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Living in Society

Aging in America – Part VI

Worn t-shirt from the 50th anniversary of the Stratford Festival of Canada in 2002.

Passing Down History

I have conversations about stuff with our child. It is specific stuff. It is my stuff, eventually to be her stuff, at least some of it.

For example, a couple hundred vinyl LPs rest on my bookshelf. A lot of good music there, a lot of great memories. The technology is old and hardly portable. The sole album for retention to pass down is Beethoven’s Opera Fidelio because it was a memory from childhood. That will make it easier to dispose of the rest of them, I hope.

I want to pass down some of my Iowa history books but there are too many of them. I have hundreds. My guidance was to select maybe three or four of the best ones to pass down. My work is cut out. To get started, here are the first dozen that came to mind. It is a first draft of the list for posterity and by no means final.

  1. Iowa’s Groundwater Basics: A geological guide to the occurence, use, and vulnerability of Iowa’s aquifers by Jean Cutler Prior, Janice L. Boekhoff, Mary R. Howes, Robert D. Libra, and Paul E. VanDorpe.
  2. Eastern Iowa Prehistory by Duane Anderson.
  3. Black Hawk: An Autobiography dictated to Antoine LeClaire, edited by Donald Jackson.
  4. Wakefield’s History of the Black Hawk War by Frank Everett Stevens.
  5. Hunting a Shadow: The Search for Black Hawk: Eye-Witness Account by Participants compiled and edited by Crawford B. Thayer.
  6. The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa by Cornelia F. Mutel.
  7. In Cabins and Sod Houses by Thomas H. Macbride.
  8. Robert Lucas by John C. Parish.
  9. Executive Journal of Iowa 1838-1841, Governor Robert Lucas edited by Benjamin F. Shambaugh.
  10. The Trader at Rock Island: George Davenport and the Founding of the Quad Cities by Regena Trant Schantz.
  11. The Life and Times of Samuel J. Kirkwood, Iowa’s War Governor by H.W. Lathrop.
  12. Iowa: The Middle Land by Dorothy Schwieder.

Reducing the number of history books to three or four is an impossible task, although one worth considering as I write my autobiography. We’ll see how the list changes over time. By spring, I should have a better idea.

Figuring out what to pass down becomes more important as we age. Partly we seek to let go of the past. Partly we seek to make room for a future.

Categories
Living in Society

Autumn Begins

Wildflowers.

Autumn begins at 8:04 p.m. CDT today with the Autumnal Equinox. What I have to share is this photo of wildflowers along the state park trail and the thought spring and summer passed too quickly.

Categories
Writing

Late Summer Rain

Red Delicious Apple, 2022.

It is a bit weird, although correct, to call it late summer. Autumn doesn’t begin until Sept. 22 this year.

We had lightning and rain overnight. The ground remains wet this morning. Leaves on deciduous trees have begun to turn. Yellow wildflowers along the state park trail got frosted, even if it wasn’t cold enough for frost.

There were overnight thunderstorms in the county seat, enough to halt the big football game at Kinnick Stadium — three lightning delays totaling 236 minutes in duration. The home team shut out the opponent once the game resumed after midnight.

Today, I’m considering what’s next.

We are out of the coronavirus pandemic as much as we will be. While Governor Kim Reynolds was early, her Feb. 3 declaration that the coronavirus was to become normalized in daily, routine public health operations on Feb. 15 is a convenient bookend to a distinct phase of my life: The Coronavirus Pandemic Time.

I’ll continue to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if there are any. If I get the virus, I’ll follow Centers for Disease Control protocols for isolation and treatment. I’ll continue to wear a face mask inside crowded retail establishments, and wear a mask indoors when with groups of people and the local risk is high. Periodic immunizations will become part of the fall health regimen the way influenza immunizations have been. That’s that.

The main consideration is how I will spend time going forward. During the pandemic I developed a routine that varies little from day to day. Events and activities from the world outside my routine seem like an intrusion. I want to contribute to society, yet not in the same way I have since my retirement from transportation in 2009. Solving this problem, the problem of how to engage in society, begins with shedding the old skin of a life lived well yet has become obsolete.

First comes a shedding of the past and remainders of past engagements. This is neither quick nor easy. It turns out it is difficult to leave a group to which so much of oneself has been given to create. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes. I’ve been at this for more than a year and there is a long way to go.

