Archive for December, 2006

Swords and Spears

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Before I plant a crop, first I dig in the dirt of my garden and then I water the little plot and give it over to the birds for a day or two. The birds like to eat all the grubs and beatles I unearthed with my digging. Once the birds think they have eaten everything there is to eat in my little plot, I plant tiny seeds and sit back to wait. Sometimes it takes two weeks or more for anything to come up, but soon I get green sprigs that grow into tomatoes, onions, carrots, parsley, lettuce, flowers, and weeds. We don’t get enough to survive out of this garden but it does make a salad for us. I think of the people of ancient days who learned that seeds planted in the ground yield food, and enough cultivated ground can support a family or a clan. The clan could then stop wandering to find fields of grain and wild animals to eat. Eventually clans settled and built permanent houses and cultivated the ground permanently. But then man’s greed took over, didn’t it? This is where the swords and spears were used. No longer were crops planted, but weapons were forged instead. Big powerful people took the land of little weak people and either killed the weak with swords or enslaved them to cultivate the land and feed the powerful ones who bacame “rich”. The rich could then lie back on luxurious couches and be fed. But then other powerful people saw the lands and wanted them. The powerful peoples wanted each others’ lands and crops. In the dark of the night, plans were made and swords and spears were forged. In the daylight the armies met and fought wars. The weak people, the “spoils of war,” were passed with the ownership of the property to the victors. The prophet Micah wrote about this as he looked out over the enslaved people of Israel. He promised them that the faithful few would be saved and eventually would own their land again. It might be in another time, but freedom would come. Then in that better, future time, Micah wrote, the “strong and distant nations… shall beat their swords into plow shares, and their spears into pruning hooks…Every man shall sit under his own vine or under his own fig tree, undisturbed” (Micah 4: 3-4). To have land and a fig tree meant prosperity to the people of Israel. The promise of land and a fig tree meant once again the people could protect themselves, set up boundaries, and grow food for themselves. Greed and darkness have not been overcome yet. We forge bigger swords and spears every day when what each man should be doing is planting his own field.

Grapefruit and a humble tradition…

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

My sister Donna sent my Mom a basket of fresh Florida fruit (grapefruits and naval oranges). Actually the gift didn’t come in a basket but a humble box. We put the fruit out on the porch and it comes in cold as if we had put it in the ‘fridge. So this morning Mom got this distant look on her face and she said, “I remember how Aunt Louise used to cut the grapefruit and separate all the sections then broil it for us.” “Oh I can do that for you!” I chortled gleefully, and set off to relive a distant memory. First you find the little crooked serated knife in the back of the knife drawer, then and you begin to dig down on every side of the little “units” of the fruit… cutting on each side of the membrane. By the beginning of the second half, I began to remember … “I remember when I learned how to do this… being cautioned by my Mom, ‘be sure to get on each side of the membrane or it won’t come out right,’” and indeed when attacked with a spoon, if it wasn’t “done right” the grapefruit section didn’t come out… So then I began to wonder if mothers today are teaching their children this humble art of “sectioning a grapefruit.” Into the broiler went the halves. But Mom said, “Not the broiler, use the microwave!” … What? we didn’t have microwaves when I was little…. dissonance… dissonance… Enter the twenty-first century to jar my memory. When the grapefruit halves were warm I sprinkled sugar on the halves. My first bite made me shiver - whew! My puckering lips quivered! “Not enough sugar,” I sputtered. So maybe today’s juice boxes full of sugary liquids have spoiled me… Is this another tradition that will fall victim to progress? Do you have a little crooked serated knife in your knife drawer?

Advent in Ohio -1-

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

I am at my Mom’s in Cleveland and what an unusual Advent this is. I advised the women I talked to in Miami to try to light candles, go to Mass, and pray in “waiting” and instead of following my own advice, I’ve 7-day cruised and not gone to Mass yet! Nor do we have an Advent wreath here at Mom’s. Well that box hasn’t been unpacked yet… What I’ve done so far is read Mom to sleep (the galleys from my book arrived here in Cleveland and I have to read, correct, and return them within a week). I’ve emptied the contents of Mom’s kitchen on to the counter tops and redistributed stuff to make it friendlier. Like I took plant food, lightbulbs, electric cords, tape and string, and batteries out of the kitchen pantry and replaced them with flour and sugar. Every surface was cluttered and there were lots of duplicates… We are still tossing some “old stuff” that Jack loved… Don’t tell him but we threw away the cream of wheat and barley… The rusty cookie tins were thrown out and some empty bottles went into the closet “for Donna.” Now we need to collect all the tupperware into one place and pare it down as well as find all the pots and pans that are sprinkled around the kitchen. Meanwhile…. I’ve got Mom busy at the dining room table writing Christmas cards (she said she wanted to do it…) I put the address, return address, stamp on and we’re doing a good thing. Christmas music plays on the CD player. Now if we can find the flour next time we bake bread all will really be well! Love to all and a happy, peaceful, and productive Advent!