The Power of 100 Days

The Big Splash (2003, copyright Randy Allen)

Yesterday I wrote about ‘the cracked vase lasts.’ I was still thinking about what that meant, and why I had not finished the post back in fall of 2018 when I went to sleep last night. It was the same reason I did not post more than twice in the fall of 2018: the vase had begun to crack in fall of 2017. January 1, 2020, I made a new post, about writing the stories, the relationships, the music of the new year, and never gave the cracked vase another thought until yesterday.

A cracked vase can symbolize many things (if you do not think so, look up the early poets and painters–those guys (and they were guys) had some vivid imaginations. The thing about a cracked vase is depending on how one intends to use it, it can actually survive a very long time with a useful purpose. My cracked vase–the real one holding the metal flowers made from scrap metal in South Africa–has lasted since 1970, albeit, the crack is only about 17 years old. I keep it because it is a memory connected with my grandmother.

Gates asserted that “injuries are part of the interconnected web of our mind, body, spirit, and relationships (2002, p. 61) and a necessary reminder about “not paying attention to the movement required to bring [our] body forward and up with grace.” He added that we do not deserve the injuries, but they give us an opportunity to pay attention (p. 62).

Water Moves (2002, Susan Allen)

I began to read the meditation where I had stopped October 26, 2018–about the time the vase (my vessel, not my real vase) began to crack. I scribbled notes in the margin about acting as if I trusted the divine in the universe, and then realized I had not gotten even 100 days into the meditations from when I began January 20, 2018. I wrote, “What shall I do with the next 100?”

This morning, I read Day 100. Gates was describing his first experience in a hot springs, and how if you sit still, you can withstand the heat, but begin moving and it was uncomfortable. He likened it to our lives when we begin to move: something happens.

Breakthrough (2002, Susan Allen)

I committed to do the meditations for the next 100 days and see where I was at the end of then. Rather like a benchmark for the first 100 days of a new administration: ascertaining the energy, the organizing, and the direction: To what do we “regularly and consistently bring our attention?”

Light out of darkness (2002, Susan Allen)

Will the light break through from the darkness? It always has before.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Country Philosophy, Mississippi, South Africa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The cracked vase lasts

Intriguing thought, isn’t it? What is a cracked vase, and its symbolism? How does it last? And why? In January of 2018, I found a book quite by accident just after I returned home from spending 3 weeks with Mother. Dad died near the end of November 2017, and it was a time of considerable difficulty as we determined what would be best. The book was Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. I do not practice yoga but the meditations engaged me. The book recommended to read just one meditation a day. I was so entranced with the perfection of how this book was speaking to me that I wanted to disregard that recommendation and keep reading, but I held back and decided to try it. I recorded the date alongside the title of each meditation of Day 1, Day 2, etc. I would make notes about how I understood it and could apply it. At first, I read daily. Then the semester wore on, the work got doubled and tripled as I was teaching, serving as interim department chair, doing my regular program director job, and trying to manage the rest of my life and caregiving in Texas while living in Mississippi.

First, I would lapse for a day or two…then it became three or four…and then two weeks…and another two weeks. Then one night, I picked up the book and read “the cracked vase lasts.”

That was the last sentence I wrote in the post I had intended for fall of 2018. I found it yesterday while doing some clean up work. I originally read that meditation on day 46 when I was faithfully following the process, April 22, 2018. I had written in the margin:

Thank you…no, I do not deserve the injuries, but I do deserve the opportunity to pay attention and to heal, if I do the work.

It seems as if I had just randomly opened the book to that page. Each meditation began with a short quote–always a unique source. This one was Anonymous. I cannot recall now why “the cracked vase lasts” would have meant something at the time in what was undeniably the most difficult and stressful semester of my life of teaching–only to be uncompleted. That may be my answer.

Posted in Mississippi, Texas, Young County | Tagged , | 7 Comments

The lady of the harbor

I lift my lamp beside the golden door…

…and lift my hands to do the work that sets me free.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, New York City, Social and Economic Justice | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Inauguration Day: President Joseph R. Biden

Social Bridges sent best wishes to the US this morning as the inauguration of the new President–Joseph R. Biden–commences today. Jean, like many around the world, takes a keen interest in global affairs. The affairs of others and their nations exert an impact on all of us, even when we do not see it directly, and certainly when the impact is direct and obvious.

Her comment caused me think of the presidential inaugurations in my lifetime. While I was alive at Eisenhower’s first inauguration, at 3 years of age it was not on my radar. I have no recollection at his second, in 1957. I was aware there was a President Eisenhower and in fact, in only a few years, I would ask my mother in 1960:

What’s wrong with the president we have now? Why can’t he just stay president?

