Hello and welcome. I stopped blogging after a decade and four months because I believed I’d had my say. Closing down and moving on was the thing to do. I did. I chilled, I did new things, read a small stack of new books, drew a lot, read a slew of blogs, cooked up a storm and worked on being the best me possible. Here I am again in a knitting frame of mind, hoping we can hang out, share our stories, create together and learn from each other. And while we’re at it . . . bring on the yarn if you are so inclined.
It is hard to believe fifteen days have passed since my last post. But it has taken me a while to rebound from a recent asthma attack and an allergic reaction to off-gas from a new desk. My search for a solid wood, eco-safe, people-safe, organic desk began last year; I took my time, did due diligence, was patient, and determined. And lo! I found my desk. Such a remarkable desk it was. It has two perfect drawers, knobs on both sides to hang bags, a bookshelf and enough space for my drawing board and all the everyday necessities. It was perfect.
If life moves in a continuous circle, where does the pendulum motion come into play? You know what I mean. Life swings between poles. Like a pendulum. Does it swing within the circle of life? I suppose I’ll figure it out soon enough. Until I do, I have to go with the flow. The ebb and tide. Wait. I can learn how to hang and thrive between the poles of positive and negative. The sway and swing does not have to be the boss of me. I am just still too tired to aim for it today.
The joy that came with finding that perfect desk did not last. An open window didn’t help. The symptoms grew worse. It had to go. JC broke it down on his own. How he managed to get it downstairs without my help is beyond my ken. I was too sick to wonder but was grateful that he didn’t need me. Breathing was my priority. He inhaled the same gases though. I am grateful that he isn’t asthmatic. I pray that neither of us inhaled cancer-causing chemicals.
Can you see the warning? Had it been on the the Wayfair site, I never would have brought this weapon into our home. Had we seen it when we unpacked it, we never would have assembled it. This desk is not allowed to be sold in California. Why is it allowed to be sold anywhere? It’s made in Vietnam. Isn’t it just as dangerous for the people who make the desks? The tag clearly states that the chemicals used in the manufacture cause cancer and reproductive harm. Why is is BENEATH the top, out of sight? By the time I saw it, my vision was so blurred I had difficulty reading the small print.
I googled “P 65 warning.” Anger took over. While it takes time for cancer to set in, not so asthma and allergic reactions. I had to google the symptoms that felled me: blurred vision, difficulty breathing, headache, earache, itching and burning skin, cough, sore throat, runny nose, brain fog, swelling . . .
. . . to be continued
What looks like a rainy night in Georgia is simply another memorable rainy day out of fifteen in a row. It rained all day, every day, and throughout the night. Sometimes it’s just clouds spitting; others offer up fair to middling amounts of wet. I am grateful for every drop, hoping and praying it will be enough to save my willow. Every green thing is in its heyday.
Used to be, rainy days and Mondays got me down. These days I grab my rain gear and I’m out there in it. Some birds are too. Doves hunker down on the fence instead of seeking shelter. Perhaps they know it’ll stop by the time I find a dry hider-hole, so why bother. I am grateful for my boots though. Who has time to sit indoors, pining for the outdoors? Not us for sure. We wrest what joy we can from falling drops of water, gusts of wind, waving branches and rolling thunder. No, we don’t dance between lightning bolts. We don’t mess with Zeus.
When it’s fast and furious, we know to stay inside. There’s more than enough to keep us busy, make us happy, and keep us safe from misadventure. Forget the laundry, floors that need a mop-up of wet leaves that stick to every sole, food that needs cooking, the new desk that needs assembly . . . There’s always something. Yet, there’s always time for chi.
I looked up to see if the rain was on pause, and discovered five pairs of scissors. Who knew? There are more in the file cabinet. At least two other pairs. The five are simply background noise at this stage of the game, but also proof that I have way too much stuff. Am slowly downsizing but it’s taking a really long time, lots of energy, and right now it is overwhelming.
I have lived across America from the time I was two, with many stops in between; I’ve had so many homes, and accumulated new possessions each time we put down temporary roots. The garage still holds enough goods to fill another home. I remember being so poor when I was in my twenties. So poor I couldn’t afford to pay attention. Perhaps I’ve secretly, unintentionally made up for it. Being an army “brat” meant we learned not to hoard, or want too much. Families learned to live on alert–to be able to pack up and move at a moment’s notice. I think that is why I have slowly accumulated so many things, to the point of feeling being possessed by my possessions. All the things I’ve never unpacked look rather sad–proof of my vagabond existence. The boxes and tubs keep me rooted . . . tied down. Homebound. I cannot just up and run away.
