Wednesday, November 30, 2005

intimate knowlege of...

I know way too much to be in this relationship. I have an intimacy problem: too much intimacy. Intimacy with organic produce.

Looking at my simple supper, the baby carrots are from Deep Roots Farm, in Vermont. I can similarly name the growers of the mostly gorgeous Boston lettuce, and the source of the Roma tomato. I know when they arrived at the organic grocery store where I work. I know the number of days I hauled them in and out of the walk-in cooler. I know why these vegetables were demoted to the “free” bin in the staff refrigerator. The chipotle ranch dressing gives a smoky kick at the end, which I love—that’s the one item I paid for in this dinner salad.

The stew is made with grass-fed beef and organic beef broth, both of which were pricey, but my employee discount comes in handy. The oregano, sea salt and thyme were practically free. Garlic and onions, well paid for, potatoes free. Red lentils thicken the broth, but they dissolve and no one knows of their presence but me. They cost pennies and impart a rich flavor.

Can I tell you a secret? I hate grocery stores—mine is a special exception. Prices of items go in one ear and out the other, or at least they did before. Now I know that the supermarket charges 75 cents more per pound for organic apples than my store, and I know because it’s my business to know, and because my store was short on apples when I needed to bake pies. I still hate the supermarket—that was my one trip since September. I love my little store, the sunlight streaming in the downtown windows and the funky music, depending on which staff person chooses it. I love the scent of the soaps near the cash register. I secretly love sweeping the amaranth grains off the floor with the big push broom.

Next secret? I detest dealing with produce. How can vegetables be so damned needy? I resent the rainbow chard for wilting and the bruises on the oranges, and the lettuces are like little neurotics, needing infinite care. Every item of produce is filed in its respective box overnight, me hauling it up and down, bundled in my sweaters in the big refrigerator. Every basket and bowl is washed, then the sinks and surfaces. And in the morning, wilty items are trimmed and soaked and primped, and it all starts again.

Now and then, though, some noxious produce chore makes me happy. Like today, when Kate tossed all the celery in the staff “free” bin, as it looked like it had been run over by a truck. I removed the outer layer of stalks of one bunch, intending to take it home, to find the celery hearts were quite sturdy and delicious, so I “redeemed” seven of the twelve pounds of formerly trashed celery. So no free celery today. I buy a bunch, instead, but take with it two free pounds of butter and some dated milk. And three chocolate-covered espresso beans that were “returned” by a customer.

I admit I have some reservations about bagging groceries, the one job I hoped to escape when I left my tiny hometown as an eighteen-year-old. I miss my work from last year, serving college students. I miss the prestige of a high hourly wage and I miss the way my schedule allowed me a few hours alone every day. That’s the downside.

But there is a third secret: it does not all even out in the end— even if I pay well for my food, I win, in every circumstance. It’s all such a gift, really good employers, really good meals made from really good ingredients at my intimately-known table. I toast my work life with a mug of hot cider, slightly past the “sell by” date and deliciously free.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

mandala coloring supposedly helps one to concentrate, and I am waiting for the benefits to kick in. any excuse to color...

amaryllis mandala

Saturday, November 12, 2005

mexican lantern close up

mexican lantern

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

lantern walk weather report

The boy’s kindergarten celebrated The Lantern Walk last night, on a mild November evening, stars clear and crisp as we sang our way through the woods and meadows. Children make and carry lanterns—lit candles housed in punched tin or golden paper, dangling on a handle made of “finger-knitted” yarn. They are like every other set of kindergarteners, giggly and prone to start silly pushing matches, like tumbling puppies, but then they hush themselves and sing, tiptoeing through the branches. After so many ineffective introductions so many other evenings, the boy “sees” the Big Dipper, and asks in a whisper if there are more constellations he can learn, too.

The evening is not without glitches: the boy hurts his hand while rough-housing before the candles are lit, and I see the swelling by flashlight, some bone-deep hurt we will watch for signs of bruising. He also gets angry enough with my pace that I think he might pull me right down onto the ground and stomp on me, though he did choose me to be his walking partner, and not one of his classmates.

The girl chose another friend her own age, and they sang in their lovely voices, so clear. When we returned indoors for hot cider and treats, another mom and I noted how the older siblings of the kindergarteners interact like fraternity brothers, so confident and interrelated and full of warm laughter and inside jokes.

The boy’s stubbornness and little wound cannot mask his long-lashed beauty. The girl is so at home in the world, in a crowd or on her own, that I often wonder who this exotic creature is, where she came from, as I stand across the room from my eight-year-old.

This night hardly seems related to last, with a biting wind and cold rain, threat of snow. We rushed home in the cold to steaming plates of French toast and bacon, comfort food for me, as the tail end of a headcold lingers. Soon I will need to go out in the rain and remove the wooden “welcome” wreath, as its banging against the door will keep the children from getting to sleep. We will finish off the evening with hot chocolate and one more piece of Halloween candy. I would worry that I’ve fed them far too much sugar, except I am too tired to worry, for now, and too happy with the taste of nutmeg and maple syrup. 

The “take” from the staff room at the store today is four pounds of red potatoes, a fennel bulb on its last leg, and a tub of organic sour cream—though I just made potato-fennel soup two weeks ago, many mouths were fed and I didn’t get seconds from that batch, so I make another pot tonight during bathtime. And the recipe calls for sour cream on top. I dose my cup of soup with cayenne, to help my suffering sinuses. Children are laughing that I drink soup while they drink cocoa with marshmallows.

Maybe two years ago, when people would comment how I would miss those parenting days when the time passed, I would nod and manage a smile while I disagreed silently inside: ages three and five, ages four and six, those were very hard parenting years with almost a desperate need for assistance and breaks from the sibling battles, and I don’t miss much from those days. Some developmental stages bring out the resentful beast in me. But these days, this last year of days, these I will miss, childrens’ faces full of wonder and often full of affection.

I drove children to school on Tuesday, a rare occasion as Scott usually drops children at the school door. I’m not necessarily very friendly or kind in the morning, so it’s good I am not often the chauffer, but with a stiff cup of coffee, I tried to be chipper.

“Two, four, six, eight!” The girl began from the backseat.

I asked, “Someone you appreciate, dear?”

“You, Mama, I appreciate you.” I laughed, surprised.

“What do you appreciate?”

“You made us breakfast, Mama,” she replied, though I make breakfast everyday and this morning was nothing special.

“And you made us to be borned,” added Brendan, “which is very important.”

I managed to exclaim a big thank you before the conversation veered off into why mamas give birth and daddies do not, but for that little moment, making them to be borned seemed very important indeed. We take our cheers where we can get them, small lights in the darkness, warm laughter in the cold, winter coming on. They are asleep in the next room, now, having almost (almost!) put themselves to bed, a good, good night.