The summer solstice officially arrived in Baltimore, Maryland at 6:34 on Monday, June 20. Hopefully you took time to honor the cycles of nature and to celebrate the longest day of the year. This year's event was especially precious as it coincided with the "strawberry moon", the name given to June's full moon. The combination of the solstice with a full moon is a rare occurrence, The last time this rare phenomena occurred was forty-nine years ago, in 1967. Hopefully you enjoyed its assent as it won't occur again until 2062,
Strawberries may have been the fruit of the day, but I had peaches on my mind! This, dear friends, is
Baltimore Peach Cake
A dear new friend and neighbor, Howard, called late afternoon and said he had made Baltimore Peach Cake, warm out of the oven, and wondered if I would like some! Um, yes!!! So I hurried over and he met me at the door with his calico cat Petunia, weaving between us, hoping for attention. I knelt down to pet her and he mentioned having heard that all calico cats are female.
(Note:I've heard all my life and decided it was finally time to look it up.
"The mutation that gives male cats a ginger-colored coat and females ginger, tortoiseshell, or calico coats produced a particularly telling map. The orange mutant gene is found only on the X, or female, chromosome. As with humans, female cats have paired sex chromosomes, XX, and male cats have XY sex chromosomes"
We walked through the hallway, adjacent to a stair case filled with family photos, into the kitchen where I had my first glimpse of 'the cake'! He had given me half and when I protested, with very little conviction or enthusiasm but felt it was the right thing to do, he insisted. I let him have his way! We talked about some of our recent Facebook posts while he finished wrapping the cake. Babe Ruth, his gorgeous and gregarious McCaw, sat on the open door of his cage from the next room, watching and occasionally making a comment or whistling. Howard, Babe Ruth and I are all dedicated Orioles fans and when Babe wants to see a game, he'll request, "Watch TV?"
As I said thank you and good bye to Howard and his furry and feathered family, I felt overwhelmingly grateful to live in Lake Walker. The homes, with their front porches, are anachronisms not only in their physical structure, but in the resulting lifestyle. Neighbors are outside - on their porches, working in their yards and gardens, and walking their dogs of every shape and size. They are receptive, even openly inviting, to conversation and community.
But back to the cake! Oh my heavens!! Its arrival only hours before the summer solstice made it seem all the more heaven scent. Yes, I know. I wrote heaven sent first, but the fragrance! It is indeed heaven scent! The peaches and cake dominated, But there is just a hint of cinnamon - not the usual over powering that often diminishes other flavors - but a subtle suggestion. It is almost as if he waved a cinnamon stick over the sublime creation and let the perfect amount of flavor descend. Perfection!
My first taste of Baltimore Peach Cake will be added to my 'collecting firsts' category. Actually, I've been thinking about a "Collecting Firsts in Baltimore" category, because there have been so many since I arrived. I do adore this town - it's passion for history, art, music, gardens and parks, fabulous food and restaurants, sports, culture, eccentric charm, Hons, Balamerese, and most of all, oh how I love the people!
Druid Hill kicked off their celebration of this year's historic Summer Solstice with a musical tribute by an extraordinary ensemble of musicians - more below!
Festivities will continue on
Monday, June 20
6:30 – 11 p.m., Solstice Celebration with the Friends of Druid Hill Park
6:30- 8:30, explore Druid Hill Park on the Friends of Druid Hill Park/Baltimore Rec and Parks Solstice Hike, a 6 mile hike exploring the “back hills” of the park. Hike begins at the H. P. Rawlings Conservatory and ends at the Solstice Celebration at the Druid Statue.
8:00 – 11:00 Party at the Reservoir. Join the Friends of Druid Hill Park at the Green Man Sculpture (along the Druid Hill Reservoir) for a roaring fire, tales, hayrides, tarot card readings, and music all focused on the solstice. Oh – and some seasonal refreshments too! On this magical night, take a mystical journey (hayride) to the Moorish Tower and cast golden flowers and herbs into the air from the hill. Watch them land and envision your buried talents – and on the shortest night of the year, may this journey empower you to realize your hidden potential! $5.00 per person. All proceeds benefit the free programs and concerts at the Druid Hill Farmers’ Market.
With sincerest gratitude to musicians at Summer Soltice in the Park with Claire Daly- Baritone Saxophonist, Robert Shahid-drums, Amy Shook-Bassist, Carl Filipiak-Guitarist, Benjie Porecki-B3 Organist, GregThompkins-Tenor saxophonist
Recently I made a new friend, Howard, who gave me a clearer picture of the war and the experience of my dad, and other veteran's service to our country. He shared this on "D" day.
"Today is "D". On 6 June 1944 the war turned in favor of the Allies. If today never happened, most people believe that we would all be speaking German now instead of English.
This country was preparing for an invasion. There were air raid practices every night; factories were camouflaged to look like villages; even German submarines came into the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay; food was rationed and hard to get. But on "D" day, thanks to the sacrifices of our men serving in the Armed Forces, all of this started to change. It took a few years but it did change.
Those of us living in this area should be particularly proud because the invasion at Normandy was spearheaded, primarily, by the 29th Division, which was comprised mostly of men from Pa., Md., Va. and D.C. and trained in Maryland before being sent to Scotland before the invasion.
So let's don't forget the importance of 6 June 1944 and how it effects our lives, and maybe we could take a little time and say a prayer for those who didn't survive that day."
After reading this, I called my brother to ask if my dad had ever mentioned where he was on June 6, 1944, or if there has been any mention of the Korean War. Mother said he was very different when he returned from service. Of course. But that is all we knew and neither of them are here to ask.
