Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Amish Do

Something came in the mail wrapped in a thick Amish newspaper. I ignored the thing inside and sat down with a cup of coffee and read the paper from front to back. I didn't want it to end. Their lives seem so common. Simple. Clean. Unhurried. Uncluttered. Slow. Hard in a good way. Hard in the way that at the end of the day you've done something worthwhile with what you have in your hand. Creating instead of consuming.

It was full of vignettes of the lives of the Amish all over the map. It brought some entertainment right away. Then this odd sense of longing. Afterward, I sat and puzzled over the riddle of what I was yearning for. It isn't being Amish.

Loverby and I grew up almost that set apart from the world, but not quite. We women didn't have to wear the same pattern of dress or head coverings. Men didn't have to wear the beard and hat. Our world wasn't quite so strict or removed from real life. It was close, but not the same.

Still, we had a tribe, a close knit community. We were each other's entire world. Our circle made for a vibrant social life. Of course there were many negatives to this kind of life. There is hiding, lying, and you get so tired of trying to measure up. But, there are also parts I miss.

 Maybe it was just the time we lived in. Perhaps I'm getting old and long for the good old days that actually weren't all that good - only in hind sight.

I don't want that again, but I do yearn for some aspects of a rural farm life with a village full of people who have known you from birth. Families that grow old together. A Wendell Berry sense of place - the lifestyle, not the religion itself. A bit of earth. Some animals. Neighbors who help each other. Watch out for each other. Eat often with each other. Make a life together. Celebrate and mourn together.

A life where the most important thing to write in about is how the neighbor boy broke his arm. He fell when the branch he was on, 15 feet in the air - broke off. He's at home, getting well.

A place where boys still climb trees? For fun. What a thing that would be to see again.

Here, let me give you a tiny taste of how the newspaper read:

The comings and goings of wagonloads of kin.
The names of dinner guests and overnight guests.
The Abner's are getting lots of mail. They need it. Keep it up, folks.
Making and putting by raspberry mush.
Helping the neighbors pot mums, and pull ragweed in a cornfield
Horse sales
Cooking snitz for pies
Cool spells
Hot spells
A headache from being kicked by a horse
Getting the hay in
Grain fields being bindered and shocked
Buggying over to another family's for dinner
Circle letter gatherings
Someone got pinched between the wagon tailgate and a water tank
A work bee announced to help a son put up a metal shop
The corn has tasseled
Crops are suffering from drought
Cracks in the earth. Her little boy's wagon wheel got caught. 

Strawberries are almost past and many people didn't get enough to satisfy their taste buds. And the way it sounds, other fruit will be rare and expensive, so we might have to eat different in the next years. Gardens are looking good, so if nothing happens, we should get plenty of vegetables. Peas are just starting. Haying is almost past and oats is heading out. 

Levi Elmina's boy's had a runaway with the horses, doing damage to the hay mower and manure spreader. The plow was also involved by don't know if it had any damage. 

Jerry and Joyce, long time neighbors and friends, both passed away about 10 months apart, so now their 170 ares will be coming up for sale here after a while. I'm guessing it could fetch a decent price for as there are a number of people around here that are smacking their lips for it, including but not limited to a few Amish neighbors. 
A sister's brother lost his whole sawmill operation in a fire
Runaway horses
Butchering chickens
Cultivating corn 

I'm going to work on my quilt. The coffee's on.

And so must I decide
and choose again today
to create and make a life
that's worth writing about.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Lefse Makes a Marriage

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. It was going to be a pajama day. My only plan was to wake up as late as I wanted. Have a leisurely morning. A putts, pitter, pattering, relaxing sort of day.

I got up early yesterday morning.

Made two pumpkin pies. Gave one to the neighbor.

Started the roll dough's first rising.

Sauced the cranberries.

Peeled potatoes.

Prepared grandma's stuffing. I now add dried cranberries and pine nuts to her sacred cow recipe. Hope she doesn't see everything from heaven.

Whipped the cream stiff and chilled it for later.

Prepped that ugly onion topped green bean casserole. Loverby doesn't think it's Thanksgiving without it.

Drank lots of coffee. Some with Baily's Irish Cream. No, you don't need to know.

Set the table with a tablecloth and candles.

In between one daughter coming home from work and another heading off to a required all night shift for Black Friday - we had our meal. We were glad to be together under the candles' glow. We had some time to lean back in our chairs and catch up with each other before the tired one and the leaving one did the next right thing. Go to sleep and go to work, respectively.

Loverby helped me clean up. It was easy. He had been cleaning up after me all day. Keeping the sink empty of dirty dishes, the dishwasher running, and putting pots and pans away to be used again. I thanked him over and over again.

