salmon piccata & a crab cake

It’s been a week, the kind where when Friday comes you think about a double wee dram of single malt, a bowl of oatmeal, and maybe pull the covers up early. So to speak. Instead, Buck and I gathered ourselves and went to the store for weekend provisions.

Tonight was salmon piccata, which sounds fancy but is simple. It’s the capers that elevate it, along with the rare in our household butter swirled into the sauce. Ooh, my oh my.

The crabcakes were an experiment from the freezer. Eye opener. They were great, baked for 20 minutes in the little smart oven.

And, who knew? Curly parsley has returned to the produce shelves at our local Publix. Not that I had missed it. I grow a nice Italian variety, but it bolts so early here. Besides, I mostly grow it so the Gulf Coast frittilary butterfly catepillars have tasty munchings. So, what the hell, I bought a bundle of the curly parsley — it’s so springy — and minced it into submission for a garnish on the plate.

afternoon walk

The best research tool I have is the “find” tool on my computer desktop. It lets me zip through several thousand pages of county agendas and other materials in minutes. As long as my keyword selections are true, I can find out whether the land use and private property rights subjects I follow will be addressed, even when they may be buried deep within layered paragraphs underneath obfuscatory topics. It’s tedious, nonetheless.

Buck and I talked about walking the woods yesterday, but we both worked at our desks all day, gathering up in his study only around one for a peanut butter sandwich and a handful of pecan halves.

By three, my whole body felt stiff and brittle from sitting too long, eyes strained, and brain tired. I stood quickly. Snap. Crackle. Pop. Oh, yes. Way past time for a walk and just enough before dark.

“Want to go?” Lou leaps and runs to the front door. The three of us lock up the house and head for the fireline trails, the deep Longleaf pine woods. It’s warm enough for shorts, but cool enough for a light fleece jacket. Perfect.

The forest floor is a mosaic of fallen leaves. A light breeze sways the tree tops. We walk in companionable silence, one or the other of us sighing deeply from time to time, really more of a breathing in of the fresh air than a sigh, a reoxygenation of our parched, desk-weary selves.

I hear the squeaky murmur of birds in flight, and the somehow wonderful sound of a distant train. My brain fog clears; creaky joints oiled with movement.

We wander until dusk, smiling into each other’s eyes, and ready for a simple supper.

dog rituals

Lou Lou Belle ~ November 19, 2021 at Longleaf

Lou has more daily rituals than any dog I have ever known. Timing in the day is important. Order of events is important. Most revolve around meals or treats. Others are “walk to the gate” — a morning ritual, “play retrieve exercise with the purple Kong football” — this one comes after breakfast, “alone time in the backyard with the big round orange Kong ball” — mid-morning when Buck and I are working at our desks, and so on, until we three have lunch together (hers being a Dentastix).

Lou is under my desk right now, head on my foot. She already gently pawed the inside of my left arm where the elbow crooks to remind me it’s time for our morning walk, gave up with a big sigh, and went under the desk in that long-suffering dog way.

One of the last of her rituals each evening is to snuggle on Buck’s side of the bed so that when he fluffs his feather pillows preparatory to reading for an hour or two, she is under them. It’s one of their many games. Lou is 7, Buck 84 next week. They both still have a lot of puppy in them.

breakfast for the deer

The sun was rising as I slipped out the back door with a cutting board full of chopped raw sweet potatoes and apples for the deer. We have a feed trough for them that we normally keep filled with dried corn, but a hernia repair surgery has sidelined my husband from hefting the 50-pound sacks for now and they are just beyond my abilities even on a good day. We’ve had three spotted fawns and their mamas (and aunts) as regulars the past few months. I have taken lots of photos from the laundry room window.

