Derek Johnson Muses

It is my daily goal to make everyone around me better people, thanks be to God.

Squash Soup.

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The Crookneck Squash I grew last year tends to be a lot of work. I have to clean off its thick skin, and beneath that skin is minimal edible substance. Suffice to say I’ll be planting another variety this coming spring, but I still have a ton of squash I froze to deal with.

So I went though a couple rounds of soup making with said squash. First, I decided to use the blender to cut the squash into little pieces. I had tried using the blender a few times before and it worked so well. So I cooked made broth seasoned with ground mustard, sage, and ginger and just dumped the squash in the blender.

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The results were-adequate. The soup was good for eating turkey, but then I realized that I could just try cooking the soup on the stove (like 95% of all soups) and it just might be less grainy.

I did that, and the next batch was smaller but smoother. Squash soup maybe bland but it fits the bill.

Pretty windows

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Windows like my front window are supposed to be like traps for suburbanites. (Ok, that’s a little too Revolutionary Road.) But it’s odd, going from the small kitchen window of my old place to my new big living room picture window that looks out at the mild traffic on First Street.

It’s harder in the winter when the snow and low temps keep you. I pace the floors and watch tv, forgetting that I’ll be mowing and tending to the outside once the sun comes. But then there’s a mid-January thaw and it’s all good.

Future Once Happened Here

 

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A tragedy has befallen Seward. Something terrible has happened in our fair city, so irreversibly terrible I won’t recover.

Dollar General has built a stand-alone store south of town and vacated their storefront downtown. That location had a Ben Franklin store in it until I was in high school, and right after it closed the Dollar General came in. And now, the General Store of Seward sits alone.

Ok, I’m being over-dramatic. Dollar General would not have built a stand-alone store if it wasn’t able to provide more products and better products. But that location has had a store inside it all off my life. And now it sits alone, who knows for how long. Maybe it will become office space, but that is going to take a lot of work.

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Since I moved, I’ve walked a lot to that store to pick up the occasional Gatorade or toiletry. I can still go to Sun Mart (sorry Mike) to pick up some of that stuff, but I’ll miss that store. That small, cramped, rolling floor store, with the cheap Husker gear in the window and the seasonal items by the counter. I hope they still bring out the Halloween candy in August at the new location.

Not-so Missed

The foresight

The Foresight

My headphones are missing. A few years ago, I would have overturned every couch cushion, or even cleaned my room in fervor to find them. Now, I don’t do that. I go about my business knowing they’ll turn up in a day or a week of whenever they do. Last time I found them strewn on the lawn outside. I’ll make due with my half-broken headphones until I find the others.

The Little Space

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Driveway is always there.

I met with a personal adviser on an ongoing basis. In these meetings, I detail my daily interactions in an effort to change my behaviors.

These conversations take me to daily places. Every time I encounter a decision, there is a small space in my head where two options arise. First option, the bad decisions I always make. After the fact, I will tell myself that I didn’t have any self-control. I did what I always did, and I can’t say the right thing. I can’t say the positive thing. I can’t make it about the other, and not about me.

Then there’s the right option. When it comes into my head, I just have to take it. Yes, usually it takes a bit more effort, but I always pose the question: do I really want to stay down in the dumps, blaming myself all the time? Do I really want to be lonely, and say that it was someone else’s fault? Or do I go out, and find the places in the world where I can make a difference?

Still

Junker...

Junker…

That’s what my half bedroom looked like last year. Here’s what it looks like this year.

Junker Part 2...

Junker Part 2…

So yes some new furniture and the photos have been hung in rooms I work in, but no real change. The other day, I went into my closet-room to hang clear plastic insulation over the window, groping over every box on the floor.

I could throw all that paper away. I don’t. Needless to say, I don’t have a woman in my life.

The Big Silence

The leaves collect the ground outside. It’s a glorious furnace now, but from December until April, the coloring of the earth goes silent. Oh well. At least I don’t have to mow.

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Wielding Tracks

Most of our lives pass with nothing remarkable happening, just days going by while we are none the wiser. If we slow down to appreciate things, we lose opportunities. If we bury ourselves in opportunities, we lose perspectives. Our personalities form through actions we don’t even realize we take.

Down

Down

You forget so much in life. The only knowledge in our head is what you need to make sense of your current situation. If that includes your history, so be it. It’s this silence that makes the big moments so memorable. You can pass years of your life doing the same thing every single day, and yet, something big and unexpected can be around the corner.

Or you can just lead a pleasant, stable life.

Lakeside...

Lakeside…

Stability of Same

Dividing Line

Dividing Line

I love not changing. I love waking up every day in the same house and the same bed. I drove the same car for eight years, been at the same job for nearly seven. I’ve been at a Husker football game nine years in a row. I’ve lived in the same town for all but the short time I was away at college and when I briefly worked in Lincoln.

Sameness is a comfort. Sure, maybe it makes people a bit too comfortable, but it is a comfort nonetheless. Next year, I will have to make some bigger life changes, changes that are inevitable. I can only hope to find ways to keep my traditions going.

Sadness: A Brief Thought

Happy Circlers

Happy circlers. Yes, I visited a turkey farm recently.

Sadness is a primary emotion of the human condition. It is that distance between you and something that appear, or maybe really will, complete you. Sometimes sadness is a reminder to look for a better way to do something, but sadness indulged in becomes self-pity. Sadness, contemplated over a period of years, can become an excuse for a lack of will or an acceptance of low standards.

