Forum Holitorium

Outdoors in the Door

An invitation brought me to Bailey’s Harbor, a town on the eastern side of Wisconsin’s Door peninsula. Though it is no longer as heavily forested as when Justice Bailey took shelter in its bay during a storm in 1848, much of the surrounding area is under protection. Rare boreal forest, bogs, swales, swamps, and dunes are preserved in sanctuaries and other conservation areas. The Ridges Sanctuary, Wisconsin’s first land trust, was established in 1937. Walking along its boardwalks, I saw dozens of Hine’s Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora hineana), admired rare dwarf lake irises (Iris lacustris), and surprised a huge fisher (Pekania pennanti) out for an early morning stroll. Similar to Kenosha with its stunning lake views, sandy beaches, and blue jay chatter, the Bailey’s Harbor area stands out because of its boreal forest full of cedar, white pine, red pine, tamarack, and spruce. Not just the plants are unique: Each time I walked down from the bluff where I was staying into town, I passed an outcrop of the Niagara Escarpment, the arc of dolomitic limestone that reaches from Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin to Niagara Falls in New York. At one time this rock was located at the equator, not halfway to the North Pole like today.

East of the Ridges, past Moonlight Bay, the road turns into a thin gravel path that leads to Cana Island. Since the Cana Island Lighthouse was closed for repairs, we watched the waves converge over the path and recede instead of crossing over to the island. I would have been nervous to ride in the tractor-pulled cart that transports visitors across that mostly submerged bit of land. Shipwreck enthusiasts take note: the waters of Lake Michigan are especially treacherous off these shores. I was content to remain on land, to breathe in deeply air heavy with the fragrance of conifers on a hot day. What an intoxicating scent; it took me back to the forest by the Ödseen in Austria’s Alm Valley.

Any visitor to Door County becomes aware of the importance of cherries to the regional economy. The waters surrounding the peninsula render its climate milder than the rest of Wisconsin, a boon for cherry and apple production. My trip coincided with the start of the cherry season. Both tart and sweet cherries were available, so the MG and I filled up the cooler with Montmorency for pie and Bing for snacking. Come fall, a stash of dried tart cherries will brighten oatmeal and jazz up cakes and breads. Only back in Kenosha after the last piece of sour cherry pie had disappeared did I feel like my vacation was truly over.

May you discover the unique plants, rocks, and animals around you!

 

The Ridgeline of Summer

Ridgeline: An elevation that separates two watersheds. The ridgeline of summer has been crossed. From here on, all paths lead to autumn. From this vantage point, the waters flush everything into Lake Michigan, the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean before potentially washing it up on the shores of Europe. Before long, I too will be propelled eastward to Vienna, not by water but by air. Yet now in this watershed bloom butterfly weed and lavender, pleasing monarchs. There are warm golden daylilies and marigolds that don’t quite complement the cool purple morning glories and borage flowers. There are scolding parent wrens and chatty adolescent blue jays. There are thick books to sink into and piquant crosswords for lazy summer days. Clue: An antidote to the heat. Five letters. Starts with an L. Linen.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No need to reinvent the wheel. Leave well enough alone. Three sayings that emphasize how you shouldn’t make any changes to the status quo if it is satisfactory and serving its purpose. Last summer I knit a linen tank top that fit perfectly and turned out to be exactly the right garment for heat waves and high humidity. I recently made another one, identical except for the color. In a world that is warming, it would be wise to wear more linen. In a world plagued by drought, linen is not as thirsty as cotton, nor is it doused in as many pesticides as its sister plant fiber routinely is. The more you wear linen and wash it, the softer it becomes. A chapter on linen is awaiting me toward the end of Victoria Finley’s fascinating Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World. For the time being, the chapter on cotton is making me yearn for a fine (organic) cotton scarf dyed dark blue with indigo. Finley describes the smell of indigo-dyed cloth as “a mix of old books and yeasty bread.” Sounds like my kind of natural dye. Now back to reading a book not yet old, tending a yeasty dough for a schiacciata all’uva (Florentine grape bread), and growing a blue wool/silk shawl.

Wishing you a peaceful journey down from the ridgeline!

Ball of Bunnies

In the silence since my last post, there has been love, death, pestilence, and bunnies. Some phases of life are intense and chock full of experiences. That definitely applies to the past six weeks. An Austrian chocolate bunny has been swapped for a real live North American bunny, and my summer in the U.S. has actually started in spring. Let me attempt a chronological summary.