The election year of 1960 had a profound impact on many people, as evidenced by all the stories that school children repeated from their parents. The two I most recall were:

If Kennedy is elected, he will make us all be Catholics.

If Kennedy is elected, he will take orders from the Pope and the Pope will be running America.

Neither of those things came to pass, of course. As I watched the Inauguration ceremony of President Biden, I was moved, at times to tears, but also with optimism and hope and joy at the opportunity witnessed. Amanda Gorman filled me with awe.

At President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, it was written:

The inauguration of John F. Kennedy as president will be a matter of special pride to millions of Irish-American citizens in the United States.

Kennedy is unmistakably the most “Irish” of any chief executive ever to occupy the White House.

At least half a dozen earlier presidents of this country have had varying degrees of Irish ancestry, but Kennedy is unique in that both his paternal and maternal ancestral lines lead to Ireland.

Kennedy’s paternal great-grandfather, Patrick J. Kennedy, came from County Wexford late in the 1840s as an aftermath of the “potato famine.” His maternal great-grandfather, Thomas Fitzgerald was born in County Kerry, and migrated to Boston in the fourth decade of the Nineteenth century.

Kennedy “Most Irish” President. Palladium-Item, Jan 21, 1961, p. 9.

Thank you to all those across the world who send good wishes to the United States, and who join with those of us who choose to create a just world, better than how we found it. Whether or not we are related by ancestry or bonds of choice, let us join together on this important day to remember and honor our common humanity, and to acknowledge that our lives are inextricably bound together.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, DC, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Ecosystem, Social and Economic Justice | Tagged | 4 Comments

One good tern deserves another, or take your tern

Posted in Ecosystem, South Africa, Victorian | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Family Heirlooms: The jewelry of the women

Today’s post is for Katie over at A Virginia Writer’s Diary. Even though there are many years that separate us, I find I often sense a commonality in things we like: writing, wine, Martin guitars, and now, our family costume jewelry.

When Mother moved into assisted living and Sis and I started the overwhelming task of clearing out the lifetime accumulation of 71 years of marriage, we sorted through jewelry. I brought these pins home to check and see if any of them might have value as vintage jewelry. I hung them on the doll coat hanger–mother made porcelain dolls and their clothes and of course, they had to have someplace to hang their wardrobe.

Several of them were actually worth more than I would have thought (around $70 based on selling prices on various vintage sites) and I let Mother know. She said, “I don’t want to sell them, I want you to have them.” On the hanger they stayed and have been ever since. While I was still working, I wore a couple of them, clipped onto a silver choker I wore with different pendants–also from mother.

Once again, I find myself in the process of inventorying the things I brought home to check about. Mostly, I have enjoyed learning the history of the items. Now I have to set to the task of our dispersing items that my nieces, cousins, and great-niece might want. It is rather like a last walk through the memories of the life I recall with my parents, and it brings pleasure this time around.

Posted in Texas, Young County | Tagged | 9 Comments

The 37th Day…1,095 days later

It has been a bit over 3 years since Dad crossed over to the ancestors, and almost 2 years since Mother joined. I was looking back at previous January posts, seeing what was going on then, and the 37th Day was my last post at the original Suzassippi’s Lottabusha County Chronicles.

January 14, 2018

I am propped up in Dad’s bed, eyes scanning the gravel drive for Dad’s doves.

He always watched them pick at the bits of rock for their craw,
flying up to rest on a limb before alighting for another round.

The tree branches are bare, grasses brown and covered with the last of the fall leaves.
Sun is shining today, scattering faux diamonds amidst the icy blades of little prisms
reflecting hope back to the window.

This view was Dad’s world for the last 5 years.  A Mirror of his changing mind,
dually kind and cruel.
A hunter by necessity as well as sport in his younger years, his thinking evolved as his disease progressed.
One day I remarked,

Look at all those dove–

 I should get one and cook it for dinner.

No!  I like to watch them, we can’t eat them!

I guess we’ll have chicken then.

I have slept in here for 8 nights now, my gaze settling on every angle from one position moving only my head or eyes.
While I cannot comprehend his perception, I experience every thing–the sounds, the cold or warmth, the leaves blowing across the yard.
Trucks one after the other whizzing east to Jacksboro and beyond
heading west into Graham from nearby farms and ranches.

I will take Mother to the doctor this afternoon and listen as she tries to explain she ‘is not any better’ and she ‘cannot stand this much longer.’
It is easy to feel her hopelessness and helplessness in the face of change–to her.

I wonder what causes some people
to seek the magic bullet for every life challenge
While others just shift into low or high gear and start the climb up or the descent down.
Dad was always the stoic one–just doing what had to be done because it had to be done.
No point in whining or complaining–neither got the job finished.
In the end, he sought the simple pleasures of watching the dove strut and feed,
commenting on how pretty the flowers or Mother looked.