Dang. This began as a declaration of intent to make chai more often. As if today isn’t the first time I’ve tried. Lordy, look where I am. I used to drink it only when our daughter came home; we’d sneak off to Starbuck’s for something cool and delicious after raiding Barnes & Noble. We’d sit, and sip, and thumb through our new magazines and books, enjoying the exotic iced chai flavors that transported me to India. Always India. No, I have never yearned to live there. I cannot even imagine myself there in case I get lost, even in my imaginings.
I’ve watched “The Old Guard” at least four times now, and each time I get the willies when I see how minimal their lives are. They live out of backpacks but find time to eat and drink. I always imagine Andy drinking tea instead of alcohol. I imagine Miss Avant-garde drinking chai after her victory at the Scripps Spelling Bee! All praise and congratulations to you, Zaila! Bazaars make me nervous. It’s that fear of getting lost again. Of being sardined with so many others I cannot find my own space. I cannot do it. Not even for chai. I know. Silly me. Images of India and Africa always fill me with alarm and trepidation. You see, I have lived there before. In other lifetimes. My death in Africa is as vivid as if it happened last year. It’s been this way since my earliest memories.
People fascinate me. I search faces, expecting to find one I will recognize from ancient pasts. It’s scary. Scary because I don’t know what’ll happen when it happens. Teas, like faces, fascinate me too. I wonder who first imagined drying leaves, seeds, flowers, spices and aromatics, steeping it all in water and deeming it good. I’m just glad they did. While I liked the chai made for me, I never made it at home. One day, on a whim, I bought a bag of Zohrab Chai from the Phoenician Market on Westheimer. Imagine eating dolmas, baklava or maamouls, while sipping chai in the afternoon, and you’ll get my idea of a tea fit for a plebeian. The dolmas must be eaten with fingers and a cloth napkin. Chai has to be a mug’s worth. The bag of tea is over a year old. Today was its time to shine. And so it did.
So. Another rainy day is now just another excuse to do something that almost desperately needs doing indoors, or I could choose to do something lovely but out of the ordinary. I chose to make chai. It’s not like I had to make it from scratch. Right? My contribution would be hot water, a little turbinado sugar, the right amount of milk, and a cinnamon stick. And so it was.
One sip, and the unseen sun dried up all the rain. The mockingbirds returned, singing, eating and making merry as usual. There’s no word on the itsy bitsy spiders. But a scent of chai lingers like a forever memory. My room smells so good! Mmm. My chai! A marriage of some of the best spices, produces aromatic flavors that linger on the tongue long after the last sip
I tried the title “Donny Hathaway & Me” but it just didn’t ring true. “Donny and me” make “we,” and we’re alone now, while he’s singing these songs for me. I do love Donny. I wasn’t in to romantic ballads back in the day; for me it was all about the dance. I didn’t even need a partner either. Of course no one understood though. Some dude always wanted to grind on my bones. Held me too tight. Wanted to follow me home when the music ended and the club closed. They just didn’t understand.
Decades later, Keb Mo sang my truth and vindicated my desire to be a lonely dancer. Told them what it’s about, Alfie. He said, “listen up! Dancing without a partner. She just wants to dance. She ain’t looking for no lover, she aint looking for a romance, she just wants to dance.” He totally gets it. Even now I dance alone. Sometimes I stop on the last step of the stairs, and dance like I’m being paid. There’s a mirror in the bathroom across from the stairs, and, when the door is open, I dance with my reflection. Seems like JC shuts it lately. Hmm. I wonder why.
Perhaps I was simply too young back then. Perhaps I hadn’t loved and been loved in truth. Infatuation does not a love make. One learns to appreciate fine wine and good music when we can afford better brews than the stuff of college nightmares. Like MD 20/20 and Olde English 800. Cheap and deadly. Hangovers were killers. I no longer drink. Have no tippled in decades. I value my brain too much. I love do music though. True love often comes when we are ready. And I wasn’t ready. I never wrote love poems. Did not listen to love songs on the radio. Poor me.
