Help build a new seven-storey mountain

Merton

Morgan Atkinson is a Kentucky documentarian who has produced several wonderful programs and books about Thomas Merton and the Abbey of Gethsemani.

Now he’s planning a new documentary, “The Many Lives and Last Days of Thomas Merton,” which focuses on 1968, the last year of the monk’s life and when he met with the Dalai Lama.

If you have an interest in this great spiritual thinker of our time, please consider contributing to Morgan’s Kickstarter campaign.

Atkinson

I’ve known Morgan for several years through my work. Some of his other works include a program on the lives of Anna and Harlan Hubbard, a unique Kentucky couple who lived as Thoreau did but did so in the 20th century — and for some 40 years.

Other recent works include “Uncommon Vision” the story of John Howard Griffin, author of the classic “Black Like Me.”  I wrote about Morgan for the magazine I edit.  From the story:

Early on, the idea of community drew Atkinson. His first documentary to air on KET, A Change in Order, depicted how the once-thriving Ursuline Sisters of Louisville adapted to a diminished and aging community. It was the first of several to focus on religious life.

An interest in the life of Merton, whose writings spoke to Atkinson as an individual searching for meaning in his own life, led him to visit Gethsemani and eventually to produce The Abbey of Gethsemani and Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton.

Read the whole story here. And please consider donating to his Kickstarter campaign to make this new documentary a reality.
Merton Center photo

Haul out the holly

NouveauSoileau:

It’s December 2 and the Annual Assault of Christmas Music has begun. Here’s a ranty post from a couple years ago to get you in the Grinchy spirit.

Originally posted on NouveauSoileau:

When I was a sophomore in high school, I appeared in the classic musical Mame, and in a high school which cranked out a musical every spring, it was a show-stopper. I will never know, objectively, just how high the level of talent and how rich the level of entertainment this production provided, but now, more than 30 years hence, I can say unequivocally that it was the best thing staged at Carroll County High School in April 1979.

Do you know the story? A young boy is orphaned in the 1920s and sent to live with his only living relative, a “spinster” in New York. What he finds in Auntie Mame is a bohemian free spirit. The show contains a number of barn-burner numbers including, of course, the venerable title song “Mame”itself, along with “Open a New Window” and “That’s How Young I Feel.” We sang and…

View original 740 more words

Dead on arrival

American Movie Classics has been running its traditional Halloween scare-a-thon movie marathon, and yesterday I watched a little bit of a zombie movie.

Like everyone, I am captivated by the undead.

What makes zombies so interesting is that they move around sort of like living humans, but they’re deadly dangerous, have no sexual allure whatsoever (unlike vampires) and their existence puts survivors into all sorts of moral quandaries. It’s why The Walking Dead is so popular. While arrows to the eyeballs is fun a couple times an hour, you really can’t take a steady diet of close encounters with rotting flesh. So, like The Stand, most of your time needs to be spent on how the living cope with the apocalypse.
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Stephen King, when writing The Stand, chose a deadly strain of the flu virus to wipe out 99.7 percent of the population. Zombie movies and TV shows routinely blame a virus for “infection” and the spread of zombification of human beings. World War Z, for example, mostly occupied itself with finding the originally infected human and, for a zombie movie, wasn’t particularly scary. The scrabbling mass of CG undead humanity was awesome, however.

So when I turned on AMC I was thrilled to find the Hollywood zombie purveyors had kicked it up a notch and given us what we want: horrible zombies who eat the flesh of the living on a plane.

Flight of the living dead photo flightofthelivingdead_zps5b3751d1.jpgYes, the title of this movie was Flight of the Living Dead, which I totally wish I had made up. Actually they probably did come up with the title first and then built the movie around it. Zombies! On a plane! It’s even better than Snakes on a Plane — although, no, it didn’t have Samuel L. Jackson, so it could definitely could, by definition, have been more awesome.

As a matter of fact, why didn’t they get Samuel L. on board for this project? I mean, come on. He needs to be the go-to guy for terror in the skies.

I confess I didn’t watch more than about 20 minutes of the movie, which was billed, as I later learned on IMDB as “action horror.” But of course I didn’t have to; you know what happens. The zombies get out, bite nearly everyone, and they chase the remaining people — who not only have to fight the undead but cope with the fact that they’re 30,000 feet from terra firma, which is where all good zombies need to be. Preferably, beneath it.

I was amused by the periodic shots of the big ole jet airliner, taken from slightly above and always covered by flashing, menacing lightning. It reminded me of Airport ’75 (1974) with Karen Black flying the plane, her slightly crossed eyes locked on the instrument panel as she winged a 747 over mountain peaks and brought nuns and sick children safely to the ground.

