Sunday, June 30, 2013

Vacation Bible School - For Adults

So last week.

I got to go back to school.  Our church provided a week's opportunity for rigorous learning for people who were retired.  Anybody could come, about 150 did.   And boy howdy, what a week.  It was hosted and coordinated by Ed, a retired college professor, and his wife Susan.

There were about 30 classes you could pick and choose.  They were held in the morning so we could get our naps in.  There was real content.  Real learning.  Our pastor hosted classes so we could get acquainted with our neighbors:  A little bit about the Methodists.  The Episcopalians.  The Mormons.  The Muslims.  Turns out we have much more in common than we'd ever guess.  The same God, mainly.

That was sorta interrupted for my buddy, Tim, who spent one of the mornings talking to one of our homeless folks who was in deep distress.  Another required an ambulance, so it was a busy day.

My two classes were powerful learning experience.  Just because we were ripened learners didn't mean that we were coddled.  The first one was a photography class taught by Michael, who was a Hollywood Director of Photography for 40 years.  His work left us stunned in its beauty, profoundly moved by its depth. He showed us his most personal and beautiful movie:  Hidden in Silence.  And he got me my first focused photo, and I got the photo into the computer and printed.  Success.   Success for other folks were lessons in composition, lighting, movement, color, texture, context.  No dumbing down for the old folks.

The other class was in simple living, taught by Joe, who has been teaching, with his wife, those classes for years to help people live responsible, joyful, simplified lives.  It works.  Not so simple, it turns out.  But richer by far, and you get money left over at the end of the month.  It was so much more than developing a responsible budget; it was developing a responsible life.

So, thank you ever so much,  Susan and Ed.  It was a sweet week.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sue's Garden

Two fat quail grace the backyard, as they peck and push the dirt to reveal the little buggy critters that might be dinner.  They stroll from garden spot to garden spot, an already green and living space.  Their sweet gentleness allows the garden some breathing room and some space to spread out.

The clematis are big as dinner plates.  The rosemary is seeking citizenship in a neighboring state.  The roses are so exuberant that their limbs will not support such a plethora of pink.

Where do you go, when every sprout, every bud wants to go there too?  Do you give them a turn?  Or do you plan to make them bend towards your will.

Good luck with that.

Each living thing will be it's own self, in it's own way, in it's own time.

Best learn to live with it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Dad

I've been listening and reading people's accounts of their dads: how grand they were; how loving and understanding they were; how much fun.  I am sorta  jealous.  My own dad was big trouble.

He did not have trouble with cheating; he was absolutely faithful to my mom.  The most he had to drink was a beer once in a while with a guys in a lively, little polker game at the Odd Fellows hall on Tuesday night.  He could make good money.  In fact, money came to him, often by the bucket loads, a gift my brother  inherited and I did not.

But he was still trouble.  He had muscular dystrophy.  Problem enough.  My mom died way too early, problem enough.  But the clincher was this:  there's an opportunity for an Autism diagnosis here.  He could swear like a pirate, at awkward times, imperiously so.  He could do complex math and map out heavy duty construction projects with nothing more than a stubby pencil  and a 2x4.   He completely depended upon my mom for love and warmth.  Without her he was a cantankerous lost soul, and he didn't care whom he offended or whom he over-powered.  He was a tough one.  His autism looked like this:  he was a brilliant guy with glitches. In his 20s, he was as fine and beautiful a human being as there could be. He was obsessed by odd things at odd times.  He read life differently.

Here's what heaven might look like:  the people are whole and complete, utterly themselves and utterly normal, healthy, loving, funny.  At least when I picture heaven in my mind, this is what I see for my poor dad.  His kids have turned out all right.  His grandkids are glorious.  I have my own glitches, but they are tolerable.

So, here's to all the dads who are somewhat less than perfect.   Here's to all the dads who utterly love their kids, somewhat  imperfectly.  It's enough.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summers in Idaho.

 Bare feets.  Long, dusty walks to the ice cream store.  Swimming  in irrigation canals.  Bing cherries. Almost black, sweet bombs of summer pleasure.

We've hit 92 degrees.  The rivers have opened up for rafting and tubing. The first corn on the cob has been served. The daffies have faded, but the roses are so thick on the bushes, they define extravagance.  

Summer.  Now are the days you want to take long drive in the country.  Haggerman Valley in the south-central part of the state.  Endless water falls.  Fishing boats.  Irrigated crops.  Outcropping of granite and sagebrush.  A swimming pool with its neighboring alligators.  Wine that is hauntingly delicate.  Might be sweet.  Might be ethereal.  Might be earthy too.  Pelican nests on the Snake River.  You can find the best hamburgers in the world out there.

To the north, McCall.  One of the most traveled roads in the state.  Graceful arching bridges.  Long-slow flat rivers,  fed by the most riotous white water in the Western United States.  Basalt and granite canyons.  Banks, the river-stop restaurant, at least 5 decades in business.  Emerald hay fields, cattle ranches, small, white churches.  Cascade, where the rivers feed the village and you can fish downtown.  

Southwestern Idaho,  miles of cheat grass prairies,  volcanic boulders in the middle of grain fields, mysterious mountains that can totally disappear on cloudy days, purple mountains on clear days, the sweetness of wide-open spaces, communities that host dances as long as the hooch stays in the pickup, wild, tangled gardens  with radishes, baby lettuces, sweet corn and tomatoes the size of dinner plates, so densely sweet, they make an Italian mama cry in gratitude.  

I swam in irrigation canals when I was a child.  Probably should stick with pools now.  One a cow tried to jump the wide, shallow canal on my Uncle Happy's place.  Lit in the middle. There was something to see.  Our parents were careful with the polio vaccines.

Waste from the fields.  Rain water.  You know what kind of fertilizer was available in those days.   You wouldn't think that a proper place to allow children to paddle in.  Sure it was polluted.  But everything was a natural mess, even if it was a mess.  Here's the thing—we have the strongest immune systems imaginable.  Rarely have colds and flu.  We were exposed to a lot.  We survived even more.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What Didn't I Think of This Before?

Didn't get to the grocery store.  Tired.  Hungry.  You know the drill.

You do the best you can with what you have, when you have it.

Boil some spaghetti, add salt to the water.  When it's done, you drain it.

Saute half a small onion and one clove of garlic (mashed) in olive oil.

I had a smallish zucchini, so I grated it.  Fairly small pieces.  Squeezed the liquid out.

Add it to the frying pan with onion, garlic, and olive oil.  Let it sit for about
10 minutes.   Start checking at about 8 minutes.  You are looking to cook the veg and add a little char, which is why you don't mess with it too much.  Add a tiny sprinkle of white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Turn it over,  Let it cook another  5-8 minutes.  Again, you want a little bit of char.

Put the spaghetti on a plate.  Add the fully cooked veg.  It will have cooked down enough, it acts as a sauce for the spaghetti.  Add  a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.   Make a simple green salad: lettuce, any kind of crispy green veg (cucumber, celery, and green onions, maybe), a lot of fresh, chopped parsley,  and some olive oil, S & P, white wine vinegar.  Add bread, as you desire, and  berries, for dessert

You can use any kind of green veg for the sauce: brussel sprouts, spinach, green beans, other summer squash, broccoli.  I just used one kind of vegetable—it's what I had.  Mix to your heart's content. Just make sure the dice is small, so they cook evenly.

It's just the most elegant, flavor-full, beautiful, simpliest of dishes.

Just what you want for summer.