WINTER

Living in Western New York, I am around the snow and cold of winter longer than I would like. However, I have learned to accept and even befriend winter, because it is stronger, hardier and more insistent than I am.

Winter’s beauty sneaks up on you. One of my favorite things to do is watch the snow cascade outside my living room picture window during an evening storm. Winter is definitely the winner in this war between the elements. Before the storm has really picked up speed, the flakes slowly pile up on my driveway, one by one. The outdoor spotlights, intended to illuminate intruders on my property, make the flakes shimmer in the moonlight as they fall. They don’t seem as ominous when they pile up neatly on the tips of pine trees and bushes.

When the velocity of the wind increases and the storm gains more power, I am reminded how fortunate I am to be behind the glass and merely a spectator, not an involved party. The wind blows in the background like a carnival pipe organ, pausing on one note for just a moment, before it resumes its ancient aria, blowing in and out between the tree branches. An owl or two will hoot along, as if they know they are part of a grand orchestra and must play their part in the piece. Twigs slap against window glass, adding a constant rhythm to the already chaotic symphony, trying to keep time with the ever constant wind. I go to sleep listening to these beautiful instruments of the backyard, knowing that I am warm and safe inside in my bed.

In the early morning I can picture in my mind’s eye the snow glistening in the sunrise, washed in the glow of the sunshine and flickers as the light hits it intermittently. Before the velvety blanket is rumpled with the imprint of footsteps, the crystals glitter like mini firecracker exploding, silently. It is quiet and the earth is not awake yet. A squirrel or two may quickly hop across a mound, as if the ground were too hot to linger on for more than a second.

The sky is clear and bright blue, so bright one can’t look directly into it. The wind is barely moving now, yet when a stray flake blows up again my window glass, I raise my hand as if to stop it from coming any closer.

But alas, I have been fooled again! Now that I am up and out of bed, I look out the window and view what destruction has been wrought by this sneaky and sinister centurion of the night. Beguiling and seductive in the evening, he shows his true colors this morning in the damage he has left behind.

Snow is piled high on picnic tables and cars. Ice blown from the wind has formed on window ledges, and on electric wires and phone lines. Sidewalks are buried beneath mountains of snow, leaving me stranded and afraid. There is no heat in the house now, as I make my way barefoot to view the thermostat that reads 40 degrees. I will have to be content to stack my fireplace with logs from the basement and stay indoors for the rest of the morning, catnapping as I can not find anything good to read.

When I awake, it is twilight, almost night again. The need to sleep must have overpowered my bad mood. The fire has long gone out as evidenced by the ashes in the fireplace, but it is warm. The heat must have kicked on sometime during the afternoon. My stomach growls, reminding me that I haven’t eaten all day.

Stumbling to the kitchen, I am greeted by a new view, a different view than the living room picture window offers. I arrive just to glimpse the tail of a black dog running by, leaving only the steam from his nostrils as his hot breathes puffs behind him, like a locomotive steam engine. The dog is chasing a squirrel, who now has no trouble at all jumping from mound to mound and up the bark of a tree. My eyes are drawn upward to the magnificent overcoat of slow hanging from the branches of the beautiful oak, bending it, but not overpowering it. I am reminded once again, that winter is the boss, and I am but an obedient servant, awaiting my next instruction, my next lesson in appreciating the power of winter.

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7 MINUTE COFFEE

Our coffee pot died the other morning, but that didn’t stop us from having a great cup of coffee….


Last week, our coffeemaker died.
The light went on, the coffee bin full of coffee, the water filled up to the top of the reservoir. But it didn’t drip, it didn’t make the gurgling- I’m-boiling-hot-sound that lets me-know-coffee-is-on-its-way and all was right with the world. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

In my house, that’s not a good thing. We are both coffee addicts and can’t start the day without at least a full pot between us. Our morning ritual consists of getting up, feeding the animals and making the coffee. Everything else has to wait, even if the house is on fire.

Sometime in the afternoon I will fire up another pot and have a cup or two. If there’s company in the evening, another pot will be made to go with dessert. Yes, we love our coffee. In fact, the only thing we like better is pasta. My husband said he was never so happy as when he found I could cook pasta without it becoming paste like or stuck together. Anyone else he had ever dated over cooked it. We agreed the formula in which to cook perfect pasta laid in the timing, which was seven minutes.

So I stood at the counter and stared at the red light that seemed to be mocking me and my plea, somewhat begging it to stop fooling around and start dripping. Had it been not been blizzard conditions outside, I would have jumped in the car and ran to get a new one.

