I’ve never really liked Sundays very much. As a kid, I dreaded the afternoons when I invariably discovered I still had homework to complete. As a working adult, Sunday evenings usually reminded me that I had not accomplished enough or experienced as much fun as I had anticipated.
As a retired teacher, I could say that all days are now weekends. OR I could really claim that all days are weekdays, given that I rarely skip working on my freelance editing. But, somehow, this first day of the week still can get me down. I call this feeling that settles over me “The Sundays.” Maybe you get that, too?
I find that fixing myself some comfort food goes a long way toward making me feel better. And what better comfort food than a hearty stew! I no longer eat meat, so my stew involves mainly veggies with a spicy black bean burger thrown in for added flavor and thickening. Use whatever ingredients you prefer and have on hand. Those pictured above will find their way into my stewpot this afternoon. The only ones that originate from my balcony garden, today, are the rosemary and jalapeno. But they will help to add some depth to the flavors.
Here’s the basic recipe. Use what you have, in the proportions you like:
“THE SUNDAYS” STEW
To water or vegetarian broth add favorite veggies: potatoes, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, onions, garlic, etc.
After cooking for about 1/2 hour, add a black bean burger. Continue cooking for another 1/2 hour or until broth is thickened and veggies are softened but not mushy.
Welcome back to Climate Movement Monday in which I highlight frontline communities in need of support. The climate crisis is on full display this week with hurricanes and typhoon-related storms causing mass destruction. I’m listing local organizations that accept donations. Every bit helps, no amount too small. WESTERN ALASKA was hit on Friday and Saturday […]
Tracy Abell is a nature enthusiast, climate activist, and author of both fiction and non-fiction. She blogs each Monday about climate issues to help keep readers informed about how we can all make a difference. Please check out her blog! ~Becky
Write postcards to make sure people who care about climate vote in the Tuesday, November 8th elections. Choose from state and local races with elections this November where progress on climate is possible, but only if climate voters show up. They mail you free postcards, so you just need postcard stamps and a pen! Please sign up today! Without a healthy planet, nothing else really matters.
Please note: although the drop-down menu for the number of cards to order begins with 200, I found that you can add a message in the “Drop us a note” field near the bottom to request a lower number, if you wish!
The weather has been VERY hot and dry, here in Texas. I’m no longer surprised when “my dove” now visits the balcony for a drink, even while I’m sitting right there! I have a few green tomatoes, so far, and already ate several peppers from my plants. Time will tell if I’m able to give the plants enough water and just enough sun to keep things growing in this heat. The cactus, to the left of the shelves, is the happiest.
Wings of a Dove
by Henry Van Dyke
I At sunset, when the rosy light was dying Far down the pathway of the west, I saw a lonely dove in silence flying, To be at rest.
Pilgrim of air, I cried, could I but borrow Thy wandering wings, thy freedom blest, I’d fly away from every careful sorrow, And find my rest.
II But when the filmy veil of dusk was falling, Home flew the dove to seek his nest, Deep in the forest where his mate was calling To love and rest.
Peace, heart of mine! no longer sigh to wander; Lose not thy life in barren quest. There are no happy islands over yonder; Come home and rest.
And, finally, one of my mom’s favorite songs. I remember as a child, I had to stay home from school, sick, one day. She played this song, over and over again, as she cleaned the house. I remember feeling very surprised:)
Grab some control over the NRA instead of them controlling you! Tell them what you think! LATER: more than 325,000 people told the NRA not to meet in Houston just a few days after the shootings in Uvalde, Texas. Although the convention still took place, it was also met with many protestors!
Here is a link for parents, grandparents, and other caring adults to help their kids deal with trauma related to school shootings. And here is another solid article on this topic from NPR.
I have no idea about the names of the people in the photo shown above. But I know the house intimately. It was built around 1900 and had been updated countless times when I moved in over 20 years ago. The house still needed a great deal of work, and it really started to shine during the years when I was lucky enough to live there.
A kind resident of the small, Upper Peninsula town loaned me this old photo. They had known someone who lived on the street and realized I might be interested in this historical image of my house. I formed the mat around the copy of this picture with remnants of vintage wallpaper found hiding in the walls during renovations.
After mulling over my story, “Dinner for Two,” for years, I finally knew the missing piece. The house needed to play a more important part as a character, along with the man and then the woman, known only to the reader through the man’s recollections.
I’m pleased to say that my story now appears in UP Reader #6, which is published by Modern History Press! Because this just came out, I can’t share this tale with you, yet. But I’m happy to now post a story that I told you about last year…”Sumac Summer.” This is based on memories my father told me from his own childhood and was such fun to write. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about this young boy’s suspicions of a possible poisonous mistake!
“Philip, why are you still awake?” Mom whispered. She carried a lantern to avoid the bright hallway bulb.
“Too hot,” I murmured, from my spot by an open window. Four brothers snored nearby. My six sisters were quiet in their room down the hall.
