sometimes it knocks me back, the way sorrow seems to cleave my beloveds into halves or splinter you into a thousand fragments of grief, raw betrayal. and i scrabble to help you breathe in the middle of this, and i’m no good.
still: i love you.
i see you.
and i see its unfair and everything that was sturdy has slid through your fingers like dust and the axis has been yanked from the spine of the earth so that life bleeds and crashes and the view is tarred sticky with despair and the most unfair and beautiful thing of all is this: God on a cross, dying to redeem even here. even you.
i have a loose and hazy notion of how it all works, on a chemical level: the chlorophyll dies out of the leaf come autumn, unmasking the xanthophyll and carotene that were there all along, sometimes making way for a sugary, crimson surge of anthocyanin. still, each september the trees begin to glitter and bleed like a miracle.
i readily confess to a mild obsession with fall foliage, an enthusiasm i trace to my mother, who’d have her mom or sisters mail bits of glorious maples, oaks, poplars to our eternal-summer home. she’d scatter those pressed shapes of sun and pale champagne and russet across the coffee table, then sit and smile them in, absorbing their papery wonder.
me? i’m smitten with sweet gum, fallen stars beneath my feet, and the pointed mittens of the sassafras. the waxy leaves of a cherry tree, and the blades of the fern leaf beech, contracting into curls like question marks.
it’s the first blush of lothlorien out there, a rush of wind and color. and so we slip on fleece and quicken pulses and tip our faces to drink in the miraculous.
i take a book out with me, and a lawn chair, but they both sit abandoned at the top of the driveway. elle calls to me, a mix of happy nervousness, hauling her bike from the cobwebs of the garage.
even flanked by training wheels she's wobbly, but today she wants to do this. so i wiggle tight the straps of her borrowed, too-big helmet, and we practice pushing back on the pedals to brake.
can i go already? she says. and i nod and remind her to stop at the end of the driveway.
gravity and pluck and a bit of pedaling carry her to the edge of the street. she turns a narrow half-circle, then hits a sunken part of the drive that makes her back tire spin out from beneath her training wheels.
she calls me again, and i nudge her bike out and then show her how to hop off and push so she can unstick herself in case i'm not there, but she has already dismissed this advice. i'm always there.
we circle around and she gives me a smile, newly confident. i'm going again, she says.
elle starts off across the pavement, and i watch her spin away, outgrowing me.
and in all the unsolicited advice i've been watered with over the years, i don't recall anyone mentioning this, that parenting would be riddled with emotional dichotomies: quiet pride mingled with loss, how my insides are bereft and yet rejoicing.
it's my job to make myself expendable, peripheral. to teach them to unstick themselves without me. and somehow, stripped bare, dusted with grace, we survive even this.
monday happens too early in the week, methinks, and so half the time my to-do list ends up pushed well past the borders of tuesday. (the world should maybe stop scheduling things on monday, to kindly allow me to function. or maybe i could just get my act together. that's almost as likely.)
nevertheless. my belated list of thankfuls, continued:
6. the mournful bleating of a late-summer cricket.
7. butterscotch dip paired with wedges of crisp apples.
8. books with language you can lose yourself in.
9. woolen socks. (and these would be theoretical woolen socks. i do not own any, but i like the idea of them: sturdy, humble, warm.)
10. peppermint toothpaste.
11. the peace of solitary mornings.
12. the peace of jumbled, noisy afternoons.
13. letters in the mail. (and the miracle of postal systems that deliver missives from across the globe to my very front door. or, okay, very end of my driveway. but that distance is manageable.)
14. brothers who don’t outgrow me.
15. lambent japanese anemones under a grey swath of sky.
16. the smell of september, laced with moss and peat and woodsmoke.
yesterday kicked off in the low forties, which at chez owens results in knee socks, grey hoodies, and soup for dinner.
la soupe du jour was a tasty classic: black bean. we paired savory bowls with creole corn muffins, which proved so winning a combo i'd be remiss not to share the love here.
