Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Breakfasting with John Haines

"The way we live nowadays seems intended to prevent closeness to anything outside this incubator world we have built around us....It seems all too characteristic of us as a people that we tend to limit and confine ourselves, to specialize and restrict....If Alaska is the last frontier it may be because it represents the last full-scale attempt in North America to built a society worthy of human life, worthy of the claims made for America at the beginning. "
John Haines, Living Off the Country

It has been a little over a year since I discovered Alaska's poet, John Haines, in a poem dedicated to him by Alaska's Fiddling Poet, Ken Waldman.

It has been ten days since I was gifted an opportunity to hear John Haines read his poetry.

And since that reading, it has been ten days of treasuring a morning ritual of waking early to bake scones (whilst listening to NPR), fixing a large mug of milky tea, and spending a good hour reading and reflecting on the opinions, and perspectives, and background of John Haines.

It's hard to convey the genius of John Haines with mere snippets of paragraphs or sentences. But it is a genius that is rendered all the more poignent for the slow steeping and steady polishing of his thoughts, of the roots of these thoughts in solitude and a desire for earnest living, and of their wings in their humble magnitude in these times of frenzied and self-consumed superficialities. His is a voice that is earnest, and tested, patient but aloof. He speaks to give voice, not to be heard. Whitman'esque, in that he can prompt a personal renaissaince, Thoreau'esque in his gumption, Poe'esque in the voice reflective of a nurtured solitude, and, generally, I believe, today's finest example of the transcendalitst ambitions which inspired so many good things in America's historical renaissance. And I find him to be a captivating breakfast companion, not least because I can imagine how he might scoff at my fluffy, cozy, hyperbolic description of the rugged and real work he sets out to do.

Today, I breakfasted on graham scones with pluots and meyer lemons (one for me, one stashed in the freezer for J. together with the previous scone endeavours of this John Haines-inspired scone baking phase, and 6 plunked into the bike basket and pedalled to the office ), a mug of milky Earl Grey, and reflected on this:

"Digging in the soil, picking away at rock, uprooting stumps, I became in time a grower of things sufficient to feed myself and another...I learned that is is land, place, that makes people, provides for them the possibilities they will have of becoming something more than mere lumps of sucking matter...Few of us these days are really residents anywhere, in the deep sense of that term. We live off the surface of things and places, the culture as well as the land; ours is a derivative life: we take what we find without thought, without regard for origin or consequence, unaware for the most part that the resources, both natural and cultural, are fast diminishing."
John Haines, Living Off the Country

Graham Scones with Pluots, Meyer Lemon and Cardamom

1. Mix 1 cup flour, 2 tsps of baking powder, and 1/2 tsp of salt.

2. Mix in 1 cup graham flour and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.

3. Cut in 1/2 cup of cold butter with a pastry cutter, until the size of spring peas.

4. Mix in the zest of lemon, juice of 1/2 a lemon, cardamom, cinnamon, and two diced up pluots (skinless).

5. Mix in a dollop of sour cream.

6. Mix together an egg and 1/2 cup of orange, banana and pineapple juice. Pour into flour mixture and mix lightly. The dough will be sticky and a little wet.

7. Place dough on a floured surface and knead just enough to get it into a cohesive ball shape. Pat out into a flat circle. Cut in half, then in fourths, then in eights (i.e. to make eight triangles from the circle). Place on a silpat mat on a baking tray. Brush with the leftovers of the egg and juice (which such mixture has been expanded with a bit of milk).

8. Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Based on the graham scone recipe of the Domestic Goddess.


Anonymous Sara said...

Dear Peeps,

I found your blog by chance, digitizing ‘John Haines’ on the search engine. I love Alaska and I love John Haines. Maybe I’m the only Italian woman which know him (his books aren’t published here) and read Alaska Geographic. The fact is that I began to read what you write (it’s difficult to me, my english is quite rudimental), and this morning I breakfasted eating graham scones, reading John Haines and writing you this letter.
I’m 44, I live in Liguria, Italy, in a little biodynamic farm with my husband, two daughters (16 and 13), a cow, a donkey, two dogs, three cats, geese, chickens and bees. I was musician, before daughters and farm, maybe still I am.
“I begin walking the road toward Banner Creek, into the snow-lighted darkness. Under starlight, the snow glitters faintly. The shadowy, wooded crest of Richardson Hill rises before me. My moccasins crunch softly in the roadside snow. There is no other sound in the night. Nothing, not even the wind.” J. Haines, The stars, the snow, the fires.
You can feel Alaska, here. You can hear its silence.
My world is much more warm and noisy. Winter is not really a pause, indicating time of reflection and thought. You must always get this time deep down inside you, while everything around goes on. Now more than ever, while summer is coming and sounds, colours, scents – life – are everywhere, and all is growing and moving. I’m writing at the desk of my music-room. All around me there are recorders, scores, a violin, a viola da gamba. On the window-sill in front of me a violet geranium in flower. In the garden the cock is crowing. The sky is clouded, I hope it will rain for the seeding I did yesterday in my garden.
It’s time to go working now. I have a lot of job to do outside.


11:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home