Was it the Scrambled Eggs, the Sun, or Yellowjacket lying on the Windowsill?

I don’t know why but I feel happy again.  This morning.   I did not sit in the chair by the red Chinese lamp brooding.  Staring out the window missing the massive Elms that used to rise up in the air like bedraggled ghosts of forgotten Kings. Their branches like fingers, raised high almost screaming.  Begging.  Total supplication to God in heaven, to blue skies gone, to the blinding neon sun that is always seething.

I woke up like I always do, full of the same worries and sorrows, but today there was something stirring.  Even though the waters are still gushing and all the massive snow is melting from dirty mountains along the sullen streets and sidewalks.  The weather still erratic like a schizophrenic psychopath.

There was a calm and steady presence in my house.  My heart.  The sun was shining, melting everything too soon in dirty greys and yellows, but wonderful and good somehow.  That little shrub I planted in the garden…. so quickly and so late– I found myself staring at it all morning long, as though it was even now growing, somehow healing the scalded streets, the cracked sidewalks, taking up all the drenching rain into small and slender roots, healing my broken heart, even all my secret aches and pains.  Secret even to myself.

I neglected doctor’s orders, tore up the healthy morning list, and scrambled three eggs.  With green onions, tomatoes, and the wrong kind of cheese:  Parmesan.  It had a milky nutty far away smell like a sad cow, and yet I was so very pleased with these slow cooking silky scrambled eggs.  I put a piece of bread in the toaster that was making a rather squeaking noise, and feared a mouse would pop out like years ago when my mother put in a piece of bread and out came a tiny, charred, once living thing.  It seemed a bit funny not sad.  How life can make toast from a mouse.   I am sorry little mouse for your pain.  Hope it was quick and I promise I will never forget you again.

The sun then, it was shining in such a very different way.  It didn’t illuminate every speck of lint, dirt, dust, that the broom and vacuum missed, but warmed the house somehow in a golden way like the Wisconsin woods on a late September day.  There was a tiny bit of honey left that you gave me from your bees, and I put it on the toast.

It was late, very late when we came to your old stone house last year surrounded by the meadows and the wood.  A very cold and almost somber October day.  And now, that tiny bit of honey on the bread tasted like your meadow-sweet, your snapdragons, hyssop and milkweeds, sunflowers and lavenders, pink and white phloxes.  Your trees even, the almost soft, weathered ancient bark, that we wrapped ourselves around that misty autumn afternoon.  The acorns and the leaves, the half-eaten hickory nuts lying on the damp grass.  The leaves and wisps of tiny things like cotton falling on our heads and shoulders, almost burying our sodden feet.  I even tasted the summer roses from your Middle Eastern sweets.  The champagne that we drank from your mother’s elegant glasses, the milky blue bowls you gave us from a dead artist’s box of everlasting wishes…

The snow in the back yard is still so heavy and white and I am afraid again….for the melting floods that will come inside.  In front there is a wide swath of green where the  sump pump has been pouring out buckets of water every five minutes as though from torrential summer storms.  From another city another time another place.   And then suddenly I’m happy again.  Not worried about drowning anymore.

I have been in and out of water for twenty years, seen it gushing from the basements, the ceilings, the floors and walls, the gardens and sidewalks.. seen it burst forth in fury, gush and freeze and gurgle and melt and freeze again.  I have seen my lawn turn into ponds with happy startled ducks and geese and felt my frightened feet running back inside the house again. The water that pours on and on… with no beginning and no end… But one day it will stop forever, so suddenly, and you will mourn it like your dead mother your long lost father, your dying friends.

Still I’m happy.  The breakfast now a memory, and the chest pains coming from the over indulgence of butter, eggs and cream, the sharp acidity of the tomatoes.  I still taste the frizzled onion chars on my tongue.  Oh when will I learn not to eat so much again.  Never, never will I stop the butter and cream, potatoes and milk, puddings and mousses, the tapiocas my darling friend so loved, filled with cherries and chocolate curls, layered with hand beaten custards thick and clotted, delicate yellow, like buttercups growing in the Cotswolds stream.   I will stave off heart attack and gout, stomach pains, ulcers, the cancers  and tumors…

I will have good bones, I will have a happy paunch, a rosy glow in my cheeks like the cherries in grandmother’s basement jars, the fruit a reminder of summers long gone…But maybe they will come again.

I will savour the taste of honey from your garden, from flowers secretly starting to bloom again.  Your trees will be getting taller and stronger, and maybe I will throw my arms around them once more.

But I must wait, wait just a little while longer for February to slither by.  Such an evil little snaky month it is.  And then March.  My own Ides of March will terrorize me, that I know…. Again… like it has for so many years.   Oh March come quick come quick and then begone again!  Forget your torrential rains and winds, your cold damp terrors of the mind and heart, your early morning floggings and lashings.

Oh my legs are so wobbly like an old sailor waiting to see the shore again…

Oh March be gone.  Bring the flowers… the snow drops, crocuses, narcissus.  And then the dark blue Hyacinths, so deep so dark so startling, coming up from the mediocre grass.  They are triumphant somehow like foreign Kings and Queens heralding in a new reign, or revealing once again what we all knew before. Their perfume wafting like the incense before Cleopatra’s frozen tomb, beckoning me with a wave of fragrance to my own waiting door.

And then how quickly the happiness that was so happy can be gone.  In one instant the season changed as I walked from one room to the next.   A simple conversation with a person, perhaps a mother father brother sister or just some distant friend, can suddenly erase all happiness.  All the calm.

I walked over to the window my eyes no longer happy with the water, sky or sun and there I saw a little thing lying on my windowsill.  A dead Yellowjacket.  My new best friend.   Just lying there stiller than still.  It looked like gold dust, ancient pollen, pulverized butterflies and moths.  Was caught unawares sometime in September or that one warm day in October… flying into the window and landing on the sill.  There it was, quietly dying all winter long and I did not know.  Such a neat and pretty, filamented tiny tiger thing, looming bigger than life to my tired eyes…..  Lying in state like a dead soldier.  Its six gold dust legs crossed over as though in prayer.  Meditation. Contemplation.   So almost sweetly, tenderly, lying there and waiting.

Like the mouse the toast the little wasp, like the eggs and cream, and now the eggshells lying empty in the bottom of the trash can.  All of us waiting.  Just waiting to be born again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Potatoes, Pasta and a Handful of Tears

I won’t talk about the weather anymore.  But that’s hard.  Because it makes you feel crazy when one day it’s forty degrees and the next eighty-five.  When your garden suddenly jumps up crazy wild before your eyes.   That happens here.  It happens now, I guess, everywhere.  Today is almost a year later and it is icy icy cold outside. My feet are almost glued to the worn out icy floor in this pathetic little sun room.   This post was written and discarded months ago, but here it is again like another winter, summer, fall, like another outburst of anxiety, fears and tears… But there is one thing I know and that is this: potatoes still make me smile.

It’s difficult not to talk about the weather.   There was snow a few weeks ago!  Now  the daffodils are bright yellow and in bloom all at once. It looks like someone painted the parkways with thick yellow crayons. There are thousands of dandelions where just yesterday it was snowflakes.  All the almond trees, apple trees, pear trees, ….. all of them waving their crazy petals in the wind.  Ah the wind… the wind is blowing and blowing these days….. the windows were rattling so much yesterday I thought it was creatures trying to get in.  The leaf blower demons are back.   The screens are still not up. This is such an old-fashioned little house.  Sometimes it embarrasses me, how one day it’s fine and the next it is tattered and old.  The forsythia, magnolias and even crabs are all parading their wares like gaudy flower girls.  All at once.  Before you know it the lilac will be blooming and suddenly it’s gone.

