Thursday, November 30, 2023

Kissinger's Death and Carter's (Rosalynne's)

Henry Kissinger has died, and it's the kind of death where I would have thought, wait, he's still alive???!!!!  But I had heard a news story not too long ago about his involvement in something, even though he's 100 years old, and he had begun to seem like a vampire to me, this foreign policy vampire who will be around sucking the blood out of social justice movements long after we're all gone.

I thought about not writing much more than that paragraph, but I've seen some evocative writing by others, and I want to record a few thoughts.  The first bit I read was from this piece by the editors of The Washington Post:  "Indeed, Mr. Kissinger’s heyday was a time when the secretary of state could strike grand bargains that seem elusive to U.S. leaders today. Such a time seems long distant."

But I'm old enough to remember the news stories from the 80's and 90's that bemoaned late century politics and how political actors were a faint shadow of the powerful figures who navigated World War II.  Even then, I wondered how we would remember the Henry Kissengers and the Ronald Reagans.  And now, I wonder how the future will respond to our current time, 2023, our curdled politics, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives where so many seem to have decided not to accomplish a single damn thing.

My view of Kissinger was shaped by events in Latin America during my college years.  I was astonished by U.S. foreign policy that seemed to care not a whit for the humans on the ground.  I still am, but I am less judgmental about situations that seem to have no good ending and humans who have to decide how to navigate that.

Maybe Kissinger was similarly conflicted, but most stories about him don't show him caring about human rights if it meant that his geopolitical goals could be met.  This article in Rolling Stone was quite explicit, but sadly, I can no longer quote it because it seems now to be behind a paywall when it wasn't at 4:30 when I first read it this morning.  But I can summarize:  if you count up all the bodies in Cambodia, in Vietnam, in Laos, in Chile, in Argentina, in Pakistan, in the USSR, in India, on and on I could go, it's clear that his geopolitical goals left millions dead.

It's an interesting juxtaposition, Kissinger's death and Rosalynne Carter's (and I assume that her spouse Jimmy will not be far behind her).  It's interesting to compare the news stories, the retrospectives,  people born at roughly the same time, experiencing the same world events, reacting in such very different ways.

I know how I prefer to be remembered when I die.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Late Autumn Slipping into Winter

It is the coldest morning of the season so far (which season?  autumn?  autumn sliding into winter?).  We left a faucet dripping all night, just to be on the safe side.  I'll go for a walk a bit later in the morning.  Actually, I just looked at the hourly temp projections, and I'll try going for an afternoon walk.  I don't like to do that because it's too easy to put off, but let me try.

It was so cold this morning, we lit a fire in the fireplace--so lovely!  We have discovered the Christmas music stations on Spotify, and this morning we have the peaceful piano Christmas channel playing.

I don't have all the Christmas decorations unpacked.  In truth, this may be the extent of what we do.  

I know there are some boxes up in the loft, but it seems too much effort to get them down.  As long as I have some lights, I'll be fine.  The year I do nothing is the year to be worried about me.

We're also feeding the birds.  I sent this window bird feeder to my spouse last winter, and it's continued to bring joy.  

During the summer, when bears are out and about, we take it down, but we can't resist feeding them.  We spread birdseed on the railings of our deck, which I wrote about in this blog post.

I wish I had captured the scene from this window that I saw in the middle of the night, moonlight on the deck and the shadows of tree branches from above.  It looked otherworldly and luminous.  The full moon this month has been gorgeous. 

This morning I made this Twitter/X post:  "Here for #5amwritersclub, here to write a blog post about the small things in life that slip by if left unnoted: the first really cold temps of the year, the shadows of tree limbs on a moonlit deck, late autumn slipping to winter."

And now I have.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Last Class Day of the Semester

Today I go down the mountain to Spartanburg for the last class meeting of the semester at Spartanburg Methodist College.  I won't be driving down to administer final exams; once I found out that an in-person exam isn't a requirement (but a final exam is), I shifted to an online submission of an essay assignment that they'll receive today.

I am trying not to feel panic at the thought I have all to do in the next few weeks:  grading for my SMC classes, grading for my online classes, submitting final grades, final papers for my seminary classes, attending those last classes.  But I know that I can do it.

As always, I think back on the semester and marvel at how quickly it's zoomed by.  I think about a Facebook post I made months ago, August 12:  "Getting some sermon writing done before I leave Virginia in a few hours to drive back to North Carolina, so that I can drive to Tennessee tomorrow morning to preach. I'm not exactly a circuit rider or an itinerant preacher, although this week-end it may feel that way. On Tuesday, I'll drive to South Carolina to teach English at Spartanburg Methodist College. Instead of a blessing of the backpack, I need a blessing of the Prius."

It's been such a satisfying semester.  I've really enjoyed being back in the physical classroom, teaching in person.  I thought that I would, but even so, I've been surprised.  I've really enjoyed being in charge of the Sunday service at Faith Lutheran.  My seminary classes have been good, but even more, I've enjoyed being an intern for the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA--such great experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise.  I've loved living in our Lutheridge house near Asheville.  Although I haven't had time to do all the cool things that the area offers, we've gone to a brewery here and there, and I've gone to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch.

One of the reasons that I often feel sad as one season shifts to another is that I reflect on how much I enjoyed about the season that is passing.  Even when I haven't enjoyed the day to day of my life as much as I have this past semester, I've felt a bit of sorrow at these passages.  I see it as the good kind of sorrow, the kind that reminds me of how fortunate I am to have these days/weeks/months that remind me of the delights of life. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

One Last Look Back at Thanksgiving and Autumn

Before we leave Thanksgiving behind completely, let me write one more blog post to capture some of the moments.

--I finished the week-end by conducting a baptism as the Synod Authorized Minister at Faith Lutheran Church.  It was an amazing experience, the first I've ever done.  For more on that experience, head over to this post on my theology blog.  

--I spent every morning reading instead of bopping around on the internet.  I snagged a copy of Wellness, by Nathan Hill, from the public library, and it's a big book, so I was glad I had a chance to focus on it.  It was both delightful and maddening in several ways.  It's a great analysis of our current society/culture, in the way that Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections was (and any number of other big books that seem important at the time, but may or may not seem important in coming decades/centuries).

