31 May 2008

Like Making Sausages

There is an old adage that politics is like making sausages: best not to watch. As clever as that saying is, and perhaps despite the frequent truthfulness of it, I couldn't help but think today, as I watched the DNC's Rules Committee's proceedings, that it didn't apply. It was good to watch, to see our democratic process at work. I am not a political activist or a party insider, so I found today's televised proceedings interesting and informative. I was glad that I had a chance to see the process at work. There are some that will disagree with me -- and healthy debate is part of a healthy democracy and should always be encouraged -- but I think that, while I only partially agree with the final outcomes, the right actions were taken.

Perhaps I'm more of a rules stickler than I like to let on, but I think that it is important that we have rules in place before a process occurs in order to govern it. You shouldn't make it up as you go along. Without rules, there is chaos. Still, the decision made last year to not seat the delegates elected by the voters of Florida and Michigan was not the correct one. Especially in the case of Florida, where the Florida Democratic Party was forced to an earlier date by a legislative act by the Republican-dominated legislature, the "punishment" of Florida Democrats was not just ill-advised, and ultimately ineffectual, but it was morally wrong of the DNC to take away the voice of Democrats in the state. I am disappointed that I never heard any of the committee indicate that they were wrong in making that decision, although I suppose, the fact that there was a hearing is an acknowledgment that there was a wrong that needed a remedy. At one point today -- and I do not recall who said it -- it was mentioned that it wasn't thought that the refusal to seat the delegations would matter. This should not have been part of the consideration in last year's ruling; every election is important and the party shouldn't have assumed that there would be a presumptive nominee by Super Tuesday. To think that, even though it has been the reality in past elections, is truly to discount the importance of voters in a majority of the states in the Union.

That said, there are rules in the Democratic National Party to allow 1/2 votes of delegates, which is what the DNC Rules Committee agreed to do: apportion delegates based on the vote, as recommended by the Florida Democratic Party. As to the argument of 'let every vote count', they were counted. Primaries are NOT an election of a candidate, but an election of delegates to the nominating convention. It is not about the candidate that gets the most votes; it is about the candidate that gets the most delegates. This is precisely why they cannot consider those who might have stayed away from the polls; they didn't exercise their right to vote and therefore there is nothing to count. You cannot assume the will of the non-existent voter. They didn't vote; they were not a 'voter' in this primary election. Those who think that the votes in Florida have not been counted perhaps should go back and review a high school civics textbook.

As for Michigan, the circumstances were a bit different, but I think the fundamental principal is the same. I am glad that the Michigan delegates will be seated and in keeping with the Democratic Party's rules, it is appropriate to seat them at 1/2 vote. What I think was incorrect in the decision today was that they allocated any votes to Senator Obama. While it is reasonable to assume that supporters of Senator Clinton would not have voted 'Uncommitted' when Clinton was on the ballot, one cannot assume that the other votes were for Obama. There were several other candidates on the ballot at the time of the Michigan primary. One can no more ascertain the mind of the voter selecting 'Uncommitted' than one can assume what someone who didn't show up at the poll might have voted if they thought their state primary was more than just a beauty contest. I think it would have been best if they had reinstated the delegates and let Clinton have her delegates based on the percentage of votes that she received. The uncommitted delegates should have then been allowed to make a determination in the same manner as the so-called super delegates. It isn't the ideal situation, but it is a better way than trying to guess for whom those votes were intended.

What I do think the Rules Committee did correct today, as flawed as the proposals were, was to accept the proposals of each state's committee. In the end, it is up to the states' committees to have their delegates to the nominating convention, so it is appropriate that their proposals, worked out within their organization, be agreed to by the national committee. It is the right thing to do, despite the fact that, in the case of Michigan, the methodology for determining the distribution of delegates was flawed. As Alice Huffman, a member of the Rules Committee stated, (after her proposal for seating the Florida delegates at 100% failed), the decision, while not ideal, was the next best thing. She was heckled by some in the crowd, including one person who yelled that it was lipstick on a pig. I could write at length about a feminist take on that comment but will save it for another time.

Ms Huffman, in commenting that it is not a perfect world, is correct. The essence of politics is compromise. It has to be, especially in a diverse party like the Democratic Party. We all should be heard; there shouldn't be assumptions about what might have happened if things had been different; concessions need to be made. That's what it's about. It is like making sausages: kind of unseemly, and in an ideal world sausages wouldn't be so high in the bad kind of fats, but you don't get such a bad tasting product in the end.