Next is to determine what’s most important. That’s not easy either. It is work that comes after late summer rain.

Categories
Living in Society

Day After Patriot Day

Box of matches from The World Trade Center, Summer 1980.

I have two main memories of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The first is from 1980, of having a post-Broadway show dessert and drink at Windows on the World located on the 107th floor. The second was viewing it on television after the first plane hit the north tower on Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks began while I was at the Moline airport where I had been scheduled to fly to Philadelphia. All flights were cancelled so I returned to my office in Eldridge, Iowa where televisions were tuned to the breaking news.

Sunday was a day to remember those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001. May we never forget their lives and legacy.

President George W. Bush, on whose watch the 9/11 attacks occurred, was among the worst of our recent presidents.

My memory of George W. Bush is from Philadelphia, shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I was on Interstate 95 heading into the Bartram Gardens area where I managed a trucking fleet. Bush’s motorcade was on the other side of the interstate heading back to the airport to return to Washington. In that moment, whatever hope I had Bush would pull the country together after the terrorist attacks was dashed. He made the trip early in the morning and finished by 10 a.m. It was a publicity event that had little impact on the national interest. It was unclear to me why he would spend so much money for what must have been a one to two hour publicity event. I remember other things didn’t make sense during the Bush administration. More than this, his invasion of Iraq made the least sense and proved to be a costly error. That is, unless one was a contractor who profited from the debacle.

Presidential Coat Rack – Republicans, Paul Deaton, Nov. 17, 2019.

The deceased and injured deserve our thanks, memories and support. Support for public servants injured during the attack and its aftermath, those who worked at ground zero after the carnage, was slow in coming from the Congress. We enjoy our symbolism and stories of valor and just work, yet beyond yesterday’s remembrance, events fade further into the cesspool of memory that is contemporary America.

I’d like to remember The World Trade Center as that place we visited in 1980. The realities of the War on Terror and killings of innocents in the Iraq War won’t let me. Instead, we have maudlin remembrances of politicians and a vague notion that “Patriot Day” means something.

On the day after we are better prepared to see who we are as an American society. The view is much worse than it was on the 107th floor of The World Trade Center.

Categories
Environment

Wildflower

Wildflowers on the state park trail.

Some days I’m thankful for the ability to walk the state park trail and see the ever-changing plant, animal and insect life. Being thankful is enough for this Saturday.

Categories
Living in Society

Aging in America – Part I

Vegetables drying on the counter after harvest, Aug. 10, 2022.

The first thing I noticed upon my April 20, 2020 retirement is nothing changed. We were entering a period of living in a global pandemic, and a main goal was to live to see the other side of it. Since then, it has become clear the coronavirus pandemic will change, yet not end.

On Feb. 3, the Iowa governor extended the state’s Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation regarding the coronavirus pandemic. She announced it would expire at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15. After that, “the coronavirus becomes normalized in daily, routine public health operations,” she said. Agree, or not, our lives of living with the virus continue, such normalization as has been dictated by the government has not made life like it was before we heard the words “coronavirus pandemic.”

This is the first of a series of posts I hope to write about aging in America. While my reach is not far beyond Big Grove Township, universal themes run though my life and I hope to think about and tap into them for my writing.

Since retiring during the pandemic I became a pensioner, which means there is a fixed income mostly from my Social Security pension. I feel flush with cash when the monthly check hits our bank account. That feeling diminishes rapidly until I’m waiting for the next check to hit. As long as there are no major crises, we’ll be okay.

A while back I inventoried every distinct part of my body. There were issues with every major system, and aches and pains accumulated over a lifetime of being physically active. I’m not as flexible as at age 30, yet can bend and crawl in the garden much as I have since our first small one in 1983. The frequent jogging I began during military service has turned into walking. I take a cholesterol medication which is fully paid by insurance. Everything else I do regarding inputs is completely voluntary. My frame seems sturdy, I feel healthy, and am mostly ovo-lacto vegetarian.

Most concerning is my ability to see. I wore eyeglasses since high school and now have a pair of transition lens glasses for general use and a special pair for the computer. I expect my cataracts to harden with increased age. My ophthalmologist told me they have already begun to do so. I have an ophthalmologist.

While my financial and physical condition are important, they are not my main interest here. There are questions to be addressed, if not answered:

  • What does intellectual development mean to a septuagenarian?
  • How should my diet change with aging?
  • What types of social engagement should be pursued?
  • What role will I play in Democratic politics?
  • What kind of creative output do I seek to accomplish?

