juliespeaks

The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.

AT THE CLEARING

 

AT THE CLEARING                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

            In the process of packing to move I discovered a folder containing about twenty short pieces I wrote several years ago for a creative writing class I took at the U. of Chicago.  Among them was a description of The Clearing, an adult retreat center for those who want to spend some time working in a creative area be it writing, woodworking or spinning yarn.  Driving home from a week I spent there, I had written something about that idyllic place and there it was, in the forgotten folder. See my post, “A Memorable Time.”  Here it is.  I wish you such an experience.

AT THE CLEARING

It was a week of t-shirt days and sweat suit nights

Watching the Artist scarlet the maples.

It was logs and stone and pine needles and glistening red berries;

Morning sunshine filtered through pine trees

And white birch trees that marched forth

From a black forest ‘neath the moon’s spotlight.

 

The bay, a smooth blanket of sapphire,

A lone sailboat drifted by.

Rolling green hills, blackberry bushes,

White clouds webbing the sky;

Bright new condos along the shore

Like sea gulls facing the wind;

Weathered log cabins hiding deep in the woods.

 

Red barns, blue silos, white lighthouses,

purple asters, pink mums, goldenrod,

Hummingbirds and screeching crows;

A rocky cliff, a sawdust path, a white-tailed doe.

 

A time to share the joy of a woodcarver

Caressing his first sandpiper into being;

To hear a poet bring her soul to light.

A time for such stillness only birds bickered in the trees

And the sea lapped gently at the shore.

It was new faces, new voices and oatmeal with raisins;

A small room and thick wooly blankets and loons on the water.

 

It was mood-setting Chopin on the way,

And Charlie Parker on the way home,

And me in the middle

Stretching, sinking, swallowing.

It was all of that and more.

Don’t ask me what I did there.

I was.

 

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Julie Rose

editit601@gmail.com

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FREEDOM

FREEDOM

I have a lousy memory.  The book I’m now reading is likely to be forgotten next week. I don’t  remember the addresses of all the places I’ve lived nor the names of childhood classmates.  I am attentive and take copious notes when attending a lecture but the words float through my mind like wisps of smoke. It embarrasses me to ask my son – who remembers EVERYTHING – when specific events occurred in our family.

There are however a few things I remember quite well. In this poem  it seems I’ve been bitten by a nostalgia bug and remembering those days reminds me of this song as well. Sing along with me.

Those were the days my friend,

We thought they’d never end,

We’d sing and dance forever and a day.

We’d live the life we choose,

We’d fight and never lose,

For we were young and sure to have our way.”

                                    (Artist: Mary Hopkins)

FREEDOM

My sister and I spent our first sixteen years

At a small cottage near aWisconsinlake.

What looms large in my memory

Is the freedom we had

Freedom to come and go, from dawn ‘til dusk

With no fear of danger by day or by night.

 

We ate warm tomatoes from the garden for breakfast.

Stole apples and blueberries from neighbors.

Hung clothes to dry in the sun.

Dug fat night crawlers out of the mud.

Climbed into a sacrosanct rowboat

Where no noise was permitted,

Bamboo fishing poles in hand.

 

Early each day we left for the beach.

Spent days with minnows swirling round our feet,

Ducklings trailed us as we swam out to a raft,

Turtles sunned on the banks of the lake,

Profuse with sweet-smelling water lilies.

 

We used baby oil mixed with iodine for tans.

Shared one apple among three and nobody died.

Taught swimming to toddlers,

Built thousands of sand castles,

Carved our initials into picnic tables.

 

A weeping willow tree hung over the water.

We swung from its branches like monkeys.

Dove from a bridge over a channel

Higher than an eight year old should attempt.

 

We rode rusty Schwinns through the woods

Caught butterflies and fireflies.

Plucked handfuls of wild flowers,

Sought out wild blackberry bushes,

Tracked down rabbit holes,

Learned where the owls hung out.

 

No computers or cell phones for us.

Our evening entertainment was each other.

Kids gathered and played Red Rover,

Kick-The-Can, Marbles and Pick-Up-Sticks.

Some nights we hiked up a cobbled road

Shared Black Cows at the Dairy Queen.

 

To escape hordes of  hungry mosquitoes

We gathered on someone’s porch,

Played Monopoly ‘til the banker went broke.

