Sunday Morning ~ Food Glorious Food

Sunday Morning ~ Food Glorious Food

Uchembere ndi kudyerana. ~ To be a mature person is to help one another with food.

~ Chewa proverb

November 20, 2022

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday morning, I listened to a community radio show hosted by my friend, Ron. The topic was food. Authors and editors of the book Breaking Bread, Essays From New England On Food, Hunger, and Family spoke about their relationship with food and the role it has played in their lives. In the afternoon, I went to the high school production of Oliver! Both moved me deeply. 

Listening to reflections on family’s relationships with food and how it shapes our characters and bodies, I got weepy.The essays are beautifully written and spoke of love and connection through food. The cultural descriptions were evocative and I found myself missing my aunts and mother. It’s Thanksgiving week, so food is on everyone’s mind and comes up at least daily in conversation. The menu doesn’t vary here much, though food magazines are trying harder to be more diverse and inclusive. It’s also the anniversary of my mother’s passing and her birthday was during Thanksgiving week, so my emotional response didn’t surprise me. Feeding others was part of my mother’s fiber. It was how she cared for us. So much of my childhood was spent watching her in the kitchen. She started preparing supper as soon as lunch was over. The radio played the voices and I contemplated how food shaped my life while peeling apples and preparing for holiday guests.

I had a dinner invitation last evening and couldn’t attend the final performance of the high school musical, so though I don’t usually do matinees, I spent the afternoon at the theater. I knew several of the kids in the show, was present at some of their births, and heard it was exceptionally good. And I love musicals. Since I’d spent the morning thinking so much about food, about how our table was always filled with nourishing, varied foods, always fresh, always prepared with effort and care, that I nearly sobbed at the opening scene. While marveling at the tremendous job they’d done building the set, as the orphans sang about food, I found myself choking up. The costumes were fantastic, the voices sweet, and I thought about hungry kids dreaming of a decent meal. I thought about when the story was written and I realized I have not read the original book by Dickens. Highlighting social inequities in remarkable prose I wondered about his ability to capture the essence of injustice. His writing is complex but funny. I made a mental note to download it at my first opportunity. Hearing Dickens read to me is how I prefer to ingest him.  I imagined children sentenced to workhouses, hungry. In my pensive mood it all seemed contemporary.  Slight changes to the set and costumes and, I thought, this is now.  Kids go to school hungry. Hunger is the reason for many behavioral problems and poor academic performance. Families live where there are no grocery stores only convenience stores filled with substances barely edible that I don’t consider food.   

My kids were raised on show music. Not having a television in the house when they were growing up, we played cassette tapes of show music all the time. We sang together and we knew every word. When my oldest was only three, he listened to Oliver intently and ask nervously, “Why are they selling the boy? What will happen to him?” I thought at the time it was remarkable he could comprehend what they were even saying in the song, and I exploded with love for this child who was already so compassionate. I could see on his little worried face he related to the boy. Trying to understand the world we surrounded him with, I wondered how it would affect him. I was a young mother and was reminded daily of what an overwhelming responsibility it was to raise a child. I never wanted him to be hungry.

How could I have listened to that music thousands of times and not grasped the depth of the story? The music made it lighthearted somehow and the fun family time together listening and singing was what I associated it with. But yesterday, I saw it completely differently. The kids acted the roles so well that the depiction of desperation, spousal abuse, resignation of fate, and the sheer injustice of being born into difficult circumstances was highlighted in a way I hadn’t considered before. Again, it all seemed so current. 

Dickens gives us a bright ending for Oliver as he lives happily, and well-fed ever after. But Nancy, a character just as lovable as Oliver, gets beaten to death by her abusive boyfriend. I was horrified at this realization. It’s not such a fine life for her after all, is it? Was it the remarkable performances by these students or my mood that influenced me? Probably both. 

I’ve been contemplating where to focus my end of the year donations and both of yesterday’s experiences brought food pantries, hunger, and food justice to center stage. We have enough to go around. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving with hearts and bodies nourished and loved.

Love to all,


Sunday Morning ~ Grateful For Side Rivers

Sunday Morning ~ Grateful for Side Rivers

Madzi atupa ndi a m’njira. ~ The waters become plentiful because of all the side rivers.

~ Chewa proverb

November 13, 2022

Hi Everyone,

I woke to the news that we kept the senate and on this rainy, gray, glorious Sunday morning, I am grateful. The candidates I supported in Maine all won, though my ballot initiatives did not. I can live with this. I am happy this morning. 

