Just a quick howdy-do from the little amphibian who visited me in the garden the other day. Sometimes it really does take very little to brighten the dullest, most common chores or the least exotic occasion. A little hopper leaps into view, and my heart leaps to follow.
I want to wander
To traipse and travel
Or else I wonder
If I’ll unravel
Or my brain could bust
Let me sally swiftly
No matter whether
For I might implode
In irksome itches
The way my
Ticks and twitches
Can’t pause to ponder
And I want
Beloved, let us sit down together in the shadow of the oaks; let us take deep draughts of fresh water from the clear, swift stream. In the scorching heat of the middle of day, let us take refreshment like the dragonflies that skim the water’s edge, and be restored by the caroling of birds in the distant shade.
The days are long and our work makes wearying and seemingly infinite demands, and we know that this will not soon change. There is change of many sorts ahead, this we know too, but what it will be is yet beyond our imagining. Thus it has been, and so shall it ever be: we travel our paths, seldom knowing quite where they lead, and we labor in darkness the while. Some days, the destination is sparkling joy, and on others it is marred by sorrow and strife; at times, the mists of uncertainty part and the way ahead becomes clear, and at others it remains quite fully obscure.
What I know, Beloved, is this—that no matter how hard or easeful is the road and no matter what the destination holds for us, we walk our way together, you and I. We may long for clarity and even for the strength to wait for it, but in the meantime we will take our stops for breath along the way, sitting in shade when we may and drinking deeply from the icy stream, traveling always hand in hand no matter what the journey brings.
There was a whopper of a rainstorm in Dallas recently. We were at our friends’ home, enjoying a little birthday party, and heard a few low growls of thunder in pauses between the chatting and laughter but had no great confidence rain would follow. It’s been overcast or cloudy often enough lately without granting so much of the hoped-for watering as it seems to promise, so we never take it as a given that we’ll be watered nicely. Not, in this instance at least, until the front door smashed open under the force of sideways gales and blasts of firehose rain. Bashed open once, and closed; then, a second time. And latched tight; the neighborhood was pelted well and truly until just a little before we left for home.
At home, it appears, no rain had come at all. Our gardens and spirits remained thirsty. I’m quite certain that a coastal-born person of my Washington upbringing and Scandinavian roots is a little more water-conscious, if not obsessed, than average. But the hints of rain that do arrive here, whether in sky-splitting gouts that last but an afternoon or in a steady series of lightly sprinkling days as we are sometimes blessed to see, are a fairly universally admired gift. And I find that north Texas is hardly alone in this.
The traveling we did this summer in Europe had very few rainy days among the many sun-soaked ones, and while we neither regretted the warmth and light of the sunshine nor bemoaned the drizzling times, we saw plenty of people in Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Stockholm, Port Angeles and Seattle who relished their rain-baths and their waterfront or fountain-side relaxation every bit as much as we did. Even the swans, geese, ducks and waterfowl seemed all the more pleased with their daily peregrinations on the days of and after the rains.
I think that there might be in all of us a certain kind of thirst that mere water only reinforces and reminds us is different from the sense of desire and hope that can fill our spirits. River or fountain, a strong and cleansing rain, ocean or streaming tears of joy, the only water that can quite slake our longing for wholeness and growth and hope is the remembrance that we are primarily made of water ourselves, and as such, will always seek a way to the well or the shore that reassures us we belong.
To my beloved husband with great love and affection on our eighteenth anniversary: you continue to surprise me, all of these years after your initial unexpected appearance as the love of my life!
At evening, summertime holds breathless sway
When even crickets wait before they’ll sing,
And birds to roost go silent; everything
Takes pause because the lengthy heat of day
Has drawn a shawl of stillness down to lawn
And flowerbed and hedges, ’til a breath—
So shallow it could scarcely ward off death—
Is difficult to breathe ’til the break’s gone,
Until the night resumes its stealthy crawl,
Exhaling with a stirring wind that flies
Up, stirring blossoms upward to the skies,
Their petals dropping, ash-like, down the wall,
Crape-myrtle petals drifting down below
Cardoons and artichokes are every bit as admirable as their strictly-for-visual-admiration wild growing thistle cousins. But as any avid eater should know, the aforementioned relatives are terrific dining companions as well as being attractive plants. Sure, I love the silvery magnificence of a shapely cardoon leaf accenting the garden border, but if I can admire its beauty and then eat it as well isn’t that just so much the better?
The wonderful earthiness of the artichoke is an outstanding companion to the similarly strong-yet-subtle virtues of asparagus, mushrooms or root vegetables. All of these, in turn, play nicely with the denser, meatier varieties of fish—roasted monkfish or grilled salmon, for example—or a roast or stew of wild game, if one has access to, say, boar or venison. Or, if meat or fish is simply not right for the moment, some boiled, steamed or poached eggs.
How about this for a tasty Collage of Earthy Vegetables:
Blanch some cleaned asparagus, small to medium-sized artichokes, halved and trimmed, and russet potatoes, skin on and cut into modest wedges. When they’re all blanched, stem and clean some Portobello mushrooms, toss everything with a little avocado oil, kosher salt & cracked black pepper, and grill or roast until tender.
Serve with any or all of the following as a finger food, small-plate meal or as a side to the main entree (fish or meat or eggs):
Toasted hazelnuts, small wedges of Manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, brown butter Hollandaise, and/or rosemary sherried green olives.
This compilation seems to me almost a vegetable representation of terroir. At the least, it’s very down to earth!
I have a gift for complaining. I’m known to bemoan the unsatisfactory in any element of life that irks me at the moment, and seldom run out of topics. Why, I’ve been heard to complain about other people who complain too much.
One might almost assume I didn’t have a really excellent life. One would be wrong in that. I’m just curmudgeonly sometimes.
I like to think I’m not framing my dissatisfaction as criticism and fault-finding, believing myself too pious and generous for such finger-pointing when I know I’m imperfect myself, but of course, any notion of imperfection implies fault or blame at some level. Therein lies evidence of my fault in this insidious pastime.
So I’m working on letting my Pollyanna side dominate better. I can play my own version of her Glad Game and attempt to divine the positives in the situation and keep my attentions there instead of on the downside. I don’t think it healthy, overall, to put too Panglossian a gloss on things and lose touch with reality, but whatever their relative literary merits I suspect young Pollyanna is the more practical of my fictional companions. Instead of pretending that rotten stuff is good, she exhorts us to see what is good and use that to enlighten and change the rest.
Being grateful for what is fine and admirable and sweet is an invitation to imitate it and to use the power of such goodness to defeat the rest. Time spent in recitation and recognition of joys and strengths is never wasted.