The movie is a few years old and I might try and scare it up sometime. Even though I enjoy zombies the year ’round, there’s really nothing like Halloween to really bring the undead to life. Gives you an appetite for it, you might say.

Thank heaven writing about these undead ruminations and unsavory combinations only strike me about once a year — although if you put a corpse in some fetching footwear you might captivate me a whole lot more frequently.

Seize the day

Not long ago, I helped to organize the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, which brought together talented published authors, writers who wished to learn from them, and appreciative readers who sought to immerse themselves in writing at the longest running conference for women in the nation.

But I’m not going to talk about that today.

I bring it up, though, because it was this conference — and the book written by acclaimed author Bonnie Jo Campbell  — which led me to hunker by the size of a busy road yesterday morning, in the polar conditions of autumn which bore down upon the Commonwealth, and pick two giant mushrooms the approximate size and weight of my head.

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Back in the spring, I dove into Once Upon a River, which tells the compelling story of a young girl driven by circumstance to live by her wits and considerable outdoors acumen along a semi-wild river near Kalamazoo, Michigan. The author, Campbell, was due to appear at our conference in the fall.

It was shortly after reading this book that I practically became Bonnie Jo Campbell’s sister — yes, it’s true. But that’s a story for another day.

This day, I point directly to Once Upon a River as my first exposure to Calvatia gigantea or the giant puffball mushroom, which our heroine harvests and dines upon as she literally lives off the fat of the land.

Giant puffballs growing wild. And edible? I had my doubts. But she could shoot the eye out of a buck — and attract any male who may or may not be a card-carrying member of the NRA — so I tended to trust her on the issue of free-range fungus.

Fast forward to yesterday morning.

Driving home after taking my son to school, I spied on the side of the road, two large, round white shapes which could have been:

A) used diapers chucked from a car traveling the adjacent New Circle Road (a local bypass);

B) Styrofoam blown out of the back of a pickup used for who-knows-what unholy purpose; or

C) actual, bonafide giant puffball mushrooms.

I slowed down for a closer look. And then I drove home and, like most people in 2013, posted about my discovery on Facebook.

Were they these fabled things that me, a girl raised in semi-rural conditions, had never observed, let alone ingested? Were they something that I could harvest, like dandelion leaves and poke sallet, and eat from the side of the road and call it actual food?

Or were they some other, more nefarious form of fungus, intent upon poisoning me with their plump charms — the deadly I Will Kill You in Horrible Seizing Agony mushrooms, which present identically to the giant puffball shroom?

At home, I applied mascara and pondered. I would never know what they were, I thought between eyeliner applications, unless I stopped for a closer look.

As you can see in the photos, they’d already been munched by some resident fauna, and I flicked one off before pulling them up. (A slug! Eww!)

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They came out of the ground easily and they really are surprisingly heavy! Maybe not as heavy as my head (filled with all these brains, you know) but pretty hefty for something that goes by the name of puffball.

I put them in a plastic bag, braced myself against the buffets of passing cars, popped myself back into the Prius, and off to work I went.

But were they actually edible? I got confirmation from Bonnie Jo herself, via Facebook, that I did indeed have two gorgeous puffballs on my hands and I should prepare them with lots of butter and invite all my friends.

At this point I wasn’t sure I was going to convince a Doubting Husband that I brought something home from the side of the road that we can actually eat. But, gamely, I cooked one of the things up last night, and as I mentioned earlier, documented the whole process on Facebook for the entertainment of my far-flug friends.

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Yes, from Kentucky to Rhode Island, and North Carolina to Texas, people were following  the Great Potentially Death-Inducing Mushroom Saga, hoping I presume, that I would live to cook another day.

I won’t doubt that there were some expecting I would experience violent vomiting at the bare minimum, with seizures, coma, and death a distinct possibility.

No such luck, you guys!

This is the mushroom I prepared, shown here cleaved in two on the cutting board in my kitchen:

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Cubed and ready for the sautee pan:

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Cooking:

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I assure you I did not fail to eat some of these cubes, atop my spaghetti, but I did fail to take a picture of it. Doh!

Since nobody touched the things except me — despite the fact that they were drenched in butter, olive oil, garlic and salt — I put the remainder in a bag and tossed them in the freezer. The Internets told me I could.

I am here to report that I am in fact alive. Although for all I know I’m a zombie, Walking Dead in the wake of my mushroom induced-death, getting my just desserts for daring to eat something that wasn’t purchased at the grocery store.

And if you ever see any giant mushrooms that resemble severed heads along the road, you too can take them home and cook ‘em up. They’re delicious — especially around Halloween.