Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 01-05-21: Walking My Ailing Back, More Aggressive Chicken Cooking, A Superb Jam Packed Evening

Note: While I'm writing this blog post I'm sure enjoying the J J Cale station/Deep Cuts on Pandora. I've heard Dire Straits, Neil Young, Greg Allman, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bob Dylan, and other artists performing songs in the general style and spirit of J J Cale. 

1.  I decided early this afternoon that enough was enough and that I needed to take my ailing back for a stroll. I didn't go far -- racked up about 1500 steps by taking a jaunt down to the mailbox in front of the empty building that used to be Stein's grocery. My back loved the walk. More to come -- and I will try to build up my wind more. 

2. I decided to go for the spices more aggressively than ever this evening when I cooked a whole chicken by boiling it. I thawed two quarts of chicken stock, added coarsely chopped onion, carrot, and celery, and brought it to a boil. I rinsed off the chicken, patted in dry, pulled out the pieces hiding in its cavity, and salted it, peppered it, powdered it with garlic, and then made a bold move and lavished the chicken with cinnamon. I turned down the heat under the liquid, plunged the chicken into the pot, and added allspice, cloves, thyme, and a bay leaf to the pot. I am eager to see how this chicken and its broth turn out -- especially my adding cloves and cinnamon to the recipe. My initial samplings were, to my taste, very promising.

3. While the chicken slowly cooked, I poured myself a cocktail of Buffalo Trail bourbon and Canada Dry Bold Ginger Ale and settled into Tree House Concert #35, live on Facebook, performed by -- who else?-- Bill Davie. Once again, he played a riveting variety of songs from his catalog, taking us from the razor blade raining skies of Tacoma to youthful days smokin' cigarettes at John's to his gratitude for his marriage to Diane. 

When we moved to Maryland, I decided to let go of a lot of my books -- I didn't know what our living situation would be and I wanted to travel as lightly as possible. I've regretted letting go of any number of those books and have decided to buy some of them again. Well, tonight, Bill Davie read from one of those books and, while he read, I jumped on and ordered myself a replacement copy of Kim Stafford's Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford. I remember hating it when I let this book go (it was a gift from Christy) and I'm going to love having it back again and I'm going to act as if it's the same book Christy gave me. 

As Bill was winding down his concert, my phone rang. It was Rita, my longtime friend and former team teaching partner. I'll go to YouTube later and catch the rest of Bill's concert after he uploads it. No way was I not going to answer Rita's call!

We talked for a little over an hour about our lives during the pandemic, books, American Masters (especially N. Scott Momaday and Robert Shaw), and other things.

We also talked a bit about former students -- in general, not specific ones. I had just been thinking about former students during the Tree House Concert. Bill's haunting and empathetic song "Valley of Wine" is about a friend of Bill's and a former student of mine, one whom I think about a lot, and the song got me thinking about students who were in my writing classes at Whitworth in 1977-78 when Bill was a student of mine.  My first thought was my regret that I've forgotten so many names, but my feelings remain, feelings that are hard to describe, but the best word I can come up with is affection. 

My affection for students never waned in all those years of teaching, from 1977-2014, and sometimes I wish not only that I could remember their names and faces, but that I knew more about how they are doing. It's very gratifying that I'm Facebook friends with some of my students. One of my deepest satisfactions in my life is that Bill, Val, Colette, and Bridgit (all former students from Whitworth) and I visit regularly on Zoom and often are all together in the virtual audience of Bill's virtual concerts. As a bonus, Diane, Bill's wife, is with us, too, and sometimes I have to remind myself that she was at PLU back in the day, not Whitworth! 

Rita and I talked for a while about what I'd call our faith that, as teachers, we planted many good seeds in our students, that, whether large or small, we had an impact on those we worked with and the impact was mostly positive. For me, trusting that this is true is a matter of faith; but, what I do know, without a doubt, is my students were also planting seeds, having a positive impact on me. I learned a tremendous amount from my students, not just about social realities and popular culture and the worlds they lived in, but about the subject matter I put before them. My students' insights into poetry, fiction, movies, epics, the plays of Shakespeare, philosophy, happiness, living a well-lived life, the world of work, growing up in trying circumstances, beauty, sublimity, vitality, goodness, and any number of other subjects we worked with together have stayed with me, helped guide how I live my life, and have had and do have a most positive impact on my life. 

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