Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Country Day at Woodsong

The sound of tractors in nearby fields has come into the house all day. Farmers are hard at work getting the soil ready for planting. Our son-in-law Brian finished his corn planting up at Wayside Farm on Saturday.

Gerald was helping the men involved with burning off our native grasses at Woodsong this morning as the law requires. Today was the deadline, and finally it was not raining so the job was completed. Those fields are black now, but soon new growth well green them up again. A distant neighbor Gayla had observed all the smoke and phoned to see if she and her husband could look for deer antlers in the burned off areas. She and Mary Ellen were classmates in the Crab Orchard Class of 1981, so it was good to visit with her a few minutes.

As soon as noon-time dinner was over, Gerald was back outside to help our neighbor Scott with disking. Occasionally working part-time for Scott has added interest to Gerald’s retirement as well as to his finances.

He quit in time to come in to watch Erin’s game on television. I scrambled eggs and carried down our supper to the family room, so we could watch on the bigger screen there. Winning this game cinched the Big 12 Championship for Texas A&M, so it was an important game. Being able to watch it on TV was much more fun than using game tracker and an audio account.

It was fun seeing Gerry and the other fathers cheering wildly when we got our home run that put us ahead in a tied-up game. I am sure it was just as fun for their fans when University of Texas made their homerun. It was delightful for us to see Erin pick-off a runner to prevent scoring again and hearing the announcers praise her throughout the game.

After the game, coming into the computer for a final check on the day’s emails brought a welcome forward from a friend. The forward was New York Times sports writer George Vecsay telling about a senior for Western Oregon getting her first home run in her college career. That would have been a neat experience, but how she got it was indeed an incredible story as the email promised.

Sara Tucholsky thought she had hit a three-run homer against Central Washington when she hit the ball over the fence. She was not used to that and watched in awe as the ball soared. However, she missed first base and turned back to touch the bag. The turn must have torn her knee ligament and she collapsed. She had to crawl to the base crying and unable to get up. Her coach knew if any of her teammates touched Sara, automatically she would not be able to advance. The umpires ruled that Sara must touch all the bases or she would be credited with a two-run single.

That is when the incredible happened. Central Washington’s first baseman Mallory Holtman politely asked the umpires if it would be okay if she and a teammate carried Sara around the bases. The umpires considered and gave permission. Mallory and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted her onto their crossed arms and carried her around lowering her to touch each base. Sara got her three-run homer to finish her senior-year career, and Mallory and Liz got a standing ovation from an emotional cheering crowd laughing and crying at the same time. I shed a few tears just reading about it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Green Are My Valleys, Hills, and Lawn

Wherever we look out-of-doors right now, we see green. Gerald says the intense green we are enjoying is partly the result of the nitrogen in the late winter’s snows and rains. As tired as we are of rain, it is pleasant to think of the benefits.

Earthquakes have been the topic of much conversation in our area lately. I felt the first one at 4:38 last Friday morning, and I learned later I had done the correct thing by staying in bed. I was too sleepy to do anything else. Although there have been several, I have not felt the after shocks since. I was in the laundry room at my daughter’s when the second shake came. She was in adjoining room and felt it. I guess I assumed it was the washer-dryer shaking the house and did not notice it.

I learned at our women’s meeting at Shirley Butler’s on Monday that some of our Coal Valley Water customers had been without water since last Friday. Shirley had seen and heard the repair work going on near her home the previous evening, so her first reaction to the quake was thinking it was the water department still working.

Unfortunately, the quake evidently made the water problems intensify in that region of our water district. (We seem to have been immune to the problems here on the west side of the district.) Workers are trying hard to get all the breakages fixed. Most people had water back on fairly quickly, but not all. Some people are going to friends and relatives to take showers.

When the water was turned on for our friend Jo, the pressure was so great that it broke the pipes beneath her house. She was blessed to have her son Scott willing and able to crawl under the house and repair the messy muddy leak there. Next door, Kim said when she ran her washer, the pressure causes huge scary noises making her hope their pipes don’t break. Scott isn’t eager to do a second repair job.

Our son-in-law was down over the weekend and early part of this week to start farming. The tiling job last fall was a real help this spring when these heavy rains came. Brian joined us for supper Friday night when our granddaughter Leslie and friend Veronica Tolbert from Freeport stopped off on their way down to Nashville, Tennessee, to visit the national college speech events being held there on Saturday. We didn’t get the return trip stop because there was a boyfriend waiting in Charleston. Ah well.