Listened for the tinkling bells

That announced the Good Humor truck.

 

The loft of a barn  was our sleep-over bedroom

Bales of freshly cut hay our pillows.

There we prayed to be witness to a bull

Breaking loose and mounting a cow.

 

No one questioned our whereabouts, our activities.

Yet neither of us ever got hurt or got lost.

Found our way home for dinner,

Corn on the cob dripping in butter,

Gabriel Heater and the News in the background.

 

When the stars appeared

A warm summer’s night sleep beckoned

On a screened porch in a swing

Rocked gently by evening breezes,

The aroma of peonies in the air.

 

I pined for the last day of school

To again spend three months

With nobody asking:

Where were you?  What did you do?

Where did you go?  Who were you with?

I leave you to draw your own conclusions about what that kind of freedom meant to two little girls from the city and how it affected the women they became.

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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NOSTALGIC

Memorial Day seems an appropriate time to write of something memorable. I have a lousy memory but for some reason I cannot fathom I remember the lyrics to hundreds of songs.  I’m also an avid fan of the Chicago Bulls and it upsets me greatly if I miss the first few minutes of any game being telecast. – not because I’ve missed the tip- off but because I’ve missed hearing our National Anthem sung.  I have no idea why I am drawn to songs about our country but waves of nostalgia wash over me when I hear them.

 

NOSTALGIC

 

Have never been political,

Knocked on doors, made campaign phone calls,

Worn political buttons, stuck slogans on my bumper.

Haven’t seen a fraction of this country.

Know little about Adams or Jefferson

Our Civil or Revolutionary wars.

 

I’d never host a Fourth of July party,

Don’t own a flag,

Think it’s crazy to close schools on Columbus Day,

And Valentine’s Day is only for chocoholics.

I willingly skip holiday parades.

Thanksgiving is no more than a turkey.

But I wouldn’t miss rooting for theU.S.

When the Olympics are in play.

 

I’ve only to hear “Amber Waves of Grain

Home of the Brave,SweetLandofLiberty”

And my eyes become misty.

“This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land,

The Stars and Stripes Forever,

I left My Heart inSan Francisco,

Chicago,Oklahoma,New York,New York”

Gladdens my heart.

 

I can still recite a poem learned in childhood:

“Breathes there the man with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

‘This is my own, my native land’

Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned

As home his footsteps he hath turned,

From wandering in a foreign strand!

Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,

Despite those titles, power and pelf,

The wretch, concentered all in self,

Living, shall forfeit fair renown,

And, doubly dying, shall go down

To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,

Unwept, unhonored and unsung.”  (Sir Walter Scott)

 

I haven’t the foggiest notion what ‘pelf’ means but I am grateful not to be that wrench, and wouldn’t recitation of that poem on Memorial Day be in keeping with the purpose of the day?

 

I often wonder where immigrants find the courage

To wave goodbye to the land of their fathers,

Cradle of their youth.

Bid farewell to family and friends,

Venture forth in search of freedom.

 

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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FREEDOM

FREEDOM

 

I have a lousy memory.  The book I’m now reading is likely to be forgotten next week. I don’t  remember the addresses of all the places I’ve lived nor the names of childhood classmates.  I am attentive and take copious notes when attending a lecture but the words float through my mind like wisps of smoke. It embarrasses me to ask my son – who remembers EVERYTHING – when specific events occurred in our family.

 

There are however a few things I remember quite well. In this poem  it seems I’ve been bitten by a nostalgia bug and remembering those days reminds me of this as well Sing along with me.

 

Those were the days my friend,

We thought they’d never end,

We’d sing and dance forever and a day.

We’d live the life we choose,

We’d fight and never lose,

For we were young and sure to have our way.”

                                    (Artist: Mary Hopkins)

 

FREEDOM

 

My sister and I spent our first sixteen years

At a small cottage near aWisconsinlake.

What looms large in my memory

Is the freedom we had had then

Freedom no responsible parent today would accord a child

Freedom to come and go, from dawn ‘til dusk

With no fear of danger by day or by night.

 

We ate warm tomatoes from the garden for breakfast.

Stole apples and blueberries from neighbors.

Hung clothes to dry in the sun.

Dug fat night crawlers out of the mud.