30 May 2008

Place Names and Old Oak Trees

Recently, I had a discussion with a fellow blogger about place names. I won't reveal the blogger (but I'm sure you read her. If not, you should!), nor the name of the town where she lives. I'll just say that it is a great name for a small town, the kind of a name that if it were in a book you'd say "No Way! Not realistic! How cliche!", but then you'd realize that towns with catchy names -- some stupid, some smart, some funny -- are typical of small town America.

Years ago when my son was young, we found a book at the big box bookstore that we couldn't afford at the time, but we spent a long time in the cafe reading the entire book. The book was titled All Over the Map, by David Jouris. The book is a series of maps, each with a theme, identifying only the towns that fit the category: happy-named towns, literary towns, towns with sad and depressing names, towns named after famous people, places with names that would make you snicker and blush. Think you live in Hell? There's a town named that in Michigan. I wonder how far it is from a place named Eden, or Heaven, or Angel's Rest?

There is some debate about the most common place name in the US, but according the the USGS, it isn't Springfield, which may be sad news for some Simpson fans. The USGS site has a query function that will let you see how many populated places match a given name. I just checked Amazon. Looks like All Over the Map might be out of print, but there are used copies available. I may just be tempted to buy a copy.

My discussion about place names was the second time recently that I thought about names of cities, towns, and homesteads. Maggie has been hosting a Name Your Homestead contest at her blog. I'm posting this too late to promote it (contest ends today), but you should check out the links on her post. There are some great names for places that people call home.

I named our home when we first moved here nearly 10 years ago. While I sometimes jokingly refer to living in the Forest Primeval, I officially named our little pleasant slice of earth, Old Oak Hill, for the giant Red Oak on the rise behind our house. Our house sits at the top of a ravine. Old Oak towers over another ravine towards the back of the property. When we moved in, my son & I took a long piece of twine and wrapped it around the trunk to measure it. I know we weren't very accurate, climbing through scrub to get to the tree, but the twine was about 12 feet. That's a big, old tree! Imagine all of the storms and sunny days and changes in the landscape over the decades she's lived. I don't know if it's true, but someone once told me that an Oak that size is about 150 - 200 years old. Whether Old Oak is that old or not, she is magnificent, with branches the size of other trees' trunks. One can see the tree from about 1/2 mile away since it is on a hill. Sometimes, in the autumn, when other trees have lost their leaves and the Oak stands out with its ruddy leaves, I follow an indirect route home so that I can look up and see the tree standing guard over the hillside. When I see the tree, I know that I am home.

Here is a slide show of some photos I've taken of Old Oak Hill.

