Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts...and PIE Postulations

Every Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Jujie and I have our traditional Pie Day. As soon as I get home from school, on come the aprons, out come the recipes, out come the rolling pins and pie tins, on come the Christmas carols (we have to have our music whilst we roll that darn pie crust by the hour), on come our loud voices, and we cook and sing, sing and cook up a storm. We have to have cherry pie...made the Darwin way...and lots of it. It's made of tart pie cherries, and we don't add near the sugar the recipe calls for. We love the fruitiness of it. We have to have pumpkin, lemon cheese pie, chocolate (dark and rich), and banana cream...and I DO mean cream! That's the minimum amount we can get by with, and they each have to be made a certain way. No store-bought, gaggy sweet pies for us. We are pie connoisseurs, I tell you!

Juje's cherry pie BEFORE baking
AFTER baking...

Oh, how I love Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite holidays of the year...and it is NOT just the food. Well, it IS the pie....but there are other considerations. I dabbled briefly with the idea of going out to eat this year, since there would be so few of us. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I am like Jujubee: BOUND by tradition!

Thanksgiving means family to me...all of my warm memories of this holiday center around family. I remember childhood Thanksgivings at my Gubler grandparents—with tables spread out in the yard on warm days, covered in white tableclothes, and troops of cousins—whole MOBS of them—making leaf piles and jumping in them, playing volleyball, climbing into Grandpa's grain silo, making huts in the hay in his barn—generally getting into all sorts of trouble while the adults were toiling away in the kitchen. I loved it. It was all about the fun...AND the pies.

There would always be a million, no...a zillion pies of every kind you can imagine. Every family would come laden with their personal favorites to share, and after the main courses were over, out would come the pies. It was always my goal to have a wee taste of each and every one, but it was never possible. There were simply too many.

I don't remember a childhood Thanksgiving without cousins. There was always a big crew, no matter which set of grandparents homes we went to—there was always music, laughter, and sharing of memories. And somewhere along the line, there was always prayer and hearkening back to why we celebrated this feast day in the first place. My mother was so diligent about keeping the history foremost in her kids' minds...well, she tried her best, anyway.

In fact, she researched the history of the first Thanksgiving and wrote a fictionalized account for the Friend magazine. If you go to and put in her name, you will find it still in the archives: Ellen Goes to America, parts one and two. She also wrote a true story of her life called The Not-So-Pitiful Thanksgiving that she used to give as a reading. You can find it in the same place.

After I was married and had a large brood of my own, we still gathered with relatives...only one generation down. It eventually became our tradition to go to my sister's home because she had a huge basement with an extra kitchen. After dinner...and our pie-fest (one year we had 40 people and 41 pies...that's how bad we are!)...out would come the musical instruments, and we'd have a regular hoe-down. times.

Yesterday, my Thanksgiving guests fit around one normal-sized table...a far-cry from my past. (There was once we hosted almost 80 guests when we lived in the old pioneer home. Oh, la—how times have changed!) But here's the deal: It was still warm and loving, because as I looked at each of the faces gathered round my table, my heart swelled with love. I didn't need the huge crowd (especially since I am one of the ones toiling in the kitchen!!!), I just needed family.

We paid homage to the history of the day by gathering in the front room and doing a reader's theater of my mom's Five Kernels of Corn article...taken from a talk by Stirling Sill. We sang Over the River and Through the Woods and “We Gather Together...” We were silly at it, but was good to remember and pay our respects for the freedoms we have in this great land.

Oh. And there WERE all those pies waiting in the kitchen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mulberry Trees are Brazen!

Vera and Paula have two mulberry trees in their front yard, right across the street from our kitchen window. Yesterday Darwin predicted the leaves would start falling today, because it was supposed to freeze last night.