Climbed into a sacrosanct rowboat

Where no noise was permitted,

Bamboo fishing poles in hand.

 

We left early each day for the beach.

Spent days with minnows swirling round our feet,

Ducklings trailed us as we swam out to a raft,

Turtles sunned on the banks of the lake

Profuse with sweet-smelling water lilies.

 

We applied baby oil mixed with iodine for tans.

Shared one apple among three and nobody died.

Taught swimming to toddlers,

Built thousands of sand castles,

Carved our initials into picnic tables.

 

A weeping willow tree hung over the water.

We swung from its branches like monkeys.

Dove from a bridge over a channel

Higher than an eight year old should attempt.

A young friend drove his own speedboat.

Dragged us behind him on water skis.

Did that on one ski by the time I was nine.

 

We rode rusty Schwinns through the woods

Caught butterflies and fireflies.

Plucked handfuls of wild flowers,

Sought out wild blackberry bushes,

Tracked down rabbit holes,

Learned where the owls hung out.

 

No computers or cell phones for us.

Our evening entertainment was each other.

Kids gathered and played Red Rover,

Kick-The-Can, Marbles and Pick-Up-Sticks.

Some nights we hiked up a cobbled road

Shared Black Cows at the Dairy Queen.

 

To escape hordes of  hungry mosquitoes

We gathered on someone’s porch,

Played Monopoly ‘til the banker went broke.

Listened for the tinkling bell

That announced the Good Humor man.

 

One friend lived on a nearby farm

The barn’s loft was our sleep-over party bedroom

Bales of freshly cut hay our pillows.

There we prayed to be witness to a bull

Breaking loose and mounting a cow.

 

No one questioned our whereabouts, our activities.

Yet neither of us ever got hurt or get lost.

Found our way home for dinner,

Corn on the cob dripping in butter,

Gabriel Heater and the News in the background.

 

When the stars appeared

A warm summer’s night sleep beckoned

On a screened porch in a swing

Rocked gently by evening breezes,

The aroma of peonies in the air.

 

I pined for the last day of school

For I knew that on the morrow

I’d be taken to the cottage

To again spend three months

With nobody asking:

 

Where were you?  What did you do?

Where did you go?  Who were you with?

Why are you late for dinner?

What are you doing tomorrow?

 

I leave you to draw your own conclusions

About what that kind of freedom meant

To two little girls from the city

And how it affected the women they became.

 

Simcha

 

(Simcha is the Hebrew word for Joy – my middle name is Joy – Not Julie Joy which sounds like a Hooker – Juleanne Joy, named, I was told, for a Queen of Sweden. Why anyone would name a child of Norwegian ancestry after a Swede escapes me.)

 

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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SOUL FOOD – AN ODE TO AUNT KITTY

SOUL FOOD – AN ODE TO AUNT KITTY

 

She had a wooden chopping bowl the size of a washtub.

I hadn’t the faintest idea what gefilte fish was.

She said ”I’ll teach you”.

I learned by chopping  – endlessly.

I’ve  now chopped enough fish to stock Lake Erie.

 

At Passover we chopped nuts and apples by the buckets.

In my kitchen I toyed with  the recipe

Mixed a little nutmeg into the cinnamon,

Added some raisins or apricots;

Occasionally won a round of applause.

Tried Persian Charoset – adored by some guests

Too spicy for others.

 

We left off chopping and began to knead

Kitty insisted 100 kneads were essential

I divided the challah dough in thirds to be braided

She cut each piece in half and s said

“We braid six, Prettier.”

She never let me forget I failed the proofing yeast test

 

I  learned brisket doesn’t have to taste like shoe leather

Meatballs demand sweet jam and chili sauce,

Those cubes of beef the butcher calls beef stew

Are delectable braised in red wine and onions

After they’ve marinated for two or three days.

 

I learned to make chicken soup without a whole hen,

Used only a bag of bones, a few wings

And never forgot the thyme

I learned guests expect matzo balls in their soup.

After some practice mine were light as a cotton ball.

 

“Forget the matzo balls next shabbas,” he said.

“Make some knishes instead.”

Knishes?  Quick – call Aunt Kitty.

He once asked for borsch.

Bought beets, dug out a grater:

My knuckles bled for three hours.

