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First Thursdays At Casket Arts, poster by Linnea Marie Doyle, © 2009-2010, used by permission of the artist.


Once a month the artists in the Casket Arts Building in Northeast Minneapolis open their doors to the public. The March date is coming up fast. The Casket Arts Building, which includes the Carriage House, has a rich history (see Casket Arts Photoblog). Not only did it used to be a genuine casket company, it’s one of the oldest surviving buildings in Minneapolis. And in 2006, after over 100 years on 17th Avenue NE, the Northwestern Casket Company moved their business to New Hope and sold the building.

That’s when two visionaries, Jennifer Young and John Kremer, turned vintage real estate into the Casket Arts Building. Together they work hard to maintain the integrity of the original structure, and create a thriving space for artists. I share Studio 318 with Liz and two other artists on what used to be the floor where women sewed and embroidered the inside of the caskets (more at Casket Arts Epilogue). It’s a beautiful space. Please stop by and visit if you are in the area!


_________________________________________


Date: First Thursday of Every Month
Time:
5:00pm – 9:00pm
Street:
681 17th Ave NE
City:
Minneapolis, MN


_________________________________________


If you miss us this Thursday, we are open the First Thursday of Every Month from 5 to 9 pm at 17th and Madison Street NE. And don’t forget about one of the highpoints of the year for the Minneapolis Arts District, ART-A-WHIRL Open Studio and Gallery Tour which takes place May 14th – 16th, 2010 (in 2011, the dates are May 20th – 22nd). It’s a great way to kick off Spring in Minnesota — in community and support of the Arts.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010, with gratitude to Linnea for creating and giving us permission to distribute her poster. You can see more of her work at her website.

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Night Fog (0) Emptiness – 19/365, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 

One seagull feather
hairy sculptures of seagrass
piled up on the dunes;
lady bugs and beetles land,
shelter from the cold, coarse sand

found in the sand
someone lost a loved one–
this wedding band,
years of what could and could not
happen in a span of life

life’s changing seasons
happy, sad, up, down, laugh, cry-
stay or go away;
underneath the roiling waves
calm moonlight draws me back in

breathing in bath salts,
I think of the tears I tasted
when you said goodbye
bitter wind off oceans spray
turns my heart cold like that day

bare truth, bald faced lie,
why does nothing satisfy?
how fickle my heart
swinging between trees
like a hammock

creaking bending trees
crying out pains agony-
red eyes of grief’s lava tears
into the wind I let it go
a feather across the sand

between power lines
the crows can’t decide whether
to leave or stay
feet hold fast to whir of wire
head says run to shifting ground

from the earth
a crack
of fresh earthworms
slither through the pouring rain
clinging to last bits of life

the soccer field–
a marshland for herons
after the rain
reminds me of Nebraska
slow drum of Janis Ian

naked oak and birch
still in the November wind
haiku for the sky
only my breath caught
in the branches

birdsong–
my dog echoes the warbler
with her sore throat;
the trill can be heard for miles,
is the bark worse than the bite?

from the birch tree
I peel away the bark
and write this haiku
I find the sap sweet, congealed
While my tears remain bitter

The backyard rubble
Holds wisps of waylaid dreams It’s
Slim pickings for birds;
they are dreamcatchers
tying each nightmare to bare branches.

crows light on the wing
Raven holds November court
while hummers fly South
dipping in the sunlight
they pull away the clouds

Sun sextile Saturn
Thanksgiving relationships
may take a quick turn
family feuds holding still –
peace returns, if just one day

on the corner, the Raven
returning for a quick meal
dissolves into night
The autumn also takes wing,
A snowflake heralds winter.

trees crawl toward the sky
ochre moonlight silhouettes
dreaming of Solstice
The nights are long and heavy
but soon the light will lift us.

trenches around fire
reflected deep in your eyes
labyrinthine pools…
I think of the night we held
each other from our own shadows

Your softest caress,
each tremble and kiss of tress,
a single raindrop,
creating dry dust devils
littered with blurred distinctions.

on the windshield
cracks become softer
in the fog —
-1 freezes in place,
fingers draw cold words–your name.

linked crescents–
I fitted your faded last name
around my lip print –
morning sun, and it’s still there,
remnants of what used to be.

the future so uncertain
as I drive through
the Monday car wash –
when I pay, their parrot talks,
Cackles “I love you” out loud.