Why was it frustrating?  In two main ways:  it was show-offy and it worked out the plot complications in was that seemed contrived.  Of course, in real life, we sometimes get weird coincidences that would seem contrived if it was part of the plot of a book.  But the way the plot lines worked out just seemed too contrived.  That's not a deal breaker for me.

There were moments when I wish the book had had a more severe editing.  There were places where the reader was left hanging, while we had a 40-100 page digression, on the different ways we've understood child rearing or the different ways we understand the algorithms of social media and the ways that the algorithms understand us.  That, too, was not a deal breaker, but it was one of the places where I stopped reading and started skimming.  There's a piece of creative writing advice that tells us to cut out the parts that people would skim, which I thought about as I was skimming.  The writing was skilled and interesting, but I wanted to get back to the real plot and find out what happened.

--I know that the next generation is growing up because there were more devices.  In the past, we'd have been playing board games or games with a ball.  There was less of that this year.  I feel a bit sad, but I knew this day would come.

--The next generation is now the group that is most excited about Black Friday deals and most tireless in seeking them out.

--We did not have a chance to actually make any of my grandmother's recipes, but that's OK.  I did a bit of piecing work with fabric, but I wasn't as inspired as last year.  I'm also OK with that.

--We had good conversations as we tried to sort out what's happening in the heartland of the country.  My cousin, a high school teacher and coach, asked if I had seen Jesus Revolution, which I had.  He thinks that students are desperate in similar ways, and I don't disagree.  He seemed to suggest that I could be part of the team finding a way to bring that kind of Good News to disaffected people.  I suspect that my message would be one of broader inclusivity than he's thinking. 

--I feel fortunate that I was caught up with my grading and seminary work, which hasn't always been the case.  I was able to be more present more often particularly as I knew going into the week that I wouldn't have the kind of internet access we've had in the past.

--I felt sadness as the week came to the end.  It's clear how our family situation is changing as we all become older.  It's clear that the odds will be increasingly steeply against us gathering in this configuration:  children will go off to college, and our elders will have health issues, and there's the spectre of death that's never far away.

--And I felt sadness at my favorite holiday coming to a close.  As in past years, it's not only the holiday that I've enjoyed, but the eight weeks before Thanksgiving.  We've had a wonderful autumn in so many ways, and I hate to see it go.

--It's also nice not to be returning to a workplace that fills me with despair and dread.  It's sad for me to realize how many years I've been returning to a place that wanted to kill my soul, but I'm happy to have escaped.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Low Tech Thanksgiving

I have just spent much of a week in a house with no internet access--no, not mine, but the ramshackle house that my family rents each year.  In the past, we've been given a hotspot from the camp that rents the house, but last year, we discovered that they no longer provide that service.  We used our smart phones as hotspots, and I had the highest mobile phone bill I've ever had, since I don't have unlimited data.  

Last year I learned how much data gets used when the phone is a hotspot, so this year I was more careful and intentional.  No more mindless scrolling of sites in the morning before everyone else work up--I read a book! No more checking various sites in the afternoon because I was bored--I went for a walk or started up a conversation.

I used my phone as a hotspot in the morning to do the morning devotion time that I started doing during the pandemic and have kept doing it.  It's a 12-15 minute time of me doing the reading from Phyllis Tickle's The Divine Hours, a time for contemplation and/or creativity, and a time for prayer and reflection/benediction at the end.  I lead it by way of my Florida church's Facebook page.

I also checked in on e-mails at one other point in the day, but happily, nothing was there that required my attention.

On Tuesday, knowing that I would have limited internet access, I made a push to get all of my grading done--hurrah!  I did go down the mountain to Spartanburg just in case my students needed face to face attention.  I saw very few of them, and even the ones who had scheduled conferences decided not to come.  That was fine with me; I wanted to be available, in part so that if anyone later says that I wasn't, I can say, "I came in on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and you weren't here."

They likely won't say that.  In all my years of teaching, that's not a common complaint, of me or any other college teacher I've known.  It's far more common that they just disappear with nary a peep.

Tomorrow I will write more of a Thanksgiving wrap up/retrospective, but today I need to get ready for church.  I am still the Synod Appointed Minister at Faith Lutheran in Bristol, Tennessee, and today I am doing a baptism.  I am both nervous and feeling good about it.  I have assisted at many a baptism, so it's not an unfamiliar rite to me.  The church congregation is kind and supportive, so I don't feel like it's a day fraught with peril if anything goes wrong.  And there's not much to go wrong--it's not like a funeral.

Let me go get organized.  Let me be peaceful and filled with joy.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving 2023

Here we are, very early on Thanksgiving morning; I'm writing at the kitchen table while my uncle fries bacon.  Soon the younger parts of the extended family will get up to do the Turkey Trot down in Hendersonville.  Later, we'll eat a feast.  This afternoon, we'll try to replicate my grandmother's yeast rolls.

We can do that because my mother thought to preserve the recipe.  My cousin's wife asked if I had it, and I did not, so I asked my mom and sister.  My mom brought all the recipes she had, including the one for yeast rolls.

Yesterday afternoon, my cousin's daughter copied the recipes, and I made this Facebook post:  "My heart is so happy - - the next generation copying the recipes from my grandmother, which my mom preserved."

It may be one of my most-liked post in recent years.  For me, it captures so much about this holiday and why I love it:  family recipes, family time, family feasts, family traditions.  I realize these aspects are also the elements that can make this holiday, and life in general, painful.

I have had to use my cell phone's hotspot capacity to access the internet, which feels miraculous, but also makes me aware of being online.  I don't have unlimited data, and this hotspot consumes data as if it's a Thanksgiving feast.

That, too, is a blessing--it makes me move offline and enjoy being together in person.  It's an interesting insight.

One last thing I want to record:  last night, over dinner, we were talking about books that have been helpful.  My cousin said that the most important and profound book he'd ever read was Man's Search for Meaning.  I said, "You mean the one from the middle of the 20th century?  By Viktor Frankl?"  Yes, that very one.  I was surprised I could pull Frankl's name from my memory, and surprised my cousin had read it.  

Have I read it?  Surely I've read at least part of it.  Still, based on my cousin's recommendation, I'm planning to reread it again.  I am grateful for these connections.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Secretaries and Other Relics of the Past

I was sad to hear of the death of Rosalynne Carter, although the fact that she lived a long, full life makes me less sad.  I always pay attention to media coverage, and for decades, people seem to have said only good things about her.  I do realize that might not have been true if she died in 1983 instead of 2023.  Still, she's an inspiration, and she has been one for decades.

