Life and Books Part 4; and Interview with Edward Riegelhaupt

 

 

In this final part of the interview we discussed the shift in his reading that occurred when he decided to stop traveling so much and focus his life at home in New York City and Western Massachusetts. While this part of the interview is the shortest it actually covers the last thirty five years of his life.

S: When you stopped traveling so much what were you reading? When you started Taconic Consultants you were pretty much, your life was New York, Plainfield, work, Sarah Lawrence what were you starting to read when your life was shifting a lot?

E: I was reading a lot of American literature, that’s when I started reading a lot of Wallace Stegner and Peter Taylor. Picking up all the American books, picking up Harper Lee, I can’t even remember all the books I read.

S: You don’t need to talk about specific books.

E: I was also reading history. A lot of non-fiction. Some of the best non-fiction books I’ve read. If people would ask me to give a list of five or six top nonfiction books. I would start out with The Wise Men by Isaacson and Evan Thomas, the history of the State Department and politics from the 1940s through the 1960s and 1970s. The Prize by Yergin, the history of the petroleum industry, going back to the 19th century all the way up to present. The subsequent book, The Quest, isn’t as good.

Another book I loved which had to do with New York City was The Greatest American Newspaper, the history of, the founding of, and the sale of The Village Voice, which included all kinds of people.

S: So when you made the conscious decision to stop being part of international banking and settle into New York City your reading shifted to represent that.

E: Lots of things like that. I’ve been reading many things about the Middle East and the Middle East War. Another book called Lawrence in Arabia, and another book called A Peace to End All Peace, by David Fromkin, probably the best consolidated book about Middle East history that goes from 1919 to 1925. I’ve been reading lots and lots of history of that region and time period. Cold War history as well.

S: What about the last 20 years? Has anything shifted again?

E: I’m reading novels all the time. I read Judy Rossner, Waiting for Mr. Goodbar and seven or eight of her novels, many authors like that I read all their works.

S: It hasn’t been like when you are young and take on a chunk of what you are reading? Like when you were reading the Paris and London writers.

E: I’m reading lots of German writers. Josef Kanon who wrote beautiful stories about everything from the atomic bomb to spies in Sons and Daughters (Sons and Fathers ?), right now I’m reading his Leaving Berlin which is about Berlin in 49-50. Wonderful writer, serious writer. I recently read Gertrude Bell who worked in the Baghdad government in 1914 to 1920 when she died. In the British government, managing Iraq. I read Lawrence in Arabia which is about all the people reorganizing the middle east.

I recently read to large studies of Kim Philby one was by McIntyre who talks about Kim Philby and his relationship with Nicholas Peters who he went to school with, who never knew he was a spy. And was his colleague at MI-6 and was fooled the whole time. And another one about Kim Philby and St. John Philby and their relationship to the British government. Very exciting books about British and American secret service and their relationships with what was going on during the Cold War.

S: Lets shift again, I was talking with a customer about the prevalence of stories about World War II right now. This gentleman’s observation was that any time there were a lot published about Jews and World War II it had to do with American foreign policy and public policy towards Israel. This was a Jewish man, like many liberal Jews that were around when I was growing up, and now, who are anti-zionist, anti-settlements in the West Bank. His opinion was that every time a lot comes out there is an issue. It felt like it was conspiratorial, the idea that there would be stories about World War II and the pogroms just to press US policy about Israel. Do you think that’s relevant?

E: I think it is younger writers discovering the matter. They are younger writers in their 30s and 40s and many of them are discovering things we knew about the concentration camps. All during World War II.  Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury then, couldn’t get Roosevelt to bomb the concentration camps, bombing of the railroad lines, and there was a great deal of antisemitism in the government during the 1940s. And nobody wanted to talk about this or talk about the interment of the Japanese from the West Coast, and other similar things, and therefore they also didn’t want to talk about the lack of interest in rescuing the Jews before they were all killed. Twenty million people were killed; only five or six million were Jews. Many many Catholics, many Russians were also killed. And killed by the Russians as well as the Germans, not in warfare.

