Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let it Hang Like a Bruise

Mom and Jim at a Holiday Meal

Yesterday I wrapped another band-aid around my finger that would not stop bleeding. It’s a small cut on the joint of my index finger. It will heal.
It forced me to think about the open wound I’ve lived with since November 2010. The bleeding, aching, oozing pain that Jim’s death created. Yet I may have developed the first layer of a scab--brittle and thin but strong enough to hang some hope. Perhaps in the months and years ahead the scab will toughen and the pain will not be raw and bloody.
My hope is that this horrible wound will some day hang like a bruise for that is the best I can imagine when I think about my little brother’s place at the table always sitting empty.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Garage Sale Notes

Garage Sale Saturday arrived but so did the rain and dark, stormy skies. Just as the clock struck 7:00 an elderly gentleman appeared--to inspect the World War II memorabilia. The excitement of my first customer looking at some of the higher-priced items quickly faded. He asked a couple of questions, I showed him my product, and he was disappointed . . . ahem, “put out” would be a better description.
“These are just toys. Looks like I just got out in the rain for nothing,” the man said in a gruff, dissatisfied voice. And then he was gone. I glanced around my overflowing garage; frankly i never expected rain. The summer had been a dry one in Missouri day after day. And my people, friends who bravely agreed to be “worker bees” were not to be found. A slow feeling of dread, almost panic crawled up my back. 
Before I had time to think about it, “my peeps” arrived along with a flow of garage sale loyalists. Perhaps my “rain or shine” comment in the advertisement helped but it seemed if many of these folks remembered past “awesome garage sales.” Mind you, I’ve had one. It was five years ago. Regardless, throughout the morning, a number of people told me in detail what they purchased at the 2006 sale. 
Fez, Morocco, January 2001
When I spotted a crack in the flow of people, I went upstairs for a fresh cup of coffee. Despite thinking it had to be at least 9 a.m., the clock said 7:50. The dulcimer, Japanese violin, several framed artworks, historically accurate model airplanes, vinyl records, the old lawn mower, washer and dryer, and much more had disappeared in the early minutes of the sale. 
It felt like a Moroccan souk during those first 50 minutes. People swirled and contorted through the narrow space between tables of colorful items; at least one customer used his flashlight to inspect merchandise in the dim garage light. Another asked if he could shine the light his way. Why didn’t I think of reserve flashlights for the potential early gray morning?
As the rain poured I thought “this is just a garage sale, my poor trees need the rain.” People mingled and as new friendships formed, I realized that a garage sale provided more than a chance to make money and thin closets. Clearly the best things exchanged at the sale were friendships gained, strengths found, and understandings cultivated.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?
Surprise Lily. After a lifetime of seeing the Surprise Lily (as I call them) pop up by the thousands, i really should not be surprised--but I always am. 
Naked Lady. The bare stalks inspire the name and whenever a brother mischievously refers to it this way, first my grandmother, now my Mom, dutifully provides the expected pretend-disgusted reaction. 
Resurrection Lily. Clearly the most inspired name for this flower though I call it that the least. 
Spring comes and the leaves sprout and grow, then die back and disappear in June. With no sign of life for a couple of months it is easy to forget they will rise again in early August. The spectacular flowers, pink and fragrant, shoot from the earth, providing a couple of weeks of God’s beauty. The Resurrection Lily brings some peace and meaning to aching hearts from the loss of a son, a brother, arriving by way of nature. 

This Missouri summer has been a particularly hot one and followed a record-setting winter. I’ve recently lost several established trees and bushes from drought. But the Resurrection Lilies, as I now call them, are bursting and blooming in a way that can only be called Divine.


