Kernels by Karie Luidens

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Six-foot-tall corn stalks, a great pile of green husks, fistfuls of soft silk, all for this: the tiny, sweet kernels that will nourish us.

Silk by Karie Luidens

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I confess, I’m a little sad to see how underdeveloped my corn is within its husks. The cobs are slightly flaccid; the kernels are tiny and pale.

Corn is a notoriously hungry crop that sucks an abundance of nitrogen and minerals from the soil. I think the previously neglected dirt out back didn’t have enough organic matter to support a full, healthy corn harvest this year. Now that the ground is tilled, a year’s worth of plants have put down roots, the surface is mulched over with vines and stems and leaves—now that I’ve got a compost pile and worm bin breaking down the yard’s fallen leaves and kitchen scraps into rich humus to spread in the garden come spring—we’re well on our way to amending that dirt into a richer, healthier soil for next season.

Still, just look at that shiny silk. The corn plants grew beautifully with what they had and followed their natural pattern to produce seeds. Each tiny kernel put out a soft, slender fiber; together, those fibers slid up and out into the world as the ear’s tassel, dangling and reaching over the weeks for whatever pollen its neighbors released. Well done, little corn.

Lasts by Karie Luidens

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The political landscape is looking fresh for a change. What a relief.

Meanwhile, back in the backyard garden, we’ve got our last harvest of the year coming in…

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Finally by Karie Luidens

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Finally, finally, finally, Election Day is here. These midterms matter, people. For the love of all that is good—and I mean that sincerely—if you didn’t vote early, vote today!

Freezing by Karie Luidens

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The squash vines have seen better days. It’s no surprise; freezing temperatures are upon us these last few nights. Either way, we knew they’d finished producing fruits for harvest and were starting to fold back toward the earth. In the months ahead, the green of their skeleton will gradually reabsorb into the soil and replenish it for the seeds to be planted come spring.

Forgetting by Karie Luidens

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As my country grinds its way through the last few days of the the midterm election’s political campaigns, I find myself more exhausted than ever by the president’s lies in tweets and speeches, the general fear-mongering of his supporters, the demonizing of immigrants and refugees, the accusation that hardworking journalists are sowing discord as opposed to the leaders who actually call for violence in their overblown rhetoric. Enough. Have we forgotten who we are as Americans? What happened to the idea that we are a nation built not on ethnic identity or religious zealotry, but on an enlightened philosophy that all humans are created equal? Can we once again strive to be a shining city on a hill, a people who open our arms to the world’s huddled masses? If not, what are we? Why are we here?

Remembrance by Karie Luidens

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I am not overly familiar with the Mexican holiday that is the Day of the Dead. Like most Americans, I think, I’ve long recognized the colorful painted skulls and paper banners that are associated with the holiday, but I didn’t learn much about their significance until Pixar released the movie Coco.

Now I know this much at least: it’s a day for remembering those who have died, with the conviction that remembrance itself keeps our loved ones alive in the world that much longer.

So here’s a day for remembering some of the lives that were suddenly, brutally snuffed out in the last few weeks. There are many more who have been victims of shootings here in America, or violence and poverty in Central America, or starvation halfway across the world in Yemen, or regime brutality in Saudi Arabia or North Korea. These are just a few of the names I know.

Jamal Khashoggi

Maurice E. Stallard

Vickie Lee Jones

Joyce Fienberg

Richard Gottfried

Rose Mallinger

Jerry Rabinowitz

Cecil Rosenthal

David Rosenthal

Bernice Simon

Sylvan Simon

Daniel Stein

Melvin Wax

Irving Younger

Paranoia by Karie Luidens

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Halloween is normally a day for scary fun... but lately we've had far too much fear-mongering in our national discourse, and actual terrorism taking lives. This Halloween let's take a deep breath and try to keep it real. I’ll let Adam Serwer at The Atlantic take it from here.