To put it another way, I have been happy for my tax dollars to support her and her spouse Jimmy.  Other former presidents don't seem to be making the world a better place in the way that the Carters did.  I do realize that people get to retire and that being president is a job that wears one out. 

I thought of her yesterday as we traipsed around the Tobacco Barn, a place that sells antiques and slabs of wood and old tools and old kitchen gadgets and Hummel figurines and non-antique furniture in all sorts of conditions.  It's a barn that was likely once a place where a farmer dried tobacco, and it's divided into small segments where people rent space and try to sell items.  You might find windows that purport to be from the Victorian era or you might find an old denim jacket.  Maybe you'll find a treasure that no one else has recognized and be able to buy it for a dollar, but probably not.

I thought of Rosalynne Carter and others of her generation, who grew up when these old gadgets were new.  I thought of her as we searched for a smaller desk that might be called a "lady's writing desk" in antiques circles.  We had been looking for something for my spouse to use, something we could get up into our loft.  And yesterday, we found it.

Once such a desk might have been called a secretary--maybe it still is.  We've rejected many of the ones that we've seen because the desk opens and the writing surface isn't stable.  It needs to be able to support a laptop and some books, and we've seen many of them that we weren't sure could do that.  We've seen many of them with faulty or strange hinges.  

We've seen much furniture with drawers that stick, which is a hazard when one is buying old furniture.  We loved the curved drawers of this one; we've never seen another like it.

Of course, now that we've bought it, we may be seeing curved drawers everywhere.

I am astonished at the variety of prices--yesterday, we found a desk in more banged up condition for $100, and I was tempted to get it because it was so cheap.  Most of the other desks we saw, both yesterday and on previous trips to other places have been $500.00 or more.  We paid $200 for our desk, which was $25.00 off the marked price.

I like older furniture made of wood, but there's only so much I want to pay.  I like the idea of keeping furniture out of landfills, but at the same time, some of yesterday's prices were ridiculous--over $1000.00, which is ridiculous, no matter how historical or which precious hardwoods died to make the piece of furniture.  I knew long ago that I did not have the soul of an antiques dealer/buyer/lover.

As we walked through the Tobacco Barn yesterday, I thought of how many old items have passed through our hands, from a Singer sewing machine to various tools and kitchen implements, to pieces of clothing that are now vintage, no matter how worn.  But I didn't feel sad.  I do feel some sadness about stuff I've carted around the country, just to finally get rid of it after several moves and realizing I will never use/wear/love that item.

There's probably a larger metaphor/life lesson here.  Actually, I see several competing life lessons.  But if I'm to get a walk in before I head down the mountain to Spartanburg Methodist College, now is the time.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Thanksgiving Monday Meanderings

How can it be Thanksgiving week already?  It's interesting this year, because I'm in an anticipatory mood, but not feeling the desperate yearning for the holiday to be here.  In fact, I'm a bit surprised to fin that Thanksgiving week is upon us.  I'm not feeling the desperate yearning to get out of South Florida; I live in the place I was always longing for.  I'm not desperate for a break from work and deranged bosses.  I am trying not to feel sad that I let abusive work situations continue for as long as they did.

Let me shift my mindset to gratitude, which seems appropriate, given the focus of Thanksgiving.  I am grateful to be in jobs I like, with people who appreciate me.  I am grateful to be in a house that is part of the residential community of Lutheridge.  I am grateful to have figured out a way to stay in seminary.

In past years, we might have been driving today, or getting ready to drive tomorrow.  This year, we'll go out to the Tobacco Barn to see all the antiques, collectibles, and quirky stuff that people have both salvaged and created.  Last year, we went there and found the cedar boards that now make up our fireplace mantel.  This year, we're looking for a dresser and a desk, and whatever other things might inspire us.

Later today, after we've done our final cooking for the day, I'll do a clean up of the kitchen, the stove top and countertops.  Our family members aren't staying with us; we will still be in the ramshackle house that we always rent at Lutheridge--it's big enough for all of us, and it's hard to find houses with enough bedrooms for short term rentals.  

Our family members will want to pop by to see the renovations, so I want the house to be somewhat presentable, and thus, a bit of work is in order.  I've been putting it off because I knew I would need to do it again today.

But first, a walk!  It's a week of heavy eating.  I wish I could say that heavy eating is an aberration, but I have not been very cautious for these past few months.  A reckoning may be in order, but not this week.  But a walk is always a good idea, especially ahead of the storms and colder weather scheduled for later this week.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

No Longer Possessed by "Possession"

Hearing the news of the death of A. S. Byatt took me back to a grad school summer.  I was getting ready for Comprehensive Exams in the Fall, and I was limiting the amount of books I read for pleasure.  But I decided that I could let myself read A. S. Byatt's Possession, and it would count as studying for Comps.

Why would it count?  I no longer remember.  Probably it was because she was a British writer, and the book was literary, and I could potentially discuss it and Byatt in the 20th century part of my Comps.  I also read Gail Godwin's Father Melancholy's Daughter that summer.  It would have been the summer of 1991, I think, even though both novels came out in 1990.

Back to A. S. Byatt and Possession.  I remember being thrilled by the novel, thrilled and intrigued and wishing I could create something similar.  I reread it a few years later and no longer felt that way--it was all wearying to me.  I wonder how it would feel today--that question, though, will have to wait.

I read other Byatt novels, which didn't entrance me in the same way, and gradually, I lost track of her.

I was also interested in her because she was the sister of Margaret Drabble, an author whom I loved intensely in grad school.  I read that the two sisters didn't have much to do with each other as grown ups, and they didn't discuss why.  Was it sibling rivalry?  Was it just overblown by anxious journalists?  Did the sisters not like the autobiographical aspects of each other's books?  Hard to say for sure.

Now I admire their reticence.  Not everything needs to be discussed, particularly not for the pleasure of strangers.  We don't have many writers like Byatt and Drabble anymore, and it's hard to imagine that we ever will again.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Friday Fragments from Hilda of Whitby to Warm Morning Temps

I feel a bit frazzled this morning, unusual for a Friday, but then again, I had weird dreams and lots of waking up in the night.  In other words, I'm less rested than I thought I would be back when I first heard that my Nov. 16 night class would be a recording that I could watch at a better hour for me.  I did go to bed early last night, but alas.

