The little things

Good morning

More leeks?


The gang's all here


All afternoon

It’s easy to be thankful for the big things: healthy family, food on the table, four sound walls, a roof, and heat. Tonight, to be sure, I’m thankful for all of those. And then some.

For the turkey that took hours longer to cook than we expected, but turned out delicious anyway.

For the dogs underfoot, stealing my seat every time I got off the sofa, and then putting their soft heads under my hands for affection.

For the cheese, oh lord, the delicious cheese.

For the duchess potato recipe that went horribly wrong and yielded what looked like tiny white cow patties.

For the dinner roll recipe that also went wrong, but we laughed.

For the family members who enjoyed dinner even when it was late and not perfect.

For the goats fighting each other for a taste of leek and brussels sprouts trimmings.

For the clumps of snow that came in with the dogs.

For the intoxicating cranberry spice punch that M concocted. And the one with gin and roasted lemons that L mixed up.

For board games and Doctor Who Yahtzee.

For singing “American Pie” with my sister and my daughter, and doing the dance we made up thirty years ago.

For leftovers wrapped in corn tortillas.

For plentiful hot water and soap.

For listening to the old songs.

For Burton Cummings making us howl with laughter, singing:

When I was a boy I dreamed I was a jeweler
With a family business that was free and clear
Selling golden earrings to Mrs. Mickey Mantle
Trying to be gentle while I stuck it in her ear

For words, hands, brains. For salt, butter, wine. For hearts. For voices. For the quiet moment gathering firewood. For laundry. For the dog playing catch with himself. For pecan bars. For the snow plow. For smoke curling up from chimneys.

For the half moon, the high clouds, the shy stars. The headlights passing by in the darkness, cars holding tired children in back seats, watching the moon follow them all the way home.

For each and every one of you. Thank you, oh thank you, oh thank you.

Too many to list


A List of Praises

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.

Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.

Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning
On Restiguche, their cold river,
Salmon river,
Wilderness river.

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities,
Far even from the towns,
With piercing innocence
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes
And four notes only.

Give praise with water,
With storms of rain and thunder
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar
That fills the seaside villages,
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country.

–Anne Porter, from Living Things. Copyright © 2006

Thank you, Mr. Turner

Tonight's Feature

Thanksgiving eve and the snow’s coming down like it thinks it’s Christmas eve and maybe I should be writing the obligatory post about all I’m thankful for. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll just think it and you’ll know it already, because aren’t we all thankful for mostly the same things?

The kitchen is smudged with evidence of the day’s preparations: drips of brown butter ice cream (for this, I am truly thankful), puffs of flour, scattered crumbs, steam from the simmering pot of stock. At 7.30 this evening, I kicked off my shoes and flopped onto the sofa and turned on the TV.

We’ve had TV for a year now. It mostly doesn’t figure into my life, but I tell you, here’s something I’m thankful for: Turner Classic Movies. What a pure joy. Old movies, day and night. No commercials. Brando and Bogart, the Barrymores and Bette Davis. Hitchcock, Huston, Hepburn. Astaire, Ginger, Bing.

Cary Grant, for goodness sake.

Black and white, technicolor. Romances, musicals, mysteries, westerns. Given the chance, I’ll gluttonously feast on them all afternoon.

If only I had a snowbound holiday weekend coming. Can you even imagine how delightful that would be?

Before the storm

Black & Tan

Today was one of those days I was grateful to have work to tether my mind to. Sometimes I think my brain might just float away on a river of nonsense, scattered distractions, unnamed worries, named worries, enticing memories. But work is there, calling the wandering mind to heel over and over.

Disobedient brain, here’s a cookie.

For instance, I went to bed last night thinking about Ferguson, Missouri and a community with a broken heart. And my brain reminded me how lucky I was for that bed, those clean flannel sheets, that thick wool comforter, that solid roof, my family intact and alive. And when I began to settle into sleep my brain scolded me for being too comfortable when there is protesting in the streets. Cars on fire. People without jobs. Lost children.

I woke up in the dark this morning, thinking about cranberries and turkeys and that my child was safe in her bed. And that a snowstorm, borne on a nor’easter, is headed our way. Should I pick up the turkey today instead of tomorrow when the roads might be stopped with snow? My brain reminded me that I hadn’t figured out dessert yet.

