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As the soul, so the education…

Five years ago I posted this quote and comments as part of a blog-along about the author. Today as I read it I am half terrified at the tone of Chesterton’s statement, how he makes education sound like the most natural and effortless, even unstoppable thing. The health of the sub-cultures we nurture is more critical than ever, so that the “soul” of these little societies may continue to nurture us and to educate our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Education is simply the soul of a society
as it passes from one generation to another.

–G.K. Chesterton

People who aren’t used to thinking in a Chestertonian way may think this statement extravagant, or overly poetic and ephemeral. I forgive them, because they likely are recipients of a societal soul that lacks perspective and understanding. It takes time and tradition to build a healthy society, and the modernists who taught many of us have lost the moorings of our Christian past. Many people don’t have a concept of passing something on to their children; they just want them to have a college degree so they can get a Good Job.

I have done most of my growing up in the little society of the family my husband and I created many decades ago, and the culture and nourishment has been good. The word soul didn’t come to mind as a descriptor of what we were trying to impart to our children, while we were trying to give them the best nurturing, the best culture for healthy growth, but now that I have for so long been focused on cultivating life in my children and my self, Chesterton’s way of describing it seems perfect.

Of course, it’s frighteningly full of possibilities. How would you characterize the soul of American society? Or the society of your extended family? Are you in a church that is unified and close-knit enough to constitute a society, and is it one that you can feel good about the next generation continuing? The process that GKC hints at brings to mind images of some ghost-like being floating over the globe, and I wonder how much control I can have over that?

At any rate, this thought makes me gladder than ever that my husband and I were able to homeschool our children for many years, and pass on to them thousands of small bites of hearty soul food. We can’t even know for sure which were superfoods and which were maybe just as nourishing, but harder to digest, seeing how God redeems and uses even our failures. But we cooked up the recipe ourselves, in our home kitchen, so to speak, and after all this time, it is still tasting very good.

 

Plain bread in the dark.

This time around I made a rather plain sourdough, which turned out to be even plainer than I wanted. It was all unbleached wheat flour, no seeds or rye or anything exciting. I made a smaller batch that would produce two medium loaves, and originally hoped to get it done in two or three days instead of what’s been happening lately, where my sourdough sponge waits in the cold garage day after day till I can finally be home for a day to finish it.

But it took four days this time. Here’s how it went:

Thursday evening: Mixed the flour, water and starter in a bowl and left it covered on kitchen counter.

Friday: Moved the bowl to the cold garage.

Saturday evening: added yeast, oil, salt and flour.

Sunday: Nothing

Monday morning: Used a little flour to form two loaves, 1# 12 oz. each. Put them in loaf pans into a slightly warmed oven.

Monday morning: The power went out.

Monday all day: The loaves continued to rise slowly and I was assuming we’d have electricity in time to bake them. Nope, that was not to be the case.

Monday evening: I had got a fire going in the wood stove, and began to realize that I’d need to bake the bread using that heat somehow. At first I thought I might put the pans right on the coals, but Mrs. Bread (haha, you would imagine she’d have good advice!) made me realize that it would be too much direct heat for aluminum pans. So I heated the cast iron Dutch oven on the narrow shelf of the stove for a half hour and sort of poured the two proofed loaves into it, and put the lid back on.

I baked it about an hour, which I think was more than necessary. I wasn’t used to a loaf with all white flour, and in the light from the flashlight it looked greenish. Having no heat from above, it didn’t brown much on the top. While the bread baked I fried eggs for my dinner in a cast iron skillet on the other side of the stove.

As soon as the bread was out of the pot, I had to try a slice. Oh, it has the nicest crumb, so “custardy” as they say, and the skin is crispy! Actually, the bottom was burnt, but easily sliced off. The sourness is perfect. But – as soon as I took a bite, I realized that I had not put in the salt!! Aaargh. So, in addition to being baked in an old-fashioned way, it has a rather old-fashioned flavor. I read once that our colonial foremothers who baked bread every day made a plain loaf that would seem terribly bland to our taste, with little to no oil, sugar, or salt. At least mine is tangy. 🙂

A rosemary comeback, and big plans.

The first sunny day we’ve had in a week, and my plan was to work on cleaning the garage; I do not say “to clean the garage” because that sounds like I could ever finish.

But first, a walk. The creek is so high, and now running smoothly so that the sky reflects off the water, distracting from the quantity of mud still flowing below.

After breakfast I opened the overhead door of the garage to get light on my subject, and remembered that I wanted to trim the abutilon. It never stops blooming, so I can’t wait for dormancy. One bloom shone brightly yellow and caught the sun penetrating its petals.

You know how it goes in the garden – One thing leads to another, and I did a bit of tidying up the next hour. The first asparagus has emerged, and lots of California poppy plants that you can see behind one of my new wallflower bushes.

But what is THIS? A ladybug, yes, I know, but the bug is sitting on a stem of rosemary! A stem of a bush that is taking over a pittosporum bush, and already blooming, and I never saw it until today. It’s from a root left over from the gnarly plant that was there until three years ago; what a surprise that it didn’t show itself all this time, until now.

I had to cut it off for the time being, because I didn’t want to take time to dig out the root, which is what is sadly necessary.

gl P1040918
Rosemary in the previous landscape.


Several of my yarrow clumps seem to have died out,
but a couple of plants are starting to bloom.

And the abuitlon – the star of the show.

I eventually did get a lot done in the garage. I’m making space there for stuff that’s been stored in the house, especially in the great room upstairs, because… Announcement!: I’m starting a remodel of this big room. For almost three decades it has been used for homeschooling, large families sleeping or even living in there, Mr. Glad practicing his drums, and always, the storage of many, many things, not in a very efficient manner. We avoided doing anything to it, while we fixed more urgent areas of the house and property.

My plan is to divide it into three rooms: a Guest Room, a Sewing Room, and a full bathroom. Plans now being drawn by an architect will soon be submitted to the city for a building permit, and the contractor is standing by….

There is nothing lovely or very interesting to tell about in the garage, or in the great room. Decorating, choosing furniture, colors and such matters do not inspire me. They challenge me and find me bored and impatient, and that makes me want to escape here and write about books or saints or the moon I saw through my window last night. So things might not change too much on the blog. I’ll be seeing you around!

Two pretty new things in one day.

This short length of fence has been a crumbling mismatch for most of the nearly three decades I’ve been in this house, but it was a small enough section that it didn’t succumb to wind and decay; it was left alone, while we eventually replaced all of the other fences around the property, in three projects with three different neighbor-homeowners. Also, not much of it, or the unsightly utility yard next door, showed when my huge osmanthus bush/tree was still there.

This week, yay! Its replacement is completed, with the trusty workers fitting it in between rain storms and showers. They did get dripped on a bit even so. One of them is my garden helper Alejandro. The new fence is taller than the old, and of unfinished redwood to match all the other fences on the property.

It’s only cloudy and breezy today. I thought I would take a walk, then I thought I would read and drink tea, then I wandered out in the back garden, but only briefly, because it wasn’t welcoming, somehow…? How odd. But I was there long enough to see an iris just opened. This dwarf species has never been very impressive — until this one. Maybe one has to see them newborn, after a downpour but not having been poured upon.

Tomorrow the sun is likely to shine on the beautiful things that brighten the landscape on their own today.