It is hard to say how many posts this will take. Like with other big topics, they may not be immediately following each other. Writing about aging in America is a worthy topic, though. I will do my best to not be boring.

Categories
Home Life

Sweet Corn in Big Grove

Putting up sweet corn.

My spouse and I processed local sweet corn for freezing last night. It is a relic from a past when food preservation played a bigger role in home life. We have stories about our lives with sweet corn to tell each other. A simple truth is we can buy big bags of frozen, organic cut corn from the wholesale club for less cost. If local corn is good, the taste of summer on a cob, it is worth the extra effort to buy local and put it up.

We have frozen corn leftover from last season, so our needs this year aren’t that much. Our main supplier went out of business and we’ve been hard-pressed to find a replacement. That is, we haven’t found outstanding sweet corn this year. Weather conditions have been a problem, according to our local ABC affiliate:

ELY, Iowa (KCRG) – Over thirty years as a farmer, Butch Wieneke knows what high quality sweet corn looks, and feels like. That’s why selling anything other than the best, is not an option for him and his family.

Last Thursday, they made the tough decision to stop selling.

“It just dried up. The ears weren’t filling out and I wasn’t going to sell sub-par corn. It’s just…I’m not going to do that. I don’t care what price it is,” said Wieneke.

The quality of sweet corn can change very quickly, and because of the lack of rain Eastern Iowa saw last week, the personal and public orders stopped.

Now, they’re waiting and watching to see how the crops develop.

Libbie Randall, KCRG-TV9, Aug. 2, 2022.

When we moved to Big Grove, I decided quickly to outsource sweet corn growing, in the mid-1990s. After a year or two, I found corn takes too much space and the results were not as good as what farmers produce. Because of today’s shortage, I’m considering a patch of sweet corn in next year’s garden. We’re not ready to give up on the annual family tradition and if I can produce a couple of bushels, that would best serve our culture.

While August grinds into its second week with hot, humid temperatures and plenty of rain, I’m ready to return to daily writing. I’m thankful for the break, yet there are important happenings not being covered by traditional media. When I write such stories, people find my posts and view them. I don’t have an editorial calendar yet, although as something new, I blocked out time today to write one.

The rest of the year is expected to be like drinking from a fire hose as far as news goes. I may as well dust off the keyboard and dig in now that sweet corn is put up.

Categories
Writing

Postcard from Summer Holiday – #5

Clouds before the thunderstorm, Aug. 3, 2022.

The coronavirus pandemic continues in Iowa.

The number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased by 25 percent last week. The number of patients requiring intensive care nearly doubled. 35 Iowans died of the virus. The number of new people being vaccinated remained low in the state at less than 60 percent. The virus is ubiquitous. Click here to read a report from the local newspaper.

While fewer people don a protective mask in public, I still carry and wear mine when going to a retail store or large indoors gathering. I’m getting out with people more, yet it is mostly outdoors events where there is less risk of contracting the virus. Thus far I tested negative on the few times I got a COVID-19 test. I am learning to live with the virus.

Tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic and acorn squash on Aug. 3, 2022.

It rained most of Wednesday. In between showers I picked tomatoes so they would not burst from the influx of moisture. There are some problems with the way I planted tomatoes this year. They are too close together and the patch of Roma and cherry tomatoes is not producing as well as I would have liked. It was a mistake to plant them under the shade of the oak trees. However, the San Marzano tomatoes are doing fine and there are enough to can once they reach peak ripeness. I have some empty jars from our child to fill first, then will put up as many as possible for the pantry until the season is over.

There are too many cucumbers and plenty of pickles already prepared. A family can only eat so many. Every other abundance — bell peppers, zucchini, greens — can be dealt with by freezing them for future use. Herbs can be dried.

This year my participation in society is going through a sea change. I read the extensive activity list for seniors in the newspaper and don’t feel ready to join the group. There is too much to do at home. My cohort of elected officials is finding their way to the exits and it’s not the same with new folks. Local political candidates have not been engaging as they have in the past although that frees my time. The time since I left my last job at the home, farm and auto supply store has been a landing zone. I’ve not skidded to a full stop quite yet.

