Lynn's Musings

From a Deep Well

Falling Back

This time of year the daylight hours get shorter every day. Soon there will be the switch from daylight savings time to standard time. It’s not the shifting of the day and the resetting of the clocks that throws me. It’s putting away the lawn mower, filling the gas tank and changing the oil in the snow blower. It’s in October that I notice Orion, a sure sign of winter’s approach, shining bright in the morning sky. But what really brings the change of season home to me is having my morning cup of coffee indoors with the curtains closed against the darkness instead of outside sitting on the patio enjoying the sunrise. During the warmer months, I love watching the morning break from the faintest light with Venus and a few bright stars still visible in the sky to the sun climbing over the horizon. That peaceful hour sets the tone for my day.
My parents moved to Florida years ago. One afternoon I was telling my mom of the projects I’d saved up to do during the winter. She said that was one of the things she missed about not living in Michigan. With the year-round warm weather in Florida there wasn’t that distinction between summer and winter tasks. She found it hard to settle in with a good book when there were weeds growing in the garden all twelve months of the year. She felt less guilty taking an hour or so to curl up with a steaming cup of tea and escaping into a murder mystery when the ground was covered in snow.
I don’t look forward to the long nights and gloomy days of November, but I love a good snow storm, the brilliant blue sky and bright sun the next day and a glowing fireplace.  

In  mid-February, about the time my joy at a fresh snowfall has turned into dread, I notice the sun is once again above the horizon and shining through the kitchen window while I’m washing the supper dishes then a few of weeks later I see the first robin in the yard.
I catch myself wishing for a few more weeks of winter because there are still items on my to-do list. They will have to wait because – thank goodness – spring is knocking at the door.



Copyright October 18, 2020

All rights reserved. No part of this blog, including written text and all images, may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author.

A Morning Adventure

 

Every now and then I like to go on an adventure. The time for one came last week when on a beautiful morning I got in my car and headed southwest. A friend of mine had told me about his visit to Raker – Roberta’s Trial Gardens out by Litchfield. He’d given me some vague directions and shared some photos he’d taken at the garden. I’d been out that way before and I figured I could find my way.
I was doing fine until my peaceful ride through the country took a turn as I came to a stop behind a long line of cars. The road ahead was blocked. There’d been an accident. After a minute or two a couple cars turned around and went back the way they’d come and then the pickup in front of me did the same. I decided they were on to something and pulled into a driveway, backed out and turned around too.
The man in the pickup seemed to know where he was going so I followed him, hoping he knew a way around. I still had several miles to go and if I could find a paved road heading south, sooner or later I’d run into the highway and get back on track. But life is never as easy as I think it should be.
Instead of reaching the highway, after several curves and turns I finally came across Litchfield Road, one of the roads I needed. But I didn’t know where on the road I was. I went east knowing it would take me to the highway and maybe, along the way, I’d fine Rainey road; the road the garden is on. No luck. I turned around and went the other way. The minutes and miles passed by and I began to think I wasn’t going to find the place. I decided I’d give it one more road and then went one more. That one more road was the one I was looking for.


Raker-Roberta’s Trial Gardens is a gem! Seven acres of row upon row of over 3000 varieties of dazzling flowers, hanging baskets, container plantings and twelve formal garden beds.


Each year the garden focuses on a few large trials. This year the trials included lavender, vinca and lantana. I walked along row upon fragrant row, each containing different varieties of the flowers.

 

 

The formal beds are designed by plant breeding companies from around the world. They provide the seeds and cuttings for each bed. The staff at the trial garden maintains the beds for the summer.  Along with the trial gardens, Raker-Roberta’s grow small plants in their many greenhouses to sell wholesale.


None of the plants and flowers are for retail sale. Plant buyers from around the world can access the comparison trials data which contains weekly evaluations and photos on the website. A visit to the garden lets them see the plants first hand as they plan their purchases for the coming year.

