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A Recipe?

Not to be a totally eclectic Gemini, possibly losing the focus of this blog altogether, but I thought I’d post a recipe.  Since I don’t eat wheat, I was happy to finally come up with a gluten-free cornbread I could eat.  This one’s pretty good.  I guess it’s the xanthan gum ( a powder I got at Whole Foods) that gives it some texture.


Mix the following ingredients in a big bowl:

1/2 cup corn meal

1/2 cup corn flour

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1 Tbsp. xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/3 to 1/2 cup honey, depending on your sweet tooth

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup canola oil, corn oil or melted butter.

Spread in greased and floured square pan.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 20  minutes, until fairly browned on top and no longer gooey in the middle.  Good with chili or as a snack with honey or jam.

Enjoy the last of summer!

Evolution of a Synopsis



In October 2008, I attended a weekend writing workshop at Ragdale.  The teacher, Anne LeClaire, asked us to include a 25-word summary statement of the piece of writing we brought to share. 

Using exactly 25 words, I came up with an overview of my writing that I thought was wonderful for packing so much into one sentence, making use of terms that implied entire bodies of thought, such as “ways of knowing” and “epistemological boundaries.”  The word “sylvan” also evoked so much, making me think of the beauty of the trees and the mysteries of the forest.  I was so clever I felt like I was cheating.  I thought people would find it funny how it sounded like a diagnosis of pathology but was really a description of freedom from pathology.  Then I read it sitting around a table of my fellow writers.


A nice, well-adjusted (i.e., miserable) WASP girl blows open her epistemological boundaries, finding herself terminally interdependent and spiraling down to earth.”

Dead silence.  No knowing chuckles like I had anticipated.  Finally a woman spoke up, “I don’t know what this means.”  Others chimed in, agreeing with her.  One added, “I don’t understand one word of it.”  Anne said, “The idea is to come up with something you could say at a cocktail party to summarize your project.”

Oh.  Back to the drawing board.  I either needed to find a cocktail party full of academics who love jargon or rewrite the dang thing.

Now (August 2009), my book has changed focus.  Sending in a sample of my revised work, my summary reads:

“This book helps readers get outside, quiet their minds, and learn from nature.  Open the door, open your life.”

Not a word of jargon in it.  I’ll see how that goes over.

July Family Reunion

Five Amigos making dinner at Wolf reunion 7/22/09

Five Amigos making dinner at Wolf reunion 7/22/09

by Barbara Wolf Terao (aka Dilly)
     It was because of my grandmother’s illness with diptheria as a child that my great grandparents, Mippie and Pippie, started going north for the summer.  They left the stifling heat of St. Louis and took the family by train to the cooling waters of Bay Lake in northern Minnesota.  In 1901 they were guests of the Ruttger family, credited by them with initiating family vacations at Ruttgers, and later purchased their own place nearby.  My grandmother, Helen, thrived, as did Mippie’s mother who accompanied them.  The Wolf family has been heading to the land o’lakes and loons ever since.
     The farmhouse my great grandparents bought was built by David Archibald on the north shore of the lake called Sissebagama by the Ojibwe.  Archibald was friends with a Native American named Kahwessie who often came by to visit or to offer wild rice and maple syrup.  To this day, our family still gets wild rice from local producers or from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe nearby.
     Surrounded by birch and basswood, many generations of Wolfs have gathered on the screened-in porch of the white farmhouse–joking, eating homemade cookies, and playing cards.  We girls from several families shared one bedroom.  The overflow of aunts and uncles went in the two-room cabin, conveniently close to the outhouse.  Sometimes during thunderstorms the power went out.  We wrapped up in blankets and read Archie comics by flashlight.
     Pippie planted a flower garden in the side yard while daisies and wild asparagus took it upon themselves to flourish hither and yon.  Though the apple trees for which Old Orchard was named died off over the years, a new vegetable garden yielded copious carrots and an absurd abundance of zucchini.  My dad, a math professor the rest of the year, watched the produce multiply under his tender care.
     The mothers and grandmothers, meanwhile, prepared a dinner each night for an extended family of a dozen or two.  We children came in from swimming and dressed for dinner.  (Dressed finely or not, we would be doing the dishes later, with lake water heated on the stove.)  The house, built in the late 1800s, had no indoor plumbing or heating, but we could still put a blue cloth on the old dining room table, say grace, and have an elegant meal.  I remember the bent, gray heads of my great grandmother Mippie and my grandparents, Helen and Louis Wolf, as we gave thanks.  Mippie died up north at the age of 95, enjoying the birdcalls outside her window till the last.
     I realize now that those times together were precious, especially as people (such as my husband and I in Chicago) settled hither and yon.  We still have a Minnesota Wolf den to call home, where we can gather as a pack and howl at each other’s jokes–as we did at our first-ever reunion in 2009.  Because of this wedge of lake country and our many seasons there with seven generations, I know my family.

Another Year Older?

For my birthday, I share some thoughts about getting older, being less cool, and thankfully staying warm.  (Perhaps you can tell this was written on a cold Chicago evening.)



Keep hold

when your children squirm

feeling, as teens do, too old,

make your hug more firm–

keep hold.

Be bold!

Venture into the bluster of night

overdressed for the cold

and you’ll be just right.

Above all, don’t rush.

Let the ones in thin coats push.