28 May 2008

My obnoxious take on a meme

Because I'm in a contrary mood and in the middle of a bought of insomnia right now I think all memes that are I did/I haven't/I never will lists are obnoxious. So here's my take on possible reasons why these books are the most 'unread' on LibraryThing. There's a prize in this box of cracker jacks. Read on.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell The talking statues of Yorkminster? Magic? 800 pages?
Anna Karenina Likes trains, but not manic-depressive Russian housewives.
Crime and Punishment Thought it was written by Bush staffer responsible for throwing out habeas corpus.
Catch-22 Wanted to understand the cliche but realized reading the book would be one.
One Hundred Years of Solitude Thought it was a self-help book for the overworked needing to unplug
Wuthering Heights Cathy! Cathy!
The Silmarillion Thought similar to LOTR
Life of Pi : a novel Secondary source for research paper proving that 3.14159 = 3.243F6A8885A308D31319…
The Name of the Rose A rose by any other name...
Don Quixote Liked the musical Man of La Mancha
Moby Dick Likes to fish.
Ulysses Purchased by confused Freshman who mixed up Joyce & Homer.
Madame Bovary Soft core.
The Odyssey Bought before realized could pass the class without reading.
Pride and Prejudice Wannabe Austen Fan.
Jane Eyre Seeking lost inner teenage girl.
A Tale of Two Cities Travel guide?
The Brothers Karamazov Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Guns, Germs, and Steel On the NYT Bestseller list. Bought for Christmas for unlikeable relative. Regifted ugly sweater instead.
War and Peace Trying to look well educated or well-toned (well-tomed or well-toned?).
Vanity Fair Thought it was special edition of the magazine.
The Time Traveler’s Wife Book Club, never read.
The Iliad For Freshman Humanities class. Couldn't sell at used book store.
Emma Wannabe Austen fan.
The Blind Assassin Thought it was Robert Ludlum novel.
The Kite Runner No excuse.
Mrs. Dalloway To impress a cute girl.
Great Expectations To impress a cute grad assistant.
American Gods To impress a cute boy. Because Neil Gaimen is cool.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Couldn't resist the title, but found out it was about death, and raising a kid, and growing up.
Atlas Shrugged Could there be any other reason for thinking about reading Rand other than teenage angst?
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books Trying to look hip & PC.
Memoirs of a Geisha Missed the movie but wanted cocktail party chatter fodder.
Middlesex Confused by the title.
Quicksilver Impulse buy. No idea about the book.
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West Hey, if it's a musical with that short woman with a great voice, then the book must be good, right?
The Canterbury Tales Eager Freshman. Thought had to read all in Old English.
The Historian : a novel Brief faux-Goth stage.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Wanting intellectual sounding book on shelf.
Love in the Time of Cholera Thinking about being a doctor.
Brave New World Confused it with 1984.
The Fountainhead Could there be any other reason for thinking about reading Rand other than teenage angst?
Foucault’s Pendulum Wanting to learn about echo and other things about physics.
Middlemarch Wannabe Austen fan.
Frankenstein Disappointed that it wasn't by Mel Brooks.
The Count of Monte Cristo Trying to reclaim childhood.
Dracula Came with set of wax lips. Give-away during local station's late night horror movie marathon.
A Clockwork Orange Because the movie was rated X.
Anansi Boys To impress a cute boy. And because Gaimen is cool!
The Once and Future King If over 45: Loved Camelot. If under 45: Loved Spamalot.
The Grapes of Wrath Thought it'd make you well-read.
The Poisonwood Bible Liked Kingsolver's other books.
1984 Confused it with Brave New World.
Angels & Demons Couldn't find copy of DaVinci Code during it's popular phase. Book club read. Never finished.
Inferno Confused with Fahrenheit 451.
The Satanic Verses Looking for incantations.
Sense and Sensibility Wannabe Austen fan.
The Picture of Dorian Gray Thought Dorian was a cute girl.
Mansfield Park Wannabe Austen Fan.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Liked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
To the Lighthouse Wanted to not look stupid with the in-crowd of Women's Studies students.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles Wanted to be with the in-crowd of Women's Studies students.
Oliver Twist Didn't realize that A Christmas Carol was uncharacteristically short for Dickens. And a much better theatrical production.
Gulliver’s Travels Google employee who likes horses trying to understand origins of Yahoo.
Les Misérables Manic-depressive reader.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Tired of graphic novels.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Book club read. Read first and last chapter.
Dune Because all of the cool geeky people were reading it between games of D&D.
The Prince Wannabe poli-sci major.
The Sound and the Fury Anger management.
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir Book club read. Didn't get past children dying in first few pages.
The God of Small Things Totally confused.
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present Looking for cliff-notes.
Cryptonomicon ?
Neverwhere To impress a cute boy or girl. And, because Gaimen is cool!
A Confederacy of Dunces Felt sorry for Toole's mother.
A Short History of Nearly Everything Looking for cliff-notes.
Dubliners Thought it was about drinking games.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Liked anti-grav boots.
Beloved Liked Toni Morrison. Liked Toni Morrison's hair. Liked Oprah.
Slaughterhouse-Five Thought Vonnegut only wrote sci-fi comedy.
The Scarlet Letter High School Student afraid of not graduating heard there was a secret "mistake" in Cliff Notes only teachers knew so actually tried to read book.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves Thought it was a Rachel Ray "Oh Yum Vegan Delights" Cookbook.
The Mists of Avalon See Once & Future King. Girl version.
Oryx and Crake ?
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed Received as Hanukkah gift from depressive cousin.
Cloud Atlas Received as gift from relative who heard you wanted to be a pilot.
The Confusion A moment of clarity in the bookstore.
Lolita Because of renowned creepiness of Humbert Humbert.
Persuasion Wannabe Austen Fan.
Northanger Abbey Wannabe Austen Fan.
The Catcher in the Rye No angry young teen street cred without this on your shelf.
On the Road No rock-n-roll street cred without this on your shelf.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Likes UND.
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything Another Christmas-Hanukkah gift.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values For those angst-filled teens too cool to read Ayn Rand.
The Aeneid Companion to Ulysses and Odyssey
Watership Down Because bunnies are cute and reading Peter Rabbit after age 7 isn't.
Gravity’s Rainbow Gift from stoner boyfriend.
The Hobbit Gift from stoner girlfriend
In Cold Blood Bought during Realism phase.
White Teeth ???
Treasure Island Bought to read with Grandson.
David Copperfield Bio of the magician?

