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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

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Underfoot

BeckyB’s “Brightly Coloured” post featuring an earlier photography of a mosaic octopus in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park offered an inspiration for sunny textures under my feet.

Travelogue:

  • Chişinău, Moldova – October 14, 2018
  • Parco Ciani, Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland – September 4, 2018
  • Chinese Garden, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – July 7, 2017
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Water – Travel – Squares

Mirroring an earlier installment for this quarter’s Squares Challenge by BeckyB — This time from my travels as near as Wisconsin and as far as Italy with water made bright as sunlit waves break on a rocky shore, from a high vista over the river and even higher clouds filter sunlight on the Trans Canada Highway , or white rapids on two rivers half-a-globe apart at sunset.

Travelogue:

  • Lake Superior along the Minnesota shore – 2013
  • Columbia River above Revelstoke Dam, British Columbia, Canada – July 9, 2017
  • Pozza di Fassa, Italy (in the Dolomite mountains) – September 6, 2018
  • Chippewa River from the High Bridge in Eau Claire, Wisconsin – May 6, 2016
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Another Minnesota Shooting

The news that a Brooklyn Center police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop Sunday afternoon haunts my thoughts this week.  There is a shocking dissonance in this spring time, this vaccination time, when we should be focusing on new beginnings as the sun shines longer, crocuses offer a burst of color and vaccinations rates are increasing, that we are once again facing the ugly underbelly of an unjust society.

Last summer, I was appalled by the sinful video footage showing George Floyd’s murder on a Minneapolis street.  After the death of so many black men and, as we know from the shooting of Breonna Taylor in her own home, the shooting of black women, I wondered, how can this happen?  With those first thoughts of outrage I wanted to place responsibility for what we as a society were becoming on the rhetoric of the past four years.  But life is not that simple.  I knew we did not simply become a racist society with the results of one election.  I recognized that it was only as the hateful rhetoric went viral and the incidents of violence against People of Color went virtual that I became increasingly aware of what is and what has always been a dramatic difference between my safe white environment and threatening world faced daily by People of Color.

I did take some hope that we may have reached a tipping point last summer as people across the world spontaneously marched.  White celebrities sat down with Emmanuel Acho for Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black ManLewis Hamilton wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt on the starting grid and on the winner’s podium even as racers sprayed champagne.  And, Formula 1 cars now carry a #WeRaceAsOne logo as a visible display of a new “initiative aimed at tackling the biggest issues facing the sport and global communities – the fight against COVID-19 and the condemnation of racism and inequality.”

Over the past seven months, our Common Read at church delved into the hard and realistic truth that the injustice playing on our screens again this week is not new but is as old as the country itself.  As we read, we were reminded with each well crafted paragraph, each page we turned that injustice is deeply woven into the fabric of our society.  That violence happens every day.  We need only look to other April days to recall shocking events: 

  • April 1873 – A white mob massacred an estimated 150 Black voters over the results of a hotly contested gubernatorial election;
  • April 1956 – Four white men attacked signer Nat King Cole while he was on stage performing for a white audience;
  • April 1968 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

Earlier, I blogged about one of our Common Read titles, a powerful anthology, A Good Time for the Truth:  Race in Minnesota.  It is an eye-opening collection of personal stories shared by 16 Minnesota authors of Color that sheds light on life in our state and in our time.  In the book’s introduction, poet Sun Yung Shin, who edited A Good Time for the Truth, offers both a challenge and words to help guide us.

Good people need to take action continuously, and I would say daily, until [racism] is dismantled.  Because lives are at stake, every day; on sidewalks, in doctor’s offices, in the waiting room of the bank, and, most importantly, in classrooms.

I believe we can do it.  I know I am not alone in this conviction.

People of color and Indigenous people know with a specific, agonizing intimacy that racism was constructed and upheld by white society (in spaces such as the police precinct, the courtroom, school board meetings, newsrooms, Hollywood studios, mortgage loan offices, and everywhere power has resided in America) in order to confer unearned advantages on white people.  It is as simple as that.  It’s not a law of nature.  It’s culture.  It’s something we made, invented, maintained.  Since it was made, like a vast machine, it can be unmade, and it must. ...

Change is necessary.
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Squares Challenge: Bright with BeckyB

While following BeckyB of Winchester in the WordPress blogosphere, I became intrigued by her Squares Challenge.  The directions are simple:  Post a photographic square every day, or once a week, or even just occasionally.  Her April theme is Bright with a definition covering a wide spectrum of adjectives “sparkling, polished, shining, clever, cheerful, colourful, astute, brilliant, sunny, glorious, translucent, distinct and clear.”  Inspired by her Bright and Early in Portuguese Moments on April 1, I’ve selected a small collection of far and wide travel pictures some on sunny days and others just capturing the bright wonder of the moment.

Travelogue:

  • Cathedral of God’s Mother’s Birth at the Curchi Monastry, Orhei, Moldova – October 15, 2018
  • Phoenix Botanical Garden – March 23, 2019
  • Lake Como, Bittersweet National Forest, Montana – May 17, 2017
  • Westminster Abbey, London – October 12, 2018
  • Chicago – June 18, 2019
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Shoulda been…

It is March and we have been in pandemic quarantine for a year.  For me, our world shifted on March 15.  I know others may mark a slightly earlier day of that same week, but I started counting on a “Sabbath Sunday”.  That first day when we stayed home with a Covid purpose, treating Sunday as if it was a snow day, without gathering at church but still creating quiet time for reflection and meditation.

Like others, I could not have envisioned I would be writing this post 365+ days later.  Our Covid journey has been varied.  Days when it simply felt right to be home and other times when anxiety took hold in my temporal lobe and I wondered would it ever be safe to be together.  Now, with the first vaccines in our systems and second doses coming next week, I am starting to think beyond our small Kutzky Park environ, especially today when we shoulda been celebrating John and Hannah’s wedding in person rather than online.  Maybe we will all gather for an anniversary party next year but, in the meantime, Lynn Ungar’s poem, written as we went into lockdown, still offers sustenance.

Pandemic
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
 
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
 
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
 
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20