First came love and death. After nine years of suffering from posterior cortical atrophy, a rare form of dementia, my father died peacefully in a hospice house in April. When you live far away from family, you face the uncertainty of whether it will be possible to say goodbye to those you love when the time comes. I fortunately made it back. Accompanying someone you love in their final days and hours is an incredibly moving experience; death is surprisingly intimate. I had been through this twelve years ago with an aunt who had pancreatic cancer, and accompanying her was a turning point for me in many ways. There is such a thing as a good death, and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to die in a hospice setting, which prefers quality of life and compassion toward the dying and their loved ones over medical interventions that may prolong and potentially increase the suffering of the terminally ill.

Since my father was a practicing Catholic, we gave him a traditional Catholic funeral. I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I had attended a mass in English: so long that the responses have been slightly modified – presumably modernized. Yet the priest still recited my favorite lines at the grave: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Sometimes the line between theology and gardening is a fine one indeed.

Since we have all had enough of pestilence at this point, I will simply note for the record that I too have now had COVID and attribute the mild symptoms I had to the fact that I was fully vaccinated before contracting it. In March, I asked myself the question: “Can I sit inside a coffee shop again and enjoy an espresso without (worrying about) contracting a potentially deadly infectious disease?” The answer remains a resounding “No.”

Now on to the moment you have been waiting for: the ball of bunnies. After the peaks and troughs of love, death, and pestilence, what could be more therapeutic and healing than gardening and observing the living world outside? While I was tending to the MG’s unruly thyme bush, a small mammal scooted by and disappeared underneath the thyme. Mausi? Kind of big. Chipmunk? Too slow. I cautiously peered behind the bush. The two pointy ears gave it away: a baby bunny. No, two. I sent KA the picture. His response: No, three. As the days went on, the MG and I watched the bunnies from the distance of the sunroom. As they went back and forth in their playpen of a raised bed, seeking shelter below either the thyme bush or the giant leaves of the sprawling rhubarb plant, this number kept creeping up. Eventually intrepid bunnies found their way out of the bed and into the wilds of the garden and yard. They took to waiting right outside the sunroom for the mother rabbit to return to nurse them in the evenings. The final count: nine bunnies.

It has been over a week since the ball of bunnies dispersed. From time to time, a bunny may be glimpsed snacking on the front lawn, another fleeing into the rain garden, yet another one jumping out of the rubber tube previously connected to the sump pump and scaring the neighbor. The bunnies helped me shift my focus from death back to life. Life requires food. There were weeks during which my body was hungry but I couldn’t decide what to eat and was uninterested in cooking. Thankfully, there were friends who showed up bearing gifts of lentil soup, goat cheese and crackers, and cookies. What I have learned: there is nothing like food materializing when you are preoccupied with death and neglecting your body. Dear reader, feed those who are grieving. This story has a happy ending. As the post-funeral fog receded, my appetite returned, as did my interest in cooking for myself and others. Now on to that glut of rhubarb…

Enjoy watching the living world around you and keep those you love well fed!

Ears of Chocolate, Flour, and Linen

The Easter bunny has already arrived and has been watching me work, patiently waiting for me to break off her ears and start nibbling on them in a moment of weakness when my brain screams, “Help, glucose!” Did you know she is actually made of vegan chocolate and wears a shredded coconut necklace and skimpy shift of damascena rose petals? She will taste very different from pasta and chickpeas, the latest A-Z of Pasta recipe reproduced in the kitchen.

The book provides two versions, and I made the one with canned chickpeas. It was a pleasant surprise to find organic canned chickpeas from Austria at the grocery store. Most of what went into the soup was produced in Austria: chickpeas, spelt ditalini pasta, potatoes, onion, celery, and salt. The olive oil was from Greece, the fresh rosemary from Italy, and the black pepper from far, far away as all pepper is. In a recent newspaper article, I learned that Austria produces 87% of the wheat it consumes, 85% of potatoes, 55% of vegetables, and 45% of fruit. Given the impending shortage of wheat, the sight of shelves full of flour makes me somber and solemn. Recently KA had to drag me away from the flour shelf at the supermarket. I was just standing there, staring at the abundance, marveling at all the different flours from grain grown in Austria (wheat, whole wheat, pizza quality wheat, spelt, whole spelt, rye, buckwheat, einkorn, millet), thinking how most of the world’s population doesn’t have this much variety, feeling grateful to live somewhere not threatened by the wheat shortage.

