• Tag Archives Midwest
  • Who Are We?

    Spring                                                      Planting Moon

    Hard to believe we move out of spring and into Beltane, the start of the Celtic summer or growing season, this week.  We’ve only just got our cold weather crops in the ground.  Fortunately for the cold weather crops temps are gonna drop again and rains will come in the plenties.

    Finished reading a wonderful book by Nelson Algren, Chicago on the Make.  This 1951 work renders a picture of Chicago from its underbelly, sympathetically.  The writing reaches out from the page, grabs you by the lapel (if you have a lapel) and says, pay attention to this!  It’s important.  But also beautiful in the way a tractor coated with mud after a day in the field is beautiful, beautiful in the way a darkened coal miners face is to wife and children that night.  Quick to read, long to forget.

    Started another by Jack Cash, Mind of the South.  This 1941 book, of which I was unaware, gets credit for nailing much about the south in an honest, intelligent analysis.  The version I’m reading is a 50 year anniversary edition with a wonderful introduction, but no change to the main body of the text.  Cash committed suicide six months after its publication.

    Considering Chicago, as I have been for the trip I’d intended to take there in May, and now picking up Mind of the South, has left me wondering, again, about how to express the unique culture of the American Midwest, the Heartland of the world’s hegemon (for a few more months at least).  This is my culture, the one that has shaped me, in ways often invisible to my own eye.  What is our lederhosen and gingerbread cottage molding?  What is our calligraphy, poetry and painting style?  What is our wiener schnitzel?  Our chicory coffee and beignets?  How do we drive, compared to the biggest always wins philosophy of Mexico City?  What do we want for our children?  Ourselves?  What dreams propel us?  What fears haunt us?  Who are we?

  • West Colfax and the Wild West

    Winter                                       Waxing Moon of the Cold Month

    Gabe and Ruth asked for us to come over tonight.  We did.  We went with Jon and Jen and Ruth and Gabe to an art teacher’s art show.  It was in the ‘hood, just off west Colfax, the Latino part of that very long street, not too far from Montview, where Jon met Jen and where he still teaches.

    Jon had a cell phone photograph in the show, one taken at table setting level during a Halloween wedding.  The composition was clever and the cell phone grain gave the photograph a painterly feel.  It was easily the best piece in the show, though I should say the competition was not strong save for a couple of potters and a cartoonist.

    Along the way we passed a dulceria where they sell pinatas.  It had pinatas hung from the ceiling and lots of brightly colored party favors.  Snow White and Cinderella, in large cardboard movie style images, graced the front of the store.  Down a bit further was a dress maker, dark on this Friday night with big girl dresses for Quinceañera. Ruth wanted Kate to make her a strapless one, but in the truth telling way she has, Kate said, “Not until you get boobies.  You couldn’t hold the dress up.”  “Well,” Ruth went on, “Maybe it could have sleeves.”

    After the opening, Kate and I took off on our own to give the family a chance to decompress from a full week of grandparents.  Tomorrow I’ll see Ruth at her gymnastics, then around 2 pm we’ll board the shuttle for National Grand Western Stock Show.  This will be my second time and I look forward to it.

    It’s an event similar to the state fair, but limited only to farm and ranch related vendors and activities.  Rodeos, judging of champion bulls, pigs, sheep, the Wild West Show we’ll see tomorrow at 4 and barrel races make up the bulk of the events outside of the ranch related wheeling and dealing.

    A lot of that goes on in hotel restaurants and bars far from the Stock show grounds.  Men in cowboy hats, blue jeans and vests gather around shots of Jack Daniels and beer chasers, talk cattle and land.  It all gives January Denver a distinctly Western tone.

    It also helps me define myself as a Midwesterner.  We’re agricultural, yes, but we’re row crops and feedlots, 4-H and county fairs, small acreages and farmers.  The West has ranches and cattle herds, oil and open land, brands and rodeos.  Yes, you could point to many similarities, but the differences are what strike me, making me realize I know very little about the West, in our past or in our present.

  • What is the Midwest?

    Summer                                           Waning Strawberry Moon

    A focus on America hits me about the time the summer heats up.  Something about the lazy, hazy, crazy days tickle my American gene. ( apologies to Carreen, but it’s the adjective of my youth )  I’ll read a novel or history of the American Revolution, look more deeply into some aspect of the civil war, that sort of thing.  Not this year.

    May be my immersion in ancient Rome, Kate’s surgery, the bees, the garden, I don’t know, but this year I haven’t got that Fourth of July feeling.   And here we are almost on the date.  My firecracker lilies have more patriotic oomph than I do this year.

    Over the last year I’ve watched the HBO series, True Blood.  Yes, I have a thing for horror novels and horror movies that don’t involve slashing, screaming college girls and chainsaws, which, admittedly, pares the crop down pretty far.  OK, there may be the occasional screamer in true blood, but they are adults for the most part.

    Anyhow, True Blood is Southern Gothic.  It trips the divisional biases about the south, the bayous and the culture of Louisiana which Ann Rice exploited in her novels like Interview With The Vampire.

    Which leads me to my point.  Whew.  Took long enough.  The culture of the south, or the sub-cultures we describe as Southern are well known:  confederate flag, shotgun, pick-up truck with rust or plantation life with mint juleps and chattel slavery or a misty Cavalier life with belles and beaus courting among live oak trees and traveling to Savannah or New Orleans or Mobile.  You know.  The stereotypes, and that’s all they are, are clearly formed and ready for plucking in a fictional setting.

    If, however, you wanted to draw on similarly clearly formed stereotypes, let’s say archetypes in both cases to get off that word, of the North, or the Midwest, my home for all my life, what would they be?  I’m not sure.  Farms with cows.  Basketball.  Factories and factory workers.  None of it has the same, pardon the expression, bite.  This is the kind of thing my American jones often picks up on and runs with it.  Maybe I’m not all that far off from the fourth of July after all.

  • Kama’aina of the Heartland

    15  bar rises 30.17  2mph WNW windchill9

        Waning Crescent of the Snow Moon

    “People who love soft methods and hate iniquity forget this, that reform consists in taking a bone from a dog. Philosophy will not do it.” – John Jay Chapman

    I would add to Chapman, it often means a taking a bone from a vicious dog and a strong one.  That’s why it’s fun.  And dangerous.

    Just made an attempt to sign up for the Sierra Club’s political committee for this election year.  I want to put my hand back in, but with Taoism as my mentor this time, rather than liberation theology or neo-marxism.  We’ll see what that means if I get selected.

    Slept late today.  Still getting used to the center of the continent. 

    One realization I had while in Hawai’i is that I am kama’aina of the heartland, the center of a large landmass, the actual geographic opposite of island life.  As a child of this land, I relish significant even sudden changes in weather.  The cycle of planting, growth, maturity, harvest and a fallow time is as essential to my Self as it is to the rhythm of life here.  I am, in every sense of the word, an American.  A Midwesterner.   A Northerner.  Each of those geographic identifiers impacts key aspects of my person, my approach to life and my deep values.