 
 

________________

 
 

for every life
there is a reason to live
and there is an end
And in this divine resort,
God grant us late, quick checkout.

soulful salvation
a rest of quiet peace; not
exasperation.
Still, I wonder what happens
to our dreams after we die?

Perhaps they live on,
in the hearts and minds we touch,
then eternity.
Or disappear like the wind,
ideas whose time never came.

All is illusion.
so say the masters of Zen,
and whispers the wind.
Monkey Mind clings to what’s “real”
while life passes by in zeal.

Our earthly moment,
gestation for mind and soul,
to transcend mere time.

 
 

________________

 
 

devouring time
underneath the work ethic
wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Toss a coin into a pond,
the ripples subside quickly.

That which glimmers bright
quietly fades from our sight,
we race the sunset.
Full throttle, going nowhere –
What remains? An empty shell.


________________


It has come to this:
An ad on a vomit bag.
Is nothing sacred?
Sacred cow branding?
Or designer-stigmatas?

Open your hands and hearts,
Brand all with love and kindness,
lest they wander lost.
Besides, emetophobes won’t…
I repeat, won’t read puke bags.

Suggestive powers,
A greasy pork chop and fried octopus,
from dirty ashtray.
These are mental images,
to cure one of mal de mer.

Yet, on second thought
one might not regain sea legs
while eating frog’s legs.
And speaking of splayed legs,
we’re covering quite a spread.

jumping through mind hoops
e.e. cummings comes to mind;
humor of Mark Twain
Whole lotta jumpin’ go’n on
In Calaveras County.

Sliding through worm holes
Ol’ H. G. Wells comes to mind;
Brakes would be handy.
Invisible man flees scene,
hoping someone will see him.

Twain is consarned wry,
“Such happy rascality”,
is his catchphrase child.
Left to fend laughs for itself,
in his novel “Roughing It”.

Or Aldous Huxley,
Seer of socialist folly,
Eyeless In Gaza.
A voice for Albert Hoffman
or at least his Problem Child.

Aldous knew O’Keeffe
typed books at Kiowa Ranch
under Lawrence Tree
Look up! Reach toward the tree top
but don’t forget the journey.

A naughty dream date,
Aimee Semple McPherson,
and Sinclair Lewis.
She was Sharon Falconer,
penned in “Elmer Gantry”.

Another Sinclair
was also interested,
He was an Upton.
Then there was Pete Seeger whose
ballad belied her scandal.

‘Twas Seeger’s refrain,
that “the dents in the mattress
fit Aimee’s caboose.”
and bared the dented psyche,
of our “modern” pop culture.

they’re turning in graves
What’s with Dylan sings Christmas?
he does what he wants.
And much like a rolling stone,
‘becomes a complete unknown.

disjointed puzzle
Springsteen’s Santa comes to town
all dressed in bright red
Hark! The Big Man’s ho-ho-ho’s
Crack The Boss up near the close.

Lady Greensleeves sings
‘Twas the night before Christmas –
hot broadside ballad


________________


New Year’s Eve Blue Moon
cookin’ up the black-eyed peas
always takes me back
Lawd, thas’ whole lottah peppah,
this etouffee gonna hurt.

need that New Year’s luck –
in the North, it’s pork loin
sauerkraut in tow.
Comfort food takes time and love,
so keep stirring and we’ll drink.

Oh tiny bubbles,
like the kiss of a hot fist,
you knock me out cold.
Milk goes with chocolate cake,
champagne, with everything.

