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Holding History

A new map of the world: With all the new discoveries by Captain Cook and other navigators (Ornamented with the Solar System, the eclipses of the sun, moon & planets) *

My sixth grade studies included a year of world history.  We began in Egypt with pharaohs and pyramids, moved to Greek city-states, before traveling across the Adriatic Sea to Rome and eventually migrating throughout Europe.  As mine was Catholic parochial school education, interspersed with historical events such as the Battle of Hastings or the signing of the Magna Carta, there was a generous amount of information on popes and the lives of the saints.  While in geography class we knew there were countries around the globe, our history curriculum was Eurocentric – that is until 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue after which our study of world history broadened from one track to two and included a large dose of American Manifest Destiny.

I don’t share this story in condemnation of that hard working teacher.  I will not judge Mrs. Menard’s teaching methods by a modern litmus test.  She used the tools she had at hand, at a very different time than today.  She was enthusiastic.  She made learning about history fun (albeit a narrowly focused history).  It is well documented that most of our curricula, not just that of my childhood and adolescence but continuing in today’s classrooms, regardless of the intended age group, still highlights European accomplishments over those of other cultures. 

When Black History Month was first designated in the early 1970s, the library where I worked created a book display pulling together titles scattered throughout the collection.  I wondered why a special month when these important contributions should simply be integrated into the normal flow of information.  Now, I better understand the need to spotlight lives and achievements whether it is in March as part of Women’s History Month or during the 30 days of November for Native American Heritage Month.  These months of celebration are not intended to diminish mainstream accomplishments but rather are a simple acknowledgement that the sheer volume of information and resources presented from a white, male perspective creates an almost impenetrable monolith whether it is history or literature, science or art. 

Each of these designated months gives us permission to explore an author, a musician, a filmmaker, that would not be a normal “go-to” source.  My study plan for November includes:

  • Reading a book of poetry by Joy Harjo of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Poet Laureate; and
  • Viewing the films featured as part of this year’s Native Cinema Showcase sponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian.

Join me in “Holding History” by organizing your own personal mini history course and learning more about the rich culture and history of Indigenous People. 

* Kitchen, T. , Junior, and John Evans. A new map of the world: with all the new discoveries by Capt. Cook and other navigators: ornamented with the Solar System, the eclipses of the sun, moon & planets &c. London: I. Evans, 1799. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2003630537/>.

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Burn Pits

Leave it to Jon Stewart to tackle the tough topics and shed light on injustices.  Just as he advocated for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, even going so far as to lambast Congress in a 2019 impassioned testimony on Capitol Hill for a woeful response to health care for emergency personnel, he is now shining a light on the traumatic impact of Burn Pits.

Never heard of Burn Pits?  Neither had I.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) government contractors burned TONS of hazardous waste using jet fuel.  Think about a micro-minute of annoying smoke when you’re roasting a marshmallow over a campfire and now multiple that irritation by an incalculatable number with acres of fires raging 24/7.  Military personnel breathed contaminated air day and night as fires consumed the products of everyday life – plastics, rubber, human waste, all mixed in with war waste – amputated body parts, ammunition, and chemicals.  The resulting exposure to this toxic cocktail has wounded thousands of veterans.  But just as it took decades for our government to acknowledge the long term effects of Agent Orange, there is only minimal recognition that breathing this bad stuff is bad for your health.

In his new series, The Problem with Jon Stewart, Jon does what he is famous for – shares a hard truth encased in humor to make us think.  We hear his opinion but, more importantly, we hear from people impacted by the problem.  And, not just “Wendy Whiners” but people offering solutions to affect change.  His first episode introduces the viewer to veterans and their families facing life threatening health challenges as a result of Burn Pit exposure.

As we celebrate Veterans Day and Richard’s 75th birthday, on this day commemorating the end of World War I on “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” and honoring all U.S. military veterans, we are making a contribution to Burn Pit 360, a 501(c)(3) “dedicated to improving post-deployment health outcomes.”  Join us in supporting our troops and veterans – for real.

