Friday, December 19, 2014

Feminist toast

I make feminist toast nearly every morning. Well, technically, it's feminist English muffin.

Let me explain.

Years ago, when I was a young feminist, I saw an episode of a 1950s sitcom--something like Father Knows Best or Leave It to Beaver. You know, those idealized versions of life in the 1950s that were on endless syndicated repeat in the 1970s.

There's a lot in those shows that would feed my young feminist ire back in the day, sure, but this one time I witnessed something I've never forgotten. The husband/dad is fixing the toaster (apparently, men in the 1950s knew how to do such a thing). He's noting that the wire is broken because the wife/mom has been pulling the cord rather than the plug. She should not do this, however, because it's dangerous and, as evidenced by the state of the toaster, can break the thing.

It wasn't so much the message as the way he talked to her. The tone in his voice was scolding, annoyed, and imperious. He spoke to her as if she had no brains in her head, as if she were stupid.

I realized, even then, that this sitcom moment revealed a lot about the times--about the absolute assumption that men were smarter, more able, more adult, and that women were some kind of secondary human. It was a throwaway moment in the show, something meant to communicate how normal the couple's relationship was, and yet I knew there was something wrong even if I didn't yet know the word "dysfunctional." I vowed to myself: I will never be with a man who would speak to me like that.

Some mornings, when I'm making my breakfast (which includes a whole-grain English muffin), I remember that scene. And I grasp the toaster wire instead of the plug and pull the damn thing out of the outlet.

Take that, patriarchy.

I hope you enjoy a moment of rebellion today.

Friday, October 10, 2014

We do this for the water

Inspired by Sharon Day* and the women who walk to the rivers and sing and pray blessings to them every week,** I've been walking to the Olentangy River the past couple of Sundays. It's been a great opportunity to get outside and walk, to see a beautiful spot right in my little town, and to remember the ways in which I'm connected with all around me.

Looking downstream, Olentangy River
As my friend Pomegranate says: all water touches all water.

Clouds on the river
When I stand by the river and make my offerings, I imagine sending blessings to all my loved ones who live so far away--that despite the miles between us, we are connected through the water, and I can touch them and be touched by them as I pray and sing.

Looking upstream, Olentangy River
The river is beautiful. So beautiful that recently our city put up a swing on its banks for people to stop and sit and enjoy watching the water go by.

Looking across the Olentangy
I've really enjoyed noticing the changes that come with the change in seasons, looking around at the trees and grass, smelling the change in the air, listening to the birds and bugs and wondering about their winter preparations.

This woolly bear caterpillar was so fuzzy
I couldn't get a sharp picture of him (ha!)

Delicate and hearty diasies
Water is life.

On campus--a reminder of the gift
I'm glad to see that there are people in my community who are looking after the river and helping it be healthy: the Olentangy Watershed Alliance. I hope to be able to join in on their activities soon!

At first I thought it was a plastic bag... It's a SNAKESKIN!
Time to shed our skins and grow into something new...
Water, we thank you. Water, we respect you. Water, we love you.


*Back in 2013, Sharon Day and others walked the length of the Mississippi River to raise awareness and speak out on behalf of the health of the longest, most storied river in the United States. THEY WALKED THE LENGTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Y'ALL. And that's not the only river Sharon has walked. Back in the spring of this year, I met my friend Martha in Cincinnati and we joined Sharon and a few others to walk along the Ohio River for a day. It was an amazing experience.

We walked in relay style, each person taking a turn of .6 or .8 of a mile, walking FAST--about 3 or 4 miles per hour, about the same as the speed of the river. And we were to move like the river--never stopping, never turning back, always moving forward (even when we handed off to the next walker). And as we walked, we prayed for the river, or just thought about it real hard, or sang to it. We carried an eagle feather and a copper bucket of water gathered from the beginning point of the river, the bucket covered with a beautiful cloth (and a GPS tracker attached to its handle). We made about 30 miles that day, passing more coal-fired power plants than I ever would have imagined along the waterway that supplies so many people with drinking water.