“A few more minutes and back to bed,” my mother warned, as she left on tiptoes.
Something outside moved from the shadows. Dr. Justin walked the path to my friend’s house with his black medical bag. Was Danny sick?
The stairs squeaked, and I dove for my pillow. I ignored the need for an outhouse visit, pressed my eyes shut, and fell into a sweaty sleep.
The air was even warmer when the rooster crowed the next morning.
“Looks like our next-door neighbors moved out,” my big brother, Harold, said at breakfast.
“No way. Danny’s my best friend. He wouldn’t leave without telling me.”
“When I delivered their newspaper, the window shades were still closed, and their car was gone,” said Harold.
“Dr. Justin was over there last night,” I said. “I wonder what happened.”
“I bet they didn’t move,” said my oldest brother, Ernie. “They probably got sick and died from poison, or something.” He clutched his throat and fell to the floor with a choke.
“Don’t tease,” Mom said with a frown. “Danny’s mother mentioned that his father had health problems. She said they might move closer to family in New York.” ***
By the end of that week, I decided Danny was gone for good. Harold reminded me it was my turn to cut the grass. I grabbed the wooden handle and gave our mower a push across the lawn. By the time I finished, the sun was high in the sky. My cheeks were on fire, and my mouth was dry as dirt.
I guzzled water at the kitchen pump and grumbled. “Why can’t we ever buy soda pop from the market?”
“Treats like that cost too much for a family of thirteen,” said Mom.
“Could we make more root beer?”
“That wasn’t cheap, either. And we had a terrible mess in the basement when a bottle exploded.”
“I have an idea for a drink,” Dad said, as he walked into the room. “It’s almost free and not messy to make.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Sumac (‘sue mack’) juice. It’s been years since I made any, but I remember the steps.”
“Never heard of it.”
“The sumac tree’s red berries can be used to make a lemon-flavored drink,” said Dad. “Some people even call it sumac lemonade.”
I pumped another cup of water and listened.
“The family next door has gone. No one cares if we cut berries from those sumac trees between the two houses,” Dad continued.
“Guess not.” Even though the neighbors had only been gone a week, I missed Danny. He’d been my best friend and could even make doing chores seem like fun.
Dad eyed the trees through the kitchen window. “We’ll soak the berries in water until it’s pink and lemony. Sugar or honey adds a bit of sweetness. The flavor will be strongest when the clusters turn dark red. Here in Northern Michigan, we won’t see that until late summer.”
A quick look at Mom told me she was okay with his idea. Hadn’t my parents ever heard of poison sumac? With a gulp, I swallowed the words so they wouldn’t escape from my mouth. What if Ernie was right? What if Danny’s family was poisoned? I wanted to trust Dad on this. But it might make us sick, or even worse!
When I checked outside, the skinny leaves on the short, thick trees were mixed with light green flowers. I didn’t see any berries.
Sleep didn’t come easy that night. I jerked awake. “Argh!!!” Danny and some strangers with hollow eyes and red drool on their lips visited my dreams. Could that nightmare be a sign that sumac juice might not be safe? ***
Within a few weeks, little green berries appeared. They turned a rosier color each time I dared to peek at them. No words popped into my head to warn my parents they might be poisonous. I had to learn the facts before it was too late. Since it was summer vacation, I couldn’t ask my teacher. The library was the best place to start.
“Chores are done, and I’m going for a bike ride.”
“Sorry, Philip,” said Mom. “You’ll need to watch your younger brother and sister. I’m late for my women’s meeting.” The screen door slammed before I could argue.
Paul and Eunice weren’t too heavy, and I could pull them to the library in our wagon. The shortest way took us past the blue water of the bay. If only we could trade places with the people who played in the waves without a care in the world.
The air was cooler inside the small, brick library. My sister and brother ran toward the picture books. I started my own search for adult books about trees.
“Philip Ross, I haven’t seen you here in a long time,” said the librarian after a while. “Could I help you find something?” She eyed my sister and brother. Had they emptied all those books from the shelves?
“Ah…no, thanks. We should get going.” I grabbed Eunice by the hand and Paul by the shirt. The walk back home with the wagon was even hotter, and I hadn’t learned anything helpful.
Once we got in the yard, I reached to check the trees and found blood-red berries. Some clusters were even covered with white, sticky stuff. We were almost out of time. My new idea felt scary, but I had no choice. I wiped my hands across my pants and planned for the next day.
I awoke early to a gray morning. After sneaking from the house, I steered my bike through quiet streets. I headed to the drug store, where one of my older sisters had an afternoon job. While I waited by the locked door for the owner, Mr. Keiser, I peered down the road through the fog.
Teacher told us that druggists go to college for a long time. That’s how they learn to make safe medicines. Mr. Keiser should also know which plants were safe. His tall body finally appeared from the fog. I ignored the lump in my throat and told him my problem. With a strange look, he motioned me inside the store.