Many recent books are coming out. That’s why the older books were exploring them more gently, more carefully. There are more books coming out now about the lack of interest in the American government because they were afraid, because the American people each time they had to go to an election. Roosevelt had to be elected in 1940, 44, 36: he didn’t want to be accused of going to war because of the Jews. He feared, it wasn’t that he had any dislike of the Jews, he feared that the other parties would accuse the Democrats and Roosevelt’s New Deal Party of going to war only because of the influence of Jews. Therefore he was always caught on this balance of if I expend American effort, send bomber pilots over the concentration camps and destroy certain things or the rail lines people will be say the only reason you’re entering World War II is because of the Jews. And that whole wrestling match of Jews, World War II, election cycle, just like today with Ted Cruz from Texas and Trump. All the anti-Muslim, even anti Hispanic language, they are making this an election issue when it really is a humanitarian and practical issue.

S: So do you feel as someone who grew up during World War Two that any of the writers today are getting anything right? Are we getting too much of our emotions?

E: It’s a combination.

S: I know in my experience, Kate and I have talked about this a lot, that we grew up in New York where World War II was….

E: History.

S: No, it wasn’t history, it was very present. And then we moved out here and when people talked about The War they meant the Vietnam War and they talked about World War II as it was just something from the history books. Do you see that just from the history books, when you read the younger writers do you see the nostalgia within the stories about World War II that is inaccurate or do you think they are doing the research and getting the tenor of the time right?

E: Yes, I think what’s happening now are the writers are less afraid of the politics of the time. There are less McCarthys around and less Tydings Committees around, and less Hollywood groups banning directors. The writers have less fear to delve in and do more research on what the attitudes were. World War II is not just nostalgia or history or romance it is really very seriously new research and new politics (?). They are bringing World War II forward  there today the younger people who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s who do think of it as history are even reaching back to World War I and what happen to the period from 1918 to 1925 when they were negotiating all the peace treaties which laid the groundwork for causing war again and causing the advent of Hitler.

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Life and Books Part 3; an Interview with Edward Riegelhaupt

                                                             photo credit: E. Riegelhaupt

Talking to my father about books, it was never just about the story, he read for a sense of place both geographically and culturally. Many of his favorite authors were favorites not only because of what they wrote but the lives they lived. He approached his love of literature the same way he did his love of Modern Art, especially Abstract Expressionism. To him the art and literature  were a reflection the cultural politics of the time. Whenever he would suggest a book to me he would begin with a description of the author and where they were in life before giving any sense of the plot.

S: Let’s move into the mid to late 60s and up through the 70s when American politics become focused on things similar to what are going on now. Still staying on books, when did you get introduced to people like James Baldwin and other black writers.

E: Okay this is a whole separate subject which is very important. Which is James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison.

S: How did you get introduced to their writing?

E: It was very natural to get introduced to Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright, Black Boy and Invisible Man. They themselves had a conflict, Ralph Ellison saw himself as a patrician and he actually had a hard time writing another book. He wrote lots of papers and gave lots of speeches and considered himself an intellectual and academic while Richard Wright was more of a fighter.

Wright ended up in Paris in the 1950s with James Baldwin. Wright never came home; he died there. Baldwin came back and advanced the cause of liberal and radical American black writing. Ellison maintained himself as an academic and did not make the contributions that he could have made. It was a pity because he was so respected. He didn’t use the power he had over the American mind and American literary field so it was left to James Baldwin, and Richard Wright writing in Paris. The tensions flowing between Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison were interesting.

S: Would you consider Wright and Baldwin when they are in Paris part of the Paris scene?

E: It was a slightly different scene. There were Americans there at that time. But there was also a group of French and American writers who liked associating with American black writers. The idea of the American black writers being in exile as a copy of the white American writers being in exile during the 1920s and 30s the post World War I writers.

S: So who were the non African American writers in that group?

E: I can’t think of them right now. That would be interesting, white writers in Bloomsbury and the Left Bank in the 1950s and 60s.

S: Was this similar to the way that for decades that jazz musicians have moved to Europe, for the larger audience?

E: Yes, larger audience and more acceptance of them. The French absolutely adored black writers, poets and musicians from America. They accepted them.

S: You’ve skipped over the most important book in our relationship and your connection to it. When did you start reading the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings? I know that you have a different connection to it than most people.

E: I was introduced to the Hobbit in 1958-9, the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit being published in the 1930s. Then Tolkien, a South African who moved to England as a child and went to Cambridge along with C S Lewis. That book you got me the Inklings talks about all these writers. All of these Christian writers.

S: Was Tolkien Christian as well?

E: He was a Catholic, Lewis was actually less of a strong Christian than Tolkien was, he was less orthodox. Tolkien was less orthodox in his personal life.