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Pandemic Fatigue: Real not imagined

The last burst of pandemic summer color

My across the street and next door neighbors each recently acquired new garden tools.  With a cordless power drill and a hex drive auger to serve as bulb bit, my neighbor to the north planted 160 tulip bulbs on either side of the walk leading to her front door.  Not to be outdone, my gardening neighbor to the west made a quick Amazon purchase for this same handy tool and scattered 80 daffodil, hyacinth and early snowdrop bulbs among her well-established perennials.  Promises of spring – that is assuming the scurry of squirrels that nests in our 80-year elm tree doesn’t dig up the bulbs as winter appetizers or the fluffle of rabbits under the neighbor’s shed across the alley doesn’t devour each green shoot just as it pokes through the snow. Normally all this activity would have inspired garden envy and set me on my own quest to add spring color.  And, last fall I would have enthusiastically joined the planting challenge but not this October.

When we first entered our global quarantine, I accepted it as an inconvenience and then joined two new book clubs, enrolled in an Impressionist art appreciation class, and participated in an earth-based meditative retreat led by French knitting designer, Solène Le Roux.  But what I am feeling today, 18 months into our shared Covid experience is a bit like the title of the 1971 S.E. Hinton coming of age novel, That Was Then, This is Now.

When mass media began mentioning “pandemic fatigue” I recognized some of the symptoms as my own but also wondered about the power of suggestion.  Then articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet validated my feelings.  The World Health Organization even has entire publication devoted to “pandemic fatigue” which is defined as:

…an expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis – not least because the severity and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic have called for the implementation of invasive measures with unprecedented impacts on the daily lives of everyone, including those who have not been directly affected by the virus itself. 

An expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis.  The validation that what I am experiencing is an international phenomenon may not be a precise recipe for an attitude adjustment but it certainly is a step toward reducing my irritability.  Getting back in the garden, if only to put things to bed for the winter, may also help diminish my pandemic fatigue.

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Autumnal Equinox

fall colored trees and a blue sky

And just like that, it is fall.  Or so it feels as the temperature this morning was 47 degrees and the trees on First Street have a tired look before they change from previously verdant greens to vibrant reds and yellows.  It is just a feeling since, intellectually, I know the earth never paused in its orbit.  Today is different because the calendar says so and science agrees.  Today the earth’s axis is neither tilted toward or away from the sun and we enjoy an equal amount of daylight and nighttime.

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Turtle Mocha: A new treat

elderly woman with blue striped blouse holding a cup of caribou coffee
Morning caffeine

As a faithful reader of this blog, my Mom wondered if her first visit to a name brand coffee shop might warrant a post – and she certainly merits special mention and even a photo!  Following an early morning post-op appointment after her second cataract surgery, I suggested a stop at Caribou’s.  While I opted for my traditional skinny mocha with milk chocolate, Mom tried the hot turtle version of espresso, steamed milk, chocolate and caramel. Flavorful enough that we even made a repeat stop the following day although I don’t anticipate you will see a maroon 1995 Buick Century in the drive through lane anytime soon.

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National Scotch Day

© ReserveBar

There are national days to commemorate just about everything and if your favorite is not already on the list of 1000s you can apply to have a day added.  If you missed National Hot Dog Day on July 21 hang on a month and join ice cream fans for National Spumoni Day, August 21.  But as someone who eats hot dogs only at the ballpark out of tradition and has never liked Spumoni ice cream, I am more in tune with what I will drink tonight on National Scotch Day.

My first taste came during grad school summer travels, 1977.  Whether good or not my memory is hazy but I suspect the pour may have been a bit harsh for my unsophisticated palate as it was four decades before I discovered the pure enjoyment of a good dram of whisky.  Once I tasted Highland Park my quest began to discover what I had been missing as Richard already had his preferred labels and I needed to catch up.

