This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

What I read

In June 2020 when the world was still shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group gathered on the piazza in front of the Cathedral of St. Andrew to hold a vigil for racial justice. George Floyd had just been killed. Peaceful protests during the day turned violent at night. Tensions ran high. We weren’t even holding in-person services, yet nearly one hundred people showed up, lawn chairs in tow, masked and socially distanced. The Cathedral intern that year was seminarian (now Fr.) Mike Crukshank and I’ll never forget his message. He urged the largely white gathering to stand with our Black brothers and sisters in the fight for justice, but to stand behind them. He urged us to be wary of co-opting a movement that was not ours and emphasized that our work in this fight was as allies. We needed to listen, not lead.

So listen I have.

If you haven’t read All That She Carried by Tiya Miles, you’re missing a powerful story. Miles writes about a sack found at a rummage sale and now housed in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The sack was embroidered with this message:

My great grandmother Rose

mother of Ashley gave her this sack when

she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina

it held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of

pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her

It be filled with my Love always

she never saw her again

Ashley is my grandmother

Ruth Middleton, 1921
courtesy Middleton Place Foundation

Miles traces the lives of those three Black women–Rose, Ashley, and Ruth–and lays out for us the realities of enslaved women and a first generation free woman. The writing is not meant to entertain (it is at times academic), but rather to reveal the “the creativity and fierce resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties even when official systems refused to do so” (link). Yes, it is a story of the inhumanity of slavery, but at its heart it is a love story.

As I was finishing All That She Carried, I heard an NPR interview with cookbook writer Nicole A. Taylor about her new cookbook Watermelon & Red Birds, the first Juneteenth cookbook ever published. The book is a compilation of recipes that are Taylor’s “spin on the traditional African-American food table,” but I found myself just as interested in her chapter intros and the book’s sidebars, both of which gave a cultural context to the food and Juneteenth celebrations.

Shhhhh. Listen.

What I lived

We are smack dab in the heart of summer. Fireflies flash at twilight. Sprinklers hiss in the afternoon. I’ve got sheets on the clothesline and iced tea in my glass. No cicadas yet, but they will be coming soon, bringing with them the beginning of the end. (Of summer, anyways.)

I’m reading as though my life depended on it. Last week was the first anniversary of the end of my marriage (or at least the acknowledged end) and I’m comforting myself with books, slow stitching, and an occasional sweet treat. My favorite escape-read last week was Hillary Clinton & Louise Penny’s State of Terror. You know a plot is compelling when you finish the book in thirty-six hours! Another Bowl of Mending is in progress (I’m calling this one Sun, Moon, and Stars) and I’m fairly certain I’m stitching it for my granddaughter Luna. The Littles finally finished Lexi’s donuts puzzle and the kitchen table is my own again.

Yesterday I walked up to my brother and sister-in-law’s. (They bought Mom’s condo after she died.) We went through stacks and stacks of old recipes and I brought home quite a few which I plan to frame.

Speaking of recipes, here’s a new one I found on Instagram for blackberry syrup. Simmer and reduce 1 pint blackberries, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of water, then strain. I’ve added this to my iced tea and tonic water (with maybe a splash of gin?!) and you can be sure I’ll freeze some for a taste of summer in January. I have another recipe for Amish garden tea (sweet mint tea) and planted a whole bunch of mint last spring for that little experiment. I’ll report back on the garden tea once I’ve tried it.

One thought on “Learning to listen

  1. Nora says:

    So grateful you write to share, always well written, interesting and inspiring.


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