Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

a poem to savour ~

Here’s a poem from Muriel Rukeyser, an excerpt from Elegy in Joy. I love the stanza ~

Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.
Not all things are blest, but the
seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.

It's so easy to forget that beginnings are full of promise, and that sometimes endings are beginnings...

creature comforts ~

What is it about chocolate? Especially coupled w/ sweet, juicy, just-picked strawberries? How can something so easy seem so special? So decadent?

Confession #1: I’m crazy about chocolate. Confession #2: not just any chocolate. I don’t particularly care for candy bars, or milk chocolate in general. Give me dark chocolate — at least 60% or more. And make it pretty expensive — w/ chocolate, you really do get what you pay for. Then let’s buy several pints of Emily & Mike’s organic, picked-this-morning strawberries, gently rinsed, patted completely dry, and dipped in the unctuous brown manna of melted chocolate. And let’s call that parfaitment, as the French would say :). Complete perfection.

Like my two French bulldogs who love treats, human beings are animals. Who also love treats. If we call the dogs from the forbidden territory of the front yard, after one of those ‘oh no! the dogs got out!’ accidents, they come galloping as fast as their stubby legs can carry them. Because we ALWAYS say that magic word: Treats!

Just now, Pascal (the older dog) insisted that this is playtime, not writing time. So I bought myself 30 minutes of peace — two red Kongs filled w/ frozen peanut butter. They will be happily licking the peanut butter out of the inside whorls for at least a peaceful half-hour. Would they work this hard for anything else? Of course not — but a treat? :)

So yesterday, when the world seemed greyer than a dense shadow, and nothing about it held promise, I went to market. Farmer’s market. And I picked up five pints of organic, just-picked Oklahoma strawberries. Plus Emily (of Emily & Mike’s farm :)) gave me an extra one :) (thanks, Emily!).

I rinsed the strawberries carefully. Patted them dry (or the chocolate won’t adhere :)). Melted the organic chocolate in a Pyrex cup. And dipped the dry strawberries, laying them on wax paper and putting the whole thing in the fridge to set up. Voilà! Decadent chocolate-covered strawberries. MUCH easier than pie.

And by the time it was all done — the convertible trip, top down, to the market; the rinsing and melting and dipping and cooling — I was fine. Really fine. AND I now have chocolate-covered strawberries! And life is MUCH better … :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

when tragedy strikes ~

Each of these stories from the Tuscaloosa tornado is enough to make you cry. But what’s more important? How each man and woman found a way to go forward, to help. To be there for others…

two years after ~

When I tell people — sometimes even close friends — that I miss my father-in-law at least as much as my own father, they react in two ways:  Some flat don’t believe me. Others want to know why, as if my father was somehow a monster. He wasn’t — just gone a lot, and we fought.

My father-in-law, in contrast, loved me dearly, and I knew it from very early on. Even now, her mind winding in and out of the shadowy byways of old age, my mother-in-law will tell the story of when Dad heard I received my Ph.D. She says he clapped his hands loudly, and yelled WHOOHOO! He was always my cheerleader.

So that the other day, when I walked into his large, carefully organised workshop, 20 years dropped away, and I saw him, hale & hearty at his workbench, two tow-headed boys on tiptoe to see over the edge, watching him fix whatever they had broken. It might have been late winter, the cast-iron stove glowing, the marshmallow forks to the side, and my mother-in-law and I making dinner in the kitchen, to bring outside.

Instead, it is years later, two-and-a-half after his death. But still I had to stop and catch my breath, the very air around us shimmering w/ the smell of cleanly oiled and sharpened tools, wooden shelves full of things that might be needed, and tool box after tool box neatly stored. Somehow he was there, in the sawdust and oil fragrance, in the rows of nail cans and the 6′ saw hanging from the eaves and the coiled wire hung from a hook.

We didn’t have much time, after Dad died, to grieve for him. My mother-in-law quickly began to go downhill, and we needed to look after her. It was only about a year — full of a flood and new carpet and two weeks of no power and freezing ice and snow and so much more — after  Dad’s death that she broke her knee and had to be moved to town.

That was 18 months ago, and we are only now cleaning out the house. With its two-car garage, its four-car workshop. And its four-bay pole barn… Each full of lives lived to the brim, and the careful saving ways of another generation. There are three hot water tanks — empty and rusty, but just in case.

When we tried, several years ago, to help Dad clean out some of this junk, he flat refused. Nicely, but adamantly. But Dad, my husband asked. What on earth do you need THREE hot water tanks for? Can’t we at least pitch ONE? Nope, Dad said. You just never know what you  might need…

At every turn, on every shelf, there is a story. As there is in the kitchen, where he cooked with my beloved Mom. There is the bone saw he made from an old wood saw — cut down to kitchen size, w/ a hand-made handle, carefully stowed in a hand-crafted knife insert in a drawer. With it, he worked magic on entire sides of beef, or a small-town-size ham. There is the spice rack cut to size to fit the back of a cabinet. Not a room is absent his trace ~

Our sons had a saying, when something — almost anything — broke: I bet Grandad can fix it! And usually, if not always, he could. A top-notch machinist, a literate life-long learner, if he didn’t know something, he knew where there was a book that could teach him.

What he never would have believed is how much each of us learned from him. He and Mom taught me how to cook — I have his stained recipes — hand-printed in his draftsman’s hand, meticulously attributed and amended — carefully filed in my wooden recipe box. He taught me it was okay to be omniverously curious — I must have caught him reading in the wee hours a hundred times, everything from a book on dogs to a country cookbook to a book on tall ships.

More than anything, he taught me about love. How to make an outsider into an insider, how to welcome a stranger. How to love his son, his wife, his daughter-in-law, his grandchildren.

I miss you, Dad.

 

 

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