I hate to have to admit it, but he was RIGHT! As soon as the sun hit those trees, they started shedding their summer wear in a hurry. The funny thing about mulberry trees is...the leaves don't drift down at a leisurely pace. They hurtle. They clatter. They clank.
The sidewalk under the trees had nothing this morning...and already at 9:00 it looks like this.I predict those brazen hussies will be stark naked by nightfall. We'll see!

I tried to video tape them shaking off their leaves...but I swear they knew I was there. Still...I tried to post my video, and it wouldn't work. Someone tell me how!

I remember my mother being delighted when her huge mulberry tree that overhung her driveway would suddenly decide it had had enough fun for one year...crash. Down the leaves would clatter. I also remember her last autumn with us, in the year 2000. She was so sick, so wanting to be called home, yet lingering on and on. Her north facing bedroom had a sliding glass door so she could lie on her bed and look out at the trees and sky. Well, darn. I think I already wrote about this, so I'll just peruse my files and post it here right now:

Missing Mother

I miss my mommy today. I miss talking to her, just letting everything pour out, without weighing and measuring words, knowing that she will sift the wheat from the chaff, and still love me no matter what. I want to kneel at her feet , lay my head on her lap, and have her stroke my hair and tell me everything is going to be okay.

One night, not quite a year after Mother had died, I was feeling overwhelmed. Life seemed hard. I was feeling the burden of too many things to juggle, not enough time, not enough money, and not enough energy. I didn’t want to have a pity party with witnesses, so I betook myself out of the house, and onto the road. (I don’t recommend driving through a mist of tears, especially at night.)

I thought I was driving aimlessly, until I found myself pulling into Mother’s driveway, under the shelter of the huge old Mulberry tree. I shut off the engine and sat in a limp stupor, staring at the dark, empty house. No one is home, I thought. No one at all. I cried even harder.

One of my favorite places to be in Mother’s last months, was in her north-facing bedroom. She loved that room. She loved being able to lie in bed, look out the sliding glass door, and still feel that she was part of the passing of the seasons. She loved her view--the peach, pear, and aspen trees, Pine Valley Mountain in the background, and the ever-changing drama of the sky. That room was her refuge.

One autumn day I rushed to check on Mother during my oh-so-short- lunch break at LaVerkin Elementary. Ermal was gently snoring in the recliner in the study, with the TV blaring. I found my mommy lying in bed, curled up like a baby, facing north so she could see autumn. She was miserable, yet still trying to find something good about being alive when she desperately wanted to go home to her maker.

I plopped right down beside her and just held her for awhile. I wanted my love to envelop her, to cover and comfort her like the warmest, softest blanket in the world. I willed my strength to flow into her, to fill her. We held each other in silence for awhile.

I looked at the clock and knew I had to leave. Before I dashed off to duty, I knelt down by her side, held her hand, and we prayed that Heavenly Father would find a vacancy in heaven just for her. (Those were her words.) It was a tender petition, but why did my heart still ache? I wanted her to go…I wanted her to stay.

Outside, the wind was plucking at the brilliant orange and yellow peach leaves, sending them skittering about on the cement pad by the glass door. I had been watching those leaves throughout that fall, wondering how long it would be until the tree was shivering and bare. It seemed the leaves were extra tenacious, hanging on just like Mother. I thought of the O. Henry story, The Last Leaf. Would she be called home when the last leaf fell? It was a fleeting thought, no more lingering than the capricious wind.
Then the wind died down. Clouds shifted. Sunlight fought its way through, and one stray shaft picked out a long, golden leaf, hanging on for dear life on the closest tree. It was too O. Henry-esque to be believed, but it was true.

