Beans, Corn and Squash

Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book “Braiding Sweetgrass” (2013 Milkweed Editions, Canada) incorporates indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge to teach us about the world of plants. Her writing is poetic and like a prayer or chant, gently guides the reader through her prophetic thought. In the chapter called ‘Three Sisters’ Robin explains the relationship of beans, corn and squash as they grow together in the garden. When the English came to the New World they were perplexed by the native’s tendency to grow their plants in groupings instead of rows. As it turned out these groupings were based on the native’s experience that together, plants such as beans, corn and squash, flourish in a symbiotic relationship, and engage and share nutrients with their roots in the soil. Their reciprocal communication evolves naturally once their seeds grow to form vertical foliage, and flowers and fruits. They eventually not only give to each other but to the planter who inserted them in the earth to begin with. As an example, plants need nitrogen to grow and the nitrogen provided by the air isn’t enough so beans, characteristic of legumes, reaching into the sky, have the ability to draw nitrogen down into the soil benefitting not only them but the corn and squash that share their space. The beauty of the Three Sisters, represented in color by green for beans, yellow for corn and orange for squash is also founded in a native legend which describes how when the people were dying of hunger three beautiful women came to visit the village in colored garb. Symbolically they represented the three plants that eventually fed the people and saved them from famine. Kimmerer goes on to explain that each of the vegetables alone does not provide the necessary nutrients for a complete meal, but when eaten together, provide the perfect balance of vitamins and nutrients needed for a balanced diet. Kimmerer’s writing exudes positivity and the virtue of Simplicity. In a prior chapter called “Epiphany in the Beans’ she begins with a quote: It came to me while picking beans, the secret of happiness. I realized from this quote that our everyday living entangles us in rushing around and overthinking, when if we would just slow down we can find the joy in the simple things. This may be getting off track a tad but the same idea came to me when I was at the grocery store packing my groceries. Feeling at peace with myself, I looked up at the cashier and said to her: “This is going to sound crazy to you but I really like to pack groceries.” She agreed it was a mindless task. Anyway, back to topic, the next time I go to the store I will be sure to load up on scrumptious greens beans, yellow corn, and orange squash to bring home for my next feast. In the meantime I shall carry on my reading of “Braiding Sweetgrass” as I know it’s bound to be filled with more, and greater wisdom.


Before it goes out like a lamb, it’s time to talk about the month of March.  Looking back in history we’ll remember this month, in 2020, as the time when the Coronavirus grew exponentially in the U.S.A.  Not that we weren’t forewarned, by the explosion taking place in Europe, preceded by China, and Iran, etc., etc.. in previous weeks. Covid-19’s here to stay for a long time; forty five days until we see a peak, eighteen months before life goes back to normal, if it ever does.  In the long haul a positive outcome to this situation can be found within ourselves; find ways to beat it psychologically, remain optimistic, and use it to be more creative and productive in our personal lives.  Take up painting, the piano, reading novels, writing as much as we can.  How can we reach out, and help others, and bring them into our lives?  What special talents do we have that we can share?  There are certainly people living in a more precarious habitat, in which I’m living.  Selfishly I hope I don’t catch the virus, or be a carrier and less selfishly, pass it on to someone else.  So, where do we go from here? The answer seems to be nowhere, nothing versus something, and now being never.  What is true is we are all vulnerable.  No-one is exempt.

Back to March.  What do we know about this third month of the calendar year, which during Roman Times was the first, and not the third of the year?  A month named after the god of war, called Mars. Special days in particular yearn to be celebrated.  Such as St. Patrick’s day, on the 17th, especially by the Irish, but even if you haven’t an ounce of Irish in your blood, you’re always welcome to partake in Irish generosity.

On the 15th of March, back in Roman Times, an old woman warned Julius Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March.”  Against his wife’s best wishes Caesar ignored the oracle and ventured out into the Roman forum only to be assassinated, and find moments before he fell to his death that his best friend had betrayed him; thus the famous quote “Et tu Brutus?”  The circumstance is a reminder to follow the wisdom of Shakespeare spoken in one of his plays “Love all, trust a few, and do wrong to no-one.”  And, in the wake of the Corona19, to listen to the oracle; Stay home, protect yourselves, and others.

Since I am a curious person, who seeks novelty in all things possible to brush away the the sins of idleness, and boredom, I have a trivia fact for March.  Does anyone know what September, October, November and December stand for?  I found this out the other day through a post by the Farmer’s Almanac.  The meaning of the prefixes of these months in latin follow suit with March being the first month of the year, for Sept means seven, Octo, eight, Nove, nine, and Dece, ten.  So whatever happened to January and February?  There is an answer, but at this moment, I can only say; “I do not know it.”  Just like there are answers surrounding the mysteries of the Coronavirus, but for now uncertainty reigns, and only time will tell.

