Mary Beth Writes

A quern is the 10,000-year old Cuisinart.  The photo I am using today is of a quern found in southern Arizona and set outside the door to the  park headquarters of Organ Pipe National Monument, I recognized it because I’ve written about querns in the past!

A Quern is two rocks fitted out to grind stuff between them, generally to grind grain into flour.   There are many, many designs of querns but in all of them, the bottom rock is some variation on a roundish flattish rock, the top rock is designed in some way that allows that rock to be swiveled or churned in a steady way over the bottom rock. This 2-rock system is called a Quern. To be more precise, the bottom rock is the quern, the top one is a handstone.

If you want to know more, go to Wikipedia and follow the crazy words. Like nixtamalization using a metate; Maya words for this machine and process.  Or, in Scotland there was thirlage; which was the manor-run area in which you lived where you were forced to hire the local miller to grind your grain - so that the local lord and lady and miller could earn more money from your hard work and your crop. If you had a quern, you had to hide it. If they found it - they broke it, which is why museums in Scotland today have a lot of broken querns. You have probably heard the rumor that poor Scots people were not fond of obeying laws imposed on them by lords, ladies, and the Brits.

A quern is a heavy, useful 2-part machine that shows us that being human has always required a wagon load of muscle with a dollop of smarts. 

People figured out they liked to eat grain. They figured out that if you beat the grain up a bit, you could make bread and many other helpful, sometimes tasty, generally filling foods.  A quern is a tool that allowed groups of people to work together in families and teams, to divide up the work and make a meal.  It was a tool to radically multiply sources nourishment for humans. 

A quern was one of humankind’s first assets. With it a community had a way to get through a variety of seasons and weather patterns. It helped turn this month’s bumper crop into flour with which to sustain the community months from now.  

Querns helped even out the ups and downs, rains and droughts. It helped turn the inedible into supper. It made it possible for people to live a distance from their fields of grain. It allowed commerce, turning harvest into commodity.

The individuals, family, tribe, community who owned and controlled the quern – became the ones who could rule others.

It was a tool for sustenance.  It could also become a tool for wealth, exploitation, and power.

Like health insurance. 

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Some Sore Paw Thoughts

 Last night I read on the sofa for a couple hours. Then I came upstairs, brushed my teeth, and went to bed to read some more. Honest, that’s it. That’s mostly what I did yesterday. A few chores and errands. A lot of reading.

Then while turning one more page - my foot started to hurt! One moment nothing; next moment a big twitchy thing flared along the side of one foot. I rubbed it and tried to stretch the muscles but that made it worse, so I took ibuprofen and went to sleep. I woke this morning and although it hurts less, it still hurts.

Genius & Why you Shouldn't Judge a Fish by What it Can't Do

Someone asked me what I thought might be the definition of genius. (If you send me an open-ended question I might try to answer you, too.)

Here are some of my thoughts.  Because on Halloween, plus the day the House of Reps votes on how to proceed with the impeachment proceedings, plus California is on fire, plus there is a half of foot of snow out my window – why wouldn’t we talk about shades of genius?

Sometimes it's calming to talk about a situation that doesn't exactly affect many of us. 

Why I'm Lukewarm on Heroes

I was emailing with my very smart cousin about heroes. He wrote (in a longer email): Are there heroes left? It seems like some of us have been pretty busy debunking our heroes, and if taking the varnish off is the objective, they’ve been very effective, IMHO. And the follow up question, what are the consequences of a hero-less world? 

 I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. So instead of posting the 17 pages I have written, let me say SEVEN things about heroes.

The Erie Canal; Means and Dreams

This photo is from Schoharie Crossing State Historical Site. The crumbling infrastructure is the oldest part of the Erie Canal -where it crossed Schoharie Creek. 

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Crown Point, Ticonderoga, and Saratoga

Not everyone wants to see where the American Revolutionary War got up and got going - but we did.

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The summer after college I worked in my family’s printing business, trying to earn and save enough to move out. To where I was not sure, but somewhere!

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley..."

Thank you, Robert Burns, for that title. 

We were driving from Gaspé to the next town when this happened.

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