Once the garden finishes in October I’ll return to my autobiography. This will be the third winter writing it. In a good world, I’ll finish the draft of the timeline through completion of graduate school up to our wedding. When the written record begins in 1974, I have another choice to make: whether to edit writing from my journals, blog posts and letters into a narrative, or to write a new narrative based on them. It could go either way. For now, I’m focused on bringing the writing to the point in 1981 when I was living on Market Street in Iowa City.

For the moment, I’m still on holiday. I want to return to daily writing yet not that much. The picture of where I land after the pandemic is complicated by the fact it is not ending. I’ll have to seek other ways forward.

For the time being, the kitchen garden — harvesting and processing vegetables for storage — consumes much of my time. It is a good thing.

Categories
Living in Society

Postcard from Summer Holiday – #4

Summer dinner during sweet corn season.

Iowa is heading into a major heat wave with ambient temperatures forecast in the high nineties by midweek. It seems it has been hot already yet this will be a scorcher with high humidity. My reaction to high heat and humidity is to get outdoors work done early in the morning, then move indoors to work at my desk or in the kitchen. Coping with heat waves has become ingrained into daily life.

I harvested the first of four tubs of potatoes yesterday. I grated and had the nicked ones for breakfast this morning. Hash browns, scrambled eggs and cherry tomatoes is one of my favorite summer breakfasts. These days we have tomatoes with everything, including locally grown sweet corn and green beans from the garden. It is the best time of year for a kitchen garden.

The freezer is beginning to fill with ingredients for future meals. The next big projects are putting up sweet corn and canning tomatoes.

Not much else to report at this point in the holiday. I’ve been getting out with people more. I avoid densely populated areas like the county seat and areas around it. It seems my sleep patterns are permanently changing to stay up and sleep later. I’ve begun reconstructing my daily schedule. Once that process is done, I’ll be back to daily writing here.

Enjoy the rest of summer! Stay cool this week!

Categories
Living in Society

Postcard from Summer Holiday – #3

Wildflowers along the state park trail.

The Midwest is bracing for a heat wave next week when ambient temperatures are forecast in the 90s. On Wednesday it is expected to reach 103 degrees. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Service issued a reminder to farmers of what to do to protect their investment in livestock. It is going to be a scorcher in the corn belt from top to bottom.

I finished my month of posts at Blog for Iowa earlier in the week and am ready to turn my attention back to Journey Home. This blog has had four names since I created it to move from Blogspot to WordPress in 2008. If we ever get out of the coronavirus pandemic, I might give it a fifth. We are at a distance from the end of the pandemic.

The challenge in the garden is keeping the plants watered, yet not too much. They will survive the heat with adequate hydration. Early morning or late evening watering has been best.

Tomatoes are beginning to ripen and we had our first slicers for dinner last night. Yesterday I grated and froze zucchini for winter soup and tried a quick dill pickle recipe I saw on TikTok. From here until Labor Day, part of every day will be food preservation. I have a row of San Marzano tomatoes to convert to canned wholes for use throughout the year. I tasted the first ripe ones and they were deliciously different from other varieties I have grown.

My sleep patterns have changed while on holiday. I stay up until 9 p.m. and am sleeping through the night, getting six or seven straight hours of sleep. It has been a long time since I did that. I’m hoping the new patterns persist.

I keep plugging along with reading and have almost finished Loretta Lynn’s memoir Coal Miner’s Daughter. The book reminds me of the part of Appalachia where my father was born and how people there lived and still do. Lynn’s birthplace, Butcher Holler, Kentucky, is about 85 miles from Father’s birthplace. Of course, Lynn got to know June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash through her music. June Carter Cash is a shirttail relative of ours.

It is easy to see why people liked Loretta Lynn’s music back in the 1970s. She was part of a social revolution that changed how people lived. In part, it was based on Roe v. Wade and introduction of the birth control pill which Lynn wrote about. In her song, “The Pill,” she wrote, “I’m tearing down your brooder house ’cause now I’ve got the pill.” Husband Doolittle got a vasectomy after birth of their twins and Lynn wrote about that too.

Wildflowers bloom in July with an ever-changing array of color. Now that the garden switched from planting to harvesting, I walk along the state park trail almost daily to watch nature’s changes. Even though The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the migrating monarch butterfly to its “red list” of threatened species in July and categorized it as “endangered,” I saw a few Monarchs on the trail yesterday.

The world we know may be dying due to the climate crisis yet there is evidence of our past in every walk along the trail. Stay cool next week!