S: So how were you connected to them, was it an engineering school thing?

E: No we were just married in 1959 when a friend of ours Fred Goldstein who knew literature very well, also knew a lot about hifi and music. He said “Ed you must read the Hobbit”. It wasn’t available here. He told me to go to the British bookstore which was located in a brownstone on 54th or 55th street off Madison Avenue. None of those buildings are there any more. Harper Row used to be in one of those buildings. He told me to get them to import a copy of the Hobbit for me.

So I bought a copy of the Hobbit and I was absolutely amazed and it circulated around the engineering department of Union Carbide. All the engineers where I worked loved the Hobbit. They loved all the Runes and that stuff, in fact we used to write each other messages in Runic.

But then I went back and ordered the three books published in 1959 of The Lord of the Rings, one of the earlier publications of it. It came out roughly then, not a first editions, probably a second or third. I read them immediately in 1959 or 1960. And then I probably read it again, and then I read it to you.

S: What made you decide to read it with me starting when I was five and almost every night until I was almost in high school?

E: It was an exciting book. To me it was a thrilling book with a thrilling setting. Not so much the battle between good and evil which was an acceptable base. I just loved the scenes of them moving around and all the relationships between all the genealogies was just wonderful.

S: Your interest in that never led you to read any other science fiction or fantasy?

E: I didn’t consider it a science fiction. I considered it like Beowulf or Canterbury Tales, I considered it Old English writing. Even though it was mythology, mythology is not science fiction to me. So this was a made up mythology that I absolutely adored. While I liked the other writing I had read I had a personal love for it. Over the years I read the entire thing maybe five times. Last year when I was sick with Legionnaires’ Disease and was feverish I read the whole four volume set.

S: When did you start reading Sherlock Holmes? This was another book that was a connection between us.

E: Sherlock Holmes I read because I loved its English setting. Probably in the 1950s and 60s.

S: So not when you were a child.

E: It was something I started reading in college.

S: You didn’t read any mysteries until you were older.

E: I was reading more books about settings. I wanted to read books about England and France, Left Bank, Bloomsbury, and Greenwich Village. Those were the three places that all came together to me.

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Life and Books Part 2; an Interview with Edward Riegelhaupt

Looking back at this conversation it is obvious that my Dad was already loosing some of his memories (this is the man who told my son all about 1st grade when he started –70 years later).  To understand a little more about him in terms of this next section of the interview you should know that the first book he loved as a child was actually Emil and the Detectives.

In 1960 (it may have been 1959) my Mom and Dad moved to the small village of Sao Joao de Lampas outside of Lisbon Portugal for my Mom’s anthropological field work. Yes my Dad gave up his job to become my Mom’s assistant. His responsibilities included map making and talking to the men when it was inappropriate for a woman to do so.  It was these years that gave him the title ‘honorary anthropologist’ despite the fact that he never worked in academia. Some of these memories are collected in a Storycorps interview I did with him in 2008.

The Interview:

S: What were you reading when you were living in Europe? Were you reading more American or were you reading more local?

E: We were reading British authors.

S: Was it the influence of the people you were spending time with?

E: No it was the bookstores in downtown Lisbon. We lived in the village 25, 30 miles outside of Lisbon. We would make a trip into downtown Lisbon every few weeks where Joyce would go to the University and talk to friends in the Geography and Ethnography Departments and then we would wander around the Chiado, the neighborhood of Lisbon where there are cafes and bookstores. There would always be great sections. The thing we discovered in the field, we discovered Lawrence Durrell’s the Alexandria Quartet which I want to reread with Pat. Durrell wrote these books about these brother and sister in Alexandria in the 1920s and 30s. They are Europeans, back then Egypt was essentially a European colony, unfortunately run by the British. We were reading them in sequence, meaning I would be ahead by one book. I would go out in the field and Joyce would ask “Have you been doing your maps of the agricultural fields of the village? I noticed that you had the book with you, were you sitting on a wall reading the book?” We both read these books by a two month period having lots of fun reading them.

S:I know that one of the things that you have read a lot is spy stories. What point in your life did you start to read them?

E: I think I started reading the spy stories in the 1960s when I was traveling a lot overseas for The American Can Company. I think I read A Call For The Dead, by John le Carre first and probably A Small Town in Germany by le Carre. All the early books became very exciting. Starting with le Carre I branched off to many other spy writers.

S: They were very Cold War oriented?

