The dog asks to go out into the bright morning, and I climb back into bed grateful she wants to come in too, it is so cozy and I begin to drift off but there is a nagging sensation that I have forgotten something. It is an hour before I realize it is Saturday and I am down to three radishes, a dozen and a half eggs, a lemon and a handful of wilted scallions in the fridge.
I park in the shadow of a tractor trailer without it’s tractor and open the windows half way. I am still saying there should be designated dog parking all summer long. It is only 68, this is the only shade anywhere. How hard would it be, to make a corner of the lot safe for those who are out with their pets?
Now later I feel such a sense of peace and contentment. There is a moment at which you find yourself, in a place where everything comes together and begins to make sense. It is really just an inkling, but it is there and it feels like it will become more profound.
I would not have this home, nor my yoga teacher without my ex husband. I would not have this belief in my personal strength and integrity without the pirate nor would I have known that the problem was not with me with regards to our difficult relationship, would not have my daughter if it were not for her father… you get the picture. I would not be cleaning my house organically and with such a small footprint without A. and a Tau sister I lived with who reminded me that there was a time when this was what I did. Oh. Yes. The dogs at my side, my ex again, and a Tau sibling. I feed them pea pods, blueberries, strawberries and sour cherries. The pup putting her paw on my knee, asking for more. What would my life feel like without them?
I wash and cut and prepare my fruit and vegetables. Storing some in freezer bags, some in the fridge. I slice cucumbers, the little ones with no seeds, and poor hot vinegar over them, cutting up cilantro and parsley from my garden, trimming lettuce to put it on later, with chickpeas.
My sour cherry jam is boiling away on the stove and fresh homemade scones baking in the oven. A lifetime of having to live poor, now coming to fruition through living clean. My six face cords of wood on order, I look at this wood stove and do math in my head, 75 dollars a month to be warm all winter. Sometimes my gas bill was as high as 350 dollars a month, and that is cheap. I really can get used to this.
I embrace this, it is perfection. What a gift. I am filled with gratitude.
There is this kind of perfection in cooking. The slow kind. Yesterday I used the food processor, something I would have never bought for myself, because there is a zen quality, a peaceful quality, a hands in and hands on kind of quality to carefully cutting the vegetables. I love this. This act of cooking. I understand the purpose of a sous chef, but I love the act of creating the food from the beginning to the end. But today, the processor does the stalks of celery in seconds, the onions sliced, I pour them out onto the cutting board and chop them into small pieces. Saute the veggies in butter. I do not have any sage. I call and ask if anyone has it. No. I am not yet fully here in this household. Several minutes later, I have a brand new container of sage in my hands, delivered to my door, via the grocery store. And I cook it all on a stove I could never have imagined owning, it shines brand new in the kitchen, they went out to get it, so I could bake properly for Thanksgiving. I open the windows and bake nothing for the first time, as directed in the manual.
For this new family I feel a deep sense of gratitude.
In the morning, I wake early, to the crispy frosted grass and leaves. The sun is shining and the day promises to be warm. I raise my arms up and stretch in the brisk air. Lovely day. Lovely day. There are no shortcuts for pie crust. I put on Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, the heavenly choir fills the air. The dog comes to me and rests his head on my knee. I look into his eyes, he is almost smiling as he “hugs” me in his doggie way. He does this at least two more times over the course of the morning, though I am regularly admonishing him to get out of the kitchen. And as I mix the egg and ice water into the flour and butter, I feel a sense of something, I do not know what, it is profound though, and I savor it. I cannot name it.
For this beautiful animal and his unconditional love, I feel so very thankful.
He comes in from hunting, smiling, cheerful. Last night I said to him, in the hot tub, that he was clearly miserable, so clearly not happy with me living in this place with him, that I just didn’t know what we were doing. He said, I have always been miserable, but with you here, I am this much more happy than I was before. He holds his hands apart like the fish that got away. Later I tell him, thank you for telling me that, he pulls me down on top of him and kisses me. Later still he comes into the living room and places a big plate of sliced apples on the coffee table, but not in front of himself, but off to the side. I look at him, into those stunning green hazel eyes, he smiles. I get off the awful chair and sit beside him. We should bring that small couch in here, he says, it is a good snuggle couch, and put that chair in the office. Okay, I say. I would like that. I go from one house to another, my side dishes and dessert a hit, and get containers for the remains of dinner, when I come in they are talking about rings, and cruises to Alaska. They change the subject upon my entrance, but not quickly, slowly as though to tell me something. Later I show him my board of pins, ‘for the wedding I will never have”. He laughs. But he is quiet too. I don’t know, honestly, if we will ever go there, but I know at the very least, I have his love, and he is my very best friend.