You are warm and looking back

at the way limbs bend black on black,

sky ignited by distant coals

hinting at paths beyond set goals.

Show love

with a smile behind your fuzzy scarf

for the caramel dog with questioning bark.

Show love, old self

as we embark.

Stand and Stare

This poem from the public domain was recently posted by Garrison Keillor on his “Writers Almanac.”  May you get out among the flowers today and take a breath!



William Henry Davies


What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Stones, Another View

(Warning: This is a little graphic at the beginning.)

After high school, my friend Amy and I got night clean-up jobs at New Richmond Turkey Farm, which wasn’t a farm at all. It was a slaughterhouse in Faribault, Minnesota. Trucks full of birds pulled up to the loading dock. Turkeys were hauled out of the semi and hung upside down for the yellow-slickered men in the blood tunnel to slit their throats. Once the birds stopped bleeding, they were flipped around to hang by their heads for their journey past the women who plucked the white feathers and rendered the parts so everything could be packaged to sell. Only the gizzard stones remained. Unpackaged and carried in a barrel out into the night.

Amy and I cleaned up when the day workers left. She quit after three weeks. I stayed on, the only female on the crew and most likely the only vegetarian member of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union. I didn’t mention my diet to my one black co-worker, Winston, or to the enormous, greasy haired Charley Two-People, who tormented Winston.  I got by, tried to stay under the radar.  I wrote in my journal, “Tromping on turkey hearts, with blood clots leaving their slimy trails on my plastic apron, I discover my capacity for gore quite adjustable to the situation.”

That was me in 1975. Adjustable.

On television at that time I saw a woman named Patty Hearst express allegiance to the Symbionese Liberation Army.  I felt sympathy for her, first brainwashed by her family, as I saw it, and then by the men who kidnapped her.  I didn’t feel much different as I played out my roles.  In fact, I felt pretty sympathetic to the turkeys being processed into cellophane packages.  I could relate.

As the only woman on night clean-up I, of course, had laundry duty, washing the greasy aprons and untangling their strings.  Though I had zero training, when a worker was injured, I was also the nurse.  I did remove metal from a guy’s hand one night.  The foreman, Gene Bonkoski, looking faint, took him right back to work.

When I started school at Sarah Lawrence in the fall, I heard about other people’s summer jobs, in banks, on Broadway, and at publishing houses.  Cushy, yeah, but how many of them got to know characters as colorful as Charlie Two-People or got to find out how far their tolerance could go?  I thought I was a turkey on the dismemberment line, but turns out I am a stone that can pass through the system and come out the other side.  Unpackaged.

Stones, Part 2

(Continued from Part 1, below)

After living in Chicago for 24 years, I had a chance to visit Wales and Isle of Man.  I brought a piece of pipestone with me. It looked, I thought, like a standing person, so I had carved the rough outline of a man.  Though Catlinite is considered a soft stone, every bit of filing I did was hard going.  I could see a profile of a face when I was done, not unlike the Oracle. I felt my three-inch man had a place among my Celtic ancestors so I brought him along in a little deerskin bag.
In Isle of Man, the magical island nation between Ireland and England, my sister and I searched for our ancestors’ graves at the Lonan Church.  No luck.  Spying a man emerging from the church, we told him of our quest.  “Oh,” he said, “you want the old Lonan Church.”  When he learned that we had come by train, he offered to drive us to the ancient, hidden place.  Joan and I, along with our husbands, crowded into his mini-van.  In a light rain, we came upon the old Lonan Church, also known as St. Adamnan Church, with an enormous Celtic cross in its cemetery.  A depression in the grass once yielded water, a holy well.  Cryptic stone carvings, including one like a Cheyenne medicine wheel, were preserved in a sheltered corner of the churchyard.  My sister recited a poem among them.
Our guide, Alan Pascoe, turned out to be the warden, sexton, and caretaker of the old church.  He showed us the Celtic artifacts outside, the Norse stonework along the walls, and then—oh, hushed beauty—inside the sanctuary and up to its wooden altar.  Alan and his wife had fashioned some crosses of driftwood for it.  There was also a vase holding a pink rose, a blossoming heart, I felt.  That is when I lifted the medicine bag around my neck and told this kind man I had a present for him.

How redundant to bring a stone to Isle of Man!  The place is bursting with rocks.  I felt sheepish about that, but offered him the gift of Indian pipestone to thank him for all he’d done.  It was Father’s Day and he was late to meet his daughter for lunch, yet he lingered over the red stone.  He asked me to repeat what I had said about the Indian history of the pipestone quarry and how the pipes were used for prayer and to promote dialogue and good relations.  He acknowledged, generously, that my carving looked like a man and accepted it humbly.  I was happy I had something to give him.

Joan and I did find burial sites with family names on them.  Like fools in a fairy tale, we set out in the rain with no map and somehow our intentions led us to a sage who could guide us.  And to a rose.  Perhaps the pipestone man is in an island garden now, enjoying the rain.
I always knew I could speak to plants and animals.  And stones.  But it took me decades to learn to listen.  What surprised me is how much of my deep learning happened because I moved to Chicago.  There are like-minded people here among the concrete canyons.  We learn together.  Grandfather Stone was right: change can be good.

So this is my blog for now!  I plan to post something here every week.  Maybe I will find a way to make the letters darker and easier to read.  Still learning…