Kitchen Project

P1240004

I have been aware for some time that many of my herbs and spices are past their optimal potency. I received a set when I first moved out on my own after college. That was 1985, and I still had them, some untouched. Another set came in the form of a wedding gift in 1987. Others had accumulated over the years, from what source or unto what purpose, I have no clue. There were 40 different spices in my cabinet, and multiples of most of them. For example, I had three different bottles of dill — two weed and one seed…I never used any of them. There were four different oreganoes, three different nutmegs, three of parsley flakes, three of coriander, two of marjoram.

Marjoram. What is that?

There was tumeric, thyme, and two different fennels. I even had a full bottle of tarragon, which I am convinced is poisonous to me. …poppy seed, caraway seed, mustard seed…

Sixty-nine bottles and boxes and jars of the stuff. The label of one bottle was completely worn off, and I couldn’t identify the contents. It smelled familiar. I kept it, not because I think I’ll use it, but because I need to identify it before I dispose of it. Yes, I said “need.” Leave me alone!

All which were twenty or more years old were automatically dumped, and any that smelled stale or weak followed. It felt good to clear the space, to divest myself of the unhelpful items. With that out of the way and the cabinet freshly reorganized, I was ready to set about the next project, which was spending the afternoon making my personal recipe of homemade chili. But I had to go to the grocery store first; I had no cumin.

Advertisements
Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm  Comments (14)  

Yesterday’s Walk Through Snow

I’m walking across the field, toward the woods, late in the afternoon. With me is Faulkner, a soccer ball, my voice recorder, but no camera. I want there to be no frame to limit the white beauty of woods in the snow. I want to know the scene as unbroken expanse, each dimension pouring its fullness into each other.

I turn Faulkner loose, and he knows where to go. I walk, kicking the ball in his direction, toward the opening at the edge of trees, snow blasting from my foot and up my pants in the motion. Each expected bounce is muffled as the ball stops in its own oval crater. I love these shoes; Merrell is worth every penny you pay for them.

Into. Ahead of me the ball rolls down the trail. These woods have the freshness of an open-minded discussion, and I’m here to listen. The Sunlight is doing some amazing things on the white branches. The outline of white, up the trunks and out the limbs of the largest trees, is just — clean! A sea of Smilax briar vines, red cedars, wild cherries…they all are catching light and casting shadows in a perfect display of God’s artistry.

Why does snow in the woods make a man feel so warm?

Layerings. I’m listening to a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Its voice is traveling through pine branches covered with snow underneath the blue sky. Behind me is the horn of a very distant train. Grasses bend in support of their icy weight, and sweetgum balls stand out in silhouette against the pale openness above.

I keep expecting Faulkner to jump a rabbit and go chasing it out through the weeds until briars stop him and let the rabbit go free. Now the trail opens into a patch of pine needles and moss. And the sunlight is perfectly balanced against everything that is here. I am watching light, breathing it, pumping it through my arteries, and telling Faulkner things he’s too busy to notice for himself. He is happy and alert, running around in his winter fatness. Simple woods. I can never get too much of this. And twilight approaches.

Several small oak trees here still hold their brown dried leaves, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet matches the temperature with its thin, piercing call, but only giving two notes of its usual three.

Another thing I did not bring with me is binoculars. So, as I call the birds to me, I cannot see, in these shadows, what each of them is, but I do recognize a Song Sparrow. Dozens of others come close, staying just out of signt and are not identifying themselves by voice. Now they fly away as Faulkner follows his nose through the weeds underneath them. There’s the soft chuck of a Hermit Thrush, most likely agitated by the calling that I did. And back toward the spring I hear a Northern Flicker yelping its strident single-syllable creed to all the woods within a quarter mile.

Faulkner walked up to me just now, offering me his head for a scrub of his scalp, enjoying this place and my presence in it with him.

On to the spring, now, where water is flowing through the lightly frozen remainder of day. Faulkner runs his usual patrol across the broken fence and up through trees around the ridge. Today he’s easier to see, with snow as the background instead of brown forest floor. Much snow has melted and the flow of water out of the primary spring groundswell is more vigorous than I am used to seeing. I reach into it with my left forefinger and nudge a gray salamander who moves slowly out of my reach. The water is warm, moreso than I expected. And down here at ground level I notice a soft vapor rising off of the pool that is formed by the flow.

Now back up to the trail, I return to the soccer ball that I have been kicking all along this walk, through snow and leaves. The presence of a Nike soccer ball in these woods seems incongruous, but so it seemed in the place I first found it. That’s a story I still need to tell.

This is enough, and more than I can appreciate: these woods, this way. I am at home in the cold. No wind was here, trying to move the magisterial grandeur of snow where it lies and limbs where they accept space in the sky. I’m glad to be walking here now, and glad that this is enough.

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 12:24 am  Comments (5)  

A Rocking Chair by a Window Full of Snow

Yes, there has been snow! It’s 8:30 AM while I write this, and it’s still falling. There is good coverage of a few inches, perhaps, and the wind is gusting it around like dust. There are flakes moving in every direction at once. Lots of birds have been on my feeders, including, for the first time this winter, Pine Siskins. This calm is a glorious dynamic.

P1200013

The footsteps I made when going out to feed Faulkner and water the birds have been covered over with fresh snow. Now grackles have made their way to my white lawn — just a few. That’s the third species of blackbird to send a scouting party here this morning: Rusty Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles. Depending on how they assessed my seed supply, I might have a yard filled with black before the white has a chance to melt, each a beauty pronounced by its opposite.

P1200009

I have come recently to learn that today contains the inauguration ceremony for our new president, Barack Obama. I will pray for him, that he may bear with wisdom, grace, and courage the burden that is now his.

P1200017

I’m soothing my sore throat with a big cup of Irish breakfast tea…milk in first. And now a Red-winged Blackbird becomes the next Icterid prospector. As the birds come and go, the sun is making an appearance. Light flurries still freckle the scene. I think one of the best ways to be at home is exactly this.

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm  Comments (3)  

The 12th Day of Christmas

It has been a wonderful season of rest and worship, time spent with friends and solitude in beautiful places. I plan to post here about some of it, soon. In the meantime, I hope this fresh year is good for you.

Published in: on January 5, 2009 at 11:13 pm  Comments (1)