Categories
Living in Society

High Summer In Iowa

Trish Nelson

One of the highlights of the 2021 political summer will be distribution of the U.S. Census data and the decennial re-districting. The Iowa legislature is expected to convene a special session for that purpose in August.

In 2011 only two members of the legislature objected to the first re-districting map and it passed unceremoniously. We’ll see what happens this year. You’ll know there is skullduggery if the first two maps drawn by the non-partisan commission are rejected.

Trish Nelson is taking vacation in July and I’ll be helping to keep the blog going. I don’t know her plans, other than it will involve dogs, cats, bicycles, and time with family. The blog must go on!

An idyllic version of summer is getting away from stress and tension of American political life for a while and reading a good book. My reading pace slows during summer as more outdoors activities are available. I asked for summer reading recommendations from friends of the blog and here they are for your consideration:

Trish Nelson recommends The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. “Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia,” according to Goodreads. “Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape.”

Dave Bradley recommends god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. People love or hate Hitchens, who died of pneumonia while being treated for esophageal cancer in 2011. “Hitchens described himself as an anti-theist, who saw all religions as false, harmful, and authoritarian,” according to Wikipedia. “He argued for free expression and scientific discovery, and asserted that they were superior to religion as an ethical code of conduct for human civilization. He also advocated separation of church and state. The dictum ‘What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence’ has become known as ‘Hitchens’s razor.'”

Friend of the blog Ellen Ballas recommended Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. We’ve been hearing of Russian influence in the 2016 general election for what seems like an eternity. Corn and Isikoff followed it from start to finish and present an incredible account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow to influence the election and elect Donald Trump.

On my bedside table is Devotions by Mary Oliver. Poetry, which I read outdoors during good weather, has been part of my summer for many years. I enjoyed Oliver’s American Primitive, leading me to buy this collection of her selected poems. I don’t think I can go wrong.

I also plan to read The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s book has been recommended by so many people I lost count. Many of us are familiar with the great migration from the southern United States to the north. “From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America,” according to Goodreads.

Whatever you are doing this summer, I hope you enjoy it… and that you’ll join me on Blog for Iowa during the month of July.

~ First published on Blog for Iowa

Categories
Living in Society

Summer Reading – 2021

Summer Reading – 2021

My reading pace slows down in the summer. While I used to get summer started by re-reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the story has become so familiar I leave it on the shelf now. It’s close by in case I change my mind. I wrote about it here on the occasion of its copyright expiration in January. Here are nine books on my to-read list for Summer 2021.

Weather for Dummies by John D. Cox. I spend part of each day studying the weather forecast and living in the climate. I’ve become adept at interpreting available, free weather radar in terms of how the forecast might impact mundane tasks like mowing the lawn, walking or bicycling on the trail, and gardening. I need a more thorough understanding and Bill Gates recommended this book in his recent How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. Gates’ book made me mad in a couple of ways, yet I’m taking his recommendation about this book.

Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Raj Patel. In case you missed it, I post about food and the food system quite often. I noted Mark Bittman referenced Patel’s book a couple of times in his recently published Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal. Since I already had purchased Patel’s book, I’m moving it into the top nine for this summer’s reading.

Devotions by Mary Oliver. A person needs poetry and there is so much from which to choose. I read Oliver’s American Primitive and liked it a lot, leading me to buy this collection of selected poems. I don’t think I can go wrong.

Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World by Simon Winchester. Winchester is among my favorite authors. Every chance I get to read for entertainment, I find one of his books and have not been disappointed. I particularly enjoyed The Alice Behind Wonderland but every one I read was memorable.

Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt. There has been much discussion about how terrible Andrew Jackson was toward native and enslaved people. It’s time I learned more than the brief study I gave him in graduate school.

World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey. Of the many cookbooks in my collection what I need most is development of our vegetarian cuisine. I like Jaffrey’s writing and expect to explore her world this summer to find inspiration for our kitchen garden.

Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas. I found this young adult book by my political pal Sarah Prineas surprisingly engaging. There is something about the style of young adult fiction that keeps the story moving quickly along. There is more to this book than the primary narrative. Take a look!

Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers is Saving Ballet from Itself by Chloe Angyal. Halfway into this book, I find it engaging and a bit of a stretch of my interests. (The only other book I read on ballet was Gelsey Kirkland’s memoir Dancing on my Grave). I met Angyal at a book event featuring Sarah Smarsh and Connie Schultz soon after she moved to the Iowa City area. Angyal spent most of her time here writing this well-researched and informative book. It’s my current read and I look forward to finishing it this summer.

Birds in the Morning, Frogs at Night: Sharing Life Along the Road by Maureen McCue. When Maureen and I met on the Johnson County Board of Health we started a friendship that led to public advocacy on the gravest threats to society: the climate crisis, nuclear weapons, and public health risks of how utilities generate electricity. This is her story. I’ll be sure to write more once I finish it.

What books are you planning to read this summer? If you’d like to share, please leave a comment. Happy reading!

Categories
Reviews

Book Review: Demystifying Shariah

We moved to the Southeast side of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1985 to be closer to my work. My daily commute was still long and it took me past a number of churches and the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids. I recognized the Islamic Center was different from the other religious edifices I passed, although I didn’t pay it much attention. The nearby Mother Mosque was the first mosque built in North America and Islam has a long, rich history here. In Iowa most of us are used to the valuable contributions of Muslims in the community.

That was before anti-Muslim sentiment rose to prominence in the United States, changing everything.

In her recently released book, Demystifying Shariah: What it is, How it Works, and Why it’s not Taking Over Our Country, author Sumbul Ali-Karamali writes about the recent change.

Between 9/11 and 2010, hate crimes against Muslims had actually declined in the United States. But in 2010 they spiked, for no easily discernible reason–no terrorist attacks by Muslims, no ISIS horror stories. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies two causes for the increase in hate crimes: (a) the deliberately engineered controversy about an Islamic cultural center, modeled on Jewish Community Centers, in New York, and (b) a report by lawyer and anti-Muslim propagandist David Yerushalmi and others asserting that Muslims were trying to impose shariah in American criminal courts.

Demystifying Shariah, Sumbul Ali-Karamali, pp. 189-190.

Ali-Karamali explained the “Islamophobia industry,” a network of individuals and organizations who disseminate anti-Muslim propaganda into the public discourse. At its center was claims “shariah law” was creeping into U.S. society and given time would impose Islam on hapless Americans. The phrase “shariah law” reflects a lack of understanding of what shariah is.

“Shariah itself mandates that Muslims follow the law of the land in which they live, whether the land is “Islamic” or not.

Why, then, have the last several years seen the rise of ominous new concepts like “creeping shariah: and “shariah takeover”? Amazingly enough, the current shariah scare, groundless and vituperative, is due largely to one man (David Yerushalmi).

Demystifying Shariah, Sumbul Ali-Karamali, page 189.
Sumbul Ali-Karamali

Demystifying Shariah covers the history of Islam from the birth of Muhammad around 570 CE to the present. For Americans who know Islam exists, yet know little about a religion with more than 1.8 billion world-wide members, it is a great way to learn more about shariah and Muslim-American communities. Knowledge is the best defense when right wingers attempt to scare us for political motivation. Ali-Karamali draws on scholarship and her degree in Islamic law to explain how shariah operates in the lives of Muslims and what it means in terms of law. As the title suggests, shariah is not taking over our country.

The book is organized into three major parts: the basics and foundations of shariah, including the birth of Islam; the story of shariah which addresses the scary stuff (like amputation and stoning) perpetuated by the Islamophobia industry; and recognizing Islamophobia and the causes of Muslim stereotypes.

Whether readers know a little or a lot about Islam or shariah, this book is worth reading. Ali-Karamali presents well-researched and useful information about the history of Islam and the rising consequences of Islamophobia in America after 2010.

A Star Trek fan, Ali-Karamali grew up in California answering questions on Islam because she was one of few Muslims in her schools and community. She’s still answering those questions. To learn more about her and her work, check out her website, https://subulalikaramali.com.

~ First published on Blog for Iowa

Categories
Living in Society

Home Library

Bookshelves, Feb. 2, 2021.

Toward the end of my seventh decade I continue to buy books. I should stop, turn that around, and reduce my stacks each week. I am loathe to do it.

From my earliest days, going back to 1959 at least, I had a small library of books either given to me, or once I started working, ones I bought. The library has grown too big, and in truth, that happened years, maybe decades ago.