Liquid is heavy; a gallon of milk from the grocery store sometimes seems tricky to lift and maneuver. But on that day, the water bucket was light. On one of my turns, I noticed that it felt like carrying a baby--a burden, yes, but a sweet one. Sometimes I would hear a little slosh in the bucket. It felt like the water was talking to me, encouraging me.

I'm so grateful for the women I walked with that day: Sharon Day, Martha Viehmann, Barb Baker-LaRush, Lee Taylor, Tracey Gokey Jones, Laura Gokey Koehler, and Judith (whose last name I did not get). Laura brought her son Trevor, who carried the eagle staff, and Laura & Tracey discovered that their parents are from the same reservation as Barb's parents and they have ancestors in common. "All my relations," yes.

** If you'd like to keep up with Sharon's river adventures and see photos of the different places where people all over North America are praying for the water each Sunday, log in to Facebook and go to the "Mississippi River Water Walk 2013" page. It's got information on Sharon's current project, which is walking the St. Louis River. If you'd like to support Sharon's projects, go to Nibi Walk's donation page. Sharon does all of this on a shoestring budget, making do and being careful with resources. (She is also the director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, a group in Minneapolis doing amazing work.)

It's inspiring and strengthening, in the face of a serious lack of attention to water issues by people in power (or, worse, a tendency to enact policies that favor corporations over water health and human health and earth health), to see that there are some people who are remembering the water and trying to do things to help.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Silent poetry reading: Natasha Trethewey

Today, February 2nd, is the feast of St. Brigid. To mark the day, I'm joining others in the "Silent Poetry Reading" that takes place in the blogosphere this time each year. I've decided to include a poem by Natasha Trethewey, our Poet Laureate, whom I met last year at my school (and briefly 10+ years ago--as I left the Emory campus to move to Ohio for my job, she had just arrived as a new professor). I love her work.

I chose this poem because the topic of "home"--our theme in my freshman writing class as well as the women's literature class I'm teaching this semester--has been on my mind lately. Home and memory, and figuring out what those things are, keeps coming back in my own writing.

Enjoy. I hope you have occasion to read poetry. Every day, if possible.


"Theories of Time and Space," by Natasha Trethewey

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on the mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory,
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return.

Friday, January 31, 2014

A reprieve

Last night, as I walked the few blocks to happy hour, I felt it: a change, a reprieve, a release from the grip of ice. And I felt so happy, and grateful.

(This was the temperature--without wind chill--
when I was getting ready for work on Tuesday...)

 (... and here's the bank sign as I drove past, a little after 9 a.m.
Classes were not cancelled.)

(The temperature this morning. Such a relief.)

I noticed, walking past an apartment building, that I could hear dripping in the gutters. Water was running outside; ice was melting. I hadn't heard that sound in at least a week.

And the wind was different--the way it felt on my skin. It seemed to have a different personality. It felt rounder, softer. Rather than feeling like I was being cut with an edge, when the wind hit my face I felt like it was a cheek, or the underneath part of a forearm. Rounder, softer.

And then something inside me relaxed. The animal part of me felt so relieved--we can survive this. We'll be okay. It was palpable. My awareness calmed down; it felt like I'd been on alert this past week, and I finally relaxed.

This morning, the heavy equipment down at the end of the block is going again, workers digging a deep hole in the road. The air is soft. There's still snow everywhere. But somehow everything's different.

I'll be thinking about our ancestors and how they survived winter, and how they knew its shapes and watched for changes as the earth moved towards spring.

I hope you are warm and well.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Report from Chicago (day one)

This post is especially for my friend Marjorie Boyer, who was hoping I'd keep the status updates coming on FB... I wanted to say more than would fit there, so here we go!

The sun came up (another everyday miracle) and I was able to see the lake. It's frozen!

(morning at Lake Michigan, as seen between the buildings...)

I accidentally got up earlier than I meant to, but that gave me plenty of time to get ready to go have brunch with one of my favorite OWU alums. We had a giant meal and talked and talked over multiple cups of coffee.