"It grows where it wants, blooms when it wants, and doesn't bloom if it so chooses.”--an Unknown Gardener

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Sarah Jarosz

The Duck Room, July 28, 2011

The thrill of watching a rising star play in a small venue in a big city will surely be one of the highlights of my summer. Multi-instrumentalist and singer Sarah Jarosz mesmerized a small but appreciative crowd last week at the Duck Room in St. Louis.
I like to call her “My Sarah.” When she released her debut album at the tender age of 17 (2009), fate landed it in my lap. My tennis partner, Steve, was given the CD (Song Up in Her Head, Sugar Hill Records) by his niece, as Sarah was a friend of hers at high school in Austin, Texas. Steve found the music interesting, but gave it to me, knowing my love for bluegrass music and traditional instruments. It took only one listen to know that the niece had a talented friend, but I did not have the foresight to know that I was in on an early secret in the bluegrass world. 
In the next six months, My Sarah popped up on bluegrass blogs, tribute albums (she performed one of the strongest songs on the Shel Silverstein tribute CD, The Twistable, Turnable Man) and made guest appearances with bluegrass superstars such as Sam Bush, Steve Martin, Jerry Douglas, and Chris Thile. I beamed with pride for My Girl.
Thanks to information on my Facebook feed from Sarah's Fan Page, I found out that she would be playing at the Duck Room in St. Louis. Now, a couple of months into her 20th year and boasting a second critically acclaimed album (Follow Me Down, Sugar Hill Records) released this spring, she stopped in St. Louis, one of her last shows before returning to school at the New England Conservatory in Boston. 
Sarah along with her uber-talented band opened the show with “Song in Her Head.” Her unforgettable alto voice filled the joint, and as the set continued, I watched jaws drop around the room. Everyone knew they were witnessing something unforgettable. She also possesses a youthful enthusiasm that shined brightly throughout her show. After the opening song, she enthused, “This is awesome, I’ve never been to St. Louis and so many friends came out to see me!” 
“Awesome” pretty much summed up the performance, as Sarah—along with cellist Nathaniel Smith and fiddler Alex Hargreaves—captivated the crowd. A friend, who saw her at Telluride earlier in the summer, told me prior to the show, tongue-in-cheek, “those dudes that play with her aren’t too shabby.” One had the feeling that she plucked the best of the best at the music conservatory and said “Come play with me.” Sarah routinely switched from mandolin to guitar to banjo throughout the evening, displaying serious talent on each instrument. And that alto voice! Powerful, rich, and completely unique.
My brother (John) and sister-in-law (Jill) agreed to go to the show with me; later, they thanked me for the nudge. My brother seemed in awe of the evening, something he never expected. The highlight of the show for us Rogers' was the final song of the set. See, when Sarah was My Sarah, I gifted her first CD to Jill. When my little brother died last fall, John made a tribute CD for Jim. The mix included Sarah Jarosz’s cover of Tom Waits’ “Come On Up to the House.” She closed the show with this song and asked us to sing along. I sang, I danced, and I noticed tears squirting out of my eyes. When I turned to my brother, he was doing the same with a huge grin on his face. Jim is in the House, and My Sarah somehow knew we needed to hear it.
Come On Up to the House

Well the moon is broken
And the sky is cracked
Come on up to the house
The only things that you can see
Is all that you lack
Come on up to the house
All your cryin don't do no good
Come on up to the house
Come down off the cross
We can use the wood
Come on up to the house
Come on up to the house
Come on up to the house
The world is not my home
I'm just a passin thru
Come on up to the house
There's no light in the tunnel
No irons in the fire
Come on up to the house
And your singin lead soprano
In a junkman's choir
You gotta come on up to the house
Does life seem nasty, brutish and short
Come on up to the house
The seas are stormy
And you can't find no port
Come on up to the house
There's nothin in the world
There's nothin in the world
that you can do
you gotta come on up to the house
and you been whipped by the forces
that are inside you
come on up to the house
well you're high on top
of your mountain of woe
come on up to the house
well you know you should surrender
but you can't let go
you gotta come on up to the house

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blend and Chill

Several weeks ago I shared the recipe for my favorite summer treat, gazpacho. With a surplus of homegrown vegetables coming my way from the farms and gardens of loved ones, I have a bowl of gazpacho most days and a number of frozen containers to give to friends and family. Rich in antioxidants, I feel like I’m drinking the ultimate multi-vitamin. Here’s the link to the family recipe.