So, let me record a few fragments and see if they cohere:

--I spent yesterday working with students one on one to see if they are understanding the research paper writing process.  My neck is sore from craning to look at their laptops.

--It is wild to me that I have 2 more trips to campus, and then I won't be back on campus until Jan. 9. I'll have some grading to do, which will be done by Dec. 5, and then I'm done. There are advantages to being an adjunct!

--Of course, I won't have money.  Ah, the story of my life:  I seem to have money coming in or time, but rarely both.

--We ordered some gorgeous tile for one bathroom shower, and it's in.  The sample piece might be somewhat different from what we get, and I can hardly wait to see it.  The sample piece was gorgeous, and the variations likely will be too.  Stay tuned!

--We are probably nearing the end of the warmer days of late autumn.  I will miss this warmth.  The last few days I've gone out in the morning to walk in shorts.

--It is the feast day of Saint Hilda of Whitby, who was lived from 614 to 680.  Not only that, she lived in the far north of England.  For more about her, see this post on my theology blog.

--I think of those ancient people living in times that seemed contemporary and cosmopolitan to them.  I think of cultures who didn't know what horrors were headed their way.  And of course, I'm wondering about my own time.

--We've been watching part of season 3 of The Chosen.  What a good show, good in ways that Christian programming or any pop culture that deal with Jesus, so often are not.  I love how the show makes clear that Jesus and his followers were Jewish and quite serious about their religion.  I love how the show depicts the different cultures, all living on top of each other and most of them trying to coexist peacefully.  I love how the show depicts the dangers they all faced, each group, from the Roman rulers to the lower social ranks.

--Let me go get my walk done and enjoy the last of the warm mornings (warm is in the 50's these days, which will seem very warm in a few weeks when the lows are in the 20's).

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Metrics (Music and Poems) for Floods

My current situation:  I've been listening to variations of Sam and Dave's "Hold On."  I didn't realize that Jerry Lee Lewis did a cover--well to be honest, I didn't realize how many people have covered this song.  I assumed that nobody would dare, because the original is so perfect.  Still, this version by Hanson has some perky charm.  But my favorite might be this finale at the 2002 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction--wow.

I have always loved this song, not so much as a love song (although it's great as a love song), but as a "the apocalypse falls on your head, but we'll get through it" kind of song.  Regular readers of this blog know that apocalypse is never far from my mind, but my beautiful sleep last night was disturbed by an emergency alert from South Florida, so I woke up this morning thinking of floods and the house in a flood zone that we no longer own.

I am feeling both relief and a bit of survivor/escapee guilt.  At the same time, I'm aware of how many fires are burning across the southern Appalachian mountains.  I'm not worried about my house, but if it should rain, I won't be sad.

It is such a relief to live in a place where I can watch the rain roll in and not feel dread.  I know that I had some phenomenal luck in being able to leave South Florida, and I'm grateful.

Update:  I left this blog post and went for a walk, and with the music of Sam and Dave in my head, I actually did a bit of jogging on the flat stretch coming down from the entrance road to the lake.  

And now, time grows short, so let me repost this poem and a link to the post that talks about the book where it was published.  Dear Human at the Edge of Time:  Poems on Climate Change in the United States.  These days, it seems more relevant than ever; the inspiration for this poem came from a similar rainfall event in December of 2019:

Higher Ground

On the last day of the year, Noah’s wife waits
for the insurance adjuster.
She thinks of the Christmas flood
and the larger flood before it.

Her husband’s god speaks
in terms of measurements and building
instructions. Her husband’s god gives
out directions and punishments.

Noah’s wife has always heard
the subtle messages, the daily
communications that the men
ignore: how to feed
the family, how to comfort
the forsaken, which breaches
need repairing.

Noah’s wife studies
real estate listings and elevation charts
while she waits
for the insurance adjuster.
She should be researching
vehicles. She already knows
what the adjuster will tell
her about the drowned car.
She seeks answers
to the larger question
of how to find
the higher ground.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Piecing, Peacing

Today I'll do a bit of collaging, the old-fashioned kind with paper.  More on that in a later post.  I've been thinking about collaging of all sorts, more specifically with cloth.

Last night, I was feeling extremely tired at 5 p.m.  If it had been 7 p.m., I might have given up and just gone to bed.  But going to bed at 5 p.m. seems a bad precedent, unless I was sick or had some other reason for giving up on staying awake. 

I thought about sketching, which is often what I do when I'm sleepy too early.  But last night, I decided to go to the car to get my piecing basket.  

I was grateful to my week-end self who organized cloth between my piecing basket and the larger bag of cloth.  That made it easy to decide to do some piecing before calling it a day.  My spouse cued up The Chosen, and we watched a few episodes.  I managed to stay awake until 8:30.  I made progress on squares that begin life looking like a variation of these:

I have a vision for the finished quilt which will be made by squares that are mostly following a log cabin pattern.  I thought I would put some sort of sashing between them all, which would serve as a border and help people see the uniqueness of each square.

But while I was at quilt camp, we put the squares together, and we all agreed that it was a more compelling vision.  What fun!

It's inspired me to pick up this project again.  I had stopped for a variety of reasons; as I created the squares, I had begun to dread how I would have to figure out how to get the squares more similar in dimension.  Now I won't have to do that as much.

I still have a fair amount of smaller squares, works in progress that I need to complete for this quilt.  I don't want to be left with extras.

I love hand sewing these squares:  it's meditative and inspiring at the same time.  This piecing restores my peace of mind.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Writing about the Writing in a College Classroom

I am temporarily caught up on my grading for my onground courses.  Of course, that's partly troubling because so many of my students need to turn in work.  They have time, but much less time than they once did.

In my ENGL102 class (a first year class that continues the practice of essay writing along with a study of literature), I created a writing assignment that went spectacularly well.  In some ways I didn't deserve for it to turn out so well.  I created it almost by accident.

I wanted my students to have the chance to do something more creative, but I also wanted them to do some analysis so they didn't just download a picture and call it done.  I also wanted to give them some guidance about what an analytical response would consider.

