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January Notes: 1 – 10

January 1, 2017

The first day begins to end.

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If you are Pennsylvania Dutch and it’s New Year’s Day, you eat mashed potatoes, pork and sauerkraut. Here it is 2017 and Dad has made it to another year. Two weeks ago not too many were counting on that. “Did you make enough potatoes?” he asked. I have.

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January 4, 2017

It is interesting how the day affects us, or me at least. A few days of rainy cold and all I wanted to do was sleep; nothing looked good that I wrote. This morning you could tell the sun was going to come; I understood what I was writing and made it understandable, understood—I splashed my face, brushed my teeth, but made no attempt to comb my hair—I’m a poet and if you are a poet, the pay’s not much, but it’s in the contract: Poet’s don’t have to comb their hair when they are looking for the natural look or honestly just don’t feel like doing it. I told Dad’s caretaker this morning—she showers him well—Turn around, Donald! Turn around!—It’s kind of a dance they do and while they dance she gives him a shave too and he ends up smelling of Old Spice—I showed her the letter I’d written to President Obama and told her I was mailing my thank you. Dad’s caretaker is of Puerto Rican descent—Why don’t we say ascent? “Not too many folks around here doing that,” she said. Dad has no Internet and my iPhone-Verizon usage is used up so I will only be on Facebook at McDonald’s where as a matter of fact I am now. In the South Mountain I am going to be reading books and writing. I am reading Artaud—a Christmas gift—finally after all these years—at long last understood—and am almost finished with Winesburg, Ohio—the third time I’ve read it. What an incredible book. Sherwood Anderson, I just found out on Wikipedia, was into free love at the beginning of the 20th Century, went through quite a few wives, and died of peritonitis after apparently swallowing the toothpick in his olive in his martini on a cruise ship headed for South America—Panama was as far as he got. Henry Miller said that everyone should read Anderson’s short story, The Egg, and I agree. Henry also said you only need to read it once, and I agree with that too; the first time you’re on the edge of your seat, and the second time it’s been there, done that. Winesburg, Ohio is different; like a good poem or the light in a diamond, it changes each time you look, always something new to be seen in it, wonderfully endless. I took this photo looking across the field at the Cornwall Post Office. It has always been a field for the sixty some years that I can remember it.

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January 6

Good morning.

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January 8

Dad wiggled his way to the edge of the bed this morning; in Pennsylvania Dutch we would say he “rutched” to the edge of the bed; and before pulling himself up to his walker asked “Did Donald Trump just say that everybody in America must bow down to him or did I dream that? “You dreamt that Dad,” I said and then I thought, “Did he?” I am not sure how absurd things are going to become, but we are through the looking glass, folks, we are through the looking glass. Meanwhile, here are some afternoon and sunset photos taken over the last few days. It’s freezing this morning, but the sun is shining and I am going to walk no matter what, come hell or high water or should I say come hell or iceberg chunks? These photos show that no matter how crazy we humans get the world goes on its own.

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January 9

Dad is asleep more than he is awake and is beginning to believe what he dreams. “The birds are finally at the feeder,” he told me this morning. I saw three of them.” “They aren’t there now,” I said looking. I bought a bird feeder and seeds at K-Mart and hung the feeder on the back porch thinking that would be the good spot because Dad could watch the birds up close. But no birds came. Was it too cold or were we too close? So I moved the feeder out to the hemlock, the first tree in the back yard thinking bird paths would likely crisscross there. I’d seen a cardinal pecking around the needles a little further off under the white pine before it got really cold.

I went outside—wow it is cold— looked all around and touched the seeds in the feeder; they were cold but not frozen together. There was no evidence below that any bird had been there, not one cracked sunflower shell or any other husks; nothing from the feeder has as yet fallen; Dad was dreaming. My plan is to wait until the birds come and let the birds get to know the feeder, then I will move it closer on the porch. I’m sure they will follow then. But first they have to know. It’s been three days now.

To cheer things up I made tomato soup kind of like my mother used to make. She used peeled tomatoes that she’d canned. I use peeled tomatoes from a can, one can peeled and one can crushed. The peeled I sliced into chunks and simmered it all in chicken stock, an onion and a couple stalks of celery chopped. Salt, pepper, just one shake of nutmeg, hardly noticeable but there. I would have sprinkled in some thyme but there wasn’t any. There was some dried sage from my sister Cathy’s garden and I took the leaves off the stems and crushed it between my palms and let that fall in, just a little bit. I let it simmer unwatched for over an hour.

Ready, I put a slice of cheddar cheese on the bottom of the bowl before I spooned in the tomato soup. And I served it with some pretzels instead of crackers which is what my mother did. I think it’s Pennsylvania Dutch, using the pretzels. With ice cream too. Dad broke some up and let them fall to soak. He liked the soup a lot; if not exactly mother’s it certainly was good enough.

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January 10

Weren’t the clouds something yesterday?

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