my papers together and greeted him.

Hi! How y'doin'?
Pretty good! I just hit ninety.
God love ya! What can I do for you?
I live up at the old folks home up here and I want to sell things in a parking lot. I've seen people doing that.
Yup, that's an outdoor market. Where are you thinkin' of doing that?
In the shopping center up there on Main Street.

I told him that he could do that, invited him to sit down and as soon as I finished faxing this application to "somebody else who just called," I'd get busy and give him what he needed.
That's fine, he said.
As he sat and waited he wheezed and clicked a little.

He had laid on my desk two ears of Indian corn wrapped and tied with raffia and artificial autumn leaves and flowers.
As soon as I got the fax sent, I picked it up.
This is pretty . . . what's this?
That's what I want to sell.
I turned this way and that. You have a good eye!
That's what I did. I sold flowers.
Yeah? Where?
Oh, different shops. Down in the city.

I admired the arrangement for its color and its sparkles, and as I checked the law and got the forms he needed, I asked
How much y'gonna sell these for?
Five dollars. This is only a small one. This would be five dollars. I have bigger ones. All different ones. It's something to do.
I nodded. It's worth it. I have a basket in my kitchen. In the spring I put fake tulips in it. In the fall I put fake leaves like this in it. It's color. It's the first thing I see when I walk in the door and it makes me happy.
He said Do you know what flowers say to you?
They say, "I want to make you happy!"
Yes! I said. The colors! They just make me happy. Even the flowers along the side of the road . . . the chicory and the trefoil...
He nodded eagerly.
At one time I was selling flowers at five different Interstate stops. I'd go out and pick 'em and sell 'em to people who stopped. The women would say "Oh! Where did you find such beautiful flowers?" and I'd say (an offhand gesture) "Out in the back yard!" He chuckled.
One time I was selling flowers on the street y'know, and a woman stopped and said to the man with her, "Look at the flowers," and he said, "I don't like flowers." I don't like flowers! Can you imagine that? Now, what kind of life do you think he has?
We shook our heads at each other in sadness over the waste, on such a one, of beauty for free, if only we would see.

During all this I had been finding and printing the law for outdoor markets and the applications and getting some information for him for the application. I explained the process to him and he said
Of course, Of course.

When we'd finished he put the arrangement centered on my desk blotter.
Since you like these things you can have this.
Oh! I said. I'll put it on the door!
That's what they're for, he said.

He leaned forward and held out his hand.
You've been very pleasant and helpful . . . and efficient! He twinkled at me.
Well I'm glad to help!

Do you need the elevator?
Oh that elevator's tricky. I'll take the stairs. I'll be careful.

And he turned and left, papers in hand.

I had to stop working and just think and feel for a few minutes.
I got up and pinned the arrangement to the bulletin board outside my office and stood and admired it.
I have quite firmly concluded that I had a visit from an angel today.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A one-time shot at political commentary

I have been spending time reading a blog by a woman who is far more conservative in every area of life than I. I keep trying not to go back but the blog is like a motor vehicle accident to me: No matter how much they make my innards twist, I can't stop looking at her blog entries, which proliferate hourly.

I don't know enough about anything to make any kind of political commentary. The more I try to understand, the more confused I get. The same thing happens to me every four years when the presidential campaigns go on.
That's my disclaimer.
I do know I am very very tired of angry mischaracterizations of ideas from every direction.
I am tired of reading and listening to people harkening back to previous administrations for the sins committed by both sides.
That was then and this is now.

From a purely selfish point of view, I want a public option for healthcare. Husband and I used to have an individual health care policy and we paid outrageous premiums that rose drastically every calendar quarter. I have no idea what individual plans cost now, but I think if we had to have one we would choose to be uninsured for health so that we could pay the fire insurance policy on the house. I would like to know that if I lost my job, which pays for part of our health insurance, we might be able to get treated for injury or illness without divorcing to become eligible for Medicaid or becoming homeless.

I wonder why a political group that professes unshakeable religious belief gets so mad about medical care for human beings who are in the country illegally.
And then, I have to agree that, truly, it is not fair for citizens to pay for care for people who use medical services that a citizen has paid to help support.

The theory of insurance, about which I learned so much years ago when that was my job, is essentially socialistic: The many [insureds] pay for the few [who have losses]. It's a great system until health, as well as property and casualty insurers, start penalizing people because they have losses. The insurers do that because they have stockholders who want to make money . . . and, in theory, I might be one of those stockholders.