Black Bean Soup
1 lb black beans 1½ lbs slab bacon or ham hocks 8 cups water 2 t celery salt About 2 cups chicken or beef broth 1½ T olive oil 1½ cups finely chopped bell peppers (seeded and cored) 1½ cups chopped onions 1½ T finely minced garlic 1 t ground cumin 1 can (19 oz) tomatoes, peeled, diced, with juice ¼ cup red wine vinegar
Place beans, bacon/ham, water and celery salt in heavy kettle. Bring to boil; cover and simmer about 2½ hours or until beans are thoroughly tender. Remove meat; set aside. Drain beans and reserve along with meat and cooking liquid. Add enough broth to make 6 cups of liquid. Combine the beans with liquid in large bowl.
Heat oil in kettle; add peppers, onions, and garlic and cumin. Cook, stirring, until onions are wilted. Add tomatoes and vinegar. Let simmer about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove and discard skin/bones from bacon/ham hock. Chop bacon/ham; set aside. Add bean mixture to cooked tomato mixture. Add chopped meat, simmer until thoroughly heated. Serve in soup bowls.
Yield 8-10 servings.
now i must mention that if you are going to make this soup like i do, you need to not measure much of anything, use twice the amount of tomatoes (some of them fresh), skip the cumin because it doesn’t live on your shelf, and substitute garlic salt for celery salt, western ribs for ham hocks, and cider vinegar for wine vinegar.
also? i did not pre-soak my beans because: a. the recipe didn’t say i had to and b. it sounded like something i’d rather not do
they turned out perfectly tender, though i cannot vouch that your beans will behave likewise.
i also left the beans&co in the kettle, sauteed the veggies&vinegar in a separate pan, and then added the veggies to the bean kettle because the recipe's way sounded a lot like i might spill something.
adding to the deliciousness were these little rubies:
with tomatoes this good, who needs chocolate? and i say that with about ninety-percent earnestness, so those were Some Tomatoes. speaking of percentages, i was five-thousand-percent convinced that if i snuck the tomatoes into the soup (well, as much as one can sneak engine-red-fruit into a brown soup), i’d win the rest of my family over to my 'mato-loving ways.
‘tis not the first time i’ve been five thousand percent certain and also wrong.
but on to the muffins:
Creole Corn Muffins 2 eggs, beaten 1½ cups milk ¾ cup vegetable shortening, melted 2 T bell pepper, chopped 2 T onion, chopped 2 T pimiento, chopped ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese 2½ cups all-purpose flour 1 t salt 4½ T (heaping) yellow cornmeal 2 T baking powder 4 T sugar
Mix eggs, milk and shortening. In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined (batter will be lumpy). Pour into greased muffin cups and bake in preheated 400°F. oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until done.
my muffin tips: -most of the measurements can be eyeballed -these muffins are especially delectable if you substitute red chili peppers for the pimientos.
while one of my favorite delusions involves exuding an aura of athleticism, truth be told i’m not a natural born runner. i lack both the fleet-footedness and the passion, rendering me—at best—a reluctant jogger.
still, most every morning i lace up grey nikes and trot out the door. it's not so much that i yearn for the miles ahead, but more that i can’t bear to be the version of me that wouldn’t go.
i’m always glad for the run after, but only about half the time do i enjoy the during. the other fifty percent i’m dying an asphyxiated, sweaty death, and the sole reason i keep plodding on is that i’ve got to get home somehow, and running seems faster than crawling.
but this morning. oh, this morning.
this morning ‘twas just God and me and a september wind, full of bluster and personality. ‘twas a rattling field of corn stalk skeletons, clouds so buoyant they carried the sky. ‘twas cracked sidewalks and flats of soybeans brushed ocher by the sunrise.
inevitably, somewhere between miles three and five, i can feel a loosening, a surrender: me yielding my wizened heart to a Father who kneads it warm again. and if my insides are pliable when i angle back into my driveway, pace and distance become utterly beside the point. it’s been a good run.
one worth repeating over and again, in spite of me.
elle attended the birthday festivities of a school chum yesterday evening. so naturally, yesterday morning (and, um, possibly late afternoon) found me stitching up a smallish pouch and cutting wool felt blossoms for hair clips.
the lucite chrysanthemums are from snapcrafty on etsy.
the pouch is a based on anna's tutorial over at noodleheads. [if you have not yet had the pleasure of visiting anna's space, it is chock-full of clearly written instructions for simple, gorgeous projects.]
i adore my boys and their star-wars-loving ways, but also? i love being the mother of a girl.