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All ready for Christmas, and in the eye of the storm….

What, my readers may ask, has possessed me to go two weeks without posting a single word on my WordPress.com blog?  Why do I think that people will just wait around and tolerate being neglected?  Have I been sitting around twiddling my thumbs, picking my nose, staring at nothing?  Well, no.  Truth to tell, I’ve been getting ready for Christmas.  And I’ve been getting ready for Christmas for several weeks now, and now have only two gifts left to buy, a huge bone (4 1/2 foot long) for my brother’s hound and something more potable for my brother (shhhh!  don’t anyone tell them–they don’t read my blog).  It has just seemed that every time I think I’m done, I get another great gift idea, and I persuade myself that I can spare the money, and so I do, and there we go.

My adventure started near the end of October, when the first catalogs advertising Christmas items came out.  Forewarned is forearmed, and I had been told that ordering either online or on the phone was going to be drastically slowed this year, and so I looked up interesting gifts in the catalogs in October.  But I didn’t actually buy many gifts in October, because the catalogs hadn’t got the lower or lowest prices yet.  I ordered a few things that might take till forever to come in, and then I waited for the next catalogs to come out, so that I could order from them in November.  Of course, I had some independent ideas which I researched on Amazon.com, and a very few items that I waited until this past week to pick up at the stores in person.  But the predominance of my gifts I was able to order online or on the phone, and I had that done well within the month of November.  Then all I had to do was wait for stuff to come in.

By the first of December, I was ready to wrap, and so I started wrapping.  We put up our tree, and now all of my gifts except the two I mentioned are under the tree, awaiting their inevitable unveiling on Christmas morning.  But there were still cards to do, and I always bake for some people here where I live, and that still needed to be done.  Of course, the cards went by in a flash in one blitz of an evening, and I started doing my bread baking yesterday and stayed up all night finishing it last night (when I get motivated, I get motivated!).  It was made easier (and cheaper) this year because so many people had told me they didn’t want cookies this year.  Usually, I make four kinds, about 24 dozen cookies in all, but this year I settled on loaves of sourdough bread.  This was convenient, as I was already planning to wake up my sourdough starter from its sleep in the fridge in order to take it up to my brother’s for Christmas so that we could make sourdough English muffins.

Since yesterday, I have finished the main part of my baking.  The only people I have still to bake for are the ladies at the local charity shop, for whom we usually do a cookie tray.  I think this year I will do a tray of sourdough bites with cheeses for them, by way of a change for the both of us.  So now, I’m sitting looking at dirty dishes, feeling like I need a good nap after my all-nighter up baking, but still too wired to sleep.  And of course starting last night late or early this morning really, we began to have a nor’easter (a storm off the ocean, full of rain and high winds, with some threats of flooding).  The storm is going to last probably until tomorrow noon, so I have to be ready with towels and things to dry out the windows and sop up water, which is a fortune most people who are anywhere near a coast are familiar with.  But I’m not really complaining; I’m done with so many things, and now I’m just very excited and can’t wait for Christmas to come.

That’s really the way of it, isn’t it?  When you’re young, you generally think of Christmas as a time when you get things from indulgent family members and friends, and it’s a rare child who appreciates the sheer fun of giving.  But once you get to be an adult, the fun is in surprising someone else with something bought or made that they will enjoy or profit from.  So, here I sit, two weeks and two days before Christmas, waiting and waiting and waiting for the big day to come, so that I can celebrate with people I care about.  And all this fooferall of my post is just to assure my readers that they are people I care about too, toward whom I feel I have a responsibility to post regularly and as interestingly as possible, even if I don’t know their names and they never comment.  I hope this posting finds you well and deep in your own plans for whatever winter or December holiday you observe, and waiting eagerly for the next real literary post to come along.  I promise to do one soon, as soon as I have recuperated from my own holiday efforts and have a chance to sit down and read again.  Until then, cheers!


Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days....

Just a quick word….

Hello, readers!  It’s not that I’m getting lazy, just that I have been busy with many other things, including reading things to post about.  I will be back when I have something else read, I hope another post for Halloween.  Until then, feel free to browse back posts if they interest or motivate you–I’ll be glad to hear from you.


Filed under Other than literary days....

The Tale of a Journey, and Its Ending (Back at Home)

Well, folks, I’ve recently returned from a trip with my immediate family to my and my brother’s undergraduate institution for fun, merriment, and one of those notable trips down Memory Lane, and though we had a great time going there, I have to report that Cornell University and the environs have changed considerably.  A lot of businesses which one thought would be there forever are no longer, and ones which remain have changed almost out of recognition, though sometimes for the better.  We eschewed the formal reunions and the organized trips and went where we remembered things being the best, the most interesting, or sometimes the most grueling (because of course since we had my young nephew with us, we had to impress him with tales of just how horrific things could be, as well as reassuring him that should he go there later, he would be able to surmount difficulties as well).  We started out the trip with breakfast near the beginning of our trip, and then met a good friend in another town later for lunch at a Belgian restaurant, which was a new cuisine for us.  Suffice it to say, it was excellent.  Then, we headed straight for Ithaca.  We got to our motel, and then went to an exceptional Thai restaurant down on The Commons (what the level ground is called downtown, which is not on one of the two mountainsides where Cornell University and Ithaca College are respectively located).  It was called Thai Basil, and was one of the best restaurants around of any kind.  Not only did they make special room for us on a very crowded night when we somewhat inconsiderately came by without a reservation, but the food and the ambience were outstanding.  The waitstaff was accomodating and very polite, coming by the table quite frequently to see what else we needed even though they were filled to capacity and clearly expecting many more.  It was a happy, happy time to end the first leg of our trip.