“Aren’t you one of Pastor Ross’s boys?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, I’m Phil.”
“Tell me the details.”
He sat on a high stool, and I began with the way Danny and his family had vanished. I ended with my fear that Dad didn’t know the red berries were poison.
“Your worries are over,” he said. “That’s harmless sumac. You can tell by the red or purple clusters that point toward the sky. The sticky part you described has the strongest lemon taste,” he added.
“Is there a kind of sumac that’s poison?” I asked.
“Yes, but that looks very different. It has green or white berries that hang down.”
“Gee, thanks,” I said in relief, and stuck out my hand to shake his.
“Make sure you always check with your parents before eating anything that grows in the wild,” Mr. Keiser reminded me, as I turned for the door.
I flew toward home on my bike and jumped off before the wheels stopped turning. Fat drops of dew sparkled on deep purple berries. “They’re ready,” I yelled, at the back door. “It’s sumac juice time!”
As the sun slipped lower in the sky, I sat on our wide porch with my family. Dad filled glasses with sumac juice for everyone. Mom added frosty chunks from the large block the iceman had just brought. The drink was cool, sour, and sweet on my tongue. Everybody liked it, except Eunice, who didn’t like most things.
“Afternoon,” said the mailman, from the bottom step. Mom traded him a glass of juice for a few envelopes. He drank it and talked with my parents on the shaded porch.
Mom sifted through the mail as soon as he’d gone. She held up an envelope, written with ink. A cloud of worry crossed her face. “It’s a letter from out East,” she said and opened it. Her frown soon disappeared. “Philip, it’s from Danny’s mother. She says they left early that morning to beat the heat and apologizes for not saying good-bye. She’ll work in her family’s store while her husband recovers,” Mom folded the page. “Time will tell, if they’ll move back to Michigan.”
“I’m glad they’re okay,” I said and turned away to hide my sadness.
“Danny sent you a note, Philip.” She raised a paper written in smeared pencil.
I grabbed it and hurried to the side yard that overlooked my friend’s old house and the sumac trees. Danny’s story made me laugh out loud. On their way to New York, he and his mother had to change a flat tire. He described the scene so well that I pictured them in mud up to their knees as they search for a dropped lug nut. Maybe I could think of a tale to send back?
I had a whopper of an idea. I’d write about a missing friend, fear of a poison potion and a tasty ending!
Beyond picture books, my next fondest memories of reading as a child were of the Trixie Belden mysteries. And I have my older sister, Terri, to thank for my love of books! She often read to me when we were kids, and she still tells me about great series she has heard about or read that I might want to try.
Although I enjoyed Nancy Drew’s antics, Trixie was always my favorite and seemed more like a “real kid.” I still have several treasured copies of Trixie Belden books from our childhood.
If you also loved those books or would like to learn more about them, here is a great article with background about the settings and authors!
“The theme for National Library Week 2022, ‘Connect with Your Library,’ promotes the idea that libraries are places to get connected to technology by using broadband, computers, and other resources. Libraries also offer opportunities to connect with media, programs, ideas, and classes—in addition to books. Most importantly libraries also connect communities to each other. Overall, the theme is an explicit call to action—an invitation for communities to join, visit, or advocate for their local libraries.”
How can you celebrate this week and EVERY week?
Visit your library!
Participate in the #MyLibrary promotion on social media.
Follow your library, ALA, and I Love Libraries on social media.
No matter where you live, show your library some love! ~Becky
“Make an impact beyond the hour. Taking part in Earth Hour isn’t only about committing for one hour on one day – it’s about committing every day to shape a brighter future for people and our planet.”
How will you spend Earth Hour? I’ll probably sit on my balcony and read from an actual paper and cardboard book. And my goal is to work more “Earth hours” into my days, turning everything off for a while. LATER: I certainly enjoyed that time reading and was further entertained by four doves roosting in the tree almost close enough to touch. Beautiful evening. Take care! Becky
This dainty Narcissus on my balcony bloomed for the first time today. Since the temperatures are predicted to plunge again tonight, I decided to take a photo while it was still in good shape!
From “Greek Myths & Greek Mythology”
The Myth Of Narcissus In Modern Life And Art
“The myth of Narcissus is known also for one additional reason; the flower Narcissus that is found usually at the banks of rivers and lakes, took its name after the mythical hero. It is a graceful flower featuring 40 different species, mostly grown in Europe. It blooms in early spring and is considered fragile and very beautiful, with white, yellow and pink blossoms.
The Myth of Narcissus has inspired several artists as well; the most known is Caravaggio who painted a young man admiring his reflection in the water.
The painters Turner and Dali were also inspired by the myth, while poets, such as Keats and Housman, used his example in many of their works.
The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky created several characters with the mentality and loneliness of Narcissus, such as Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin.”