To experiment with the organic pizza flour found on that marvelous grocery store shelf, I tried out a new pizza dough recipe. The recipe is for pizza rossa, red pizza, whose only toppings are tomato sauce and olive oil. (Pizza doesn’t need cheese on top to be pizza.) The dough is wetter and stickier than my standard house dough. It uses less yeast and has double the rising time. KA gave it a sehr gut, and I like it so much that I’ve made it a few more times. Since there is rye flour in the pantry that needs using up, I have taken to substituting rye flour for up to a fifth of the pizza flour, and I plan on upping the ratio to a quarter next time. I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought my preoccupation with flour influenced the choice of the book I am currently reading.

However, you would be wrong. This book has been on my stack for nearly two years. I have started reading it several times, and this time, I am sure I am going to finish it because I am already past the two bookmarks left inside from previous attempts. Plus there is a long holiday weekend coming up. The sand pullover should also be finished soon. The back and front are done, and the first sleeve is coming along nicely.

The pullover would already be done if I hadn’t gotten distracted with starting a linen tank top. It is the same pattern as the linen tank top I knit last spring, which was perfect on extremely hot summer days. At the end of the summer, I decided it would be good to knit another one. When finished, this tank will match all my summer skirts. The back is already done – over halfway there.

Wishing you full supermarket shelves and a good book!

 

Veritable Viridity

KA and I often drive to a supermarket in the next district so it is possible to keep a distance from other customers while grocery shopping. Unfortunately, it has less vegetable variety than one of the (cramped and swarming) supermarkets within walking distance. (Don’t get me started on how I suffer from not being able to find Swiss chard, one of the hallmarks of culinary civilization). While white cabbage (Kraut) is quite common, Savoy cabbage is less so. The bowling ball Kraut that we bought a month ago has finally disappeared. Half of it went into soup and the other half was mixed with leeks, onion, cinnamon, pine nuts, and parsley to make a filling for a vegetable strudel based on this recipe. White cabbage can be tasty but heavy, and now that spring has arrived, we are ready to leave Kraut behind us like the winter. We had even agreed on this strategy while I drew up the shopping list, determining it was time to move on to other vegetables. So when I was dazzled by the beauty of the dark green crinkled leaves of the Savoy cabbage, I pointed to it and asked KA if he was sure there should no more Kraut, he gave me a look. “Das ist Kohl.” Oh. (Here I thought it was Wirsing in standard German, but when in Vienna, do as the Viennese do). Kraut is out; Kohl, ja wohl! Into the cart it went.

This spring, I am playing a game with myself. Spring is all about the landscape erupting into green. Every evening since the equinox, I have written down what I ate that day that was green. For example, broccoli. The second recipe I tried from Rachel Roddy’s An A to Z of Pasta was Casarecce with Broccoli, in which the star vegetable is boiled for a few minutes and then sautéed in olive oil with garlic and chili. The broccoli becomes super soft and disintegrates into a clingy sauce. The pasta (here cornetti rigati instead of casarecce) is cooked in the water in which the broccoli was boiled, then added to the broccoli mixture – saving energy and water. Toasted breadcrumbs top it all off. This dish was a revelation – so creamy yet vegan. Roddy also presents the technique here.

While the broccoli pasta used storebought factory made pasta, I finally tried my hand at making handmade pasta, following the A to Z recipe for pici, which uses a mixture of soft wheat and hard wheat flours. You roll out the dough into a disk, cut the disk into thin strips, then roll the strips between your hands to round them. The sauce is not the one from the pici chapter but the tomato and basil sauce from the spaghetti chapter. Basil counts as green too.

While there have been a variety of dishes coming out of the kitchen, my knitting focus has narrowed to the sand linen pullover, whose back I hope to finish this evening. The pullover is knit in the round from the hem to the armholes, after which the back and front are each worked flat and then joined at the top. One challenge of knitting with linen is that gauge can change dramatically from round to flat knitting. Knitting flat usually results in a looser gauge than knitting in the round, which means a needle change is in order to avoid a line developing in your knitting. I went down from a US size 3 to size 2, and thankfully that did the trick. I thought I had started with the 2 but after a few rows I realized I had used a 3. Since I was too lazy to redo these rows, there is a bit of a stripe, but I am sure no one will notice except if the person in line behind me at the coffee shop or store is a textile nut and scrutinizes what I am wearing. It is exciting to see the pullover take shape.

Wishing you lots of green in the kitchen and outdoors!