E: All Cold War oriented.

S: How did reading those and your politics interact? Your politics were very anti Cold War.

E: We didn’t want a Cold War but we were not pro Russia, we were anti Russia.

S: But you weren’t anti culturally Russian.

E: The Russians under Stalin were pretty rough people. We weren’t much in favor of them. We may have been very liberal for US politics, with Joyce and Joyce’s father and the National Lawyers Guild. But all these people were anti Stalinists. Your mom and her family were anti-Stalinists, I was, too, and my family was mainly apolitical. Therefore we were anti- Russian in the sense of world politics even though we were very pro liberal and civil liberties and pro racial equality here.

S: So you started reading the spy stories while you traveled. Did it affect how you traveled, in your daydreams while you traveled?

E: It probably did. It was lots of fun. About that time in the 1960s the Philby story. The spies in England that were apprehended by the British. Maclean and Burgess were apprehended and later Hunt was apprehended. Philby was dangled until he escaped from Beirut to Moscow. I don’t understand how they couldn’t understand that he was a spy and disloyal. That was the old boys school in England which protected him. However, the whole Philby issue.

S: Who was Philby?

E: Kim Philby was a British Intelligence agent who rose up in their organization higher and higher and higher and he was assigned to the US for a while. He turned out to be a KGB spy. His father St. John Philby, known as “Sin-Jin” Philby, advised the British on middle eastern affairs. Who started out as an Indian civil servant. The civil service of India was a very important administrative arm of the British Foreign Office, separate from it slightly. He also hated the British, the British Empire, the British establishment. I can’t understand why the British themselves couldn’t understand that Philby was raised to hate the British establishment and how they could have doubted that he and his father were both disloyal. St. John Philby, the father, was only interested in himself and the Saudi Arabians. His son, of course, was picked up by the Russians and he became anti establishment during the 40s and 50s being anti British and anti American.

S: There wasn’t a way to become anti establishment other than to become a Communist at that point in time?

E: He thought it was. There were many people in the United States who were liberal, members of the Labor Party, members of the Democratic party, members of the American Labor Party that were not Communists in the United States. The National Lawyers Guild, which is different than the National Bar Association, was an alternative and liberal but was not Communist, it was anti-Communist.

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Life and Books Part 1; an Interview with Edward Riegelhaupt

Over the Christmas holidays of 2015 I interviewed my father about the influence of books on his life.  We planned on having these conversations every few months going into more depth over time. Sadly, the next time I saw my father his illness was effecting his memory. Since then I have held on to that only conversation.  But it is something I have always wanted to share. Today I am presenting the first part of the interview. I will write a little more biographical information about him before I share the rest of the interview, I just really wanted to get this out there.

S:What’s the first book you remember reading.

E: That goes back to my childhood going back to second and third grade. As I got older in middle or high school I remember reading Richard Halliburton The Splendors of the Eastern World, where Richard Halliburton, who was the Indian Jones model from the 20s and 30s, went all over the Mediterranean from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Dardanelles visiting all the important ancient Greek and Roman sites and climbing up all the places he shouldn’t have gone. And getting arrested by police and what not.

S: What drew that to you that made it so important?

E: I was very excited about history and geography. Halliburton was an adventure story tied to all the history and geography. And I was very interested in the Mediterranean area because it was also the history of Rome and the history of Greece, and the history of Greece in Turkey. So the combination was wonderful. His adventure stories followed by what became of him.

Later on I was able to find used copies of The Splendors of the Eastern World and I gave them as presents to you. You might have them still.

S: They’re at the cabin.

E: I also have them at home as well and I’m saving them up for Alder when he is ready for them.

Those were my early books. Another early book, again junior, high school, was Lawrence of Arabia by Lowell Thomas which was perhaps an inaccurate and overly romantic view of the role of T E Lawrence during World War One in organizing the Arabs for revolt against the Ottoman Empire, but it was still exciting to a 14 or 15 year old. It kept me going with being interested in the middle east, World War I, and World War II for the rest of my life.

S: Can you remember any books that you read in your twenties that actually changed your opinion about anything or introduced you to something so…I don’t want to use the words mind-bending because I know that is a different era, but something that you read that you suddenly you have a whole new belief or understanding of something.

