Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Inauguration of our 44th President

I've been trying to figure out just what to write about the inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th President. Candidly, I'm (still) caught up in the emotion and momentum of that historic occasion. In the spirit of "better late than never," I want to share the following thoughts.

The news media and, perhaps more importantly, experts in language have parsed Obama's speech closely. On a personal note, I was struck how he gave historical context to the day, his own place at the podium, and the formidable tasks that lay ahead of this country. A CNN commentator called Obama "Educator in Chief." I hope we see more context-giving with his initiatives and echoes from the powerful voice of history. Obama's words are sending me scurrying to shelves, seeking to learn more about and experience directly the words of Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. As I track what I read in 2009, I'm expecting America's leaders, and some from other shores as well, will figure prominently.

For me, language was a significant part of this Inauguration. Obama's speech seemed infused with poetry. The prayers soared to poetic heights. Rev. Joseph Lowery brought smiles and nods with his rhythm-infused benediction. I was particularly struck by Rev. Gene Robinson, perhaps the most inclusive of the celebrants, who spoke of "God of my understanding," enabled all to find a voice and asked for us to be blessed with challenges. There is beauty and significance in having a poet share her words at the Inauguration. Elizabeth Alexander's Praise Song for the Day was simply inspired.

I was also struck how music informed the celebration. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, simply rocked it. She looked regal, sounded great, and gave a brilliant performance. The quartet, with their variation on "Simple Gifts," reflected the many faces of America--a cellist of Chinese heritage, a Jewish violinist, an African Amerian clarinet player, and a female pianist--and the harmony to which we aspire.

On a more quotidian issue, I was intrigued by the menu for the Inaugural luncheon--and the attention it received. My next roast duck may just need the sour cherry chutney that the Washington power set enjoyed. Hey, the recipes are there for the making--why not?

In retrospect, I can only say that it was a glorious day for America. Heaven knows we've needed such a day for quite some time. I have confidence that this great nation will now get about the hard work ahead and make the kind of progress that has sustained us through the last two centuries.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Projects in 2009 . . . A First Step

I've always been curious (consumed?) with the idea of "projects." There's something romantic, purposeful, and simply appealing about working on something beyond yourself. The web--and blogs--abound with creative types who seem to spawn projects. I've decided it's time to join the game.

For my first project, I'm going to track what I'm reading in 2009. I'm a pretty heavy reader and would like to see just what and how much I manage to digest in a year. I'll also try to offer a brief review wherever possible to perhaps motivate you to pick up a new book, or not, as the case may be. My only struggle here is whether to include books I'm reading aloud to the kids. If I go that path--and it really is reading, after all--I'll make sure to note the content appropriately.

I'm fishing around for a photographic project. The classic approaches seem to be a photo-a-day or week. There's also the 12 x 12 approach (12 photos in 12 months). We're in the process of creating photo books of the kids (first seven years, first five years) right now and it's delightful. If these turn out well, we'll make books of our travels, ancestors, and anything else that fits. The bottom line is that I need to pick up the camera more to keep that flow of images and ideas fresh.

There's also the crafty stuff. I love reading about what folks are creating and find myself wanting to do the same. As usual, I find myself overthinking things: is this a commitment? should I do this with/without the kids? what if I'm a really bad crafter? Ah . . . so I'll try some stuff and we'll see what develops.

Last but not least is food. Cooking (and eating) is one of my passions. I want to say more here about what I'm making, where I'm finding it, and if anyone is eating and enjoying it.

So here goes . . . finally a leap into the New Year and some great new activities.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Sweet New Year

Happy 2009! Change has been a long time coming and it has been a pleasure to welcome this new year.

I'm a big believer in making the first taste of the new year a sweet one. Following a Japanese tradition, that means sake spiced with otoso. According to Wikipedia, otoso has its origins in China:

"The tososan mixture is said to have originated as a prescription of the famous Chinese physician Hua Tuo during the Three Kingdoms period. . . . It is typically made from Japanese pepper, asiasari radix, apiaceae, cinnamon, dried ginger, atractylodes Japonica, Chinese bellflower and rhubarb."

I find otoso in Japanese markets and only at the New Year. The bag of spices comes beautifully wrapped in washi. You need merely to drop the bag into a quantity of sake and let it steep as you would a tea-bag. The result is a golden liquid, fragrant and somewhat sweet. A sip (or a few) are all that's needed to make the beginning of a new year a bit of ritual.