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Draw the Circle Wide

I cannot remember the conference city or the name of the hotel lobby bar where I joined my friend for a late afternoon glass of wine but, even after all these decades, my memory of our discussion is clear.  My friend Estelle arrived agitated and ready to resign from a prestigious committee.  As I tried to discover what had caused her distress, she kept telling me I would not understand.  I, of course, argued I would.  Finally, she said “I am tired of being responsible for representing an entire race of people.”  And she had been right, I didn’t understand. 

Even when serving as the sole female on an otherwise all male committee, no one thought I spoke for all women.  But Estelle was constantly expected to speak for all people of color.  As a talented black woman, often the only person of color in a sea of white, she was put in that untenable situation; expected to know of the needs of an entire community as if the rich, complexity of life was a simple monolith and she held the key. 

There is a challenge within every cultural exploration; to learn and celebrate the beauty of that which is different without inadvertently co-opting a tradition not our own.  To not to fall into that misguided complacency that created such stress for my friend.  While I can revel in the lyrical quality of an Amanda Gorman poem; agonize over the brutal reality of black life in white America as portrayed in a cinematic adaptation of an August Wilson play; even get caught up in a who-dun-it following Walter Mosley’s infamous detective Easy Rawlins through the grime and glitter of LA, I must remember – whether fiction or fact – that those descriptions are just a brief glimpse into lives different from my own.

The challenge is to appreciate the uniqueness of each person’s life, to recognize that each difference in upbringing, family food tradition, or the myriad of diverse life choices that make a whole person, is to recognize that the opportunities for personal growth are endless.  That with each book I read, movie I see, or story that I hear, I only hold a very small thread in a rich tapestry of another’s experience.

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. . . and it is racing!

James McMichael – My Uncle “Mac”

Since Formula 1 testing in Barcelona is still 24 days out and we must wait until March 20 for the inaugural F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain, the Hutton household launched the 2022 racing season by watching the Rolex 24 at Daytona.  The drivers and crews are from around the globe, performing in five different classes of cars, making for fast, faster, and the fastest driving, start-to-finish for 24-hours through the night and in unseasonably cold Florida temps.  This race celebrates a 60th anniversary, but there is a deeper racing history in Daytona.  Certainly not ecologically sane by today’s standards but my Uncle Mac gives me a family tie to an early era of beach racing.

Photo Credit: G. McMichael Anderson

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From the Days of Tire Bags

white Porsche 944 at speed

After numerous Covid related postponements, Richard finally had his PT assessment today.  While the physical therapist approved of our TV room Ekornes Stressless recliners, he recommended more lower back support and so this afternoon I had a craft project.  While I readily admit my skills as a seamstress stagnated sometime after I earned my Girl Scout sewing badge, I did manage to make a small 4 inch x 10 inch lumbar support pillow. 

Most of my remnant stash dates from the mid-1990s when I undertook the translation of Richard’s wearable art (jewelry) into soft sculptures (pillows).  Despite having some lovely high quality upholstery fabrics from which to choose, he picked a left over from our Porsche days. 

Most might consider the Porsche 944 a small car especially since its two back seats would only accommodate very young children before the days of safety required car seats.  But we transformed our 1987 944S two-seater coupé into a station wagon on “race” weekends.  We had enough room for suitcases, cooler, tools, jack, and a complete set of track wheels and tires.  To protect the car’s interior when packing the Bridgestone R1s, I made four large drawstring bags using an easily washable cotton-poly blend that matched the car’s maroon leather interior.  The bags were especially needed for the trek home when the wheels were covered in fine black brake dust after two days of driver education classes at the track.

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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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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.