From "Patience McGuire" (1820)

One day that October, Annie was late coming home from school. As the afternoon wore on toward evening, I began to feel concerned. Then I could not help but recall how my mother must have worried just like this the evening I met Mrs. Annie Smith and stayed out after dark. But I was sixteen then, practically a woman. My Annie was too young yet.
Night was falling and I was just setting the dinner table when I heard soft footsteps and the kitchen door opening. Poor Annie was all soiled and bedraggled, her apron torn, her eyes red and her hair undone. I caught her to my arms and asked what had kept her.
"Oh Mama! The children at school are so cruel! They made me cry so. After school I could not bear to see anyone. I went down to the riverside, threw myself on the muddy bank, and wept, thinking I would not come home before the cows. My apron caught on a bramble. Oh Mama…!" She buried her tousled head in my embrace and hugged me for dear life.
I said, "Sit down, dear. Have a mug of cider." I poured it and sat down at the table with her, rubbing her back gently. "What happened?"
Her tears poured out. "They teased me that I wish to woo lasses as a lad does! And that perhaps I wish to be a lad, that I might woo lasses!"
I smoothed her hair.  "Come now, dear, you know there is no such thing! Why, how silly of them to imagine something that isn't real, and think they could say such nonsense about you! Pay them no mind, for they are too foolish to bother with." As I was saying this, she glanced up and showed me a strange look in her eyes; then she looked down again and hunched over, rocking back and forth." "Come on, sweetling," I cooed, "if you're troubled we can talk again after dinner. Your mama worked hard all day and still has plenty to do. We have all this hungry family to feed, and think how they will clamor if we don't serve dinner soon. Now go wash up. Have you anything clean to wear?"
She shrugged and went out to the pump. Just then Patty and Mark burst in the door, followed by Johnny and Bridget. Finally Mary appeared and began to herd the young ones and to help with getting dinner on the table. I heard Michael's horse coming up the path, with the sound of cowbells faint as wisps of smoke in the distance of that crisp, cool fall evening.

I wonder that I did not hear the banshee.
The next day we received a letter from a parish priest at St. Francisville, Louisiana, with the news that our sons Bartholomew and Michael departed this life down in New Orleans, aged only 23 and 22, taking their grandfathers' names with them. A barge collision at the crowded port and no doubt a drunkard river pilot. He added that since it would take too long for word to reach me, they had gone ahead and buried them, after taking up a charity collection against the funeral expenses and a stipend for him to say the Requiems. This collection began with the twenty-three dollars Bart and Mike had between them. Father Moreau reassured us that all had been paid for and we did not owe them anything. The following month, Maggie wrote from Loretto that she and Luke had paid Father Gallitzin for Masses for Bart and Mike too. 

Lennon's Imagine: It was 40 years ago today

John Lennon's album Imagine was released on September 9, 1971. At the time it was instantly recognized as a classic, it's gone down in people's memory as one of the greatest albums of all time, and its impact on world culture has been extensive. The title song has practically become an international anthem that expresses the world's longing for a better world distilled into its most concentrated, direct expression, and is still being sung around the world by groups of idealist people holding hands. According to Jimmy Carter, "In many countries around the world—my wife and I have visited about 125 countries—you hear John Lennon's song 'Imagine' used almost equally with national anthems." By Yoko Ono's authorization, Amnesty International adopted "Imagine" as their official song.

Let me look back at the album song by song...

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you shook me baby

I was at home when the earthquake hit. It took me about 2 seconds to realize what was happening, and did I ever get scared. What a surprise! It went on for what seemed a sickeningly long while (a minute or so?). I was thinking I need to run outside NOW. Except... damn, I was naked. Wouldn't you just know it... But then it was OK. The building I'm in creaked, groaned, and rattled to beat the band. It was built nearly 40 years ago and I was surprised it sustained no damage at all, not even anything falling from a shelf. One picture frame tilted an inch and a half off plumb. Otherwise, you couldn't even tell afterward.

Later I went to visit my 6-year-old grandson Rahiem. His other grandma accused him of jumping around upstairs when the earthquake began. He said he wasn't jumping, it was an earthquake. He knew right away what it was. Told you he was smart!

Practically the entire East Coast got it—such a huge extent, and no one got hurt. It's a miracle. I'm impressed.

It was my first one. Nothing got broken here except my earthquake cherry.

Writer's Block: Dancing queen

If you could master any dance or gymnastics move, what would it be?

I would love to perfect what seems to me the quintessential belly dance technique. It was taught to me with the name ummi which literally means 'maternal', because it's associated with training a woman's muscles around her womb for giving birth.

It's done entirely with abdominal muscles. You have to learn to isolate those muscles' action from the rest of the body, and make them go forward and backward all on their own. Then you have to isolate the left and right sides of the abdomen from each other. Then you learn to move the whole abdomen around in a smooth, graceful circle. First move your belly button forward, then contract the right side to roll it to the right, then move it toward the back (inward), then contract the left side to roll it around to the left, then roll it back around to the forward position. Do all this while the rest of your body remains perfectly still. Now do it rhythmically to the beat and synchronize it with other sinuous dance moves. I learned to do this as a beginner in a class I took a few years ago. But then my health declined so that now I'm not able to dance any more. How I miss it! 

But I can still practice the ummi, sitting right here at my desk... 

sleepy thyme

My body is unusually sensitive to not only pharmaceuticals but also it seems some herbs. I'm fond of زعتر za‘tar, a Middle Eastern herbal blend of thyme (Thymus vulgaris), sumac, sesame seeds, and salt, all ground up together. Combined with olive oil, it makes a yummy, classic seasoning for bread. I have some I mixed up last year.