Guess which one of these is true for me and I'll enter your name in a drawing for a fabulous prize (on Sunday around noon Eastern time). There may be more than one possible correct answer. There may be more than one incorrect answer. Will draw a name from all correct guesses. And maybe will include answers that amuse me. Or maybe everybody who comments. Depends on my mood. No real written rules. No idea yet what the fabulous prize will be, but you won't want to miss entering this giveaway! After all, don't you have room for more unread books on your shelves?

18 Not read (yet)
27 Read
9 Started reading but couldn't finish
54 I've never owned, checked from library, thought about buying

25 May 2008

Fish and Flowers

Lots of flowers this week:

These sent to me on Thursday:

And these too:

These from my garden:

A volunteer:

Iris in the pond:

And along the edge of the pond:

Click to enlarge and see the ant!

More ants & dewdrops:

And a reflective look at the pond. I love how these show both above & below the water.
With fishes:

With water lilies:

24 May 2008

Rhubarb! Rhubarb! (with pictures)

I haven't "officially" joined ExLibris' Soup's On! Challenge but after reading Emily's recent post on her experiments with Indian cooking -- and a trip to the Farmers' Market this morning -- I thought I'd play along in spirit with this post.

Farmers' Markets recently have become a big thing in my town. There are now two markets on Saturday either close to my home, or on my usual Saturday errand route. This morning, when I went for an early morning walk with friends, we walked to one of these markets. Today's market was crowded at the opening bell with joggers, bikers, dog walkers (and their dogs), young and old alike strolling past the 20 or so stalls selling a variety of local, fresh goods. At this time of the year, there are plenty of herbs, flowers, and garden plants for sale, but there isn't a lot of fresh produce at the markets. Asparagus is in season and it looked yummy. In addition to my usual purchase of shitake mushrooms, I bought some lettuce and a bottle of deliciously creamy yogurt from a local dairy whose products are organic & their cows are grass-feed. And, in an impulsive move, I bought some rhubarb.

I don't buy rhubarb often. I think I heard the Prairie Home Companion folks singing Rhubarb. Rhubarb. Rhubarb pie! I wasn't even sure how to prepare it, so I went to my cookbook bookshelf and pulled out a favorite book, Nigella Lawson's How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food.

I didn't realize that rhubarb is one of Nigella's favorites. Had I been so inclined, I could have made a rhubarb fool, rhubarb custard, rhubarb ice-cream, a jellied dish, a trifle, a tart, or an almost irresistible steamed pudding called, memorably, Pig's Bum. Instead, I decided to make a Rhubarb Crumble.

About 10 years ago, I started buying cookbooks whenever I traveled. This version of How to Eat, which is also available in an Americanized version, is one I picked up on a trip to London a few years ago. The challenge for me with this book: because it is British, the measurements are in metric. Being the ignorant American that I am, I can't easily translate the measurements. Since most European cooking measures dry ingredients by weight instead of volume -- which really is the logical way to do it -- this book presents another challenge. Try converting 120g to cups. There isn't a formula for that. But, I have a new kitchen scale so I didn't even bother. All metric for me on this one, baby. Well almost!

So, here's the recipe:
Cut up the rhubarb and the strawberries. The recipe called for 1 kg of rhubarb and I had only bought about 1 pound. I obviously didn't proceed far before altering the recipe, but rhubarb & strawberries go together for more reasons than color palette, so the berries made up the other pound or so. Add a couple of tablespoons each of caster sugar and light muscovado sugar. Oops -- second stumble: What is caster? What is muscovado? And to think that I used to wonder why anyone would want a computer in their kitchen. How insinuated Google and Wikipedia have become in our lives!

Caster is a fine white baking sugar and muscovado is an unrefined brown sugar with a strong taste of molasses. No Muscovado to be found at the supermarket, so relied on turbinated sugar instead (aka Sugar in the Raw) and the plain white processed all-purpose sugar in the cabinet would have to do in place of the caster sugar.

