Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hedge Hyssop

NOTE: There’s a dreary muse out in Hub’s cabin that leads me to write things I don’t understand and this is one of them. How the title came to me I have not the slightest notion.

This is not a plant I have encountered or know anything about. But in checking references (after the poem was written), I was truly amazed to find that:

‘Hedge’ is a protective act and ‘hyssop’ branches are used in the Bible for purification rites)


Prayer shawl
And wing-pits
Of piety;
Raw cuts
Of refinement.

Cedar shay
Motif astern

Folded spirit
Broken wings
Unraveled soul.

Ivory roses
Picot-edged lace

Quiet chant
Temple dust
Hyssop wave.
Slow steps
Organ hum
And Hushed “Hosannahs”!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Twilight in the Cabin

T’is comfort here
In Hub’s wee cabin
The storm bluster
Must stop or skip
Those outgrowths
That widen the gap
Between a wood fire,
Ageing organic matter,
—And other frontiers
Tepid with gore.

Monday, January 19, 2009

And to You, I Bequeath....

Today all I want to do is resurrect an unexpected comment that appeared only recently on an older post about the special joys of spending time in Hub's rustic cabin. The comment was by Middle Daughter and was truly surprising to me but in a pleasant way. This is what she said:

“Mom, do you think you could tuck the cabin in my keepsake box with your bread recipes, and short stories?
Would enjoy this so much more, than your silver serving set, and fine china.”

Those words warmed my heart like a wood fire and a singing kettle.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dignified or Countrified

I read a touching tribute the other day that mentioned as part of sweet memories the long-forgotten ritual of masticating spruce sap into gum. That, of course, swung me into big nostalgia about some of the things I ate as a child.

Things that I cupped in both hands and hid behind the teeter-totter at school to eat, because in my mind, it was shameful fare. And so then and there I solemnly promised myself, that I would never eat those shameful things when I grew up. But, now I find, in so many of them, unexpected delight.

Those things we ate in hard times, I still hesitate to tell you. Something in our society makes shame of the fact that although we live in modern comfort at the moment, that the ‘tar-paper shack’ we originally lived in…well, you know…better not to reveal that.

And likewise, equally shameful to reveal that I still indulge in those countrified foodstuffs I ate as a kid. After all, “normal” people (sophisticated, learned, successful, and cultured people) eat pepper steak, Parmesan pork, and honey-garlic chicken. Polished and successful people eat lobster and shrimp with exotic condiments made from pricey spices, cheeses, and herbs blended in one small container from the far reaches of the globe.

It is quite amazing to me. This perception we have that diet is directly linked to levels of social stratification (i.e. upper class, lower class, etc.) And so, because of that perception, successful and sophisticated individuals recognize how quickly they could topple from their peak if they were to reveal that they eat soda crackers dipped in molasses or potato chips dipped in ice cream. So to preserve social status, they become ‘closet-consumers’ with that part of their lives kept close to their breast.

But I intend to ignore all that in this wee Meme-Trivia combo. I am going to briefly list ignoble and uncultured repasts of my youth. Scored to these standards:

(Yuk) for dreadful, (Mmm) for undecided, and (Yum) for delightful. And if you want to play the game, or give feedback, there are two more categories for you: (???) which means ‘I’ve never eaten it!’ and (XXX) ‘I never intend to!’

So your feedback is invited. Have you eaten any of this stuff? How do you rate it? Or do you have confessions of your own about undignified things you ate as a child?
NOTE: Wax crayons or plant-dirt don’t count.

So now here’s my list:
1. bread and milk – broken-up bits of bread, dressed with brown sugar, and splashed with cream or rich milk. YUM (important – the bread must be homemade)
2. wheat gum - like spruce sap gum, this is wheat kernels picked in late fall from the fields and masticated into a smooth gum (YUM) (smooth and pleasantly mild)
3. Cornmeal porridge – cornmeal cooked as a thick mush, dredged with brown sugar and rich milk. Do not stir. (YUM) (In my books this beats by a mile the more popular savory cornmeal dish, that I think is of Polish, or Ukrainian descent, although I eat that too).
4. Buttermilk and Potatoes – This was my father’s favorite undignified treat. Young and hot boiled potatoes, slightly mashed. Pour on cold buttermilk, and liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. (YUM, YUM) (This may sound disgusting to some but if you are okay with buttermilk or Ranch dressing, you might be pleasantly surprised.)
5. Rhubarb Biscuits – Regular biscuits with a bit of extra sugar and a cup or two of sliced rhubarb mixed in. (YUM) (Served hot, with butter, these capture an exotic balance of sweetness and tartness that is delightful).
6. Friday Hash – Every thing diced – leftover boiled potatoes, a bit of bologna or wieners, onions and celery. Mix together and season with salt, pepper, garlic, and a liberal amount of sage or poultry seasoning, and scramble-fry in butter and oil until golden and crispy. (YUM) (similar to Stuffing).
7. Instant Cinnamon Buns – a slice of homemade (again important) bread, well-buttered. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, then into a hot oven or under the broiler. When bubbly and slightly browned, ready to eat. (YUM, YUM) (Do I need to say more?)

