One Thousand Desert Winters














The calendar on the wall kept watch alone

for one thousand desert winters

and one thousand desert summers.

Faithfully measuring out the seasons.

The rabbits and rock doves had their own calendars.

The coyotes took note of every moonrise.

Lizards were thankful for the morning sun.

Years passed, stars fell and crickets chirped

but no one watched the calendar.

Someone once kept a holy vigil.

They watched the calendar and the changing seasons.

That was long ago and for reasons we can only guess.

Things change slowly here in the desert. One can lose track.

Was it a secret place? Was it a sacred place?

This space of discourse between sun and stone

was witnessed by a silent scribe.  Watch closely…take note.

Each morning was important – day in, day out.

The morning sun sent its dagger deeper, striking out the

old season and bringing forth the new.




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Beauty and Bright Lights Wherever We Go


So many folks must have used the weekend to put up Christmas trees and holiday lights, and I am grateful as I am enjoying all I see. I was in the mall yesterday to pick up my new glasses and enjoyed the decorations there as well as on homes to and from town. Today I had a brief dental appointment in Carbondale, and the dentist's reception area was so beautiful that I almost wished they had been delayed in seeing me. Recently redecorated, the room's blue and silver color scheme was magical with a silver tree and blue and silver ornamentation added all around. A few scattered brown natural pine cones was the perfect touch on the tree.


Before the dental appointment, Gerald and I recycled a trunk load of cans, plastic, newspapers, glass, catalogs, and cardboard. (I have been recycling magazines to other readers.) Then Gerald treated me to the Chinese restaurant for lunch before my appointment. With its presentation of rows and rows of food, I find the variety amazing as well as delicious. So much food that can only be described as pretty is a visual delight. We enjoyed seeing a young college-age couple opposite our booth laughing at each other and using chopsticks. Another family with two young children finished, and the little girl saw us watching her and consciously smiled and carried on a bit to charm us. Two retirement-age couples were in the booth next to us and were obviously enjoying their visit as well as their food. Many in the restaurant were dressed in work clothing and on their lunch hour. The guests and the staff were multi-cultural and as varied as the food. I had to rejoice again that we live in a nation with such abundance for so many of us ordinary people.


I remember growing up that a restaurant meal was seldom enjoyed by working class families. Even when we traveled, we often stopped at a grocery store and bought bread and bologna for the day's lunch. It was good, and it was fun. Occasionally someone might take me to lunch, such as when my best friend Lynn and I sold poppies on the streets in Anna because her grandparents were active in veterans' affairs. The Dillows always treated Lynn and me to lunch at the Anna Cafe, where side dishes were served in little bowls I thought were so cool. Menus were foreign enough to some of us that we would order, “The same.” Now many families can afford to eat out so often that mothers wanting more control over nutrition have to limit that.


I know there are many hungry in our nation, but with school breakfasts and lunches, soup kitchens, senior meals on wheels, and weekend sacks of food given for many needy families, we do not have a great problem of starvation, and I am grateful. (Anything we can do either by friendship or government to help families function better will help eliminate child hunger. Jobs are important, but often it is addictions and untreated depression more than lack of money that keeps children from being fed properly.)


After an errand and the dentist appointment, we headed down the highway south to visit Gerald's brother Keith and wife Barbara at their farm. The highway had just finished being reconstructed, and again I knew how fortunate we were to live with such magnificent roads. And when we left the highway and went onto country roads, there was no fear of the car getting stuck in the mud,which happened on rural roads in my childhood.


At the farm, three beautiful kittens came to greet us as we approached the door; and as always, Hash (Keith's constant companion) welcomed us with a bark when we went inside. Their granddaughter Amanda was there helping Barbara, and their great granddaughter Cammie (not sure how they spell that) greeted us with an adorable smile. Four fingers held up on her little hand made me realize how long it had been since I had seen her as a baby once at a family gathering. We visited and enjoyed looking at the pretty Christmas tree Amanda had helped Barb put in the living room window. As we left after our goodbyes, I got to talk to the kittens again.


