Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn Poems & Pics from the Porch

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, 
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth 
seeking the successive autumns.
                                                                                                 ~ George Eliot  

"Listen!  the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves...
~  Humbert Wolfe 

October's the month
When the smallest breeze
Gives us a shower
Of autumn leaves.
Bonfires and pumpkins,
Leaves sailing down -
October is red
And golden and brown.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Whatcha Readin' Weds: The Mountains of Tibet

Is my local library glutted with books intent upon making me cry? Perhaps I gravitate toward those types. It's possible I've just become an easy crier. Well, count The Mountains of Tibet by Mordicai Gerstain among my ever lengthening list of children's books that have recently drawn a tear or two. Uli enjoyed looking at the pictures and hearing the story read to her (even when my throat got scratchy and my voice grew quiet).

Mordicai Gerstin's book is simple. And also: not. (It's hard to describe the not without giving everything away, so if you wish to be surprised, just stick to the next paragraph and then if you're interested in the read, add it to your library request list.)

A small boy lives in Tibet. He loves to fly kites. He dreams about other lands, about exploring the world, about meeting new people and visiting new places. Then he grows up. He stays in his home village and raises a family. He works hard. He grows old. He dies.

Simple enough, right? Lovely illustrations. Told in few sentences in a straightforward manner. Death is not portrayed as sad nor disturbing, just as part of the life cycle.

But that part I note above is just the beginning of the book. The rest of the story is about after death.

If you're reading on, consider this your spoiler alert.

While the beginning of the book shows the man's life, the remainder of the book is about what takes place after his death. From his point of view.

After his death he is provided a glimpse of the entire massive universe. He is invited (by an unidentified voice/being) to become part of the universe, to lose himself in the Everything that's out there. Or he can choose to rejoin a life cycle and start anew, in any galaxy, on any planet, as any creature, anywhere he wishes.

He chooses to live another life.

He doesn't exactly recall his life as a human in Tibet, but nonetheless he feels drawn to the Milky Way galaxy, and to the sun and to Earth.  And when presented with all the different creatures in the world he decides to become human once more. When offered the ability to be reborn as any human, he chooses to be Tibetan once again. And he chooses to be born into the very village in which he'd previously lived.

The cycle begins again.

The Mountains of Tibet's illustrations are gorgeous, and they alone make the trip to the library worth your while (those after he dies, when he's viewing the solar system and then all the different creatures of the world, are especially beautiful). As for the text, I like that the story is happy even though it includes death. The main story only happens because of death, in fact. Death is necessary and kept close, not shown as something to fear. I like that the man's draw to his former home in Tibet is portrayed not in a sad, you're-stuck-with-what-you-know sort of way but in a it's-a-wonderful-life and who-says-you-can't-go-home sort of way. While the man doesn't specifically remember his former life, he clearly sees value in the mountain lands and wants to experience life there [again]. And so he does.

Simple. But not.

Uli enjoyed having it read it to her ("Read Tibet" was one of her earliest sentences!). I hope to add it to our home library very soon. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Be Like Dwight

You probably aren't aware, but this past spring we decided to become beet farmers. (Also: chard gardeners, but I don't have pictures of the chard, so I'll just talk about beets here.)

Following in the footsteps of all our favorite Office character, we planted a million tiny beet seeds and then waited and waited and mulched and watered and waited for our lovely baby beets to grow up. And then they did! They grew! And we promptly plucked them and sliced them and roasted them and ate them.

Mmmm. Baby beets & greens.

And then the novelty wore off and The Office was on summer break and so we left the rest of the beets to the wild of the garden for months. However, this past weekend fast-approaching cold weather forced us to take action and harvest them.

We had vast variations in size at our harvest. That one on the left up there, maybe a golf ball size. The middle one is more of what you'd see in a supermarket. The one on the right? HUGE. Like, a small bunny rabbit size. Or maybe a loaf of bread size. I suspect a more uniform crop would be a sign we knew what we were doing, but oh well. It was kind of fun to first pull a monster-sized beet, then a few that were basically just leaves, then a few regular beets and then another large one. (Okay, fun might be pushing it, but at least it wasn't boring.)

Once the beets are unearthed the real fun begins. You get to cut the tops from the roots and rinse off the greens (unless you like grit and/or live earwigs and/or dead spiders in your food. And you might, that's your prerogative) and saute them with onions and garlic in olive oil for a fabulous and simple side dish. 

De-spidered and ready for cooking! 

You can also brush-up on your Russian (or Romanian or Polish or Prussian or Armenian or Chinese) food history while you stir a triple batch of Whole Beet Borscht.

Tastes way better than it looks here

Or you can talk about colors with your toddler while eating Russian Salad (which, I understand, isn't actually something you will necessarily find in Russia).

Carrots, potatoes, beets, peas...

Food gardening. I do enjoy it. Providing your family's meals from food gathered in your own backyard has its rewards. But perhaps next year we might grow something other than just chard and beets. (Sorry, Dwight.)

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