Our big weekend entertainment was listening to Texas A&M’s two home games. We did the same tonight when they played a non-conference game against Texas State. What a night freshman pitcher Rhiannon Kliesing had. After a week off the mound, she pitched her first no-hitter of the season, and despite no recent opportunities to bat, she made her first home run of the season.

It is pitch dark outside. After this game, Gerald is out there mowing that intensely green grass. It is hard to keep up with right now, and he had to be away all day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sunny Spring Days Are So Welcome

While the pear trees’ blossoms have blown away, the redbuds in yards and roadsides have burst into full bloom. The daffodils are fading, but the paperwhites are in their glory. Soon the dogwood will join the redbud. Gerald has daffodils, hyacinths, paperwhites, and tulips all blowing in the wind and adding color to his new welcoming flower bed at the top edge of our retaining wall.

It is a glorious time of the year on a day like today. The sun was shining and a light jacket was all one needed to be comfortable in the pleasant breezes. Since Gerald was going to Kentucky with his brother for the butchered beef, I assumed they’d be away at lunch as they were last week. Instead they left early this morning to enjoy breakfast together before they picked up the frozen beef and had to hurry home. I had made plans to spend the morning with our daughter in town and go to lunch with a friend, so I hurriedly fixed something for Gerald to eat when he returned for lunch.

After a delightful afternoon visiting after lunch at the friend’s house, I made a final stop back by my daughter’s and was privileged to hear Samuel tell about his Longfellow School field trip to at Art Day at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He liked seeing the glassblowing and the pottery making, but the blacksmithing was his favorite.

When I arrived back home, Gerald was already listening to Erin’s game at Oklahoma State. Gerry had driven all night long to get to Stillwater for this double header that Gerald had wanted to go to in the worst way. We went there ranked fourth in the nation. Unfortunately, tonight after eleven straight victories in the Big 12 Conference, Texas A&M lost their first conference game to the Cowgirls 6-5. But Gerry got to see Erin go three for three in the first game and have a fourth hit in the second game, which the the Aggies won. Of course, we are still first in the conference. Between the games, Gerald and I ate a hurried bowl of chili in the kitchen and then had a cup of yogurt for dessert as we watched the second game.

I spent a while reading emails and thinking about tomorrow night’s Writers Guild meeting. Allison Joseph spoke to us five years ago, and I have always considered that one of our finest programs. She will be with us again tomorrow night. Here is the news release I sent out as program chair:

Poet and Associate Professor Allison Joseph has carried a love of language from the Bronx to Southern Illinois University Carbondale while earning degrees, fellowships, and numerous poetry awards. She will share experiences and expertise she has gained at Southern Illinois Writers Guild on Thursday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the Terrace Dining Room Annex at John A. Logan College. The public is invited.

What Keeps Us Here published by Ampersand in 1992 brought her the John C. Zacharis First Book Prize. Four more books have continued her success: Soul Train published by Carnegie Mellon in 1997, In Every Seam by University of Pittsburgh Press in 1997, Imitation of Life by Carnegie Mellon in 2003, and Worldly Pleasures by Word Press in 2004.

Born in London of Caribbean heritage, she grew up in a Bronx neighborhood she often has written about. Influenced by the late Illinois poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks and a story teller like her father, she often writes free verse as she tells brutally honest narratives with remarkable human insight that are sometimes autobiographical and sometimes imaginative. She also writes fiction.

Perhaps New York’s poets-in-the-schools program along with the writing she did at Bronx High School of Science inspired her to start the Young Writers Workshop at SIUC in 1999. The creative writing faculty and graduate students are used in this effort and offers a four-day residential summer program that draws high school students from both in and out of the area.

Holding the Judge William Holmes Cook Endowed Professorship, her many honors have included fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council and Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers Conferences. In 2003 alone, she received six prizes. More recently she was awarded $5,000 for her poems “Cartography” and “Emergency Librarian” in the 2006 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Competition and then received a second Artists Fellowship in Poetry in 2007 from the Illinois Arts Council for $7,000. She is the editor and the poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, an international literary journal of SIUC.

She was graduated from Kenyon College in 1988 and was awarded a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Indiana in 1992. She taught two years at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock before coming to SIUC.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Springtime Beauty in Egypt

In the spring, I feel nothing could be more beautiful than what we enjoy in Southern Illinois. Of course, I feel the same way in the fall. If you are from Southern Illinois, you understand the title of this blog because you know that our region has long been called Egypt. Some call the area Little Egypt, and there are heated objections among the purists as to that little word.

