B’s 47th and the early June Garden

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Carrot cake and creative roman numerals by S, pansies from the garden.

B wanted tortilla soup for his birthday dinner. The recipe we make calls for mint, preferably fresh from the garden (which we can do for at least 7 months of the year). I used a combination of peppermint and apple mint–look at the size of the leaves!

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Also coming up: Indigo rose tomatoes

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Really exuberant oregano:

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And a bed of greens and herbs that I’m growing from my collection of last year’s seed pods!

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Happy, happy birthday, B.

Tortilla soup:

  • 1 quart of chicken broth (or stock, or veggie broth)
  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a shallot
  • 1/2 clove fresh garlic or pinch of garlic powder
  • sprig of fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a blender, combine tomatoes, shallot, garlic, and some of the broth. Puree and add to a stockpot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. This will be a fresh-tasting and light soup; we make a buffet of additions: chicken, avocado, cilantro, lime, tortilla chips or tostada shells, and cheese.

Mother’s Day, Books, and My Students on Poetry

What a glorious day today!
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This little bunch of bluebells was sitting on our doorstep a few days ago 🙂

I’ve had a little more time to read lately; I finished Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. It’s the kind of exquisite book I feel curmudgeonly about pointing out any flaws in–and yet, I found it a bit repetitive in parts or at least predictable. Still, certain sections of Perry’s prose are breathtaking–the first paragraph, for instance:

One o’clock on a dreary day and the time ball dropped at the Greenwich Observatory. There was ice on the prime meridian, and ice on the rigging of the broad-beamed barges down on the busy Thames. Skippers marked the time and tide, and set their oxblood sails against the northeast wind; a freight of iron was bound for Whitechapel foundry, where bells tolled fifty against the anvil as if time were running out. Time was being served behind the walls of Newgate jail, and wasted by philosophers in cafes on the Strand; it was lost by those who wished the past were present, and loathed by those who wished the present past. Oranges and lemons rang the chimes of St. Clement’s, and Westminster’s division bell was dumb.

I’ve also been reading Michael Robbins’ Equipment for Living: On Poetry and Pop Music, in which he says, “You don’t decide to go deep into words. Something takes you there.”

That reminds me of some of the things my AP students wrote last week in response to my question: What makes a good poem?

“A good poem makes your hair stand up. It is entirely up to the individual.”

“A poem that leads to serious assessment or thought about something.”

“One that emotionally involves any and all readers and leaves you thinking.”

“A good poem is able to illustrate a relatable and complex feeling in a unique and powerful way.”

“A good poem can be almost immediately recognized as true.”

“A good poem is one that is simple, easy to read but has sophistication and deeper meaning; I don’t want to dissect it like a puzzle but rather more contemplate it.”

“A good poem is any poem that changes your outlook on its subject in any significant way.”

“A good poem conveys emotion, any emotion.”

“A good poem makes you imagine the poem in real life.”

“A good poem always needs to make me feel something new or something I haven’t felt in a while.”

“It should make one consider and re-evaluate one’s own life as it makes one feel.”

“A good poem has music and rhythms coursing beneath its surface, regardless of whether or not it rhymes. It conveys its images in surprising, interesting ways, and the poet shows a mastery and command of language.”

“A good poem makes you compare it to what you know about the world.”

“A good poem casts a striking image in one’s mind and intelligently conveys its message.”

“A good poem has a thoughtful structure that compliments the topic itself.”

“A good poem is able to describe and create feelings that people have always known, but never been able to explain.”

What an insightful, emotionally intelligent group of students I have! Typing out their handwritten answers is part homage, part hallelujah, and the beginning of this year’s bittersweet goodbye.

Earth Day, Books, and a Poem

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We walked the Bloedel Reserve this afternoon with its gracious vistas and green in a thousand different shades.

I’ve been a bit preoccupied for the past month with a couple of things (National Boards, my health) and it’s taken me over a month to finish a single book.

However, this book is well worth reading: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It, by Arthur Herman. With a rambunctious, overstepping title like that I opened it a bit skeptically but soon found it to be must-read material for anyone with more than a passing interest in Scotland. I bought it for S, who won’t have time to read it until summer (when she’ll be working two jobs, so maybe not much free time even then).

Before that, I read Graeme Macrae Burnet’s brilliant book His Bloody Project, which is a reader’s holy grail for me: a noir of high literary merit (the novel was a finalist for the 2016 Booker prize), set in Scotland. 

I also listened to the audiobook of Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. I am fascinated by the references to David Hume, who may have been familiar with Buddhism.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/07/what-meditation-can-do-for-us-and-what-it-cant Adam Gopnik’s take on the book is fantastic.

 
And finally, the BBC Sound Effects  Library has just released thousands of sound files, and perusing their titles is a delight. Here’s my found poem:

                          I

1 man constant walking up sharp incline of loose stone

1 man climbing and slipping

1 man 1 woman approach and stop

2 people clambering over loose debris

1 man 1 woman depart

10 bells ringing, Lichfield Cathedral.

                          II

12 month baby boy, scream & blowing three raspberries

12 month old baby boy, saying “Dada” (three times)

12-bore Shotgun, load, shot & cartridge ejected

12 bells ringing, Worcester Cathedral.

                        III

1 lorry passing slowly

200-year old village pump filling bucket

6 bells poorly rung in English village church.

 

 

Early April

eggs

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Eggs and greens for K’s 20th birthday celebration! They made a delicious frittata. S collected the eggs from chickens she’s taking care of over spring break; the greens and herbs are from our garden.

Easter books this year for B and A:IMG-1329

For K:

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For S:

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And for A:

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The camellias on the table are courtesy of this great beauty:

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Winter Solstice 2017

S. noticed that the hummingbird feeders were frozen this morning. We hopped to it, bringing them inside, putting them in a pan of hot water and within seconds of rehanging them, the little brrrds were filling up their reserves.

Maybe we’ll bring the feeders inside while the hummingbirds are in torpor at night and then put the feeders out again in the early morning.
IMG-1200K, our singing group, and I sang at the beginning of Bloedel Reserve’s Solstice Walk and then joined the quiet procession through the dark woods and gardens. (photo credit: K)

IMG-1208A couple of hours of darling children: gingerbread house building and crocheting next to the fire.

IMG-1215Tasha is one of the very best parts of a winter stay-cation.

Mount Ellinor

Part of S’s 17th birthday celebration: a camping trip and hiking Mount Ellinor, the southern-most peak along the eastern front of the Olympics. Some of the trail looks like this:IMG-1089That was an easy bit. There are occasional scrambly parts too.

Snowfields in August are a delight!2017-08-12 13.42.35

About half-way up, and already above the clouds.2017-08-12 13.21.27

At the summit!2017-08-12 15.04.43

Lake Cushman to the right; the Hood Canal to the left.2017-08-12-15-06-00.jpgI adore my S girl to the moon and back and I love that she wanted a hike for her birthday. 🙂

Three summer days

IMG-0970Antelope Island, UT. The littlest bison are prone to sudden scampers and the birdsong is glorious.

IMG-1076Hood Canal, WA on the Kitsap side. Early in the morning, I couldn’t see or hear another soul. Good place for walking and thinking.

IMG-1080Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill was a really lovely setting for the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s free concert; Borodin’s String Quintet in f minor with cellist Edward Arron was intense and lyrical.