relax

I am a tny bird clinging to the spinning orb of Mother Earth. When the time for choosing (if one chooses to choose) a so-called “word” for the year, what do I pick?

Relax.

Seemingly incongruous. All those “words” are profound and trite all at once.

It’s only an exercise to trick you into writing more, sketching more, an artificial jumpstart for a new year — itself a created way to attempt to break time into manageable chunks. An unending line between birth and death would be too direct.

“What speaks to you?”

“What has something to teach you?” This I heard last night from the video of a truly lovely and generous French artist.

The last time I completely relaxed, something terrible happened. I intellectually understand the two events are not connected. And yet.

It was October, 2005. I have been happy since, of course. I walk, sing, am gloriously in love, work hard and sometimes participate in causing certain small tectonic shifts in our local political landscape. I cook, grow herbs, talk with friends although I keep them at more of a distance than is fair to either them or me, and am truly myself only with my love and my dog.

But relax?

Never. I don’t even listen to music with a headset on because something might happen that needs my full attention. There. Neurosis exposed.

The full immersion of attention required by playing the piano or (especially) writing more than two paragraphs at a sitting, has eluded me.

So, does the word and concept of “relax” have something to say to me? Oh, hell yes. And maybe I have something to say back. This idea of “relax” is not an all’s well time for a nap thing. It’s a relaxing into so I can breathe. This has to come before focus, before concentration, before being able to lose myself in any creative endeavor.

Relax. My concept for 2022.

cobweb clearing

The day is so dark I’ve had to struggle not to go back to bed. A pot of dark roast coffee hasn’t helped. And now, the rain has started. Fat, slow drops that will give way to wind and a cold front that will come close to freezing all the hot December-confused plants by morning.

Instead of going back to bed, I turned on all the lights in my study: two lamps on my desk, a lamp on the free-standing bookshelves, sconces over the built-in bookshelves, and a decorative round stained glass lamp that gives off more glare than light. Now I’m pulling all the books out of the freestanding shelves to dust, assess, and reconfigure. It’s part of my antiaging routine. Ha. A way to take an iron file to my brain and check out all the loose ends I’ve left on the shelves. A novel one-third written. Unfinished essays. Stacks of books and printed articles that caught my eye once but remain unread.

I’ll probably replace all that flotsam and jetsam with my intrigue du jour, art journals. The dining table nearby is piled high with mixed media notebooks, half to 3/4 filled, all sorts of sizes. Paints, stencils, pencils, baskets of collage material, stamps, a gelatine plate for monoprinting, bottles of ink (the one called Peacock that is gray-green is my favorite), word scraps — these have metastasized to a storage room upstairs and are strewn across the floor for me to organize. Right.

Strange, all this. While not a minimalist, herbs in my pantry are — well, used to be — alphabetized. More space than stuff. That was me. What has happened?

Several of the bookshelves are empty now and dusted. It’s a perfect activity for listening to an audiobook. I am roughly in the middle of Annie Dillard’s new book of old essays, The Abundance, and only a few spoken pages into Katherine May’s Wintering, but neither fit the bill for today’s work. I just downloaded Stephen King’s novel, Billy Summers, starring a quirky killer with a conscience.

Perfect.

knowing and being known

Lou Lou Belle at Longleaf, January 1, 2022

Dun-colored deer stand still as statues, wraithlike in the dark morning. I see them through a break in the thick woods. I count five – three yearlings and two does. We know each other in a way. I photographed the yearlings from our laundry room window when they were still spotted fawns. They have learned that Lou has a fence in the backyard and will not chase them into the next county.

It was 74 degrees when we were out at 7:30, and windy. The air was so moisture-laden I expected it to start raining any minute. It felt pregnant with change.

The change coming is a significant cold front that will blow through sometime tomorrow, bringing freezing temperatures by early Monday morning.

Lichens cover dead tree

The woods are beautiful to me no matter what time of year or what stage of growth or decay they are experiencing. I love the sameness and the surprises. We have been aging together for more than twenty years.

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.

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.