I was very pleased with the self-analysis that my students did.  I expected that they might write a sentence or two under each heading and call it done.  Instead, they wrote with depth and developed solid analysis.  I was not only pleased, but I was impressed.

This morning, I'm thinking about writing assignments and the skills I would like my students to develop.  Being able to analyze their own writing is a skill worth having.

Here's the assignment:

Module 2 Essay Assignment:  Seasons and Holidays

This Assignment is in Two Parts.  Failure to complete both parts will result in a grade below 65%.

Part One

Create a response to this prompt:  Seasons and Holidays.  It should take you at least 2 hours to create this response.  You will not get full credit if you give me an image of something associated with a holiday that takes you 15 seconds to download and cut and paste.

It’s a broad prompt on purpose.   You can be pro-Season/Holiday or against. 

You could go in either a creative or an analytical direction.  We will be discussing a variety of approaches in class from September 19 through October 5, and you should feel free to adopt one of those approaches or to go out in your own direction.

 Here are some ideas:

 Creative approaches: write a short story or a poem or a series of poems.  Write a recipe.  Create a photo montage, either or your own or others (please give credit when using the work of someone else).  Write an essay that tries to capture the holiday or season by evoking one or more of your senses.  Create a song.  Do creative baking and take a photo of the process.  Make a collage.  Sew some pieces of fabric together in a pattern, one you create or one that someone else has created.

 Analytical approaches:  analyze the effectiveness of one or more of the literature/writing pieces and/or the music and/or the images that we talked about in class.  Talk about what makes good seasonal music—or bad.  Look at a specific piece of the history of the season or the holiday.  Argue that your favorite holiday deserves to be paid time off for everyone.  Write a narrative history that tells about an experience that you had in conjunction with one of the seasons or with a holiday.

Part Two

You will complete a piece of writing (typed) that analyzes your response to Part One.  I will be looking for the following, with headings included in your piece of writing (I’ve underlined the headings that I want you to include; your writing should expand on the prompts I give you below each heading).  Please make sure to address each aspect to some degree.  This piece of writing can be as long as you wish, but at a minimum, most students will need 500 words total to address all of the following aspects:

 Pre-Creating Process

--What was your thought process as you decided what you wanted to do for Part One?  Did you do anything else in addition to thinking?  How did class conversation help?  Was your creative process helped/hurt by other classes, other humans, other events?  

Other Possible Approaches 

--What other approaches did you consider before you proceeded with what you would turn in for Part One?  You should talk about two other approaches.

Analysis of Part One Response 

--What did you try to do?  Where does your response succeed?  What do you wish you could have done better?  What surprised you as you worked on your response?  If you could do it all over again, what would you do?

 Analysis of Educational Value 

--In some ways, this approach is very different than a standard essay composition assignment.  Analyze the usefulness of this essay assignment.  When I teach this class again, should I keep this assignment, and if so, what changes should I make?


Monday, November 13, 2023

Quilters and Writers

I have been immersed in quilting since Wednesday afternoon.  It has been strange to resurface, strange to do other things.  I've gotten my reading responses done for tonight's seminary class.  I've thought about other writing that I haven't been doing, the writing that always slips to the bottom of my to do list when I have a chance to immerse myself in a retreat.

I've also been thinking about poets and quilters, wondering if there are similarities to what I've seen and experienced.  At the risk of talking in huge generalities, let me muse a bit.

--I am a person making it up as I go along.  I'm more in love with the fabric than with the quilting process.  I create quilts because it gives me a reason to collect fabric, but then I have to do something with it.  Once I might have thought about making a living with this art--even more reason to collect fabrics!  But now, I'm happy to be in my own corner of the world.

The same is true of writing.  Once I wanted to make a living with my writing, and if it should happen, I won't complain.  But I want to do the writing I want to do, not what is likely to sell in the wider world.

--This week-end, I've watched many quilters working from kits.  Not only do the kits come with instructions and pictures, but they also come with pre-cut fabric.  There are designers out there that not only design the finished quilt, but they also design the fabrics.

I look at the pictures that come with the kit, and I think, no, I'd do it this way.  Nope, that color choice is all wrong.

In the writing world, the kit might represent an MFA program or a literary journal--that hope that there's one way to do things, that we can unlock that one way if we go to the right school and get the right publications.

--I've thought about how much I get done on my quilts, if I can go on a retreat where I have space to spread out, where I can leave things spread out, where others are doing the food prep/cooking/clean up for me, where I arrive at the Faith center at 6:30 a.m., and I could stay until late at night.

The benefit of an MFA program or residency could be having this kind of time to devote to one's writing craft.

--In both worlds, some of us are enamored of rules to the point that we don't even realize how much we are in love with rules.  We think of them not as rules but as TRUTH.  For example, I think about how quilters will tell us that we must quilt so often per square inch so that the quilt holds together, but that's simply not true.  We talk about whether or not we must wash the fabric first, and which way to iron.  But maybe we don't have to wash the fabric first or iron.

There are so many similar approaches to rules in the writing world, and even more if one wants to be a writer who publishes in traditional ways--so many that I won't even attempt to name them.

--Quilters and Writers would make a great name for a bookstore/cafe/pub.  But it's also shorthand for many creative folks, and the ways that one type often looks down on another type.  Is it art or is it craft?  In the end, I think it doesn't matter.  If the activity feeds your soul, it's good enough.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

A Quick Post as Quilt Camp Ends

At some point, I hope to create a longer post about Quilt Camp, but it won't be today.  I need to get ready for church, and then open up the Faith Center for Quilt Camp.  I won't be there long; I still need to go across the mountains to preach, and we leave at 7:15 this morning.

Let me post a few reflections about Quilt Camp before I shift gears to get ready for the day:

--It's my first time quilting since I broke my wrist.  I've been sewing since my broken wrist, but not quilting, which is different.  My wrist didn't hurt as much as I expected it to, but my hand hurt differently than in the pre-break days, like a tendon gets sore more quickly.  Do hands have tendons?  Hmm.  

--There were times when I wished I did more measured quilting, creating new patterns out of geometric shapes.  Then I tried it and remembered why I don't do that.

--I pulled out my basket of unfinished log cabin patchwork.  What a delight to get back to that!