The easiest change would be to start reading books on an electronic reader instead of buying paper copies. Readers are convenient and the font size can be adjusted, making words easily legible. Quality of eyesight is increasingly an issue. A reader is better for reading in bed, and in a recliner or comfy chair. It would not be a big change to start reading fiction in that format. Adopting technology is a good thing and it would stop growth of the stacks.

A lot of volumes in my library were written by people I know, with whom I took classes, or did things. Others were special gifts. They have a souvenir value, a remembrance of time together.

For example, I made a driver recruiting trip to Southern Illinois University where, in addition to my recruitment event, I spent time with some teachers who felt isolated in the coal mining area. Students were more interested in getting a job in the trades — truck driving, coal mining, or manufacturing — than in learning. The teachers stuck together as a form of intellectual society. One of the group was Lucia Perillo who wrote a book of poetry, The Oldest Map with the Name America. I return to it often as a reminder of the challenge of intellectual pursuits in our time. I don’t recall if I met Perillo, but she was part of the group and it doesn’t matter to the memory.

The problem with books is they can be used as reference materials for my writing. It is a justification to keep almost any book. The idea I may return to it later for “research purposes” may sound good, but there is so much research and so little time. I need to thin the stacks. That, too takes time.

Our daughter expressed an interest in inheriting my books when I go. It would be a crime to leave her everything because some are more significant than others. If anything, the ideas of an inheritance will force a reckoning, a reduction in quantity, and an improvement in quality.

I started filling boxes that arrived containing mail ordered books with duplicates and others in which I lost interest. The idea is to give them to the public library for their used book sale. I have three boxes so far and it’s a start. I should fill more boxes.

Books are an addiction. In the scope of things, it is an inexpensive addiction. I spend no time on sports, movies and television, and go shopping only when we need something. Books can produce value in our lives. I’m reading more of them. Partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also because I realize the limited number I can consume before my inevitable ending. There is an increased urgency to read.

A friend said I should get rid of all the books. So did my late Mother. While I’m not ready to do so, a reasonable goal is to fit all of my books in the writing room. I have a long way to go to accomplish that, if it can be accepted as an operating premise. Today, I’m not sure it can.

Categories
Living in Society

First Library Card

First Library Card, November 1959.

The public library has been important in my life. It began in 1959 at the American Foursquare the first year we moved there. I was in the second grade. The bookmobile made weekly rounds near us, at first to the church parking lot, later to the drug store parking lot at Five Points. I became a regular customer.

Entering from the back, we browsed the stacks, usually Mother and me joined by my sister when she got older. Before there was the Bookmobile I relied on books and magazines Mother gave me for reading.

There were biographies of the Ringling Brothers, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, the Wright Brothers and others which expanded my world. The first thing I checked upon arrival was whether there were any new ones in the series. We enjoyed Dr. Seuss books when they were available, which wasn’t always. All the kids who frequented the Bookmobile liked Dr. Seuss so when they were returned they immediately went back out.

When ready to check out, we made our way to the front, where the driver sat in the same seat he used to drive the Bookmobile. He voice-recorded the check outs into a microphone then we left. It wasn’t my last library experience.

The idea the city had a library, and the economics of one organization buying books that could be shared, was part of understanding cooperation and fair play. It was a lesson learned early in my life, part of getting along in the city.

Today our community of about 6,000 has a great public library. We gave money, built it, and then donated the finished building to the city. The irony is I rarely check out a book there. My main use of the library is to socialize. I check the new book shelves from time to time, use the meeting rooms, donate books, and attend the Friends of the Library used book sale. During the coronavirus pandemic I donated some new puzzles for kids to check out. With the pandemic most library activity ceased. Maybe the library will open again this year or next. I hope so.

I still have memories of the Bookmobile and my blue, hand-typed library card. That sustains me for now.

Categories
Sustainability

Late Autumn

Sunlight on Lake Macbride, Dec. 4, 2020.

The period after the general election and before the next U.S. Congress is proving to be desultory. About the only positive thing coming out of these weeks is the president is fading from view as each day brings us closer to a Biden-Harris administration. I don’t want time to pass quickly yet I seek outlets besides national politics for my human energy. I also take a daily afternoon nap.

Garden planning has begun and the first shipment from a seed supplier arrived yesterday. I hope to expand the garden, more closely correlate the garden and the kitchen/pantry, and grow more vegetables for the food rescue operation. In the meanwhile we’re still cooking food put up last summer and fall.

