Tag Archives: writing of place

It’s Friday so let’s play “Photo Friday”

This week’s challenge: ‘The City‘.

Houston on a beautiful winter day in February of this year.

Taken while attending a National Geographic Photography Session at the U of H Downtown Campus.

This week’s challenge: ‘The City‘.

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I have this site set up with Amazon linking “smartly” to the content. Oft-times I have a real problem figuring out the links relevance to the words or phrase the link is attached to. On Tuesday that wasn’t a problem. I had made a comment on the Brazos River. Amazon linked to John Graves’ Goodbye to a River: A Narrative. That book is one of my favorites and led me to acquiring many of Mr. Graves’s later works.

“Goodbye to a River” is one of the best pure Texas books I have ever read. The mixture of nature, history, and personal narrative leaves me longing to learn to string words together in a like manner.

I have spent very little time around the Brazos of John Graves’s stories. The Brazos in my life is the river in it’s dotage just before it dies in the Gulf of Mexico. Broad, slow moving, full of color washed down from the far reaches. Not the river that once flowed free and are chronicled for the last time in Mr. Graves’s book.

There is a form of writing that has come to be known as “writing of place”, Mr. Graves has the distinction of being one of those writers who can put the place wholly into the stories he spins. And the place he loves and writes about are the hard scrabble places of west Texas. Dry, dusty, thin soiled places. Places a person has to work at just staying afloat. Places where living hasn’t had the life wrung out of it.

If you haven’t heard of John Graves before, do yourself a favor…Go float down a river about to be tamed with a man who knows the story of every little named bend and stream. It’ll be time well spent…

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Time to hit the road…catch you on the other side…

New Blogging Machine…

My new toy finally arrived from Dell yesterday…A 17″ laptop with some bells and whistles to make photo editing easier. I planned to post the first blog this morning. I got a little sidetracked with a phone call from a high school buddy making arrangements for the 35th reunion this weekend. What with playing catch-up with what’s been going on in the last few months the time ran away from me.

I had been formulating a quick post about Cook’s Illustrated Magazine…So you all will get the condensed version this evening…

I discovered the editorial page in Cook’s Illustrated just recently. Now mind you, I’ve been aware of Christopher Kimball for years. For a big portion of the past few years I caught America’s Test Kitchen on PBS every Saturday. Each months issues editorial brings a story of place. The place he writes of are the mountains he calls home and the people who inhabit those mountains with him. The magazine he edits has always attracted me. As much for the artwork on the covers as for the stories inside. I have always felt the covers called for frames and walls to hold them, but once I actually started reading the magazines I discovered I am willing to pay the price of admission just to read Mr. Kimball’s monthly musings about life and history and the folks he shares his life with.

If you haven’t stumbled on the Cook’s Illustrated Editorial, do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or steal a copy and see if you don’t agree that they are worth the price of the magazine. And if you don’t find Christopher Kimball entertaining, you’ll still have some great magazines with lots of cooking tips and recipes…enjoy.

Saturday morning muses at the end of summer.

As I was reading my email this morning I received the latest “News from Vermont” written by Burr Morse. Burr’s essay this time had to do with a trip into foreign lands and the welcome he received.

September 14, 2007

Hello again Maple People,

I’ve always had an “attitude” about our neighbors north of the 45th parallel. Even though my car can take me there in a mere 60 minutes, the language is different and entrance is gained only through a gate with armed guards…it’s a foreign country. The other day my brother Elliott asked me to accompany him and his Civil War Roundtable group across the border to visit The Abenaki Museum at Odanak. When I demurred, he said I could “sleep on it” and give him the answer the next day. That night when I checked the atlas to locate Odanak, the straight edge that physically separates Vermont from Quebec “jumped out” at me. “Makes as much sense as a flat-top haircut on a round-faced boy”, I thought. Perhaps my most radical bias, however, is over something that should be peaceful…maple syrup. Quebec is a huge maple region and its competition with Vermont has not always been, shall we say, sweet.