For this man, who is difficult, moody, miserable, and sometimes positively awful, I am so very thankful.
She comes to the door without being announced, he lets her in. She sits in her favorite chair, the cats come to her to cuddle, the dog sits beside her. I pour her a beverage, it is kind of fun to have a drink with my baby, though she is not a heavy drinker, and I have water. After he goes to bed we tickle each others backs, a multi-generational ritual of affection, that I have not had the pleasure of in months. After, I tell her come here, and she cuddles me like she did when she was little. It’s hard huh? I ask. She nods her head as she sucks her two fingers. Harder than you thought, isn’t it? She nods her head more vigorously. But, she says, it is so worth it. I know, I say, and it will get better if you are prepared to work your ass off. I fall asleep while we are watching reruns of NCIS, she nudges me awake, come on Momma, she says. Do you want to drive your car home, I ask her, as she gets in the car I have not owned long, but is now hers, minus, for the moment, the title and registration. Yeah, I do, she says. I feel butterflies in my stomach, as I realize that I am still being the fearful mom, but she has got the driving thing down. It is my tension, not her maturity that is the problem in this moment. Its a good car I tell her. It is a grown up car she says, I see now the truck wasn’t a grown up car, but this car, is a car for a grown up.
I am so very grateful for this child, though she is now an adult, most of the time, she has brought me so much joy, so much worry, so much love, so much angst.
It is late, but I started to straighten the house as we watched TV together, folding blankets, sorting junk mail from bills, organizing my side table, preparing the dishes to be washed. I come into the dark quiet house. I notice how the house looks better day by day, than it did when I moved in. The gorgeous hardwood floors hidden under a horrible cream Berber carpet. The organized area where the shoes were, the cheap cruddy looking throw rugs gone, the kitchen de-cluttered, and more open, my belongings scattered throughout the house, in spots here, and there. I wash the dishes, clean the bit of pie off the bottom of the new oven, note the work to be done, the rugs in the kitchen need a wipe down, the wallpaper torn off and a pale blue wall added, the out dated light fixture moved to the middle and replaced with something a bit more modern, simple fixes. Small steps.
For this house, which I live in, for all intents and purposes, for free, I cannot even tell you how unimaginably thankful I am, for the halved work, for the beautiful space to paint in, sunny, airy, open and the warmth of a wood stove to make it a four season room, for the deer that are in the yard, for the hot tub, for the bird feeders in the lawn, that he loves as much as I, for the herbs and vegetables he has planted, for the sanctuary of my own room, for the slate rock patio, for the sunny front steps, that cured a recent bout of the stomach flu, 36 hours into it (first time I have been viral sick with more than just a cold in literally four years), for his willingness to help me make it the kind of home I want to live in, though it takes a great deal of dragging, for all of this…I am humbled. So grateful.
And for the love of my family, my friends, my Mom, whose birthday was today, for my students, and the cats, and their conditional love and occasional affection, I am full of gratitude.
And there is that feeling, as I clean up my room, organizing my jewelry, I stop and notice it. What is that? I ask. I notice it, this ordeal, I think, has been divine in its making. Long did I think it in the dark hours, with all the weird things, the odd coincidences, divine. I have hated it, and I was destroyed by it, but it had to be, didn’t it? Divine? And as the things happen, as I get further and further away from it, it feels divine. As I sit, at a desk, waiting for my new vehicle to be prepared, this song comes on, and I stop, I listen to every word of it. I cannot believe that only a few months before he left me, he played this song for me, sending it to me by phone, from the concert we were watching. I listen to it, for the first time, with a kind of passive acknowledgment, why would this be playing, here, now, when I realized this morning, that this is perhaps one of the last steps in the letting go of what I had lost. I am grateful for the gifts of things I wouldn’t have without it. And there are good things I carried out of it, for sure, but the greatest gift of all, is how much better my life has become with the after.