I bought Donny’s album last week. His best. And Mr. Hathaway serenades me as he would have had I been mature enough to appreciate him in his heyday. He couldn’t wait for me though. He wove his magic, capturing hearts and souls up until the day he died. And after.
Donny leaped from a fifteen story hotel room . . . So why sing to me about giving up being so hard to do? Did he not depend on a woman’s warm and tender touch? Dang, Donny. Why? “Giving up is so hard to do.” He said he tried. “But it just wasn’t no use.” His light of hope was burning dim . . . But in his heart he prayed that his love and faith . . . Oh, never mind. Poor Donny.
Fast forward to this decade and judge us by the music. We rode the Soul Train until it derailed and landed in a ditch. A ditch filled with vulgarity, blue words, words too profane, and so auto tuned they teeter on the brink of AI (artificiality) gullies. Thank goodness for iTunes, CDs and Apple CD players that allow me to groove with the O’Jays, Gerald Levert, Johnny Taylor, Quincey Jones, Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, Leela James, Lauryn Hill, Luther, Mary J., Parachute, One Eskimo, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway and et al. I get to listen to lyrics I understand; music that has rhythm, and a beat I can dance to. I have a Rihanna song. “Stay.” It calms me. Makes me want to slow dance all by myself. The song that makes me weep with joy is sung by Roberta Flack. You’d never guess, so I’ll tell you what it is. It is “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”
Roberta changes the air in the room. She takes me to an alternate space. And time. Even her enunciations catch me–force me to bask in the language of love. This is the ultimate love song, written by a man who loved the way every woman wants to be loved forever. Or at least once. I know that I have never felt so loved as that. So don’t tell me it is merely an “ideal,” written by someone who writes beautiful poetry set to music. I know better! Google the songwriter and you’ll believe too. Just as I believe Donny wrote “A Song for You” especially for every me. And a bunch of “me” add up to “we.” Poor Donny. He loved someone who loved him back. And then there was Lalah.
Time to feed the crew. A crew of two. Cooking with Al Green, Bobby Womack, Bobby Blue Bland, Candi Staton, Chic, Clarence Carter, Dobie Gray, Etta James, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Rose Royce, Johnny Taylor . . .
I was prepping vegetables for lentil soup when JC returned from shopping, bearing unexpected gifts. I’d asked for animal crackers several days in a row. They are great with Peter Pan creamy peanut butter. Used to be it was Graham crackers. But their recipe has changed. Not for the better either.
We grew up eating Graham crackers. They were delicious dunked in milk, but only if you were quick. Oreos they were not. A smear of peanut butter between two Graham crackers dunked in milk were the perfect snack.
Animal crackers were perfect all by themselves though. They entertained us, piqued our imaginations and filled our tum-tums. A glass of Bosco chocolate milk meant all was right with the world. I went down for my little girl nap with visions of Popeye and Olive Oyl dancing in my head, since Mama promised chocolate milk and crackers would be our wake-up reward. And when we sipped and chewed, we got to pretend we were at the circus. The lion and tiger, gorilla and giraffe, and yes, even the camel were as good as real to our healthy imaginations. There’s even a hyena now. The best safari was the one that took place at our dinner table. We were allowed to keep the boxes and play with them until they mysteriously disappeared.
I bought animal crackers for our daughter. They were her milk and cookie after-nap treat too. Yes, I saved the boxes, joined them with thread and we had an animal train. No adult had half as much fun as we did when we pulled those little cookie boxes across the jungle that was the dinner table. I suspect those snack-capades fed EC’s love of the circus. She went every time one came to town, despite my hatred of the horrid entertainment. JC was just as happy to take her, I suspect because he liked it too. She is an adult who isn’t embarrassed to go on her own now. Over my less than strident objections seeing as how they no longer matter. I don’t mind. Besides, I raised her to have a mind of her own.
Who wants peanuts and Cracker Jacks? Cracker Jacks have peanuts in them. They were the other snack we were allowed because it was healthy. I liked my mother’s popcorn balls better but we were lucky to have anything sweet for a treat. Sugar was a rarity, meaning most of our snacks were Fritos and potato chips. And peanuts. I hated Fritos. To my little girl mind they smelled like toes. I gave mine to my sister. You’d have thought my parents would have offered me a bag of chips, but no. Sister liked Fritos, so Fritos we got. Mama and Daddy thought they were teaching me a lesson about conformity. Instead, I learned to be true to myself–to not go along to get along. That oft-repeated lesson stands me in good stead to this day. I stayed home and did whatever I wanted while JC and EC were at the circus. Wins all around, right?
