My sister’s cat Mercer has been sick and suffering for a while lately with some mystery malady, and his symptoms have thus far refused to explain themselves to his faithful veterinarian, so we’re in a watching, waiting and hoping phase. It’s sad and frustrating, and poor Mercer needs some serious respite from his ailments. I’m afraid I haven’t the skill to give him anything more palliative than the occasional pettings he allowed me to give him while we shared living quarters this summer. So I send out this little ditty to bring him good vibes of well-wishing long distance, as it stars the two most faithful fellow fur-babies who live or visit in his home, Ruffian the cat and Basil bunny.
That rapid rabbit Rupert runs and rollicks right apace,
though he requires but rarely rest—despite his rosy face
and rampant racing ’round, his rayed and ruffled wriggling nose,
his rife ripostes, his reeling roll—well, really, you’d suppose
he’d relish full retirement, retreat into some room,
Next to a soft warm rabbit, I
Love naught so much as a broad bright sky
A picnic under a chestnut tree
A bunch of kids in a spelling bee
A crazy quilt on a big deep bed
Sweet summer breeze playing ‘round my head
Cashmere and silk, or a good night’s rest,
But in truth, I still love bunnies best.
It’s not only thanks to dyslexia that I get lots of things backwards. Say, this morning, when I realized that I was about to publish yesterday’s post because I forgot about it yesterday. That was just plain forgetfulness. So here you go.
Backwardness, now that’s a much more deeply embedded part of my nature than just reading and seeing physical things differently than others do. I see life differently, too, and sometimes it sets me off on paths that diverge and digress from all previously known ones. And that’s not inherently bad.
I don’t necessarily advocate bucking the popular trend just for the sake of being different. I certainly don’t advise doing the opposite of what everyone else does all of the time merely to prove you’re above them all. That can put you right in the path of danger; sometimes rules and boundaries and well-trod routes and even conformity derive from practical need and hard-won experience putting people out of harm’s way.
But there are times, too, when it does pay to be willing to hang the painting upside down, go home by a different road, or get up and dance when nobody else dares to get out of their chairs. Once in a while, the gift of getting out of sync with all the rest of creation is that you will learn something none of the rest know, feel something you’ve never felt before or even discover something previously hidden from the universal view. Even if it only lasts for a short while, the inner evolution that results might well be worth holding in your heart, your inside-out, upside-down and backward heart, for a very long time indeed.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Why, yes, if you are a fresh berry. Those sweet little nuggets of juicy goodness are the very epitome of summertime’s joys, and the longer we can extend the berry adventure by means of preserved, frozen or baked goods, the merrier. I’ve already rhapsodized about my mother’s justly famed raspberry pie (the mystic quality of her ethereal pie crusts a deservedly notable part of the equation, in the interest of full disclosure), and she made many a jar of equally brilliant raspberry jam over her wildly productive years of canning and preserving. I will never be her equal in either of these arts.
I do, however, have enough fondness for some berries that I will gladly binge on them while their season lasts, and far beyond, in whatever forms are available, because I can practically feel the vitamins rushing into my cells when I do, and more importantly, because they taste so fabulous and are such great utility players on Team Food. On their own, they are magnificent and refreshing. In salads, a divine break from any leanings toward excess of greens. Think, for example, of a marvelous mix of butter lettuce, Romaine, toasted sliced almonds, shavings of fine Reggiano cheese and a generous handful of raspberries all happily commingling with a light creamy fresh thyme dressing. Transcendent! Fruit salad melanges practically insist on having a handful of berries gracing them when the season is right. And I’m told by those who eat blueberries that no berry surpasses them for muffin or pancake making. Me, I’ll gladly stick with Swedish pancakes piled up with whipped cream and fresh strawberries when it comes to the breakfast berry-ations. And of course there are endless possibilities in the universe of fruit smoothies when it comes to berries, whether you’re in the camp that must strain out the seeds or among those who appreciate the fiber therein.
And don’t get me started about desserts! The natural affinity fruit has for sweet foods is showcased wonderfully in so many after-dinner or coffee-time treats that a mere post could hardly suffice to even skim the list. But some goodies do come immediately to mind: strawberries dipped in chocolate; cloudberry cream, as I learned to love it when prepared in the seconds-long fresh season by my brother-in-law’s late mother; blackberry tapioca pudding. Pies, tarts, and crumbles, oh my. A heap of berries and a gentle sluicing of vanilla custard atop a slice of toasted pound cake. Honestly, few ways to go awry.