Most of my memories of my dad are associated his support for my unique perception of the world, my frustration with what i later learned was 'Dumbing Us Down' education, and his creative approach to teaching.. There are stories through out this site that are more uplifting, and as the day goes on, I'll try to shift to lighter memories. But right now, over a half a century later, my heart is heavy, and I miss him.
My last post, "Before you notice, you will have settled", raised questions on one level and resonated on another. Cabrera mentions Tuesday evenings at the library, and ironically, Mycala and I have been going to the library on Tuesdays. Last evening Zippy joined us and then we enjoyed gazpacho with guacamole at an outdoor cafe. New dish, favorite restaurant. If we are truly grateful for our experiences, that seems to the antithesis of settling, even if they are routine! On the other hand, I'm the first to admit at times I settle. And yes, as rich and full as my life is, it could be much more vibrant if I would move from automatic pilot to a greater awareness and appreciation of the present moment.
Habits create a valuable structure for accomplishing more in less time. My mornings are spent journaling, meditating, and creating a to do list highlighting the three most important things to accomplish based on my values. Creativity is a value I actively weave into projects, problem solving and time with family and friends. The last habitual morning task is walking Zippy. If I took time to decide daily if I really wanted to do those things, it would take much more time and effort than moving quickly through the steps on automatic pilot!
Yet Isabella Cabrera raises an excellent point - could there be more? Are there areas where we are settling? Could we be happier? Undoubtedly.
When I was in junior high a girl in the class ahead of me won an essay contest with a composition called Variety is the Spice of Life. I never read the actual paper but the title, which I had heard before (in William Cowper's quote, "Variety is the spice of life, that gives it all it's flavor") captured my attention in a new way!
Years later I was reminded of the essay during a speech about making memorable moments by using a variety of senses. The speaker shared stories about surprising loved ones with creative gift giving from small tokens to grand gestures, all based on incorporating imagination and variety.
In both approaches, creativity is the key. Erin, from the award winning blog Daisies and Bruises, credits SARK for the quote "The opposite of depression is expression." That may seem simplistic, and there have been times I've been depressed in the midst of expressing, but ultimately we are all here to share our gifts. There is satisfaction and value when we are expressing our life's purpose; as close as we'll get to Dharma.
Day to day, there are questions we can ask that can lead us away from settling. These are some of mine, framed around my values, and hopefully they will inspire you to consider your own.
1. Are there ways to enhance the way I exercise? Ballet or belly dancing instead of calisthenics? Finding new places to walk Zippy?
2. Can nutrition be more interesting? Could I create a stained glass mandala fruit salad or a vegetable pin wheel? Make my own vinaigrettes and marinades to have on hand to give my daily intake of raw fruits and vegetables more vibrance and flavor without the artificial colors, syrups, sugars and preservatives in commercial brands?
3.Relationships. Am I surrounding myself with caring, positive, compassionate people who share my values? Do they have warmth and empathy for people from all cultures, education and socio-economic backgrounds Do they solve problems instead of blaming people? Are they joyful and do we laugh together often? Do they share some of my interests in art, music, travel, education, nature, sports? Are we open to learning from each other? Do the people in my life understand that thoughts become things and give their attention to assets rather than deficits? Compassion instead judgement? One of the best gauges for relationships it our energy level. If your energy is depleted, ask why.
4. Creativity - Do I weave creativity in all aspects of my daily life from how i garnish a plate, wrap a present, arrange an herbal bouquet, write a blog or sympathy card or solve a problem? Am I actively seeking ways inspiration? Making artist's dates to refill the well?
5. Learning/Education - Am I always taking at least one on line course? Do I have an ongoing list of topics that truly excite me that I'd like to take or research to teach? Do I keep pen and paper with me to capture ideas and inspiration that will slip away if not captured? Do I do further research on things that interest me? Am I capturing ideas in my illustrated journals?
6. Beauty/Order - We have long known that beauty soothes the soul, through nature, music, art, architecture, for example.Thomas Moore's book Care of the Soul is an eloquent testimonial. Clutter, lack of order, and tarnish can detract. Hoarding represents a lack of faith. Do I have enough space around things I love to highlight them? Do I see cleaning and polishing a gift?
Asking questions can lead us in the right direction. There are so many ways to add gratitude, variety and memorable moments as antidotes to settling.
by Isabel Cabrera -
Before you even notice, you will have settled. You will enjoy your Monday morning coffee and think it’s just what you needed to start your day. You will visit the library every Tuesday, hoping to find some new escape in a new book, just to get away from your life. You will eat lunch with your best friend every Wednesday, order the usual at your favorite restaurant; you’re satisfied. On Thursday you go for a walk around your neighborhood to clear your mind, and look forward to tomorrow. On Friday evening you think you’ve made it, so you reward yourself with delivery pizza and an alright movie you’ve seen more than six times. Saturday, there’s still a day separating you from Monday, so you’re fine. Sunday, you dread, dread, until you go to bed.
Then it’s the same old routine, slowly getting through life, thinking you enjoy it, when you could easily learn to enjoy something else. How do you know what you need to get through the day is just coffee? Maybe it’s just telling yourself, hey, I can do it, there’s more to look forward to. Instead of living your life through books why don’t you go on an adventure and take a risk like your favorite fictional character? How do you know that meal is really your favorite thing at a restaurant when you’ve never let yourself taste something else? Is looking forward to the end of the week your motivation to actually get through life? If it is, why? When you’re just living the same old shit week to week, nothing will change. You won’t change. You think you’re happy, but couldn’t you be happier?
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!