Until the last few weeks, he laughed more, regaled us with his stories of growing up,
his years in India and China during World War II–something he had never talked about,
of being a young father, struggling to make ends meet, wanting a better and kinder life for his children.
It was as if all the joy and fun he never permitted himself came bubbling up when the time came he could no longer work.
Sis and I reveled in it, understanding how it mattered to him and to us, folding and tucking those moments into our heart pockets.

Once again we face uncharted territory as we (and Mother) enter this new stage of the unknown.

I have spent a lot of time of late pondering how we have disenfranchised our brain from reality until it is like an engine backfire.
Wires crossed, frayed, shorting out from overload
No longer able to repair and reconnect overnight because there’s no dark anymore to permit regrouping and healing.
No reset button due to chemicals and drugs to regulate everything.
A gentle loss of coping capacity or willfulness that eased into our lives and now entrenched,
controls us to the point that half of us cannot think how to solve a problem
and would rather blurt out an accusation of blame or mindless ‘explanation’ for all that’s gone wrong than spend time in Mindfulness, seeking understanding of how to become a more effective human being.

Uncharted territory.  We each have to map it as we walk it.

© scwallen01/03/2018
Graham, TX

Posted in Country Philosophy, Texas, Young County | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Weather Prediction: Lots of snow pictures today

Yes, it is time for the first snow of the winter, and the resulting flurries of snow pictures. This is what amounts to a big snow day here on Taylor Hill. Hopefully, the rest of us do not have to work this hard for breakfast today.

Posted in Ecosystem, Mississippi | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Off to Larson’s for the makings for Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Larson’s

Three generations of the Larson family have been in the grocery business since 1948 when James Larson opened his first store in Water Valley, 18 miles south of Oxford. The Oxford store was opened under the regional Big Star franchise, but became a Cashsaver a few years ago, as did the store in Water Valley. The concept is the customer pays the same cost as retail, plus a 10% markup at checkout. The store has been pretty much “no frills” until recently, when they installed new vegetable and refrigerator bins, upgraded the entire store’s refrigerated storage, and re-organized the location of some items.

The meat counter is the most impressive part of the store to me–best prices in Oxford by a long shot, but the meat is truly the best as well. I have never ever gotten a steak or chicken that was tough–and that is saying a lot these days. The pork is outstanding. They stock Mississippi catfish and fresh salmon. They also have a deli that is said to serve the best food in town (and I can attest their pies are yummy), plus they have a huge selection of craft beer and ale in addition to the Coors, Miller, and Budweiser for the ‘regular palate.’

Like any self-respecting grocery in Mississippi, they will have an ample supply of collard, mustard, and turnip greens, but they also carry kale, organic lettuces, and spinach. They sell local produce when available, and stock the local Brown’s Dairy products. They make a biscuit and a yeast roll ready to pop into the oven that is perfection without having to get flour on my hands or roll dough.

Pictured above is a spaghetti squash, stuffed with a mixture of kale, Great Northern white beans, fresh garlic, and smoked sausage. The dinner was inspired by a recipe I ran across in the Washington Post a few days ago by cookbook author and nutritionist Ellie Krieger. I omitted the onion, and substituted smoked sausage for the Italian-style sweet chicken sausage, reduced the amount of fresh garlic to only 1 clove, substituted kale for escarole, and the Great Northern beans for the cannellini called for in the recipe. These changes were necessary to accommodate the food peccadilloes in my family who do not eat onion, and do not like chicken sausage or cannellini beans, and not overly fond of garlic. The result was delicious, creamy, and filling.

Brush a tablespoon of olive oil on the cut sides of a seeded spaghetti squash and roast at 400 degrees F. While the squash roasts, saute the garlic, chopped sausage (I used 1/2 link of a two link package) and kale (I used 3 large leaves, chopped) in one tablespoon of olive oil, and then add:

1 cup chicken broth

1 14 oz. can Great Northern white beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp dried sage

Simmer on medium/low heat until the squash is done (about 40 minutes for the squash)

The simmering will result in a smooth and creamy sauce of melded flavors. Spoon over the squash and top with grated Parmesan cheese. I enjoyed primarily plant-based eating during the months of March-May while we were on stay home status. Now seemed like a good time to return to that strategy and I have found some new recipes that use the InstantPot, rice cooker, or at least take very little time on conventional cooktop or oven. This item will remain in the repertoire!

Posted in Food and Wine, Mississippi, Oxford | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Welcome to the Hardin-Simmons 1946 Junior Banquet

The scrap book was a window into my mother before she became a wife and mother. I wonder who was her date? Where was the banquet?

Posted in Texas | Tagged , | 19 Comments