Just a week ago the fancy gardening place still had all their Christmas greens, those red sticks, acorns and eucalyptus … Today there were miles of purple and orange tulips. The hyacinth just started blooming because April was cold and snowy, and now it perfumes the garden like Cleopatra’s tomb…. but now they are shriveling up like flies and saying goodbye.  Big storm is coming very soon.

I called you today hoping to hear a cheerful voice and instead you told me you had to take 18 new pills and didn’t know how to take them and the doctor was crazy and the pharmacists were crazy and the nurses and therapist and that one doctor especially who discharged you, he sent you home with 18 new pills to take daily without instructions without warnings without knowledge without sympathy without a kind word even. You ranted and ranted so much… I know you are sick… but I couldn’t take it and just hung up.

I called a friend and she said she was sad and depressed because her dog died yesterday. I didn’t know what to say.  I don’t have a dog.  But I know people love their dogs and so I  said sorry and hung up.

I cleaned up the living room again today, after the plumbers came once again to fix the leak in the bathroom.  Then afterwards the water came dripping down from the ceiling all over the walls and the paintings and the chairs and the carpet and the floor, dripping into the basement even. They came again and were mad they had to do the work all over again.  They threw their tools angrily on the carpet and muttered under their breaths…. They blamed me. Told me I should not fill the bathtub all the way up.  They opened up the ceiling and worked for two hours and then went away in a huff without even saying goodbye. And it may be fixed but I am not sure, so I have put nothing back and the house looks like I am moving.   I can take a bath but then immediately run down the stairs and run my hands up and down the walls to make sure water is not falling.  Even though the walls are dry I rub them over and over again with my hands to make sure……. eyes can be so deceiving……The sump pump finally stopped going off in the front and flooding the sidewalk but the next two days we will have another big storm and it will start all over again. Water everywhere is the way it is now.

The only thing left to do was eat something.   There was nothing much in the pantry or fridge.  I didn’t feel like running to the store.  Thousands of May flies are out… or whatever they are, those white little things like nuclear ash from across the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, I remember hearing you say that all of you are being poisoned over there from that explosion in 2011.

There was some pasta left over from the pasta cherry tomato garlic dinner.  There was a potato!  Parsley.  Red pepper flakes.  Salt.  Fresh ground pepper.  Olive oil.  Garlic.

I remembered seeing a recipe somewhere in an old “Saveur” for potatoes with pasta and I thought it was strange then.  But I love potatoes and can always eat them.  I remembered that pizza at that place on Main Street where we went one cold and snowy March.  It had a very thin crust almost like a cracker, and paper thin slices of Yukon gold potatoes spread on top.  A faint tinge of garlic.   Crushed rosemary and pepper and salt.  Just a film of melted cheese.   How we devoured that pizza years ago sitting in front of the big icy window that winter day…. and watched our friend walking by to meet us… while we were stuffing our faces she slipped and fell on the ice right in front of us…. we were momentarily startled but it was so delicious we just kept eating the potato pizza while she got up alone and dusted herself off. I don’t remember her at all but I still remember the taste of that pizza…….those creamy yellow fleshed potatoes slightly caramelized at the paper thin edges…..

I took that one lonely but beautiful potato out of the straw basket, almost crying with joy to have found it there, alone and smooth skinned, pure and whole,  just waiting for me on that cold cold day… like a miner finding gold I felt, like a miner finding gold…… I sautéed it in oil.  It was a russet and I cubed it.  I was too lazy and tired and depressed to peel it.   I might have even left a little dirt on it, maybe a few cobwebs, bits of straw….I stirred for a few minutes and added chopped garlic.  Lots of it.  Three or four cloves and I would have added more but I was too lazy.  Chicken broth would be good… to hasten the cooking and to give it more flavor, but I didn’t have any so I added a little water and covered the pot.  The potatoes cooked up.  A chopped onion would have been good too but I didn’t have one.. When the potatoes were tender I added red pepper flakes and ground pepper and salt and then mixed it with pasta (spaghetti ) but orecchiete or some other shape would work too…. even those little butterfly bow things. Then I stirred it gently and chopped some parsley…lots.. and sprinkled it on top.   I sat down to eat. The potatoes should have been cooked a little more, they were slightly too firm but with a potatoe you can do little harm…. oh it was so earthy, salty, peppery, savory,  tasted like someone’s farm… tasted like my mother’s chicken soup even though there was no chicken, tasted like rich black Ukrainian dirt before the wars….. like the potatoes I used to grow back of my garage when this place was new and fresh and clean and good, and all the trees were huge and I was happy.  The calm, peaceful, and charming elm lined street when one or two cars went by instead of a highway.  I ate those potatoes like a ravenous farm hand, like an 1870’s cowboy, like the starving little match girl.. There were so good, so gentle and so kind… And after I ate every single bite I saw a pool of  viscous liquid at the bottom.  A pool of garlic, water, salt, potato, pepper flakes and parsley.  Mixed in with a handful of tears.  And I ate that too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Sleeping in a Bed of Incense

Oh someone is breathing down my back again.  Sending icy chills down my spine.   I can feel them even in my stomach, lungs and heart.  What’s left.

This dark dark week when I feel like I’ve already been sent to my coffin.  There I am in the dark with no escape in sight.   The air even, doesn’t matter anymore.

Yet here I am still playing with words, grammar, syntax.  As though that meant something.  Like leather pants in Berlin when my father died.  Fashion, like you, seemed important then.

The water outside is still running, down the half-frozen lawn, in rivulets around the newly planted cypress.. a golden one, shimmering a bit with chartreuse highlights…… that I planted too late.   I wonder if it will survive.  I wonder if I will see it sometime this April or May, when things will either be done or undone.

I am still awake and the coffee cup is on the desk and the coffee is getting cold and what?  I still taste and see and feel and worry.   About your father, my aunt, the last of the dear ones, the happy ones, the great ones… and my fallen friend so far away from me now.

I see her apple trees, her newly planted garden, smell the corn pudding she is making… see her white white teeth, so straight so almost big, so fine. All of them shaped exactly the same, like in that Philip K. Dick novel.    That perfectly red mouth without lipstick…. tiny crinkled nose… always crinkled because she is always smiling…… those big white teeth are like big white stars.. if stars were white.  You might start a new trend my darling.

What do you do when there is a triumvirate of sorrow, who do you mourn, who do you call, whose hand do you clutch, what tears do you turn on and off on and off… I had to look it up that word and this word and that word and this word and realize English is no longer my language.  Nor Spanish… Ukrainian.  I have no language anymore and soon will not speak.   I cannot speak.  I do not know sign language.  I no longer play music– sound bothers me.   I like almost no one.  I love almost no one.  No, nothing.  I like nothing.  I love nothing.  Because there seems to be nothing.  Because I cannot speak and cannot think or feel.

The sounds  are intolerable.  Door bell.   Phone, the one that still rings like a bell.  Iphone.   Knocking.  Tapping.  Buzzing.  Tings. Bings.   Needles zizzling on papers.  Wheels on gravel driveway.  Alarms for fire gas or electricity.  Sirens.  Ovens.  Microwaves.   Neighbors taking in garbage cans.  Garage doors opening and closing.  Mailboxes.  Mailman, when he stops suddenly to read something on the doorstep.  I can almost hear his breath, his sighs, hear his footsteps on the icy steps, the crunchy grass…. Dryer.  Washers.  Furnace.  That thing is humming louder and louder these days and is about to explode.   Fire drills.  They still have them Tuesdays across the street.  Garbage truck.  Banging on the door. Glass storms.  The idiots who don’t think a doorbell is enough.  Sometimes they have a dried little chocolate cake to give me and if I don’t answer the bell, they bang and bang until I open the door.

