This was inspired by Deb, who last week hosted book club and decided to abandon all her tried-and-true desserts in favor of something new: an amaretto-and-apricot-glazed gâteau with fresh berries and vanilla ice cream. We were contented guinea pigs. (Deb keeps a far tidier kitchen than does Daphne.)
A year ago today over a million people converged upon Washington, DC to watch, or at least get as close as possible, even if it was only a nearby tunnel, as Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. It was a day of extremes—vast numbers of people, below-freezing temperatures, ecstatic good humor. A splendid milestone in the country’s history: an optimistic, energetic, wise and good-hearted young man arrived willing to take on an unimaginably horrible mess. And it’s been like trying to clean up and repair the squalid and deteriorating family home of your recently departed mentally unstable grandfather while some of your cousins look on impatiently and others complain bitterly about the tile you chose for the bathroom.
I recently went to get my hair cut and I was fascinated by what was being done to the hair of those around me. All I ever get is a cut and blow dry so I am clueless about the other rich possibilities. I began to wonder how our fellow beings on other planets shape, color, and decorate the substances that grow out of their bodies. Is this a “universal” phenomenon?
Perhaps she was not actually using roasted red pepper hummus (it sure looked like it) but I bet that would make a great conditioner.
Today is the birthday of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), scientific writer, lecturer, and author of the Thesaurus, a project that he did not even begin to pursue seriously until his 70s. That ought to encourage the rest of us slowpokes. Roget was a lifelong and compulsive list-maker, a practice that apparently comforted him and helped sustain him through the terrible depressions that plagued him and his extended family, although he suffered tragedy enough throughout his life to justify serious despair. I love my Thesaurus and was inspired by this birthday to get on the library waiting list (speaking of lists) for a recent biography of Roget, Joshua Kendall’s The Man Who Made Lists. Among Roget’s many other admirers is J.M. Barrie:
“The night nursery of the Darling family, which is the scene of our opening Act, is at the top of a rather depressed street in Bloomsbury. We have a right to place it where we will, and the reason Bloomsbury is chosen is that Mr. Roget once lived there. So did we in days when his Thesaurus was our only companion in London; and we whom he has helped to wend our way through life have always wanted to pay him a little compliment. The Darlings therefore lived in Bloomsbury.” —Introduction to Act I of Peter Pan
Natsukashii: A Japanese word used to express the feeling described above. It is not yet in the Thesaurus.
Another verse from our dinner-table collection, from a longer poem by Matilda Betham-Edwards (1836-1919). I came across this verse long ago by chance, never having heard of its author, and recently learned that she was an extremely prolific writer of poetry, short stories, novels, and accounts of her travels in Europe and North Africa, unusual for a single woman of her day.
When the news is truly terrible and you have sent off your donation and listened with awe and respect to those hastening selflessly to the rescue, and you are wondering what, what to do next, there can be a kind of hope in observing, after the overwhelming catastrophes of nature, its small surprises. Like the downy woodpecker that just showed up on our urban patio, and the juvenile Cooper’s hawk (!) on the telephone pole in the alley behind the house. Although the innocent grub and the songbird would undoubtedly regard these as catastrophes.
These are pages from a book created by my daughter for a second grade Saints, Heroes, and Heroines lesson block. Born in 1929, King would probably have thought it a fine birthday gift to see one of the fruits of his labors, an African-American in the White House. Happy birthday, Dr. King.
“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.” —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
You can listen to Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech.
(Continued from yesterday) We watched the children don cloth caps, masks, and aprons, help prepare and serve the food, and then clean up: scraping scraps into the compost bucket; rinsing plates, milk bottles, and chopsticks before they went off to be washed; crumpling aluminum foil and depositing it into the recycling bin. NO TRASH. Surely the schools of our nation’s capital city could do as well.
After lunch the children and teachers put on headscarves, took up mops and brooms, and went to do the daily post-lunch school cleaning. There’s your next proposal, Councilwoman Cheh!
In a recent issue of our local DC paper, I read of an ambitious proposal by Councilwoman Mary Cheh to improve the DC school lunch program, with an emphasis on healthy local foods, recycling and composting. This reminded me of a visit to our son in Japan when he was teaching English in the local public school of a small mountain village. Our family spent a day at his school, which included sharing lunch in the cafeteria. (To be continued tomorrow.)
Today is the birthday of Haruki Murakami (1949), a Japanese novelist and translator whom my son admires, author of Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, among other works. In addition to writing novels he jogs and runs marathons. Maybe there is a connection between running long distances and writing surreal and humorous metaphysical short fiction.
“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.” —Haruki Murakami