Spider webs dusted the tops of the pasture grass as far as my eye could see. They look like tiny silk parachutes, little circular tangles of puffed webs.

owls

The sun never rose this morning, at least not in our woods, at least not that I could tell. The day was textbook dreary. One shade of gray. When the dog and I headed out for our morning walk to the gate, I thought about books I read as a child that described a woman and her hound walking the moors. As we left the clearing and entered the canopied woods, I wondered whether the coyotes were back in their dens, whether Lou and I might look like a tasty breakfast.

I’ve walked this path almost daily for close to twenty years. There is a surprise, a treasure, a scare, or an epiphany nearly every time. Today, the shapes and colors of the leaves underfoot drew my eye. The tip-end of the Florida panhandle has identifiable seasons. Garnet, sienna, and ochre leaf colors penetrated the bleak landscape.

Later this afternoon, sitting in a circle of light at my desk, the call of barred owls was loud enough to hear through insulated house walls. They must have been close. It’s a riveting sound, terrifying and magnicent. Symphonic.

cooking up memories

Forty degrees and the promise of a sunny day this Gulf coast Florida Thanksgiving eve. Soon, the Longleaf Bar and Grill — loving nickname for our kitchen — will sing with aromas that evoke memory and story.

Onion, celey, leeks, carrots, wild mushrooms, yellow squash, pecans, red cabbage, bacon, tart cranberries slow cooked with apricot jam and Grand Marnier, sweet potato pie oh my, and can’t forget corn pudding.

But first, grind those beans. First principle of my kitchen is hot, fresh, strong, black no cream coffee, and lots of it. Joy-bringer.

butterfly summer dreams

Swallowtail butterfly on Blazing Star

Lou Lou Belle, the little Chocolate Lab, doesn’t care that it’s drizzling rain. It’s nearly 8:00 a.m. here in panhandle Florida, long past the time when she and I would be out walking the woods or at least the sweet third of a mile from house to gate. Local family is coming for Thanksgiving lunch Thursday and the kitchen calls. Buck is recovering from surgery and sleeping a little more than usual. Me? I have a fresh mug of dark roast coffee, a circle of light at my desk, and memories of our butterfly summer in the Longleaf woods.

just checking in

Are you okay? Am I? It’s a reasonable question, even in the best of times. And, God knows, for most of us, the “best of times” may seem far away, maybe on a different planet, a more innocent, quieter, kinder place.

I was a pioneer blogger in the Way Back Machine of 2003, when what we called the blogosphere really did seem like a quaint neighborhood of nerdy explorers, slightly giddy with our newfound access to the Internet. Slow dial-up speeds notwithstanding, it was nothing short of a miracle.

None of the bloggers I knew were selling anything. We were adventurers, each sending out an electronic message in a bottle, thrilled out of our gourds when someone across the country or in some other continent responded with a hello back. The good old days.

You all know what it’s like now. If you’re here, are you okay?

Are you writing, making art, inventing things, teaching or mentoring, building something, composing or performing, or gathering pinecones or stones to adorn your dining space? Are you okay?

I have spent several weeks deconstructing all of my old blogs that have been set to “private” for a year or more. It took a lot of time to copy each one and save as a Word document, print out, and organize into ring binders. Some of my writing was published during those joyful blogging years.

My intention in this ritual was to delete each post once it was saved into Word and printed, until none remained. And that’s exactly what I did. The main blog and a couple of short-lived successors, disappeared post by post. I thought of the Cheshire Cat. I started with the most recent, then traveled back in time, all the way to 2003.

That reverse time-traveling revealed a powerful memoir. Emotions swamped me, stalling the process. But I finished yesterday, more than 2,000 printed posts stacked up on the dining table.

“Thanksgiving,” an inner voice nagged. “People are coming. You have work to do.”

All day long, I dawdled. All that was left of my life in the blogosphere was to hit a few final delete buttons and remove the master account.

Instead, here I am, tentatively reaching out into the void, wondering if a few kindred creative spirits are still in the room. I hope you are and that you’re okay, too, and ready to kick around some ideas with an old head like me.