Finding Peace

The past few weeks have been challenging. Like so many people, my spirit is fraught and frustrated by the ugly tumult taking place in Washington yet I can’t look away. More than ever, I find myself searching for glimmers of hope, integrity, possibility.

Waking up to a cloudy October morning, I purposely treated myself to a quiet, restful day, doing my best to tune out the travesty of the Kavanaugh confirmation.  I headed first to where I usually turn for rejuvenation and reflection: a morning walk in nature.

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While I typically walk in silence to fully savor the sounds around me, this morning I popped in my ear buds to continue listening to an episode of On Being with two of my favorite poets: Padraig O Tuama and Marilyn Nelson.  Pure, nourishing soul food….

On Being: Choosing Words that Deepen the Argument of Being Alive

Followed by pure, nourishing real food (though, truth be told, I wanted a pizza)….

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And as the perfect nightcap to an October Saturday, I flipped between episodes of Dateline (who doesn’t love Keith Morrison on a Saturday evening?!) and my favorite Georgia Bulldogs vs. Vanderbilt.

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Go Dawgs!

A much-needed day of peace uncovered in the simplest of joys.  Happy Saturday, everyone.  Tend to yourselves, cultivate peace.

Beans and Rice, with a Poem

I recently discovered a new poem. One of the benefits of reading voraciously is that you are constantly learning, traveling, unearthing, sharing, exploring, questioning, wandering, growing, and discovering. And aren’t those some of the best bits of life? Some of the very actions that give us meaning and purpose?

Poet, performer, librettist, and professor Douglas Kearney read the poem in an online course I was taking (“Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop” via Coursera), and I immediately fell in love with its exquisite colors and concrete images, simple–though anything but.  I replayed Kearney’s reading of the poem several times that week and in so doing discovered another poet to enjoy and introduce to my students–Kearney himself.

And then I did the next obvious thing, the only possible choice….I cooked up a hot, steaming plate of beans and rice (tossing in cilantro, chunks of fresh garlic, and Sriracha for kicks) and devoured the delicious simplicity of the dish.

Enjoy this poem, and then go and cook up some beans and rice of your own to relish. It really doesn’t get much better, does it?

“Red Beans” by Victor Hernandez Cruz

Next  to white rice
it looks like coral
sitting next to snow
Hills of starch
border
The burnt sienna
of irony
Azusenas being chased by
the terra cotta feathers
of a rooster
There is a lava flow
through the smoking
white mounds
India red
spills on ivory
Ochre cannon balls
falling
next to blanc pebbles
Red beans and milk
make burgundy wine
Violet pouring
from the eggshell
tinge of the plate.

 

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A Rainy Day, Hooray!

I realize most people probably prefer a sunny day during the summer, but give me a good rainy day during any season of the year and I’m happy as a kid in a puddle. Today marked the first day of a two-week vacation, and so what better way to celebrate than with heavy rain pounding the windows all day.  (Well, just to clarify, today actually began the final two weeks before I have to set the alarm clock and return to my classroom, but I am sipping from the glass half full.)

So, today’s celebration was filled with the very simplest of shenanigans indeed:

1. Hours of drenching rain that splashed my little corner of the world.

2. Vanishing for a couple of hours into THIS delicious murder mystery by Louise Penny and watching one very happy lemon tree enjoy a shower:

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3. Sketching and watercoloring! A tomato, or, um, a spaceship, depending on your perspective…what can I say, I’m learning.  (It’s fun to play!)

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4. Tuning in to (and subsequently BINGEING) the brilliant A Very English Scandal on Amazon Prime. Give both Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw an Emmy! A Golden Globe! Here’s a review in The Atlantic for your reading pleasure:

Review of A Very English Scandal in The Atlantic

5. Devouring a tomato/spaceship (mozzarella and fresh basil included) whilst catching up with this wee one after being away for a week.

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6. Watching the rain continue to power-wash the world outside and feeling the peace of knowing there’s no place I would rather be.

It’s that simple.    