In spite of my reservations, I decided to make the trip. We met members of the Roundtable early in the morning at a shopping center parking lot in Derby Line. In the car pool shuffle, Elliott and I welcomed Ed Bearss, a nationally known historian on American wars, as our passenger. We proceeded, caravan style to the Canadian Customs Station at Rock Island, Quebec. I was surprised there was no waiting line but was on edge, never-the-less, envisioning my Nissan Altima being ripped to pieces by sharp knives and pry bars. A female Customs agent came to the passenger window, asked where we were going and requested our identification cards. “What are you taking into Canada?” she also asked. Inwardly I screamed “bad attitude, prejudice and the ability to make better maple syrup”. Outwardly I said “nothing but our personal items”. After a short time, she handed back our IDs, waved us on and wished us a good day…”That’s all” I thought, feeling like a prisoner suddenly on the outside.

After enjoying the rest this issue’s essay I began thinking of the wordsmiths I enjoy who make their primary living working on the farm. I haven’t made it a point to search these folks out, but maybe I should. There is something about the solitude of farm work that seems to allow the wordsmiths it produces to let their words steep and age before they commit them to paper (or electronic replacements thereof). To read Burr’s work you’ll have to sigh up for the newsletter at the link above. He has some samples at his website.

The first farming wordsmith I stumbled across was Andy Griffin out of California. Andy posts at The Ladybug Letter and his essays are always entertaining and usually sneak in a bit of teaching in the process. It was an essay of his on the growing of packaged salad greens at the time of the E. coli spinach scare that I stumbled upon that introduced me to Andy’s writing. Sampling his newsletter for a while convinced me I enjoyed his style and content…

The Ladybug Letter

The Jerusalem artichokes in my fields aren’t artichokes, and they’re not from Jerusalem. So what are they? For one thing, they’re a problem I need to solve soon.Scientists call Jerusalem artichokes Helianthus tuberosa. Helios is Greek for sun, and anthus means flower, so the Jerusalem artichoke is a sunflower that makes a tuber. A tuber is an enlarged, subterranean stem, not a root, with buds that can send out roots, other stems, or leaves. Botanists will tell you that plants evolve a tuberous habit to survive harsh environmental conditions. A tuber can remain alive under an insulating blanket of soil for a long time. When rain finally does come, underground tubers are stimulated to sprout stems and greenery, and the plant grows up into the sun. As conditions get hot and dry again, or freezing cold, the life force of the plant retreats from the foliage back down the stems into the tubers that nest protected in the soil. A tuberous plant stores enough nutrients and water in it’s tissue to survive until the soil warms up and the rain comes.

So starts his latest offering, a big dose of learning followed with an amusing informative ramble through the history and life cycle of a plant that had never really been on my culinary radar…but now is. Thanks Andy.

Take a wander over to both of these sites and check out the writing. If you have any suggestions of additions to these two farming wordsmiths drop them in the comments ’cause I’m lookin’ for more of this type to add to my reading list…

Have a great weekend…I’ll catch up with ya’ll on Monday.

Wednesday – The end of week +2

Today’s emails contained this week’s copy of the “Weeknight Kitchen Newsletter” from The Splendid Table. I’ve been listening to Lynne Rossetto Kasper on the Splendid Table Podcast for a while now and enjoying it immensely. This week’s newsletter contained a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. I had heard Lynne speak of them before but never taken the time to follow the link. Today I did…I would like to recommend that if you like eating and cooking (or vice versa) seafood you do the same. Their website explains what they do like this:

What is Seafood Watch?

A program of Monterey Bay Aquarium designed to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. We recommend which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers to become advocates for environmentally friendly seafood. We’re also partners of the Seafood Choices Alliance where, along with other seafood awareness campaigns, we provide seafood purveyors with recommendations on seafood choices.

The why is just as important:

Why do seafood choices matter?
The choices we make as consumers drive the seafood market place. Your purchasing power can make a difference by supporting those fisheries and fish farms that are better for the environment, while at the same time relieving pressure on others that are not doing as well.

Some of the key problems that help us evaluate whether a fishery is sustainable include the level of bycatch observed, the fishing methods and their impact, if it is farmed—how it is farmed, and how well the fishery or aquaculture operation is managed. With nearly 75% of the world’s fisheries either fully fished or overfished, these issues are more important than ever. By using the Seafood Watch pocket guide you are making choices based on the best available information and supporting environmentally friendly fisheries and aquaculture operations.