Add the sugar, orange zest and some orange juice (a "spritz", Nigella advised). Since I was going to use them in my dinner recipe, I used blood oranges, another Nigella favorite. Since I already had a reddish theme with the rhubarb and the strawberries, I thought the red juice of the oranges fit right in. The recipe calls for oranges, not blood oranges, but the strawberries were very sweet and I thought the tarter taste of the juice would work better. If you aren't familiar with blood or Seville oranges, Nigella writes that they can be substituted whenever you'd use lemon but want some more color. The color of them fascinates me. I find them a little sweeter than lemons, but they are definitely much more sour than your typical California navel or Florida orange.

The crumble crust was simple to make: 120g of self-raising floor, a pinch of salt, 90g of butter, cold and cubed into small pieces about 1 cm, 3 tablespoons of muscovado sugar and 3 tablespoons of sugar or vanilla sugar. I didn't have any vanilla sugar made either although I did have the beans. Note to self: make some for next time I need it. To spice the crumble crust, I added orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Cardamom is my absolute favorite spice.

120g of flour was a little less than 2 cups, 90g of butter was one stick with a smallish slice removed. One standard US stick of butter is 113g. To mix the crust, add flour and salt and butter and mix with your hands. In Nigella's words: using the tips of your fingers -- index and middle flutteringly stroking the fleshy pads of your thumbs -- rub it into the flour. Stop when you have a mixture that resembles porridge oats. I don't know how flutteringly I mixed it, but I did stop when it looked like oatmeal.

Keep in the fridge until ready to bake or in the freezer for 10 minutes. Because the fridge was full, it went into the freezer while I made dinner.

This cooking post is suffering from a bit of ADHD. Back to the rhubarb in a minute. Here is dinner:

Yummy fresh salmon

placed in foil packs, with 1/8 c lemon juice, 1/8 c sweet Marsala wine, sliced blood oranges or lemons, & capers. Spray the foil with spray oil.

Each fillet goes in its own foil pack. Fold up the foil packs tightly. Place on baking sheet. Cook at 425 for 20-25 minutes.

Prep asparagus. Of course, readers who are asparagus lovers know to break off the stalks near the end, where they naturally break. Spray the tray. Drizzle with good olive oil. Salt. Pepper. And -- the secret ingredient I tried today on advice from my friend S (the best non-professional cook I know) -- sprinkle with nutmeg. This adds a woodsy but sweet taste to the vegetable. Put in same oven for last 8 minutes the salmon is cooking. During those 8 minutes, drink a glass of wine (see first photo) and try to figure out what the hell Gas Point 5 is on your oven.

Back to the rhubarb-strawberry crumble: Gas point 5 is 190 - 200C. It took two math whizzes and me debating for a few minutes on how to convert to determine the setting. We finally settled on 375 - after the crumble had been in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 (my original calculation). But said oven had been at 425, so I figured it would all even out.

Which it sort of did. I baked for 30 minutes instead of the recommended 20-25. It probably could have cooked for yet another 5, as the rhubarb was crunchier than I liked. The crumble ended up being juicier than I liked. I think coating the fruit with a dusting of flour or cornstarch would have been better. I liked the crust a lot. Overall it wasn't bad. I'd give this recipe a grade of B- because of the liquidity. I'll try this again sometime with berries or apples or maybe peaches. Doesn't peaches with cardamom-spiced crumble crust sound heavenly?

Although this recipe didn't turn out picture perfect, I still like this cookbook and would recommend it to cookbook readers and cooks alike. Although the British terms can be new for the American cook, this book, and Lawson's overall approach to cooking -- simple, not much fuss, delicious and pleasurable food -- is so accessible. I think that the American version of this book, in addition to the measures, has been edited to include more familiar terms. The recipes are written in a narrative style, rather than an instructional, step-by-step style. While this isn't the easiest to follow during preparation, each recipe is interspersed with comments by Lawson on the taste, texture or appearance of the work in progress, or maybe with just an aside regarding something about the food. As I was looking for a rhubarb recipe today, I was sidetracked into reading her thoughts on food in season and which food she likes to buy fresh during certain months. Lawson is always entertaining, and frequently tosses in a comment that is sure to make you laugh. Like today, reading her admonition not to mold a rhubarb gelatin in a certain style of mold because, due to its dusty pink color, might come out looking "a bit gynecological". Ahem! This is not your typical everyday run-of-the-mill cookbook, but it is a cookbook you could use any day.