I also bought Cracker Jacks for our daughter. She thought the toys were the best part of sharing a box with her mother. The cheap little bits of plastic were fodder for stories I made up on the spot. I should call and ask if she still eats Cracker Jacks. Probably not now that she’s a fancy chef. She probably makes her own Graham crackers too. I never made s’mores for her or with her. Oh, dear. Can’t even say that I’ve ever eaten them either. If I did, I don’t remember. Moving on . . .
I took to Constant Comment when I was an art student. Coffee had wrecked my stomach by then–produced too much acid–when I was a freshman in college. I practically lived on it. Tea became my go-to pick me up instead. Graham crackers dunked in a little bit of milky tea was always reminiscent of the Bosco days. Today, I dunk animal crackers in peanut butter. I get to lick the smears from my fingers just as I did when I was little. No milk in my glass though. Lactose intolerance limits my cow juice to tea and ice cream. I’ll live. And make do, too.
I cannot imagine what inspired JC to present me with this gastronomical trifecta though. I wondered if he was fattening the proverbial calf before he conked it on the head and buried it in the backyard. Even let him know that he is not my beneficiary. Just in case.
Several weeks ago I spent an inordinate amount of time searching for a book. Not just any run of the mill book either. We’re talking specialty. It’s so popular it deserves another run at the publisher’s. In desperation, I spent hours searching for the author’s contact information with the intention of writing a lovely query along the lines of “Um, ma’am. Hello. Do you know we, the public, want to put money in your bank account in exchange for a copy of your lovely book, Lessons in Classical Drawing? Alas, we cannot because said item is not available.” But, since my efforts failed, I resorted to e-mail. And guess what. She responded. Or someone responded on her behalf. This is what they said to me:
Thanks for the note! The book sold out and is being reprinted. It will be available again in June when the new printing comes in.
Thank you so much for your interest, I hope you like the book when you finally get it.
All the best,
Well, guess what. I did find Juliette Aristides’ book. It comes with a teaching aid. I bought an electronic version. All was not copacetic because I drive a Mac, and had issues when I tried to do the exercises. So I gave up in frustration and put out more feelers. My favorite, true blue “Book’em Danno!” book-finder and seller came up empty handed too. As undeterred as a toothless bloodhound en scent, I persevered. Prayers were answered! The book I was willing to pay sixty-three dollars for, could be had at The Getty for thirty! Ain’t Providence providential?
So, yes, I ordered their only copy. And it arrived, well wrapped and in a timely period, but damaged. Damaged. Too damaged to be acceptable for the asking price. At any price. So it was back to the keyboard with a “Hello, Getty? Um, we have a problem.”
Getty made it right. Told me it might take a little while but they’d send a replacement as soon as they could. I said, “Let’s do this.” And we did. They did their part and I did mine. I waited patiently and kept a firm hold on my great expectations. Getty delivered today at twelve oh three pee em. Yay! And there’s more. I asked for a return label for the damaged book. This is what the G rep said to me:
Actually, we’d prefer not to inconvenience you with a return of the damaged book. Feel free to donate the book if you’d like.
Apologies again for the trouble!
Getty Store Customer Service
Now that’s customer service.
So, after hours of thinking and considerations, and running it by JC, I decided to donate the book to my high school. We had no art curriculum when I was a student. I was the only artist in the entire school, that I knew of. Poor me even enrolled in the engineering class out of desperation. The little bantam of a teacher, aka little misogynist, did not believe girls should be in his class because they should not be engineers. He tried to flunk me. Only the boys, and the doctor’s daughter got drawing boards, mechanical and textbooks to take home! She went on to become a well-known engineer. She died recently. Her obit was in the paper. But. Me being me, I went to over the little bantam’s head and complained. Politely and lady like, of course. The principle listened and did not blink when I told him that I did not fail. At anything. The poor man asked what grade I felt I deserved. I proudly told him a C would be sufficient. He changed the grade. Desperate circumstances called for settling for a C. Before graduation, our P.E. teacher secured a scholarship for me at the college of my dreams. Mrs. Pickle believed in me as an artist. I had a reputation that followed from junior high. I never knew someone was taking note.