E: Well, the books I read, more than changing my personal philosophies, they introduced me to new worlds. For example reading Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point that he wrote in England before he moved to the US and then later Antic Hay and Chrome Yellow. Aldous Huxley was a wonderful writer who introduced me to the whole world of Bloomsbury and the British literary world which really became a permanent part of my life both in visiting, visiting friends in England, as well as reading.

From Huxley I drifted on to Albert Camus and Andre Gide. Gide of course before Camus. The two French writers.

S: That was the first book you ever gave me that was an adult book, the Pastoral Symphony. The Immoralist is still my favorite book.

E: So the whole series of books by Gide that proceed Camus and Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre were very very important and the whole context realizing that we are dealing with British literature, French literature, German Literature, and American Literature all coming to the forward together.

S:So you were more interested in that time period than the Isherwood and Waugh time later?

E: You move from the Gides’ and you move into Germany for Christopher Isherwood (British) “I am a Camera” and a lot of German writers, pre-war German writers and of course later the post war German writers.

S: What do you find so enthralling about these subjects?

E: What we did as college students was, on one hand there was New York Greenwich Village and on the other hand there was Bloomsbury in London and the Left Bank in Paris and during college everybody traveled to all these different places. I didn’t have the money to travel to London or Paris like lots of my classmates did. But I was able to read the books.

So you had a combination of the Americans which included Scott Fitzgerald, and Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein and other American’s writing at that time. And Mac Leish writing his poetry, John Dos Passos writing his four book series about the US.  On the other hand you had the British and the French and all this came together like a weaving, like a fabric of world literature which really colored for you how you wanted to live in your own world. Which sort of made engineering studies and business studies beside the point, even though I had to excel in those as well.

S: But you were never very interested in someone like Willa Cather and the whole western writers. Were they part of that time period of your life’s reading or later on?

E: Later on I discovered the more interesting American writers. So not so much the Willa Cather’s but you began to discover Wallace Stegner who wrote in Colorado and the Midwest, and at Iowa writer’s workshop. And Peter Taylor who wrote tales from Tennessee, and possibly Richard Ford although I consider him more of a New Jersey writer, and we’ll get into Updike and Cheever later. Their time, meaning the 40s and the 50s, let’s include Cheever for New England.

So we have Cheever for New England and New York City, and we have Wallace Stegner for the Midwest and the western areas and you have Peter Taylor for the south. These three writers really start to bring home the importance of US values, US writing, US scenes that were wonderful for literature.

S: Would you put Salinger in this group or is he a separate topic?

E: Salinger came up early on, the same time as Cheever did. We are talking unfortunately all about New Yorker magazine writers. So we had Cheever writing for the New Yorker and we had Salinger writing. All of Salinger’s books and stories were originally New Yorker stories.

S: Do you look at them differently? I’ve read Salinger but I haven’t read Cheever. What’s the draw to Cheever that I wouldn’t find in Salinger?

E: You’ll find many of the same issues which is middle class snobbery, racism, limited thinking. Salinger was more of a mystic however and because of Catcher in the Rye and its attraction to college students he became more of a cult figure than Cheever, who became more of a literary figure. Even though they both started out writing the same, Franny and Zooey on one hand and the Enormous Radio on the other hand in the New Yorker during the same years, Salinger took on a more mystical feeling for the people who read him. You could also read him as a commentary about society of that time, as Cheever wrote the same things as he wrote The Swimmer or many of his other stories which take place in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York City.

S: Do you think one of them holds up better now than the other?

E: That’s a very interesting question.

S: I just reread Franny and Zooey, I was fascinated by them, I found them really interesting to me because of where they took place. But they are such a foreign ideas to me. They are things that I don’t have any relationships with, even having gone to a liberal arts college at the turning point in schools.

E: I think you will find that Cheever will have, other than Catcher in the Rye, and possibly Raise High the Roof Beams, which is a New York story. Remember Cheever’s early stories are New York then he moves to Connecticut and Massachusetts, I forget the name of the towns.

S: Is he the… oh no that’s John Updike.

E: I’m avoiding Updike because I don’t like New Jersey. That’s why I don’t like Richard Ford.

S: So when you look at these two different chunks of time in reading, were you reading them simultaneously or did you read the Europeans, the Isherwood and Gide, at a different time in your life than when you were reading Salinger and Cheever?

E: I was probably reading the Europeans who were all writing in the 1920s and 1930s as a starting point and then wrote after coming out of the War Simone de Beauvoir writing the book called The Mandarins, an absolutely wonderful novel opposed to her nonfiction philosophy. I probably read all those first in the 50s and early 60s coming through college and what not. Then I graduated into Wallace Stegner and John Cheever and Peter Taylor and Salinger.