That moment has etched itself into my memory for a number of reasons. It wasn’t long at all—probably a matter of a few short days—until my brother DeMar burst into my portable classroom, just straight north of my mother’s bedroom door—and said, “If you want to see Mother alive, you’d better come right now.” I punched the P.A. button on my wall, and told the office to get me a sub fast.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with my brothers and sisters, clustered around the hospital bed we had installed in the west bedroom only a couple of days before, watching my mother struggle to breathe. It was the end, and we all knew it. We talked, we prayed, and I think we even sang some of her favorite hymns. Mother seemed completely out of it, totally comatose, but I would not leave her side. I was determined to be there when she breathed her last breath. And so I was. I was holding her hand when she took one last gasp, and took that giant leap into eternity. I think it was DeMar who was on the other side of the bed.

“She’s gone,” we both said. Everyone clustered close around. Oh, blessed release. We felt the presence of other loved ones in that room, welcoming Alice Isom Gubler Stratton home. It was a joyous moment.

The next morning, the golden peach leaf was gone. Just like Mother. At last.

(This peach leaf is in my back yard...but it reminded me so much of this incident, I had to post it here.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The joys of nature vs. public pools...

This pool LOOKS pristine and inviting...but don't let looks deceive you. Read on!

I love the out-of-doors. This does not mean I am physically fit on any level. This means I love SEEING the out-of-doors. I can do that by riding in a car (not driving, please, when I gawking about), walking at my leisure, or even reclining in my back yard. I love clouds, skies, mountains, flowers, trees, birds of all feathers, safe animals, color, air, especially that which moves about me and cools my fevered brow, and water. Oh, how I love water. That rates its own paragraph or two...or six???

Water…I sing an ode to you. I love to drink you when you are NOT chlorinated. I love to wallow in you when you are NOT chlorinated. That means I do NOT like swimming pools. Swimming pools –well, PUBLIC swimming pools—are an invention of the devil. I was soured on those at an early age when my sister Marilyn took me to a VERY public pool in Las Vegas…something called Twin Lakes, I believe. I was cavorting about with abandon and glee when I saw something dark and enticing floating in the water. Two somethings, actually. I picked them up. Guess what it was? Yep. I shrieked and flung the horrors away from me. I exited that pool, showered, and never returned. Twin SOMETHING, but not LAKES! How could anyone DO that in a pool? I really do not want to explore that any further.

Bad things happen at public pools. Bad things like ME being in a swimsuit for all the world to see…bad things like slipping on cement edges and cracking heads open, bad things like wondering how many people have cut loose and peed in the water. Eeyew. Not good. Ask Shauna if good things happen at pools. Ask Elliott if he likes his fake tooth that replaced a perfectly good one that was lost because of a slippery walk-way at a PUBLIC Colorado pool. No, public pools do no one any good.

I might like pools if a) they were filled with pure, oxygenated water that constantly flowed in and out…a fresh supply, NOT recycled; and b) only I swam in them. I know I don’t go to the bathroom in a pool. I trust that about myself. So what I’m getting at here is—personal pools. Yeah. That would be a great idea. BIG, personal pools. Because I DO like flailing about in water—it feels good and it’s fun. But it’s really meant to be a solitary joy. I don’t need to play Marco Polo with anyone, or have anyone pull me under the water by my ankles when I’m least expecting it, or splash chemical-laden water in my face.

Speaking of Marco Polo…I wonder if he, the actual guy Marco Polo…would spin in his grave if he knew how far his star had fallen? I had a 6th grade student once who wrote a piece about Marco Polo because her social studies teacher had given the class a list of famous explorers to write about. She shared it with me. It was my first introduction to the fabulous pool game. That’s all she knew about the guy, and by darn if she didn’t hug her ignorance to herself and roll about in it. She didn’t insult her ignorance by actually looking the guy up! I kept a copy of her crazy essay just for a good belly laugh once in awhile. I need to dig that thing out and share it, keeping her identity secret, of course. All I can remember is that her name was Sarah Somethingburn. Ooops.