After a couple errand stops in Marion and a brief visit at Katherine's, we headed home through the country. Sometimes Gerald takes the highway, but he was willing to go that way to satisfy my request that we take the time to go off the old Creal Springs Road and head up Cherry Valley Road to see the annual light display out in the middle of that rural area. Last year I kept seeing it at a distant and thinking I would have time to run up Cherry Valley, and suddenly the season was over and I had failed to get a close-up view. Their display has always been spectacular, and it is easily seen from a distance, but one needs to go and stop there and gawk as long as possible. You will only see part of it even then. It can only be described as fantastic. I really think everything is mostly new this year; but since I did not visit last year, maybe that was when so much more was added. There is a sign I had not seen in past years saying the hours were from 5 till 10 each evening except Saturday and Sunday then the lights go off at 11. The sign told me the family name: Yost. I have always wanted to meet these generous people and hear the story of how this enormous family project was started and what keeps them going. How young are they to be able to put up all these lights and other decorations? Where do they store all this between Christmases? The family certainly ended our day with pleasure, and once again I was grateful.


Going to the dentist during the beginning of the Christmas season made for a fun day. There are no Christmas decorations up at Woodsong yet, although this morning I did carry in the pumpkin/squash autumn display from beside our front door. Now I will need to cook those decorations and start getting down Christmas boxes.










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1 Comment

An Open Letter To A Foreign Correspondent Who lives In Israel

Dear S,

I was saddened by your decision not to report about The March Of Hope, one of the most significant events that took place in Israel in recent years. You write that the march of Women Wage Peace did not interest the newspapers that you were writing for, and that the spotlight was on other places in the world. I am not surprised to learn that the world is not interested in thousands of women in Israel who are marching for peace.

But as you live in Israel and cover our news you must be aware that Women Wage Peace is the largest non-partisan grassroots movement in Israel. In the two years since its inception, in the midst of Operation Protective Edge, thousands of women, from all walks of life holding different political positions, have joined in

Women Wage Peace is a single-issue movement, its goal is to put an end to the conflict with the Palestinians through a viable political agreement. This stand is unique, as the movement doesn’t believe in endorsing one specific solution. Instead it is open to an array of possibilities and does not presume to offer an answer.

Yes I realize that it sounds naïve, but as women we know that when we open our minds and hearts we are able to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions. Actually I feel that Women Wage Peace is the fruit of this way of thinking. The women in the movement believe that after so many years of tenacious conflict there is a need to change the approach toward finding a solution.

You write  that you don't  believe that the movement will lead to anything positive. In a way it might even be counter productive , because it makes the occupation easier to cope with for the women who march and march even though they are getting nowhere.

If you ask members of Women Wage Peace about your judgement, you are likely to hear different opinions. For example, that most Israelis  accept occupation as a necessary evil because they believe that there is no partner. Women Wage Peace focuses on those who still believe in the possibility of an agreement. It is the women, on both sides, who pay the highest price for the conflict, so as women we don’t have the privilege to do nothing. We march because it helps to raise public awareness to our activities and to spread the word that there is an option. Another  activist would tell you that our challenge is to create a kind of diverse dialogue, which works to unite rather than to divide, and in today’s world it is a subversive action in the good sense of the world. Our insistence as women to talk about peace and security as knowledgeable and involved citizens is an important step in extricating the discussion of political agreement from those few military and security experts who have always been in charge.

Personally I think that Women Wage Peace is a pragmatic movement,  we are here because we feel that we have no choice but to take our destiny in our own hands. You doubt the merit of the march, but it transpired that The March Of Hope, which started in the northern border of Israel on October 4th 2016 and ended in a mass rally in Jerusalem on October 19th, was a pivotal project. Moreover this march was the work of hundreds of volunteers. We didn't march to nowhere, we gained momentum and became a household name. I feel that this is an important step in changing public opinion.

The event in Qasr El Yehud on October 19th was especially hopeful: A magnificent spectacle of thousands of women: Palestinians, Israelis and Israeli Palestinians who got together to demand peace. I have to disagree with your conclusion, yes occupation has to end, but it is only part of the solution. Women Wage Peace is pushing forward a process of reconciliation at a time when there is nothing. Your papers missed a historic moment and I am sad that you as a Journalist and a feminist did not alert them. I hope that you'll come around.

Best wishes, Orna

Thanks to my friends in Women Wage Peace for your support and for the great texts that you sent me for the purpose of writing this letter.