I was given free rein and wandered among the flowers with my camera for a good two hours. In this time of uncertainty it was a wonderful place to find peace, enjoy the morning sunshine and enjoy the beautiful flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright August 10, 2020All rights reserved. No part of this blog, including written text and all images, may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author.


Rethinking Priorities

All of this time at home has me thinking about changes I can make to live a little a better, more harmonious life. I can’t help but wonder how much difference it makes if I turn off the lights, turn up or turn off the A/C, compost my vegetable waste and plant a garden. How much will I lower the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? How much will I lessen the food insecurity of the world? The answer is: not much. But I know I’m not the only one; I am one more. Maybe someone else will see the steps I take and think, “I can do that too”.
I came up with a few ideas I can implement right now:
First, I really miss having a clothesline. At my previous house I hung out my clothes all summer long. The smell of bed linens dried with sunshine and warm breezes is heaven. An extra benefit is that sunlight is a natural disinfectant, and just think of all the energy saved. Even though I will be the only person in my neighborhood, I’m having one put up in my backyard this summer. I can’t wait!


Then, I visited a new dentist  this year. After a lot of poking and prodding, the hygienist suggested that I use an electric toothbrush (we have several right here at the receptionist’s counter). I understand that my brushing technique may need tweaking, but another appliance to do something that I can handle on my own? What a waste of electricity! Not to mention the $200 for the toothbrush.
Another easy thing I can do is dust off my leaf rake. Raking is great exercise. Instead of going to the gym for a cardio workout, I will pick up a rake and leave the leaf blower in the shed, saving lots of electricity, again cutting my carbon footprint not to mention lessening the noise pollution.

When I was growing up, on Legion Road, my dad and I would spend an hour or so when the night sky was clear with a flashlight and a star map. The Milky Way slashed across the sky and every now and then we were treated to the Northern Lights.

 

 

Today, living in the suburbs, I can barely see a few random stars. There is so much outdoor lighting these days. Why is this necessary or even welcome? If turning off the lights isn’t an option, there are alternatives to old-style lighting. Eco-friendly outdoor fixtures cut the ambient light escaping into the night sky and focuses the light only where it is wanted or needed.
This much light in the night isn’t just unnecessary, it’s harmful. Birds use the moon and stars to navigate, along with the earth’s magnetic field when they migrate. If they can’t see the stars they can’t find their way. Some seaside communities decided to turn off their lights at night when they discovered newly hatch sea turtles, who follow the moon’s path of light on the water, couldn’t find their way to the sea.

This is a good time to for me rethink my priorities and the kind of world I want to leave for my grandchildren. It is their creativity and self-reliance that will teach us all how to live in harmony and not in dominance with this one-and-only earth, our island home.

Copyright June 27, 2020

 

All rights reserved.  No part of this blog, including written text and all images, may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author.

 

 

Sourdough – The Yeast That Keeps on Growing

I spoke with my friend Joan about the everyday products that are hard to find at the grocery store these days. The last time I went shopping I expected there would be empty shelves in the paper aisle and there were. But no yeast? No flour? A couple cans of off-brand shortening? These are items I would never have figured would be in short supply.


A few weeks back, when the governor announced we were all to stay at home and the world turned upside down, I stocked up on everything including baking supplies and yeast. My plan was to stay home-stay safe for a month.


After two weeks I ran out of store-bought bread. That wasn’t a problem since I enjoy making my own. At the end of the fourth week and after baking four loaves of bread I was down to two packs of yeast. I was starting to wonder what to do when I remembered my mom’s container of sourdough starter. It was an integral part of the kitchen counter terrain and it gave her an ongoing source of yeast for baking bread, biscuits and coffeecakes.


I’d baked with sourdough years ago and recalled that a packet of yeast, some flour, water and sugar were all that were needed to get a batch going. I looked through an old Amish cookbook and found the starter recipe, listing the amounts of each ingredient. It also had the instructions for feeding the starter every 7 to 10 days, which is important to keep it going indefinitely. And the starter has to be used or shared regularly or you will end up with a LOT of starter. I planned on baking at least once a week, probably more, so keeping up with the growing yeast wouldn’t be a problem.


