It’s Hogmanay for Me This Year

It’s Hogmanay for Me — To ring out our current year, one that saw so many losses, not the least of which occurred with our November elections, I will return to my Scottish roots. I intentionally celebrated the Winter Solstice, loving the early fall of night and darkness, and felt a kinship with those early Vikings who came to what is now the British Isles. (Thank you, Ancestry DNA, for giving me a sense of why this resonates so clearly.)

Some of my earliest memories connect with this celebration, directly from my grandmother, Rose Anderson, who though separated from Scotland for almost ten generations, still held firm to those traditions, including the love of a nip of whiskey, unseen by my teetotal grandfather.

First footing was the tradition we practiced, and one that I continue, where the first person to enter the house after midnight is a black-haired man. My father filled this ritual as I grew up, as did my black-haired husband in later years. Though it is now grey hair that tops (most of) his head, we still honor what was. So significant is this to me that I’ve included it as an almost sacramental ritual in my next book, although adapted with its own connotation. (Slight commercial for Echoes from the Alum Chine which will be published in 2017)

I’ve only been to one “official’ Hogmanay, one that started at midnight and went on until the sun rose on January 1st. I no longer have the stamina for that, nor do I think I could survive another hangover of that order. But at midnight, if we manage to make it that late, we will sing what brings tears to my eyes no matter what time of year. And I’ll drink a cup o’kindess, and memory, and love-too-late, for grandmother Rose who loved the words of Robert Burns, memories of her and the sadness of her life part of my DNA.

And for you, dear Reader, I wish you a year of love, and contentment, and a path of goodness in the darkness.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance by forgot,

And auld lang syne!

 

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lange syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

 

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

 

We’ll twa ha run about the bras,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.

 

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.

 

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

And gies a hand o’thine!

And we’ll tak a right fude willie waught,

For auld lang syne.

 

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com, Another Sunday, A Novel of Historic Baltimore

Looking Back on Things I’m Done With….

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Through the magic of Facebook, this post showed up on my Feed – from one year ago today. So I thought it might be a good time to review this — to see if I’m still Done With what I identified, and to consider adding more. Which I did — at the end of last year’s thoughts.

Hope that you too are deciding what to be done with, and hope it gives more light and life to your days.

Ten Things I’m Done With (December, 2015)

  1. Being pressured into giving Christmas gifts that I don’t want to give to people who don’t want to get them. The first time I said “I think I’ll pass” was the hardest, and actually most people were relieved. This year, every group I know that used to give presents to one another now has a food drive. I’m not saying that I am responsible for this, but it just goes to show how one person speaking up can resonate with those who were thinking the same thing. And it has opened my heart to the pleasure of shopping for small remembrances for those I really do want to remember. Go figure.  (2016 — oh yes, and it just gets easier and easier)
  2. Salmon—don’t care if it’s wild (or so-named by the purveyor), or farm-raised in its own excrement, or now GMO so who knows what it is – I’m over it.(2016- — still over it)
  3. Risotto—after ordering at a lovely restaurant where an overindulged six-year-old shattered not only our mealtime discourse, but also those of the tables around us and much of the decor, this entrée rekindles too many merciless memories for me to try it again. (2016 –no risotto in my house, ever again)
  4. Trying to please—one impossibility that I’ve relinquished — which is different from being kind, which I am working hard on. (2106 — boy, being kind is a tough road these post-election days, but I’m working on it. As far as trying to please, well you can just forget that one, I’m way over it)
  5. Prayer—too many sanctimonious politicians, too many priggish believers, offering prayers and feeling righteous; just too much hypocrisy for me right now. Perhaps one day I’ll change my mind. (2016 — haven’t changed my mind; in fact, post-election, post-truth, I feel even stronger)
  6. Too Many of Anything—read The Magic Art of Tidying Up; thought that I was pretty much a minimalist, but “tidied up” so much that I have nothing left to wear. Trying for some balance here. (2016 — less and less – it feels good)
  7. Magazine Subscriptions—stacked-up magazines felt like homework, so for years, I’d been magazine-less; responded to a too-good-to-pass-up offer from The Atlantic, thinking/hoping that this time it would be different. It’s not. (2016 – so my Atlantic subscription expired, yet their salespersons have been calling, calling, calling, offering me years at no cost. Go figure. No to magazines, even good ones, even if they’re free)
  8. Being Scared to Write What I Think—Well, here I am, writing what I think. (2016 – post-election, better say what you think while you can)
  9. Gummy Worms-even frozen (2016 – uh oh — these have returned to my freezer  – well, these days, take your solace where you can)
  10. Trying to change people’s minds—now spending my time figuring out just what it is I think. Arguing both sides with myself is enough.(2016 – arghhh – was this prophetic? and no, we’re not going to change anyone’s mind.; mores the pity)