Milk lovers unite!
milk fluffs the mashed potatoes
wraps the egg in nog.
How about slow-cooked grits?
A hominy homily.

All GRITS learn to love
hushpuppies fried in hot grease
not a dog in sight
“What are grits?” asks a Yankee.
Honey, it’s like hot ice cream.

Southern scratch biscuits,
then, there’s the red-eye gravy
smothering the plate
‘Jes add a chonk of cornbread,
and a ‘lil “Who Shot Sally”.

Lawd I am hongry,
‘Looks like the rooster dies tonight,
Chicken on Sunday.
Not if Foghorn Leghorn crows,
Or Looney Tunes Barnyard Dawg!

Oh Creme Brulee,
Immortalized in menus,
struck down by the spoon.
How fallen are the mighty,
The weapons of chefs perish.


________________


haiku, senryu, tanka, & renga


Part II of community poetry — the nature of renga. Year two of our Daily Haiku explored the intimate connection between haiku, senryu, tanka, and renga. In gratitude to all who participated, we wanted to post the year in renga. Renga is a form of collaborative poetry, written in community.

At the beginning of the year, the poetry leaned toward haiku, senryu, and tanka; renga was slow to develop. By year’s end, the renga spanned weeks, and the trend moved to longer strands of poetry. For that reason, we are dividing a year of renga into two posts, in the order they were written.

You can find helpful links, definitions, and read more about the relationship between the poetry forms in haiku 2 (one-a-day). Deep bows to Natalie and Clark. And to the poets who visit red Ravine, and help keep poetry alive.

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early laughter-green
grows between a warm change
time never walks past love
it is written in the skies
a heart shaped moon in your eyes

I think of your eyes:
like the winter sea, and shape
my heart by the moon…
sirens wake to crashing waves,
eerie melody haunts me.

heartstrings cut shorter
the distance of your voice
alluring in charm, bliss
will I know, upon some far,
galactic shore, surfing still

nights I write away
damp smudges sealed in bottles:
puckered fish in nets;
the loss is too much to bear,
floating behind hollow eyes.

weaving from afar
is how we travel through dreams–
koi in silver lakes


________________


the darkening sky
carries the promise of rain
with each shade of gray,
the sun shines from the center
of a wounded cottonwood

wrapped around hands,
one finds rings of promise
broken tree bark;
skin wrinkled and creased with age
releases bountiful seeds

buried deep,
seeds take root and stretch,
circling a pond
February snowstorm drips
concentric rings, wheel of life

lonely morning fish
ripples the quiet pond,
breaking sunlight


________________


chasing jackrabbit
tan mongrel trots through sagebrush
following its scent
the seeking can offer more
peace of mind than the finding

cave bear hibernates
two cubs spring from her loins
February birth
cycle of life continues
once again, all life reborn

fresh perspective
between gnarls of trees, sieves of leaves
sunrise meets the lake


________________


heavy snow, strong winds
just last week the smell of spring
winter packs a punch;
thawed dreams of black-eyed susans,
restless thoughts of wanting more.

dreams of longing
tucked under lashes and lips–
words run towards margins,
black and white letters jump off,
mind stops — scrambles to make sense.

following signs (blindly),
racing around cul-de-sacs
the mind, unnerved
reaches for a sense of peace,
silent shelter from the storm.

faint rainbow
storm leaves the sun in its wake
upon the relieved brow;
blue sky streaked with rainwater
prism changes everything.


________________


vernal equinox
morning freshness through the soul
sunburst in our eyes;
New Moon, stars out of hiding
blink across the Milky Way.

tangible yet far,
fantasies pinned on a star
like spilt milk…
crying for what has been lost,
yearning for that yet to come.


