"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Caldron and the Six Gallon Soup

In our house, turkey soup is the best part of the Thanksgiving dinner. We overbuy the turkey, planning a savory Sunday night soup supper. The scent of simmering broth, the laughter of playing board games and stories are part of the celebration.   

On Sunday night, the refrigerator was still stuffed with Thanksgiving leftovers, including the picked-over, neglected carcass of a 22-24 pound turkey. That’s when my son pushed his mother-in-law and me into his kitchen with a request for us to make soup. 

He had a six-gallon pot of water simmering. Looking back, we should have just dumped out half the water. But we would have missed all the fun. Instead, Lisa and I looked at each other, both unwilling to make the first complaint about the newly-married couple we share.  

We pulled open the refrigerator and started opening vegetable bins. “Complexity,” I said. “That’s the key. Is there any sausage?” No pork products, it turned out, but she found an unopened packet of store-bought springs of savory, oregano—and a handful of other herbs that smelled like they belonged—so we chopped them into bits and tossed them into the witches’ cauldron. We found a jar of Trader Joe’s gluey chicken broth concentrate and added it. Emptied the vegetable bin of every carrot, celery and onion, including a potato that had somehow escaped the mashed potato pot. Chopped, they sank to the bottom of the tank like guppies. We gingerly shook seasonings until our wrists were sore, then we peeled off the lids and measured into our palms, filled with the élan of TV chefs.

We were giggling when we paused to taste it.  Watery, weak and vapid. Our reputations were on the line so we formed a plan to divide and conquer. We ladled enough to fill a 6-quart pot and concentrated on making soup in the smaller pot. The remaining gallons we would call broth.  

We emptied a package of chicken flavored rice into the pot. Found a jar of turkey salt and seasonings intended to season an outdoor turkey pot. Lisa added a handful while I gaped. She found a jar of garlic and I tossed it in, along with every seasoning we could find on the shelf. Tasted it again. Closer, but not soup yet.

In went the leftover turkey gravy, the Italian soup someone had carried home from a deli. By now the carcass we fished out of the broth had cooled and we started pulling turkey off the bones--scraps that didn't seem as plentiful when added to the pot. We opened closets, hunted through shelves and added to the pot with conspiratorial gleams. There was safety in our abandon; if it didn’t work out, we could blame the other. I recall a partial box of pasta, a pepper grinder whirring away, the last of the baked stuffing disappearing into the pot. A can of garbanzo beans for protein. Anything to thicken and flavor. And suddenly it was soup.

We summoned the newlyweds and they pronounced it “Perfect.” These are two kids who critique restaurant food on a regular basis. We glowed. 

We filled three quart jars with soup and filled a big crock pot for my daughter-in-law to take to work. I tossed the rest into the caldron. It was ready, too. But the fun was over. The dishes were piling up and everyone had disappeared. I filled five (5) gallon-size ziplock baggies, double-bagged for safety, and someone carried them to the freezer. The rest moistened dog food for four dogs that night.

My son was thrilled, and the look on his face was priceless. Best, the Mother-in-Laws forged a friendship that only comes with battle experience. SCORE!       

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Salinan Tribe of Maria Inés

The Salinan Tribe of California’s Central Coast was determined to have gone extinct by the Census of 1930. But descendants of the tribe survived and, like some other California tribes, are still awaiting Federal recognition.

The Salinan Tribe is recognized by the State of California. It is one of the tribes included in the writing at the bottom of a California State Park Commemorative Seal

Sociologists estimate that 3,000 Salinans inhabited land in the Salinas River Valley in 1770 when Junipero Serra and the first Catholic padres, Spanish military and immigrant families arrived by edict of the Bourbon king Charles III. Today the Salinan Tribal Council  has 371 certified baseroll members with 400 more waiting to be added after Federal recognition, with 80% still living in their traditional territory.

How can a tribe disappear? Genocide, killed off by the Catholic Church? Yes, the Catholic Church must claim partial responsibility. But the truth is more complicated. My novel, Maria Inés attempts to shed light in a way that will remain in the heart after the last page.   

The past stretches in surprising ways. It fills the present and it forms the future, changing the way that we interpret events of the past. In my research of early California, In the process of creating a new state, California legislators had to consider the lawlessness of disgruntled 49’ers who, having abandoned the hope of hitting a rich strike in the gold country, had spread out across California to steal, burn, loot and rape the native Indian population as well as the descendants of citizens who had lived in California for generations. In their deliberations, the lawmakers created laws that made it illegal to kill these citizens. But they did not include Indians in the early laws that prohibited killing of Spanish or Mexican residents of California. A law prohibiting the killing of Indians was not passed until 1948.

