Whale poop and public education

I know what folks will pay for this.
I also know what it’s worth.
Two very different things….

I have a chunk of ambergris, found it years ago, and while briefly tempted to sell it, am grateful now I kept it.

It was sitting right on the edge of the bay just north of Lincoln Avenue. It wasn’t much to look at, and I am not sure what possessed me to pick it up. Even then I almost tossed it back into the bay.

I mostly forget about it, but now and again I walk through a cloud of its molecules and get briefly taken to, well, not sure where, some vague place of immeasurable joy.

Not immense.
Immeasurable.

In the literal sense.

Delaware Bay, North Cape May

You cannot measure the pleasure, the joy, the presence of the herenow that lump of aged whale shit brings me. It apparently has the same effect on others, why else would anyone offer thousands of dollars for a slab of shite?

The big data junkies among us might argue that all things are measurable, and I supposed you could take pre- and post-ambergris exposure levels of my serum oxytocin and plot them over time, but that becomes impractical, and it’s not important anyway..

Turns out measuring some pretty important things in education are impractical, too. Brilliant writing. Unorthodox but rational thinking. Sense of public duty. Joy. Ability to observe subtle details. Flexibility when confronted with new ideas. Empathy.

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The light of sunset through the shell of a horseshoe crab. [Photo credit: Leslie Doyle]

When our ability to measure outcomes trumps our choices of which outcomes matter, we’ve stripped “public” from education.

Winter beach sand

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

William Blake

I took this picture during a beach walk last week for the claw–I’ve been fascinated by the feistiness, the vivid colors, and the tastiness of blue crabs since I was little. The more I know about them the harder they are to eat.

And now, looking at the photograph, I marvel at the sand. Pieces of rock, thousand to millions to billions of years old , broken into tiny pieces, mixed with mortal shells, a mishmash of shapes and colors.

The edge of the bay tells stories of time, of mortality, of the unimaginable power of eons of time and tides. Each particle has a history and will continue to be long after the me of me is long gone.

A manchild brought in his VR Oculus headset to class right before the break. He danced around the back of the classroom firing missiles at targets as real to him as the sun itself.

And the sound of the sand rolling under the waves will never be heard.

Another stuffie recipe

The problem with recipes gets down to the problem with any written language—feigned immortality. If the goal is to get the exact same flavor, then you need the exact same ingredients grown at the exact same time after a season of the exact same weather.

Even then you will fail.

Consistent flavor easy to attain with processed foods. Your industrial producers have mastered consistency, but at a cost. (I am not about to knock processed foods—there is an undeniable comfort in consistency and salt.)

From my 2 year old grandchild’s garden,resting on our Adirondack chair.

My wheat berries grown on a family farm came with an apology for their small size—it was the driest year in decades and well, plants need water. A tomato grown in my garden may taste slightly different than the one from yours. The clams I raked up yesterday are sweeter than the ones I hope to harvest in March.

Recipes are incredibly useful for proportions, for temperatures, for time in the oven—but not so much for ingredients. This one happened mostly by accident—I liked it so I wrote it down, but who am I fooling?

14 top neck quahogs

1 stick butter

1 celery stick chopped fine

1 medium onion chopped fine

1 tsp rosemary chopped fine

Few sprigs of rosemary to flavor the butter

¾ cup panko, though could use a little more (it’s all I had)

Red pepper flakes

Some chopped garlic, not too much

Some dry basil (my parsley patch seems to be gone)

Gobs of Parmesan cheese, to make up for the missing panko

Tiny splash of rosé wine for when your sauté goes south—it’s what was in the fridge, but it worked.

Cook the clams the usual way—simmer until open, chop the innards, save the broth.

Start the stuffing by melting a stick of butter. I like to add a few sprigs of rosemary while the butter melts. I take out the rosemary once it wilts.

Sauté the onions until they’re where you like them, then cool things down with splash of rosé.

Add the celery and chopped rosemary and let simmer a bit. Normally I would add the garlic here, but I forgot, and I think holding off the garlic until the end worked better.

Add pepper flakes to taste.

Dump and stir the panko, and when you realize that you do not have enough, add enough Parmesan cheese to let the whole thing clump together.

Scoop stuffing into half shells, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Serve with some roasted Brussels sprouts and homemade rosemary/garlic bread.