In the cool night air, I stand, same place I stood as the sun was rising, and I look up to a blanket of stars, and there, staring me in the face is the constellation Orion. I thought I was free from it here. But I see, it will never be wholly gone.
It is like the act of cooking, it is the process, the act of being whole and present, and putting your self into each moment. They say I am a good cook, but it is the love of the act that makes it so. The wholesome ingredients, the small bits of knowledge, the years of experience, the immense failures taken as lessons, the lack of attention resulting in burned ruins, the pleasure of sharing the meal, and of partaking in a meal alone.
For this life, I am grateful, deeply, profoundly.
Thank you for destroying me, because by that act, you have made me whole.
I loved you, I love you still, and I always will.
I am sorry I was hateful and so terribly angry when you left, see what happened was, that I made the mistake of following you, into the dark.
For the path I made out of this darkness, I am so very grateful. For this new life, of my creation, I am so very grateful.
The fire here, is set on simmer, and the meal promises to be good.
“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Rumi
The pirate and I didn’t make it to the Farmers Market this weekend since it is hunting season and he, instead was finding food from another source altogether. We decided while we were out running afternoon errands to go to Wegmans, perhaps the biggest and best store in the area. There was a woman there sampling sausages of all kinds and they were phenomenal. I bought a lovely smokey chorizo and then came home and made dirty rice. I was unhappy with the finished product, but the pirate added his touch and viola. Put two intelligent heads together and here is the recipe:
Dirty Rice ala Pirate and Wench
saute two medium onions, 5 cloves of chopped garlic, three stalks of celery and a green pepper on low heat until soft and translucent. Push to the outside edges of the pot and add a package of sliced chorizo sausage, brown lightly. Stir in altogether add two cups of rice (I used Goya medium grain rice which I absolutely cannot stand but that was somehow the only kind we had in the house) and 4 cups of water and your favorite Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil and then turn down to lowest setting and simmer til the rice is done. Add one 8 oz jar of salsa to your taste (we used medium) and also optional a hearty squeeze of Sriacha sauce for extra spice. mmm
I made my favorite lentil stew for dinner last night. A meal I love but is not and has not ever been anyone else favorite. So unless you adore lentils don’t bother. BTW the pirate didn’t love it, but he liked it enough to have a second bowl.
No Fat Lentil Soup
add one and a half cups of green lentils to a stock pot and put in about 10 cups of water. chop one onion into large chunks and add 6 whole cloves of garlic. simmer for about a half hour. add two large carrots cut into chunks, add one parsnip cut into chunks (opt) and two large potatoes and several stems of fresh thyme. simmer on medium low stirring frequently until the veggies are soft. add about six large mushrooms sliced, a half a head of broccoli chopped (you can add the harder stems when you put in the carrots and potatoes) and about four ounces of tamari sauce. Remove the thyme stems. Simmer about ten more minutes until the broccoli is cooked. Warm, fat free, and rich in fiber and vitamins. LOVE LOVE.
As a good wine must be kept in a good cask, so a wholesome body is the proper foundation for a well-appointed inner ground. ~Johannes Tauler
The day was cold and cloudy, I got into the truck and immediately the pirate and his friend admonished me to get another jacket. I declined and of course the pirate who is always prepared had at least two extra jackets in the back. When we got to Clinton Square I had to admit it was chilly, but within one hour the sun had come out and we were all removing our sweaters and jackets. This was year five of the festival, started to raise money for Katrina and for the gulf of Mexico, it has continued to raise money for Bernard’s Parish. The pirate is so personable and open that literally everywhere we go he “has people” and this was no exception. We walked up to the man who was running the boil and he shook hands and greeted him by name. We were treated shortly by a handful of boiled shrimp. I tried the jambalaya and the gumbo which were delicious. Later I tried a crawfish, I am not a big fan of lobster, ever since I boiled one alive, oh not by dropping it in the already boiling water, but by putting him in a pot and cooking him alive, his tap dancing toes on the bottom of the pot was the first sign of my ignorant mistake. I am a soft hearted thing and it was one of the last times I ever ate it. Also lobster carries some memories of my Mom being rushed to the hospital in anaphylactic shock, that leaves me leery of it though I eat crab, scallops and shrimp with little fear. I was not fond of the crawfish though either. I really felt queasy about sucking out their brains, I know it was all mental so next time I will try more. Cyrus, the man who ran the boil said that last year they had 1600 pounds of crawfish and had 400 pounds left over, this year they ran out by about 330 in the afternoon. Now that the boil was ended they ran a special boil using the venison sausage and peanuts that the pirate brought and we also had access to boiled garlic bulbs and some of the spiciest most delicious mushrooms I have ever eaten. We finished off the day with biegnets and coffee, the beignets taste kind of like a sweet fried biscuit, I suspect though that they were not nearly as good as the real New Orleans ones. It was such a great day, we stayed until the end of the festival, as the sun was going down I was getting pretty cold and the free t-shirts we were given by the boilers were a great, and I used one over my clothes to warm up. I had a pretty good sunburn, I thought the week in paradise would have set me with a base tan enough to not burn, but it did not quite cut it, you could even see the imprint of my disk shaped necklace on my chest.
