February Hearts and Lions

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“And February was so long that it lasted into March

And found us walking a path alone together,

You stopped and pointed and you said, ‘That’s a crocus,’

And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “It’s a flower,”

I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”

You said, “I still love you.”

–Dar Williams, “February”

 

“This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments?”

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

February grayness brightens with a flower

teasing us before the snow.

The snow moon haunts and taunts

the wind blows,

wild wolves howling in the night,

winter darkness,

and yet dawn comes,

and so will spring.

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First Crocus, National Park, NJ

 

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Watching the February snow. National Park, NJ

 

My daughters and I,

in separate locations,

celebrate our snow day

(though the inch or two in New Jersey

does not compare to Boston’s blizzard)

we share our thoughts,

in text messages

(technology that did not exist when I young)

throughout the day,

as if we were wondering in and out of rooms—

separated by space,

but instantly connected in time,

what we are cooking and baking–

meatballs, lentil soup, artisan bread, sweet potato nachos–

deciding banana bread with added chocolate chips

makes it both bread and cake,

suitable for breakfast or dessert,

one daughter says she just watched, Finding Dory,

and cried,

but then we cry over everything,

TV shows, books, commercials,

other daughter says, “I cried when I burnt toast the other day,

but the point is that you should watch the movie.”

My husband chimes in with a message that he is saving this conversation,

“It is SO my family.”

 

A few days later my husband and I see the movie, Lion,

and my tears flow,

I think it is good I’m not watching it with my daughters,

all three of us sobbing in the theater,

though I notice my husband discreetly wiping his eyes.

I think again about technology,

the nineteenth-century invention, the train,

that separates the five-year-old boy from his family,

that little boy with the heart and spirit of a lion,

a twentieth-century plane separates them ever father

across bodies of water to Tasmania

how a twenty-first-century invention, Google Earth,

brings them back together

It turns out that we see the movie in February,

and it was in February that Saroo Briefley reunited with his family.

 

On a February night I gave birth to one daughter,

and on a February night three years later, I gave birth to her sister,

and so, we celebrate birthdays

with wine and chocolate

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around the holiday of love

hearts and love

chocolate and wine

 

I think of the brilliant February moon,

its light shining through the kitchen window

making me stop and stare,

and gaze at the sky–

technology leads us out to the stars,

to our moon’s craters

and to Saturn’s rings,

Valentine’s love from Cassini

 

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“Splendid Saturn,”NASA Image, PIA06594/ NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

 

I wake during the night to hear

February’s winds,

wild horse gods,

stallions that gallop in

and seed the ground,

for spring

will come again–

until then, there is chocolate, wine,

and memories.

 

A number of New  Jersey wineries have special wine and chocolate events close the weekend before Valentine’s Day. This year we went to one at Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ.

Trailer for Lion.

Planning for Dragons

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 
My husband planned to mow the lawn today, but last night this happened.
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We were not home at the time, but apparently we missed quite a thunderstorm. Our two cats witnessed the event, but they’re not talking. As we drove home from a fun evening with friends at the Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery, we watched as lightening traveled from cloud to cloud and sometimes from cloud to the ground. We weren’t driving in the rain; it was all in the distance, and it was quite amazing to watch. We were fortunate that there was no damage to our house, cars, or neighbors’ property. As with dragons, when you live near trees, you must consider them in your calculations.

 

Of course, plans go awry all the time. We encounter traffic delays and arrive late somewhere; we have to move an outdoor event indoors because of rain. And we change what we are writing because of new evidence or a sudden, brilliant idea. OK. I suppose there are some writers who plan everything and never change a word, or bit of punctuation. I’m not one of them.

 

When I was writing my doctoral dissertation about marital problems in eighteenth and early nineteen-century Pennsylvania, which became Breaking the Bonds, I could not plan the chapters until I had done the research—and, of course, I kept finding new material. At the same time, I searched desperately to find particular court records and other documents that no longer existed. Or to discover more about the men and women I encountered in court dockets and almshouse records, people who were not well known or wealthy, and in fact, were often poor and desperate. I planned and wrote, and planned again, and wrote some more. I had a baby during this process—also planned—but I did not know then how having a baby would change how and when I worked. Writing a dissertation is one big life lesson on planning and re-doing plans.
This has proven true for most of my writing. What I plan to write about in my books and in my blog changes constantly.

 
As some of you know, I often change a cooking plan in mid-recipe (or more likely mid-non-recipe). A few weeks ago, I had some bananas I wanted to use up, and also a few strawberries. So I made strawberry banana walnut bread. This is my new super-easy and delicious banana bread recipe, adapted from Simply Recipes. My version is mainly banana bread with just a hint of strawberry. Because I think banana bread is kind of naked without walnuts, I also added some ground walnuts to the original recipe.

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So here’s the recipe. You might want to plan to make it some time, or not.
Super Easy Banana Strawberry Bread
3 ½ medium bananas
About 4 strawberries
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups flour
¼ cup (approximately) ground walnuts
Melt butter. (I use the microwave to melt the butter in the same mixing bowl I’m going to use for the recipe.) Mash bananas and strawberries into the butter with a potato masher or other tool of your choice. Or use your hands if you want to. I don’t care. Mix in the egg—you can use the same potato masher, spoon, hands. . .Stir in the sugar and vanilla with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the salt and baking soda on top, and stir. Add the flour and nuts. Bake in a greased loaf pan for about 1 hr at 350 degrees. Cool. Then remove the bread from the pan. Eat and do a little dance—because it will make you that happy. Plan on it.  Image