Here is the recipe for the sourdough starter I found and some delicious recipes from King Arthur Flour to try:
SOURDOUGH STARTER

1 package of dry yeast
2 ½ cups warm water
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar or honey

Directions: In a large glass or ceramic bowl, sprinkle yeast over ½ cup of warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add remaining water and stir until yeast is dissolved. Gently whisk in the flour and sugar. Cover loosely – cheesecloth works good for this – and let sit on the counter top, at room temperature for 5 or more days, until bubbly and ready to use. Gently stir the mixture twice each day. At this time the starter can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. If 10 or more days pass without using the starter, feed the starter by adding a teaspoon of sugar. Once some of the starter has been used, feed the starter by stirring in ¾ cup of flour, ¾ cup of warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Leave at room temperature for another 5 days (or until mixture is bubbly again) stirring twice a day.

SOURDOUGH BREAD

1 cup sourdough starter
1 ½ cups lukewarm water
5 cups flour, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons salt

Directions: The afternoon before baking the bread – Combine starter, water and 3 cups of flour in a large bowl. Beat for 1 minute. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight for about 12 hours. Add remaining 2 cups of flour, sugar and salt. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, sprinkling with additional flour as necessary until smooth. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for about 5 hours, until dough is light and airy. Gently divide dough in half. Shape into two ovals, place on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until very puffy, 2 to 4 hours. When ready to bake, lightly spray loaves with warm water. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make four diagonal crisscrossing slashes in both loaves. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until deep golden brown and loaves sound hollow when lightly rapped. Remove from oven and let cool. Note: Making sourdough bread is not an exact science. Be flexible. Rising times will vary depending on room temperature and vitality of the sourdough starter.

SOURDOUGH PANCAKES OR WAFFLES

Overnight Sponge:
2 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cup buttermilk
1 cup sourdough starter

Batter:
All of the overnight sponge
2 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil or 4 tablespoons melted butter
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions: To make overnight sponge, stir down your refrigerated starter and remove 1 cup. Mix with flour, sugar and buttermilk in a large bowl. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 12 hours overnight. The next morning, beat eggs and oil in a small bowl. Add to overnight sponge. Add salt and baking soda, stir to combine. For pancakes – Pour a little oil into a skillet and heat. Use about ¼ cup of batter per pancake. Cook until edges of pancakes are bubbly and starting to dry. Turn once and brown the other side. For waffles – Pour batter onto a preheated, greased waffle iron and bake according to manufactures instructions.

SOURDOUGH CINNAMON CRUMB CAKE

Topping:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ c butter, melted

Cake:
½ cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons instant mashed potato flakes
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup milk at room temperature
Confectioner’ sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×9 inch baking pan. Topping – In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add vanilla and almond to melted butter and pour into flour mixture. Stir until uniformly moist. Set aside. Cake – Beat butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until combined. Add eggs, vanilla and sourdough starter. Mix until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, potato flakes, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Add to the egg-starter mixture. Stir until combined. Add milk and mix until smooth. Spread batter in baking pan. Sprinkle topping over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes until edges just start to pull away from pan. A knife inserted in the center will come out clean when cake is done. Cool and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Copyright May 2, 2020

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Hope

There is Hope

 

 

John’s Keys – A Short Story

JOHN’S KEYS
As Published in The Listening Eye

By
Lynn Eckerle

Copyright October 29, 2019

All rights reserved. No part of this blog, including written text and all images, may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author.