Others of us differ whether we should write southern Illinois or Southern Illinois. As a former English teacher, I would say that southern Illinois is correct. As someone who loves the area and sees it as a very distinct entity, I choose to write Southern Illinois. We are also sometimes called The Land Between the Rivers or River Region. Whatever we are called, we have four seasons, which is one of the reasons I wanted to live out my life in the region of my birth. Like most people living here, my favorites are spring and fall.

Right now I am intent on enjoying spring. (I can barely resist capitalizing spring. I just checked the Associated Press stylebook on my desk, and I was correct not to capitalize a season. And yet I almost went back and capitalized Spring and Fall anyhow! For me this season brings the emotions that call for capital letters and exclamation points.)

Gerald’s brother Keith and nephew Tim have grown beef for our freezers, and Gerald and Keith took them down to Kentucky recently to have them butchered there by an Amish butchering shop. Monday they will go bring back the processed beef. This is the first time in a few years since we have purchased a beef. So yesterday my friend Linda came and helped me defrost the freezer in our garage to get ready for this abundance.

Yesterday was a great day to do this task since it was not miserably cold, and yet it was cool enough that I didn’t worry as we emptied the freezer contents into tubs and buckets and covered them with blankets while we did the defrosting and cleaning work. At the other farm house, my daughters used to be enlisted to help me do this job. I don’t want to waste much time lest foods start to thaw. At that house, the freezer in the laundry room was right next to the children’s bathroom, and we could store the frozen foods in the bathtub and cover with blankets while we cleaned.

A few bits and pieces of previous meals that I had saved when my thriftiness was in overdrive had to be thrown out. Quite a few items I’d saved and forgotten were placed in the refrigerator to be eaten in yesterday and today’s meals. I thawed a beef roast and prepared it today since we will be getting this new supply Monday.

I would be lying if I did not admit that I feel smug every time I pass the freezer and imagine all that nice clean empty space inside thanks to all the sorting and rearranging we accomplished.

With the lovely weather, I have also made a start at cleaning out the flower beds—something that did not get done last fall. I have carried away four bags of leaves, weeds, and dead plants to add to the organic material out in the field. Gerald has rolled the lawn and mowed it for the first time. The beautiful green is so intense that the many blossoms on trees and flowers give a welcome relief. There is still work to be done, and if the predicted rain comes tomorrow, that will be the end of working in the yard for awhile.

Maybe that will help me get to the bills and letter writing duties awaiting me on my kitchen desk.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Senior Citizens Day at Kroger's

The first Wednesday in each month, there is a 10% discount for senior citizens at our local Kroger's. If you have not experienced first Wednesday, you don’t know what crazy is.

The parking lot is so full that you have a healthy walk just going in. Since Harrisburg's store is flooded out, there were even more people than usual today competing for parking. Although I seldom see anyone I know at the grocery store, I always see three or four folks I know on this day. I met a nearby neighbor I had not seen in years as I was going inside.

I had to laugh at one friend I had also seen last month. A former professional who is now retired, she said, “I don’t know why I do this to myself each month.” Then she told a funny story about waiting for a parking space only to have an old codger whip right in front of her and take it away from her. With all the aches and pains and toughness from years of living, you can get bumped quite easily in the crowded aisles filled with people with oxygen, canes, and wheelchairs.

I heard two other short women commenting on how impossible it is at this store to get items off the top shelf. Since there is rarely a clerk available in a modern grocery, I have stretched, used the bottom shelf as a step, asked strange men to obtain an item from the top shelf, and sometimes just given up on something I needed. Somehow it was comforting to me today to hear the other women expressing their dismay at this problem. I guess misery does love company.

Bumping into my sister-in-law Opal, was a pleasant addition to my shopping experience. She was there buying birthday cards for her daughter Kyna and granddaughter Jinna. She said she had to park so far away in order to come into the store, she debated going on home and coming back. However, with the price of gas what it is, she decided she’d come on in even if she did have to park on the outer rim of the parking lot. I am glad she did because I was glad to see her.

I had spent the morning getting a perm for our upcoming weekend trip, and I ran by my daughter’s house after leaving the store. By mid-afternoon, I was home and put half my groceries away. The rest can wait until tomorrow.