I saw that little pound cake the other day, still swaddled in the saran wrap. A few days after your funeral.  Oh how I wanted something sweet, luscious and moist and chocolatey.  Very deeply sweetly rich  and, almost, just almost, slightly pudding like just very very slightly mind you… like the sumptuous cakes that cook created in those far away kitchens in Victorian England.  The “Upstairs Downstairs”  kind of cakes like my mother made.  I cut a slice quickly and shoved it into my mouth… dry, powdery, sweetless, saltless, moistless, denseless, sandlike gluten free misery…..made by those cute little girls supervised by a mother who knows nothing about cakes…… oh I hope they never knock on my door again!

And then I called you yesterday, my friend, who I have not seen in a thousand years because really I think I have already lived two.  Wishing you a happy birthday… You said you were cleaning and washing your hair.   Cleaning is good.  I have cleaned this house often lately as though knowing that soon someone would not be here,  strangers will walk through it, and I fear they will not remove their shoes.

Shoes.  Suddenly I no longer want shoes.  I want to feel the icy floors beneath my feet.  I wanted to walk on the river yesterday but it was not yet frozen.  It looked black and dirty.  I thought I might see interesting animals or birds or even a ragged branch with leaves trailing down into the water like last year.

No, even the river is hiding its charms.  Its denizens long gone.  It only sends icy chills up to me, while I stand there on the bridge and I am searching searching… That bicycle is still there.  The one I saw seemingly floating in the water.  A red white and blue bike. What an ugly trio……  I never saw a bike in the water before and wondered how it got there.  There was no person floating along…  Just an old rusty basket with a collection of dead leaves, and the bicycle emerges and disappears depending on the weather. That big American Flag is still flying outside the antique store on the corner and lately when I walk by, I slap it.  It’s so big and wide, hanging so low, down almost to the ground, and often hits me in the face when I walk by. It seems to be taunting me… daring me to walk by.  So I slap it first.

I don’t know how anymore to get through the nights.  The fear of phones ringing doors banging door bells and cell phones and texts and emails running down the screens like ragged tears ragged fears all my anxiety tangled up in languages I don’t speak or read or understand anymore.

I ran out in my summer sandals and moved the sump pump hose further down the lawn, that thing is gushing again pumping out water for days and days and the whole house is shaking again.   What does it want, this house?  What is it finally telling me?  When will the infernal banging and clanging and animals thrashing against the door end?

Why is the night so long now?  Why is the day full of the same?  Why is there no more sleep and why is it so hard to breathe?

Your voice suddenly got all garbled and tangled up like soggy ropes and then it was thick and low, gurgling like a dying monster.  I thought maybe your teeth fell out.   I remember once when we were in college and waiting tables for that animal, your teeth fell out.   Just as you were waiting on that rabble of leering men who always called you their beautiful stallion.  You had to rush to the back covering your mouth and it was a long time before you came back.  Then you resumed taking their orders.  They always wanted that disgusting fake sweet and sour borscht.  It must have had a pound of sugar in it. Made by that bulbous, sweaty, foul-mouthed cook in the dirty t-shirts.  Years later I still smell the stink of him, his face, his mouth, his words….  You kept talking to me as though everything was normal as though I actually heard you, heard a human voice and I kept asking what was wrong with your phone because you sounded like that child in the “Exorcist”.  It was raining you said, and the phone never works in the rain.

I left you to wash your hair and wish I could do something simple like wash clean vacuum sweep cook or sleep.  Oh how I just want to go to sleep sleep sleep.

I tried dreaming of lilacs, meadows,  clean sheets,  spring flowers… the bulbs I planted.. food, all the delicious things we will eat tomorrow when you arrive full of hope and fun and what what what?   I barely know you barely know anyone anymore barely know the day from night the summer from winter from fall.  Don’t recognize the rivers or lakes my street that I walk on what is this?  Why is it so ugly here?

The sea of cars finally have done me in and I want to crush them with my hands seer them with my eyes watch them explode from the face of the earth, the universe… like land mines……

I want to go out into the half-frozen garden and plant a thousand trees and shrubs. Very tall and very wide. Every kind of tree and evergreens pines junipers cedars …the trees that will cover up everything and everyone and then all I have to do is look at the sky…

I feel you there one state away… I feel you there two countries away  I feel you there 2,000 miles away and only if only you could walk with me now on the frozen river feel how nice and cool it feels on your feet how smooth how you can glide  far away far away from all this sorrow.

I can’t sleep I can’ sleep ..  I am so afraid

The last time I was so afraid was when you got lost and missed your plane and we didn’t hear from you for days and then some angels were here, and they held my hands and we prayed and prayed and prayed and then they had to leave to get some rest and I was alone here in these rooms oh where oh where do I go and what do I do?  I was tired of clutching my throat tearing out my hair eating up my eyes and I went upstairs and found that little carved Jesus the one with the heavy lids covering his eyes, just the right size to put in my hand and hold there.  The wood very old and hard and yet, almost supple.  The carver had made the features very carefully so that it was sad but not too sad, old but still young, strong yet frail.   I remember clutching it, that little man from Oaxaca that you gave me my friend, and found there my little saviour my Balm of Gilead my Ambien my morphine my opium my steaming cup of kindness my salve for my tired wide awake burning eyes.

I grabbed that little statue once again,  like I did last year, and held it tight and went to bed and prayed and prayed  for I don’t know what anymore.  Sleep, death, forgetting, vacuum, emptiness, no eyes in the sockets, no head on my feet…..And I woke early in the morning still holding it, noticed something different about the room, a great calming silence filled the air. The light had not come in yet but there was a very faint fragrance like old wood, dried Christmas trees still faintly chiming, the old ornaments slightly moving as though someone breathing lightly somewhere in this room, making the tired needles fall on the old carpet shedding their fragrant tears… sweet smoke, mysterious perfumes of cedar, bergamot and dying leaves, ashes and tears, screams of pain, and sourness the kind that comes from fear and sorrow and the worst kind of anguish…And I looked at the face that I was holding, wondering how I managed to hold it all night long and the fragrance of the room was still floating all around me and the sad and sorrowful wooden face was no longer sad and sorrowful.

I held it in my hands for a long time and lifted it up to my face to capture that sad and sweet elusive fragrance, something so far away and yet very near like the scents still clinging to the bottles of Shalimar, Caleche, Mitsouko… all of them swirling around the room still breathing through the glass and they mingled with the scents of the candle downstairs still burning, the pine centerpiece still exhaling, scents of old forests dying, and I heard my own breath moving in and out of my lungs quietly but surely still exhaling, and still I wonder and wonder and wonder like someone looking up at the far away galaxies and wondering about those stars how high up how strange how beautiful how exciting they all are… how I still want to see them there up high, when I walk out at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., my favorite time now the dead of night, when everything beautiful is awake and breathing and the sky out there even is crying sighing and what what can I do looking here at this face that someone carved for me years, or was it decades ago?  Words again fail me, thoughts, words, desires of saying something… all of it fails and fails and fails and the only thing left at all is to clutch this face look at these almost bulging lids closed in sweet but terrible repose, filling up but holding back so many tears and tears and tears and wait, just wait for the great release the great escape the great final exhalation of air that one day will quiet all of this turmoil this evil this greed this final corruption that is drowning each and everyone one of us, each and every thing of us, until the day we understand, truly understand the meaning of those tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bus Stop Stories, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

When Your Mother Had Holes in Her Socks

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. today.  And I don’t know anymore if today is really today.