Lo! and behold! two art students had a show recently, proof that artists are born and thrive right where they are. We don’t know them but I am as proud as if we do. JC suggested donating the book to the local library. I disagreed. Students should have sole access to the knowledge Juliette thinks is important for those creatives who hunger and thirst for tuition. It does not come close to studying in an actual atelier, but every little bit helps.
ARE you odd, like we? Like Odd and me? Odd and me are we. Join us for a gang of three.
See? Here be Odd’s story. In a nut shell. An egg shell? No matter. Here you go. I cut and pasted directly from wikipedia. Please don’t sue me. “Odd Is an Egg” is a 2016 animated, short film directed by Kristin Ulseth and written by Maria Avramova and Kristen Ulseth. The Film is based on a book of the same name by Lisa Aisato.”
I discovered the story of Odd while on a mission to learn more about an amazing artist, Lisa Aisato. Not only is she an illustrator, but she writes as well. She’s living my secret dream!
Odd has a pencil case just like me! Yay, we! He’s an artist too. Just like me. He is odd. He and I make we. Oddly enough.
My daughter gave me a special gift years ago. I was more touched than I let on. She validated me when she gave me a leather pencil case. Leather is meant to last. It was proof that she saw the artist me in the lunch bags I illustrated with Buggs Bunny and friends, along with all the other funnies I created just for her. I hoped they would make her forget that she was the only African American in the entire lunchroom. In the entire school.
I slid into this rabbit hole well over an hour ago after I added a lovely book to my wish list at The Blue Willow Bookshop. If I never find my way out, I shall reside here, happily ever after, although Lisa’s book isn’t available here until August. Double drat! I want it now. I want it now. I want it yesterday! Amazon won’t even let you have a sneak, the dirty rat.
This sneak’s just for you. Because how can you know if you might like a book without a peek at some part of it. Right? And, who buys sight unseen these days? I just have a feeling about this one though. I’ve always been a fan but . . . No matter. There’s more proof in the pudding.
I rented the short film. I sure did, and while storytellers are as different as night and day, universal messages always, always, always translate. Even without subtitles. I watched with subtitles though. Thank you, my smart teevee.
Now, having said that, I must admit to feeling left out when I’m here: Lisa Aisato. I feel like the child on the other side of the toy store window at Christmas. Why, oh why can’t I read Norweigan? I feel left out. I want to know what the captions tell everyone but me. But only for as long as it takes my imagination to shrug off the cloak of frustration and replace it with gossamer wings. The kid in me comes out and drives this bat mobile. My art journals have pages of such escapes too. Maybe it’s time I stopped hiding under a bushel basket. So what if someone might think I’m weird. One would think I’d be used to it by now. Like my uncle Kelly once said to my face, “You always were peculiar.” He thought he could hurt m, but I didn’t even wince. I simply changed the subject. He’s dead but I am still here. I get to be as peculiar as I can stand it. I love you, onkle of mine. R.I.P.
Life — Illustrated just might be the summer elixir you never knew you’d need. I have a peculiar feeling that it just might make some much needed magic if called upon in this new age of unforeseen peculiarities. I find it peculiar that I watched a short. It wasn’t so long ago that I couldn’t bear to read short stories. They left me hanging in the wind like a pair of long johns on a clothesline during a tornado. I’d be all over the place, wondering what might have happened. Then I’d waste hours writing suitable mental endings of my own. See what I mean?
“Odd Is an Egg” didn’t end on teevee either. I won’t tell you why in case you want to watch and see for yourself. But allow me to wonder why Odd was an egg. Now I’ll move on.
It’s hot, and humid, and occasionally breezy. It’s a typical perfect Texas day. I think it is Thursday. I could be wrong. But who cares? One day is pretty much like another. Each one glorious in its own right.
The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn:
God’s in his heaven—
All’s right with the world!
I pack for an extended stay, and always manage to forget something. Why pack a sketchbook when you didn’t bring pencils? There’s always a book, even if there’s a copy on my phone or iPad. Somedays only music will do. Always the same old playlist. Once in a while I play recordings of birdsong to serenade those who serenade me. Imagine the dueling banjo scene in “Deliverance” and envy me. ‘Cause it be like that on occasion.