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In From the Cold

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I was all set to start a new blog, this me after all- serial blogger, then I remembered this was here and the name fit. So after a pitiful beginning with huge goals I’m going to step back in here with a much smaller one. To write. Yep that’s it. I’m still reading and eating so why not here. No promises (she shouts to the very empty virtual room).

Don’t get too excited about the title, there won’t be any talk about spy stories today, lately I’ve been reading lots of memoirs and short stories. It seems in the political climate today that’s all I can sustain. Though there have been novels that I devoured. More on all of that soon. Still I feel a little like a spy who has been out in the world finally coming home. The whole “they think I’m just a bookseller” not a superhero tale….what that’s not a thing?  Instead, I feel like I’m coming back to a lot of things I left behind for the last few year– blogging being one of them. Of course things have changed since I’ve been gone, blogging is no longer the same sort of community it was before the prevalence of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Long form conversations seem to have vanished in the age of 140 characters, and I’m not sure it’s a good thing. Still this “spy” is happy to be home.

 

In the Event That You Carry Poetry with You

13083200_10153742998021843_4230254008857559222_nI walk down the hill in anticipation. Away from the road my feet know the way. In the distance I hear the west bound Amtrak cross one last road before it dives into the mountain.

Over the first swell of hill I hear only the sound of birds, small planes, and my own footsteps I’m not ready to settle. I walked quickly letting my thoughts cycle through. Always aware of the slim book in my pack. At a dip in the trail I pause. My feet in mud from the shadowed pile snow nearby.

It is only then that my mind slows enough to turn birds into separate calls- five of them, I only know the crow. In my silence I find cicadas, flies, and squirrels.  My eyes closed I absorb the sounds of the hillside. The smallest rivulet of water has it’s own song. All of it washes away the rawness that comes from the constant noise of Denver.

Finally I open my eyes, the colors more distinct. Streaks of blue rush from one tree to the next. Blue birds with their straight flights and the scrub jays with their arcing paths. Magpies and the crows (who will follow me for the rest of the day). There are others that I can’t identify. Black and white birds with patterned wings and a whole spectrum of oak and wheat birds going about their work. The birds were not why I am here so I soon continue on.

Knowing that I have a book with me is like knowing my water bottle is full. I may not ever open it but it is there.

Yet for today I need the words even more. Because in my search for quiet I also want direction. Not the spiritual sort that others find in religious texts but a rhythm that comes from someone else who often seeks the solitude of nature.
The trail continues.
When I finally find a rock that is right I sit down to read.

All night
The dark buds of dreams
open
richly.

If I was inclined to be stingy I could have stopped there and been filled double. But I read on a few stanzas later.

Finally you have spent
all the energy you can
and you drag from the ground
the muddy skirt of your roots

For all my vibrant dreams of the past week I pause from reading to try to remember them. I see the crows one hill over circling their ellipses mimicking the shape of the land. Their ink stains against the blue sky then dipping towards the hillside- all dead grasses threaded with new growth.

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Still three crows stay close by.  More interested in the sun on my water bottle than whatever was rotting on the next hill. There wings louder than the planes each time they circle closely. Then they start to caw and even the squirrels are quiet. The crows continued their circles safely in the sky.

Being me I look for the cause of the silence. The ancient storyteller brain that fills so much of my mind wakes and searches for details.

A PSA on mountain lions in the car that morning
A wooded spot away from the trail
An empty week day hike
A PSA on mountain lions

I try to turn it off- my mind that is. But that always goes sideways.

Woman found at White Ranch Open Space in first reported attack in this area.
Officials say the misguided woman should have stayed closer to the trail
even though it was midday. They remind visitors to the foothills this time
of year that after a lean winter mountain lions are in search of food though
mule deer are their primary source of food, sitting alone quietly is probably
what did this women in. Again they suggest hiking in groups and making noise.

I pack my things and get myself back to the trail. As I go down the trail the songs of the birds return and I return to the poem. It sits in my mind wanting resolution. I need the rest of the words. Further down the trail- once I undress the jacket of my imagined death- I find a new rock to sit on. Closer to the trail in a meadow- the rush of a stream nearby.

I unpack again- a snack, my notebook, and the book of poetry. I read the final lines. But this day calls for more to banish the edges of the day dream. So I read the words aloud to offer something to the world around me, my call. Not once but twice so I can  feel them against my tongue.