What is today.  Not even sure it merits a period or a question mark.  Or maybe just a blank space.   All the things that rhyme with it.  Tokay, Hungarian sweet wine. Maybe it does maybe it doesn’t.   I remember that.  Bringing it to someone’s Christmas party.  Or maybe it was a birthday.  It’s a sweet wine and that does not interest me anymore.

There is a bottle of Sauternes in the basement.  From 1989.  I saw it there the other day wrapped in an old rug someone gave me years ago.  The one with the hunter green background and pink hummingbirds.  I read somewhere that I should have opened it about ten years ago, or maybe five.  It is drinkable now and not to hold.  It was drinkable. This bottle will not get better with age. That alcoholic poet/ waiter gave it to me.  Other than this bottle, 1989 was a good year for Sauternes. The year my father died.

Whenever I look for a recipe for some holiday dinner and I go rummaging through my old “Gourmet” magazines, all the good recipes are from 1989.  Odd.  But true.  As though his death made everything taste better.  As though his ashes enriched the soil, made the plants grow taller, stronger.   The recipes full of interesting, complex and rich ingredients.  And I make it and weep a little.  My father would appreciate that Sauternes.   Taste his own ashes in it.

Sauternes is sweet.  But that is an understatement.  It is not sweet like candy.  Sweet like kisses.  But sweet like air, water, soil, somewhere, that magically produced this grape.  It is supposed to have a hint of apricot or peach or honey.  What kind of honey?  The jar of honey that is standing on the kitchen table smells like insecticide.   That Sauternes is to drink with goose or duck livers.  Foie gras.  The food of murdering souls.

I always identified Sauternes with murder.  Rich, lavish, decadent murders. I think I’d rather just eat a real peach or real apricot.  Or a spoonful of unpoisoned honey.

I always thought you and I might drink that Sauternes with a delicate tort or something less evil, something more divine.

Maybe something dry and ascetic like a Carr’s water cracker.  A thin communion wafer.

Maybe we could just sip it in the open air.  Summer is too hot and spring too uncertain.

A nice cool forest would be nice.  Even a snowy field.  The one we crossed once skiing in the dark or was it early morning?

It might be nice to sip it on a mountainside in Switzerland over dinner with cold friends wearing freezing pearls at one of your dinner parties.  And the snow would be falling on their bare skin and the Sauternes might keep them warm until the fires start and they could open up their presents.

My feet are so cold now sitting here in this ugly little room. The one the engineer built in 1939.  What a time to build a house here on this vacant German farm land.  The religion and codes all gone.  The apple orchards gone.  The wheat rotting in the back yard replaced by ragged Viburnums.

I put on some old socks hurriedly to protect my cold feet.  But I feel the icy floors anyway.  But my socks have no holes in them.  If a sock has a hole in it I just throw it away.  Shameful I know, but that is my one extravagance. Throwing old socks away. Because my mother never did.  I remember visiting her one day.  She was sitting on that old silk couch and staring at me and I looked at her and shrieked.  “You have a hole in your sock!”  And she shrugged as though it was alright.

“A hole in your sock, a hole in your lungs….what’s the difference?”

I have no idea why I am thinking now about my mother and the holes in her socks. That she never bothered to mend.  That beautiful evening dress I bought her that she stuck in the back of her closet.   All “schmatas” she said.

My father on the other hand never had holes in his clothes.  Because he never really wore them.  Buy him a shirt he hangs it up in his closet.  Buy him blue silk pajamas he puts them in a drawer.  He wore an ugly red robe day in and day out that terrorized us.   We thought it looked like a devil’s robe.  It was bloody red like the White House Christmas trees.

The animals are trying to get in the house this morning.  I heard something banging against the back door.  A racoon or possum or maybe a great big bear trying to force its way in.  Instead of checking it out I just pulled the blinds tighter.  It stopped then, the noise.  Just stopped like a bear getting bored with you and going fishing.

There are always weird tracks in the back yard.  Tiny claw like ones and big wide ones like snowshoes.  Big and fat ones like pudgy fingers gardening in the dark.

Like stars collapsing on the lawn.  Like ducks falling down.  Like gnomes walking around.  Like my mother coming to peer into the windows and leaving holes in the garden.  Maybe for me to fall into.

That bottle of Sauternes is waiting. Waiting for me and the moon and some light refreshment.  Something you can eat on the run or in the dark. Something light to take with you while feeling the snow the rain the everything of this night.  And maybe catching whoever is pounding at your door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The Moon and I

It’s not too early and not too late.  I walk out into the garden clutching the cup of coffee, that is not too hot and not too cold.  I think of going back to reheat it a little but I might miss something.  The day is quickly approaching and soon the moon will be gone.

It feels almost warm as I open the back door. Almost balmy like a late spring day when all the damp and cold is gone.  When things start coming up out of the ground feeling safe. Feeling like they can come up and grow.   Be something again.

I haven’t written in so long.  It seems I haven’t stepped out into the garden in so long.

What is new?  Nothing.  It has been too hot.  Too cold. Too rainy.  Too dry.  Too windy.  Too damp.  Too humid. There were too many mosquitos. There were too many Japanese beetles.

I went out five or six times a day to pick the evil little things off the plants.  Off the butterfly bush, off the anemones, off the variegated shrub.  That shrub in front that Jan planted for me.  Its long pointed leaves are splashed with white and green and cream. The stems are a bright fuchsia.  And in the fall when most flowering shrubs have stopped blooming, it explodes with tiny delicate white flowers like Babies Breath.  Fragrant, dazzling, sparkling like diamonds in the rain.  A sweet sticky nectar flowed out of those flowers.

The beetles loved that shrub.  Slept in it, sat on it, flew around on it. Mated in it. Sometimes three or four at a time… on top of each other like tiny demon acrobats. “How disgusting!” you screamed the first time you saw that.  But mostly they just devoured it. Sitting there chomping like monsters. Their metallic brown green armor shining in the searing sun. Soon after their ravishing, the shrub turned an ugly brown with holes all over the delicate leaves. Until I came out, a raging garden warrior,  with the jar of foaming water and picked them off one by one and let them die.  Drown. Watching them struggle madly in the sudsy water to their soapy death.  Those things are the only living creatures I did not mind disposing of.  Dispatching.  An ugly thing to do I know.  But a garden can be an ugly thing sometimes.

The worst thing those beetles did.  Yes, I am still obsessed with those beetles. Because I wonder why such ugly disgusting little things exist.  The worst, the ugliest thing to see early in the morning or evening are these creatures in roses.  Like my old beloved  pink-apricot peony roses that ramble over the iron (rusting now) arbor.

I wake up on a sometimes clear, bright, gently warm and fragrant summer day. Fragrant in large part because of these exquisite roses, and then upon closer inspection, see a spot of dark brown and black and see those creatures hiding, sneaking deep inside the roses, eating the centers, ravishing the newly opening bud, gouging them with black holes.  Or on a newly opened rose, totally unfurled, smiling so wide and deep and you suddenly see it’s already dying. The center eaten and the beetles there hiding, in between the petals.  You reach down and they know you are out to get them and they try to wiggle down deeper.  Sometimes they actually manage to fly away.   Other times they are so drunk from the nectar and perfume of the flowers,  you just have to tap the blossom and they fall into the jar of death.