I like to tell myself I’m just a little clumsy when I try to juggle drinks outdoors. There are tiny spills that do no harm. Truth is, my *libations are rituals I enjoy. Gifts to the demigods. There are gods many . . . Only the One God do I serve. * (Indo-European root *leib-, “pour, make a libation“).
Today was supposed to be the day to wash flower pots. It didn’t happen. They need a good scrub, new plants and more room to show off. My heart just isn’t in it this season. Used to be, I couldn’t get through spring without several trips to my favorite local nurseries.
This is what I do after making the rounds. I sit and read, take pictures a plenty, listen to and tease the birds, or take in the sights. There’s so much to see, think about, imagine, And enjoy.
I take myself to task for not returning the rake to the garage. I don’t listen. The garage seems so far away; I always bet I’ll need that rake the moment I hang it on the peg, so where’s the sense in returning it? Besides, had I put it away, where would this lovely have paused to rest? I never would have seen it there, just outside the door.
Remember when Huey Lewis sang: Ain’t no livin’ in a perfect world
There ain’t no perfect world anyway
Ain’t no livin’ in a perfect world
But we’ll keep on dreamin’ of livin’ in a perfect world…
Huey lied. If you can dream it . . . So, yeah. Beneath a perfect sky is a perfect world.
It’s interesting how I notice changes in my bit of Eden, especially when I don’t wear my glasses.
The only chemicals allowed in my domain are in the “natural” dish soap used to clean the glass table top and the patio. Beneficials die too when we use harmful products to get rid of “pests.” A pest is a pest when it does more harm than good. So, yes, I kill aphids by squashing them with wet paper towels, and often feel guilty until I see the harm they’ve done. Will lend a hand when there aren’t enough ladybugs to eat their weight in the unwanted.
It took me long enough to figure out something was dining in the dark. There were never any concrete clues to identify the diners though.
It wouldn’t be so bad if they ate entire leaves. Wait. Yes it would. I have seen plants practically bereft of all leaves after an overnight orgy.
With temps in the nineties and higher, who cared. Right? We’re just happy to have what’s left. The willow is beginning to shed bushels of leaves despite all the recent daily rainfall. It’s the heat. Everything beneath the willow is thriving in the partial sun and shade. I refuse to think of what might happen if it is stripped naked.
It didn’t take much sleuthing on my part to discover the diner. It hid in plain sight, uninterrupted, totally ignoring me–eating as I took photos.
This milkweed is in a pot. I didn’t have the heart to yank it. What a reward. Most things that grow and do no harm are welcome. Why the chubby chomper bypassed the taller plants under the willow is beyond my ken. Not that I mind. I get to sit at my desk and enjoy the monarchs that visit every single day. While I have not seen a flutter of monarchs yet, I expect to on any given day, seeing as how I have such great expectations. It’ll happen. Some day. “One never knows, do one?” To quote Fats Waller. And, in the meantime, I can buy a monarch conservation license plate for thirty dollars. Texans have a thing for these winged lovelies. It might be open season on certain Texans, but monarchs are protected.
“The monarch butterfly is a species that is beautiful and iconic in that it is one of nature’s great migration stories,” said TPWD’s Wildlife Diversity Program Director John Davis. “This species migrates through Texas from Mexico in the spring making its way to the northern extremes of the U.S. and into Canada, then reverses that feat in the fall to overwinter in Mexico.”
I used to leave melon rinds in a clay saucer for the thirsty travelers. They don’t seem to mind drinking from the bird bath when it’s safe though. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. I’ll leave her to it.
Shots like this make me want to substitute the Olympus for my iPhone. I’m supposed to be prepared like an old Girl Scout but it’s just too hot to lug a heavy camera bag down and up the stairs every single time I grab a notion to have a look around in the backyard. Besides, good enough has its perks. And butterflies are free to fly. Fly away! Fly! Fly!
‘Tis the season and corn’s the reason for this post. Who doesn’t like corn? Right? Fresh is best. Frozen will do if you prep it yourself. I remember all the work that went into preserving enough fresh corn to get us through the winter in Jasper.