Now the birds are quiet, the sun washing out the color of the day- it is natural. Even my crows are off somewhere else leaving as I read the poem a second time. It’s just me here now with the cicadas and the stream.

[To hear a full reading of Dreams by Mary Oliver join us on Facebook]

Reboot with Changes

Book Stack 1A Stack of Favorites

Last autumn the ingredients for this page came together. I was excited to just jump in and start. Unfortunately balancing quality and immediacy didn’t quite come together as fast as I wanted. But now I would like to introduce you to the new and more varied She Reads She Eats.

We have more authors doing more of what they want. The initial theme of mapping life  will still be here but I’m making room for other facets of the ways books and food influence our lives. There might even been a few reviews and recipes.

If you are interested in contributing please reach us through the Get in Touch page.

Stone Soup Cooking 1

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It felt like there was nothing to eat in the house. My son had left for school in the morning with a pb&j, an apple, and three pickles. Even that sandwich had been light on peanut butter. But it was evening and I was home first and starving. So I stood in the kitchen and summoned the spirits of the kitchen to help. It was going to be another night of Stone Soup Cooking.

The premise is simple when you feel like you have nothing in the house or you know that your grocery budget for the week is under a hundred dollars you cook “out of thin air’. First thing you do is browse the pantry and freezer for one ingredient, the one that sparks an idea. From there it is easier to follow the theme.

Tonight it was the can of coconut milk in the back of the canned goods, which led to finding the half pound of cod in the freezer hiding among the greens. From there it all followed as so many meals do with searching out spices, and other staples to turn a frozen block of fish and a can into a meal.
[with a picky eater in the house there are certain skip meals for him so he suffered through miso tofu and yams, still accounted for in the budget]

The Menu:
Coconut Fish Curry Soup
Dal
Cumin Rice
Indian Style Greens
Tangy Short Bread with Chocolate Raspberry Goodness

For the soup:
1 Can of coconut milk (full fat)
1/2 pound of cod cubed
4 whole tomatoes from a can chopped (the rest will be sauce tomorrow)
1/2 an onion (or in my case the remnants of an onion and a few scallions)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 table spoon of ginger minced (we keep ours in the freezer and just chop bits off as needed)
3 table spoons of curry spices (I mix my own but that’s not necessary)
Fish Sauce to taste
….I added some lime leaves that were in my spice cabinet but lemon or lime zest could work or nothing at all.

1. In a little dry pan heat all the spices (if your a geek like me and get them whole) when they start to give off a scent grind them up (if you aren’t a geek like me skip this). Put aside.

2. In a big pan (we have three pans big little and tiny) saute the onions in your choice of oils on medium until they are all melt-y.

3. Add the spices, garlic, and ginger cook for 1-2 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes and a cup of water before the garlic burns, lower heat to medium-low.

5. Cook down until no liquid is left (I like to do this twice to make it fall apart more).

6. Add the fish and another cup of water, cover and bring back up to medium, cook for 15 min (if the fish was fresh you could go less but this was frozen).

7. Lower heat again to a simmer and add can of coconut milk and simmer for about ten minutes (keep it on low afterwards until ready to serve).

8. Add fish sauce to taste (think of it as a woodier salt).

Dal

1/2 cup of red lentils (or two nice size handfuls)
2 table spoons of butter
1 clove of garlic
2 pinches of cumin
Salt to taste
….I added half a cinnamon stick to change things up, we eat a lot of dal.

1. In a pot or pan on medium heat the butter until the foam dissipates.

2. Add lentils and stir until coated.

3. Add garlic and cumin seeds (if you are using powder wait until the water is added) cook for a minute or so.

4. Add two cups of water and cook down.

5. Repeat step 4 until the lentils have lost all shape (think of this as an Indian version of refried beans).

For the Rice:

1 cup of rice (some non-instant white rice)
1 pinch of cumin
1 pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon of butter

1. Put saffron in bowl cup of warm water, put aside and cook something else, when the water is almost orange it is ready.

2. Melt butter in pan over medium heat.

3. When foam is gone add rice and saute until slightly transparent.

4. Add cumin seeds and cook another minute.

5. Add 2 cups of water and cook it down, stirring occasionally, do the same again.

6. Add saffron water + one cup of regular water and cook down, continuing to add water only when all the other water is gone, check each time for doneness.

