It’s December 24th, and I read yesterday that at our latitude, today is supposed to be 13 seconds longer than yesterday.
Due to the way the holidays fall this year, we have a very long weekend. Christmas doesn’t hold any religious significance for us, but the days off will give us a nice chance to unwind and recharge, make some good food, exchange some presents (no reason why our agnostic, pantheistic or possibly pagan selves cannot do that) and read some books. More about that later.
We went to a couple of solstice parties this past weekend. The one on Saturday was nice with some champagne, wine and good food and a poker game for those who wanted to play where one could lose no more than $5. I don’t play cards (hold overs I’m sure from having a grandmother who was a very strict Methodist), but D. did play. I think he may have been one of the last three people left in the game. The party on Sunday in the middle of the day, however was the one I really enjoyed. It was held at a place that has been very special to me for over 20 years and it was attended by some people who I see a handful of times a year, an English professor whom I’ve not seen in more than 20 years, though I do remember fondly (and with a fair amount of clarity) the class that I was in which she taught the first semester I was in college. This party was a potluck and we brought kale and shitake mushrooms seasoned with tamari, a little sesame oil, pepper and some of the excellent chicken stock from the chicken that we recently roasted. We also brought the only dessert that showed up which was a hit. Using a recipe for sweet potato pecan pie, I made the pie with butternut squash instead because we have a glut of it that we need to use soon or roast and freeze for later use. It turned out all right, but there were some problems with baking time, possibly due to the difference in water content of sweet potatoes versus squash. Overall, we had some really good food, a lot of which was regional and season (salad with carrots, red cabbage and broccoli, and roasted root vegetables). We also had a nice wintery walk through the snow across the prairie, through the woods and across the boardwalk at the edge of the lake in the late afternoon.
Now, on to the books. I had recently stumbled upon a review of the book, “200 Nights and One Day” by Margaret Rozga. She was my English professor that first semester in college and this book of poetry was published in 2009. The subject in the poems is the era of the protests for equal housing rights in the late 1960’s, led by Father James Groppi, whom Rozga later married. Although I usually get my books from the library, to read this book, I had to buy it. I might have wanted to buy it anyway. It is not yet in any library in the South Central Library System of which Madison is a part. It also doesn’t appear to be in any library on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. I read the entire book a couple of nights ago when I couldn’t sleep. It’s really not the sort of book which quiets the mind or induces sleep. One of the poems mentions how history remembers the dream and forgets the nightmare. While I have finished the book once, I am quite certain I am not done reading it. I didn’t know much about the NAACP Youth Council and the protests, though I do recall knowing that their were curfews in the Milwaukee area including in Wauwatosa where my family lived in the summer of 1967. I was not yet born at the time. I was only vaguely aware of Groppi as a civil rights leader. I was surprised at how many names I recognized as I was reading the book. Mayor Maier was still the mayor of Milwaukee in my living memory. Breier was still the police chief. I certainly recall the name of Judge Christ Seraphim in the news in Milwaukee in the 1980’s. Beyond that, Milwaukee Alder Vel Phillips at the time, the only woman and the only African-American on the city council was later elected Secretary of State in Wisconsin and I recall meeting her in 1982 when my class visited the state capital. This must have been the last fall that she held that office before losing her re-election campaign to Doug LaFollette who holds that office to this very day. Now that I’ve read a bit more about Vel Phillips’ biography and her history dating back to the 1950’s is quite something. It appears she is quite active in public life even now and she is in her 80’s. It certainly appears to me that we could stand to have more people like Vel Phillips in this world.
This isn’t the sort of history they teach in school, at least not at most grade schools and high schools. Not in any college history course in which I was enrolled in the late 1980’s either, but I feel like I should fill in some of the blanks regarding this period of history in Milwaukee, so right now, I have from the library, “The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee” by Patrick D. Jones. The other books I have from the library right now are Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, “The Lacuna” and Julie Powell’s new memoir, “Cleaving”. I always look forward to reading Barbara Kingsolver’s writing. I am less certain about Julie Powell. I read and enjoyed her first memoir, “Julie and Julia”, and I’ve not yet seen the film. I have read a couple of recent interviews and other pieces on Julie Powell lately and the more I learn about her, the less appealing I find her. The library aide who checked out my books last night said that “Cleaving” is the sort of book that one might not like, but where one keeps turning the pages anyway.
Since it is snowy and icy out, I may be spending a lot of quality time with these books over the weekend, but right now, I need to walk to the store if we are going to eat for the next few days since walking seems safer than driving. Sure we have lots of storage vegetables and we’ll be eating those, but we could use some greens and some meat.
Enjoy the holidays, spend some good time with your families. Happy New Year in case I don’t manage to post again before then.