I read the first 400 pages of Obama’s presidential memoir. His first book, Dreams from my Father remains his best written with A Promised Land ahead of The Audacity of Hope. He’s a young man so I expect there will be more writing after he finishes the second volume of memoirs. I also doubt he will be as prolific a writer as Jimmy Carter became in his post-presidency period. A Trump memoir? Stand on your head if you think he will personally write one. No doubt he will cash in on the opportunity by hiring a ghost writer to tell his story, his way, and put his name on it.

I read my journal from late 1974 and 1975. In it I recorded reading many books, two or three a week and sometimes more. Today reading a book is a bigger deal. I will finish 50 or so this year, which is more than most people read, yet much less than I once did. According to the Social Security Administration life expectancy calculator I can expect to live 16 more years. At an average of two books per month that’s 384 more to read, which doesn’t seem like many given everything that is available.

Part of next year’s plan will be incorporating more intent in the reading plan. Click here to view my recent reading.

I’m nowhere near assembling the planning threads for next year. There’s the garden, reading and writing. There is also our family’s wellness and home maintenance to consider. By the first of January I hope to weave something that is meaningful and fits well as we enter another year of the pandemic in 2021.

Time to get back to work.

Categories
Environment Writing

Mink on the Trail

American Mink.

On Thursday I saw an animal eating fallen mulberries on the trail. The state park has an abundance of wildlife — every Iowa species is believed to live here. I didn’t recognize it and posted this photo on Twitter.

An abundance of responses identified it as a mink. I looked it up and it resembled a mink pictured on the internet. Most likely it is an American mink with more of them around the lake shore. Mostly minks are carnivores so the mulberry-eating was unexpected. Harrowing tales of chicken murdering ensued as the post got many engagements.

Every day we find something new is positive. When our curiosity wanes or we feel we’ve seen it all… that’s not good.

The newspaper reported another local theater troupe cancelled the rest of the season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Old Creamery Theatre sent termination letters to ten staff members Thursday night. The creative arts are really taking a hit during the pandemic. In addition to Old Creamery, Riverside Theatre had to give up its performing space, and bigger companies like Cirque du Soleil filed for bankruptcy. Live theater and concerts have been shut down with only a few productions testing a re-opening in the COVID-19 time.

Major theme parks like Walt Disney, where our daughter works, continue to furlough employees. As they begin to open up, the question is whether employees will be recalled, if the furloughs will continue, or will the endgame be being laid off. Live entertainment may never be the same if the coronavirus isn’t mitigated. As we know, that’s not going well in Iowa or in the United States.

I worry about independently-owned bookstores. There used to be many places to buy used books. Over the last couple of decades they consolidated, went on line, or went out of business. The selection has gotten worse. The main used bookstore in the county seat is Haunted Bookshop and I’m trying to support them as they continue to operate curbside pickup.

At first I bought a gift certificate to hold until they reopen. When it became clear re-opening was not in the near-term, I devised a poetry buying scheme. On Wednesday I wrote note saying, “Choose and mail me a book of poetry that I don’t already have once a month. Surprise me.”

I had criteria:

  • Short works by living poets. Short = around 100 pages or less. Up to 200 pages okay. About the length to read in a couple of sittings.
  • Less interested in comprehensive collections. For example, Crow by Ted Hughes but not Collected Poems of Ted Hughes.
  • I recently read and enjoyed Mary Oliver, Amy Woolard, Lucia Perillo and W.S. Merwin.
  • I’m looking to expand my reading and open to about anything. No Atticus or Rod McKuen.
  • Iowa connection would be a bonus, but not necessary.
  • Run the title by me before shipping so I can check to make sure I don’t have it.
  • These are not strict rules but guidelines. (Except for the part about Atticus and Rod McKuen).

Last night I received a favorable response. We are going to try the arrangement out. I’d rather make a monthly trip to browse the store. Until they are ready, this will have to do. Hopefully I will discover new poets in the process and they will have another small source of revenue.

I watered the garden shortly after sunrise. Our yard is the only one in the neighborhood where clover is allowed to grow. I do this so rabbits have something to eat besides burrowing under the fencing into the garden, and to attract bees and other pollinators. Last time I mowed, I set the deck high enough so all of the flowers wouldn’t be cut. It’s time to mow again and that’s my plan for the weekend.