I threw John’s keys down in the parking lot and walked away. They landed in the space next to his car, right where he could find them. It was ten minutes before he would leave for work. I’d been scoping out his place for the last two weeks. He was a man with a routine. I leaned against the side of his condo, half hidden by the dumpster, and waited.
The last time I saw John was 1978. We’d both been through college and started working by then. One night I’d stopped at that bar out on South Avenue, meeting up with some friends for a drink. When I walked through the door, I saw him in a pool of light created by a neon beer sign. He turned on his bar stool, as if I’d tapped him on the shoulder from across the room, and looked right at me. That’s how it had always been with John. He was the one person I’d had an instant connection to.
Back then he’d driven an old VW bug. We had a lot of fun in that car. One time we’d gone parking with two other couples on some dirt back road. Our lust and intensity had tuned into frustration then into laughter. You just can’t do parking any justice in a VW Bug.
The next seven months were intense and dense, full of life to the point of bursting. It was unsustainable. It burned through us, leaving us gasping. Who can live like that? It was inevitable that we would turn to ashes and be blown in opposite directions.
But I’d forgotten I had his extra set of keys.
And now, I was giving them back.
I wondered what he would think of my dropping into his life again. Can you ever recapture what was lost? His reaction, when he discovered those keys would tell all. I’m a great believer in kismet, serendipity and body language. I waited, one shoulder braced against cool aluminum siding, breathing in the faint humors of garbage. The cool damp of the morning worked its way through my jacket. By nine it would be warm enough for shirt sleeves.
I’d gotten back into town a month ago, asked around a little and discovered that John was a widower, three years gone. Long enough to grieve and time enough to move on. I’d kept track of him through the first years after we went our separate ways. When he’d married Sherri from our high school days, I was dumbstruck. He wasn’t the kind of guy that went for the cheerleader types. He had been head of the chess squad for Christ’s sake. And I’d been a math and science major with seriously frizzy hair and big feet. I figured his marrying Sherri was a one-eighty ricochet from dating me.
I now had the hair under control and had grown into my feet but no one would accuse me of ever being a homecoming queen. I’d ended up an engineer with a Master’s degree. And yet here I was, lurking behind a dumpster; probably technically a stalker.
I’d been waiting over ten minutes but no John. I began to second-guess myself, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I decided to give it another five minutes. Then I saw him come out of his condo, dressed for business. He was preoccupied, hurrying across the pavement, a cell phone at his ear. He stepped around the side of his car. The cast off keys lay less than an inch from his shoe. He slipped his phone into his inside coat pocket, unlocked the car with his fob and reached for the door.
The keys! How can he miss the keys? He was going to get behind the wheel, drive away and never see the keys.
Something made him stop. Maybe it was the sound of my wildly beating heart or maybe the morning sun glinting off the discarded keys.
Either way, John reached down, picked them up and turned them over in his hand. I stepped into view and held my breath.
He did a slow one-eighty and saw me. He knew it was me. I saw it on his face. It was just like the time, in that dim, shadowy bar, so many years ago. He took a step toward me and then another.

Mama Mia It’s Valentine’s Day

I felt for too many years that Valentine’s Day was the worst holiday ever conceived. The day never lived up to my hopes and expectations.
At the office, it was a competition to see who would receive flowers and how big were the bouquets. I oohed and awed over each delivery of roses with sweet cards and often accompanied with boxes of chocolates. My desk remained empty because my husband gave me flowers privately at home. When the looks of pity came my way I just made it worse by asserting that there would be – for sure – flowers waiting for me on the dining room table.
Of course there will be was followed by a hug or at the very least a sympathetic pat on my hands. I hated Valentine’s Day! Looking back, coming home to a smiling husband, his warm embrace and the beautiful pale pink roses – my favorite – was more romantic than one-upping someone at work. But at the time, the emptiness of my desk grew larger as it became surrounded by everyone else’s roses, plants in sweet containers and heart shaped boxes of candy.

Then the day came when I was single and there was nothing at all.