Alternatively you can just through all the ingredients including the butter into a rice cooker and turn it on.

For Indian Style Greens:

I used one pint bag of various winter greens, that I had processed this summer, plus two handfuls of spinach. This one is really an approximate recipe. The idea is to have a balance of the harsh flavors for turnip greens or mustards with the richness of the spinach.

2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
2 tablespoons of chopped ginger
1/2 fresh jalapeno or other green small spicy pepper (another thing we keep frozen and chop off of when needed)
3 tablespoons of corn meal
Oil for the pan

1. Defrost or cook greens in 1/2 – 1 inch of water. Adding the spinach for only the last 30 seconds.
2. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno and cook until the rest of the water is gone.
3. Add 1/2 cup- 2/3 cup of water and corn meal, mix well corn meal lumps are gross, cook until water is gone.

For the Short Bread:

2 handfuls of white flour
1 handful of corn meal
1 handful of sugar (I use unrefined so it is less sweet)
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of plain yogurt
1 handful of chocolate chips
2 teaspoons of raspberry jam
1/2 cup milk (use cream if you have it…we rarely do)
1 or 2 tablespoons of coco powder

1. Preheat oven to 350, and oil and flour a bread pan.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.

3. Add 2 Tbls of butter and incorporate it (some people mash it with a fork or pastry cutter I just squeeze it with my fingers until the butter bits are gone).

4. Add yogurt and mix until a lumpy batter, put aside.

5. In a tiny sauce pan on medium heat mix the jam, remainder of the butter and chocolate chips.

6. Once melted add the coco and mix in.

7. Add milk and mix until it looks like a chocolate sauce (for a while it may seem like the milk isn’t going to mix in but it really does).

8. Pour chocolate raspberry mixture on short bread batter, I like to leave one corner bare so I can see when it browns.

9. Bake until golden (that’s what the corner is for, it seemed like twenty minutes but it may have been a half hour, I am not a recipe expert….obviously).
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The Art of Eating Ice Cream

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I’m twenty years old sitting in a college cafeteria, a bowl of ice cream in front of me. It’s been there for ten minutes, the spoon balanced it’s edge. The conversation is on climbing, or art, or drinking, or what we were going to do that night; one of a million that we had. This bowl of ice cream is one of dozens I ate over my four years at school; just another college dinner in a tasteless cafeteria in the early 1990s.

“Are you going to eat that?” my friend asks.
“It isn’t ready,” I say glancing at the bowl.

He shakes his head, fifteen years of friendship has only made it clear that I do things my way. He shakes his head and goes back to talking. Everyone else looks at my bowl too, but I’m not concerned A few minutes later I take the spoon off the edge of the bowl and start to stir the ice cream.

 

I am three or four years old. I am sitting on my aunt’s lap at the table waiting for dessert. My dad comes in with a tray of white ramekins each with a scoop of ice cream in it. Chocolate for my dad, vanilla for my mom, and coffee for my aunt and I. When my aunt takes her bowl from the tray she starts to chop the ice cream up with the side of her spoon. Like everything else with my aunt I do the same thing, soon we have a mush of ice cream that can be stirred.

“This is how we eat ice cream,” my aunt says as she brings the first soupy spoonful to her mouth, I copy her and as soon as I feel the silky sweetness in my mouth I know she is right.

 

I am ten years old and I am scooping ramekins of ice cream for my two year old cousin and myself, we sit at the kitchen counter at the family cabin. As soon as I place it in front of her she goes for her spoon, heaping it with ice cream.

“No,” I shout at her, she looks like she’s going to cry. “We have to mix it first.”

She looks doubtful, but I’m the big cousin so she puts it back in her ramekin and copies me as I mix my ice cream. When I finally let her eat it she has a big smile on her face.

“We made the ice cream better!”

 

I am thirty four, sitting at the same counter my cousin brings in a pint of ice cream and three ramekins. My son, two, sits between us. This is not his first ice cream, not even his first ice cream with my cousin, but now she has deemed him old enough.

“Now A I’m going to teach you something important,” she says keeping the ramekin just out of his reach. “This is something your mama taught me, and that my mom taught her.”

He nods his head reaching for the ice cream.

“Not yet,” she says. “When you get the ice cream you need to mix it like this.”

The three of us sit there mixing our ice cream. My aunt walks into the room and shakes her head, and scoops herself some coffee ice cream.