Of Sand and Spring

My nature observations journal reveals there have been many changes in the past week. The clock cannot be turned back on spring. From primroses appearing in new places to the first brilliant yellow of forsythia blossoms, from just one green woodpecker to two on the ground and in the trees, ditto for the wood pigeons, there is a lot of flora and fauna action. A couple of new crows on the block have started building a nest in a tree where the sidewalk out of the apartment complex meets the street. It is not visible from our windows, so checking up on it will involve venturing out into the world. Temperatures warmed up over the past few days, but the high concentration of particles in the air caused by a Sahara sandstorm prevented us from taking a nice walk. The last of the sand should blow through today. While not as dramatic as these pictures of Granada in Spain and the ski slopes in Vorarlberg in the far west of Austria, it has been quite hazy in Vienna and there are ruddy sand deposits on KA’s car.

Another reason it feels that spring is on the way is that I was struck by an idea for what do to with the sand-colored linen yarn I bought last spring. Having successfully disconnected myself from two news live tickers on the war in Ukraine (one in English, one in German), I find myself with more time to pursue my interests. How refreshing to get lost while looking at patterns on Ravelry! When I find myself gravitating towards the same patterns, over and over, it is clearly time to knit them. Many that I like are from the Montreal yarn store Espace Tricot. The sand linen is rapidly turning into a Léger Redux, which will be perfect for early mornings at the harbor on hot summer days. The Schoppel El Linio yarn is a 100% linen tape yarn. Tape or ribbon yarns are constructed as chains. Since this forms a space in the middle, a Russian join is the perfect way to connect two skeins. Take your two pointer fingers and hook them together. That is basically how the Russian join works, and then the yarn tails are threaded through the middle of the yarn. The result is that you can’t see the join except for a slight thickening of the yarn. Can you see where one skein ends and the other begins in the picture below (which reminds me of the Uffington White Horse chalk figure on the cover of XTC’s album English Settlement)? I can’t anymore.

Also from Espace Tricot, there is a second project on the needles that is halfway done, Aisé II. And then there is a third project just started in the same yarn, a slinky wool-silk-ramie cardigan, and the ideas for other pieces keep coming. Yes, the fountain of inspiration has started bubbling again. Now all I need is ample time to knit.

My plan to eat vegan during Lent hit a setback in the form of a tub of ricotta that had expired. Since KA has no interest in my dietary experiments, I baked him a ricotta and dark chocolate spelt cake. It smelled so good I had to taste it. But that wasn’t the end of it: there was mozzarella right at the best by date, so I made pizza. Instead of throwing in the towel on vegan in Lent as I normally do, I am pressing on. There are no more dairy products left in the fridge that will expire any time soon, so from here on in I have no excuse.

There is a new book in my life, Rachel Roddy’s An A-Z of Pasta: Stories, Shapes, Sauces, Recipes. It is dedicated to me (“To pasta makers and pasta eaters”). Each chapter describes a different pasta shape and features one or more recipes. From the proper salting of pasta water to the history of ravioli, there is enough material to provide the syllabus for an Italian Pasta 101 course. The first phase of my book encounter strategy has ended: read the book from start to finish. The next phase – try out the vegan recipes – has just begun. The first recipe I tried was solid: ditalini and lentils. This recipe is similar to one from a prior Roddy cookbook that I regularly cook but calls for just one pot and leaves out tomato. Using fresh rosemary instead of bay leaves made the kitchen smell incredible as I cooked it and the vegetables gently in olive oil. The supermarket brand of pasta has ditalini made of whole spelt flour from Austria. The Italian word ditale means thimble, so a ditalino is a small thimble. I have small hands, but even my thumb can’t fit through these pasta forms. Which is fine, because they are meant to be eaten, not worn.

The big question: Which recipe should I try next? Busiate with basil, tomato and almond pesto? Casarecce with broccoli? Pasta e fagioli? Potato gnocchi? Pasta and chickpea soup? Orecchiette with arugula, potatoes and cherry tomatoes? If asked, this crow would most likely vote for the almond pesto – anything with nuts. What do you think?

May you pursue your spring interests with a newfound verve!

Birds, Bertha, and Wheat

An icy wind has continued to blast Vienna from the north and northeast, limiting the number of pleasant walks outside. On most days the sun shines deceptively, luring the unwitting to set off on a stroll, but for those of us who can read the dancing of the tree branches, it is clear that staying inside is the better option, regardless of how much legs weary of wintering want to walk. Sometimes I see birds fluffed up and staunchly clinging to branches like this occasional visitor, the common wood pigeon (Ringletaube, Columba palumbus).