Snowy roads. Families packed into station wagons and mini vans, headed though those hills and woods to grandparents’ houses. Families with lost grandparents, lost parents, lost children. We should have scheduled a hay delivery for last week; now we’ll have to contend with the snow. We should have been kinder to each other. We should have filled the car with gas. We should have held on tighter.

When I was small, first and second grade, I went to a school where my sister and I were two in a handful of white children. My best friend was black. Most of my friends there were black. Except for Sharon who lived in the apartment above ours and who had a box type camera (the kind that you looked down into to take the photo) and who let me use it to take my very first picture (it was of her).

Work to do. There’s work to do. Bend your mind to it.

My teacher at that school was Ms. Hunter and she was a force. She was scary and loud and the kindest teacher I ever had. She had her hands full with a mixed class of first and second graders and when she had had enough of our rambunctiousness she’d tell us to sit down and button our lips because she was on the WAR PATH.

Outside the walls of our classroom, there was a little dirt path worn into the grass where we kids would scamper behind the bushes, playing hide and seek. I wasn’t sure what a war path was, but I pictured that path and Ms. Hunter pacing it back and forth, pretending to be angry when all she wanted to do was hug some sense into her unruly pupils.

Oh yes, Thanksgiving and the shopping list, and that email I was supposed to send last week. And a friend is coming over today with her three splendid dogs to walk the wooded path behind our house.

We left that school in the middle of a school year. At that age, you didn’t exchange addresses and phone numbers. I often wonder what happened to Ms. Hunter and my classmates. Did she have a happy life? What happened to my classmates? Did they end up in sunny suburban classrooms the way I did? Are they safe?

Okay, enough wandering. This project needs to get done today. Clients are waiting on me.

This evening we lingered after dinner and talked about Ferguson. The fifteen-year-old at the table feels injustice keenly and oh do I love her for that. I hope she holds on to that fire and does something good for this world. She knows for sure what we all knew as children: that fairness is worth demanding.

I finished that work somehow. And got the turkey and the cranberries and chestnuts. The coals in the fire are glowing blue, they’re so hot. “Uncle Albert” is on the stereo and my mind is speeding back to another time and another place, far from Ms. Hunter’s war path.

Snow’s expected tomorrow noon until night. The reports say we could get up to 16 inches.

Please, everyone, be safe.

On this warm November day

Nature (1/5)

The Birds

are heading south, pulled
by a compass in the genes.
They are not fooled
by this odd November summer,
though we stand in our doorways
wearing cotton dresses.
We are watching them

as they swoop and gather—
the shadow of wings
falls over the heart.
When they rustle among
the empty branches, the trees
must think their lost leaves
have come back.

The birds are heading south,
instinct is the oldest story.
They fly over their doubles,
the mute weathervanes,
teaching all of us
with their tailfeathers
the true north.

–Linda Pastan, from The Imperfect Paradise. Copyright © 1988

Goat home improvement

Walk right in

I’ve spent the last two days in the land of pie: first shopping for their ingredients, then making them (pear-cranberry, peanut butter-chocolate, and good ol’ apple), then delivering all but the apple (that one’s ours) to the school’s language trip fundraiser (where the pies were to be sold), then driving H to the aforementioned fundraiser, then returning later myself to help clean up from the same.

In between, there was house cleaning and laundry folding and grocery shopping and wood moving and dish doing and right now my fingers aren’t much interested in typing. They’re more interested in curling up beside me as I watch a movie or stare into the fire.

Continue reading

Fire – Cat – Stevens – Wallace – Firecat


Earthy Anecdote

Every time the bucks went clattering
Over Oklahoma
A firecat bristled in the way.

Wherever they went,
They went clattering,
Until they swerved
In a swift, circular line
To the right,
Because of the firecat.

Or until they swerved
In a swift, circular line
To the left,
Because of the firecat.

The bucks clattered.
The firecat went leaping,
To the right, to the left,
Bristled in the way.

Later, the firecat closed his bright eyes
And slept.

–Wallace Stevens