And here are a few undignified treats suggested by others, that I have tried:

1. Wheat porridge – Wheat kernels straight from the granary, salt, and boiling water left to cook and soften in a thermos overnight. Then dressed with sugar and milk in the morning. (YUK) (gawd-awful)
2. Cow Mushrooms (thus labeled because cows, not people, eat them). I always gritted my teeth with distaste when I spied these in the woods. Orange tops, speckled stems, usually so wormy and distasteful-looking. But when a neighbor showed me how to skillfully peal the mushrooms and in that way expose those which were corrupt and those which were pristine, and then cooked them up in fresh cream, onions, and dill. (YUM) (They were excellent).

So now, let’s have fun with this. Don’t be shy. Your social status is not at risk if you let me know what countrified things you eat. You are pretty much anonymous and so am I.

I hope so anyway, or tomorrow I’ll be toppled from middle-upper crust to bottom-of-the-barrel society.
Oh Dear, Oh Dear!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

No Heatbeat - No Obligation

I read many Blogs yesterday and was astounded at how many Bloggers have tumbled into the unwholesome ditch of discouragement . Even in ‘Roberta’s Reads’, I find a collection of suspended blogs and others who speak of that intention. And so I’m starting to realize it is going to be lonely here soon if I don’t cultivate some new friendships.

I go looking, but in random readings of new blogs I see blog-strangers encountering the same difficulties. It is like a wide-spreading virus how many Blog-Proprietors are throwing in the towel. And if not that, they are packing up and moving. Some to Facebook or U-Tube. Others are moving to another Blog-site with the optimism that a ‘new start’ will rid them of their discouragement.

I’m in the pack, as largely and boldly discouraged as the rest. But still I write, even if what I write, is the saddest bit of drivel. Unfortunately, I need to do it because Blogging is not a hobby, or a luxury. It is an obligation.

The obligation-part falls within Eldest Daughter’s adage about obligations. She insists she has only one steadfast and mandatory obligation – and that is to anything with a heartbeat. Gruffly phrased – “No heartbeat; no obligation”.

And I guess I have a similar attitude toward obligations, despite the overwhelming discouragement I feel when I loft yet another bit of migratory conversation that hopefully might land in a warmer place, but is far more likely to plummet to the dust like a bird full of buckshot. The discouragement is of little matter – my Blog remains an obligation

Like so many others, I contemplate suspending my blog or moving. But then, as I sit down and power up the computer, I hear the soft murmuring whirr of a heartbeat. A heartbeat that I can’t ignore.

And so, the humanitarian-side of me starts yammering all over again as if someone, somewhere, needs to read, needs to care, or needs to comment, on what I have to say.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Performance Report

It’s a good thing the laws of nature are more ‘fixed’ than the laws of man…
Or this Sun peeking over the horizon would have cast one sleepy eye on a thermometer that read –44.4 C (without windchill factor at 8:30 a.m.), and said:

“You can take this job and shove it! I ain't workin' here no more.”

…and with that he would have rolled off to another place and another planet. But like any good steady hand, he’s hanging in there for the LONG UPHILL THAW!

(The Sun may not have given up his job, but I'm pretty sure he's scrapped that Global-Warming-Pilot-Project he was working on.)

Hub's Cabin

Friday, January 2, 2009

playing 'Cabin'

It is the first of a New Year and Hub has spent so much time in his cabin the past few days that he is looking more like Grizzly Adams than anyone else. But this morning he cracked open that new razor he got for Christmas and sheered down the forest before he came to the kitchen for coffee.

So when the newly shorn Hub came to the table for coffee – he looked g-o-od! And so in keeping with a 2009 positive attitude, I scratched D.O.G.’s belly and told him he was a funny boy and rubbed Hub’s neck and ears and told him he was a handsome boy. Hub laughed and said he was glad I noticed and then just when I was congratulating myself on that positive opener for the New Year, I was sailing down that slippery slope, where I usually bide, into puzzlement and analysis.

‘Did I get that right? Which is the funny boy? Which is the handsome boy? Gee, maybe D.O.G. is the handsome boy and maybe Hub is the funny boy?’

You see the problem is, in my mind, if you don’t understand it and don’t get it right, you better give it some more thought. Cause you know what happens. If I don’t think about things I will look stupid, feel stupid, other people will know I am stupid. Can’t be behaving or be having that.
And so that brings us to the next analysis. As I told you previously Hub has renovated an old granary that he pulled into the back yard into a rustic cabin.