The moon this dawn. So silent.  So present.  So far up and yet it felt like it was whispering in my ear.   Breathing down on the street.  Glowing deep inside my heart. Telling me something.  But once again I do not know what.

Twenty years a wanderer down this driveway, this sidewalk, staring at the house I live in.  The jade green shutters, the jade green door. Scarred from the neon sun these last burning summers.  A little more ragged now.  A little more shabby.  Just like me. Those Junipers in front so big and fat, almost obliterating the shutters and the door.  Looking like big cartoons.  Looking like they will explode.  Looking like they could hide the moon itself.

Those shrubs are home to dozens of birds.  They sleep there. They hide there.  They shelter there in the winter and in the rain and cold and they fly inside when the thunder and lightning comes.  When it’s thirty-five below they huddle there.  And, sometimes during a fine winter storm when the snow is thick and white and powdery… Soft.  Almost like warm snow.  Like feathers.  Like a comforter.  Like warm hands.  Like this porcelain cup of coffee. They sit there and start singing or chirping or sighing.  I hear them sometimes, when I am coming up the path early in the morning or sometimes at dusk or very late at night.  I can hear them breathing dreaming sleeping and sometimes they greet me with voices like silver like gold like sparkling rivers.

I forgot to paint the windows this summer.  I thought I would wait for fall.  But fall is here.  I forgot to clean out the basement.  I didn’t even air it out this summer.  All the vases have not been put away.  All the cookbooks  I was going to give away still line the metal shelves.  All the drafts of old things written filling the bookcases.  All the old calendars with dates of dinners and celebrations appointments interviews and assignations.   That old but beautiful chair with the missing leg.  I still have not fixed it.  I bought it in 1984. The old conference room chairs from that old building on Jackson St.  I paid fourteen dollars for it.

My tennis racket.   My old fireplace tools.  The two bookcases filled with 1,000 photos of the garden.  I never sent them to you.  It may be too late.  You can’t see too much now out of those hazel eyes…..

Arturo came and expanded the flowerbed in front.  All the Hydrangeas and Helleborus and that beautiful almond tree.. the one with the frothy pink flowers.  Oh that alone is worth waiting a thousand years for.  They were all packed in so tight and formed a sort of weird collage of leaves and stems and branches.   They looked claustrophobic, choking, struggling, unruly and unhappy, sad and wild, and a little shabby. They looked like refugees.  Like foreigners.  Poor.   Alienated.  Unwanted.  Unkempt.  Pushed together in a mass of chaotic nothings.

And that small chartreuse shrub the O’Neill’s gave me, as an apology for running over all the marigolds when they drove up the driveway that fall two years ago… That shrub was literally growing underneath the almond tree.  We took it out and planted it at the rounded corner of the new bed.  It looked instantly happy.  One part is dark green and one part chartreuse. The dark green part got no sun as it was growing inside the almond tree. But what a lovely fragrant warm shelter that must have been!  Now it looks happy but a bit startled, growing there by itself, having suddenly all this space and air and sun.   The Helleborus looking dark green and shiny.  Glad to be out from the frizzled hydrangea leaves and flowers.  Suddenly the whole bed got even larger, wider, everything inside it loomed big and happy and I almost heard all the little plants and shrubs and flowers whisper to me…. “Thank You.”

So I walked out this morning to admire the new bed.  I walked around in the almost dark.  Drinking my coffee.  Feeling the moon high above me like an amber halo.   I think it was sighing, singing, breathing, watching me.  The smoky amber clouds floating in and out of the moon face.  No cars no dogs no people out, so I could wander up and down the street, looking at my lovely new flower bed, staring up at my five-year old maple, that really, I have not looked at too closely the last five years.  It is getting tall and wide and finally looks like a tree.  Filling in just a little bit the space left behind by the thirty-foot Elm that had to go.

I see its leaves are turning amber too. Amber and orange and mahogany. The too hot too cold too frosty too rainless too sunless early fall has kept so many leaves green. But here and there you see deep red, startling yellow, lemony and orange and reddish things like something on your kitchen counter, like something jumping out of a bag like something out of a crazy cartoon.

Life is like a cartoon really. The bad guys all around. Beating and screaming and throttling and pounding and punching everything in sight.  Bombs fires floods hailstorms and tsunamis. Guns everywhere. I wonder if today I will get shot.

Tom sent me a book the other day.  It came in a big brown envelope. I heard the UPS driver toss it on the doorstop where it made a big thud.  I went out to look and it was so big and brown and strange-looking.  I don’t get too many parcels.  The first thing I thought.  Was it a bomb?  It had no return address.  It wasn’t my birthday or a holiday.  I didn’t order anything.  It was a while before I opened it.

It was a book.   “Flame”.  Of Leonard Cohen drawings, lyrics and poems.  I wonder where Leonard Cohen is now.  I always wondered where Leonard Cohen was whenever I heard him singing.  Songs like ” Dance me to the End of Love”, “A Thousand Kisses Deep”….. “Blue Raincoat”….. I  wonder where he is now that he’s dead.   I think I would just about follow Leonard Cohen anywhere he went.

The light came too quickly and the soothing darkness fading, the moon wandering off to someplace more interesting.  Time to go in and sweep and dust and air out something.  The temperature is in the 50’s and there is time still to do things before the raging winds come.  The snows.  Maybe.

I noticed the other day that the park across the street smells like marzipan.  I am not sure where it is coming from.  The goldenrod is gone as are the Black-eyed Susans.  But there are masses of tiny asters in pink and lavender and white and deep purple. The pink anemones in front of the park hung on and on.  Long after mine were gone. The white Honorine Joberts are everywhere  Also masses of pink roses. The small low to the ground shrubby ones with no smell.  The fake ones but they still look pretty.  I noticed the gardeners in the park (if you can call them gardeners)  cut down all the irises… the fall ones that were blooming so beautifully!   So many people go out and cut things down that are still blooming, still growing, still unfurling.  All to make things neat and tidy, short and narrow,  uncluttered and straight.   A garden is not a house and should not be neat and tidy and clipped to pieces.

One major thing happened in my garden this September that made me want to leave again.  The gardeners (butchers) who work for my next door neighbors destroyed my Actinidia Kolomikta vine.  I was out wandering early one morning in September enjoying the newly bought chrysanthemums, the pots of late summer flowers, the still green manicured grass, the leafiness of all the shrubs and trees, but felt a large emptiness even though it was 6:30 am.  And then I saw, or didn’t see… the large beautifully tangled branches of the vine that spilled over to the other side…Gone, cut off ,decimated. All those lush still green variegated leaves gone. They actually shoved their grubby murderous hands over the fence into the top space of my yard and cut that part completely off.  Butchered it.  Leaving one long dangling branch that hung down painfully, mournfully, holding on to nothing.  Swaying there, dangling in mid-air like a dead snake.

Part of the vine was growing gently through the branches of my Serviceberry tree and they butchered that too. They must have leaned way over their ladders to my side of the fence and yanked it out so it would not.. What?  I don’t even know how a gardener could be that stupid.. that insensitive that ….. dull… that unknowing. Torpid.  It feels so… Torpid.

I now see the electric poles and wires, my neighbor’s massively wide and looming brick McMansion, their basketball hoops, their huge plasma TV.   At night when I wander around I can see what program they are watching.  Who wants to watch television in a garden?