18 May 2008

Hands in the dirt and a trip to Chicago

Today was gardening day. While I only have one flat of flowers planted so far, my guys and I did a lot of shoveling of dirt today. There is something invigorating about the smell of dirt and worms on a cool, sunny Spring day.

Here are some pictures from the garden:

It's going to take more than one flat to cover this hill side, newly without ground cover because the landscapers cleared the wrong area. That's okay, though, it allows for adding some color on the wooded slope. Complements the sign too!

I found this delicate little wildflower in the woods as I was planting the begonias.

Right now, standing on my porch or walking down the driveway, is a sensory delight, with the honeysuckle in bloom. Some call this a weed. While it is invasive -- it's even banned in Illinois -- I like it a lot. Lonicera maackii:

Speaking of gardening and gardens, I was in Chicago last week and had the opportunity to walk through Millennium Park. Lurie Gardens is beautiful.

I was with a Dutch friend who especially liked the tulips:

As we approached Jaume Plensa's Crowne Fountain, I thought maybe they had changed it. I liked the changing mural of flowers on the glass wall, but was a little disappointed that it wasn't what I expected.

Then, the picture changed:

How can you not smile at this? Even though it was cold, there were children splashing in the water. How can one resist laughing?

From Carl Sandburg's poem Chicago:

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

Since I was with friends on their first trip to the US, we did the tourist-y thing and went to the top of the John Hancock building. I haven't done that since sometime in the 1970's. We also walked on the beach for awhile. Although they live on the Indian Ocean, my friends were amazed by Lake Michigan.

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

One last view of the City of Broad Shoulders.

05 May 2008

live blogging Obama

Obama isn't on stage yet. Thousands of people standing in Indianapolis in American Legion Mall -- IN THE RAIN. And Stevie Wonder is singing !!!!!


Updated: I can't say I saw Senator Obama, but I could hear him! Local news stations are estimated that there were 21,000 people in the Mall, a park in downtown Indianapolis about 2 blocks long (1/4 mile long) & 1 block wide.

I think this little guy had one of the best seats in the house.

Well worth standing for 2 hours & walking 1.35 miles in queue to get into the park area about 500 feet from our car! Everybody in Indiana & North Carolina: GO VOTE TOMORROW.

03 May 2008

Quote from Lewis Thomas:

Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive. The photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dead as an old bone. Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos. If you could look long enough, you would see the swirling of the great drifts of white cloud, covering and uncovering the half-hidden masses of land. If you had been looking a very long, geologic time, you would have seen the continents themselves in motion, drifting apart on their crustal plates, held aloft by the fire beneath. It has the organized, self-contained look of a live creature, full of information, marvelously skilled in handling the sun.

-- Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. 1974.

I first read Thomas in the late 70s and have read all of his books, but it has been 20 years since I last read him. If you are not familiar with Thomas, and you are interested in science writing, especially reading an excellently written literary discussion of scientific ideas, or if you are interested in observations about nature, our planet and ecology, I would recommend The Lives of a Cell. Since I no longer own this book, I think I need to put it on my wishlist so I can re-read this.

I came across this quotation in Earth Community, Earth Ethics, by Larry L. Rasmussen (1997). In a discussion with Emily earlier this week, she mentioned Rasmussen and his theological perspectives on nature and the environment and our part in it (not just an agent acting on behalf for or against nature). I immediately went to the web to find book titles by him. I'll be posting on this book here and at the Eco Justice Challenge blog in the coming weeks. You can read Emily's explanation of why it's eco-justice and not environmentalism here.

02 May 2008

Lost poem of silver and pink

I wander out the window
bored by the conversation on the phone;
Tethered in my cell by debits and credits
that I don't give a damn about.
The sky is lowering,
a silver-gray shadowing
the purples of the wild plums
at the scanty woods' edge.
A hawk flies overhead,
circling a center point
hid in the forest of glass,
the lake a dammed branch of the river
stopped in its tracks.
I do the warrior pose,
a sun salute to the threatening skies,
forgetting to breathe from my soul.
I craft the perfect lyric in my head;
meter and rhyme and imagery to capture
the trees and the skies and the bird.
Then, jolted back to the call,
All is gone in an instant.
I have only the memory
of the beauty of the feeling
I thought I held in my eye.

Later, at home, I look at
the erosion by the mailbox,
the steep drop by the side of the road,
water from the rain dripping slowly
into a deep hole, pooling gently,
flower petals flowing past
to the sewer drain.