The Great Unleaving: When Life Throws Rhubarb on your Custard

img_1614I left full-time employment at the end of June with a grand plan of doing nothing. After 45 years in education it seemed only reasonable. The send-off was great, people were kind and generous and the summer was ahead. I had an unspoken notion that once the election was over I would begin to focus on what I might want to do next. If anything.

Meanwhile my plan of doing nothing was working well and allowed time for following politics closely, doing whatever I could to help the Democrats win in Duchess Country and elect Hillary Clinton president.

Well we all know how that turned out. Life has a way of throwing rhubarb on your custard and so it was.

img_1798Meanwhile the Hudson Valley was its usual with its leafy firestorm of colors. Mostly gone now but there’s still color in the woods.

And even in NYC this weekend there are still leaves blazing with autumn and even a blooming rose in Riverside Park. So it’s the same old druid time as ever.

While the immediate distress of the election fades the dismay is an evolving horror with the worst yet to come. Many have expressed the three-fold grief:

  • Losing what could have been – the inclusive and forward-thinking presidency of Hillary Clintonimg_1617
  • Seeing what will be – the rise of know-nothing autocracy and the ugly face of neo-Nazism up close
  • The threat to what had always seemed so secure – the idea of America, its institutions and its democracy.

We’ve all lived through personal loss and certainly experienced the disappointments of election reversals and losses.  But this is of a different magnitude. And in saying so I am well aware of the privileges of my position.

goldengroveThe Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins grew up in a deeply religious and creative family and chose as a young man to convert to Catholicism and become a Jesuit priest. He often layered his work with religiosity and moral meaning.

No exception with “Spring and Fall” as he connects the falling leaves of autumn with the original fall from grace in the garden of Eden.

Religiosity aside – his observation on mutability and on the acute egocentricity of the way we experience the world remains true.

We grieve for a country that could have been one of expanding notions of inclusion and justice, kindness and opportunity.

We grieve because we identify with a woman who had endured so much, worked so hard, achieved so much only to be dealt a crushing and devastating blow.

We grieve those people whose lives are threatened.

And we grieve for ourselves because now we must again pick ourselves up, seek strength and support, stop feeling sorry for ourselves, do something, and confront what looms with courage and hope.

And a small piece of doing that is finding great pleasure in trying something new. For me that includes filling the kitchen with the smells and flavors of Vietnamese cooking – chilis, fish sauce, cilantro, ginger, shallots and lemongrass.



  1. Perfectly stated, and I am glad, at least, to be a recipient of the cooking.

  2. Jake Lahey:

    Excellently crafted indeed. Of course, I love me some history and poetry in tandem, along with a title that incorporates creative metaphor in multiple meaning. This is an excellent model of reflective (and blog) writing that I’d like to anonymously utilize. Thoughts?

    • Jake Lahey:

      Meaning, I would keep you anonymous.

    • Hi Jake – Thanks for the kind words (and the retweet!) Much appreciated. Use in any way you like and I’m happy to have my name associated. Or not.

      Yes a little history with your poetry and poetry with your history. Great combination.

      Of course – rhubarb WITH custard is quite delicious. But the T***p variety is uncooked and rather green. Very sour and nasty.

      Cheers Jake.

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