Evening, June, Mother

The neighbourhood crows are gathered in a tall spruce tree across the street– they caw and caw and caw and caw. The last time they were so upset there was a raccoon in the branches. A day of drizzle rain finally lifted in late afternoon. It’s been a perfect watering.

I made dumplings out of the wild mustard that grew spontaneously out of the garden. The seeds must have travelled with the soil that was newly purchased this spring. After some searching online I was able to identify the plant, and also learn that it is, indeed, edible. I thought it might be so– when I sampled a little of the fresh leaf it reminded me of Chinese mustard and daikon greens. Apparently Italians like to eat wild mustard. It tastes similar to rapini, but I find it sweeter. I blanched the greens because they have prickly fur covering some of the leaves and stems, and I read that boiling it would deal with this. I squeezed the water out of the boiled greens and minced it then added organic ground beef, grated ginger and garlic, salt and a dollop of sesame oil. This the filling, the big children and I folded the dumplings and we had our usual discussion of how many to boil and how many to pan-fry. They turned out very nicely and it’s so lovely to discover that a weed overwhelming a planted garden is also food. I did try dandelion greens one year but they were so bitter I had to spit it out. I remember my grandmother making dandelion greens from my half-forgotten childhood in Langley. My oba-chan’s greens tasted good. At least I remember it so.

I’ve started reading the novel, Mother, by Maxim Gorky. I knew nothing of this book or author– I only picked it up because of synchronicity. I had been in the library looking for specific titles for research. After I had found what I was looking my eyes passed over the shelves in front of me when I was snagged by the title in black caps. Just a few weeks ago I’d blogged about being a writer and a mother, then reviewed the Korean film, Mother. Now this! Three is a significant number in Japanese culture. Bemused I reached for the novel and read the back flap and then the first few paragraphs. I added it to my stack.

Gorky’s novel is very chewy. It seems to me that Gorky’s political and social justice agendas are the primary machines that drives this narrative. But he’s folded his ideologies into story form, utilizing the illiterate down-trodden mother to embody and speak the voice of the powerless proletariat “every-person”. According to Wiki, this novel was first published in 1907! I find that I keep on having cognitive dissonance, because the ways that Gorky depicts Pelagea, the mother, as a fully realized and changing and developing character is so very progressive and in some ways, very feminist. I mean this is 1907!!! (Sometimes the mother is idealized, but it’s very much in keeping with the workings of the novel– idealization is part of the ideological lever.) I’m only on page 147, but I’m very much moved by the descriptions of the daily drudgery and suffering of the proletariats as well as the fiery passion for the rights of the working classes and a faith in humanity despite all of the ugliness that circumscribes their lives. 

Sometimes the political speeches go on-ish, but that’s because I’m a reader in my petit bourgeois home, over a hundred years away, well-fed, warm and tired after a weekend of leisure…. Gorky put it on the line for social justice– he was sent to prison many times. He risked his life for his beliefs and his art form. It’s something to think about.

And the crows still caw and caw and I’ve yet to paint bright signs for tomorrow’s rally in support of passing a Burnaby school board policy that ensures that LGBT students and staff are and feel safe in school.

I haven’t worked on any fiction projects today– I did, however, do the dreadful filing of receipts and the desk is clear, wiped free of dust, and blessedly uncluttered. Writing new words at a clean and clear desk is a marvellous thing. But for now off to look for pieces of wood and large paper!