Temperatures dropped nearly 30 degrees over the weekend. Rain drizzled intermittently, clouds hung low and thick, threatening to ‘open up’ (as they like to say here in the South) all weekend. Such dramatic shifts to the weather greatly supported habits of the reading kind. I happily obliged.
After grabbing stacks of backed-up favorite magazine issues, my Gather at the Well book club book and the e-reader (for good measure); I poured myself a mug of joe, snatched the phone (in case Superman called—who wants to get up once settled in for the long day’s reading?) and cozied up to my favorite corner of my favorite couch in my favorite room of my home. In fact, I was only following suit—my children were cozily tucked away upstairs becoming one with the video games (no, I didn’t care one bit), my animals were snuggled on their favorite rugs in their favorite patches of sunlight scattered throughout the main level. My cozy reading time made everything complete.
I began with my August/September issue of Garden & Gun. Southern Women, Southern Soul, Southern Style, Southern Authors. I love G&G’s way of celebrating the South—though sometimes, not being from the south, I struggle to relate. I didn’t grow up with fried everything. I never said “y’all” until we moved to Texas in early 2000 and can’t really ‘drawl’ anything as my mid-western long ‘o’s’ keep getting in the way. It’s a weird combination.
I do get the style of the South. I relish in it, actually. Huge front porches, multiple outdoor sitting areas, overstuffed couches, English antiques mixed with painted credenzas mixed with strategically distressed metal urns filled with fresh, lush greens to match the fresh lush gardens outside.
But as I read an essay celebrating Southern woman, I felt a weird mixture of admiration and consternation. “Southern women are different,” begins author, Allison Glock, “that is a fact.” I agree. There is something distinct about the Southern belle, though I have a harder time placing my finger on exactly what the ‘different’ might be. Glock claims everything from hospitality, to extreme efforts at personal hygiene (egs: girls in trailer parks keep their nails painted, wet hair is low-rent, Reese Witherspoon never wears sweatpants and Oprah never takes naps), to declaring themselves– above all else– Southern first.
Maybe it’s the last part which is most note-worthy. Southern women are different because they say so. Most of what Glock points to as being distinctively ‘Southern lady’—baking great casseroles for funerals, writing thank-you notes the old fashioned way (you know…by hand), letting men be men, loving God and babies and not trying to be their kids’ best friends (though I confess to knowing some ‘best-friend moms’ from my hometown)—are all traits of the Midwestern woman. In fact, I’ll add to the list: Midwestern ladies check on their neighbors, take lunch to their farmers AND the hired help—even if it means driving field to field crisscrossing the county in order to get them the much needed lunch. Midwestern ladies carry their heads high at the end of every day for that hard day’s work. They are conscious of their appearance (taking off their apron when someone’s at the door) but practical in their grooming. No need to put on airs or over-tend to things which don’t need over-tendin’.
It’s the practicality of the midwestern woman which has led to her lack of outward distinctiveness. Southern women are distinct because they claim it—often in Jesus’ name. Midwestern women are no less a distinctive and proud bunch. We just see no need to get all in a fuss about it. Who has time for dribbling over our uniquenesses? Such a waste of burning perfectly good daytime oil—let alone the midnight kind.
That’s all I have to say about that.
After I read, pondered and still rejoiced over Southern women, I read about Southern author, Wendell Berry. I love reading about writers, especially those with more literary leanings. Berry, an Eastern Kentucky native, has written over 40 books of both poetry and prose. I’m fascinated by his diverse writing skills and jealous of his writing cabin built on stilts by the river. At over 70 years old, he still writes everything in longhand—I wonder who transfers it to a Word document for his publishers? Learning of Berry led me to Amazon, searching for new books. Thank goodness Erik Reece (author of the essay) offered his “Wendell Berry Reader” list—five books I must not miss. Let it never be said I missed out on a fine read! My Amazon search resulted in an e-reader search since I can download books to my e-reader and have Superman never know I’ve fallen off the wagon and am buying more books. I wonder if that’s more of a Southern woman trait or midwestern woman trait. I think it’s just plain woman.
After devouring almost every article in my G&G (whew! Up-to-date), I turned to Angela’s Ashes—my book club’s pick for the month. This story I have to read in medium sized spurts. The reality of Frank McCourt’s life is shocking and in a strange way, strikes close to home. He memoir is of growing up during the Great Depression, first in America then moving to Ireland at the age of five. By that time, he had lost one sibling to starvation and would lose two more within the first year of living in his parents’ homeland. He writes through his child eyes, telling of events in the present tense. All I can do is wonder as he writes, “Is this how my children lived in Ethiopia? Not the Catholic traditions or the Irish habits, but the hunger? The constant, gnawing hunger which leads one to certain thoughts, certain actions, certain ways. How many people did they watch slowly die around them in their brief years encased by hunger?
Like I said, medium-sized spurts.
I continued on this scattered hopping from magazine to book to e-reader the rest of the day and into the next. My final article read was about how all the entomologists (insect scientists) of the western world believe we should embrace the eating of bugs as our next real source of sustainability. It was a rather lengthy article in my August 15th New Yorker (of course) exploring the taste, sensibility and efficacy of eating grasshoppers and worms to save both planet and people. Insects are high in zinc and iron, have the same amount of protein, ounce for ounce, as beef (never mind you have to eat a thousand crickets to equal a healthy steak) and insect husbandry is humane: bugs like filthy living conditions. Eighty percent of the world eats insects, why shouldn’t we? Besides, explained award winning chef, Jose Andres, WW3 will be over control of food and water. Those who eat insects will have the upper hand.
The insect article was a perfect way to end my reading weekend: southern women, southern authors, introspective memoirs and an eat-your-insects-and-like-it article. My practical Midwestern woman roots had me still rotating laundry, baking machine-bread and serving a crock-pot supper; while the ever-growing Southern belle within allowed me to curl up on my cozy Southern couch, sip Southern tea and relish in a God-given Southern weather pattern: a perfect union.
So… what have you been reading?