The Westcott Theater is a small local venue for live music. It has a wide open floor plan a bar on one side in the back, a place to sell shirts and CD’s on the other side of the theater, a sound booth in the middle and a small stage in front. It was once a movie theater so the floor is at an angle which makes it good for viewing the stage, but not great for standing all night. Last night the pirate and I went to see the band John Brown’s Body.
It was a great show, two other bands played before they did, one of them was called Doc Apple a fun danceable hip hop band from Rochester NY. The other was a guy called Derrick Hart, after the show ended he was walking around with CD’s and he gave both of us a CD of a compilation of his music and some other folks. He came on stage all rumpled and looking kind of geeky but then he opened his mouth and he had a great show tunes voice which he proceeded to sing an a capella show tune style song with lots of F…words mixed in in a unique and surprising way. It was pretty terrific and getting the CD was an added bonus.
A not so lazy Sunday, after being up dancing half the night, I had breakfast with the pirate’s family, cleaned my house, and walked the dog in the brilliant sunshine. He was so happy, I swear he looked at me and smiled at least twice. Now as I continue to prepare artwork to send to an unpaid commission, the new clay Jizo sitting on my table by my side, I have a mincemeat pie in the oven and a pot of one of my long time favorite soups on the stove as I listen to the CD given to me by Derrick Hart.
Vegan Lentil Soup
a cup of lentils
and about 6 cups water simmer for 45 minutes on low
meanwhile in a saute pan, caramelize a diced vidalia onion with three cloves of garlic, browning the onion adds loads of extra flavor pour a little water in and get all the browny goodness out of the pan before you add this to the simmering lentils.
chop three carrots and three medium potatoes and add.
Simmer until lentils are tender about another half hour or so.
add a half a bottle of tamari sauce (5oz altogether) and three sprigs of fresh thyme,
or a tsp of dried thyme leaves, or if you don’t have thyme, herbs de provence work too.
freshly ground pepper
add two large handfuls of mushrooms sliced
simmer another half hour
and a medium sized broccoli crown cook until broccoli is soft
I met the pirate three years ago this month, introduced by someone I would not know, were it not for the X, funny how that happened, and makes it so much easier to see his leaving as a gift, both the worst and the best thing that has happened to me in the nearest years of my life. Last year it was the discussion of mincemeat that led to my giving him my email, though he did not contact me, instead I stalked him down, sending the recipe, stumbling over myself like a gangling foal trying to connect. I paid him no mind until my Japanese friend, said, oh he likes you. I could not imagine. I was so okay with being single. It felt easier than all that other stuff, though a few weeks later a friend convinced me to try the online dating thing again. Ironically, she tried again recently, I am having so much fun, she said, you should do it with me. No way I said, I am done, I have a boyfriend, but other than that, I have no interest. Its too hard. I find myself in doubt of my own confidence when I date, its not insecurity so much as not wanting to deal with or accept the criticism of another, I have had enough of that crap in my life for sure.
I have about 10-15 pounds of neck still in my freezer, but I canned 12 quarts of some neck that my brother brought to me at Thanksgiving. It was a difficult recipe, made worse by my inexperience with it. It took me two trips to the store, and the kitchen was an absolute disaster. Thank all the Gods in heaven for the two gifts that the X got me many years ago, that made it so much easier, my Kitchen Aide mixer with attachable grinding arm, and my Kitchen Aide food processor.
