Autumn

Autumn

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Day Of Rest

This morning after church I spent an hour or so building a large pot of chili. As I worked I glanced outside my kitchen window and watched a very wet squirrel run along our back fence on his way towards its hickory tree and nest. I chuckled and continued to work accompanied by the music of rain and wind.

It's this wind and rain that has me cooped inside and not able to work on my project...wet and paint are not compatible, which is fine. After all, its just a hobby - like this blog, which I'm sad to say seems to have lost its purpose.

Hence, the chili.

I've noticed chili has a subtle scent...and tends to build in intensity as it simmers. At first, after all the raw ingredients are composed and mingled together and you've thrown in a pinch of salt and a dash of your secret spices, the dishes tangy smell is light and holds close to itself and doesn't perfume the  whole of the kitchen.  But, after a few hours over low flame and while you're reading a novel or about the house at other chores you'll find yourself swimming with chili peppers and onions, like a walk down a wooded path bordered by jasmine, its inescapable.

*****

While I composed in the kitchen Sweet Wife went about a few chores of her own. She bundled together a few items for the wash, dusted a ceiling fan, and changed our bed sheets; she went towards flannel saying it was time as it's October and since we both like flannel sheets I didn't argue. Besides, she believes she's the boss.

When she finished she came into our family room and began to watch a movie. A chick flick titled, 'Message in a Bottle.' A standard tear jerker. An hour or so later I walked in to find her fast asleep. She's lovely when she naps. Due to her back she naps while upright and the tilt of her head makes me wince in pain. As she sleeps I tiptoe.

I've shut down the movie and now its quiet with only the sound of the wind and the air conditioner, and of course, me tapping away on this keyboard. I like quiet Sundays. It reminds me of my childhood when we'd all gather on my parent's front porch for seasonal activities. Spring and early summer would find us shelling fresh peas or beans or shucking ears of corn. Deep summer, in the heat, we'd have the old hand cranked ice cream churn whirling away with my mother's homemade peach ice cream inside. Autumn was likely to find us plucking the feathers from game birds, mostly quail and duck, for the oven. Winter was citrus.


 Our home was surrounded by orange groves interspersed with the odd grapefruit and tangerine tree. Since I was forced labor during the winter, hired to fire the wood and oil pots during those rare winter freezes, I was allowed to pick as much citrus as I wanted and could use as long as I didn't waste the bounty. Nothing, and I mean nothing, went to waste. My mother loved fresh squeezed orange juice and it was my job to gather at least a bushel every Saturday afternoon for a Sunday front porch squeezing session.

I remember sticky sweet pulp and its acid favor and the way my mother's dress bunched between her legs and my brother's laughter when I'd chunk a wet glob of fruit in his direction. The taste and smell of the rind which I loved to nibble and the way the yellow jackets gathered for their share of the sugar loaded juice and the white enameled pan used for the gathering of the precious liquid. I remember how my mother carefully funneled the juice into her old gallon canning jars and how the next morning I'd steal into the kitchen and take the now ice cold blue bottles and carefully sip the most perfect nectar on God's green earth.

I remember how we'd spread the rind on newspaper and place it to dry under the hot sun and then gather it into feed sacks for cattle feed. I still remember those cold gray mornings as I lugged those same sacks to feed lots, the rind since fortified with molasses and other herbs, and how when the feed was thrown into the stalls it gave off the now intensified odor not unlike mahogany, dense and sweet and smoky.

 
If you've spent anytime at all on a country farm I'm sure you too can remember those early mornings with the tangy scent of wood smoke, those faint traces of some old farm wife hard at work at her woodstove baking fresh biscuits as the country ham sizzles in cast iron and she readies her coffee for the redeye gravy. I remember it. The far off slam of a screen door that travels so well in the cold air, the faint train whistle, the forlorn cry of geese as they pass over the creek on their way to a nearby now brown cornfield.

Remember, just after a shot at a covey of quail, the whiff of gun powder and the way the Hoppe's Number Nine never seems to wash off your gloves. How the frost killed grass crunched under your boots as you moved towards the fence line after the dogs. Lunch under a pine tree that consisted of those little cans of mystery meat and crackers and a thermos of coffee. The wonderful weight of birds tucked away into your vest and how you'd always stop and gather spent shells of red and green and yellow, now faded but still markers to long lost hunts of the past.

Remember the weight and soft feel of the stock of your favorite shotgun and now how badly you wished you hadn't sold it. How it climbed so smoothly to your shoulder and how gently the front bead came naturally to your eye and the rise of the covey, and then the sweet swing and shot, smooth and graceful because and as a result of your long lost youth.

I do.

*****

There is little rhyme nor reason to my writing today. You must excuse me. I just write what pops into my mind. Guess I'm lost in melancholy.