The political climate was poisonous to the native peoples. A belief in the God-given right of whites to claim the riches of California led to a blind eye on the part of Yanqui lawmakers and eventually an informal policy of eradication of the native people. Those who survived did so by passing as Mexicans, Chileans, even Hawaiians.

On a personal note

My husband’s uncle, John Roza, is the son of an Azorean dairy farmer who managed ranches in the ’20s and ’30s for Louis Sinsheimer, the mayor of San Luis Obispo. John was in his late 80s when he told me a story that underscores the attitudes that lingered far into the 20th century.

Many years earlier he had met an old man who claimed that when he was 12 and his brother was 10, they used to take their rifle out in the sagebrush in San Miguel and shoot running Indians for target practice. He didn’t remember how many they killed, maybe 5 or 6. He wasn’t proud of it. John was born in 1918; he thought the man had been born in the mid 1880s. Which meant that before the turn of the century, people were still shooting Indians for target practice.

A woman I met at Mission San Miguel remembers her mother and a neighbor sitting at the kitchen table, quietly discussing an Indian couple who had lived naked in the tules of the Salinas River, in 1901. 

My interest in the Salinans began when I moved into a small community, in 1959. One of my new classmates looked to be Indian. I was curious, so I asked. He claimed that he was Mexican, but his tone was nervous and I knew he was hiding something. It wasn’t until I began to understand the nuances, as an adult, that I understood that he had been told to hide his heritage. Coincidentally, it was during this time that I first heard the work “digger.” Members called themselves Mission Indians, but for years outsiders called them “Diggers.”

Salinans married Mexicans and whites, and assumed the identity of their spouse. They hid their Indian heritage to protect their families, at first from death, later from bias and taunting. It was small wonder they didn’t fill in the little box on the 1930 Census card marked, “Indian.”  

Now they are reclaiming their heritage. There are three groups of Salinan: San Antonio, San Miguel and Playano. The first two are associated with the Missions that were built on their tribal lands. The Playanos lived on the west side of the Santa Lucia Range, along the narrow shelf of the Pacific Ocean. Twice each year, on June 21 and December 21, they celebrate the Solstices at Le Sa Mo, Morro Rock, where they believe their ancestors swam to shore as fish, grew legs and walked onto the land.

Maria Inés, my historical western novel (Five Star Publishing, a division of Gale/Cengage Learning) follows a Salinan girl born at Mission San Miguel through the political intrigues and greed of the Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui conquests of California. She struggles for survival while she reclaims her family, her faith and her ancestral identity. Fans call it "a moving must-read for fans of the Old West and of Native American history." Read the first chapter at Maria Ines . 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

50 Rules to Live By

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. When choosing which path to take, pray for direction.
4. Be a daychanger. Make a difference everyday.
5. Learn to live on less than you earn.
6. You are not just your job.
7. Your job will not take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and 
     parents will stay in touch.
8. Pay off your credit cards every month.
9. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
10. Grieve for others. Send a sympathy card or make a call.
11. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
12. Chocolate and pets aren’t everyone’s thing. And that’s OK.
13. Make up with the living so you’ll have no regrets.
14. Other people’s success doesn’t reflect your ability.
15. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
16. Cleansing breaths calm the mind.
17. Hoarding is fear behavior. Share your excess.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. Sixty is a great time to start your next great adventure.
20. Determination can accomplish anything. Be tenacious.
21. Splurge on yourself today. Burn the candles, use the nice pillow cases,
     wear the fancy lingerie.
22. Over prepare, then relax and take life as it comes.
23. Be zany. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. Plan for the future, live in the moment, learn from the past.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ''In five years, 
                   will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything. And tell them so.
29. Spend your life developing your talents.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. You will have “arrived” when you find your authentic self.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. Pay attention to the grace moments.
35. Growing old beats the alternative.
36. Your children get only one childhood.
37. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
38. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
39. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's,
     we'd we’d grab ours back.
40. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
41. Recognize excellence every time you experience it.
42. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
43. Nobody cares if you’re fast. Be thorough.
44.Cast your pebbles so they make a ripple in the pond.
45. Write something every day.
46.Television and internet aren’t real life.
47. Help someone on their journey.
48. Keep your living space clean and organized.
49. Allow time for meditation and prayer.
50. Everyone does the best they can.