The next morning and day were the heart of our trip, as we toured around the campus and saw what had changed.  After taking the car around to show my nephew all the places my brother and I had lived (he came through 6 years after me), we parked it (though so booming and hearty, Ithaca is still a city where even up around the university it’s possible to find parking fairly quickly).  Then, I went (like a city dweller) to sit on the corner of College Ave. at Collegetown Bagels.  This is a place with a rich history, and one of the places that has changed much since our first exposure to it.  In the old days, there was no seating; you went into a large room and up to a counter where there were bins of numerous different kinds of bagels, and the man or woman behind the counter took your order and slathered whatever you’d chosen onto your bagel.  Someone rang you up at the register and you left.  Because I didn’t come from a bagel-conscious area, and I got to Ithaca back in the 1970’s, before bagels were popular all over the U.S., I’d never tasted one before; it was a real novelty, one which I hastened to introduce my family to when they came up to visit.  When my mother first tasted them years ago, she wasn’t impressed, being used to the softer bread products of our own hometown.  But in about six months or so, she was strangely longing to have one again.  And thus another cuisine touched our family.  Still, Collegetown Bagels has vastly expanded its operations in the time since even my brother was there after me.  The whole corner of College Ave. is now Collegetown Bagels, and they have tons of outdoor seating.  As well, the counter space is totally new (at least to me) with a complicated “filing-past” procedure of ordering, and beer choices, and a very innovative and ornate menu of items, as well as additional food and juice items of every sort that you could want.  So, I chose to sit and take in the pedestrian traffic and watch the crowds (and incidentally, save a table) for my mother, brother, and nephew, who were planning to hike down one of the several gorges–the motto?  “Ithaca is Gorges”–before having a late breakfast.  I had chosen a plain whole wheat bagel with butter, a bit of yoghurt, and a juice to wait for them with, and soon got into conversation with someone who’d been there when I was and had been in the town since.  He was able to tell me that sadly, some campus traditions no longer prevailed.  For example, dogs are no longer allowed to roam free on the Cornell campus (into the classrooms and etc., where before they were always good for a diversion from our studies); students no longer “borrow” lunch trays from the main dining halls to slide down the steep slope behind Uris Library in the snow anymore; and other such sad passings.  But when I queried as to why there were now such big nets underneath the bridges, he was able to reassure me that at least one unenviable tradition had changed for the better:  despairing students have been prevented from “gorging out” (jumping into the gorges in mostly successful and regrettable suicide attempts).  As well, when my family rejoined me for a late breakfast (and like a hobbit, I had a little something else to help fill up the spaces), they had to report that the gorge they had hiked up was perhaps a bit less scenic than before, because it had had to be paved along the side and reinforced due to a recent flood, which had washed some trees away.  We ate then moved on to tour the campus.

There were people waving to us from the bell tower of the library as the carillon concert began.  As if just to please my nephew (who had at his first sight of the campus up on the hill from a distance said that it reminded him of Harry Potter’s school Hogwarts), students were playing a non-levitational form of quidditch when we got to the Arts Quad.  We watched for a while, and then went round looking at the old buildings, noticing as well places where new constructions had been added (nothing’s ever totally the same way you left it, and I suppose that’s as it should be).  Nevertheless, I was dismayed to learn that the coffeehouse “The Temple of Zeus” in the English building of Goldwin Smith Hall is no longer there or perhaps not what it was, and I saw no happy outpouring of students from “The Green Dragon” in the Architecture and Fine Arts building of Sibley Hall, though that’s not to say they weren’t there at least lurking in spirit somewhere.  I was nostalgic for this area because it’s where I spent most of my time, as an English major in Goldwin Smith and as a dual Theatre major in Lincoln Hall.  But I have to be happy for the English majors that they are getting a new Humanities Building right next door, and the Theatre students now have a grand new performing arts center in Schwarz, which I saw when I was sitting having breakfast in the morning, as it was centrally located.