What I wish I could be done with: lamenting what I should have said, should have done. (2016 — for the most part, I am done with this – ah, progress somewhere…)

And this week, more working to do what I can, however small. Follow Wall-of-Us(wall-of-us.org) for concrete ways you can make your voice heard.

Another Sunday, A Novel of Historic Baltimore, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Does Cooking Help?

burnt-cookies

Does Cooking Help? —

I’m doing what I can – following suggestions put out by Wall-of-Us (wall-of-us.org). If you’re not following it, take a look. It makes having your voice heard easy. And we need to make our voices heard.

This week the news of our president-elect continues to confound and amaze. I know this, though I am still not ready for TV news, nor NPR. I tune into BBC World News, where the calamitous is delivered in calming tones. I also read newspapers, though I, like so many, have become increasingly skeptical of what is printed. Such is life in our post-truth world.

And this week, in yet another effort to regain some kind of normal, I tried cooking – well, baking to be specific. Never one of my strengths, nonetheless I found a recipe for Old Bay cookies – savories, as the Brits would say.

Now some years ago, in a spasm of minimalism, I gave away my hardly-ever-used food processor and most of my cookbooks. When this recipe called for such device, I thought, well, they didn’t have food processors for how many centuries and still managed to produce cookies, crackers and other assorted biscuits. If Jane Austen could do it, certainly it is not beyond me.

So, I kneaded, pummeled, with love, of course, this mixture of butter and flour until it approximated something like cookie dough. I lined the cookie sheets with parchment paper, delighted that I found the last fragment at the back of a drawer, and hoped for the best.

They baked. As I slipped them onto the cooling rack, I saw that they actually looked like English biscuits. Hope fluttered near. Perhaps the miasma was lifting. I called in my chief taster, he who will eat anything that I manage to cook and compliment me on it.

A cup of tea, with two Old Bay biscuits beside it. He bit. No response. Finally, “Have you tasted these?” I took one.

Inedible. Yet they looked so lovely.

So, it appears that baking isn’t the answer. But I’ll keep on trying. Along with working for some kind of justice and a country we can once again be proud of. I will not give up. And I’m keeping those biscuits as a reminder.

Another Sunday, a Novel of Historic Baltimore,  www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Learning (More) From a Lemon Tree

lemontree

On (More) Learning from a Lemon Tree

I brought my lemon tree inside a few days ago. The temperatures plummeted to the high 20s, and I didn’t think that my covering it up with an afghan would do the job. and yes, it was time to bring it inside for the winter. I did this with much trepidation – between the cats and my brown thumb, I still am nervous. And there it is, with its one lemon – still growing, turning a lighter green (not quite yellow) every day, and getting a little softer to the touch. How will this abrupt change of domicile affect this beloved piece of fruit that I have been tending each day?

I placed it in a bay window, where it gets a bit of, but not enough, sun and am hoping for the best. So far, the cats haven’t noticed it, it has retained all its leaves, and it continues to soften and get more (but not quite) yellow. Maybe it can weather the storm. Maybe with love, it can weather the storm.

And I think, I hope, perhaps I can too, this political and national storm that rages around us. I still cannot bring myself to watch TV news; I still change stations when NPR national news comes on. I do listen to BBC World News, so I am not totally unaware, though most times I would like to be. And I am doing my part, something, however small, but something.

I have subscribed to Wall-of-Us.org, an organization that sends weekly emails with specific actions that can be taken. The founders, two “nasty women,” I think/hope, are doing a tremendous service for those of us who know that we need to move beyond hand-wringing to action. And if we all do one thing, even one small thing, somehow that has to count. At least with us.

And my lemon is hanging on. We must as well.

Another Sunday, A Novel of Historic Baltimore, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com