--I felt a bit of sadness, thinking about the last time I was sewing in a white, hot heat.  I understand why I shifted away from that--I needed to get my seminary coursework done for spring term, and then I came back to our construction zone of a house.  And perhaps sewing and quilting has always been more of a winter activity for me; I'm not sure.

--I've gotten so many ideas and so much inspiration from this time at Quilt Camp--what a gift!

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Armistice Day at Quilt Camp

Today is Armistice Day, which is also Veterans Day, which is also Remembrance Day.  I've spent this day with monks, once, long ago, before I was blogging.  Today I will spend this day with women quilters at Quilt Camp at Lutheridge.

Like my November 11 with the monks, spending this day with women quilters seems both strange and appropriate.  This day originally celebrated the day that the Armistice was signed that brought World War I, one of the bloodiest wars in human history, to a close. In so many ways, this event was the one that catapulted us all into the twentieth century. We got to see first-hand the ways that technology could be used for evil, as well as for good. We got to see damaged war veterans return, and we got reports that made many people question the idea that war builds character. And in a more positive spin, as so many men went off to war (and so many didn't come back), it opened up interesting doors for women into the world of work.

The entrance of women into the world of work would have far reaching ramifications far into the 20th century and our own time. The most obvious, of course, is that many women could earn their own money. Some you might see as more minor: for example, many women began wearing pants. You may not see that development as a big deal, but I could argue that it was. Wearing pants gave women freedom in a way that few other clothing developments have.

During World War I, many women began driving for the first time, because so many men were gone.  Here is one of my favorite pictures of one of those earliest women drivers (from Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar's No Man's Land: Volume 2: Sex Changes, p. 297) :

Would this development, and many others, have happened without World War I? Probably. But World War I accelerated the emancipation of women.

I don't want to underestimate the terrible price, especially for Europeans. I've been to the World War I cemeteries in France, and it's sobering, those fields of white crosses and the knowledge that it's a small percentage of the dead.

The women with whom I will spend time today are at mid-life and older.  We have veterans in our lives, older relatives and people our age and some of us know veterans from the generations that have come after us.  Some of us have made quilts for veterans groups.  Even though we are at a Lutheran church camp, we come from a variety of faith traditions--happily, no one will object to prayers for peace, healing, restoration, the kinds of prayers that might cause offense at more secular spots.


Thursday, November 9, 2023

Dispatches from Quilt Camp

I went up the hill to Lutheridge yesterday just before 3 p.m., and settled in to sewing.  I returned home at 8:15, got ready for bed, and sank into a restorative sleep.  Hurray for Quilt Camp!

I am a bit worried at the way my fingers already ache/feel pricked, and my right wrist is oddly sore.  But I'll keep going as long as I can.  I have a high school graduation present to finish!

A few observations:

--Rudy Mancke died on Tuesday; he was 78, and I thought he was eternal.  Not really, but he did seem to have a timeless quality that makes his death a shock.  If you ever lived in South Carolina and listened to public radio, you probably heard his voice.  He was a naturalist and knew so much about his part of the planet.  Go here to read more.

--I had a parishioner write me a friendly e-mail asking for more information about what I said in a sermon in October, about when the Gospels were written.  I was so happy to be able to answer the question, perhaps in a more detailed way than he wanted.  I was also thrilled, of course, that he was paying attention and continuing to ponder.

--Quilt Camp has me thinking about how wonderful it is to have a huge space where we can spread out, sew together, but be working on individual projects.  I am remembering a dream I once had, of owning and operating such a space.  Would local folks come and pay for the privilege of work space?  I suspect they would, but I never wanted to run the numbers to see if it would be a viable business enterprise.

--It also makes me think of retirement dreams:  lots of small houses with communal space for creating together.  Here, too, I don't want to be the one who comes up with a business plan.

And now it's time for another day at Quilt Camp--let the sewing begin!

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Strategies for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

For my internship with the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA, I get to do a variety of activities, many of which I've written about as they have occurred.  Some of these activities have had me doing something new, like leading middle school confirmands through bread baking.  This past week's internship activity was a writing task, not anything out of the ordinary for me.  But it was satisfying nonetheless.

Way back in the summer, my internship supervisor and I had brainstormed ways that I could be useful, and writing for the e-newsletter was one of them.  We looked ahead at upcoming events, and one of them was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on Nov. 25.  Back in the summer, that day seemed so far away.

I wrote to one of the Synod staffers who has been hired to coordinate women in ministry to see if she had anything planned.  I didn't want to duplicate efforts or step on her toes.  I had been thinking about an article that talked about the day and offered ways for ordinary people to do something.  There are lots of days that have us discussing various issues.  It's easy to feel overwhelmed, and I thought a list of possible activities would be a good counterpoint to despair, cynicism, and hopelessness.  My supervisor, when hearing of my proposed article, said, "Go for it."

I made the list, and I put it in a bulleted form so that my supervisor could edit it if need be.  Much to my delight, he didn't.  I turned it in Tuesday morning, and by Tuesday afternoon, it was online.  Go here to read it; I like that it's a mix of educational, spiritual, and advocacy type activities.  There's a bit of politics, but it's the non-partisan type.

Back when I was planning my week, I thought I would have the whole week to work on it, but I'm happy to have had the due date of Tuesday.  Later today, Quilt Camp starts, and I am happy to have almost everything else cleared off of my schedule.  I am ready to lose myself in fabric in the best possible ways.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

A Tale of Two, no Three, Novembers

After a day that followed a night of excellent sleep, I had a night of not-excellent sleep.  So let me just post some reflections and see how/if they hang together.

--A tale of two Halloweens, well more accurately, two post-Halloween shopping experiences.  Last year, on the afternoon of Nov. 1, between classes, I went to the saddest Target in the U.S., the one in Tenleytown, in NW D.C.  I wanted to pick up some Halloween candy on sale, but there was nothing, not a scrap.  And then yesterday, I went back to Walmart, where last week, Halloween candy was on sale for 50% off--yesterday it was 75% off.

--There was so much candy at Walmart that it was as if Halloween had never happened.  Did Walmart overbuy?  Did Walmart shoppers anticipate fewer trick-or-treaters this year and thus, underbought?  And yes, I bought some candy at the 75% off sale, but mainly because I am creating a S'mores station for a gathering on Sunday, and it seemed like an economical way to get some Hershey bars.