Next, we went to show my nephew where my brother and I had lived in our respective dorms on North Campus, and the North Campus Union, and other sights.  I, of course, was mournful to observe that the Pancake House–scene of many an early and riotous breakfast after a night of heavy carousing for me and my undergraduate friends–was no longer above the power house along another waterway, but we were rewarded with the sight of a baby blue egret perched on the dam fishing, so it wasn’t all bad.  Finally, we went back to the car and once again my nephew was rewarded in his hopes and ambitions:  earlier, when we had been driving past a sign on the road that said “Deer Crossing,” he had hoped to be able to see a deer.  Now, however, as we were parked just by someone’s backyard in hillside Ithaca, we saw a deer, an older female, standing quietly feeding on someone’s flower bed.  My brother pointed out the tumor which had unfortunately formed on her back knee joint.  She was not really afraid of us, but just kept a watchful eye out as we quietly started the car and pulled out.  We had our last group touring session of the day by going down to Lake Cayuga and sitting there in Stewart Park, under the willows.  It was very warm and yet breezy in a pleasant way; we in fact had good weather the entire weekend.  Next, my brother wanted to take my mother to see the falls at Taughhannock Park, so we went there.  I, however, had worn my weary legs out, so while the three of them hiked five miles in and five miles back out, I sat in the car park under a shade tree and watched all the young families and their kids and dogs coming to enjoy the lawns and water.  Finally, it was time to go out to dinner again, and man! were we ready for it this day!

My brother found us a wonderful Indian restaurant up on the hill on Eddy St., where though I was very sad to see that the magnificent Cabbagetown Café of vegetarian fame and excellence was no longer on a corner, I was amply requited with a fine Indian dinner.  I wish I could remember the exact name of the restaurant, but there were two Indian restaurants side by side, and my brother left us to choose one, and as they both looked very inviting and hospitable, I cannot recall which one we visited.  But both had a five-star rating, so if you happen to be visiting, we went to the one a little further down the hill of Eddy Street toward Martin Luther King St., and if you can’t find room there, maybe the one a little further just up the hill will have room for you.  Again, we were welcomed without a reservation, which was excellent, and the dinner moreover was absolutely first-rate.  We ended the evening by driving downtown to Purity Ice Cream, a favorite haunt of my brother’s in the old days, and my nephew was rendered replete with good fare and happy memories.

The next morning, we had to go, but we started out in a leisurely fashion and went to see some more falls at the bottom of another gorge (my brother is clearly training my nephew to be a vigorous fellow).  Then, we went to another fine restaurant (I know, it sounds like all we did was walk and eat!).  We had our breakfast at the Sunset Grill, which was up on one of the high hills of Ithaca, and from which we could see Cornell University sitting on another mountaintop at a distance.  It was several notches up from the average diner food, everything was pristine and clean and bright and cheery, they had an “endless cup of coffee,” and we got to eat out on their porch area, in the gorgeous morning air.  Now, it really was time to go.  We gassed up the car and headed back, stopping in the evening to have dinner at a restaurant just an hour from my brother’s house, where we were not let down either from all the fine fare we had already been served.  It was a “country style” restaurant, but though I’d had premonitions of everything being covered in cheap gravy and being served overboiled vegetables, that’s not what it was about at all.  It was instead just as fine a dining experience as all the rest, and concluded our trip in a perfect manner.

We drove to my brother’s house full of our experiences and adventures, and busy discussing the traditions which still seemed to be observed, and the things that had changed for the better or worse.  One thing is certain:  as one might expect (though older people like us never quite seem to get the gist of this the first time they encounter it, and need repeated exposures to this awareness to “get the picture”), the torch has been passed to a new generation, and they are happy with what they have in the main, just as we were happy with what we had, mostly.  And that’s all as it should be!  Heaven only knows what my nephew will see if and when he goes to Ithaca.  Or maybe he will break tradition and go somewhere else, where he will likely discover his own favorite things to expose his family to.  Only time will tell!  In the meantime, we had a great family outing, and yet another good experience of family bonding.  And after all, that’s what it was all about!

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Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days...., What is literature for?

Halloween, wolves, lights out!–and whimsy

Today, I am going to tell you the very brief, horrific (and admittedly whimsical) tale of a naughty little girl of my acquaintance and how she (for some time at least) lost the friendship of a near relative through a lie about wolves, radiators, and lights out! time.  If you suspect that I know that little girl a bit better than I am letting on, so be it (heaven forbid you should think it is actually myself I am talking about, though they do say that confession is good for the soul).

Cast your mind back to the early 1960’s, when little girls still wore puffy petticoats with short skirts over them, and either had to have pigtails and ponytails or Shirley Temple curls (made arduously, if not “natural,” by painstaking mothers using bobby pins, at least on school nights, when everyone the next day had to believe the curls were genuine).  Picture to yourself a weedy young imp who preferred to lie curled up with a good book all day, and hated being told to go outside and play (hey! that rhymes!).  This young person of the female persuasion only liked going out to play or even playing inside with dolls, for that matter, when one or the other of her female cousins were around to make the game interesting.

Of course, Halloween comes in the fall of the year, and at that time, vampires, spooks, and werewolves are in the juvenile mind in abundance, not only for trick-or-treat, but even after, to spice up daily conversation and slumber parties.  And, of course, to supply material for ghastly nightmares, which, once they’re over continue to supply a pleasurable frisson of fright, a harking back to horror.