See that little bit of light in the picture above? That's about as much sun as we saw all day. It was pretty grey, and there's been light snow. There's slush all over everything, and salt. I keep having to clean my shoes and watch out for slush-puddles. (Alas, I did not see any slush funds.)

There are lots of smart and interesting and personable people here at the conference. And, judging by the people I saw out and about, Chicagoans seem pretty unflappable. They will not be flapped!

I crossed the river a couple times--also frozen!

(Ice floes on the Chicago River)

I got a little turned around on my way "home" to the hotel where I'm staying--after successfully finding the hotel where we're doing the interviews (different), the hotel where I went to hear a panel (another different), and the Bombay Grill, where I had some delicious curry.

As I kept trying to orient myself, I had lines of a new poem running through my head--about getting lost, feeling awry--and so I'm going to go write those down.

But first, and also: alas, signs of the colonizer. (They are everywhere, as those colonizers are the heroes of our national mythology.)

("The Explorers," at the Michigan Avenue bridge)

(The site for the fort was ceded through a treaty made in Ohio, 
after the Battle of Fallen Timbers... Here's a link with more info.)

And, to end on a lighter note: I thought this sign--in the back of the room where I heard a panel of papers on Emily Dickinson's poetry--was somewhat entertaining.

In addition to being stuck in the back of the room, apparently the bloggers and tweeters are also never fed, and so they had to nibble on that piece of paper.

I hope you're having a lovely day, wherever you find yourself.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy 2014 good luck food

We were traveling home from Detroit on January 1st, so I didn't have a chance to cook any good-luck foods. It was already a spot of good luck that we made it through a snowstorm--er, correction, Winter Storm Hercules!--with no problems. From Detroit to Toledo, the snow was really steady and the roads were slushy and bumpy. It was slow going, but everyone was driving safely and carefully, and the whole way we only saw one car in the ditch. That felt darn lucky.

There was no snow at home. And when we got there, everyone who was making their black-eyed peas and cornbread and kale and pork and sauerkraut and  posting photos on FB made me a little envious. So I thought: we can do that on January 2nd, right? We can do that and still have good luck for 2014, don't you think? There must be a special dispensation for travelers and those others who can't cook on the 1st. Hmmm...

Well, I hope so. In fact, yes. I'm declaring that the good-luck foods I made today are just fine and right on time and they were delicious, too. Even the teenager ate some black-eyed pea soup, and he does not like beans nor soup. That in itself is kind of magic, yes?

I made the Chipotle and Black-Eyed Pea Soup I saw on BlogHer; here's the link.

My variations: well, our grocery store did not have chipotle chili powder, so it turned out to be non-chipotle. (I'd like to make it with chipotle chili powder sometime, as I adore anything chipotle-flavored--maybe the Mexican grocery store on the other side of the railroad tracks will have some...)

And I forgot to buy an immersion blender today. I got kind of caught up in work stuff--I had a long meeting, then I was making a syllabus for a course I'm revising a whole bunch. And making a new-ish syllabus is always like trying to put together a puzzle when you can't see the picture you're aiming for, and sometimes there are pieces missing, or--more often--too many pieces to fit in the puzzle. After today's work, it's time for me to cut some pieces from the picture, even though they might be awesome and beautiful.

And when I walked outside to my car, I forgot all about the idea of shopping at all--it was so very cold outside. The snow was beautiful, but the wind was so strong it was almost scary. There were actual snow drifts, with those cuts in them that look like desert hills, just like I've seen on the prairie. (I've never seen that in Ohio before!) Some kind of instinct kicked in and I just wanted to get home where I'd be warm and safe.

So I still don't have an immersion blender, and the two neighbors I thought most likely to have one didn't either, so I used a potato masher. Not the same result, but it was darn close! Side dishes were: mac and cheese (thereby making the teenager very happy), cornbread muffins, and a green salad.

We said our gratefuls at the beginning of the meal, the hubby & child declared the food good, and we all had seconds of something, and it was a good dinner after a full day. May we have good luck in 2014, and may you have good luck, too.

Happy new year!