I’ve discovered another cold soup to add to my cooking oeuvre. I use that word mindfully; it feels like art to me when I create something beautiful and tasty. With only one other speciality in my arsenal, be certain that my blog will never be a cooking resource--unless I discover additional culinary delights that i can just blend and chill. 
Blend and chill, that’s the way I roll. Bon App├ętit!

Cold Cucumber Soup
1 can cream of celery soup, undiluted
1 cup milk
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pimento (sold in this amount in tiny glass jar)
dash of tabasco or other hot sauce
Combine above ingredients in blender. Use a slow setting and do not blend for long.
1 cup sour creme
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
Blend on slow for about 3 seconds. Chill for 4 hours. Garnish soup with cucumber chunks and parsley. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On Summer Camp: Camp Zoe

Gus the Goat Guards the Mess Hall Door

Camp Zoe, nestled in the Ozark Mountain foothills near Round Spring, Mo., was my first summer camp destination. Arriving as a rambunctious 7-year-old and returning a couple years following, I gained an invincibility and youthful independence from enthusiastic participation in traditional summer camp adventures and activities. 
A permissive spirit lingered in the August air at camp, encouraging freedom and creativity. Sinkin’ Creek, the primary swimming hole at Camp Zoe, branched off from the spring-fed Current River. It is memorialized in the official camp anthem, sung to the melody and sway of the “Missouri Waltz.”

“Beautiful Old Sinking Creek
Whose waters lap our shores
Moonlight streaming down
Upon the leafy shadowed floor.
The stars shining o'er us
Forever to guide us
Back to Camp Zoe
The place we adore.”

Counselor Marilyn

The early 1970s counselors clearly leaned to the left. They smoked cigarettes on the sly, told creepy ghost stories, and pulled practical jokes on the campers designed to build character. Horseback riding was the camp’s main draw and here I first learned how to bridle and saddle a horse along with riding techniques: fearless first trots, then canters, and the unexpected gallop. "Hang tight, Annie, hang on for life" pulsated in my head as the horse charged down the trail. Showing alarm or mistrust simply was not an option. Cliff hopping--jumps, dives, and then flips off the tall, jagged bluffs along the Current thrilled me and likely introduced me to the power of adrenaline. At afternoon's end, before I returned to New Cabin for a nap, the Snack Shack seductively appeared at the edge of the woods serving up slushies, candy bars, gum, and ice cream. The only limit to my sugary indulgences was the account set up by my parents, which I usually drained at least a week before camp’s end. 

My first profound political memory happened on August 9, 1974, while at camp. A few campers had scampered ahead of the counselors to climb a very tall fire lookout tower used by the forest rangers. The counselors shuffled behind us, paying more attention to the transistor radio close to ear than the kids under their watch. So when they stormed up the steel stairs shouting with joy “Nixon has resigned, Nixon has resigned” and danced in circles on the top platform pointing their index fingers to the sky, I knew something real had invaded from the outside world.  

With the hindsight of years and summers past, I know my camp experiences not only shaped my childhood but are still strongly woven through my personal fiber and being. 

Counselor Shawn Dressed Up for the Gong Show

The Wheelbarrow Race, Camp Zoe

(To the Tune of "My Favorite Things")

“Horseflies on Princess 
And whiskers on Wombly.
Cold sticky oatmeal and
old rotten lunchmeat.
Wonderful care packages
tied up with strings;
These are a few of my favorite things.
Contest on Ozark Day,
spitting tobacco.
Thinking poor Fozzie Bears
really gone whacko.
Treating the campers like they are the kings;
These are a few of my favorite things.
Waiting for eardrops
To Salem with Cindy.
It sure is hot and
I wish it were windy.
Singing the songs that everyone sings;
These are a few of my favorite things.
When the bugs bite,
when the horse bucks,
when I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember the things at Camp Zoe; 
and then I don't feel so bad.”