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A Sweet Melody

July 11, 2014

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was actually THERE, listening, and really -- Not Bad At All. Could barely contain myself, and, frankly, I didn't. I did a few little dances and sang along a bit louder than one ought in a crowd, and when Iris DeMent walked by me I so wanted to call her name and rush over and hug her and tell her how "Sweet Is the Melody" got me through so many long days and nights a while back and how I sing it so often when it's just me and the housework: "Oh, sweet is the melody, so hard to come by. / It's so hard to make every note bend just right. / You lay down the hours and leave not one trace, / But a tune for the dancing is there in its place."

My gosh. I wanted to simply be near her, and ask her a few questions, but I didn't. Instead, I felt the breeze of her walking by on my arm, and simply swayed along as she and Mr. Keillor sang, together, "Our Town", and it was enough.

When I got home from all that wonderful weekend celebration time, the good ol' routine kicked into place and there I was folding laundry and mixing together cookies while the kids sat at the counter eating chips and salsa and asking their usual questions. "Do people who kill themselves go to heaven?" and "If you had to move to Alaska or Vermont, which would you choose?" and "Where do crop circles come from?" "If we heard the language used by cavemen, would we have an instinctual understanding of it?" Questions like that. Every day.

Though I don't always have an answer, I love that they ask. And, frankly, I love that I don't always have an answer. Imagine that, if we had answers to everything. If there were no mysteries, no layers, no -- as the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians -- "through a glass, darkly." We wouldn't seek or strive if we knew everything. There wouldn't be any "what ifs" or "imagine this" or wonderful arguments about what you believe versus what I believe because there would be an answer. We would stop growing, because we'd have all the answers.

I choose mystery. It breaks up the routine of Life As We Know It. All those questions, all those doubts and wonderments. I want them. It feels good to believe in things about which I'm not entirely sure, and opens the "It's Possible" door.

When the kids have asked about Santa Claus, I tell them what I know. I don't know that I've seen him, but he sure has made an impression, and there's a general consensus among a LOT of people about what he looks like. And I like the idea of him, and he promotes good in the world, and who am I to say he doesn't exist? Of course I believe in Santa Claus, the spirit of giving in the world, the notion of one man with a bunch of reindeer traveling the world in a night to bring joy and gifts to children everywhere. It's not in me to not believe in Santa Claus. I believe in the West Wind, too, and the powers of anonymous donations and homemade pie and a good strong cup of coffee to work wonders on the waning of the human spirit.

And Lake Wobegon? Can't find it on the map, no, but I grew up there, and some of you did, too. I suggest we visit again, soon, together. No need for a road trip; a radio will do. We'll have a picnic. You bring the cheese and bread; I'll bring the pie. And some homemade whipped cream. We'll talk about how the wind hasn't stopped blowing much of this summer, and how unusually plentiful the berries have been, and we'll sing something, together. A sweet melody.

Here are two recipes, both delightful, and both without kitchen stress. One requires berries; the other does not. Either will work fine for a picnic or brunch, depending on the day, the weather, how you're feelin', and whether it's a berry day or not. Some days simply aren't.

Rhubarb Crisp

4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
1½ cups sugar
3 T cornstarch
Dash salt
½ tsp cinnamon
2 beaten eggs
¼ cup half and half or milk
1 cup quick oats
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter

Place rhubarb into a 9 inch baking pan. Sift together sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over rhubarb. Combine eggs and half and half; pour over rhubarb and stir it all to blend it well. Combine oats, brown sugar and butter. Mix and sprinkle over. Bake 350 for 30 min or until center is set. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Makes 8 servings.

Jessica's Raspberry Rhubarb Crisp

1 cup white sugar
2 T cornstarch
⅛ tsp salt
2½ cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2½ cups raspberries
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup quick cooking oats
½ cup butter, chilled
¾ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350, and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Place rhubarb and raspberries into a bowl making sure to completely coat the fruit with dry ingredients. Pour mixture into baking pan. Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and oats. Cut in butter until mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs. Spread on top of fruit mixture. Bake in oven for 45 minutes, or until rhubarb is tender.


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