Sunday, April 25, 2010
Today we did yard work under a daunting blue sky. M cleaned out the chicken coops and ushered wee baby chicks into the world; I declared war - again - against the mint in the front yard. And I dragged the withered corpse of our lemon tree out of its corner in our living room to its final resting place behind the garden. I didn't mean to kill the lemon tree last winter; we'd kept it alive for eleven years, through moving and getting married and having babies, but somehow, this year, saving it from deep frost was beyond us. In December, only a dry skeleton remained standing upright in the green pot on the porch. I remember M looking at me oddly when I brought the obviously dead tree inside, but the guilt, the guilt. It only ever bore two lemons for us; the real treasure was found in its leaves. When you folded one in half and brought it to your nose, you could smell a bright July day, clean yellow sheets dried on the line, ice-cold brewed tea and the sweet tartness of worldly well-being. I used to carry a leaf or two in my pocket during drab winter as a reminder of barefoot days to come - I will miss that.
Why is it that recipes seem to call for rhubarb and strawberries, or any other kind of fruit you may happen to have on hand? The sweet may balance out the tart, but sometimes it's nice to let one particular flavor shine. Does it always need to be peanut butter and jelly or salt and pepper? Maybe mix it up, try introducing your peanut butter to a banana and then maybe to some honey for an interesting threesome. Your pepper might enjoy meeting ginger, at least they seem to get along in Dorrie Greenspan's cookies. And as for the rhubarb, go for straight up. Boil it down for syrup that you can add to selzer or soda. Fruit, we don't need no stinkin' fruit - around here we like it tart!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Ten days ago I turned 35. I am probably at least halfway through my entire life. I have so much to do. Like travel the world. Read many, many books. Write many, many books. Bring fresh drinking water to a country or two. Run a marathon. Get a grown-up job. Hang a hammock on our front porch. Worm the horses. Climb a tree in a rainforest. Gaze at an iceberg before they all disappear. Life is short and I have tall plans. I have pages and pages to turn before seventy. Really, though, at the end of my life, as long as I have loved well and laughed easily whenever the opportunity presented itself, I will feel like a success, I will probably be content to make a graceful exit.
Not much is short around here, we have tall husbands and tall sons. Limbs and legs stretching on towards forever, growing seemingly overnight like that once-rumored-to-have-been beanstalk. There are, however, occasional flare-ups of short tempers, attention spans and sightedness - but they are blessedly short-lived. Here in Vermont weather can often be the source of aggravation. It snowed several times last week, proving that Spring, like creative inspiration, can be elusive. It must be savored and enjoyed at every possible moment, for neither is long lasting. This time of year always reminds me of our dear friends Frog and Toad. When looking to locate spring, it always seems to be just around the corner.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Handmade, hand-knit, hand-sewn, hand-raised, hand-painted, hand-fed, hand-lettered, hand-spun. I believe in the power of my own two hands and what they can accomplish. Last Sunday, after a fabulous Easter brunch featuring eggs from the very chickens dancing about in the yard, my family and I stopped at our Nearby Department Store for watches for all of us. T had obliterated his and M wanted one just to wear around and I needed to replace one that had died. (Not that I've been without a watch, but the black band on my current one just doesn't go with everything.) Each of them chose digital, the same style in fact. I opted for an analog with a very large face. I've now been teased as having bought the Large Print version, and that you can tell the time on my watch from across the room. Nevertheless, I like it. I find its impreciseness and the sweep of the hands comforting, rather than the cold instantaneous switching of the numbers of their watches. Yes, you can set them to ring at a certain time, say 4:34 each day, and I do find the little ping they make at the top of the hour helpful, but it's just not my style. If given the choice I will always desire the item that others find old-fashioned and outdated. At the Library we have a grandfather clock that has stood there marking time for many, many years. It needs to be hand wound and isn't so accurate anymore, so we don't really make use of it. To me it stands as a reminder of a time gone by, when everything depended on craftsmanship and handiwork. What have you done with your hands this week?
Tallis is learning the piano. Here he's playing my mother's piano, the same piano that used to live in my aunt and uncle's house. Before it was my aunt and uncle's house, it was the Peterson's house, and this was the Peterson's piano, and they were our neighbors when we lived next door at Forges Green, when I was a child. They watched me when I came home from school while my parents were still at work. The Petersons had three children in their family, like I have three children now. All of them played instruments - horns, flutes, banjos, in addition to the piano - and the house was often loud and chaotic with music and voices shouting over one another and sudden big plans like raising cows or building tree houses. An only child, I noticed all the tiny, competitive slights and the natural motions of sibling loyalty that were absent in my own quiet, peaceful house. Now my house is often chaotic with music and voices shouting over one another, and my boys have their own patterns of competition and forgiveness, and my house is rarely...peaceful. But occasionally Tallis will pick out a sweet melody on our own piano and his brothers will fall quiet, and for a moment I will have both houses, one that is boisterous and splendid and one that is splendid and serene.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Audrey Niffenegger's Henry DeTamble, librarian and time-traveler extraordinaire, said it best: "All my pleasures are homey ones: armchair splendor, the sedate exactments of domesticity. All I ask for are humble delights. A mystery novel in bed, the smell of Clare's long red-gold hair damp from washing, a postcard from a friend on vacation, cream dispensing into coffee, the softness of skin under Clare's breasts, the symmetry of grocery bags sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be unpacked. I love meandering through the stacks at the library after the patrons have gone home, lightly touching the spines of the books. These are the things that can pierce me with longing when I am displaced by Time's whim." Indeed, these are some of my most favorite things - including the book in which this quote can be found. But in times of stress or sadness, when I am chilled or ill, a cup of tea is often what's needed. The steaming cup to wrap my hands round is part of the ritual and the rightness of it all that I can always count on to comfort me.
Clean sheets dried on the line, hot baths spent reading Jane Austen by candlelight, cups of tea, peeling socks off too-warm feet, British sitcoms, the clang of dinner construction, my parents' living room, a particular black sweater on a cold winter day, the smell of boy hair warmed by the sun, books by Madeleine L'Engle and Anne Tyler, movies starring Tom Hanks, M humming into my hair, sipping solitary coffee on the front porch in the morning, the first sip of the first glass of wine after a complicated day, a hefty pile of manuscript pages, red beans and rice with kielbasa and broccoli.