The rooks have left on schedule. One remained a few days longer. KA had noticed it in the grass and wondered if it wasn’t able to fly. It eventually did. Yet it continued to hang out in the branches of the tree, hesitant to swoop down and eat the peanuts we threw to it. I had started to wonder if it would stay here for the season instead of flying to Russia and dubbed it Bertha in honor of Bertha von Suttner, the Austrian pacifist who was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905. Ahead of her time, she warned against using aviation for military aims and believed uniting Europe was the only way to ensure peace. I haven’t seen Bertha the rook in a few days now.

KA and I enjoyed our pancakes for peace on Fat Tuesday, and now it is Lent. It seems like every year I try to be vegan for Lent and fail. As usual, I have gotten off to a good start. The first week is never difficult. I hope that this year will be different as I have a number of filling soup recipes up my sleeve. I am also encouraged by the ease with which I left the rest of the berlingozzo cake for KA to eat. Two days before Ash Wednesday, I came across a recipe for this anise and orange zest-flavored cake for Carnival and spontaneously baked it. Yum. As Tuesday turned to Wednesday, I was well stuffed with crepes and cake and ready to shift my focus to vegetables and legumes, soups and pasta.

There are many lenses through which you can view the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and one that I find especially interesting is through the lens of wheat. I am old enough to have learned in school that Ukraine (back when it was still “the Ukraine”) is the breadbasket of Europe. Today a more accurate description would be that it is the breadbasket of the world. Not only do wheat exports from Ukraine feed people in Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, the Phillipines, and Tunisia, wheat grown in its fertile black soil provides more than half the grain that the UN World Food Programme distributes to countries in need. Any rise in the price of wheat or disruption in wheat exports will inevitably result in more people going hungry. Russia also exports wheat to populous countries like Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Nigeria, which are unlikely to agree to sanctions that could ultimately lead to starvation. We are all more closely connected than we realize, and we are all united by our need for nourishing food every day. Let us hope for a swift end to the violence in Ukraine as well as an end to hunger.

May all our words and actions foster peace!

As the Crow Flies

Here I am, back in Vienna, in the heart of Europe, with Paris 1033 km to the west and Kiev 1052 km to the east as the crow flies. The rooks are still here, clinging to the branches outside as the wind sways them back and forth. This surprises me because last year they had already left by this time. Maybe they sense something is afoot. I hope when they go they fly north of Ukraine, which is no longer safe.

From my vantage point, winter and hibernation are over. Puzzles have been completed, stimulating the visual centers of my brain as a counterpoint to an abundance of linguistic stimulation. Many a good book has been read, and passages that have stuck will continue to be the object of ruminations. There will be more knitting to soothe a mind sore from mulling over pivotal world events and their potential ramifications. And when the wind dies down, there will be plenty of walks to keep leg joints well oiled, walks on which the finished Fjord sweater may come in handy.

I have been following the developments in Ukraine closely because of what is at stake: peace and stability not only in Europe but in the entire world. The rules of the global order, i.e., that nations have borders that may not be changed without the consent of both countries involved, have clearly been broken. When rules are not followed, there are inevitably problems. The disruption of COVID may be subsiding thanks to vaccination, increased immunity, and better treatments, but now there are unhinged alpha male autocrats with nationalist agendas and nuclear arsenals to worry about. Maybe a good mantra to keep us clearheaded and resilient in such times is: What next?

One plausible answer to that question is a disruption in natural gas, which means no hot water or stovetop cooking in the apartment. While the gas is still flowing freely to our kitchen, I am enjoying cooking for KA again. There has been leek risotto, carrot soup with coriander and cinnamon, spaghettini with Marcella Hazan’s carrettiera sauce, and rice with mushrooms and shallots. The answer to the question “What next?” needn’t be negative: Soon there will be crêpes/Palatschinken/naleśniki/mlyintsi/blini for Fat Tuesday. Yes, Lent is nearly upon us. We have no buckwheat flour, which I prefer, but there is plenty of wheat flour, so our crêpes will simply taste a little different this year. The days are getting longer, and these flat pancake traditions throughout Europe have roots that go down deeper than the advent of Christianity. The golden round pancake made of flour and eggs is a symbol of the sun, whose return is celebrated from Bretagne in France to the Ural Mountains in Russia. Let us focus on this common European culinary heritage and cultivate peace in our interactions with others. Let pancakes remind us that there is more that unites us than divides us.