Willow’s Story

I mentioned earlier that I met a young woman named April, and in writing, also referred to a woman I met named Willow. I saw Willow today.  I see her on occasion because she works in the community. When I first noticed her name-tag, oh say, three years ago, I thought, “how unique!”  I notice names, and inevitably pry into why a person got his or her name, but didn’t ask Willow the first time I met her, nor the second, nor the third.  The name took time to settle into my psyche, and finally, today, when I saw her, I wanted to know the story behind her name, so I asked, “Why is your name ‘Willow?’

This is what she said:  “My parents were hippie types who lived in the Woodstock Valley.  Tree huggers that lived off of the land, a custom my dad still practices today, in the same place.  They did everything the natural way, when I was growing up; kept a large garden, split their own wood, and canned all the vegetables.”  Willow continued;  “When I was born my parents deferred to my grandmother for help in naming me.  Grandma was an Algonquin Indian born on a reservation, not full blooded herself, but married a full-blooded.  (Willow has blond hair and blue eyes so the story of the Native American background was a bit surprising.) When I was born grandmother said, ‘you shall name her “Willow” after the beautiful willow trees whose branches reach for water in the stream, and so “Willow” I was named.  Along came my other sisters, and they were also named with respect for Mother Nature.  One is “Rainy,” and other “Dawn.””

And so the story goes.  It’s almost a fairy tale.  I loved the story.  I hope you did too.

The End

By Tiffany Creek

Historical Queens, in February

Queen Anne was born February 6th, in 1665.

If anyone has ever seen the new movie called “The Favourite” it will make you wonder about the life Queen Anne led. That is if I have the same Queen Anne. The movie is a bit wild. Queen Anne’s relationships with her two ladies in waiting, and the jealousy that ensues between them, is what truly attracts the viewer to the theatre. One of the maidens is banished, chased into exile, and left for dead, when she falls from her horse, and is dragged, and trampled along the trail. Anne had a long relationship with this first maiden. They corresponded in writing frequently, within the castle walls. It was kind of like texting. She was her confidant, for many years. Then, the second one arrived to the castle, as a cleaning woman.  Sympathy is stirred for her in the scene, where she burns her hands with lye soap, with which she cleans the chamber floors.  Of royal blood she manipulates her way into the queen’s favor, and in the mind of Anne, becomes her favorite. Although cruel, and sinister at heart, the second maiden covers her evilness with good deeds, when it means she will get her way. Anne is a lonely queen. She lost all of her children and couldn’t bare the emotional pain. Her second lady in waiting jumps to the queen’s command. To maintain her center of power maiden #2 puts up with the queen’s fits of despair. Anne realizes her second maiden is less genuinely concerned for her well-being, but depends on her to perform explicit sexual manipulation. For Anne, the pleasure principal is the only thing that frees her from the anguish she has at losing all her children, and from her own miserable existence. Apparently Hollywood took liberty to extrapolate the lesbian theme, for there is nothing concretely written to say that Anne had an amorous relationship with her maidens.  After seeing the movie I came across this silly verse about when she was born, and the gossip surrounding her death.

Queen Ann is – Pho!

That’s easy said!

Who doesn’t know

Queen Anne is dead?

Nay, gossip, nay,

Abate your scorn!

Learn that to-day 

Queen Anne is born.

Another queen died on the 8th of February, 80 years later. She was the elegant, and legendary, Mary Queen of Scots!




Odes to Winter

Eve's Snowdrops
Eve’s Snowdrops. Taken February 4th, 2019, after the polar vortex. 

I see gray stone walls covered with snow, like powdered sugar sprinkled on a cake, or two – They guard the forest of bare spindly trees, rising out of the icy wetlands.  Birds sing a distant song. The piercing caw of a hawk startles me, in my tracks.  I am jolted from my thoughts.  Along the path, my eye catches a plastic bag, adrift in a thawing rivulet.  Out of place, it’s pinned against the cement of a tiny culvert’s aperture.  My mind returns to the faces, and places, strewn across my table, at home.

Another day, in a sheltered corner garden, a grouping of small green vegetation, pokes out of the earth. The stage is set, for the tiny players. Warm, and cold currents, exist at odds, with one another. Incompatible snow will come, and smother these sprouts that appear to be Eve’s snowdrops.

