Saturday, March 29, 2008

a fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi

Thoughts from up near Lake Wobegon
by Charlie Leck

I’m sitting in my lovely tree-loft study, letting a multiplicity of random thoughts play around in the various recesses and accesses of my limited mind.

(1) I fall asleep evenings listening to the public radio. With its range of mono-tones and monotony it is perfect for putting one to sleep. My wife arranged this little speaker that is actually imbedded in my pillow, so I can listen and yet not disturb her. It’s a clever invention. A fellow last night was rambling on about what motivates writers to keep working and producing when they don’t really sell or get read by vast audiences. He thought it was a fear of death – the desire to be as immortal as possible – to leave something of oneself behind. I wondered if it couldn’t just be the sheer love of doing it; yet, I’m aware that I do want my grandchildren to have some sense of who I was and what made me like I am (to mix tenses a bit).

(2) Years ago, perhaps 20 or 25 years ago, a friend gave me a little sculpture that he had created. I keep it proudly near me here in this private place where I write. It’s only about 6 inches high and a few inches across. The base is a piece of roughly hewn hardwood. A thin piece of steel protrudes from it and rises to about 6 inches. Slender tongs at the end of the piece form a resting place for a smooth, egg-shaped rock or stone. He called it: “Between a rock and a hard place!” We were in business together at the time and that’s where we were.

(3) I’m trying to get a closet-full of old photographs – prints and slides – organized, cataloged and, in some cases, digitized to archival quality disks, so, when I shed this mortal coil, there won’t be such a mess for those who will need to go through these things. I find that I pause most often over photographs I took here and there of my wife. They remind me of one of the reasons I fell in love with her and they often take my breath away. They also remind me of the very good times we’ve had together. The photograph that introduces this blog is one of those that I found wasting away on a slide that had never been printed. I took the photograph with a wonderful old Minolta camera that served us well for many years. We were traveling in Germany and on our way to Stockholm for the 1990 World Equestrian Games. Anyway, it brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. I love traveling with her and wish we’d do more of it. A farm and its animals is not conducive to long get-aways.

(4) Van Peebles Land is a blog -- The Shambolic Postings of an Irishman Living in Wales – that I enjoy reading. It’s written and maintained by David Williamson. I want so much to respond to some of David’s meandering thoughts, but he has a complicated defense against anonymous scammers and I can’t leave my compliments without having his email address. David, if you are out there, give me some assistance! I’m one of your fans.

Now this Irishman’s blog isn’t something I’d necessarily recommend to everyone. It just happens to be one of those places I enjoy going for a change of pace and scenery. David seems a solid guy and a clear, uncomplicated thinker. Pay his blog a visit if you want a breath of fresh, Welsh air.

For instance, a few days ago he wrote about the visit of the French President, Nocolass Sarkozy, to England.
“The sharpest knives may have been locked away when French president Nicolas Sarkozy dined with the Queen yesterday.”
(5) I do nearly all the cooking around our house these days and not because I must, but because I enjoy it. I’ve resolved to get much better at it, too, and I’m getting hooked on the concept of better, fresher and more local foods – foods that we know about and whose life-histories we can nearly document. I’m bitten by a blog by Mark Bittman. He calls it Bitten. He also does a weekly column, The Minimalist, in the dining section of the NY Times and regularly produces marvelous videos. I’ve tried his recipes enough times that I know they work extremely well. To accomplish them, however, I find myself having to find new sources for various foods, herbs and spices. So, I’ve discovered the Asian and Hispanic markets in town. What a neat adventure! Next I’ll try one or two of Bittman’s cookbooks.

This resolution about my food in the future led me to discover Moonstone Farm. My, what a lovely place! It’s down in the Minnesota River Valley. Pay them, at least, an on-line visit.
“River-friendly meats...local artisan foods...guest cottage...handthrown pottery...all from the gently rolling bluffland of the Minnesota River Valley. Our 240 acres offers a varied landscape, plenty of trees, and a home to humans and cattle, corn and alfalfa, beaver and coyote, coneflowers and big bluestem. Meander through our site, get to know a bit about us and Moonstone grass-based beef. Be assured that customer visits, electronic or in person, are always welcome.”
The farm has been in the Handeen family since 1872. It’s a joy to feel the deep respect this couple has for the land and what it produces. One can visit their farm store and have a very nice time.

(6) I’m thinking a lot about the Sojourners movement these days. I’ve been so disappointed with the Christian Church in America during my life time –the traditional Protestant Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the fundamentalist, evangelical churches. There’s too much division, finger pointing, claims to exclusive understanding. Scripture has also been badly misunderstood and brutally used as claims to universal and exclusive truth.

Now I’m going to a blog by Jim Wallis, called God’s Politics, and I find it refreshing and hopeful. There’s no finger pointing and no claims to exclusive possession of truth and no guarantees of salvation. Wallis’ latest blog about Pastor Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama gave me some hope. The perspective of Jim Wallis on this incident is unique and strikes to the heart of what’s going on.

I’ll watch this organization (or movement) for a while yet; however, I think I’ve found a vehicle for religious and faith expression. I’m probably going to get involved.

(7) Freakonomics is one of the most delightfully amusing, entertaining and enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. My discovery of Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt is one of the best things that’s happened to me in a while. I’m not at all an economics or finance guy, but they made economics come alive for me. They have extraordinary senses of humor. Read their terrific book and also visit their blog of the same name.

(8) Just a few last thoughts about books and then I’ll close. I’m a bit of a John Grisham fan. He’s published 20 books and I’ve read all of them. I just finished his most recent work, The Appeal. It wasn’t too appealing and it was very predictible. I’d put it down near the bottom of my list of his books. My two favorite of his books are A Painted House and The Innocent Man.

I also just finished Bill Bryson’s book about Shakespeare. Bryson has a very readable writing style and his sense of humor makes his books marvelous to read. I’ve never been disappointed with any of them and I think I’ve read them all. If you’re a Shakespeare fan, or if you’d just like to know more about good old Will, this would be a suitable title to pick up from your local library. Here’s a tidy review of the book by the London Times.

I’ve rambled on long enough. I’m off to the Asian market in search of some baby bak-choy.

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