Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pound of Flesh

Every morning when I drive to work at Dodge, I pass by the Calvary Baptist Church with it's Highway 110 marquee.  While I wait for the light (no pun initially intended) at Delaware, I get to contemplate the daily platitude, which usually gently admonishes passerby to be a little less egocentric and a little more selfless.  Not too long ago, the message of the day was something like, "When others leave you, do they leave with more or less?"  Well, that's one that sticks with me, because I can be a glass-is-half-empty gal sometimes (witness my recent post, Tornado Alley).  My long ago writing mentor, the late, great, Richard Elman was eulogized in the New York Times Review of Books as a "sad sack."  I found the term very insulting, but the Times had a point which they could have made a bit more elegantly:  Richard had a great capacity for empathy.  When one shares in the deeper mysteries, and miseries, of the world, one tends to wear his heart on his sleeve-- I think of those little amulets of hearts, hands, and legs you see in churches in the southwest or Mexico.  I've always liked those amulets, they seem to be talismans of what it means to be human, a little piece of us.  Well, when I read that church marquee, through the haze of my not-caffeinated-enough, almost-pre-dawn brain, I first thought of literal subtraction-- taking a finger, an arm, a leg, some "pound of flesh" from a friend.  What every good empathizer or sad sack knows, though, is that we often think (wrongly) that everyone "gets" something by sharing an experience with us, by commiserating.  News flash to sad sacks:  they are not always getting something from us, sometimes we are actually exacting a fee from their souls, draining their proverbial cup, exacting our "pound of flesh."

Well, all of this is to say that some really marvelous things happen here at Dodge, and some really marvelous people make them happen.  Later this month, Dodge will honor a Volunteer of the Year, and, No, I won't tell you who it is (even though I know!).  This year's award goes to a really deserving person, but there are a number of people around here who seem to make it their business to to give more than they might get.  Mr. John Burgy seems to be one of those givers.  I don't know John very well yet, but what I do know of him seems to fall in line with those who know him very well.  John has a reputation as a Dodge volunteer of prodigious talent, great generosity and major kindness.

Last summer, I happened upon John in the Community Garden.  My students were very curious to find out what he was doing.  Turns out, John was picking more than a hundred grape leaves to make dolmades (a Greek delicacy of pickled grape leaves wrapped around savory rice) for his family.  Well, we often run into John, in his spiffy workshop, or while he's driving his truck around on one errand or another, and he always takes time to chat with students.  This summer, during one of our serendipitous chats, I asked John if the voracious Japanese beetles (talk about your "pound of flesh") had ruined his chances of making dolmades this year.  "No," he smiled, "I got 'em done early.  I beat 'em to it."  I said I'd like that recipe one of these days and, wouldn't you know, John showed up here at the Preschool bright and early the very next morning with a package of dolmades!  He wouldn't hand over the recipe until he heard the word that they were palatable (they are in fact delicious).  He's just plain nice, a really nice human being.  But you know, we sad sacks (aka Japanese beetles) did exact our "pound of flesh" from another giver anyway:  while John was here delivering the goods, he somehow agreed to build the Preschool a shed!

Please look for John's Dolmades Recipe in the Kitchen Catalyst section of this blog.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Big Kid Camp

Kudos to the ever-creative, ever-knowledgable Dodge naturalists that make all of the exciting "big kid" summer camps happen.  My preschoolers have heard through the Japanese beetle eaten grapevine about the mysteries of "Harry Potter" and "Gross" camp and are eager to attain "big kid" camp age.  My own "big kids" have spread the word amongst their smaller bretheren, proslytizing about the wonders of camp with such luminaries as Pam, Pete, Julie and that rascal, Nick.

Holly and JJ have completed a second summer of Dodge camps and they have bragged to their neighbors, friends, dentists, doctors, family and anyone who will listen about their exploits.  Here is a list of highlights from their lips to your ears (eyes?):

-Worm cookies, and tricking Dad into eating them
-Making a fire without a match
-Constellation Class, with that really cool blow-up outer space thing
-Eating bee larvae
-Butter beer
-Making a wand
-Herbology and Potions
-Making clay scat-- mine was the best coyote scat, Pete said so, he knows his scat
-Learning how to swing a golf club-- Dave says I'm going to be on the varsity team in high school
-Going in the pond up to my neck
-Finding stuff in the woods to eat
-Donkey poo paper-- don't worry, it's like bleached
-Challenge Hill & the Castle Wall
-Gettting extra Sander House points from that headmaster Dude...I think his name is Mr. Sanders?

*My mother in-law is not so thrilled about this accomplishment

If you want to make big kids happy, send them to a Dodge Summer Camp.  Wouldn't it be great if kids were this excited about school?  Don't tell them, but in a week of Dodge Camp, a kid might learn more than they did all year at school...  Here's a tip:  sign-up for Dodgewarts early.  Keep an eye on the website for a list of summer camps like Dodgewarts, Utterly Gross Nature, Survival Skills, Mystery Camp and Sports in the Outdoors  or call the Nature Center.  Summer may be nearly over, but there are big kid camps on offer year-round.

Many thanks to all the Dodge naturalists for working so hard to enthrall and educate our kids.