That shrub took twenty years to grow that tall and lush. And finally, just a few years ago it started to produce those magic leaves. At first green and white then an almost silver and then rose pink. The colors splashed on like soft and weathered paint. Then the flowers came!  Masses and masses of tiny, white fragrant flowers more enthralling even than Lilies of the Valley.  All gone now.  Some gardeners are butchers and some neighbors are not worth having.

My anger after four weeks is almost gone.  Until I go out in the garden and look up and see no old and gracious gnarly vine.  Twenty years of growth and beauty destroyed.

That’s why it’s best to wander in your robe in the dark under the night sky under the twinkling stars smelling marzipan from across the street.  In the dark when your neighbor’s naked house is covered in mist and it’s just you you you and the moon and the sleeping birds in the big fat bushes someone planted almost a hundred years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Always the Garden, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Martini Morning

It’s April 9.  There was that thing I was supposed to do about Christmas.  There was that thing I was supposed to do about Easter.   I will get to it.  And then maybe I will understand something.

Christmas has come and gone.  Easter has come and gone ..almost… not quite.  There are still vespers sung on Saturday evenings…. The White Shroud is hanging from the big wooden cross at the church across the street from the bus stop.   Resurrection was not that long ago.

Seeing it there, that white shroud, draped around the big wooden cross in the middle. It was so strange.  It looked a bit like a white scarf thrown casually around someone’s neck. Was a bit jaunty looking, ruffling just a little in the very slight breeze… like Isadora Duncan’s scarf or some elegant dandy’s , who just left it there on a chair or something while he looks out at the sweeping lawn of somewhere… as though he left it there for a moment and is coming back any minute.  Then perhaps I understood something.  Knew deep inside something.  The white.  The pure joy of it.  Leaving it all behind.   That scarf there in front of that massive church .. with one of the highest ceilings in North America… And why in the world even think about dandies.  How archaic how odd how old-fashioned.  But then I would rather live in the world where a few dandies still reigned.

It was like that Japanese couple who owned the sushi restaurant in town… the way they always said “Be Joyful Always”.  I thought it was stupid at the time, saying that.  Having that on their napkins and website, on their menus, seeing it on your check after you paid.   Maybe I never knew what it meant.  I felt it this morning, as soon as I looked at the cross and that white cloth.

Maybe it was the snow.  It was all white this morning when I looked out.  After slowly crawling out of bed. Feeling cold.  Again.  Feeling old and tired and worn out.  I keep saying it because I keep feeling it. So what if this is insanity.  It feels good sometimes just to say.  I am sick and tired and old today.

You might feel extremely depressed looking out at snow on April 9.  When all the daffodils have been growing taller and taller.   Some are blooming already along the yellow brick building in the park across the street.  And the blue hyacinths in my front garden.  What’s left of them after the rabbits gnawing. They are so indigo blue so incredibly spring fat succulent. They’re covered in snow.  The perfume struggling to get out.

You might get depressed and disgusted at the snow.   I was just worn out tired and old.  The coffee though was so good.  My sense of smell came back and I could smell the sharp slightly apricot pit perfumey fragrance of the almond oil in the milk. A little like marzipan coffee.   I had two full cups. The cup is quite large so it may count as four small cups.

It was so cold I had to put on my long underwear underneath the pants.   And the furry black hat, and the red winter coat.  And the gloves. The thin red leather ones Jada got me. Though they turned out to be a bit too thin for this cold.

I walked out to catch the bus for work and there was snow everywhere and it was also falling.  A very fine sugar sprinkle kind of snow but softer.   No snow stuck to the ground.  It melted as soon as it hit.  So walking was easy.  The snow stuck to every little leaf branch twig and pine needle so the world was BEAUTIFUL.   All the trees and shrubs and parts of the roofs and stairs and ornaments on the houses  looked like paintings like etchings like woodcuts like complicated dreams.  There were so many trees and shrubs to see.  Some of the large pines… the snow accumulated at the very tips into tiny balls and they looked like what?  Maybe Alice knows maybe the man who wrote” Winnie the Pooh” knows.   Only a fool could walk out and think it was ugly.  It was beautiful even though I was worn out tired and old today.

I love the cemetery now more and more. The one I pass going to the bus stop.  An old cemetery… for here…. 1843.  When this town was a farming community and the settlers were from Germany mostly and all these streets were farms and orchards.  The park across the street from me is a remnant.  Every now and then there is a new grave freshly dug, every now and then a huge bouquet of flowers… Every now and then a tingle of excitement when I pass as though something is about to turn or speak or spin around for me…. Every now and then I feel like running to the tombstones and throwing myself down and then going to sleep.. or at least hugging them.  A rock now is the most passionate thing I could hug.  That I want to hug.  Solid, strong, and permanent.

I felt so alive walking in the snow.  The air felt so fresh.  It smelled so clean.  Even with all the cars out I didn’t smell the gasoline.   As though the falling snow, each tiny snowflake was an air purifier.  My lungs felt clean.  The air almost liquid.  I wanted to drink it.   I felt so alive it was startling.   I could breathe so easily it was scary. Maybe I was really dead. Sometimes I can’t wait to be dead and wonder when it will finally happen and how.  I won’t miss anything.  But again, I might be dead already.

Underneath is so much depression frustration and anxiety it never ends. The snow today made it somehow irrelevant all that whiteness in April and the air cleaners and that white scarf and feeling dead.

I ran out without eating anything. Except for that coffee with almond milk.

I have been eating a lot of the Easter leftovers.  Huge chunks of salty fresh bone in ham… the beet horseradish relish.  There is no more babka left.  I saved only  a very small babka for myself, and had a very thin slice  almost every day after work.  I spread a large cold pat of sweet butter all over it.  I tasted the fragrant yeast… the life of it.. the whole what of it… the orange peels and the organic slightly brown sugar… the egg yolks   ….. the raisins… It really did taste like the sun.  It tasted like love.

I remember my mother’s babka and how sometimes I did not want it when she gave it to  me in that bag of leftovers.  All those years ago, and then when I took it home, sometimes forgetting it for days, even a couple of weeks, leaving it on the counter only lightly wrapped.  It never went bad ever, and then eating it and tasting, actually tasting the love that went into it. It scares me when I taste love in food.  It’s so pure.

I couldn’t drink on  Easter because I was not well. Everyone else could drink and the wine flowed.  A very nice Gruner Veltiner or something refreshingly similar… and something someone brought called Pontificate.. if a Pope liked it, it must have been tasty…….. I never thought I could live through a family celebratory dinner without drinking… I did… I drank pure cherry juice with sparking water… and sparkling tangerine juices.  They were so refreshing.

Today though, this morning, I was thinking about Martinis.  Martinis as I was walking through the snow… trying to describe to my bus driver why I thought the snow looked beautiful why I thought the world was beautiful even though it’s ugly ugly ugly these days… The snow on all the trees was overwhelming my mind and the air was so fresh I almost died.