Another thing I don’t want in my personal pool is giardia, or anything like unto it. So maybe I need distilled water. Yeah. Distilled water! Genius, Lolene. This pool is getting better by the minute. But I guarantee I will NOT…EVER…add artificial color to my pool. Nothing says Mother Nature like seeing a pool or fountain that is bilious green or bright, azure blue. Why do people tamper with perfection? I like water just like God made it…well...hmmmm. That’s not TOTALLY true, is it! I want it BETTER than that, even. I don’t want to think I am swimming in water that was once flowing down the Nile, or even worse, settled in the bottom of an outhouse in LaVerkin back in the day. That whole water cycle thing is pretty dicey. I’d better stick with distilled.

I would invite you to come swimming with me, but...I’m not even sure I can deal with side-by-side personal pools. Twinner pools? Too close to “Twin Lakes”…and you know what that experience did to me. So go public, dear reader, but do not ask me to go along. I don’t even own a swimming suit!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall Has Fell...Almost

These ARE leaves from my own persimmon tree. Okay, So I take a million of them every year. But they are so stunning in their jewel-like brilliance, that how can I resist????
Don't the persimmons look like luscious apricots? Well, don't kid yourself. If you bite into one of these babies, it will pucker your smucker for sure.

We went in search of Autumn this weekend...and we found her, still alive and kicking...right here in southern Utah. We usually drive up Right-hand Canyon on Cedar Mountain to see the fall leaves, but this year, we didn't make it. So on Friday afternoon, Darwin and I took a little jaunt over to Toquerville to see the ornamental pear trees that line the road. (Delighful little town, I must say...I love Toquerville!)

Doesn't Darwin look cute surveying the town with his cane in hand? Ever since his last back surgery, he's had to rely on the cane to keep him steady. It embarrassed him at first, but now...we're both grateful for it.

After Toquer, we motored up to Virgin, where we stopped to say hi to the burros. For those in the know, Darwin's nickname through the years has been Burro...or the Big Burro.
Aren't these guys adorable? The funny thing was that as soon as my Burro alighted from our Santa Fe, he started braying. The four-legged burros were clear over at the opposite end of the field. A couple of them started answering back as soon as they heard Darwin. They started coming over IMMEDIATELY, like flies to the honey. They knew the voice of their master!

It was hard to leave the donkeys...but we wrenched ourselves away from the friendly fellas and kept driving up the Kolob road to see if there was any colorful foliage left. The funny thing about autumn in the desert is that you have to take her where you can find her! Tucked alongside the barren hills will be rivers of gold. It ain't Vermont, but it shore is purty!

A couple of miles...well, maybe five or so then, if you want to be picky and exact...up the road towards Kolob from Virgin, there's a pond we always called Delmar's Pond. Darwin and I both have fond memories of swimming in this pond. Note: I said SWIMMING, NOT least for the people I swam with!!! We were so lacking in canned entertainment that an old swimming hole like this one seemed like major excitement. Back in those days, it wasn't all moss-infested like it is now. I don't think Delmar Cornelius was thrilled with having kids swim fact, that was part of the fun, knowing that it was forbidden. We had to watch for traffic and be sneaky.

The day I took this shot, Delmar's son Keith was there taking pictures, too. Isn't this a cool photo? You should see it on my computer monitor and not all squished up on here!

We headed back towards Zion after Delmar's Pond...because the darn sun was getting low. Oh, my gosh! I was snapping away like a fiend, and I have so many awesome photos. But...I'm getting TIRED of posting them on here. Here are a few more just to whet your appetite.Looky, looky...the light is fading fast. Don't you LOVE the hills of home???

By the time we got in Springdale, the sun was kissing the cliffs goodnight (did I just say "kissing the cliffs goodnight?" Arghhh!). See? A picture IS worth a thousand words!

We liked our tour so much that we invited Kendall and Aaron along on Saturday for the same basic trip, except we went on up to Kolob instead of going to Zion. More photos on that jaunt later...maybe. Hop on over to Kendall's blog and check it out, because we were having camera wars on Saturday. I think he beat me for sheer volume of pics snapped. You win, Chien Po!!!