Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Editing Exercise

Bench for All Seasons

On a cloudless Midwest spring day, a dawn visitor sits to squint into the golden splendor of a dazzling, radiant sun. Atop the crest of a small bluff, four sturdy A-frame metal poles with concrete feet shoulder the visitor’s bulk with the help of a horizontal bar sporting eyehooks from which hangs a park bench with arms. The bench’s seat no more than an average knee height above grass and compacted dirt. This one bluff within the environs of Raspberry Island rises above constructed asphalt walking paths that sprawl like a clump of worms wiggling for freedom. On the bench, resting one’s body or catching a breath, there’s a visage to behold, replete with nature’s full arsenal of aromas, sounds, and creatures, seen and unseen.
In spring the five-foot length resting perch becomes a lookout to spy, from overhead, on sparrows, finches, and robins building nests of twigs, dried grass, and/or the discarded snagged-kite-string remnant. Black and brown squirrels frolic, jump, and sprint across bending and springing-back tree branches.
Summer with its rising temperatures and storm breezes brings to the bench the fragrance of nearby blooming wildflowers and the whispers of three-foot-high grass. With a westerly wind, the bench swings to and fro to cast off a newly arriving grasshopper. A person’s gentle foot push aids the breeze to enhance the swinging sensation. Looking through the trees and downward, there’s a floating dock on the far shore of a stagnant water pond. Only this day the water splashes as unleashed dogs romp back onto land with clinging droplets to spray their owners. On the bench’s side of the pond, an earthen path juts left and right to a six-foot sandy beach where kids scour the shore for flat rocks to skip into a watery grave.
When the yellow, brown, and red fall leaves swirl and flutter in a tug-of-war between wind and gravity, spring’s green unfurled canopy no longer hides the approaching winter view. A mulch carpet of leaves often rustles as practicing cross-country runners approach and pass behind the bench.
Often unnoticed is the rectangular memorial plaque mounted on a concrete base. The gracious tribute to an eco-friendly soul who once, or more likely often, would stand on the bench's exact spot and wish to linger longer, to enjoy the quiet, and to be nurtured by nature's pulse.

How would one edit the above? Are there metaphors not organic? For more by Author Donan Berg visit

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

When the green-green grass of home appears in March, it's time to check that collection of time-tested family recipes fit for the season. That means soda bread. There are, it seems, as many as spirits in Ireland. (On purpose, the definition of spirits is up to you.)

Heat up your oven to 375 degrees. Here goes:

Irish Soda Bread (Two loaves)

6 cups all-purpose flour (3 white and 3 wheat here. Or 6 white if you prefer.)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk

(For those who want an option, add a handful of raisins. They're not in the recipe proper for some 19th Century folks used the term "raisins" in a less-than-complimentary way.)

Add all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. If your mother said: "toss, buttermilk on the side" that works, too. Grab a wooden spoon, if not already in hand, pour all buttermilk into the large bowl, and stir. In no time you'll have a soft dough. Let it be rough at the edges. Tumble dough onto smooth surface, like a counter. Knead, counting thousand one, etc, until you reach sixty to one hundred. This kneading designed to make you feel like a baker, using flour-covered hands, and to evenly moisten dry ingredients with buttermilk.

Divide dough in half, round each portion, and, with hand, flatten top slightly.

Place each loaf on ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle flour on top. Not too much. And, oh my goodness, don't use this step as means to dust-off your hands. Pinch a wee dab of flour from the bag.

By the handle only, grab a sharp knife and make the sign of the Cross with slashes on the top of each loaf.

Allow the loaves to rest for ten minutes. This is the juncture in the recipe where the baker can take a wee nip for the hard part is over, if there's a timer at hand.

Bake in the 375 degree oven for forty (40) minutes. Best to use center rack position. Since ovens vary, the loaves are done when golden brown.

Cool on racks. Enjoy. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Novel, A Body To Bones by Author Donan Berg