Socialism, in and of itself, is not evil. People make it so. And democracy isn't really what we have in this country . . . I have heard it said. What we have is a republic, which is slightly different; I think it is that we have representatives who might or might not actually represent us. Since those representatives accept donations, maybe it's actually become a plutocracy.

And so my thinking has gone over the last several days.
Eventually my brain gets a cramp, I give up and think that all of it comes down to two truths. One is that the love of money is the root of all evil, and the other is that perhaps we should bow to Darwin's Natural Selection.
I don't know where that leaves the idea of being one's brother's keeper.

...What you do
Is either malice, crude defense
Of ego, or indifference:
I know these things as well as you;
You do not dazzle me at all--
Some love, and some simplicity,
Might well have been the death of me—

~Edna St. Vincent Millay - Not Even My Pride Shall Suffer Much

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Passer Mortuus Est

My neighbor is cutting trees this morning in the woods to the east of me. First the sound of his chainsaw and then the crack, and creak and crash of the falling trunks. Last weekend after dark I heard the same crack, creak and crash from the other direction. I knew just which tree it was: an old elm that has been dead for a few years. There was one big branch that had fallen and had been propped upside down on a lower limb, and the last supporting fiber must have given way.

I don't mourn the loss of the trees; we have plenty of trees here. It is the nature of trees, and the nature of every living thing, to live, to grow, age and die and fall. It is Nature's lesson that life goes on in changed forms.

I do feel the onset of mourning for what I have had of summer this year. I have that white sky feeling of waiting, waiting. I know that the changing leaves
(so early this year!) indicate their small individual deaths, and not Death. Winter will come and spring will come.

I wait.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Stills: Rule of Thirds

Mine reminded me of . . . Sleeping Beauty by the Grimm Brothers...

"Then one day a prince was traveling through the land. An old man told him about the belief that there was a castle behind the thorn hedge, with a wonderfully beautiful princess asleep inside with all of her attendants.
His grandfather had told him that many princes had tried to penetrate the hedge, but that they had gotten stuck in the thorns
and had been pricked to death.

"'I'm not afraid of that," said the prince.
'I shall penetrate the hedge and free the beautiful Brier-Rose.'

"He went forth, but when he came to the thorn hedge, it turned into flowers.
They separated, and he walked through..."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Home is where my hills are

A few weeks ago I spent a few wonderful relaxing days with a friend who lives a few hundred miles west of my home. I have never traveled very much; I don't really enjoy the traveling part, but I do love being elsewhere for a change, particularly with B, who pampers me and who knows the value of companionable silence as well as good conversation.

On my way home, I was driving, driving. I was thinking about conversations B and I had enjoyed and how much I love her nice calm dog and how comfortable I am in her cozy home. Where I am pampered. I began to realize that I could see a long, long way in every direction. I felt . . . different, once I noticed that wide open landscape. The flatness of the western part of New York State is something that had, until that moment, escaped my consciousness.
(I never knew that it's part of the Lower Great Lakes Plain; somebody told me that when I related the rest of this story to him.)

I'm driving . . . and driving . . . and driving . . . across this big flat plain, all exposed to the heavens and every living thing within fifty miles and with nothing much to entertain me except the wonder of why the driver of the black Jaguar in front of me would not move over so I could pass him . . . and later, the challenge of the roughly-paved diverted lanes established, apparently semi-permanently, by the state's department of transportation to allow work on the real road. Nobody was working on the highway, but the signs threatening extra fines for speeding in work zones went on for flat mile after flat mile.

A hundred miles from home, what is that . . . what did I see? There, in the distance...?

I don't know why this picture won't enlarge when clicked upon!

A rise in the landscape, blued by the humid distance. I smiled. With each homeward mile more hills rose around me. I sighed. My skin loosened.
My shoulders relaxed and my breathing became deeper. The closer I got to home the more I felt welcomed by and nestled among my hills.

I think there are hill people and valley people. Valley people come to my house and exclaim with awe over the view, and in the next breath wonder how we manage in the winter, "so far out here!" Maybe there are plains people too, who like seeing everything for miles around. I have a friend who has a breathtaking home in another part of the country. Gorgeous home, beautiful pool . . . and flat all around for a hundred miles.

I like seeing my neighbors over there.

I walk up to the top of the field and look across and there they are. I silently greet them, two miles away in crow distance. I know they're there; they know I'm here. We just don't have to look at each other all the time.