Well, it so happened that this little girl had never acquired a fear of the dark.  She was afraid of many things, but unlike her female cousins, had never become afraid of the dark, or required a night-light to sleep.  But she was afraid of wolves.  Not just werewolves, but the real animal, which she’d never seen except in books, nor was likely to.  But her cousins slept with a night-light, because it was decreed that parents had different verdicts about what was the best way to deal with nightmares, and theirs had been known to give way more easily to the specific of waking only to find the light shining, and nothing wrong.

Now, our little girl, we’ll call her Beth (for nothing would induce me to reveal her true identity), abhorred a night-light.  She was proud of not needing one, and when she had an occasional fright in the night, she simply stumbled out of bed and went to her parents’ room for comfort and reassurance, or better yet, and more often, called out for the long-suffering (and perhaps overindulgent) parent(s) to come to her.  But one other thing that she was perhaps less rational about than even wolves was floor registers to radiator systems, the kind that have a few little slots in the floor that can be made to shut firmly by pushing the knob.  Doing so of course shut off the warm air flow to the room, but it at least produced a firm surface which didn’t show a long, mysterious floor passageway below it, leading off into who knew where.  Nevertheless, Beth had been warned to leave the floor vents open, and by and large she was a good child and not too terribly mischievous.  She did tell the occasional untruth when it was advisable in her view, but as she usually got found out and punished, it didn’t often strike her as a viable option.

There was one notable occasion, however, when Beth found it to be the sine qua non, the absolutely necessary element, to add comfort to her existence.  And this was when her cousin Bella came to stay the night.  Now Bella was about a year or two younger, and wasn’t used to being lied to by Beth, so she was unprepared for what happened when the two girls were left alone for the night.  Just as Bella had requested, there was a night-light burning to one side of the bedroom, and while Bella found this a fine method of reassurance in a strange place, Beth found it irksome and just knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink with it on.  She had been warned by her mother to leave the light burning if Bella wanted it on, as a mark of courtesy to her guest, yet since it was her bedroom they were sleeping in, in her nice warm bed, and everything was beckoning for an evening of confidences and strange stories in the dark, she just knew there must be some other way to arrange things to her satisfaction.

Suddenly, it came to her in a flash of inspiration!  She’d share with Bella one of her own nightmares that had happened once or twice to trouble her own sleep; only, she’d pretend that it had really happened, and surely Bella couldn’t refuse to allow her to turn off the light then!  So, slowly and carefully, trying to suit her story to what Bella was likely to believe, Beth explained, with many a gesture and fearsome expression:

“Well, see, Bella, it’s not that I don’t want the light on; but at night, there’s a big, fat, mean ol’ wolf that comes up in the floor register, and if he can see us, he might eat us.  Or tear us up to pieces, and then eat us.  But if we have the lights all out, then he can’t even see where we are, and all we have to do is go to sleep, and he’ll leave us alone and go away.”

Bella’s eyes grew large.  “But won’t he hear us talking?” she asked, her voice shaking with the faithful tremors of the new convert, gullible but still with questions.  “Naw,” said Beth airily, “He never hears me when I sing to myself in the dark.”  “Well, then, won’t he smell us?” Bella persisted, not liking this strange mutated creature of frightful fairy tales at all.  “NO!  He doesn’t smell; something is wrong with his nose.”  “Well, can’t we just close the register and keep him out?”  This example of independent thinking, which moreover had all the marks of her own previous thoughts on the subject, riled Beth.  “NO!  Not unless you want to be a baby and freeze all night, without any heat.  I’m telling you, the only thing to do is to turn out the light.  And we’d better hurry, because I think I hear him coming now!”

Had Beth had time to think the matter through at leisure, before her parents had sprung the surprise on her that she was expected to endure a night-light all night, she might probably have thought of a better solution.  Because this one clearly had serious drawbacks, one of which was that Bella now wailed in a loud voice, “I want my mama!  I want my mama, and I want to go home!”  Why this lie?  Especially since no wolf or even any self-respecting werewolf was likely to come up through a floor register in a modern house at night?  Suffice it to say that this took place back in the 1960’s, when naughty children were still likely to be punished with at least a mild spanking, as well as having privileges taken away, and such methods were enough to reassure the erring Beth that whatever wolves lurked below the floorboards were best left unmentioned when company came.  Bella went home still frightened, though in a huff as well for a few weeks when she was assured that Beth had only been “telling a story,” as such matters were euphemistically called by the children’s doting grandmother.

And there ends this whimsical (and true) tale of the fall season, my second early contribution to the Halloween holiday which will come next month.  But you should know that if it’s ever a choice between being in the dark all night and managing to sleep, or sleeping with a light on in a room with a floor register, old memories have convinced me that the dark room is the best (and for good measure, I might even pile up extra blankets on the bed and shut the floor register as Bella suggested–after all, even a cousin who’s a ‘fraidy-cat can’t be all wrong!).


Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days....

Where have I been? Here. What have I been doing? Creating!