I just remembered I have a pot on the stove and ran in to stir the mess. I believe I'll put a pot of coffee to boil. I haven't had a cup since before daylight. Each and every time I reach for my cup Sweet Wife bats it away. But, now she's deep into a nap. Please, don't tell on me.

I promise to make greater efforts in updating my blog. I can't believe I've gone so long without answering your nice comments. I truly don't understand what's wrong with me. I feel like a caged animal. The rains of today haven't helped, as a matter of fact it's set me back at least a week on my current restoration project. And, when I am able to paint and if I'm not pleased with the results, it might take me three more weeks....he hisses.

Please, take care out there.

Stephen







 

26 comments:

  1. You're among friends - relax. We are all where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to do today. No worries sir, no worries . . . . I enjoyed this post very much . . . .

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    1. Thank you for the nice comment, my friend.

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  2. We always enjoy your quiet, thoughtful posts, Stephen.

    Give yourself some time to regroup, and things will work out.

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    1. Thank you, my fine friend. I shall try.

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  3. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

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    1. You are more than welcome, Anon. Thanks, and please don't be a stranger.

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  4. I too thank you for the memories.

    As I sat on my back porch this morning at daybreak with a cup of coffee in hand, I swear I heard the sound of a screen door slamming shut at my closest neighbor over a 1/2 mile away.

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    1. My pleasure...enjoy the light and cool temps. Take care, my lovely friend.

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  5. Phyllis (N/W Jersey)October 14, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    Ah, Stephen - thank you for the sweet memories. Often when you write something it brings me back to my own childhood.
    Oranges - a treat stuck in the toe of our Christmas stocking. The peel went on top of the massive iron stove in the kitchen and the scent of Christmas filled our cold water flat. Sadly, I have never, ever recaptured the true scent of autumn though. We would rake piles and piles of leaves at the curb. The strike of a match or the use a magnifying glass would start a spiraling whiff of smoke and then oh, the smell of those burning leaves! Too bad all the wonderful aromas of our past can't be put in a bottle and uncorked whenever we want......

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    1. We'd take the rind and add a sprig of pine and a bunch of cloves and allow the mixture to simmer...thanks, my dear Phyllis.

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    1. Thanks, Ed. I jumped over to your blog...nice work and interesting reading...welcome aboard. God bless.

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  7. Beautiful memories you evoked so well. Don't worry about us; you should be taking care of yourself and your sweet wife. We'll be around when you have something to say.

    In the meantime, your "meandering" seems to have struck quite a chord. Not bad for someone with nothing to say. :)

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    1. Once in a while I get lucky. I seldom read my work. Once its out I leave it alone...but yesterday I noticed I seemed 'jumpy.' Scattered. I'm not happy with my concentration. Thanks, my good friend.

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  8. Nice. I love those pots of goodness simmering on a stove. There's almost always something on the woodstove. My lovely wife just made a chicken and gravy dish in the Dutch oven while baking brownies. Love the new woodstove.

    As the days get shorter, and when the weather turns wet, thoughts tend to go inward.

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    1. Indeed, my friend. The Fall and Winter season gives us a glimpse of the future and its painted gray. Thanks, my good friend.

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  9. Stephen,

    There is nothing better than writing about memories.

    I so loved the smells of fresh citrus fruit being pulled from the trees and juiced. It was always that freshness that just made you feel like you were in heaven. When we lived in Florida years ago, we had tangerine trees. Christmas time is when we usually picked the tree. We would have large brown bags full of tangerines; sharing with everyone.

    I remember one year my husband and I drove to Mt. St. Helen. To get there, we drove past this orange grove, you could smell this grove for miles, so sweet. The smell was just so refreshing.

    You take care of yourself and Sweet Wife. When your in the mood to write, your friends will enjoy reading. In the mean time, relax, enjoy another cup of coffee (I promise not to tell) and when the rains stops enjoy working on your hobby.

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    1. Thank you, Sandy. I hope to be able to get back at my restoration today if the rain allows. Take care my lovely friend.

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  10. Memories are good, sometimes it's all we have but they still make us smile and hopefully encourage us to make more memories.

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    1. Very true, Bubba, but memories are also killing.

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  11. 32 years ago I lived in Southern California surrounded by orange groves. To this day I can still smell the sweet unforgetable smell of the orange blossoms. I think they bloomed in March.

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    1. Aromas, scents of our youth never leave us. Smell always evokes memories, doesn't it. Thanks, my friend.

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  12. That was an excellent post. You paint an amazing picture of a time gone by. Thank you for giving me a break from city life as I read your story.

    Steve

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    1. Thanks, Steve. What nice and thoughtful comment.

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  13. My friend, I look forward to everything you write, but don't feel that you're neglecting something when the rest of your life takes priority.

    Thanks for a wonderful post. It brings back some great memories of my own.,

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  14. Thanks, DaddyBear, I do appreciate it.

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