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Table Talk

The world begins at a kitchen table.

No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it
will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we
make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at
our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place tocelebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Perhaps the World Ends Here – Joy Harjo

(From “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems”  by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate)

Speaking of books . . .

. . .  there is one I forgot to mention in my recent bookish post.

 I recently received a nice little congratulatory message from WordPress acknowledging the 10th anniversary of Lifeonthecutoff.

How did 10 years go by so quickly?

From my first tentative, picture less  maiden voyage, to the arrival grandchildren, illness and losses, woodland walks, flower arranging, poetry, prose and my many, er, “falls from grace”, you have been a treasured and appreciated part of this journey. Whether you were there on my first post, or just started following me today, thank you, one and all, for wandering along this road called life with me.

The one book I forgot, and pictured above, was my Christmas gift last year from Katy, Tom,  Kezzie and Ezra. I was as touched as I was thrilled when I received it and enjoy going back in time in my first published book.

Life is grand!

Bookish Endeavors

I closed the cover of Delia Owens’ enthralling novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing” with a few tears in my eyes and the sadness one sometimes feels at the end of a story well written – and an ending one did not expect. As I put this book down, I realized that it has been a long while since I last posted any book recommendations or reviews. Actually, it has been some time since I posted anything, for which I apologize. I hope to return to posting more often.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” came to me from my dear friend Elaine, who rushed up to me, book in hand, and said “you have to read this“. She was correct, I did. Once opened, it was a book I could not put down. How Kya survives abuse, abandonment, loneliness, poverty and being ostracized from the community while creating a family of sorts with wildlife and waterfowl is amazing. It lives up to all the hype and worth a read. Our book group will be discussing it at a future date – a discussion I look forward to.

These two books (below) were audio, from local libraries, “read” while I was out and about in my old car that had 6 slots for DVD’s – one of the few things I will miss from that now ancient vehicle. You know, the one with the latte body and mocha interior. (or was it mocha with latte interior?).

“The Library at the Edge of the World” was a delight to listen to about returning home, belonging, family conflict and, of course, books! “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” was equally delightful. It is historical fiction about Joy Davidman’s life, friendship and love of C.S. Lewis.

 

 

“A Fatal Twist of Lemon” by Patrice Greenwood is the first of several books in a murder mysteries series, the Wisteria Tearoom Mysteries. The books are set in and around a haunted house/tearoom located in Santa Fe. Mystery, murder, historic preservation, opera, seances, weddings, culture – you name it, the series is delightful. Short in length, they are best read on a winter afternoon with a cup of tea and a tasty morsel (a few recipes are included in the books).  This first book of the series, found in the library, was truly a book judged by its cover.

 

 

 

Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore is a small, charming, well established purveyor of histories and mysteries in Forest Park, just barely outside of the boundaries of the City of Chicago.  It is a bit out-of-the-way for me, but, worthy of a trip a few times a year to see what they have on the shelves over their unique plaid carpeting, and their knowledgeable and conversational owner. I think of Sherlock Holmes whenever I enter.

The bookshop has books concerning Chicago and the surrounding area and holds many events at the store, including book signings and author lectures. If I lived closer, I would be there all the time. I stopped in one chilly spring afternoon and was drawn to this short novel about a teenaged girl, Sarah, who is the second daughter of Jewish immigrants. Sarah’s family lives in a multi-cultural neighborhood surrounding Hull House during the late 19th century. Sarah wants to be an artist. Her father is a butcher, the shop close by, her mother holds a secret from the past, her brother is often ill, her older sister has romantic interests with a young Irish lad – and the Columbian Exhibition is about to open. Juvenile/young adult fiction, I enjoyed reading this. My father’s family settled in this area, his parents immigrants, his friends of many different cultures. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, our class had a field trip to Hull House, leading me to want to learn all about Jane Addams (who makes a few appearances in the book). A short read, “Her Mother’s Secret” by Barbara Garland Polikoff is a book you might enjoy.

One afternoon, some time ago, I had our local WGN/Chicago radio station turned on in the car. Do any of you listen to John Williams, or listen to local personality in your area on the radio?  John was reviewing and praising a book he couldn’t put down, “The Feather Thief:  Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century”” by Kirk Wallace Johnson. I was so intrigued by John’s enthusiasm that I purchased “The Feather Thief”, only to let it sit and collect dust. My garden club will be discussing it early in 2020, so, I opened the pages and was immediately immersed in the history of bird and feather collecting and categorizing in the 19th century, detailing the places scientists, ornithologists, and others traveled to collect exotic birds, skins and feathers for ladies’ hats –  and for salmon fishing lures in the Victorian era. They travelled in harsh, hazardous conditions, obliterating species for fashion, sport and greed.

But wait – there is more.