Well, the time has come around (actually, come and gone) when a new post is due, and I have been busy doing other things and not getting anything much read to post on.  Oh, I read three tankas (an Eastern poetic form), but I don’t think it’s a case of “there’s glory for you,” as another character said to Alice about the matter of interpretation, and so I desisted from interpreting a foreign poetical form due to my lack of experience with it.  That needs some explaining, I see.  In Through the Looking Glass, Alice is conversing with Humpty Dumpty, and in re of their discussion, he says, “There’s glory for you.”  “‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knockdown argument,”‘ Alice objected.  ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.’  ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’  ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master–that’s all.'”  Now, since it would be quite immodest of me to pretend to be master of a very ancient poetical form and sets of symbols in a tradition quite different from my own (not that I won’t ever take a stab at things that way, but the tanka form is not like the haiku, which I might be able to be a pretender about), I decided this week to use my time doing some other kind of creating than the critical.  Since I’m on a new diet which is quite successful because it is not a diet but a lifestyle change, a permanent thing, very delicious and fulfilling, I’ve been cooking and storing food and cooking again, and sharing my treats with my family members.  But I’ve also lost 9 pounds in 2 weeks’ time, and though most diet plans suggest that slow and steady wins the race, this diet plan is known to be safe for faster weight loss because it’s just plain good sense and safe all around.

I don’t know if those of you who watch PBS have ever caught Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s programs on the tube, but that is where I first encountered this diet, during one of their periodic and typical fundraisers, where special programs are aired that break occasionally for a fundraiser message.  This is the very type of program which generally speaking most annoys me, and I hate self-improvement speakers and diet plan managers.  But there was something compelling about this guy.  He seems like just an ordinary guy, whom I was ready to dismiss as a bit of a health-food nut until I just somehow got hooked, I can’t explain how.  Of course, I like veggies and most of the foods he was pushing, beans, whole grains, but I like a lot of stuff that’s not that good for me too, so I was at first inclined to be skeptical when he said I wouldn’t miss those foods after a week or so.  For me, it was even faster than that, despite the fact that I’d had potato chips in my mouth the night before:  I had no detox period from “toxic” foods, and took to the diet right away.  And the rest is history.

Of course, everybody has something that’s particularly hard for them to give up, and following a largely vegan diet with occasional “meat as a condiment only” supplements and my daily yoghurt-and-fruit smoothie (and he recommends giving up as much dairy as possible too) sounds grim.  But I actually enjoy it.  And there’s no denying that it works.  I decided at the beginning rather than buying the very expensive fundraiser kit of several CD’s or DVD’s and a couple of cooking guides and books to just pick the two books I wanted most from the admittedly copious list of his publications, and order them cheaper from Amazon.com.  So, after some studying, I chose “The End of Dieting,” his basic guide to the plan complete with a daily schedule and some recipes, and “The Eat to Live Cookbook,” and had them in the mail the next week.

I know this all sounds crazy, but it’s been a real pleasure to eat food again, because not only is it a general health plan for life (i.e., there are many menus not just for people dieting), but I can eat it without feeling guilty, as much as I want until I’m full.  I’ve cooked this two weeks from it and put some food in the freezer, such as a veggie-bean-and-mushroom stew, a baba ghanouj-cum-hummus (eggplant hummus, basically), a mushroom-walnut-Swiss-chard-onion-etc. burger, a bean-turkey-spinach burger, a creamy almond vinaigrette dressing; I’ve also indulged almost every evening in one of two fairly lo-penalty desserts, a fudgy black-bean-and-date brownie (the icing is made partially with avocado–I know, sounds gross, but tastes delicious) or a banana walnut soft ice cream dessert you can make in the blender.

Of course, I’m getting 80 minutes a day of exercise most days too, but I haven’t started strength training yet, and that 80 minutes consists mainly of stretching and walking at a moderate pace inside a carpeted hallway (many people in our condo walk inside to avoid the weather and bad sidewalk conditions outside, or for other reasons of their own).  Life is good.  I’ve even been able to supplement my food plan (it’s hardly fair to call it “diet plan”) with recipes from some of my older vegetarian cookbooks, making sensible substitutions where necessary.  So far, I’ve got a recipe for a chunky dill borscht (we had it last night and it was quite delicious), an eggplant-and-onion-and-red pepper-and tomato sauce dish with whole wheat pasta or brown rice, a whole wheat pita bread, and a braised celery with walnut dish (this last is actually from FreeAmericanRecipes.com).  [The borscht and the pita recipes come from Julie Jordan’s “Wings of Life,” a cookbook from Cabbagetown Café in Ithaca, NY].

One thing that of course has to be considered is the cost of eating this way, but it’s not as bad as you might think, though things may get a little tighter as the cold weather sets in.  We haven’t regularly bought processed foods much for quite some time already, and were already eating mostly poultry and fish and eschewing much red meats or salted ones.  The grocery costs have skyrocketed almost everywhere in the U. S. and probably elsewhere too in the last year, with several rises having happened almost in a row, but many grocery chains are now trying to follow Market Basket’s exemplary lead and pay more attention to the customer’s needs and costs, so we’ll see what happens.  It’s always possible, once you get the hang of things, to figure out which ingredients you can’t do without and which recipes you need to substitute on because of cost of ingredients; this allows you to take advantage of store sales that you may not know about when you leave home.  You can be inventive, and make up your own recipes, too, once you know the very-easy-to-follow rules.