________________


dark and overcast
day before the holiday
a lawnmower growls;
clouds perch on the horizon
wanting nothing more than rain

storm clouds tease us
passing through the jeweled trees
on this side of life –
nothing taken for granted
will stay with us very long

cool sun at midday
life is full of suffering –
followed by moonlight
but then comes the promised dawn
when life is full of wonder


________________


black cat sleeps on couch
shadows fall near the full moon
eyes droop with the weight–
these heavy bags
that the heart carries

sun hides behind gray
burdens are what we make them
dark hinges on light

a forty watt sun
brings only hues of comfort –
false hope arises;
100 ways of seeing
the unpaved roads less traveled

on this journey
I collect many sticks and stones–
all for a bonfire
trailing in the wake of stars
yet untouched by human hands

on a stargazer lily–
a mantis praying
to the sun…
is it that I am not worthy
enough to touch the heavens?

winter sun–
snow angels catching
the snowman’s tears;
drops glisten, Icarus wings
doused by the cries of children


________________


opaque midday moon
creates halo above earth
yet darkness falls fast –
what’s lurking in the shadows?
Fear numbs, leaves no time to dwell.

fierce wind starts and stops
returns cold and leaves no doubt:
summer is over;
biting frost wilts the Spirit,
reflection ignites new spark.

by the fireplace,
the candle and I
dance to pages in my notebook —
letters expose obscure words,
teach me to read between lines





_______________________


haiku, senryu, tanka, & renga


Year two of our Daily Haiku explored the intimate connection between haiku, senryu, tanka, and renga. In gratitude to all who participated, we wanted to post the year in renga. Renga is a form of collaborative poetry, written in community.

At the beginning of the year, the poetry leaned toward haiku, senryu, and tanka; renga was slow to develop. By year’s end, the renga spanned weeks, and the trend moved to longer strands of poetry. For that reason, we are dividing a year of renga into two posts, in the order they were written. Part 2 will follow this week.

You can find helpful links, definitions, and read more about the relationship between the poetry forms in haiku 2 (one-a-day). Deep bows to Natalie and Clark. And to the poets who visit red Ravine, and help keep poetry alive.

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My favorite thing to do in elementary school was Art. Even when I had pink eye in second grade, and my mom sent me to school because she preferred possibly infecting my entire class to having me around for the day, and the teacher set up two long tables like the ones in the cafeteria, and I sat all alone making my collage at one table while the rest of the class crowded around the other table, I still loved Art!

I learned something from that pink eye experience, which is, making Art is a solitary thing. Even when you’re surrounded by other people making Art, you’re doing your own thing while they’re doing their own things. Which is why I love making Art with other people. You can work separately yet together. You can shoot the shit, listen to music, or gossip. Maybe it’s not so great to make Art with others all the time, like when you’re serious about producing, but working alongside others is Viagra for the creative process. Ideas! Feedback! Fun! It’s like being a kid again.

One Sunday in October I hosted a gathering of a dozen women at my place. They brought fixings for a quick and easy lunch, plus they came with unlimited enthusiasm for doing something completely new.

Ours was a resin playdate. Why resin? I’ve recently begun attending a resin night once a month with my sister and a group of her friends. Resin is so magical and fun that I wanted to turn around and share what I knew with my friends. A word of caution, however: Resin can be a messy and potentially harmful substance. Resin playdates are do-able as long as someone in the group knows what they’re doing and can assist during the process.

While resin may not be the best first playdate to host, there are plenty of creative activities that you could bring your friends together to do. This post is intended to offer ideas as to what some of those activities are and how to pull together the gathering so that everyone has fun. And, if readers are interested, I can follow this up with a later post specifically on hosting a resin playdate.


Just Play


If you’ve had a child in the past 20 years, you know exactly how playdates work. You call another parent, set up a time and place, drop your kids off or stick around and talk to the adults while the kids play, and for however long the playdate lasts, you forget about all your worries. Marvelous things, playdates. They’re not like birthday parties, where surely someone’s going to cry over not getting a gift or winning the prizes.

