Munching Down the Street

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I have often lived near berry patches, whether domestic or wild. Here I pick the neighbor’s “organic” raspberries. Organic since they were just left alone to grow. We planted raspberries next to our garage in Connecticut and give them the “benign neglect” which qualifies them as organic. They produce good berries in June and wonderful berries in late August and  September before dying back. One good pruning in winter and they are ready to produce again.

My grandchild was very concerned the first time she viewed the cut back patch believing that there would be no more berries. Now she knows to wait until–sure enough–they emerge again in spring.

Ocean to Table

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I spent many happy years in Camp Fire Girls, the west coast equivalent of Girl Scouts. Here I am plucking mussels from the rocks at low tide on the Oregon coast with a troop leader and another friend. I had never eaten mussels before this trip, but we had a feast steaming them over a fire.

On other excursions to the coast, we would buy fresh Dungeness crab and wait while it was boiled and cleaned. Then we would sit outside with a pile of napkins, pulling the crab apart and eating the delicious meat.

We are going to Nova Scotia in a week, and I am looking forward to seeing what fresh seafood is local and available. We tried dulce, dried sea weed, in New Brunswick a couple of years ago, but I can’t say we became converts. They said it was an acquired taste–one we haven’t acquired!

Lake to Table

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While I no longer fish, I still eat fish a couple of times a week. Here in my very itchy wool bathing suit, I show off the trout my father and I caught that day. I was very aware that there were rules about fishing. You never caught fish you didn’t intend to eat. You took the hook out carefully if the fish was too little and eased it back into the water, touching it as little as possible. You killed the fish quickly. You didn’t put the “guts” back into the lake. You ate it right away.

I try to buy fish that has been caught with the same care that I learned as a little girl. And I try to remember to always say my grandfather’s favorite grace, “For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly grateful.”

Farm to Table?

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It has taken me a while to figure out what the big deal was about “farm to table.” Here I am surrounded by the vegetables in our back yard in 1949. I only knew two kinds of food: fresh and canned. I assumed that food came from the farm and landed on the table. The excess from the summer was home canned, stored in the basement and eaten during the rest of the year. I had heard of “hothouse” tomatoes, but we never ate them, since my mother thought they tasted like cardboard. So it was fresh tomatoes or canned ones.

Everything had its season, and the things we ate reflected that. I take some ironic delight in the “rediscovery” of food in season. It took me a long time to realize that there might be any other way to eat.

 

Dog Sitting

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I often take care of the dogs for a neighbor when the neighbor is away for a couple of days. Ideally, I put a leash on the white dog and walk her while I let the black dog out to run around the back yard. Yes, that blur is the white dog. The black dog waits patiently under the table for me to let him out.

There are many ways to get daily exercise. This time it was from trying to catch up with the white dog!

Safe Classrooms

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I was struck today by two very different discussions of safe college classrooms. At the University of Chicago, the dean addressed a letter to incoming students letting them know that the university would neither be issuing trigger warnings nor barring controversial speakers from campus. The dean was reclaiming the university as a place for free exchange of ideas and viewpoints. He laid the responsibility of dealing with the effect of those exchanges onto students, not the college administration.

I taught college literature for 30 years, and we read many distressing and difficult works. I assumed that my students were adults and were responsible for handling the emotions that such works aroused. I never denied the impact of things we studied, but I also never shaped my syllabus to avoid challenging texts. Occasionally a student would be overcome with emotions, as was one veteran reading poems from World War I. In such cases, I always let my students know they could take a break and quietly leave class for a while. Much literature is meant to unsettle the settled, stir the complacent and challenge the contented.

Meanwhile, students in the University of Texas are asked to accept the presence of armed fellow students in class. The same young people who need to be protected from the “triggers” of the violence in Macbeth are supposed to be calm in the face of actual potential violence from the student across the aisle.

My sympathy goes out to colleagues having to navigate the insanity of these contradictory ideas of safe classrooms.

Shifting Earth

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San Francisco Earthquake 1906

The earth beneath our feet is often shifting, sometimes, as today in Italy, with terrible results. Buildings that have stood for hundreds of years can crumble in a minute. When I lived in Oregon, I experienced three quakes that I remember, none catastrophic. Still, I can believe the forecast that the Cascadia fault may produce one that would be.

Earthquakes challenge our basic premise that we can count on the ground beneath our feet. They can force us to wonder what can we truly rely on. At least, that has been the effect they have had on me.