Dr. Fuhrman and his colleagues of course discourage cheating, but they allow a lot of leeway for experimentation, and allow for occasional backsliding, simply warning that you can’t let it become a habit once it has happened, but need instead to start back in your fairly easily acquired good habits.  I’m so happy on this plan, and it’s quite true as far as the claims that are made for it (clearer thinking, better sleeping, lighter feeling, better body, etc.).  At other times, even on a Weight Watcher’s diet for a while, I had convinced myself–even though I’ve always liked vegetables–that people who claimed they could entirely or mostly go without meat had probably starved themselves so silly that they were digesting their brain tissue in desperation.  But now I find that an ice cream scoop size serving of salmon salad (made with only 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise for the whole batch, technically a “cheat,” since regular vegetable and olive oils are supposed to be used only rarely) is enough to keep me happy, and I’ve not eaten chicken for quite some time.  I usually have the salmon on my daily vegetable salad at lunch, and whatever fresh vegetables and even some fruits (like apples) I have which can be eaten raw go in this as well, along with some cooked beans.

So, when I say that I’ve been creating this week since I last posted, I have:  it’s just been creating in the kitchen instead of on the page.  And now that I’ve thoroughly bored and exasperated you with my fervor and enthusiasm for something you yourself might not especially like (though in my zealot’s glee I can’t imagine that possibility particularly well), I’ve told all.  For now, anyway–see you in a few days, I hope with another literary post.


Filed under Other than literary days....

The Lagginess of the Long-Disdained Blogger–Or, where is everyone?

For a little more than a week now, I have been paying careful attention to my blogging, mainly in terms of getting posts done, and out to what I’ve always fondly imagined is my public.  I consider that to consist of not only my faithful friends who comment regularly on what I’ve come up with, each in his or her own personal way, but also those many shy or non-commenting bloggers and readers and web-surfers who presumably find something useful or entertaining on my site, since they do keep coming back from many countries across the globe.  I have been paying careful attention especially because since the beginning of the summer, I’ve lost a number of readers, or at least my stats (and I do try not to be obsessed with them, but….) have dropped from what they usually are.

I have imagined that perhaps this was initially because I had stopped blogging as frequently as I used to, my time being taken up with some other responsibilities and duties and a few fun activities that I couldn’t drag myself away from.  So, starting about a week or two ago, I stopped lagging and started publishing again at my former rate, which is to say around two posts a week, on the average.  I guess it’s like weight gain, though:  you can put it on in a few days, but can’t take it off for weeks.  So I guess once you lose readers, you take a far longer time to regain them or to find others than you did to lose them.  My only hope is that maybe people read me more during the school year because they are researching their favorite authors, and find something of use in my posts (though of course I have also to hope they are using my material if at all in a responsible manner).  And then, of course, it’s not all about me, as a friend recently pointed out:  people tend not to blog or read blogs as much during the summer as they do during the year, because there are so many active outside pursuits to take part in.

Be all this speculation as it may, if you have favorite authors or topics that you’d like to see written upon, and you have any reason to suppose from what you’ve read of my posts before that I might be inclined and capable of commenting on these authors or topics, please drop me a comment and let me know, and I’ll try to do so.  (Trying, of course, not to lag again!).  Shadowoperator


Filed under Full of literary ambitions!

Taking a brief sabbatical from posting, back soon!

Hi, there readers!  I realize that I’m overdue for a post now, but I’ve been having problems with my WordPress.com site, and in the process of trying to deal with them, problems with my browsers and operating system and security company cropped up as I did what I think of as my valiant best to cope.  Yesterday, I was on the computer all day trying to get things straightened out, and have more than accepted that I will never be a computer expert but (like Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire”) will always have to rely on the “kindness of strangers” at the chat rooms who helped me out.  As of today, the WordPress.com problem is still unsolved, and I’m “all in” (tired) of being on the computer, so though I will continue to respond to your posts and comments, I won’t be posting again myself for at least a day or two, maybe more.  But then, I’m sure you have plenty of other excellent things to read on WordPress.com, so ta! for now.  See you again soon!


Filed under Other than literary days....

A topic ramble, a meditation, or a whatchamacallit, and a thank-you

Well, here it is, another day after days of not doing a post, and I know I’m long ovedue for one, but to confess up front, I’m reading about seven books all at once, and have nothing to show for it yet.  When you once convince yourself that the best way to read a book is to read a plethora of them at a time, your soul (or at least your time before the online library sites recall the books) is not your own!  Added to that is the fact that I’m not only reading books I want to read, but also some books I “should” read, and you may understand my dragging feet attitude and my slow and sorrowful apologia.  So here it is, a topic ramble, or a meditation, or a whatchamacallit, and a sincere and earnest “thank-you” to all my readers for sticking with me and checking in when it seems I might be getting ready to croak something else out.