--It's November, and my thoughts turn, as they sometimes do, to the movie The Day After.  It was broadcast first in November.  The other day, I thought, yes, November 1983, forty years ago this month (November 20, 1983, to be precise).  I pulled up a calendar--that was a Sunday.  I remember watching it in my dorm, in the lounge that had a TV, because I went to school in olden days when TVs were expensive, and we couldn't afford one to take to college for our individual dorm rooms.

--We must have watched that movie, and then a few days later, gone home to our families for Thanksgiving.  Did we talk about the movie?  Had our families seen it?  I don't remember.

--As I realized how long ago the movie came out, I thought about my own students, the ones I teach in a physical classroom, who are the age now that I was then.  Do they think about nuclear war?  It may be a more likely scenario now than it was 40 years ago.  At least 40 years ago, we knew where the nukes were, and it seemed highly unlikely that any new governments would be able to develop them.  And now?  

--I have written about the nuclear situation before, many times before.  Climate change catastrophe does take up more residence in my brain, and I do wonder if that would still be the case if I hadn't lived in Southeast Florida and seen climate change happening in real time.

--Still, I find myself hoping that there will be some retrospectives as we get closer to the anniversary of the release of The Day After.  I'd love to hear from some of the actors who performed, from the director.

--A year from now, will we be looking back to polls released earlier this week?  It's the standard kind of poll--who's ahead in a presidential race that seems more precarious than usual, what with the two front runners being so very old, and one of them facing unprecedented legal problems.  More than once each day, I shake my head and can't believe my country and the larger world has come to this.

--And of course, I wonder if I will look back on this time, the way I do my college years, and I think, I thought it was bad then, but wow, is it worse now!

--I feel I should end on a cheerier note.  But it's November, early November, rarely a cheery time.  Let me close, write my article for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Day for the Southeastern Synod, and then get ready to teach.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Time in November

The end of daylight savings time always seems a marker to me, that sudden shift to afternoon darkness.  Before we turned back the clocks, I could tell myself that it wasn't really getting dark that much earlier; what's a minute here and there.  Last night, the difference was clear.

As in past years, I gave up trying to adjust to a new schedule, and I went to bed sometime between 7 and 7:30.  I didn't sleep well the night before, so I fell right asleep.  And I slept through the night, which means that although I woke up every 2 hours or so, I was able to fall right back asleep, which hasn't been my pattern for a few weeks.  I slept until almost 5 this morning, and it was a good quality sleep with good dreams.

This week is quilt camp, which means I'll have a different relationship to time this week.  In some ways, it will be less structured starting on Wed.  I have permission to miss my Wed. and Thursday night seminary classes, since I am going to a retreat.  I'm not driving to Spartanburg on Thursday.  

But I'm trying to be very focused on getting a quilt done for my nephew, who will graduate from high school in the spring.  It is the quilt I've been working on for several years without realizing I was working on it for him.  I think he'll like the colors.  It will be huge, so it can serve him through the years.

When my sister was pregnant with him, I thought I would make more quilts for him than I have.  I would never have anticipated the total collapse of my quilt group, and looking back, I realize how much we helped each other keep going with our projects. 

I don't know if he'll cherish this quilt, and part of me wonders why giving him a quilt feels so important.  But I know why it does--I made baby quilts for him and then a quilt for his big boy bed.  This passage feels important to, and necessary to have a quilt to mark it.

But before I get to quilt camp, today is a more normal Monday:  readings to do for tonight's class, writing to do, and always, grading.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

A Dumpling Recipe Worth Preserving

I've been making chicken and dumplings for decades now.  It's never been my favorite, but it's comforting and homey and good for a blustery day and/or when we're sick.  I thought yesterday would be a blustery day, so I planned to make chicken and dumplings, since we'd already had a pot of chili earlier in the week.

In September 2020, during our vacation at a timeshare in Hilton Head, we made the best chicken and dumplings I've ever made, a dish so delicious I'd have it outside of blustery/sick days.  In the years since, I've tried to recreate that dish.  Was it the raw celery I used to make the stock?   Was it using an uncooked chicken instead of the bones left over from other meals?  The dumplings were fluffy in a way that I've never had before.  Was it the self-rising flour? 

Yesterday, I made the worst batch of chicken and dumplings ever.  Even though I used a raw chicken and cooked it for hours, with carrots, celery, and onions, along with dry herbs (basil and oregano), the stock was the blandest stock ever to come out of the Berkey-Abbott kitchen.

The dumplings were worse:  gluey and dense.  We cooked them two, three times as long, and we still couldn't get them to cook through.  

Much as I wanted to dump the whole thing and order a pizza, we decided to try to salvage the meal one more time.  I went to this website and decided to try the recipe for dumplings.  They were so good that I'll post the recipe below, in case it disappears.  We added more salt to the broth, and we had a decent meal.

I will say that I'm grateful to have a dishwasher on days like yesterday.  We dirtied almost every mixing bowl in our quest for an edible dumpling.

Dumpling recipe:

Mix one and 1/3 C. flour and 2 tsp. of baking powder, along with a grind or two of salt (about a tsp).  In a different bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of melted butter with 2/3 a cup of milk.  Add the liquids to the flour and mix very briefly--overmixing is the death of dumplings.  Drop the dough by spoonfuls into the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and let it all cook for 15-18 minutes.  The recipe says to resist the urge to lift the lid during the simmering process.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Teaching Observations and Late Mid-Life

This week, I had the follow up to my teaching observation.  My department chair and I are teaching at the same time, so we had a Monday follow up by way of Teams.  I find Teams a bit clunkier than Zoom, but maybe that's because I no longer use Teams as much.

My purpose here is not to discuss ways to do meetings from a distance and which tech platform is better.  Let me return to my original purpose, to talk about the teaching observation.  The teaching observation took place two weeks ago, and I wrote a blog post about it the morning after.  I thought it went well, and happily, she thought it went well too.

The one critique she had was couched in language of care:  "The biggest challenge I observed was that the weight of the class seemed to be on Kristin’s shoulders rather than the students, and I wonder if there are ways to remove some of that pressure."  She made some suggestions, and we discussed those and other possibilities in our follow up meeting.  The vibe was not bossy, not "You must change, or we won't hire you again."  She's had non-talkative students too.  It was more like two colleagues discussing and strategizing.

