Here’s some more Gary Davis for you.
Outdoors the sun-glitter hurt her eyes. She breathed a deep breath of the tingling cold and squinted her eyes to look around her. The sky was hugely blue and all the land was blowing white. The straight, strong wind did not lift the snow, but drove it scudding across the prairie.
The cattle were standing in sunshine and shadow by the haystacks—red and brown and spotted cattle and one thin black one. They stood perfectly still, every head bowed down to the ground. The hairy red
necks and brown necks all stretched down from bony-gaunt shoulders to monstrous, swollen white heads.
“Pa!” Laura screamed. Pa motioned to her to stay where she was. He went on trudging, through the low- flying snow, toward those creatures.
They did not seem like real cattle. They stood so terribly still. In the whole herd there was not the least movement. Only their breathing sucked their hairy sides in between the rib bones and pushed them out again. Their hip bones and their shoulder bones stood up sharply. Their legs were braced out, stiff and still. And where their heads should be, swollen white lumps seemed fast to the ground under the blowing snow.
On Laura’s head the hair prickled up and a horror went down her backbone. Tears from the sun and the wind swelled out her staring eyes and ran cold on her cheeks. Pa went on slowly against the wind. He walked up to the herd. Not one of the cattle moved.
For a moment Pa stood looking. Then he stooped and quickly did something. Laura heard a bellow and a red steer’s back humped and jumped. The red steer ran staggering and bawling. It had an ordinary head with eyes and nose and open mouth bawling out steam on the wind.
Another one bellowed and ran a short, staggering run. Then another. Pa was doing the same thing to them all, one by one. Their bawling rose up to the cold sky. At last they all drifted away together. They went silently now in the knee-deep spray of blowing snow. Pa waved to Laura to go back to the shanty, while he inspected the haystacks.
“Whatever kept you so long, Laura?” Ma asked.
“Did the cattle get into the haystacks?”
“No, Ma,” she answered. “Their heads were . . . I guess their heads were frozen to the ground.”
“That can’t be!” Ma exclaimed.
“It must be one of Laura’s queer notions,” Mary said, busily knitting in her chair by the stove. “How could cattle’s heads freeze to the ground, Laura? It’s really worrying, the way you talk sometimes.”
“Well, ask Pa then!” Laura said shortly. She was not able to tell Ma and Mary what she felt. She felt that somehow, in the wild night and storm, the still-ness that was underneath all sounds on the prairie had seized the cattle.
Laura’s future husband Almanzo also sees the world around them as almost a living thing,
- “But he had a feeling colder than the wind. He felt that he was the only life on the cold earth under the cold sky; he and his horse alone in an enormous coldness.
“Hi-yup, Prince!” he said, but the wind carried away the sound in the ceaseless rush of its blowing. Then he was afraid of being afraid. He said to himself, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He thought, “I won’t turn back now. I’ll turn back from the top of that next slope,” and he tightened the reins ever so little to hold the rhythm of Prince’s galloping.
From the top of that slope he saw a low edge of cloud on the northwestern sky line. Then suddenly the whole great prairie seemed to be a trap that knew it had caught him.”
And Laura’s father is the same way, he hears the strange voices, too, and he sees the sign. And he works hard to keep the darkness away from his family. Pa rose with a deep breath. “Well, here it is again.”
Then suddenly he shook his clenched fist at the northwest. “Howl! blast you! howl!” he shouted. “We’re all here safe! You can’t get at us! You’ve tried all winter but we’ll beat you yet! We’ll be right here when spring comes!” And there you have it…it’s been a long winter, but we’ll be right here when spring comes.
Here’s Footprints in the Snow by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys
Here’s This Pencil Won’t Write No More by Bo Carter
As poet R. Lee Sharpe tells us, we’re all give the tools to work with, we’re all given the lego starter set, and what we do with it is up to us…
R. Lee Sharpe
“A Bag of Tools”
Isn’t it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me,
Are builders for eternity?
Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, a book of rules;
And each must make- ere life is flown-
A stumbling block, or a stepping stone.
Here’s The Heptones with Book of Rules, based on R. Lee Sharpe’s poem.
To sweep the front room meant, principally to sweep the heavy red and green and purple Oriental-style carpet that had once been the room’s glory, but was now so faded that it was all one swimming pool of color, and so frayed in places that it tangled with the broom. John hated sweeping this carpet, for dust rose, clogging his nose and sticking to his sweaty skin, and he felt that should he sweep it forever, the clouds of dust would not diminish, the rug would not be clean. It became in his imagination his impossible, lifelong task, his hard trial, like that of a man he had read about somewhere whose curse it was to push a boulder up a steep hill, only to have the giant who guarded the hill roll hte boulder down again–and so on, forever, throughout eternity; he was still out there, that hapless man, somewhere at the other end of the earth, pushing his boulder up the hill. He had John’s entire sympathy, for the longest and hardest part of his Saturday mornings was his voyage with the broom across this endless rug; and, coming to the French doors that ended the living room and stopped the rug, he felt like an indescribably weary traveler who sees his home at last. Yet, for each dustpan he so laboriously filled at the doorsill demons added to the rug twenty more; he saw in the expanse behind him the dust that he had raised settling again into the carpet; and he gritted his teeth, already on edge because of the dust that filled his mouth, and nearly wept to think that so much labor brought so little reward.