I have heard a legend, but I don’t know where it comes from, that the snow fell on Eve when she left Paradise. Out of the snow an Angel appeared to her, who took a handful of snowflakes, breathed on them, and let them fall at her feet, where they turned into flowers that did not grow even in Paradise. The Angel said, ‘This is in earnest to thee and to Adam that the sun will follow the snow.’ Then he vanished; and Eve, comforted, gathered her first snowdrops.

My snowdrops rest in waiting, for an Angel to come.


A fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher. It was supposed to have had the power to calm the wind and the waves during the winter solstice while it rested on the sea. Halcyon has come to mean, days of fine weather seven days before and seven days after the winter solstice. Attributed by legend to the magical powers of halcyon. A period of peace and tranquility. A prosperous and golden halcyon years.

Middle English: alceon

Latin: (h) alcyon

Greek (h) alkuont

Before moving on…

Log Cabin, Rice County Historical Center

… to the woods and the prairie of Winnesheik (Chapter VII), Hamlin recollects, his school days in Wisconsin.  Instead of attending the village school, he and his siblings joined a few others at the home of John Roche.  He recalls John’s daughter, Indiana, (a very cool name) whom they called Ingie.

The selection of books at Hamlin’s home struck me.  There were none, except the Bible, Mother Goose and a few newspapers laying around.  This reminded me of a story of my own great, great, great Grandpa, Adam Bryan, also a pioneer of Wisconsin in the 1840’s or ’50’s. Adam, brought his family first to Illinois, from Pennsylvania, and shortly after decided to settle at Jug Creek, or Bad Axe, (a bastardization of an American Indian word), which most unfortunately was changed to Vernon County, after the home of the immortal hero, George Washington.  Too bad, for Bad Axe! Well, I am proud to say Gramps was the first pioneer of this area carving out the land with ox and cart, to build a cabin for his family, soon to arrive. Like Hamlin, it is said that Gramps learned to read from the only book he had, which was the Bible.

The Garlands faired a little better than my Grandpa’s family and acquired two books especially good for the imagination. These were Beauty and Beast, and Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp. Nothing like a fairy tale to stimulate creativity.

In continuation, the Garlands move on. Hamlin recalls the reluctant spirit of his mom, Belle, as she packs all their things and gets ready for a three day treck across the February tundra land of Wisconsin.  First they cross the bridge at Lacrosse, go through La Crescent, stay in Hokah, pass through Caledonia, and arrive to their farm about 2 miles from the town of Hesper.  There is a kind Quaker man there, waiting for them to take over the property. As they settle in they find that their little shack doesn’t quite meet up to the standards of their cabin, back in Wisconsin. They make due, but not without hardship.

First their house girl (I found this addition to the family interesting) contracts smallpox from the limited English speaking Norwegians that Hamlin’s dad hires for construction help. She survives, but Hamlin’s father also gets smallpox. It lasts quite awhile, but he also lives. This invasion in the household is worrisome to Belle because none of the children are vaccinated.  They eventually get this done, and the Garlands are spared of the wicked illness spreading in the family.

It must be around the 1870’s when another small creature is added to the brood consisting of Hamlin, his brother Frank, and sister Hannah.  Mother Belle has a baby!

Hamlin gets accustomed to his new home, and school, which is highly populated by Norwegians, or Norskies, who fight with the so called Yankees, like Hamlin.  Hamlin has nothing against his new classmates, but is obliged to do what is necessary to protect himself, using the path of least resistance.

The author grows to love;

‘The colorful and sweet woodland farm, the warm sun on radiant slopes of grass; the meadow phlox and tall tiger lilies, blackberry thickets, odorous grapevines, cherry trees, and delicious nuts that grew in the forest in the north.  

The wilderness of the forest was an endless and solemn playground.  They thought they would spend all their years in their beautiful home and see many more seasons, where the wood and the prairie of their song did actually meet and mingle;’

But, alas, little did they know, father had something else in mind.  They would have to move again!’

With Love, Lizzie

As the train sped away to Minnesota,
Her message was loud and clear:


I left, too sick to say goodbye.

With Love,


The 20th day of July,
in 1870 she died,
at 37 years.

Lost letters, and diaries, her story they tell,
They say, ‘Lizzie’s body, lies here’.

By TiffanyCreek

Baptist, another view DSC_4436

Photo by Dave Dreimiller

Lizzie Atwood was best friends with Lucretia Rudolph Garfield. (“Her worries, Crete took away, Lizzie loved her, until she died”). Lizzie married Arthur Pratt, and had two daughters named Mabel and Cornelia. Her mother and father were Elizabeth Yeatman Garrett, and Edwin Atwood, of Garrettsville, Ohio.