Still, the berry, with its pristine, bright, zingy flavor, and the hints of sweetness underlying it, makes a superb foil for savory dishes too, not least of all meats and seafoods. One of those ways to slip berry-liciousness into the main dish is to pool any of the multitude of possible berry-enhanced sauces and purees under, over or alongside a portion of entrée. I’m fond of Beurres Rouges ou Blancs made with wine, butter and berries cooked down to dense, flavorful stupendousness. Hard to argue with, say, a blackberry-Cabernet sauce served with lamb or duck, and I can only imagine that a dry, red-fruity Rosé would pair gracefully in such a sauce with raspberries or, dare I say it, salmonberries, to accompany a roasted filet of salmon or breast of pheasant or grilled chicken. Champagne Beurre Blanc is hard to resist with shellfish; why not top that with roasted strawberries and a quick grind of black pepper?
As you can see, what happens when I get the mere image of a berry into my tiny brain is that it plants the seeds for extensive food fantasizing. And that is hardly a bad thing, my friends. Bury me in berries. I could do much worse.
Ha! Just when the 100°F+ (38°C) weather has dragged on long enough for me to start whining about the lack of lively things happening in my garden and haul out the photo albums of earlier spring and summer shots to moon and maunder over, This. We came driving down to the end of our driveway last night after a concert and I saw something shining in the farthest reaches of our headlights. Then a twitch of movement. Saw a flash of pinkish color in the dim illumination.
After three years of living in Texas and only one sighting of an armadillo other than the variety occasionally spotted in a sort of worn-area-rug likeness on desolate stretches of highway, there in my own backyard were a pair of waddling ‘dillos searching the perimeter of the house for tasty bugs and grubs. I’ve known, of course, that living on a property that shares its back border with a little greenbelt ravine, we have all sorts of creatures–possums, raccoons, birds, insects, squirrels, wild rabbits, and the assortment of neighborhood cats and dogs that keep an eye on them all–there were likely armadillos too. I’ve heard from various locals of such residents as wild turkeys and coyotes, as well, and heard from a bobcat itself that it at least formerly inhabited our little slice of the semi-wildness. But other than the one unfortunate flat armadillo that I once found run over on a neighboring street, I’d not seen any hard evidence of their inhabiting this spot.
So it was a delight to see these funny, eccentric looking and shy nocturnal visitors not only in the neighborhood but in our own yard. They were remarkably unmoved by us, even when my chauffeuring spouse stopped the car, rolled up the automatic garage door and let me clamber out with my little camera to try to catch a glimpse of them to keep. They were already rounding the corner of the house almost immediately after we spotted them, so I crept indoors and out the front door. Our porch lights are meant only to light the porch, so there was no real way to see the critters in that dark, but as soon as I stepped out into the black I could hear bits of rustling off to my right. Yes, they’d come out to investigate the front flowerbeds and rummage in the buffet at the foot of the oak trees.
Lacking any fabulous infrared spy camera or night vision goggles for the occasion, I simply took my little point-and-shoot in hand and, well, pointed and shot. Aimed for the scuffling and shuffling sounds as best I could. Caught a couple of quick little glimpses as the flash went off in its nearly random way. And rejoiced that these delightfully surreal animals had decided for once to pay me a visit when I could actually be on hand to appreciate it. Life does go on, no matter the weather, the season or the condition of my plants. After all, if the plants had continued to be too vigorous, the insects wouldn’t find such rich dining on them and there would be little fascinating forage for my miniature garden-zeppelin friends. And I do thank them for helping with the insect-control efforts here. And probably, for some free fertilizer in the bargain, especially if I startled anyone with my camera flash.
The other day we were fortunate to cross paths with a charming little wild rabbit. It was clearly a destined meeting–the rabbit, lunching late right in broad daylight, wasn’t the least bit discomposed by our walking right up to it and merely sat up to have a look around when we got close. Then it went back to its placid munching pretty much as though giving the nod of approval to our proceeding on our way.
The way things look in the news most of the time, it seems someone has to be doing gigantic deeds, especially if they happen to be wildly nefarious or weirdly ridiculous, for any meeting to have any meaning. I have to disagree. Isn’t it a wonderful enough thing, I ask you, simply to have shared a wordless moment of colloquy, two great beings on this little old planet meeting without any purpose or plan at all? I like to think that a mild-mannered nobody or two and a cute little feral bunny catching up with each other while out on their divergent afternoon errands, while such a convergence may not shake the foundations of the earth, is plenty pleasing and worthy of at least a moment’s note. I know it’s nothing notable, but still it made a happy mark on me.