The post appeared in The Times of Israel

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Cranberry Redemption




     I have a confession to make. I’ve never been a fan of cranberry stuff at Thanksgiving – not sauce, relish, whatever. It seemed like some sort of Holy obligation — I had to eat some because of the sacred tradition.  My mom always opened a can and dumped it on a plate like some sort of  gelatinous cylinder…festive, flavorful, and to me, kind of industrial looking. It would be passed around the table like communion and folks would take a spoonful and deposit it on the side of their plate but not let it touch any of the other food…it was something apart.


     Now there are many ways to prepare cranberries and my mom experimented with different recipes but she had her hands full with everything else. We knew that it was best to stay out of the kitchen. I recall one year when there were flames roaring out of the oven and my mom and my aunt were franticly throwing stuff in the oven to put out the turkey. Another year the turkey lurched out of the oven and bounced across the floor. She picked it up and crammed it back in the oven and the look on her face said…”I dare you to say anything…it will be the last thing you ever say.”  So the little plate with the cranberry cylinder was fine.


      The cranberry plant has an odd life. It is sort of a vine-like shrub   that lives in a sandy, wet bog in rather cold climates — a very acidic environment. The common North American version (Vaccinium Macrocarpon) is somewhat different from the European variety but I have no idea what that difference is. We have several varieties or species of cranberries that have some differences in growing requirements or berry color but Vaccinium Macrocarpon is the one that seems to be widely cultivated. The Indians loved cranberries and probably introduced them to the hungry Pilgrims. I suspect you have seen the commercials with the two guys standing hip deep in a pond extolling the wonders of cranberries. The berries float so the farmers flood the bogs with enough water to float the berries above the submerged plants and then harvest the floating berries. The bogs are then drained after the harvest and the plants get ready for next Thanksgiving.


      As I said, I’m not a fan of Thanksgiving cranberry stuff. I generally like the flavor of cranberry juice and I like dried cranberries. There are lots of cranberry relish recipes all over the internet. The recipes seem almost like a desperate attempt to make something out of cranberries. Some have nuts, some have a mixture of other fruit, some have lemon peel, some attempt to replicate the same stuff that comes out of the can. None of the pictures look like anything I would want to eat much of. A chopped up cranberry mixed with other things that I can’t identify is not very inviting. My mom’s experiments with real cranberries didn’t seem to be an improvement over the convenience of opening a can while the smoke poured out of the oven.


      My days of big Thanksgiving dinners are behind me. I live 1,000 miles from most of my relatives so it is just me and my daughter  — who lives a short distance away —  conjuring up some sort of plan for the holiday. Neither one of us want a great deal of leftovers so we keep it small. This year we decided to forego cooking all together and made reservations at a local restaurant for the whole parade of traditional Thanksgiving  delicacies…including cranberry relish. Even in this situation, the cranberry concoction was served up in it’s own little Holy sepulcher …not part of the main attraction.  It was of the chopped or minced variety…not the semi-transparent gelatinous form. I pondered it for a minute or so. My plate was full of turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing (all drenched with turkey gravy) and green beans and candied sweet potatoes plus a basket of warm bread. That little dish of red stuff peered back at me…”Try me” it said, almost winking.  This seemed like too public a place to partake of the cranberry sacrament. Well…nobody was looking…I made a run for it and discreetly took a sample….and behold(!), I saw that it was good!  I tried some more…I was not deceived. It was quite good…very good.  It was clearly some sort of marriage of cranberry and orange marmalade.  Maybe I’ve been deprived all these years but I never considered those two flavors working well together. We enjoyed our dinner. My daughter also enjoyed the cranberries which I considered a good sign….it wasn’t just me. Perhaps the spell has been broken — we have reached cranberry redemption!  Shout Hallelujah!!!



     *     *     *




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Latest Comments

Katherine Gregor The Secret of Winter
08 December 2016
Thank you for commenting, Sue.
Ken Hartke One Thousand Desert Winters
08 December 2016
I live these wild and deserted places.....The Shadowed Wall What lives were once protected behind ...
Rosy Cole One Thousand Desert Winters
08 December 2016
Love this, Ken! It's limpid as running water, full of imagery and wonder about the universe. Makes m...
Orna Raz An Open Letter To A Foreign Correspondent Who lives In Israel
07 December 2016
Thank you dear Sue, I feel like you about the power of determined women.
Sue Glasco The Secret of Winter
07 December 2016
Thank you for the cat's advice to guard our flame to keep us warm through dark and cold times.

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