Thus far my favorites (in alpha order) are listed below but there is always room for tasty indulgences and new treats. Plus, my wish list includes the Rowan Tree Travel 2022 Wool & Whisky tour. Sláinte!

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Tree Squares

When you grow up the daughter and the granddaughter of carpenters, you appreciate trees and the lumber they provide.  Fond memories of tagging along to Kleiner’s Lumberyard while Dad handpicked boards to be planed accompanied by harsh noise without benefit of ear protection in those days long before OSHA required safety and the sweet smell of sawdust or sweltering summer days spent planting trees at The 40 – trees that have grown from seedlings as small as my hand to stately pines.

As BeckyB of Winchester’s Square Challenge moves into week three of TreeSquare, I wondered what photos I might have of these natural wonders, these organic composites of cellulose fibers which have graced our planet for more than 375 million years.  It turns out – not too many but enough to cover a year of seasons.

Tree locations ( although some no more):

  • Spring blossoms – St. Paul, April 2021
  • Summer loss – Rochester, July 2013
  • Autumn brilliance – Moldova, October 2018
  • Winter calm – Inseli, November 2012

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Juneteenth

Our new Federal holiday honors the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States – a celebratory reminder that all are … “created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became the law of the land on January 1, 1863, that land was in the midst of Civil War.  It was not until June 19, 1865 (two months after Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox Court House) and the arrival of Union troops in Galveston Bay that thousands of enslaved people in Texas were freed by executive order.  Whether called Jubilee Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery and celebrates a second American Independence Day.

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Trevor Noah – Summer Hiatus

Last night Trevor Noah thanked his viewers for keeping him sane and promised he was “…going to take a bit of time to figure out what the new show is going to be.”  While a summer hiatus to regroup after 15-months of producing the tightly written, fact-based comedy news program from his New York apartment makes sense, the show-ending Moment of Zen felt deeper than just the conclusion to seeing his colorful collection of hoodies four nights a week.

One of the joys of regional library work, in the days before GoToMeeting or Zoom, was the need to travel, not just in the 11-southeastern counties of Minnesota to visit libraries but all through the state to participate in meetings.  During all those decades of windshield time, my listening preference and primary news source was Minnesota Public Radio.  And, I paired the unbiased, well researched radio broadcasts with the satirical comedy offered by The Daily Show.  While dubbing itself a fake news program, its comedy bits were always laced with poignant reality.  We watched through the Jon Stewart era (1999-2015); easily made the transition to Trevor Noah as host, and certainly relied on Trevor’s unique perspective during the uncertainty of COVID and troubling racial times.  The Daily Show is a mainstay of our TV viewing.

Even though it has been five years since The Nightly Show aired, I still miss Larry Wilmore acting as my on air guide to a confusing array of topics that may be common knowledge to any number of People of Color but are foreign to me as a middle-aged, financially comfortable white woman of privilege.  I definitely need The Daily Show and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee as reality checks, albeit with humor, today and into the future.  Just like waiting for the next publication from a bestselling author or holiday release of a favorite movie, we’ll have to wait patiently until September 13 to see what Trevor might offer with a “brand new look”

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On the day of a verdict

Poetry, offered as prayer, that captures what my soul feels…

A verdict means to say the truth.
A judge and jury, in this case, convicted an executioner.
May the truth we say always be
that black lives matter
that justice is more important than order
that militarization of police hurts us all,
and we have a lot more work to do.

Some days, the world seems to wake up,
even just a little bit - 
still groggy, still bleary-souled,
asking us to notice the glimmers of hope
shining through this weary world.
We need to keep waking up, again and again.

Sometimes,
guilty is the glimmer we need
to keep doing the work
and saying the names
of George Floyd, of Sandra Bland, of Emmett Till,
and countless other sacred names,
speaking them with reverence as speaking the name of the holy,
until we can all breathe.

    Rev. Luke Stevens-Royer, April 20, 2021