And so it goes with Art. Often I hear people say:

“I’m not artistic.”
“I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”
“I’m amazed by people who have artistic talent. I certainly don’t have any.”


With playdates, there’s no such thing as talent. It’s not a class nor a workshop. No one’s paying money (except maybe $5 or $10 to cover supplies) and expecting to get something out of it. It’s-just-play.


Don’t Eat the Glue


When you get people together, you gotta eat. It’s what you do. But when you get people together to play with Art, you gotta keep the Eating and the Art separate.

Come up with a simple menu—say, nachos—and ask folks to sign up for the different ingredients: shredded cheese, chopped onions, chile con queso, lettuce, tomatoes, chips. Our friend Linda, who hosts the monthly resin night, does it best. Her menus are easy yet coordinated. One night it’s Frito Pie. Another night, potato-leek soup and salad. Next month: tamales, posole, and taquitos. It’s served buffet-style, and if the weather’s nice, we eat on the patio. After all, we’ve taken up most of the table space for our art.

Once you’re done eating (and we always eat fast, because we want to get to the playing) clear the dishes, and you’re ready.


K.I.S.S.


Pick something you know how to do yourself. Or pick something you’ve always wanted to learn. You don’t have to be expert. There are many simple yet satisfying activities. Here are a few ideas:

  • Collage: Tell your friends to bring a bunch of old magazines, scrapbook papers, doodles or watercolor dabblings that they don’t mind cutting up. It can be cheap picture books bought at garage sales, construction paper, photos that aren’t valuable. Provide a set of color markers, inks and rubber stamps, glue, and cardboard for making the collages. (TIP: ask your friends to bring scissors from home.)
  • Paper products: Buy blank note cards and envelopes, a roll of white butcher paper for making homemade gift wrap, manila folders cut into gift tags. Carve shapes into Russet potatoes or sponges for stamping onto your cards and paper. Use the same basic materials as for collage. Walk away with enough items to hold you over through the holidays. Or swap with some of the others so you each go home with a wide variety.
  • Decorate journals: Ask everyone to bring a composition book, and then do collage, stamping, and doodling or painting in those.
  • Color mandalas.
  • Decoupage something: My daughters taught me this—Mod Podge goes on white and sticky, but it dries clear and not sticky. All you have to do is glue images to, say, a small plain cardboard box like the kind you can pick up at a craft store. Once you have all the images and marker or paint decoration you want on the box, brush the entire thing in Mod Podge. Let the glue dry, brush it again. Let it dry and you’re done.
  • The list is endless. You can work with recycled materials, beads, clay, Shrinky-Dinks, paper mache. Have you seen those beads that are rolled from magazine paper? Amazing.



Space Matters


Obviously, the amount of space you need depends on what you do, but whatever you do, make sure there’s plenty of space for each person to work. And protect the space by laying down plastic tablecloths or newspapers. If you’re using exacto knives, make sure people have surfaces to cut on.

I like the idea of putting the common supplies at one table so that everyone can access them. For example, if you’re doing collage, keep together all the paper materials.

Also, lighting is important. You may need to move lights from other parts of the house to sufficiently light up all the workspace. It doesn’t hurt to also ask your friends to bring desk lights if they have them.


Epilogue


This is basic stuff. I wouldn’t bother creating a post out of it if I didn’t know just how great it is to make Art with others.

When I hosted that resin playdate in October, at one point I went outside for something. I walked back into the house and the place was still. Everyone had heads down, working in quiet concentration. Some folks talked in low tones, and k.d. lang sang hymns on the stereo, but there was a calm energy in the room. I knew then that we were truly playing. Every one of us was a kid again.






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Mississippi Drive-By, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mississippi Drive-By, sunset on the Mississippi, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.