I love this time change. I know not everyone feels this way, especially night owls, but for us larks, this is the way the clocks should be. As we turn inward and embrace the coming darkness, I try to make sense of why it should matter. It is the same day! The same twenty-four hours! Since I’ve been home so much with the pandemic it should not matter, I tell myself. But I can not deny the lightness I feel. I feel healthier, I sleep better. It just feels more right to me. I’ll enjoy it until the spring change when I’ll get cranky again. 

When I was a junior in high school there was an energy crisis in this country resulting from an oil embargo by OPEC as punishment for the U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Aside from knowing who the president was, I was not very politically aware at that time so had no understanding of the reason for the abrupt change in our lifestyle. The patriotic lowering of the thermostat didn’t affect me much as our house was always cold. I wasn’t paying bills, only listening to complaints about them. Gas prices tripled, up to something like 75 cents a gallon and everyone was outraged. And while I was not the political junkie I am now, I don’t recall a big blaming of Richard Nixon for the crisis, but maybe I missed that.

One of the emergency energy-saving measures was reverting back to daylight savings time during the winter months. I live way northeast now, but I lived in Massachusetts at that time, which is still north and still east. It did not get light until eight in the morning and was dusk by five. I do not recall anyone raving about that and hoping it stayed that way forever. I guess some energy was saved, but I think the saving was counterbalanced by dead children hit by cars on their way to school in the dark. No one drove us to school back then, we either walked to school or walked to the bus stop. And it was well before headlamps were used by anyone except coal miners. 

In addition to the gas prices being a problem, there was a gas shortage. There was a law (or was it a rule?) that those whose license plates ended with an even number got gas on even days, and those ending with odd numbers got gas on odd days. There was no civil war about this, only long lines and lots of bitching. I did not own a car then so I did not care, but I recall no threats of hanging the president up by his balls. But again, maybe I missed this. 

Gasoline was a serious discussion when planning our annual ski trip to Quebec. This trip involved multiple families and we had to do it with only one car.  How could we fit everyone in our station wagon? Could I bring a friend? It was decided that the group would be reduced to eight, and we would all fit into our station wagon, along with the ski gear. It was cramped, but we were jolly about it; skiing was a guaranteed good mood for my father and I’m sure this has something to do with my love for this sport. Thanks dad. 

We drove up in a snow storm on a day when our license plate allowed us to fill the tank.

On that trip, my youngest brother broke his leg. I was skiing with him at the time, heading down to meet the others for lunch. He complained I was taking too long and took off ahead of me. I came around a corner and saw him laying face down in the snow with his leg twisted at a very unnatural angle. I stayed with him while a stranger skied down to notify the ski patrol, and we waited for the toboggan. He was quiet. We knew his leg was broken. I put my hat under his face. The snow was heavy and wet and twelve people broke legs on the mountain that day. Ski bindings have improved since then. He was casted up at the hospital with little fanfare, delivered back to the motel, and propped on his bed. That was Wednesday of ski week. Did we go home? No! We had week long passes! An eleven year old’s injury wasn’t going to ruin our week! So he was left with an empty coffee can to pee in, a Time Magazine to read, and we went skiing. It’s painful to write this now, especially since it was one of our funny family stories for years, but ugh. That poor kid.  

So, guilt aside (not that I was the one making the decision, but I was happy to keep skiing), we skied our final two days and the next challenge was how to get home with someone in a full cast taking up an extra seat in an already crowded car. Our family friend George, “an old Fin” who skied into his eighties, was the only other driver among us so we could have rented a second car. Out of the question, we would make this fit. My brother with his freshly broken leg and in considerable pain, sat sideways in the back seat, his leg propped on a suitcase. Two others were crammed between the suitcase and the door. My friend Karyn and I sat facing each other in the “way back”, our legs intertwined with ski boots and poles. Three were in the front. No one wore seat belts. We drove into a blizzard and the trip took five extra hours, so a mere eleven hour ride crammed in this huge gas guzzling machine. I spent much of that ride patting my brother’s head, asking my father if we could give him an aspirin or something, but he was probably more worried about finding gas.

This little walk down memory lane was triggered by my thoughts on getting through difficult times when we all pull together. Which, is how I feel we came through the midterms. It’s possible! I’ll leave it there. Thank you everyone for all the hard effort! Democracy lives to see another day. 

Love to all,


Sunday Morning ~ Something To Chew On

Sunday Morning ~ Something to Chew On

M’kamwa mwa cabe satafunamo. ~ You cannot chew if you have nothing in the mouth.