When I first signed onto the library sites (two of them), I was like a kid in a candy store, to make the much overworked simile do service here too; I kept clicking on books I had no hope of reading in two weeks’ time with all the others I had selected, and at first, I was totally enchanted with the little descriptor at the bottom of the page which told me just how much (percentage-wise) I’d read of the book, and how many pages there were in the chapter.  But now, I’m just longing for a traditional page-count to tell me how many more pages I have to suffer through in order to finish (yes! for a confirmed reader to say that of numerous books is shocking, I know).  But it’s spring-time, finally, and I want to go outside and wander and go out for coffee with people and enjoy the sun and the air.  Even more than that, I want to work on my stubborn novel which is refusing to be written.  I’ve got around 100 pages done, but for some reason, it simply will not be written the way the others were:  it balks regularly, only lets me write about a sentence a day sometimes or do a bit of timid revising, and in general will not show me the next turn around the bend.

Now, I know that I promised a sort of meditation, and so far this has sounded like a whinging complaint of the kind I occasionally write, so perhaps I should tell you that I have developed the complaint into an art form (in case you didn’t think so at first sight), and can (even if not achieving the greatest quality in my complaints) go on for quite some time lengthwise with my kvetching and yammering.  Surely someone somewhere gives out an award for how long a person can complain, even if it’s assessed as a sort of performance art in a gallery, where people gather to listen to the neverending (or so it seems) spiel and spate of words.  Only, of course, writing a post has the advantage that I don’t have to bestir myself from my easy chair or stand or sit in an uncomfortable gallery position so that people can stare at me properly without impeding each other’s sight lines.  And here I can refuel with coffee and food, and really derive the additional advantage that I don’t have to see the possibly disgusted faces staring back at me or hear (audibly at least; imagination is another thing) “Oh, c’mon!  Get off your duff and do something already!  At least try to write or think productively about something you’ve read.  Go for that much-vaunted walk and clear your head and then come back and be an extrovert compositionally instead of a bitching introvert who mumbles constantly under her breath about all the ills of life!”  So far, however, none of my sermons to myself have worked, so I have to offer my readers a heartfelt apology (and after all, the word “apologia” is related to the word “apology”) and try to go on from here.

As to the “thank-you,” I have had much better fortune than I deserve in my followers, who have been generous in their comments and in continuing to read.  And now, on the issue of having trouble communicating, I can do no better than to quote the famous musical funnyman and satirist Tom Lehrer (in paraphrase at least):  “We hear lots these days about people who can’t communicate.  Husbands and wives who can’t communicate, children who can’t communicate with their parents.  I feel that if a person can’t communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up!”  Couldn’t have said it better myself!


Filed under Other than literary days....

“The willing suspension of disbelief,” mimesis, and “Eat, Pray, Love”

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1817 text of the Biographia Literaria, he records that he and William Wordsworth, while neighbors, discussed often the “two cardinal points of poetry,” with Wordsworth more invested in the “faithful adherence to the truth of nature” and Coleridge more involved in the “interest of novelty…[introduced] by the modifying colours of imagination” in their mutual work, the Lyrical Ballads.  Whereas Wordsworth composed the poems of which the “subjects….[were] drawn from ordinary life,” Coleridge says “my endeavours…[were] directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief [italics mine] for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”  These words are among the most famous words in the English literary critical canon now, and yet so often it is easy to forget that this is that which we must practice when we meet up with something literary, whether in poetry, fiction, non-fiction even, a “willing suspension of disbelief.”  It is this which encourages us to keep reading at some of those inevitable points where our own feelings, thoughts, and personalities fail to click with that of our erstwhile authors.  Now, bookmark that series of thoughts while I pull up my second series, on mimesis, or to put it simply and complexly at once, “imitation,” as the mimicry of thoughts, feelings, actions, and characters is called in literary theory.

In Mimetic Reflections:  A Study in Hermeneutics, Theology, and Ethics, William Schweiker quotes Paul Ricoeur (from “Metaphorical Process as Cognition, Imagination, and Feeling”) thus:  “‘To feel, in the emotional sense of the word, is to make ours what has been put at a distance by thought in its objectifying phase.  Feelings, therefore, have a very complex kind of intentionality.  [T]hey accompany and complete the work of the imagination as a schematizing, a synthetic operation:  they make the schematized thoughts our own'” (p. 107).  Though I may be interpreting this too facilely, at least one thing that this passage means to me is that it is the reader as well as the writer who “mimics” the emotions, “thinks” the ideas, and even “performs” the actions which the writer is putting in the text, because the reader, according to Schweiker and Ricoeur, is part creator of the text, in following it.

