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.
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.