Well, as you know, ground herbs and spices lose their savor over time. So sometimes I sprinkle a little extra, newer, thyme into it on my plate for more flavor. Whenever I do that, it's inescapable that eating straight thyme like that has a powerful soporific effect on me. Just a few pinches of the stuff will knock me out faster than Ambien. I mean Ambien just helps me to sleep; thyme actually forces me to sleep. Soon after eating it, my eyes start closing and I'm seized with an uncontrollable urge to lie down and nap. I'm guaranteed to be out like a light and sleep very soundly for a minimum three hours. Cannot, must not be used before driving or operating machinery.

In Middle Eastern culture, it's believed that thyme is a good brain food that promotes the intellect. School kids are fed za‘tar at breakfast on exam days. Ha! If I were to go back to university to take some courses and tried that... it'd be ridiculous. Major flunkitude would be the result.

I'm guessing the reason thyme has a reputation as good for thinking is its calming effect on the brain. The reasoning would go something like this: when you're agitated and upset, you can't think very well, right? So calm down the brain and it will function better. Jethro Kloss made the same claim for sage (Salvia officinalis), which also has a sedative effect on me when I drink tea made from it. The two herbs are close relatives in Lamiaceae, the mint family. Even though there are many other well-known herbs in Lamiaceae that don't knock me out. Well, all I can say is the effects are highly dependent on an individual and her body's reaction to different substances.

Jalapeño Omelet

The easy way to make a moist, fluffy omelet.

3 eggs
2 tbs buttermilk
2 tsp olive oil
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cumin

1. Beat eggs with buttermilk, seasonings, and jalapeño.

2. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet and pour eggs in.

3. Cover and cook 10 minutes on medium-low heat until eggs are cooked through. Cooking time depends on width of skillet & depth of omelet.
Makes 2 servings.
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2 Lenape recipes

Indian Givers series vol. 3

Blueberry Sapan

Sapan is the word for boiled cornmeal in the Lenape language (also known as Delaware). An anglicized version of the name is suppawn, ocasionally found in some old recipes. Sapan was a daily staple for the Lenni Lenape, and they combined it with any of a number of other ingredients, either savory or sweet.

One sweet version flavors it with blueberries and maple syrup. I'm using ghee as a lacto-vegetarian substitute for the bear fat of the original recipe.

1 cup blue or white cornmeal
1 cup cold water
2 cups boiling water
just a dash of salt
3 tbs dried blueberries
1 tbs ghee
maple syrup

1. Mix the cornmeal and cold water.

2. Bring the rest of the water to a boil; stir in the cornmeal mixture and salt. Add the blueberries.

3. Lower the heat and slowly cook it uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. When it's nearly done cooking, stir in the ghee until mixed and then beat the sapan to a smooth texture.

4. Serve topped with maple syrup.
Reverse side of the Sacagawea dollar, showing an Indian woman cultivating the sacred Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. The corn is planted in the middle of a mound of soil, then beans around that, then squash around the outside. The cornstalk gives the bean vines a way to climb higher and produce a better yield. The bean vines help stabilize the cornstalk in the soil to protect it from getting blown over by wind. The big squash leaves shade the soil, helping it retain moisture, while the prickly squash stems help keep away predators. Win-win-win!

Reverse side of the Sacagawea dollar, showing an Indian woman cultivating the sacred Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. The corn is planted in the middle of a mound of soil, then beans around that, then squash around the outside. The cornstalk gives the bean vines a way to climb higher and produce a better yield. The bean vines help stabilize the cornstalk in the soil to protect it from getting blown over by wind. The big squash leaves shade the soil, helping it retain moisture, while the prickly squash stems help keep away predators. Win-win-win!

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Punk — gift of the Native Americans

Indian Givers Series vol. 2

What is the connection between Johnny Rotten and Chief Tamanend? 

Johnny RottenChief Tamanend

One is known as a loud, abrasive iconoclast; the other is revered as a wise, benevolent leader. As unrelated as they seem at first, a word from Chief Tamanend's language that he taught to early English settlers has given its name to Mr. Rotten's type of music. The word punk comes from the Lenape language: the Lenape word punkw means 'dust'. It could also mean the dry rotten wood dust formed in a decaying tree, which was useful as tinder; this was the original sense of the word as borrowed into English, and it still has this meaning, mostly as a stick of compressed wood dust smoldering at one end, used to light fireworks from a distance.

The Lenape word is also found in the name of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, from Lenape Punkwsutènay, which literally means 'sandfly town' or 'mosquito town'. The word for sandfly or mosquito is punkwës, derived from punkw 'dust' and the animate diminutive suffix -ës; i.e., little creature of the dust. The word utènay means 'town'. The name was a clear warning to anyone who went there what to expect; white people ignored the warning and built a town there anyhow. And got bug-bitten a lot.

In English, starting from the basic meaning of rotten wood dust, the word punk developed a wider range of meanings around the concept of 'something rotten, worthless, rubbish', first recorded in 1869. The figurative use for a worthless person, a young hoodlum, is first found in a letter by e.e. cummings in 1917, probably adapted from the underworld slang term punk kid meaning a criminal's apprentice, which goes back to 1908. Punk rock arose in the 1970s as a voice for youth who felt they'd been treated as worthless, like rotten dust, and who could catch fire like tinder. So a fairly direct linguistic thread connects the Lenni Lenape nation with a modern movement that has had and still has a huge impact on music in our lifetime. This is one example that may give an idea of how much of a legacy from the American Indians is still present in our everyday lives, buried and mostly invisible under the dust of centuries... unless one knows where to look.