I thought of you.  You must be old now.  I should call you to see if you’re still alive.  But then I won’t call because you might not be there or your phone will have that “this phone is disconnected now message”, or your husband will answer your private line and that will really mean you are dead… and that scares me and I don’t want to talk to him.  I remember how you and I used to dress up, sometimes early in the afternoon, barely ll:30 a.m. and we would go to a really nice restaurant,  “swanky” you would say…and order Martinis.  Gin of course, the best in the house.  And we would have them sometimes with oysters and sometimes with fried calamari.  The martinis were icy cold like they should be … light on the vermouth…. anchovy olives and sometimes if they didn’t have them blue cheese.  Oh the gin and the ice and the briny salty juice of the olives…. We sometimes had two martinis.  Once we went to that new place and the martinis were supersized we could hardly lift the glasses… and they were filled to the brim. We both hated that.. how filled to the brim they were. We got really drunk.  After the two supersized martinis we also each had a glass of very chilled very delicious white wine.  Sometimes it was lobster ravioli, sometimes linguine with clams, sometimes a lovely pasta with the new spring vegetables…..  I always ate and drank so much that my lipstick would start to get smeared.  Sometimes the rim of the glass would be rosy with it and I discreetly wiped it off with a kleenex when you weren’t looking.  I also did it for the waiter.. so he wouldn’t have to walk around with a bloody looking glass.  After a while you started to look slightly disheveled, slightly worn out… If the light hit a certain way, especially a ray of sun… you looked a bit old.. old and tired and sick like me now.

The snow thrilled me so much today because  I realized it came from God, it did not make itself, it was prehistorically beautiful and intricate and pure and clean….  I am just going to give it up give it up to God these days to figure things out.  That doesn’t even make sense I know.  In a syntactical sort of way if you care about syntax and I suppose I should  because I am writing this and still spellcheck some days…. you might wonder why I am writing this and I might say hell I don’t know…. the wars the despots in the White House  the greedy banker insurance agent… even the sun just last week I was cursing the sun.  It was so bright no matter where I sat on the bus it was right there in my face. I had to keep changing seats and the bus was empty and the driver knows me so he wasn’t fazed and he also is starting to hate the sun… it seems to expose all the ugliness like dirty streaks on never washed windows.  One day he and I spent the whole bus ride to work discussing how much we hate the sun.

We stopped at a light near the forest preserves and I looked out into the forest and was startled because I saw a bloody hand standing up straight in the middle of the snowy woods. Then I realized it was the reflection of the “Don’t Walk ” sign.

There was a Polish woman on the bus.  I knew she was Polish by a certain look she had. No not a babushka or big bulky cleaning lady work clothes.  She was elegantly coiffed and middle-aged with icy blond highlights in her black or gray or brown hair, but perfectly done.  Actually the back of her head was like a tiny little forest…. She sat in front of me and she had on the most incredible perfume.  At first I thought it was her hair product but it was definitely perfume.  Very slightly sweet like that strange almost licoricey powdery scent certain daffodils have… mixed in with a baby pink rose and maybe a crushed violet.   Whenever I can’t think of what something beautiful smells like I just say “crushed violet.”   Violets actually have no scent.  At least not here.  Somewhere they must because I see those words used to describe quite a few wines quite a few quiet nights quite a few dreams even smoke.

If I could walk somewhere alone and really be alone I might be really happy.  Yesterday walking through the park.  The cold frozen ground but underneath everything waiting and waiting to come up.  I could feel it.   I stopped suddenly because I was surrounded by about 75 robins… they are out and about it is their time now… nonchalantly going about their business.  I almost thought they were saying something… I got distracted then by piles of dog waste here and there, a large pile near that memorial tree with the beautiful tribute to an artist who died and that quote from Rengutu?  I have to look it up but the gist of it was  …..” it is harder for those of us left behind…..”

It’s harder for me to enjoy this park or the streets or the garden when I  also have to look at people’s dog’s poo .  Check these apostrophes will you? Like the people next door.  Sometimes I look out of my guest room window upstairs and I can see their garden… their plain concrete, huge driveway driven plaything riddled, fire pit concrete bench filled garden… and I see them, the little plastic bags of doggie poo they leave there sometimes because they are too lazy or too tired to pick them up and put them in the trash can just two feet away… or maybe even though they love their funny little cute black and white mutt its poo disgusts them too.  It can ruin everything for me.  It has ruined dog love completely for me.  And humans are a close second.   After walking through that park I realized I need at least a hundred acres to be free.  No I need a thousand.. Then I realize it would have to be at least 10,0000 acres.  Just me and trees and farms and orchards and birds lots and lots of birds more birds than anything else…  then come the flowers ….

Or maybe, just a few martinis now after the snow sitting here after the red light the cemetery the poison at work the dog waste the gasoline street and that shroud that white shroud that scarf oh God for a thousand acres somewhere sitting there somewhere with that dandy just the two of us drinking martinis…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bus Stop Stories, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely

I ran out of butter.  I wondered how I could possibly eat my toast this morning. Because this was a day I had to have eggs, butter and toast.

When I saw there was no butter, I didn’t exactly panic, but felt a very strong disappointment. Like when you realize there is no coffee in the house and you will have to wake up without it, and will end up feeling dull, tired, and unexcited all day long…

Once when I was visiting a friend in Carmel and we sat down to a decadent lunch of lobster, asparagus, white wine and freshly baked bread, a delicate little salad (my welcome lunch to commemorate my first visit to California, then still a truly promised land), her sweet elderly aunt suddenly inquired with a slightly worried look in her crinkled blue eyes: “Chris do we have enough butter?”.  It was butter, and only butter that would make everything at the table sing with flavor, make our mouths water, our tongues wiggle in anticipation like salivating dogs, and our four pairs of hands reach out simultaneously to the pale creamy block of butter on the table like Oliver Twist in front of the steaming porridge pot.

This 20th day of January 2018 where I have already seen another major house-falling -apart problem, more financial problems,  mental physical spiritual health problems…. and on and on….  I barely managed to get up this morning.  And then going to the bathroom to see if I was still there…. I caught my face in the mirror and saw the face of a very old woman.  As though overnight as I slept, someone had taken a very fine paintbrush and drawn tiny lines all over my face.  I look frightening.  Like someone waking up to find their hair had turned white overnight.  Like that woman I read about who ended up sitting in a Ferris wheel… way at the very top by herself all night long… because the employee had left her there accidentally, while in a drunken stupor. When they found her the next day her black hair had turned snow-white.

The thought of a nice buttery breakfast of lightly toasted sourdough bread, two perfect eggs glistening in the delicate fat, thick fruity preserves…. That made me feel slightly better.  Old age, financial ruin, my house falling apart all around me.  Butter could make that fade away for a little while.

There is also the sudden, once again, premature spring, forty-eight degrees on January 20, all the garden snow melting in great pools and the almost warm, misty spring-like air in the garden.  Butter can help with that too.

In a true spring I would run out in the morning, even at 48 degrees with my coffee and start searching excitedly for the signs of a new season.  Start looking for snow drops, or squill or the tiny tips of daffodils. Not now.  I draw the blinds, close the shutters… fear the bright shining sun that this winter has been either too bright, too warm or for two weeks icy cold.  Even the sun doesn’t know what to do, or where to go.

So sometimes breakfast is the only thing to look forward too before the day starts slapping you around again.  Before the strange and constantly unpredictable weather makes you yearn for things that used to be true:  Spring, Fall, Summer, Winter.  I used to know what they meant; they even had a certain color:   Chartreuse Green, Orange/Scarlet/Deep Emerald Green, White/Black/Grey.

I considered the no butter dilemma and realized there is always olive oil or walnut oil (from an adventurous and expensive salad recipe from many Thanksgivings ago before the penny-pinching times arrived).  Or  Crisco.  Corn oil.  Peanut Oil.   Maybe there is some lard somewhere.   Maybe a jar of saved bacon fat, duck or goose fat.  People used to do that, save the fat in little jars they kept in the cupboards or under the sink. Then they used it to dip in pieces of bread, fry potatoes, or fish.  Oh the pleasures of freshly caught trout fried in bacon fat!