Now as to the particular text I have it in mind to consider in the light of these two rather heavyweight bits of literary theory–they are heavyweight, that is, by contrast with the rather more currently topical and popular (as of 2009) Eat, Pray, Love, which I am apparently one of the least topical in reading, as I have only just finished it yesterday, and I don’t plan to see the movie.  It’s necessary to say up front that I didn’t expect to find anything much in it for me, expected to be bored or annoyed or both by the topic as well as by the execution and writing style.  I had been warned that the writer herself said something about having gone off her medication, and having had visions of sorts, and of having bizarre religious (or pseudo-religious, so the story went) experiences, as well as being well-off by average standards and therefore more privileged than the rest of us to slide by with these sorts of shenanigans.  We all know that the wealthy do as they please.  But when I actually got into the book, I found it likeable rather than not, certainly not sensible in strict terms, perhaps, but touching, exploratory, sincere, and in short, I kept reading.  I read and read, and though I have to confess that the happily-ever-after ending gave me pause (as why wouldn’t it in this skeptical age), all in all I was glad, very glad, that I had read the book.  It opened up a window and gave me fresh air to breathe, which is where the whole involved tangle of “willing suspension of disbelief,” “poetic faith,” and “mimesis” comes in.  Because I was able to suspend judgement once I got even a little way into the book, I felt at least poetic faith in Elizabeth Gilbert’s claims and assertions about her experiences in Italy, India, and Bali, and it seemed to me afterwards that I had in a more intimate sense than usual taken the trip with her, “mimicked,” in fact, her escape from unhappiness.

Who can say what exactly brought this about?  Was the freedom to read something not strictly logical or praised for its literary quality granted by the warm weather that has come and gone and teased and gone again for the last week?  Did I just fall victim to all the early spring sunlight and fresh air, and therefore reach for a book that I wouldn’t normally have read without scoffing, and therefore gained a different kind, an internal kind, of “fresh air”?  Was I responding to some other hidden more mysterious personal impetus that drove me to keep reading?  All I can say is, though I will probably never again visit Italy even briefly (I was in Northern Italy for a day or so when I was seventeen), will never join an ashram in India (or practice serious yoga again), and will certainly never find myself in Bali teaching and learning from a Balinese medicine man and woman, the book brought me, by my “imitation” of its currents and prevailing winds as I read, permission to let myself out of some dark dungeon of the mind–though I haven’t truly been depressed or anxious in any specific sense.

It is for this reason that I recommend it to my readers, because if you can find sufficient “poetic faith” (that “willing suspension of disbelief”) to allow yourself to encounter some new thing, some fresh thing, something pleasantly unexpected (even if it’s another book entirely which you have been blocking yourself off from reading), and then “imitate” its patterns of feeling and thought as you read, there’s a good chance that eventually you may land upon some more hospitable shore than that of mere humdrum habit and routine.  True, Eat, Pray, Love is not what I would call a great work of art, or a monument to the ages–but everything worthwhile doesn’t have to be:  sometimes, a book can be simply a helping hand held out by an explorer of the fraught “human highway” (as Neil Young referred to it), and sometimes that is enough.


Filed under Articles/reviews, What is literature for?

“Why can’t I do anything right today?”–The curse of spring fever

This morning at 7 I thought I would have an early breakfast and then do something smart, beautiful, or fun.  At first, I had the idea to work on my newest novel, which until about the end of January had been stalled for almost a year.  I suddenly started working on it again then, and have worked on it every day or so ever since.  So, what’s wrong with today?  How is today different?  Dunno.  But I didn’t work on the novel.

Then, I thought that I would watch an opera on Met Opera on Demand on my computer.  But I left it too long to start, and when I calculated how long I had to listen and watch before an important call comes in early tonight, I knew I would get interrupted if I started it, and so bailed on that opportunity as well.

Oh, well, there’s always that computer game I like to play, I thought.  Maybe I should go through the dungeon and defeat a few more monsters and villains.  But frankly, enthusiasm was lacking.  I was bored with the easy battles and didn’t have the interest or energy for the hard ones.  Besides, my characters needed to buy more equipment and change some things, and I was bored with them too.

That eliminated smart, beautiful, and fun.  What was left?  By the time I’d finished lunch, that left doing something by rote just to pass the time.  So, I went for a walk.  And suddenly, I knew what was wrong.  It’s 56 F today, gorgeous sunny weather, and yet another big storm is expected to hit tomorrow (one hopes the last of the season, but then who can tell?).  I had spring fever, as plain as the nose on anybody’s face.  And I still have it.

So, I thought, what can I do until dinner time?  Write a post.  But I just started another book and haven’t had a chance to prepare anything literary yet, so what am I supposed to post about?  What are other people doing?  Are they enjoying the same break from the winter blahs while realizing that it’s short-lived and that snow or at least rain in buckets is back with us tomorrow and Thursday?  And then, I just decided to write about that.  Nothing, really.  Just a post to say “hello readers, I hope you’re reading my site, and won’t mind too much if I cause you to waste a little time today on ‘nothing, really.'”

Or, you can talk to me.  If you’re in a different part of the world, your weather may be different, and instead of trying to last out the tail-end of a miserable winter, you may be whinging and complaining about the last of a hot, arid summer.  Or maybe you’ve already had the rain and snow that was predicted, and are just stepping back in from shovelling out or are wringing out your clothes and taking off soaked galoshes.  Whatever your situation, feel free to drop a line if you want, just to communicate with the great outside world.  That’s all I’m doing today, after all.  And now it’s time for iced coffee, one of the first of the season (we live in hope); ta for now!


Filed under A prose flourish, Other than literary days....