A Summer Sunday

I have a confession to make. I am not a fan of Sundays. (Were you expecting a juicier, saucier admission?) During the school year, I awaken on a Sunday morning and immediately think of the million and one things I want to squeeze into the day ahead before heading back to work on Monday, things I probably should have already gotten to during the workweek or at least part of Saturday–you know, three loads of laundry, a Crock-Pot of chili, a full week of celery chopped, pile of bills, at least one power walk, vacuuming, five classes worth of essays to grade, finish writing a book of poems, iron my shirts, read the Times front to back, watch every single football game being televised, go to a football game, watch Masterpiece Mystery, write a novel, read a novel … well, you get the idea. Never enough time. And poor, innocent Sunday seems to rub that in my face, though I know she means no harm.

Now, part of me is being hyperbolic, of course. I am a teacher. I enjoy freedom-filled Sundays all summer long. I load my time with what I want, when I want it.  I have sacrificed a lot of material and financial comforts to follow my dream of teaching, but I reap every single reward this special vocation offers. I am grateful that I have always inherently enjoyed simple pleasures and that I know how to live comfortably and within my means. And I have also lived enough and seen enough to know that all of the  blessings in my life make me wealthier than any man or woman on the Forbes list.

But I digress…back to Sundays. This Sunday. Today. Simply spectacular! My sister and I are together again for a week of shenanigans on our annual summer vacation at the Jersey Shore. We have vacationed here since we were tiny girls, playing Charlie’s Angels with cap guns, smashing around in bumper cars, licking ice cream cones, and sharing stories of what we were going to be when we grew up. We return because this place connects us. Its roots grow deep.

Anyway, nothing earth-shattering, just simple and restful, like Sundays are meant to be, I suppose. Soul-filling. I sketched. She sipped a special coffee. We laughed and chatted, people-watching from our balcony a few yards from the boardwalk. She napped. I plunged into the most beautiful coffee table book entitled The Sea and daydreamed of manning a lighthouse in the middle of the Irish Sea or re-cruising the Alaskan fjords. We savored a delicious caprese salad (including cucumber slices and garlic stuffed olives) composed with the freshest of ingredients from my visit to my friends’ garden the other day. She bought two original paintings at the art show on the boardwalk. I ballooned with joy as she excitedly recounted her conversation with the artist. And we ended the day in the best way possible, perhaps the only way, when you’re down here on vacation…a twirl of soft serve ice cream. Dipped in rainbow sprinkles, of course.

Sunday, I may just be discovering your wonderfulness after all.

Small caprese

Small Em's art
Two original paintings (on aluminum) by New York artist Kevin Liang

Small The Sea

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August Afternoon with Friends in their Garden

Well, August sure started off as August will do. Hot, sticky air all morning, a quick torrential downpour mid-afternoon, and now warm, balmy breezes this evening as I sit down to write. I could probably use a little bit of air-conditioning, but I am enjoying the scents of a summer night wafting through the window-screen above my desk.

I had a swell day with my friends (and their family of cats, dogs, and chickens!), catching up on our summer shenanigans and then walking around their beautiful acreage.  Their months and months of toil, sweat, and bleeding fingers have produced bountiful gardens of flowers, vegetables, and fruits.  Heirloom tomatoes, wildflowers, figs, peppers, jalapenos, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, sunflowers, you name it.  We plucked a few cherry tomatoes from the vine and popped them in our mouths like candy…except oh so much better.  Tim proudly showed me the two large watermelons that have appeared nestled underneath a cluster of vines. They have a bit longer to go before they are ready for picking, but I have a feeling they will be worth the wait.

Always the consummate hosts, they sent me packing with the best kind of gift bag: several heirloom tomatoes I can’t wait to bite into, cucumbers, and a bouquet of fresh basil, which is resting in a vase of water on my kitchen counter. Boy, does that smell delicious. I am already dreaming up the dishes I can make with all of these fresh homegrown goodies.

A summer day filled with simple pleasures is often the best kind, don’t you think?

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Sunflowers look like little happy, giggling faces to me. (Maybe I watched too much Magic Garden as a child in the 70s.)
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An apple tree amidst the wildflowers.

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