Wishing you peace and delicious pancakes!

A Glance Out the Window

In the morning of sunny and frigid days like last Tuesday, a band of dense meringue clouds delineates the lake, a display all the more dazzling when the sand has been erased by snow accumulation as high as my hand.

On frigid days when the temperature is below 5 F/-15 C, there is an uptick in bird activity at the neighbors’ feeder. The murmuration of starlings returned and squatted in their yard.

To my delight, a group of American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) settled in our trees, one of whom incessantly trumpeted a message I could not decipher. Though I often spot crows in the neighborhood, they normally fly over the yard, which is blue jay, cardinal, junco, and sparrow territory.

The contrast of a male cardinal’s scarlet feathers against the dark dun backdrop of tree bark never fails to bring good cheer on the coldest of days.

Captured, one camera-shy junco: How I would love to observe a breeding pair! Only readers in New England, the Rockies, and Canada may be fortunate enough to spy nesting juncos and their chicks.

It comes as no surprise that feathered predators visit from time to time. This appears to be a Cooper’s hawk, which commonly stalks bird feeders in suburban areas. A study has shown that Cooper’s hawk and sharp-shinned hawk populations have increased in the greater Chicago suburban area over the past two decades. They like to feed on juncos, goldfinches, cardinals, starlings, and even mourning doves.

Watching the nonhuman world outside helps me get through the unique bleakness of this year, the double whammy of winter and this seemingly never-ending pandemic. At some point, the pandemic will recede, though given widespread refusal of vaccination, rampant misinformation, and commonplace selfishness, there will sadly be many more preventable deaths and much long-term damage from the virus before things subside. When I get discouraged with humankind, I look out the window and inevitably see something curious, beautiful, or delightful. Hope dwells just a glance out the window away. Next up: learning to read animal tracks in the snow. Given the tracks in the picture above, what came to visit?

May a glance out the window bring you good cheer and hope!

Through the Doldrums

Thanks to omicron, winter, and caution, espresso only happens to go these days. Masked up and nervous regardless, I dart in and out of the coffee shop where in better times I have been known to linger for hours with my journal, books, and fellow regular customers. Instead of every day, I just go in two or three times a week and take home the delicious strong brew in one of those bad karma-generating styrofoam cups that I loathe to sip from and feel dreadfully guilty about each time it ends up in the trash. The other day neither I nor my favorite barista of many years could muster up any of our normal banter. “It’s the January doldrums,” he sighed. “They’ll last until March.”

On those happy days that are coffee days, I transfer the coffee to one of two glasses in the overstuffed cupboard, reheat it in the microwave (under the bad influence of the MG!), and settle down at the table in the living room in front of the laptop. More often than not, sunshine greets me through the big bay window as the sun ascends in the southeastern sky. Around eleven AM, a blue jay often scolds and I take a break from work, its cries luring me across the room to the window facing the backyard and the neighbor’s bird feeder. A male cardinal has visited the past two days, and today I saw my first mourning dove this visit. Squirrels scamper erratically and juncos feed on the ground.

As caregiving does not stop once a loved one is in residential care, it has been a stressful week, and sometimes stress requires the sweetness of a cinnamon roll. Today I was up to bantering again, but my barista dropped the ball on one of our standard exchanges. When I asked him if he knew what kind of day it was, he forgot to respond it was a cinnamon roll day. Doldrums indeed.

The hour grows late and I have been on the computer too long. Time to call it a day and finish reading Bich Minh Nguyen’s memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. Like me, the author was born in the mid-seventies, grew up in the Midwest (just on the other side of Lake Michigan in Grand Rapids), and felt more at home in the company of books than with other children her age. She enjoyed many of the same children’s books that I did and appears to be equally fascinated with food. Unlike me, she came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam. Thanks to a stroke of good luck, her entire family made it onto a ship that left Saigon immediately before it became The City Formerly Known As Saigon in spring of 1975. Right before I picked up this book, I read Shugri Said Salh’s The Last Nomad. Salh is also roughly my age and lives in the U.S. but arrived here from her homeland of Sudan via Kenya and then Canada after her family fled the civil war. There are so many well-written memoirs out there by resilient women with fascinating life trajectories who are fluent in multiple cultures. Reading memoirs is one of my strategies for how to make it through the current doldrums.

May you find a good strategy for how to make it through the current doldrums!