I tried to ignore the day but it was impossible. I called it a manufactured Hallmark holiday; nothing more than a marketing ploy, causing men to purchase cards, flowers and jewelry. As much as I tried to convince myself it didn’t matter, it did.
Then I had a change of heart. I decided to turn Valentine’s Day around and make it my day to celebrate love and kindness to anyone who crossed my path. I made phone calls to friends I hadn’t seen in a while, baked cookies to hand deliver and sent cards to those who were too far away to visit. I said, “Happy Valentine’s Day” to the store clerks, gave a friendly wave to the neighbor and let the other guy have the parking spot. I looked for opportunities to bring a little love into anyone’s day. By evening when I was in my pj’s and comfy, I was happy and full of goodwill. I found the best of Valentine’s Day was not receiving fleeting tokens given out of a sense of obligation, but in giving that love away. Valentine’s Day isn’t so bad after all.

Copyright February 9, 2020

All rights reserved. No part of this blog, including written text and all images, may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author.

Dance Your Heart Out

I’m a single woman and I love to dance. I don’t have a dance partner, so what’s a girl to do? When I was in my teens I wanted to learn interpretive dance, but was told that being 5’3” was too short. I still wanted to dance.
A couple weeks ago I heard about some line dancing that was going on at a local senior center. But, no matter how many birthdays have gone by I’ve never considered walking through the doors of a senior center. In my mind, that’s a place for really old people.
I rearranged my writing schedule. Thursday morning is when I put together my weekly column. Last week, I wrote on Wednesday, set my alarm on Thursday so there was plenty of time to feed my cat Lucy, have a cup of coffee and take care of the usual odds and ends before leaving the house. It came time to go and I chickened out. 

I decided to give it another try. I again wrote my column and Wednesday, set the alarm on Thursday and this time I made it out the door. The senior center is about fifteen minutes away and I was there with five minutes to spare.
There were several ladies waiting to get started; some were older than me and some younger. I fit right in. The instructor had us try out several dances and I was pretty good at some and terrible at the others. I’m going back and with practice the routines will become easier. Soon my feet will barely touch the ground.
I’m blessed to have inherited my mother’s genes. She was active, strong and healthy into her late eighties and alert to the very end. I’m one of the lucky ones, not limited by arthritis COPD or heart disease. I’m a little fluffy (a few extra pounds) but hey, I’m workin’ on it! The upside of my genetic luck is: This girl can dance!

Merry Christmas!

First Snow – Ah The Memories

When the first snow flies, I think of sleds and mittens and long sloping hills. My brothers would take me – Mom said! – up the road and over the train tracks to the golf course. That winding hill off the seventh tee was the best sledding run ever made.
Before we had aluminum “saucer” sleds, we used an old stone boat – a heavy wooden platform with runners underneath. Farmers would hitch one up behind a mule or work horse and go into the fields to clear out field stones before plowing.
Once we had that stone boat heading down hill there was no stopping her until she came to rest at the bottom of the hill, or sometimes, against a big old oak. Steering was out of the question; just hop on and hold tight. The only way to avoid a collision was to roll off into the snow which always worked its way down our backs and up our coat sleeves. The hours of fun, our frozen gloves, cold shivers and sweet memories were a gift from Mr. Cornell, the old farmer who lived across the road.
It seemed like we would sled for hours and I’m sure mom was glad to have her three rambunctious children out of the house, at least for a while.
By the time we had had enough of sledding and were headed home, I was chilled to the bone. My legs, above the tops of my unlined rubber boots were chaffed. Inside my mittens, which were often a pair of dad’s old socks, I would curl my fingers into my palms trying to find some escape from the cold.

I remember my brothers being scolded for keeping me out too long. “She wouldn’t leave,” they said, and they were right. I’d begged for one more run down the hill. But mom made everything better by heating up some Campbell’s tomato soup on the stove while she helped us out of our wet and frozen clothes. Our fingers and toes were red and tingled fiercely as the warmth returned.
We sipped the hot soup out of coffee cups, telling of our sledding adventures, always looking forward to the next new snow.

Copyright November 18, 2019

 

All rights reserved.  No part of this blog, including written text and all images, may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author.