Spring thaw spills over
Mississippi’s swollen banks;
Red River rages










I’ve been thinking about rivers this week as the Red River border between Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota spreads out over the land. Happy for Spring, this mighty south to north flowing river is swelled and overreaching her banks, leaving human devastation in her wake. The Red River stood at 40.71 feet shortly after 8:15 a.m., down a bit from the 40.8 feet at the stroke of midnight. That’s nearly a foot higher than the Red River has ever before reached in recorded history.

Rivers have minds of their own. And the Red River is a rebel. I remember a 1970’s flooding of the Susquehanna River when I was in college in Pennsylvania. Everyone was evacuated to higher ground; we were out of school for a week. My hometown hosts the mighty Mississippi, a river that writer Mark Twain knew intimately. He wrote about her history and human habitation in Life on the Mississippi. He also had this to say about trying to tame her:


The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise…

       – Mark Twain in Eruption

The same appears to be true of the Red River. This week, citizens of the area have lost homes and businesses swallowed up by the river. Thousands of Midwesterners in the Great White North rose to the occasion, sandbagging between the echoing dribbles of basketball’s March Madness. Cheering for the home team kept their minds from spinning, a kind of in-the-moment relief.

But yesterday, officials in the flood-plagued Minnesota community of Moorhead asked about one-third of their households to evacuate ahead of the rising river. Moorhead along with neighboring Fargo, North Dakota, a city of more than 90,000, are preparing for further evacuations. The river is not expected to crest until Sunday afternoon, an all-time high of 42 feet. Thank goodness the cold weather this week left the Red frozen to the bone, unable to push the higher limits that were predicted.

Our prayers are with our communities to the North, though the odds may not be. It has always been this way with rivers; and so it shall always be. And if it’s true what Twain says that “we form our opinions of our country from what other people say of us,” then Midwesterners will always go down as a people who show up for each other when the chips are down. Middle of the country. Middle America. High regard for the land, the rivers, the habitat, and the people who commingle there.



It is strange how little has been written about the Upper Mississippi. The river below St. Louis has been described time and again, and it is the least interesting part. One can sit on the pilot-house for a few hours and watch the low shores, the ungainly trees and the democratic buzzards, and then one might as well go to bed. One has seen everything there is to see. Along the Upper Mississippi every hour brings something new. There are crowds of odd islands, bluffs, prairies, hills, woods and villages–everything one could desire to amuse the children.

Few people every think of going there, however. Dickens, Corbett, Mother Trollope and the other discriminating English people who ‘wrote up’ the country before 1842 had hardly an idea that such a stretch of river scenery existed. Their successors have followed in their footsteps, and as we form our opinions of our country from what other people say of us, of course we ignore the finest part of the Mississippi.

 – Interview in Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1886, from Mark Twain Quotations


– For up to the minute coverage, photographs, and history, read about the Red River Floods of March 2009 at these links:


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, March 28th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), susquehanna haiku, savannah river haiku

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Wet Cement, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Wet Cement, part of the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk project, Saint Paul, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.








Wet cement,
Opportunity.
It only takes a second
To change this spot
forever.








Another poem from the streets of Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk. I wrote the first piece about the project a few months ago (Sidewalk Poetry — Public Art At Its Best) after attending the opening in Frogtown last October. The project is a collaboration between Saint Paul Public Works and Public Art Saint Paul. It was spearheaded by Marcus Young, Artist In Residence of the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The untitled poem in the photograph Wet Cement was written by Zoë Jameson. I ran into Zoë and her family at the opening; they were celebrating on the sidewalk near her poem. She kneeled on the cement next to “Opportunity,” and smiled up at her mother who proudly shot photographs of her daughter, the poet.

To view Zoë’s poem in person, here’s a link to the map of the place in Saint Paul where the poem is located. I can’t think of a better way to stay warm this Winter. Or if you’re a teacher, you can print the map out for your class in preparation for a Spring field trip during National Poetry Month this April.