Alas, he wanted cabbage borsch.

 

Mandelbrot, Sponge and Honey Cake?

Boring I concluded – leave those to the bakery.

Bourbon  Pound Cake and Cinnamon Tea Rolls

French Apple Tart and Lemon Bars are better.

Forget chopped liver.

The odor of broiled liver nauseated me.

That’s what delis are for.

 

Aunt Kitty’s wooden chopping bowl

Is now a cherished part of my kitchen.

It’s an octogenarian,

A stranger to planned obsolescence.

It holds fond memories of a motherly woman

Who knew her way through the maze of Jewish soul food.

 

Horrors – I’ve lost the chopper!

 

Simcha

 

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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PLACES

PLACES

 

There are probably dozens of reasons why we become attached to a place – a locale – a particular niche in the landscape of our lives.  While I do remember all the places where I’ve lived none of them are memorable to the extent of touching my heart.

 

It is now some 50 years since I was there but I still have a warm spot in my heart for New Orleans. On the shores of LakePonchetrainI danced to music coming over the car radio from The Blue Room and he put a magnolia in my hair. I can hear soft jazz enveloping the air in the French Quarter – taste beignets and chicory flavored coffee – and recall marching behind a funeral cortege to the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In.

 

There is a small lake in southern Wisconsin where a piece of my heart still floats on its ripples.  It was there I learned to swim –  there, I fell off the running board of a Good Humor truck and contacted blood poisoning from landing on a gravel road – there, where I pigged out on black-cows. There, where I was given the freedom to come and go as I liked  – no questions asked – no cell phone to report in. There, where I picked fresh tomatoes from Grandma’s garden, doused them with salt and ate them for breakfast. There, where the smell of goat cheese coming from the icebox – yes, ice box – made me head for the back door.

 

I fondly recall an elegant restaurant at the top of a hotel in Lake Tahoe at close to midnight one evening when it was closed for dinner but accepted a plea for dessert. The ski slopes had shut down and we gazed out the window at snow covered mountains under a starry sky. I was feeling celebratory as I had just won $100 in the casino. Our waiter insisted he be allowed to choose our dessert.  He brought us bowls of fresh strawberries smothered in Kalua flavored crème frache, topped with chocolate shavings, profiteroles and,  with a goodly amount of flair, opened a bottle of very old, very fine, port.  No dessert I’ve ever had since has matched that.

 

Ellison Bay,Wisconsin– home of The Clearing – a retreat for writers and other artists, housed on a cliff overlooking Lake Michigan. Several log cabins, connected by sawdust paths, are laid out beneath a thicket of pine trees. Here I was Thoreau in the wild! Here, I got good critical feedback from a creative writing instructor. Here, I was, for six lovely days, in the company of creative people. I will never forget the joy on the faces of an older couple as they left a woodcarving workshop, carrying a woodpecker and a thrush. I imagined them mounting their handiwork on the front lawn of a curlicued cottage complete with white picket fence, window boxes of pink petunias, and a hammock under a weeping willow tree. Surely the Garden of Eden looked like this place.

 

There are some cities that hold parking spaces in my memory. San Francisco for its vibrant cultural diversity, Golden Gate Park  and Fisherman’s Wharf. Toronto for its annual Canadian National Exposition – the best entertainment bargain I can imagine – and its efficient public transportation system.  Madison, Wisconsin for its academic atmosphere and a fine restaurant in the basement of an old winery that featured strolling violinists. Oshkosh,Wisconsin for the camaraderie of the sailors at the marina on Lake Winnebago and free access to a pool and tennis courts at the adjoining hotel.

Best of all is the unforgettable city of Jerusalem. There are many reasons why Jerusalem stands out – too many to mention here.  Let this one suffice. I love its stones – rosy pink in the morning and shimmering gold at sunset. They are like a woman who changes from shorts and tee-shirt to a cocktail dress at night. For me, the stones of Jerusalem are not inanimate objects at all. They speak of four thousand years of history. They have heard the pleadings of Isaiah and Job’s cries of anguish. They bear the scars of Roman war machines and Crusader swords. They stand tall and proud and boldly announce there is, in fact, some measure of hope in the world.

 

What is your ‘I’ll never forget’ place?

 

Julie Rose

Julieroe601@gmail.com

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