Is happiness the true opposite of sadness? In the momentary sense, yes, but simple euphoria that passes quickly is not the true opposite of sadness. Such momentary exuberance is often married to sadness itself, as its coming is often associated with sadness’ arrival and long stay. In some way, completeness is the true opposite of sadness. Being a whole being allows one not to indulge in the throngs of self-pity but reside in the comforts of a true, well-formed self.

End of the Season

It’s that time of year again. The end. The last time I go to certain fields before they are harvested.

Almost in

Almost in

The time our family visits Lake Michigan.

Shoreline

Shoreline

And the time of year my writer’s block gets as bad as it ever does. My focus is divided, and the last thing I want to do is plop down at my computer during the middle of football season and waste my energy on a post that no more than 30 people will read by this Christmas.

But here I am.

I sweated and toiled all summer. I gardened and froze and pickled until the life flowed out of me. I mowed, in essence, three lawns. Now, I’m picking apples from a neighbor’s tree. (If you live near Seward or Lincoln, you’re welcome to have some.) All the while, I’ve kept up an active travel schedule that’s left me feeling like I have nothing left to give. And, with all this running around, I’ve felt that I haven’t needed to share it with anyone. Which has lead me to the question, do I need to consider doing something else with my time, maybe even a major life change? d

In my adult life, my actions indicate that I want my daily routines to change as little as possible. Yes, I run through different causes and jobs, but the basic routine of kitchen work/writing/household choirs, all of that has stayed the same. I try not to cling to things (hey, people tear it up and move all the time), but homeostasis gives me a lot of peace. A lot. Maybe even too much.

One more trip, and I won’t be making the long circle through Iowa and Illinois. Eventually, there won’t be apples to pick, and the garden will be winterized. After that, who know what I’ll do.

Close and Personal

Close and Personal

Road Notes: Off the Grid in Western Kentucky/Tennessee

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Enter Here

Last week I went to Tennessee. I was disappointed when I started passing a bunch of cornfields and the region started to look like Nebraska.

Seriously though it was a great break from my usual criss-crossing through Midwest power lines and family restaurants to go through quaint southern junk yards and vine overgrowth. Okay, seriously, the region of the Missouri bootheel/western Tennessee and Kentucky has a lot of nice homes, logging mills (never seen one of those before) and stretches of road that mostly go straight. And even though they don’t get snow and have six Pentecostal churches per town of 1,500, it feels just as familiar as any other part of the country I go to.

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Get that number

This time, Cairo, Illinois seemed even more rundown than the other two times I’ve been through there. It’s the only town under 5,000 I’ve ever been to that I’ve feared for my safety. My grower told me virtually the entire town is on welfare, words that rang through my head as I drove through town, expecting someone to jump out of an abandoned building with a gun. Of the five people I saw on the street, I wouldn’t have been surprised if any of them used drugs. As many hurting towns as I’ve seen, this is one is as sad as I’ve ever seen.

Trees along the Ohio River

Trees along the Ohio River

It’s been a good year in the fields. Some of my fields have been average, but I haven’t had a field that flopped or massively underachieved. I was overjoyed to be counting the pods on the plants and sending yield estimates to my father. Harvest may still be six weeks away, but the majority of my miles are behind me. Get your 2015 orders in.

Ready!

Ready!

 

Road Notes: Nebraska Hinterlands

The Undefined Country

The Undefined Country

The first bad decision was made the night before. Around 9:20, I was in the kitchen slicing cucumbers to pickle. In the morning, I was supposed to get up and go to take a promo picture with our grower who lives in Page, Nebraska. I looked up at the clock, and feeling energetic, I thought, I can probably can these pickles in half an hour, right? Why wait until Thursday to do it?

Long story short, I fell asleep after midnight and woke up at 5:40, knowing it was going to be a long day, even if it was a trip I’d been looking forward to.

I have a two ideas about where I’d move if I’d ever left Seward. One, hit a large city and assimilate and try everything. The other, head west into the great beyond of western Nebraska, Wyoming, or other somewhere else on the high plains. Last Wednesday, I ventured out into the that Western sky that has been calling my name all summer. My eastward travel this year has made me apathetic toward taking a short trip westward, until a real reason came about.

 

Sign/Times

Sign/Times

I got up and grabbed my energy drink of choice (Starbucks Refresh-it doesn’t dehydrate a person) and pressed west through all the communities whose names I heard growing up on Sports Overtime. York. Stromsburg. Albion. All out on these high plains. Corn and soybean country gradually turning into ranching country, a town of 3,000 being a mid-sized city instead of a small town.

Rural Iowa and rural Nebraska are very different. The further you get away from population centers of over 100,000, the more the area changes. For one, you see a lot more signs for high school teams than anywhere else in the country. At most, these people make to a couple of Husker games a year, if that. The high school team is your major college or NFL team. It’s surprising how many new homes and new medical buildings line the streets of small towns. More money is making its way out of the city.

Celebration

Celebration

You look out over these plains, and there is so much independence. Or at the least, the illusion of independence in the bright summer sun shimmering down on the faded grass. There are no more lands left to pioneer, but these lands are not bad for the occasional adventure.

Catch your eye?

Catch your eye?

 

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