The book begins with a  20 year old flautist, Edwin Rist, a gifted, talented American, who, in 2009, hops on a train after performing at the the Royal Academy of Music in London. Under the cloak of darkness, Edwin travels to the Tring Museum at the British Museum of Natural History, climbs a wall, breaks a window and methodically steals hundreds of rare bird skins, coveted by salmon fly-tiers, of which Edwin is one, and hold many awards.  This is a fascinating, true story of ornithology, fashion, the fly-tying craze, environmental issues, autism, the internet, crime – and more.

What are you reading?

Centuries and Sleuths – https://www.centuriesandsleuths.com

 

 

 

 

 

In lieu of hot buttered toast!

 

“When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.”
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

A trip Up North usually, happily, involves a bowl, ingredients, stirring and baking and more than one cook in the kitchen.

Not hot buttered toast, nor contented cats, but, the quote is a favorite of mine, as are these two cherished charmers.


Our Résumés

Things You Didn’t Put on Your Résumé

How often you got up in the middle of the night
when one of your children had a bad dream,

and sometimes you woke because you thought
you heard a cry but they were all sleeping,

so you stood in the moonlight just listening
to their breathing, and you didn’t mention

that you were an expert at putting toothpaste
on tiny toothbrushes and bending down to wiggle

the toothbrush ten times on each tooth while
you sang the words to songs from Annie, and

who would suspect that you know the fingerings
to the songs in the first four books of the Suzuki

Violin Method and that you can do the voices
of Pooh and Piglet especially well, though

your absolute favorite thing to read out loud is
Bedtime for Frances and that you picked

up your way of reading it from Glynnis Johns,
and it is, now that you think of it, rather impressive

that you read all of Narnia and all of the Ring Trilogy
(and others too many to mention here) to them

before they went to bed and on the way out to
Yellowstone, which is another thing you don’t put

on the résumé: how you took them to the ocean
and the mountains and brought them safely home. – Joyce Sutphen

(from You Tube)

This poem popped up in my email this morning from a daily subscription I receive. The poem, new to me, resonated with my own child raising years and bring to mind my grandchildren’s parents, Katy and Tom, and Jennifer, who sang these words over and over and over again. Perhaps, it will resonate with you in some way as well.

Poem from The Writers Almanac :  “Things You Didn’t Put on Your Résumé” Reproduced from Carrying Water to the Field: New and Selected Poems by Joyce Sutphen by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Forthcoming October 2019 with the University of Nebraska Press.

Bedtime from Francis as seen on Amazon.

Reaching Out

This determined moonflower vine is clambering up and around our old, weather-worn wrought iron railing. It is twisting and turning and trailing, reaching upward and outward, fortifying itself with the stems and strength of nature’s own knots. A few small buds are hinting at the possibility of fragrant white flowers, which will be most welcomed some night soon. The vine, however, with its heart-shaped leaves, is a simple pleasure in itself.

I was sitting on our front porch, on a bright and glorious morning, and I could not help but reflect on the gathering we hosted the night before as I observed this trailing vine.

We were privileged to host a small gathering of members of our church community; young, and not so (Tom and I :)) and those in between. The bookends of life. We shared a meal amid the laughter of children, with a collective telling of stories, challenges, triumphs, gratitude and more. I love the communal conversation that often comes with the breaking of bread, just as I love the slow rising evening song of crickets and tree frogs as dusk becomes dark on a warm summer’s night.

So it was, the very next morning, that I found myself in a contemplative mood. I was perched on our weathered front porch, reflecting on the evening before and on the ways we reach out as a people, joining together like the stems of this moonflower vine. I thought what a fine day it was and of how fortunate I am for all who reach out and grab hold of me on this twisting and turning stem we call life – and of how grateful I am for all of you.

 

Suspended

 

There is a change in the air.

It comes as August reaches reaches out to September.

The slant of the sun, the worn and weary flower stalks, and the spent demeanor of mid-summer blooms hint of the slow but ever-shifting of the seasons. Daylight slowly but surely lessens. School busses start rumbling down the roads and back-to-school sales fill the aisles of stores.  Pots of mums tempt those already yearning for the softer colors of Autumn. Sunflowers and zinnias take center stage in their spotlight performance in the waning days of summer, while spiders cast their sinuous silk in the most unlikely spaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This web was suspended in midair. It was visible only while the early morning sun highlighted it and the spider began her ascent to a hiding place. I tried to capture Ms. Spider’s handiwork by using the rail as a backdrop and darkening the photos. The web reached almost entirely across our rather expansive deck, from the wooden rail to the window box, secured on the back of a lawn chair. My Antler Man was positioning a new table umbrella and poof! Just as the umbrella opened, the filaments of the web broke. I might not have noticed if I had not seen the brave spider swinging on a strand of silk thread. Like that daring young lad on the flying trapeze, she swung through the air with the greatest of ease – to and fro and back again – until she swung away and far out of sight.

I found her this morning. At least I thought it was her and take literary license and say it is so.

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