Country Roads, Acadiana: Breaux’s Grocery Tuesday, Oct 28 2014 

Over the years, I’ve posted pix of quaint, rural grocery stores that dot the Cajun countryside.  Most of them are no longer open, though, recalling former posts  about the Octave Fontenot store at Prairie Ronde and Sibille Brothers Grocery in the Bristol

Breaux's Grocery: A throwback to the retail past of the Cajun prairie.

Breaux’s Grocery: A throwback to the retail past of the Cajun prairie.

Community.  Those buildings still stand, but the groceries are no longer in business.

Not so Breaux’s Grocery in the Leroy community on Hwy. 699 in Vermilion Parish. The store is very open, advertising the coldest beer, hottest boudin, and best sandwiches on the marquis.  I couldn’t stop to go in since I was on business, but I hope one day to get back to Leroy to see how the store looks and feels on the inside.  I’m sure it’s an establishment with a strong Cajun accent, steeped in the fragrance of smoked meat and steamy boudin.

In Memorium, for the Family and Friends of Clemile Suire Wednesday, Oct 22 2014 

Composed on the South Louisiana Prairie
October 22, 2014

The Cajun prairie
with golden waves spreading away

The Cajun Prairie receives its own, but the earthen grave is not the end!

The Cajun Prairie receives its own, but the earthen grave is not the end!

beyond reach

received one of its own this day.

Dazzling blue hemisphere,
cloudless, bright and windswept,
arched overhead as a crystal dome
from whence angels sang and danced
a happy soul’s homeward flight.

Those left behind
gathered at the graveside,
remembering a life of

devotion to right matters

and the good times that attend life well lived.
After the priest’s hopeful amen,
the soldiers’ stirring rite,
the piper’s soulful strain of Amazing Grace,
those left behind attended one another
with much tender embrace,
holding one another close
as this mortal creed must,
because in such hours,
we know we need
oh so much
one another.

And as we cling to one another,
even more,
we cling to the glorious hope of faith
that dulls sorrow’s sharp edge:

“Just a few more weary days, and then . . .”

Gumbo Weather Wednesday, Oct 15 2014 

We are enjoying our first really strong cool snap of the season this mid-week, so yesterday Sarah enacted the perennial Cajun tradition of making gumbo to go along with the colder weather. Gumbo was a common meal of the common country Cajun throughout the cold-weather months, because its preparation on a hot stove for hours and hours helped keep the house warm, just as its steamy juiciness warmed the inward parts of the Cajun’s tummy as well as his soul. It’s one of those dishes that has more than culinary value, since its preparation in South Louisiana so often relates to celebration of all kinds of things, beginning with celebrating the first north wind’s relief from summer and continuing to celebrate throughout the colder months with weddings, holidays, and birthdays. I don’t know of any other regional dish in America that has such rich social and communal tradition associated with it.

The Cajun traditions were foreign to me, growing up in the un-Cajun side of South Louisiana. We only ate gumbo ever’ so often. And the only kind of gumbo Mama made was seafood gumbo. Because seafood ingredients can be exotic (and expensive!), gumbo cookin’ was really a special event. I doubt if we had it more than once or twice a year, and I don’t remember associating gumbo with cold weather. Gumbo-cooking, in fact, usually coincided with our catching a few Lake Pontchartrain crabs on a family outing–not enough to boil for the whole family, but enough to add some flavor to a roux, ergo Mama got out the gumbo pot, bought some oysters and shrimp, and fired up the stove.

Later I married into the Cajun culture and came to the Cajun’s distinctly cultural understanding of gumbo. Cajuns do fix seafood gumbo, but the real staple (and I DO mean staple!) for the prairie Cajuns is chicken and sausage gumbo. Those earthy ingredients, of course, correspond to the dietary constraints of the more inland-dwelling Cajuns who, in the old days, didn’t have shrimp, crabs, and oysters as did the bayou-dwelling Cajuns farther south and east. But they had chickens and they had hogs, and they had spices to make any dish exotic, and they knew how to put it all together. The result: the rich, sensuous flavor of chicken and sausage gumbo is hardly diminished by the humility of its ingredients.

Exotic fare for the common man: chicken and sausage gumbo.

Exotic fare for the common man: chicken and sausage gumbo.

Allons manger du gumbo, mes amis.

Composing more and writing less: The irony of the technological age Thursday, Oct 9 2014 

This was my grandfather's mode of composition.

This was my grandfather’s mode of composition.

I ran across a writing exercise I did in a writing group sometime in the early 1990’s. One of the questions asked about my preference for a writing place. Here’s what I wrote those decades ago:

“I like to write in a quiet, comfortable place holding my work on a tablet or in a notebook. The sofa in the living room is fine because I can prop my feet on the coffee table in a semi-reclined position, using my knees as a desk-top.”

Whoa! What a different meaning desk-top had then compared to now! And sitting on the sofa, writing on a notebook with a pen? I haven’t composed that way in 20 years. In fact, I could never duplicate the penmanship-award-winning calligraphy that characterized my graceful handwriting style in college years, simply because those pen-gripping muscles of writing control have atrophied from non-use.

I still write, certainly, but for probably 20 years now, my preferred tool for invention and composition has been the computer keyboard. I sit before a monitor, at a desk. Maybe some would argue that it’s not really writing, but it’s certainly composing!

Composition without writing?

Composition without writing?

I still use a pen and paper for the grocery list or for doodling on an agenda handout during a boring meeting, but if what I’m writing counts, I have to commit it to the screen so I can really “see” what I said.

Poetic License Tuesday, Oct 7 2014 

I can’t remember if I ever posted this piece or not. It comes from an activity in the 2013 Word Up youth writers camp where I stole a few minutes of office time to sit down with the young writers.

Poetic License
July-October 2013
(From a Word Up! youth writing camp pre-write)

Freedom of mind, freedom of verse!

Freedom of mind, freedom of verse!

I write; therefore I am
unenslaved to form or convention,
dogma or creed:
I can write
blank verse,
free verse,
open form,
Sonnet or doggerel,
Stanzas or not:
For free words flow in fragrant streams of Logos,
Truth inspired,
the Measure of Meaning
ushered from the Source of invention,
spilling through canyons of eternity.