Categories
Living in Society Social Commentary Writing

Reading in 2020

French Breakfast Radishes

If daily life took its course without our engagement we would be reading more words and fewer books.

With the rise of social media a lot more words are being published and many readers get “glued to their phones” as they take in all the words and video they can within a circle of friends and followers.

Long form reading in books is an essential part of staying informed. It took a conscious effort to stop my entropic slide to reading no books each year to include long-form reading in daily life. Ironically this began by using the social media tool Goodreads. By setting a low annual goal of 16 books per year in 2018 I surpassed it and have increased my book reading every year since. In the first five months of 2020 I read 26 books.

Reading short pieces, newspaper and magazine articles, and social media posts is an important part of securing new information about our lives in society. At the same time erosion of book reading leaves us the less.

The current book on my night stand is Save the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl who spent ten years as editor in chief of Gourmet magazine. An intellectual masterwork? No. I found Reichl’s reference to William Carlos Williams annoying, yet the pace is quick, the chapters short, and the language a straightforward narrative. It’s how a person with a specific experience wrote autobiography. The more experiences of writing styles we have, the better writers we can be. If you forced me to put this book in a category, it is summer reading and a part of a broader universe of reading material.

We seek in reading, in any format, an understanding of the person behind the writing. When I review my social media feeds, some people I know personally and have done things with. Others I know by their writing. There’s a reason it’s called “social media.” There are people behind the posts or at least that’s what we hope.

That is less true of book reading where the author may be present in every page yet strive to minimize their personality or presence in the words. Can a book stand separately from it’s creator as a work of art? I don’t see how it’s possible to separate the work from the author’s social context. In that regard, historians are the worst. There is an ideology of history writing and to attempt to hide or diminish it is a disservice to the reader (Oscar Handlin). There is a politics and poetry of writing history. There are books on those subjects. It is possible, and I’d argue necessary, to both adore historians (Robert Caro) and despise them (Doris Kearns Goodwin) that has nothing to do with the information presented on a book’s pages.

I look at reading the way I view being a food consumer: I seek to know the face of the farmer and in the case of reading, the face of the author. That’s true of any reading I do. I am more likely to trust, read and comment on something an acquaintance posts because we physically met and I’ve followed them in social media long enough to understand something about their social context. The same is true for writers in mass media. I want to know who they are and what their history is rather than read a single sensational story. As a reader and human, I’m in it for the broader picture.

The rise of artificial intelligence is producing computer generated writing. I think we need to inoculate ourselves against this fake writing by spending time learning about authors and reading their published work. As the noted philosopher Taylor Swift wrote, “the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake.” We need to be able to shake them off. That requires us to be informed readers.

If we are going to read more at least some part of our lives should be engaging the authors of those words. Obviously it’s less possible for dead writers. Yet we are living now and should be spending part of our time reading full-length books both as a supplement to short form reading and as escape from it. Entropic decline in long form reading is something we must address in our lives. That is, unless we accept the mutation of humans will eventually include genes for mobile phone adaption.

Categories
Living in Society Social Commentary Writing

Poetry for a Life

Service Flags

Best wishes on Memorial Day from this veteran who made it home. As Mary Chapin Carpenter says on her series of songs from home, “Stay well, be peaceful, be mighty.”

I’ve written what I will about Memorial Day. Some of those words can be read here, here and here. I’ve soured on the American celebration of the spring holiday yet one thing I’ve learned is the death of our soldiers in combat is no abstraction. May they rest in peace.

Iowa is one of 24 U.S. states with uncontrolled coronavirus spread. That alone is reason to stay home, read, write, cook, clean and weed the garden. At some point we’ll get caught up with those homebody tasks and venture out of this pandemic pattern, but not yet.

For vegetable gardeners Memorial Day marks the end of spring planting. At the farm we are taking next week off from starting new seeds. The following week we’ll start the fall crop. In between rain showers I hope to get the cucumbers in — the last of my vegetable plots — and weed, weed, weed.

During a rainstorm I reviewed the books on the Reading List tab of this blog. I’m not reading enough poetry as poems comprise only 7.1 percent of listed books.

7.1 percent! I can’t get over that. I want to do better so I asked twitter: “I want to read more poetry. Which author would you recommend?”