In reality, the caravan was thousands of miles and weeks away from the U.S. border, shrinking in size, and unlikely to reach the U.S. before the election. If the migrants reach the U.S., they have the right under U.S. law to apply for asylum at a port of entry. If their claims are not accepted, they will be turned away. There is no national emergency; there is no ominous threat. There is only a group of desperate people looking for a better life, who have a right to request asylum in the United States and have no right to stay if their claims are rejected. Trump is reportedly aware that his statements about the caravan are not true. An administration official told The Daily Beast simply, “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate … This is the play.” The “play” was to demonize vulnerable people with falsehoods in order to frighten Trump’s base to the polls.

Nevertheless, some took the claims of the president and his allies seriously. On Saturday morning, Shabbat, a gunman walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people. The massacre capped off a week of terrorism, in which one man mailed bombs to nearly a dozen Trump critics and another killed two black people in a grocery store after failing to force his way into a black church. [...]

Ordinarily, a politician cannot be held responsible for the actions of a deranged follower. But ordinarily, politicians don’t praise supporters who have mercilessly beaten a Latino man as “very passionate.” Ordinarily, they don’t offer to pay supporters’ legal bills if they assault protesters on the other side. They don’t praise acts of violence against the media. They don’t defend neo-Nazi rioters as “fine people.” They don’t justify sending bombs to their critics by blaming the media for airing criticism. Ordinarily, there is no historic surge in anti-Semitism, much of it targeted at Jewish critics, coinciding with a politician’s rise. And ordinarily, presidents do not blatantly exploit their authority in an effort to terrify white Americans into voting for their party. For the past few decades, most American politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, have been careful not to urge their supporters to take matters into their own hands. Trump did everything he could to fan the flames, and nothing to restrain those who might take him at his word.

Many of Trump’s defenders argue that his rhetoric is mere shtick—that his attacks, however cruel, aren’t taken 100 percent seriously by his supporters. But to make this argument is to concede that following Trump’s statements to their logical conclusion could lead to violence against his targets, and it is only because most do not take it that way that the political violence committed on Trump’s behalf is as limited as it currently is.

Promises by Karie Luidens

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The most important fall harvest that must be preserved until spring: the seeds taken from this year’s fruits. Those are what will allow the whole cycle of self-sustenance to begin again the garden; they hold all the promise of life continuing.

Preserves by Karie Luidens

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This is the time of year when humans must preserve enough fresh-grown food to last through the cold season ahead. Of course, our household will subsist mostly on what others have stocked for us at the local grocery store: food baked or boxed with chemical preservatives. The original preserves, though, are those that have been dried or smoked, pickled or sugared, boiled and sealed. We’ve got some of that on hand—pickled cucumbers, jammed fruits, shelf-stable cans of soup and sauce. We’re also lucky enough to have a freezer where we can keep roasted chile peppers and shredded zucchini for months to come.

Parties by Karie Luidens

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There’s a reason autumn is the season of celebration, from Halloween parties like the one where I danced the night away last night, to Día de los Muertos next weekend, to Thanksgiving just around the corner. All through the spring and summer, we’ve done the hard work of tilling, planting, weeding, and watering—or at least our ancestors did when society was still predominantly agricultural. Now the harvest is in. It’s time for one last hurrah of abundance before we start rationing what we’ve saved through the barren winter months.

Seasons by Karie Luidens

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I think it’s safe to say, between these gusts and frosts and mists, our growing season is now drawing to a close. My tangled vines of squash and pumpkin are no longer putting out fresh yellow blossoms each morning. Tomatoes still hang from their stems, but only here and there do they turn red; the rest may need to be harvested green before they freeze, in which case I’ll happily fry them up to eat hot. The only crop that continues to mature is the corn, whose fuchsia tassels have drooped over ears grown long, firm, and strong. Soon the whole garden will have slowed itself into hibernation and I’ll help put it to bed for the winter.