27 January 2009

Aren't these cranberries gorgeous?

I don't actually like raw cranberries that much. They are too sour for my taste. I did, however, make an amazing Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake last month for an employee holiday party. It didn't have just orange or cranberry or cornmeal, either--which, for the record, are all beautiful ingredients. It had ricotta and maple syrup as well. It was a mix between corn bread, cheesecake and a cranberry orange muffin and one coworker wanted the recipe plus the leftovers. Thanks Luisa from The Wednesday Chef!

Today I found out that President Lincoln was a poet. I got to introduce Ronald C. White Jr. for his new book A. Lincoln and Dr. White explained and read aloud some of Lincoln's key speeches. He compared some lines written by someone else to the words Lincoln actually used. The audience, me included, began to understand the poetics that Lincoln employed in his speeches. In fact, this speech that someone else helped him write was for his Inaugural address and it was the only speech Lincoln did not write entirely on his own. This discussion renewed in me an admiration for words and all the beautiful and fun things you can do with them. Even White's lecture was eloquently constructed.
Here is a small example.

Lincoln's one-time speech writer suggests saying: I close.
Lincoln decides to say: I am loathe to close.

Say it out loud. Ronald White made the audience do it. I am loathe to close elongates the phrase and loathe and close are so rhythmic together.

I too am loathe to close, but writing about words makes me want to spend time with my ever-expanding stacks of books.

Oh yeah, and Happy 200th Lincoln, I know it's coming up!

20 January 2009

Peaceful Transfer of Power

I watched the Inauguration today in my pajamas. It was special to see all of the former presidents and first ladies walking down the aisle. And to see President Obama and Vice-President Bidden sworn into office. As always, Obama's speech was inspiring, honest, and thorough. What stayed with me most, though, was the phrase that was repeated to describe this day: A Peaceful Transfer of Power.

Let it be that.

19 January 2009

January 19, 2009

Today, I went to a celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. On stage, actors recreated some of King's most impactful speeches. It struck me that the majority of nods and claps of agreement came from the excerpts of his "The Importance of Vietnam" speech. I'd like to quote parts of this speech here and contemplate the meaning of these words at this time in our history, and most importantly on this day in our history.

"Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

"Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."

-April 4, 1967

For the whole speech and other prominent speeches, please visit blackpast.org

16 January 2009

I am back from New York now. Walking through the airport, I realized that I hadn't been on a trip by myself since I went to France in 2006. So much has changed since then. Even though my trip to New York was only 10 days and not in a foreign country, all of the ingredients that made France so special were there. I did it all on my own. I saw things I had never seen before that took me outside of my own reality. New York is a world unto itself. Everything that I know and am comfortable with suddenly disseminated. New York is dark and grungy and at the same time fast-paced and glamorous. It is rich in history and culture. Yet, it is somehow mundane and 'every-day.' I don't quite know why we romanticize it so much.

Mostly, I am grateful that I stayed with friends. I love my friends.

Here's a Rilke sonnet, just because I'm in that mood.


Silent friend of many distances,
feel how your breath is still expanding space.
Let yourself peal among the beams
of dark belfries. Whatever preys

on you will grow strong from this nourishment.
Know transformation through and through.
What experience has been most painful to you?
If the drinking's bitter, turn to wine.

In this vast night, be the magic power
at your senses' intersection,
the meaning of their strange encounter.

And if the earthly has forgotten
you, say to the still earth: I flow.
To the rushing water speak: I am.

05 January 2009

New York, New York

I'm in New York. Brooklyn, actually. But this photo is the Lower East Side.
They brought Stumptown Coffee all the way out here. Just for me to have a nice cappuccino. It was very nice. I had a spicy pickle, too. That was a little more of the local flavor than a cross-country cappuccino.