I have never tasted that myself, but I read about it and I think I know what that must have been like. I did go fishing once and caught some tiny blue gills or rather a friend did and then he fried up the two or three precious little fish caught way up north in Minnesota. Oh the blue gills!  How sweet and fresh and tasty the mild white meat was!  How pure!  How full of the outdoors and the piney air and the waters where wild black bears still swam.

I remembered once in Spain, ordering eggs for breakfast and almost spitting them out.  They were cooked in olive oil.  There was no butter for the bread.  What a horrible breakfast I thought.  But then I was from America where breakfast often means toast, butter, jam or jelly or preserves, omelets made with three eggs and loaded with cheese, ham, and every vegetable in the garden. Sides of bacon, sausages, or ham. Mountains of hash browns or fried potatoes. Or steak and eggs, pancakes stacked a foot high, or waffles equally tottering on oversized plates.  All smothered with whipping cream, butter, maple syrup or strawberries dyed cherry red.  All gloppy and candy sweet… or neon blueberries smothered in Karo corn syrup…..

One day I was told I ate too much butter. Too many eggs, too much bread, too much cheese and I had to stop.  That was over 20 years ago.  I stopped eating butter and cheese for a while.   Even eggs.  Then over the years I read that eggs were good, eggs were bad, eggs were awfully bad, eggs were awfully good, and now it appears eggs are very very  good again.  They are after all, the perfect food.

Sometimes when I go down to the basement to get the eggs out of the fridge (the upstairs refrigerator broke down) I have to put them in the pockets of my robe in order to walk upstairs again.  And I feel those perfectly oval, smooth, fragile, very cold eggs, a little precarious, moving slightly in my pockets, as though little chicks would be popping out of them, so precious as though they were baubles of gold to hang on a Christmas tree…. and it feels like I am holding the whole world in my pockets, the whole fragile icy world about to crack. I often think what it would be to fall down the stairs with those eggs in my pocket and what a soggy mess I would be at the bottom of the stairs.  A human omelet.

I now still buy butter and slice it into a fat little patty and drop it into a pan and let it foam and crack in an egg or two, and baste them or have them sunny side up or scrambled. Scrambled softly, slowly, like MFK Fisher once advised in her famous collection “The Art of Eating”.  She said to cook eggs in a pat of sweet, unsalted butter on a very low heat and to cook them very slowly, stirring all the time.  And to add a little heavy cream…..and stir and stir… Until you have a mass of soft creamy curds.  I might shave a bit of cheese into it, snip a few chives on top, drop in a few sliced cherry tomatoes.  They taste better if you saute’ them in butter first.

And then the toast. I might pop in two very square pieces of sourdough bread from the Breadsmith or La Brea bakery and toast them just a little, and then spread them with another pat or two of butter. Rush it all to the table and savor every little last creamy fatty soft and slightly bland little bite. Oh, the coffee.  There must be coffee!  Strong, slightly bitter, yet mellow.  Made with icy cold fresh clean water.  If you can find fresh clean water….

So it is today. This prematurely warm January day.  You might say enough enough already of this kind of talk.  But I can’t seem to stop.  The weather now has become such a source of strangeness, of anxiety, of frustration, of complete confusion and discombobulation… and fear lately, mostly fear.. Fear of weather.  Fear of what we have done. Fear of what will happen. Every day the weather is a major player.   All encompassing, all enveloping.  Like a huge sweeping wave of terror.

I dreamt the park across the street erupted in volcanoes.  I dreamt that over twenty years ago when I first moved here. I still remember every single detail of that dream.  Being in the store near my house at the checkout counter… and seeing from the window the park outside and suddenly the huge geyser of dirt and foam and water and debris and suddenly the great noise and the panic in and outside of the store.  And I remember outside as I was running and screaming like the other people not knowing what to do and where to go, knowing it was useless to run home and try to shelter there because the home would not be there, and even if it was safe I couldn’t get there  because I had to cross the park, standing there in a swirl of panic and rushing cars and people and screaming everywhere, and me being completely alone, until suddenly I saw my friend Nerida.

Nerida, from work years ago, a very tall beautiful woman who looked like an African ancient queen. She had befriended me in my very darkest hours, when my mother died suddenly.  One day when I was crying at my desk she walked over to me,  literally grabbed my hands and almost dragged me to an empty conference room, and we both sat down and she said the most beautiful, compassionate, meaningful, heartfelt prayer for me.  It was she Nerida, coming to save me.  She was standing by a car in the chaos and she was motioning me to come to her and be saved.  This, I know is true.

I am not sure why I am thinking now of Nerida and that dream. But then, yes, I do.  Because I think bad things are going to come. Very bad things. Even worse than they already are. And there is nothing that I will be able to do about it.  And, I am not going to worry about it anymore.

I went to the kitchen and I poured olive oil in the pan.  I let it get almost hot and cracked two eggs into the pan and covered it with a glass top.   I took out two pieces of sourdough bread. They felt very heavy in my hand. Full of flour and almost dense as though they were made of dirt.  But they were only bread and had that slight sour tang.

The eggs were almost ready, and the bread was only slightly toasted so that it looked and smelled and felt in the hand almost like freshly baked bread. I cut the two slices of bread into four pieces.   Two into triangles and two into rectangles.  I thought the different shapes might make them taste better.  After all I had no butter to spread on the bread.

I spied a jar of honey on the far kitchen counter, not clear and liquidy but thick and opaque almost like quince paste.  I have only been using the honey for tea.   I spread the honey on two pieces of the bread and I put the eggs on the plate and sprinkled them with a bit of salt and a lot of pepper. And then I saw my butter dish on the lower shelf of the kitchen cart.  I must have put it there sometime last month after Christmas Eve dinner….. I noticed (with some excitement) that it had a tiny tiny  bit of butter on it.. the size of a dime…the kind of a smidge that warranted nothing, that you would put in the sink to wash…. and I took a knife and I spread that tiny smidge of butter on my remaining plain toasted bread, and I took it all into the dining room that still had remnants of Christmas Eve dinner … pale candles in old red votives, dark green brocade tablecloth, jade napkins,  coppery gold and frosted leaves in an old Victorian urn….  a glass vase of gold, red and amber glittering baubles…. and I sat there and I ate my breakfast, happy as a fish swimming in the everlasting waters of another spring.

 

PostScript:   Oh, whoever you are who may be reading this… or not…. I feel I owe some explanation… perhaps only to the little fish swimming in the seas or the cold little eggs in my pocket… I am still playing Dmitri Hvorostovsky on the CD player.   This story started out with Dmitri Hvorostovsky still on my mind, as his CD (“Russian Romances”) is still in the boom box in the kitchen, and this post is also filed under his own separate category.  I am still feeling very sad and shocked at his premature death last November,  as though he was someone I knew very well…. And when I am not listening to WFMT radio I press the CD button and there he is in my kitchen. And his voice still makes me almost delirious with happiness and also delirious with sadness.  And he seems to be, for me, right now some sort of symbol, for what, yet, I do not know.   And when I started out this morning in search of butter and eggs and toast I thought about him, and his funeral, and final burial in that cemetery in Moscow, that very cold and wintry day, and all the people standing there tired and unhappy, tearful and bereft and exhausted, weeping for their silver-haired lion.  And, it was just easier for me to write about butter and eggs. Even though I was trying to write about Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the snow.

Posted in Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 5 Comments