In all my years of teaching observations, no one has had such nice things to say about my voice and presentation:  "Strengths: In a mid to late afternoon class, an instructor faces the challenge of making sure students aren’t in a post lunch haze. Kristin uses her presence and voice modulation quite well to face this challenge head on. In an age where students seem to be less and less inclined to speak above a whisper, it is refreshing to see Kristin model what projecting your voice looks like. It makes a world of difference that students in the very back of the room can hear the instructor just as clearly as those in the front. I also mentioned her presence; students need to know that the instructor in front of the room is in command and in control of the space. Kristin does a good job of moving to shift their focal points and keep students engaged; additionally, the modulations were very demonstrative of the kind of tone that is appropriate for reading and experiencing Poe."

Wow!  All those years of drama training pay off!  In fact, I've said for years that my adolescent yearning to be on stage has served me well.  Back then I was dreaming of a Broadway stage, but in my late middle age, I'm happy for this classroom stage.

Am I late middle age or early old age?  I am 58, and in good health, if a bit overweight and fond of frumpy clothes, so it feels like late middle age.  I don't think I can claim midlife with no modifiers these days.  

Yesterday's teaching was oddly satisfying.  I say oddly satisfying because we were discussing research papers and documentation, and I did not major in English hoping that I could make teach people to document more precisely.  On the way home, I stopped at my favorite apple orchard, and I still marvel at the fact that my favorite apple orchard is on the way home.  Well, sort of on the way--it's not just off the interstate, so it did take me about 15 minutes longer to get home.  But I arrived home with two kinds of apples and sweet potatoes.

It was the kind of day that would make me envious if I read about it when I was living somewhere else.  Not every day is like that--let me hasten to add, so that this blog stays real.  But I am so happy for the days that are.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Days of Remembrance

Today is the Feast of All Souls. You might be confused--didn't we just celebrate this holiday yesterday?
No, that was All Saints. All Saints was originally designed to honor the saints, those who had been beatified. Official saints, canonized by the Pope.

All Souls Day, celebrated the day after All Saints, was designed to honor everyone else who had died.

In some traditions, All Saints Day honors all the Christian dead, and All Souls Day honors those who have died in the past year. Those of you with excellent memories of your English major days may remember that Sir Gawain left for his adventure with the Green Knight on All Souls Day. Medieval audiences would have read a lot into that date of departure. As Sir Gawain leaves, his castle-mates would have been expecting to celebrate his life the following year.

All Souls' would develop into the kind of day that drove Martin Luther crazy. On All Souls' Day, people would be encouraged to spend money so that their loved ones would get out of purgatory sooner. According to medieval theology, a soul wasn't ready to go to Heaven right away, so everyone would have loved ones in purgatory.

In most Protestant churches, All Saints' and All Souls' have merged into one, and that makes sense to me. Still, my inner English major will always have a sense of these alternative liturgical calendars. I like having more to celebrate, more ways to remind myself that there's more to life than what occupies most of my time (work--both on the job and at my house). I like having holidays that remind me that we're only here for too brief a time. It helps me to treasure the fleeting moments that I have.

This week, I came across this blog post which posits that although these holidays of All Saints and All Souls were almost pushed to extinction post-Reformation, today they are back in much fuller force, a full fortnight of remembering our dead that culminates in various remembrance days around November 11 (Armistice Day, Veterans Day, Remembrance Day):  "In many churches All Saints/All Souls and Remembrance Day are kept on two subsequent weekends, more because of practicalities of when services can be held than because anyone has intended to create a fortnight-long season of remembrance - but the effect is that we think more about death at this time of year, and for longer, than our medieval forebears did."

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Dearly Departed

It is incredibly windy today; my county is under a burn ban until the end of the week, because the fire marshal expects dry, windy conditions to continue.  This dark windiness feels appropriate to this time of year, as Halloween shifts to All Saints, as the warmth of October gives way to a leafless November.  

It's a time when death is on the brain, even if no celebrity has died.  I've been reading the articles following the death of Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing on Friends.  In some ways, it wasn't a surprise--he's had intense struggles with addiction for decades, and while so many had hoped he had beaten his demons, even if he had, it's tough on the body.  Still, he was very young, 54.

One of the better pieces I've read was written by Patti Davis, an op-ed in the New York Times, about Perry's addiction and her own experiences.  Here's a nugget:   "I want to tell you something about addiction: No matter who it is or what substance that person is hooked on, loneliness is at its root. For whatever reason — and I have no theory as to why — there are those of us who feel isolated in this world, as if everyone else had some secret formula for getting along, for fitting in, and no one ever let us in on it. That loneliness resides deep inside us, at our core, and no matter how many people try to help us, no matter how many friends reach out, support us, show up for us, it never entirely goes away. It’s vast and shadowy and also part of who we are. Something happens when we discover a drug or alcohol: Suddenly we have a companion holding our hand, propping us up, making us feel we fit in, we can be part of the club. It’s there for us in the empty hours when it seems no one else is."

This morning, I was up even earlier than usual.  I was having odd dreams, fights about drywall in my dreams.  I had that residual restlessness from bad dreams, so I just got up.  I read an e-mail from the dean of my seminary about recent outbreaks of both antisemitic and anti-Palestinian graffiti at American University next door.  I felt weepy, both at the hate that comes in all varieties and at my dean taking the time to write to us all with words of hope in a time of deep distress.  

Her e-mail/letter ended this way:  "Friends, your calling matters. Working toward shalom is working toward a world where everyone enjoys the blessings of abundant life that God intended for all God’s creation, a place where everyone thrives. There are many ways to support peace efforts, to love our neighbors, to lament, to care for the vulnerable, and to pray unceasingly. If you are at a loss for words, pray anyway. Remember that the Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know what to pray (see Romans 8:26-27). Our chapel remains open for prayer. To echo Martin Luther King, Jr., there are many ways to let the light of God’s love shine into the darkness. Let's stand together for shalom."

I lit a candle and watched both the wind beyond the glass, and the little flame that didn't realize all the forces that would snuff it out if given much of a chance.  I thought of how autumn has shifted to a time of dry, dead leaves and immense amounts of pine straw. 

I said a prayer, for mercy on all our souls, the living and the dead.