Visitors come. They fold themselves into the fascination of it all, but at the same time, despite valiant efforts to disguise their reactions I see eye rolls, shoulder nudges, and knee contacts under the table that indicate they really are wondering. Wondering if we are okay. Wondering why we do what we do.

So for the sake of being able to articulate rational reasons without the faintest echo of stupidity or senility, I am going to try and explain it to you.

What I need to try to explain is our new game. We call it ‘Playing Cabin’. To play it you must have a cabin with a dishpan, a teakettle, a towel rack, and a wood-burning stove. And so, the game begins.

And this is how you ‘play cabin’.

First of all – it is a lengthy game so we usually start in the morning. To begin, the basic necessity is fire. So first Hub and I cut kindling, chop wood, rumple paper. Then we artfully stack and interlace this mix in the firebox and strike a match to it. Then we debate, when the initial flare weakens to a wee spark if our efforts need to be fanned or left alone.

In turns we fan the fire, rearrange it, remove or add more wood, blow on it – I practice patience, Hub practices faith and eventually we have a roaring fire that sucks the smoke up the chimney rather than folding it back into the room. That is intrigue number one. Level one of ‘playing cabin’ reached and conquered. Whew! That level was a bit of challenge.

Now we fill the old coffeepot and commence another debate about which is the hotter part of the stove. Hub skids the pot here, I skid it there. And eventually we both agree that it should be moved more here than there.

Now we relax again and practice patience and faith. Soon the pot hums ever so gently than gradually – ever so gradually – the hum increases until we hear the happy little plop of the first perk. Soon after the hum breaks into a joyful railroad-steamer crescendo and quick plopping, perking sounds.

We listen to the music and it is delightful. We take down our blue granite cups and pour ourselves a cuppa – and man that coffee is so good. A healing tonic for the chill of wood chopping, a warm cleansing throat wash for the smothering intake of smoke while nursing those first flames, and a restorative for our objectives in our ‘playing cabin game’. We sip coffee that is hotter and better. And then we turn on the old radio and relax in a certain amount of childhood nostalgia coupled with the accomplishment of level two.

Now Hub makes bacon and eggs in the old cast iron – slow sizzled and really tasty. I toast buns on the stove-top while warming our socks in the oven. Our meal is manna for the gods, in a nest of the special soul-healing warmth that only a wood fire can give.

Then we put more wood on the fire, draw more water and put the old teakettle on the hot part of the stove and wait for it to sing its own unique tune as water is heated for washing up. And now we do dishes – with some kind of stupid delight even in that process. We are now progressing nicely. We have reached level three.

To complete this level we chop more wood, bring it in, or stack it in the woodbox outside the door. Sweep up, do the dishes, get fresh water, arrange our few worldly possessions in good order and we are ready for level four.

Level four brings out the coffee still piping hot from the back of the stove, radio down low, and a long session of silence and contemplation about why we do what we do. We move to the chesterfield in a silken contented way and the puppies go into happy dormancy around us on the cabin floor.

And so now, from the contemplation I have done on this matter, I have concluded that although playing cabin is a challenging game with the many levels of accomplishment I have told you, it remains a simple life without layers. (I think one can have levels without layers).

Yes, it is obvious, this is a non-layered existence. That’s what holds the key to the enjoyment of ‘playing cabin’. It is similar, but so much better than time out in a fishing boat, walking on a beach or 18 holes of golf. It remains one of those few small niches in this complex world where there is no economy, no bills, no phone calls, no concerns about anything except food and shelter.

Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you. Another reason we do it is because a voice came to Hub as a voice came to Noah. Not out of the sky, but out of the TV, and another from the radio, and another from various neighbors. The voices said, “The economy will be fully destroyed and the world, as we know it, will crash in its wake. It may not happen today, it may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen.”

And Hub, like Noah said, “Then to preserve my family, I will build a cabin (now how many cubits was it supposed to be?). And Roberta and I and our puppies will go in two by two (maybe one by one – the door is only 27” wide) and we will be saved.”

Hub insists this cabin-ark of his will float safely though any economic storm or draught of heat and light. And if that is not the case, it is still our salvation. A life-preserving haven far removed from the risks associated with the daily stresses of ‘layered living’. And in addition to that, a place that shelters us from those other stresses that cause hardening of the heart, soul, conscience, good will and gratefulness.

So now I need to know. Are you convinced after reading this rant that there is nothing wrong? Will our visitors understand and be convinced? Or, are you rolling your eyes in dismay as you return to your Wii game, ‘The Sims’, the stock market, or another of the many games that others play?