The recommendations were pretty good.

When I received a payroll bonus from my part time job in high school I went downtown and bought two books of poetry at the M.L. Parker Department Store: The Complete Poems of Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg’s Complete Poems. I didn’t really understand poetry and still have my failings, but it felt important to mark the beginning of my nascent home library with something other than young adult books.

Over the years I’ve developed other favorite poets. Of those well-known, my favorites are William Carlos Williams and Vachel Lindsay. I also favor Charles Bukowski, Wisława Szymborska, Lucia Perillo, Adrienne Rich, Gary Snyder. Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Seamus Heaney. Of the classics I enjoy Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare but could never get myself to read Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, although feeling like I should have.

In response to my Twitter query our daughter recommended atticus so I signed up for the newsletter and followed him on Twitter. I’ll be looking for an opportunity to read The Truth about Magic: Poems.

Recommended by a follower in the UNESCO City of Literature are Amy Woolard and Jeremy Paden. Their books Neck of the Woods (Woolard) and Broken Tulips (Paden) are available so I’ll start with them when I can get my hands on a copy.

Another I’d not read is Mary Oliver, recommended by an Iowa farmer. I studied Oliver in response to the tweet and will obtain a copy of American Primitive for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. It is curious Oliver worked at the Edna St. Vincent Millay home for Millay’s sister. Millay was another recommended poet whose Collected Poems was already on my shelf. I’m building a pile of poetry on the dresser in the bedroom.

Emily Dickinson and Ted Hughes were recommended by a follower and fellow gardener in Canada. I pulled down copies of Poetry Is and Crow by Hughes and The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Punctuation editing is an issue with works by Dickinson as we know. Hopefully Johnson’s edition will serve.

A local friend who lives part of the year in Italy recommended W.S. Merwin’s Garden Time. I will locate a copy and start reading Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment which was already on my shelves.

Richard Eberhart of Austin, Minn. was recommended by another Midwesterner. On my shelves, rescued from a Goodwill Store in 1994, was a copy of the New Directions Paperbook edition of Selected Poems 1930-1965, which I am reading now. The iconography of these poems is very familiar.

If Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer, 2020 will be the summer of poetry in a pandemic.

Categories
Kitchen Garden Writing

Clearing the Garden

First Brush Pile Fire of 2020 Gardening Season

It took five and a half hours to plant two apple trees on Saturday.

I need to move the support stakes as I put them too close to the trunk. Hopefully they will be easy to remove as they have been in the ground less than 24 hours.

I planted bare root trees that arrived Friday from Cummins Nursery, Ithaca, New York:

Zestar! on G.210 root stock.
Crimson Crisp (Co-op 39) on G.202 root stock.

Here’s hoping for apples in a couple of years.

I burned the first brush pile on the to be planted kale plot. It was a clean burn. After sunrise I will spade and till the plot. I also want to plant potatoes in containers and sow peas, beets, carrots, radishes and turnips. If there is time, transplant the first batch of spinach seedlings. There is a lot on the gardening agenda as spring has arrived.

How should I use the time after waking until sunrise, not just today, but going forward? I’m not sure. Other than to continue doing what I am, it is difficult to envision changes from routine as much as they may be needed. I’m too unsettled to contemplate change.

People say it is normal to experience anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic. Knowing I’m normal is not reassuring and has made for restless nights.

The remedy will be to get lost in the work of putting in the garden. If I work longer shifts, maybe I’ll be tired enough at day’s end to sleep through the night. I’m a little sore from yesterday’s work as my spring conditioning regime in the garden begins. Engagement in a project has worked to relieve tension in the past.

It doesn’t help that I’m reading Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s new book exploring why capitalism is proving fatal for the working class with an uptick in mortality rates among white middle-aged Americans from what the authors call “deaths of despair.” There have been enough alcohol, opiod and suicide deaths in this group to reverse the 20th century trend of longer life expectancy. Other wealthy countries continue to see an increase in life expectancy in the new century. Americans do not. I’m looking forward to reading Case and Deaton’s analysis.

All this is not to say I find despair in daily life, I don’t. However, change is on the horizon. Unlike with the sunrise coming in an hour, it’s hard to know what to expect. I affirm today will be a gardener’s day with everything that means. That should be enough to move past the coronavirus engendered anxiety into something more meaningful.

I’m doing the best I can.