We had annual corn shucking sessions at my grandmother’s. A large galvanized tub filled with corn sat in the middle of the livingroom or the front porch. A group of women sat in a circle and shucked, de-silked and tossed the clean ears into a large enamel dish pan. The aunts would process and freeze bags and bags of corn. It was as much fun as any quilting bee. There was laughter and gossip, and a contest between my Aunt Gloria and me, to see who could shuck fastest. Such events never felt like work. It wasn’t like picking peas in a field while dodging bugs and ants under a brutal sun.
Picking the corn was torture because the shucks caused welts to rise on any exposed skin. The itching drove me nuts, but I was game when it came to trying to act like a farmer’s granddaughter. I learned how to pick peas, harvest okra that made me itch just as badly as corn, peaches and plums, shell peas and butterbeans. . . Not so my older sister. Sister hated anything to do with the outdoors and farm life. That included grass; and dirt was like sun to a vampire where she was concerned.
We moved from Oklahoma to Texas when Daddy was shipped to Vietnam. Our first day back, we went to visit Aunt Miss. Her homecoming gift to us was a bushel of peas. Sister and I had to do the picking while the adults talked.
Aunt Miss hated city slickers and she lined us in her sights the moment we crossed her threshold. She told Daddy and Mama to “let them gals go pick y’all some peas.” She didn’t care that we’d never seen peas in a field, let alone picked any.
While I was game, sister balked but she knew resistance was futile. Once we actually made it to the cornfield after navigating dangerous looking chickens and roosters, we just stood there, listening to the corn talk. I looked at sister. Sister looked at me. Where were the peas? We just stood there until an adult hollered at us from the back door step and pointed. The peas were behind the tall corn! I won’t mention the grasshoppers and corn worms . . .
Once we found the peas we had to figure out which to pick, how to get them off the plant, what to put them in . . . No one told us how to use our skirt like a basket by lifting the front hem and holding it up to form a sack as we picked. I wore slacks. There were no pockets. Once our hands were full . . . Proof the adults were watching us from a window? Someone else brought us a foot tub. We picked peas, filled the foot tub. Twice. Apparently two foot tubs equaled a family size gift of peas.
My sister redeemed us and our city slicker status that day though. While I stooped and bent, searched and picked–determined to do my pea picking to the best of my ability, she committed to a simple search and destroy. She pulled off leaves, stepped on peas, and yanked entire plants from the soil. Sister was behind me so I didn’t know. Had I known, would I have copied her? No. But I admired her for fixing old Aunt Miss. You can believe she never tried to make us look bad again. Sister never picked peas again either. I, on the other hand . . .
Wait. I take it back. We recently shared stories about other such moments of “city slicker” humiliation. Sister told me about the day Grandmother told us to go up to Charlene’s to pick peas in her field. Sister told Grandmother she didn’t want to pick peas. Grandmother said, “Why not? You eat enough of them.”
People in farming communities are always generous. They were especially kind to us because our father was in the military, fighting for our freedom–like Roger Ramjet. They were kind enough to bring Mama bushels of corn, peas, beans; pecks of okra, tomatoes, pears, peaches, watermelons . . .. If someone butchered an animal, we got meat, buckets of cane syrup and sugar cane. We never had to harvest, kill it or butcher it either. LOL. Word got around that that oldest Davis girl would ruin crops ’cause she didn’t know jack.
I used to eat clam chowder from cans. Then came the day I asked myself why, and set out to deconstruct clam chowder. The rest is history since the recipe kept adapting until it became perfect for our palate. I’d never even heard of such a chowder before I decided it would be a great vegetarian-ish delight. So, creating such a dish seemed logical. And here we are. Fresh corn becomes chowder, but long lives fried and creamed. A little butter and olive oil in a skillet is the best base to give corn off a cob a perfect lift-off, and a reason to soar. A little pepper, smoked paprika and parsley make the dish pop. Like I asked. Who doesn’t like corn?
So, yesterday I prepped ears of bicolored corn and poblano peppers for the grill. JC handled the fire and smoke while I cleaned, seasoned and marinated shrimp, diced red potatoes, chopped onions and herbs, sautéed and stirred. The shrimp had their turn on the grill, the cream did its thing in the pot, and it all came together like magic. I ended up with an almost-filled-to-the-brim le Cruset Dutch oven of delicious, rich, aromatic corn chowder. Wish you were here ’cause leftovers don’t lie.