Now comes the making of a marriage part. The part outside the lens of the lovely day I've panned especially for you, maybe causing a bit of envy. Just another one of our smooth, seamless, successful holidays. Right? Happens all the time. Wrong. Making a marriage is messy. Like lefse. 

We have a small, inefficient kitchen. Two people in it makes a crowd. Loverby got a wild hair to make his traditional Norske lefse, while I was making Thanksgiving. I wasn't thankful about that. There is a day ahead prep to this lefse undertaking. He had to peel a bag of potatoes and store the huge pan holding them covered with water somewhere. The mess and the crowding made me a little cranky. I tried not to show it. I wasn't thankful he wanted to make lefse this day.

As we sat at dinner with just the four of us, I wanted to cry. The sadness of it being just us felt so lonely. I love to cook. It isn't hard at all. But, when we were all finished after only 20 minutes - when it took all day to make the meal - I had a let down. I hated it that the girls had to sleep and work. I wanted 30 members of our extended family to sit around and make music and play games till the wee hours of the morning. Like the old days. My heart ached, heartburn happened.....and it wasn't the food.

Before Loverby and I went to bed we had a small goblet of eggnog with a splash of Irish Cream. Mine was salt rimmed with tears. It was just the two of us. Tasted like a bitter margarita going down.

This morning, the morning I was supposed to sleep in, Loverby woke me with a fresh mug of coffee and a request for his rolling pen sock. He knows I'm not a morning person even after my first cup. What on earth was he thinking. Graciously, he said, "Drink your coffee, love. We'll find it later." I wanted to pull the covers over my head and have a do over. Or scream.

I looked and looked for that missing rolling pen sock. You don't necessarily need one for pie crust, but it is a must for rolling out the ultra sensitive/tender lefse dough.

Hair in my face, robe coming untied, peepers in my eyes, I looked hard for that thing. With a flashlight in the dark corners. On my knees. Banging noise shocking the morning awake. No sock to be found. Stupid sock. I was saving my second cup for a finder's reward.

He called one store after another with no luck. Finally our own little Arlington Hardware had one. The gal who answered the phone asked, "Are you making lefse?" "Yes," Loverby said, as if she was a long lost relative, properly empathetic with his plight.

He got his rhythm. Rolling the balls out, picking them up with his stick, laying them on the griddle, turning them. All is well. Not so. Halfway through the batch of dough, he suspects the flour won't hold out. Wet batch this year. I still haven't had my second cup. I don't deserve a reward. I lost the darn rolling pen sock again. Can a person have some Irish Cream in their coffee at 6:00?

I put my shoes and coat on. Went out in the freezing rain to the store for flour. I start feeling sorry for myself on the way there. Crazy man. Lefse after a Thanksgiving meal? We're already fat enough. This was supposed to be a relaxing day. Tears start. Pitiful, pity party tears. Deluge.

Then I recalled all the times he has heated my bean bag for cramps, bought me feminine supplies, put gas in my car, brought home dinner. I remember him tucking the covers over me, bringing me babies to nurse at night, making me a beautiful garden shed. I thought of all the times he thinks mostly of me and my pleasure, not his. Images of his kindness and thoughtfulness started flooding my heart. The water had to flow somewhere. It came out and down. Birthwaters for something better.

I walked in the door and gave him the flour. He smiled as he lifted one off the grill - as if flour was the most precious gift I could give him.

We all take turns hovering over the lefse griddle as one after another slips warm off on the lefse stick. It gets folded, but is promptly unfolded, buttered, and sugared. I quickly change my mind about how inconvenient this stuff was to make. My heart melted like butter in the rolled up lefse.

There was always a plate of it on the table for his Thanksgiving tradition growing up. I learned to love it, there on the North Dakota prairie with a table full of Norwegians telling dry humored stories.

We needed lefse today. We were without.  Family.

Thank you Loverby. We're such a mess. Let's stay together in our crowded kitchen for always.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ministry of the Moon

Mama sings to her sweetheart,
a mysterious man in the moon. 
She points out eyes and a face, but 
I see only rabbit ears, a crow’s 
beak, or shadows tangled like lace. 

Malcolm explains 
ancient words from the 
mariner’s rhyme: The moon
 knows best how to minister - by 
making brilliance bearable - for
 brides who dare not gaze 
full at the groom. 

Mama’s song 
about kisses and misses 
and grown up blisses 
swirled over my childish head. 
He watched and waited, 
till finally I saw himNow, 
I want to marry him too. 

I read Malcolm Guite's "Faith, Hope and Poetry" slowly. I spent time ruminating long in the section about The Moon and the Mariner. A spiritual feast. 

We met Malcolm at Kindlingsfest last summer. How apt. This is how kindling happens.