Take a few minutes and swing over to their website. Download the printable “Seafood Watch Cards” they make available for your wallet. The cards look like a very good tool to have with you as you shop.

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Fred First informed me this morning that the summer hold on Floyd County has decided (at least temporarily) to release it’s grip. I don’t know if he was bragging or just sighing with relief as he told of having to close windows and put on a long sleeve flannel shirt. So, what was Fred musing about this morning at Fragments From Floyd? Bedbugs of course

I think I need to spend some virtual time in those cooler mountains today if only to escape the heat of the real world of SE Texas. The weather prognosticators are giving warning that rain is on the way though as a tropical depression has formed in the center of the Gulf and will be coming onshore somewhere in the next few days. The rains, they say, should start sometime this evening or overnight.

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While wandering the web yesterday I came across Susan Albert’s latest post at Lifescapes: and found her speaking directly to my heart…

There are so many new things to see here. It’s all still a mass of images. Oh, I don’t mean that I can’t see. Yes, of course I can. Rocks, massive rocks. Pine trees on the mountain, salt cedar and willow and sycamore along Manuelitas Creek, grasses and sages and wildflowers in the meadow, all very beautiful. But to see, really see, the landforms and the textures and colors, and the birds and mammals and insects, all the community of this land, of each different habitat, I need to learn more. And learning takes time, and close, daily acquaintance, just as it takes a long time to know a friend in all her various changing moods and seasons, to know her history and her wants and wishes. It’s taken me twenty years to learn just a little bit about MeadowKnoll, and about the Hill Country. A summer month in the Sangres, a month in the winter–it’s only long enough to tantalize me with possibilities.

I have felt that way about every “place” I have ever laid my head, if even for just a week or two. Even when on a business trip I can’t just go to and from, I have to explore…I have to see. If I am lucky, I’ll learn to know a little bit about the place I am in. In the end I have a need to feel a part of the place, if only for a bit. I invest every place I go with a bit of my…soul. I leave a bit of me behind. But it’s a fair trade because I take a bit of every place I have ever been with me.

I do not become as acquainted with most places as Susan alludes to in the quote. Most of the places I come to “know” do not call out for that from me…Ahhh, but the ones that do.

They call across the years. They call across the miles. They call across generations. These are the places I want the opportunity to become one with. To stand in those places and be enfolded by the life and soul of a place until it becomes you and you become it. Some people are given that gift, some people even recognize the gift they are given, most though don’t even see the trees for the forest they are living in.

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From Susan’s Blog I wandered over to The Ranchwoman where I was reminded of all of those summertime visits with my maternal grandparents.

Looking at the stars makes my mind tick.

Away from city lights, and when there’s no moon, the sky is so full of stars that I can’t fathom how the ancients imagined them into constellations. I have trouble finding them even with a chart. With less pollution, those folks could see even more stars. How’d they do that?

Even knowing that the stars I’m seeing are so far away, I look up and feel tucked in by an enormously fluffy velvet blanket. That’s because the moon, which of course is there even when it’s not visible; the planets; the meteors; are all close, relatively speaking. And even the stars I can see, though they are almost infinitely far away, are practically next door compared to the ones I can’t see.

And that leads to thoughts about life and death, space, time, infinity — all those big questions, scientific and philosophical.

Every evening after supper we would meet out by the back of the house. Everyone would claim a folding lawnchair from the backporch. We would all settle in and Grandpa would start to “inform” us about how it was when he was young. His informative expositions were usually in the form of a really tall tale. He would talk and chuckle, we would listen and roll our eyes…The sky would darken and we would start to see the stars come out.

Once the milky way became visible the game would begin…Who would see the most shooting stars? How about spotting a satellite? If the season was right, Grandma would come up with some canning jars with hole punched lids to catch lightning bugs in. There we would be, three generations laying out under the night sky until it would be bath time for the youngest (and you always needed a bath after playing hard all day outside). By that time the heat from the kitchen would have fled the house and the cooler night air would be filtering in through all of the wide open windows.

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Time to call it a muse…I have some reading to do, both online and the old fashioned kind. I have been receiving copies of the Foxfire series in the mail and I still need to finish “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”…Later