Oh, and one of our readers spotted a poem near the Fitzgerald Theater. She left these words about the project in a comment on red Ravine:


It was absolutely freezing when I ran two blocks from my parking spot to the Fitz; I couldn’t wait to get into the warm lobby. But I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw one of these poems in the sidewalk. A few steps later, there was another one. When the weather is more cooperative, I’d love to spend a lazy day walking and reading.

It’s really quite lovely to have poetry in our lives this way…coming up from beneath our feet.

Poetry rising from the Earth. If you are heading into downtown St. Paul to see a show, keep your heart open, eyes to the ground, breath connected to the bottom of your feet.



Zoë Jameson has always enjoyed literature because it helps her get inside other people’s heads. When she isn’t reading, she enjoys running, traveling, playing the viola, and spending time with friends. She attends Central High School and has lived in Saint Paul with her parents and her dog, Perk, for over a decade.

— bio from the book Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

-related to posts: Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)Celebrate Poetry (Let Me Count The Ways

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My first and probably last food fight was a snowy Thanksgiving in Missoula, Montana. I was in my 20’s, and since my family lived half way across the country, due East, I formed community with other Montana transplants.

There was Bev from Ohio, K.D. from Los Angeles, Mary from Pennsylvania, Gail from Minnesota, Leslie from Iowa, Lynne from Idaho, to name only a few. Many of us came to Montana via college, the University of Montana, and loved it so much we decided to stay. Others followed friends out West. I had always dreamed of living in the West. One day I just did it; I picked up and moved.

The food fight was after a Thanksgiving feast:  big old Butterball turkey, smashed potatoes with skins, homemade gravy and biscuits, cranberries, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pies. Back then we all drank, so there was lots of alcohol around. I don’t drink much anymore, a glass of wine on occasion. But then it was different. I would return years later for a reunion of these same friends, and many had gone into recovery. It was good to visit with them sober and clean.

There were a few native Montanans in our group, friends who knew the lay of the land. Some grew up in eastern Montana, Billings, some in the western areas of Great Falls, Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena. I would end up visiting these places over the course of the time I lived there, skiing the valleys, hiking the mountains. I lived in a two-story yellow house on Orange Street near the tracks, when there were no strip malls on Reserve Street, just a series of grassy fields.

The food fight was a culmination of hours of planning, cooking, talking, eating, and playing live music. At the time, we had a drum set, McCartney-style bass, keyboard, and a whole array of random percussion instruments in a basket in the corner. We usually played music together on the Holidays, anything from Joni Mitchell to Neil Young to lots of bluegrass — it was Montana in the 70’s.

That Thanksgiving I ended up with mashed potatoes in my hair. Bev threw a biscuit that landed in a ladle of gravy and splashed up on to our shirts. There were cranberry stains on the table cloth that never came out. I remember those days in Montana as good times, even though we all had our problems. We acted, well, we acted like we had not lived as much life as we have lived now.

Food is a metaphor for substance, nutrition, community, family, and friendship. Food is used to show love and nurturing. Food is mother’s milk. Food is not to be wasted. But it’s not good to take oneself too seriously. A good food fight once in a while never hurt anyone. Still, in some places, food can be scarce.

I have often thought of working in community service over the Holidays, something like a soup kitchen or a food bank. I’ve never done it. But I’m keenly aware this time of year that there are people in this country who don’t have enough to eat. They can’t afford it. You don’t have to go to other parts of the world to see how people without enough money to afford food struggle to make ends meet. How people sometimes have to make choices between healthcare and food.

I know a woman, a single parent, who has five children, temps for work in a corporate office, and has no health insurance. It’s available to her through her temp agency, but by the time she purchases it for herself and her five kids, she doesn’t have a paycheck left. She told me she’s one of those people who falls between the cracks. She works hard but makes too much money to apply for additional support for health insurance.

When faced with hard choices, she chooses nutrition for her family. I guess that’s a different kind of fight — the fight for everyone in this country to have healthcare and plenty of food.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 20th, 2008

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC – COOKING FIASCOS

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