Well, as I scrubbed the bathroom I thought about how I’ve written about dust demons, and I’ve written about cleaning and Sisyphus! And I thought how foolish it is to feel good about having written about the same things in the same way as James Baldwin, how foolish it is to compare myself to James Baldwin at all, except that he makes everything feel so human and at once so specific and so universal that everybody reading him must find revelatory similarities and sympathies. I started reading Baldwin, at this time, because I’m writing a novel (insert laugh-track hilarity here.) And I always believe that if you read well, you’ll write well. I was hoping that some of Baldwin’s fierceness and honesty and fearlessness and poetry would rub off on me. And I happen to be writing about a person who cleans (yes it is going to be as interesting as that sounds!) It’s funny how sometimes something well-done can be inspiring, but if it’s so well-done it might make you think, “Why bother? Give it up, kid!” But I suppose, as in all things, there’s a balance. And for now I’m just grateful that Baldwin made it to the end of the rug and left the room, and found time to write this haunting and beautiful novel, to give this hapless woman something to think about on a dreary January day.I love food you can eat with your fingers and dip in different sauces. I always pretend I make a meal like this for the boys, but it’s really for me. David asked me to make romesco sauce, which I was glad to do. Since romesco sauce is Spanish, I decided to invent tapas to dip in it. I made these croquettes with semolina, artichoke hearts and mozzarella. They’re like little semolina dumplings…soft and dense inside, and crispy and puffy outside. As ever, I used canned artichoke hearts that are packed in brine, but you could use fresh or frozen if you like. I also made oven-roasted fries to dip in the sauce, and I sauteed some kale and spinach with golden raisins, pecans and garlic, which might have been my favorite part of the meal!
It’s nice to have their company in our warm home on dark cold nights, but I’m sure that they, too, are dreaming of a long late balmy evening, when they can slip from our windows into the sweet summer air.I was quite proud of this meal! I bought a bunch of golden beets, which seem at once wintery and summery. I wanted to do something that used the greens and the beets, and this is what I came up with. I made a dense sort of quiche with the greens, using goat cheese and a little corn meal for texture. I seasoned it with rosemary, thyme and garlic. And I baked them in a muffin pan with large, shallow cups. I lined these with crumbs made from toasted pecans, corn meal and whole wheat bread. I didn’t know if they would come out properly, and I feared I’d have a burnt sticky mess, but they came out perfectly…crispy and buttery outside, and tender and tasty within. I made a sort of sauce for them with the beets sliced very thin, braised in white wine and balsamic and then stewed with tomatoes until the beets were tender crisp and the tomatoes were completely broken down and saucy. And that’s that! We ate them with small potatoes roasted with capers and lemon and a simple arugula salad.
Then Clio ran into the trees. We heard her crying and then nothing. Malcolm and David went searching through the thorns and brambles and frozen marsh, and Isaac and I stayed on the path. For ten minutes, fifteen minutes, no sound, no sign of Clio. I tried not to think about finding her hurt or worse, I tried not to think about not finding her, I tried not to think at all. When we finally found her she was on the other side of the woods, the other side of the towpath, the other side of the canal, up a hill on route 29. A grey dog on a grey shoulder-less road on a grey day. She ran down the hill crying, and swam across the icy canal to reach us. And we had her back again, the stupid beautiful dog. The boys now understand what it means to be so worried about someone that you’re angry with them. They talked about it for the rest of the day, describing how they felt every step of the way. So we were all safe and warm with a story to tell: the losing and finding of Clio the dog. And today’s Sunday interactive playlist is on the subject of losing and finding things. You might lose your baby or your reason or your dog or your keys or your heart or your mind. You might find your soul or your voice or a pot of gold. Add your songs to the list, or leave a note in the comments and I’ll try to remember to add it through the week.
Of course we had black-eyed peas and ring-shaped bread on New Year’s day! We made the peas spicy and smoky, with ginger, jalapeños, garlic, black cardamom, cumin, cilantro and smoked paprika. I used black-eyed peas from a can, because I’m lazy like that, but you could cook them up from scratch and add them just as easily. We ate theme with basmati rice and stewed collards and potatoes. Yet another way to clear the cobwebs!!
Beans and veg and spices. What could be better than that? I thought of this as a sort of warm salad, but it became more of a sauce as it went along. Because it has ginger and lime, it’s very bright and flavorful. The beans and chickpeas are grounding, the avocado is fresh, and the spinach and tomatoes are warm and saucy.