~ Chewa proverb

November 6, 2022

Hi Everyone,

I’m in shorts on my porch swing on this November morning thinking about what to write about. I’m enjoying the warm air but feel conflicted. I watch the breeze take down the few remaining oak leaves. The light and scene do not suit the temperature. I have no idea which way the wind is blowing, a perfect metaphor for the times. We’ll soon find out. I’m feeling both homebody and antsy for a road trip.

I couldn’t wait to get my drivers license. I took driver’s ed as soon as possible, though it involved asking my father to pay for it, traveling to a different town, finding a ride there, and passing the class. Obtaining a learners permit wasn’t simple, but I was motivated. Though my father balked at the few things I asked for, he paid for drivers ed with little fuss. Relieved, I saw myself more independent, mobile, powerful, grown up. I was dying to drive. I couldn’t wait to get behind that wheel and take our monstrous family vehicle to far away places. The bench seats, both front and back were like living room sofas. We could easily fit four people in the front without seat belts, which weren’t even a thing until I was in high school. Maybe not even then. You opened the car door and everyone who needed a ride got in; number of persons mattered not. Most families had one car and negotiations were required for use. In my experience, the patriarch decided, but it was a good way to hone arbitration skills.

Busses existed, even in small towns, and I recall no shame in using them, but schedules varied depending on population. Within walking distance in my small suburban town, a train provided regular transport into the big city. I recently passed that train station and barely recognized it for the ocean of cars parked in the enormous parking lot. I struggled to remember if there were a parking lot back in the day? I remember my brother and I taking that train home from college, and when no one was there to collect us, we just walked home. It seemed a long way, since the train came into the neighboring town, not our own, but in reality, it’s probably little more than a mile. There may have been a pay phone at the station, but we likely had no dime to call my mother. It was quicker to walk home. 

I’ve been thinking about all this having spent a month in a rural state without a car. After my Montreal trip, the water I drove through on the off ramp fried my computer module, which mercifully waited to die until I got home. It was a month waiting for the part. Since we’ve been having a remarkably warm fall, I thought I’d get around just fine via bicycle while I waited, and waited, and waited for the call saying the car was repaired. And, although I live on a most gorgeous island with miles of carriage roads to explore the beauty by bike, the roads that actually take you where you need to go have no shoulder, 50 mile per hour speed limits, and large trucks. In my independent spirit I was determined to feel 20 years old again and use this mode of transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and church. Then reality set in and church was the first to go. Riding ten miles at seven in the morning and ten miles home should not have been a problem. What’s a twenty mile bike ride? Why could I not do that? It was the road. Feeling unsafe and vulnerable took some shine off the spiritual outing. In my college days, I rode a road bike all over Boston, day or night, and traffic was hardly a deterrent. Here, I ride a hybrid I bought twenty years ago when going off the road onto the gravel to avoid a barreling dump truck was the only means of survival. I’ve gone soft. It’s not worth it to me now.

Getting around here without a car is difficult if not impossible. Distances are considerable. It’s nine miles from my house to town. Neighbors were generous with their offers to borrow their cars and a friend took me grocery shopping. It was an inconvenience but I knew it was temporary. I did, however, think of those for whom this is a constant problem. Maternity care in rural areas is completely dependent on reliable transportation. It is impossible to get to health care facilities without a car. Those with few resources can’t even afford the gas to travel for care. I love public transportation and use it exclusively when I travel in Europe. But our car manufacturing industry destroyed our railway infrastructure and while I don’t imagine a high speed train transporting laboring women to the hospital in the middle of the night, I do imagine a facility close enough to get to with a gallon or two of gas. There is so much wrong with our systems. There is so much potential.

I am anxious about the election Tuesday. I’m fed up with the media. I’m fed up with hearing about polls. My writing is interrupted by a person going door to door getting out the vote, something I haven’t signed up for. I tell her I already voted so I could drive people to the polls on election day. We talk about our hopes and fears. I thank her for her efforts. I immediately go to Vote Save America and donate to Secretary of State elections. I need to do SOMETHING! I read this morning that Republicans are flooding the zone with their own poll numbers to make it look like they have the momentum. The media buys it and amplifies the message. Democrats panic. I want to believe we can live in a democratic society. It is possible. Let’s be like Brazil I plead to the air. I think of the tiny tick burrowing into my arm at 3 a.m., the one that sent me flying out of bed, turning on lights, flinging it off me as it it were a rattlesnake. We should be like tiny ticks, burrowing into this system, repeating over and over that banning abortion is exactly the same as forcing an abortion. The only way we’ll protect ourselves is to vote for Democrats who will honor our freedom to make our own health care choices. And some public transportation would be nice, too.

Let’s do this.

Love to all,