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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

cutting boards, character, and throw-away culture

cutting board

photo by the author

This cutting board cost me $15. On sale, sure, but all it needed was some TLC and it rivals my other cutting board/ chopping block, which cost more than 5x that much. Because this cutting board, when I bought it, was wrapped in torn and clouded cellophane. Not to mention whatever had been used to seal it smelled rancid.

This was NOT an alluring cutting board. :)

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Because I know cutting boards, I bought it. It’s well-made, and again, all it needed was some love. I scrubbed the daylights out of it w/ a scrubber, then put salt & lemon on it to lift the odour. It needed a LOT of scrubbing, and a lot of lemon & salt paste, as well. A few days later, it was ready for Boos board magic (an amazing mix of mineral oil and beeswax).

I put the cream on it by hand, rubbing it in all over. Then left it overnight, for the wood to soak it up. It took another application of hand-applied magic the next day. But now? I have this beautiful, functional cutting board. For $15.00 and some board cream I use anyway. All it took was seeing the potential. And really? It looks every bit as good as my expensive chopping block that I’ve had for 10 years.

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chopping block

photo by the author

Can you guess where this is going…?

Many years ago, when my older son was in middle school, there were several boys he hung out with, all of whom I loved. But one was especially memorable: his father was divorced, w/ custody of the three children. The boy always seemed at a loss ~ G was a sweet kid, but often acted out, as boys (my own included) do. Girls too, as one of those who did.

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The principal at the middle school the boys attended wrote my son — and his friends — off. They were throw-aways, too much effort. Note to others: do NOT mess w/ my kids. I was able to get my son out from under the influence of the principal (I never really worried about the boys — they were usually at our house, anyway); my husband spoke to the principal, and he backed off of my son. But he still had it in for the other boys, several of whom weren’t as obviously cared for as my son. Torn clothes (and not fashionably so!), bleached hair (although my son’s was, at one time, blue), the sullen stance of many middle school boys.

decline in boys in school

from Crux Research

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Plus my son’s friends weren’t blond, blue-eyed white boys, obviously  middle class. They were mixed-race, sometimes less polite, and with parents less actively engaged. At least a couple were blue-collar, as if that should matter. None were ‘name brand’ cutting boards, in other words. Some of their parents worked two jobs, unable to make the many school conferences and events we attended religiously. And G’s father was, let’s face it, not only ‘foreign,’ but a TV ad for a mail-order bride. Really. Neither went over well in Middle America, I assure you.

Still, how do you get to be principal at a middle school and not love kids? And why is America so willing to throw away children as if they had expire dates? Boys seem especially vulnerable, although perhaps — as the mother of sons — I’m sensitive. Wouldn’t you expect a middle school principal to know as much about boys as I do about cutting boards? And to put in the time and energy it took to make sure they were functional and cared for?

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Years later, I still grieve for that boy, now a young man like my son. Unlike my son — who is happily married to a wonderful woman, w/ a darling son of his own, and a wonderful job at a top research university, G was shot in gang-related violence. He’s paralysed, and never did finish school, dropping out not long after the principal judged him discardable.

If he’d been a cutting board, I could have saved him.

 

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making your own spring

spring tea2

by the author

Today, a long line of my old ladies would tell you, is a dreary day. Nevermind that we need the inch of slow cold rain. And yes there are a few bent-necked daffodils in the front garden. But the birds at the feeder stations are mostly starlings, and the entire day is just, well, kind of dark…

Sometimes you just have to make your own spring.

A friend says dress in colours; it helps. So that’s how I started: bright spring-leaf green and vivid blue. A real stretch for a basic black girl.

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And then my FAVOURITE tea, in a tea set given me by dear friends many years ago. Plus a pink & white amaryllis cut from the flowering plants in the breakfast room, and stuck in a bud vase. How happy-making is that? You can feel the endorphins kicking in!

So this is my advice on a chilly, drippy day: make something warm, in a pretty cup. Add flowers, if possible. Then go sit and look out on the grey that means spring is allllmoooost here. It helps. Honest.

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seeing what might be there

birds on wire

photo by Paolo Pinto

I saw this on FB the other day, and was mesmerised. Not simply this photo — I’ve taken several similar ones myself. But by what happened next.

Jarbas Agnelli saw music, notes on a staff. I do too, and have written poems wondering what that music might sound like. But Agnelli didn’t just wonder — or write a poem about wondering. He wrote the song.

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What would happen if every day I moved beyond wondering to doing? If the curiousity I see in my grandson’s eyes were mine? How might my life shift, and what would my soundtrack sound like? Blackbirds on a wire, against a cloudy sky…?

Here is Agnelli’s Birds On The Wires. A thank-you to R. B. Smart, who told the story behind the music.

YouTube Preview Image

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time runs away from us

grief and fearAn old and dear friend lost her husband yesterday. Walking together to his work, she must have watched as he fell to the ground with a heart attack, his second in two years. He was dead by the time they arrived at the hospital.

He was younger than my husband, only a few years older than I am. And somehow, those two things — my friend’s loss of her beloved, and his relative youth — make this very personal.

All death is personal, of course. To someone. Donne was absolutely right: Any man’s death diminishes me. Except that it doesn’t feel the same. The death of most distant strangers is just that — distant. Completely off our radar. By 2:30 today, there had been about 94,000 deaths across the world. And I felt none of them like this one yesterday.

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Life is always a gamble. We have no idea what’s just around the corner. Another friend told her FB friends yesterday that her routine colonscopy (she’s not even 50) turned up pre-cancerous polyps. Had she put off the colonoscopy a few more years, the polyps would have killed her. I could tell a similar story.hourglass1

I like to think I live my life fully — trying hard to pay attention to both the moments and the spaces in between each one. But my family is prone to all kinds of bad health (Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, heart disease, kidney disease: we should really not reproduce!), and I know my time may well be shorter than I’d like.

But then, isn’t it always?

So I’m telling each of you: take a moment to go outside and look up. Breathe deeply, then go hug the nearest loved one. Send a card (did that today), email a note. Phone a friend. But don’t take this day — or any other — for granted. Time runs aways from us.

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