Operating Principles – Revisted

Midway through the second year of “Her spirits rose…” I think about the process as a more flexible thing than I did at the beginning. Last year I planned whole months, mostly now I react to the present (with a little lag time).

Aided by an Internet creation – a chunky paperback I had made from last year’s posts, a “blog to book” publication, I’ve read through old posts thinking about possibilities for pocket books. One might be about what I think of as “operating principles,” and I’ve revisited the first six months so far, collecting favorite quotes.

But I also want to make note of June! Needing a series like last year’s flowers to allow more time for all of us to enjoy June – I’m thinking to combine the two impulses and make posts with a clunky title, “Field Notes from June: iPaintings with Operating Principles.” Or maybe just one or the other.

June is upon us – still cool – but rhododendrons bloom and winter wrens and robins sing in the woods when we walk in the early morning. The white-crowned sparrow calls from his bluff perch, the olive-sided flycatcher from the firs above, and a crow, surely the same one from past years, visits the water dish.

Two different deer trios are about – I encountered a doe with a pair of fawns on the south forty and, just before we left on our trip, a mom with the tiniest fawn, newborn with crisp white spots, appeared. Our house sitter spotted them on our little deck (when the fawn saw her, it slid under an Adirondack chair with that collapsing-to-safety leg movement of a tiny fawn).

This week I watched that pair with what seems to be last season’s fawn, now a yearling. The fawn touched noses with the yearling – and then, distracted, skittered off and jumped straight up – after a robin.

Plants I think of as midsummer blooms (my Alaska gardener roots) – thalictrum, columbine, and real geraniums bloom in my garden now. The rain and rain and rain pleases those sturdy perennials. A handful of annuals in little pots waits for me to get outside and plant.

I wish you the pleasures of daylight and green in this first summer month! As always, thank you so much for reading and for keeping company in this endeavor.

Food on the Road

Food when traveling is a menu apart, often mere survival, but sometimes a focus of pleasure. Our East Coast junket required long and short airplane and car rides – and the meals to accompany such journeys – no home visits and few real restaurants, late arrivals at hotels, and college food service dinners under a big white tent at the reunion. But searching out food on the road seems to get easier – packaged nuts dangle from airport newsstands, portable fruit like apples and bananas appear in coffee spots and highway stops, and vegetables find their way.

In Maine we arrived late and driving-weary at our hotel, on the outskirts of the college town, not perched near the sea or in fragrant pinewoods but in a field of asphalt surrounded by a mall of box stores and smattering of chain restaurants. We walked across the road to one, me dragging my feet. But I was happy to find a menu full of vegetables as “sides” – grilled zucchini, steamed broccoli, sweet potato fries, roasted squash, and more – also brown rice pilaf and a salad bar that included mesclun, fresh spinach leaves, and black beans!

We did have a real meal to celebrate the graduate – tasty pizza-like crusty flatbreads baked in an open oven with a roaring wood fire. One, covered with caramelized onions, olives, mushrooms, artichokes, zucchini, and a tomato sauce, reminded me of my intention to roast ahead vegetables to use on a pizza (first encountered on my Alaska trip).

On our return trip to Seattle, we landed at a small jet terminal at O’Hare and walked to a bigger concourse. The link between terminals is a slightly curved, all-glass, elevated walkway with student paintings on translucent material – hanging from the ceiling and on windows (but not blocking light). Best were the benches – not airport furniture but slatted like real benches in a garden or park. Travelers paused here – transported for a moment to a plaza with a people promenade.

Instead of a “food court” with predictable choices, smaller farmer’s market-like stands edged the concourse across from gates. One had “real food” – a selection of fruit, chips, salads, sandwiches including a delicious hummus and roasted vegetables offering in a wheat wrap – a great picnic lunch.

Roasted vegetables served hot used to be just winter fare – but now seem versatile and interesting for summer sandwiches or pizza.

Please, let’s bring on summer!

A Memorable Weekend

On a long Memorial Day weekend we flew back east for two celebrations – a college reunion for my husband and our niece’s graduation – festivities on opposite ends of a spectrum (sometimes identified by numbers of yesterdays or tomorrows). Both held on leafy campuses with plenty of brick and ivy, these events celebrated on one hand, the challenges and accomplishments of long lifetimes and, on the other, the challenges and accomplishments of short but significant, college years. Reunions brought long-ago friends together, and graduates parted from friends made these four years.

Not being a participant at these events, I remembered a favorite moment in a Drabble novel when a character recognizes passing time and warms to the pleasures of the observer’s role. (And as a bystander I had time for two mini-reunions, rare face-to-face visits with East Coast friends, connections maintained by email and Christmas cards for so many years. I cherished both encounters – over pomegranate juice and potato chips with one friend and lunch and apple pie with the other – renewing our friendships with much talk about families and work.)

From the reunion in New Jersey (hot, muggy, soft summer air), an hour-long flight on a skinny jet took us north to Maine (foggy, marine weather like home, tulips and budding lilacs).

A grassy square in the middle of campus made a perfect setting for graduation day, sheltered by huge oak trees dressed in spring green. A bagpiper led the procession of faculty (wearing their traditional gowns with colorful hoods) followed by the graduates, fresh-faced and smiling in their black bachelor gowns.

The speakers (always more treat for observers than participants I suppose) gave all the requisite encouragement and advice to the young people – reminding them that you “can’t control what you’re dealt, only how you deal with it,” encouraging the celebration of one’s “peculiarities,” and recommending the examined life as the well-lived life. They advised dreaming big dreams, but employing persistence and fortitude.

The lowered gray sky gave way to sunshine as the graduates moved tassels from right to left with sounds of trumpets and joyous hoots.

Hooray for our family’s newest graduate – an inductee to her school’s Scholar-Athlete Society. Well done!