I used about 6 pounds of ground venison, 10 pounds of peeled and chopped apples, 5 lemons, two ground, three sliced paper thin and deseeded as much as possible, 9 cups of sugar, a pound of currants, almost a pound of raisins, 3 pounds of cherries, 6 tsp of cinnamon, 3 tsp each of nutmeg, allspice and cloves, and 3/4 cup of vinegar. You boil the venison until it is cooked through then add the apples, lemons, sugar, spices, raisins and currants, cook until the apples are done, then add the cherries, heat through. Next I canned the meat in canning jars and processed with a hot water bath, bringing it to a full boil and then letting it boil for 15 minutes. Only one can did not seal.
As I was making it, I was calling my mom, like three times I think, to get instructions, and the last time to tell her how yummy it was. There is something really special about making food that your great grandmother made! That my own Mom made when she was my age. Its like a tradition. I have a quart promised to a co worker, and a neighbor heard I was making venison and he asked to try it so I will bring him a slice of pie in a few days. And of course the pirate will get some too. I still have that huge neck he gave me to make into mincemeat too. But it will have to wait for another day, man that was a big job.
The day was warm, a sweatshirt and jeans kind of day. My brother is visiting for Thanksgiving and he had already spent a couple hours puttering around my yard without me, taking care of the things that I just don’t get to, since I do both the inside chores and the outside; I also tried to do some of it this summer, but my gas mower wouldn’t start. He cleaned the spark plug, put DW-40 on the sticky part, played with the choke and started it. Then he mowed down all of my perennials up front, pulled out the crappy little cherry tree (I wanted a weeping mulberry but got this no growth dwarf cherry that had major structural issues) and mowed along the neighbors fence clearing a path between it and the rhododendrons. I was shopping for groceries and booze and cooking while he did this, but yesterday once the stuffing was made and the bird in the oven, we went out together and continued the job. We continued mowing, taking back the English Ivy at least another foot. Pulling out the flagstone wall that was mostly buried in dirt and ivy and put it all along the side of the veranda extending it past the muddy apron. He trimmed the cedar and some of the other trees hanging over the ivy, while I dragged the brush to the road. We also put a shelf up in the shed and nails to hang things on and cleaned it up. He moved the wood pile to another spot on the back porch and swept and cleaned the area around the studio door and found a new place for the rarely used BBQ grill. While we were working on that side porch, I decided to paint the other back door purple next summer. He also cleaned out my gutters for me, while I used the leaf blower to clean up corners and crannies around the yard that had lots of leaf build up. Now every time I look outside I am amazed. It is clean and tidy and there are boundaries to the overwhelming chaos that was there before. I do like things to grow wild and unruly but at the same time, this clean even look is great. It is so wonderful how easy and fast this kind of work is too, when there are two people doing it, and even though I like my autonomy, I like the fact that my brother takes charge and does what he wants without asking. Because he knows what he is doing, I trust that it will turn out okay.
This morning the backyard is alive, teaming with life, squirrels are gathering nuts and finding hiding places for them. There are many birds too, a red winged blackbird, blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, juncos and a dove enjoying the feeders, though I have not seen many of any in recent weeks. I think the cleaned out area feels safer for them, because it is far more open and they can see whether or not there are cats hiding in the brush. I have to say that every time I look at the still unfinished flagstone area I am just blown away by how beautiful it looks. I am looking forward to putting down sand and pea gravel in the area next spring, it will be gorgeous.
Dinner last night was lovely with the four of them, my daughter and my friend Michelle. Her boyfriend stayed at home but we made him a plate. He had to work from 3-11 this morning. The pirate came over for dessert, my brother and he talked hunting. And he got the thumbs up of approval from both of them.
I made a chocolate pie from Wegman’s Menu magazine. My brother’s girls are a bit picky with food and the pirate and my brother are definitely tofu naysayers. Trust me they are the last people on the planet I would ever expect to eat tofu and like it. So even if you are not a big tofu fan, but you cannot eat dairy or you are watching your fat intake try it.
Chocolate Dream Pie:
Make a Ginger snap crust, Wegman’s has a specific brand and style but I just bought a box of gingersnaps and followed the recipe on the box.
10 oz of semi sweet chocolate chps
1 pkg soft tofu
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of raspberry jam
and decorate top with red raspberries.
Make the crust. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Process tofu til smooth. Pour melted chocolate and vanilla into tofu and process til smooth. Pour over pie crust. Chill for four hours. Spread with raspberry jam and top with raspberries.