Suddenly, I remembered the stovetop coffee pot I had picked up at an antique store years earlier. Standing there proudly like the old workhorse she once was, I was reminded of a scene out of the Island of Lost Toys when I saw her. White with a red handle and glass dome top, she was in pretty good shape and not banged up like a lot of them. I remembered seeing her and a taller, blue speckled pot, standing amongst other old time accoutrements, red & white clothe towels and tablecloths, large ceramic roosters. I chose the old grand dame of coffeepots, but had intended to use it solely as a decorative piece.

After retrieving it from the box of other things I never use down in the basement, my mind wandered for just a while. As I washed the pot lovingly in hot, soapy water, I was suddenly transported back in my kitchen as a young wife and mother.

My memory brought me back to another morning, where I was standing at the sink, a child at my right side and a baby in my belly.  Instead of washing the white coffee pot, it was now a silver one with a black handle, a housewarming gift received years earlier.

My mother-in-law never shared recipes with me, but she did show me how to make coffee. Measuring out the coffee grinds to fill the removable basket, she instructed offhandedly to “let it perk for 5 minutes.”

My style was a little more scientific, using the boilover method. I would wait until the coffee first boiled over onto the stove, then turned it down to simmer for seven, not five, minutes. It worked every time and was perfect, so I stuck to the boil over method. I cooked it that way for years, while babies multiplied and played with pots on the kitchen floor, and my stomach grew bigger and bigger. I cooked it that way until Joe DiMaggio came into our lives with the appliance that changed everything.

The smell of the fresh coffee cooking on the stove permeated the entire kitchen.

“What are you making?” he asked while rubbing his eyes. Situating himself at the kitchen table, he spied the white coffee pot with the red handle. His eyes grew wide with the wonderment of a child, his mouth wide with a smile.

“Coffee” I said simply, and I poured the velvety hot liquid into a cup sitting in front of him.

“The right way.”

We sat together silently, sipping the elixir of the gods and continuing our morning ritual.

I don’t think they even make those silver coffee pots anymore, except maybe in camping or outdoor stores.

But I think I’ll do my best to find one, even if I have to get it on Ebay.

And for some reason, I felt like cooking pasta.

FACE TIME

 

When is the exact moment? 

The moment when a woman finally acknowledges the older face in the mirror, does in fact, belong to her?  The lined lips centering her face the skin pulling downward because of gravity.   Surveying those puffy eyes, that sagging jaw line.  At what moment does she really look at herself, no longer seeing the taunt skin around the eyes, the flawless pink skin of youth?

There is a short space of time for women when they can look at themselves and reason away some of the crow’s feet and the crinkles across her brow.

I’m just tired…she will decide, or…its been a particularly stressful week, and rationalize that if she just gets that badly needed sleep, she won’t look as fatigued and will bounce right back to the face of her thirty something years in her mind’s eye.

But alas, upon awakening, there is no more hide and seek with the wrinkles, no ignoring the tell tale signs of the beginning of jowls, the softening of the jaw or roundness of chin.  No matter what her mind tells her or how she feels inside, the calendar is never wrong and the ticking of the clock never stops.

So there she stands, face to face with her face, one much different than that of her mind’s eye and memory.  She can see the freckled face tomboy with long, thick braids jutting out from either side of her head.  She can see that same hair teased and curled, piled high atop her head for the Prom, dressed in a gown, the first grown up dress worn against her still rail thin body.

She sees the short practical haircut, a necessity due to raising children.  It is the beginning of laugh lines around her mouth, and worry wrinkles around the eyes when they are older, crevices become deeper with each dare taken and every argument lost.  Most days there isn’t even time to look in the mirror, and the moments to scrutinize a blemish or two are fleeting.

Until that moment, the final realization is that time is moving quicker than she’d like.  For those who have spent their life getting by on beauty alone, the moment can be particularly unsettling.  She will now have to rely on substance and stance alone.  Knowing that facelifts and other remedies are only temporary and the inevitable will still make itself known, she is forced to reckon with the reality of the face smiling back at her.

Because most of all, yes, it should be smiling!  For although there may very well be a tinge of sadness in the knowledge she will never again look the way she used to, there are still many more roads to travel, more adventures to seek and tasks to be accomplished.  If she is lucky, she is looking at the face of her mother, or one who has paved the way for her.  Should she choose to walk the road less traveled, and then may it be with confidence and joy to face the unknown that awaits her.  With the twinkle in her eyes as the guiding light, she can forge her own path to fulfillment.   Comfortable with whom she is now and who she can still become should be as exciting as a first kiss.

Life shows up on a woman’s face.  At what moment does she realizes it has and embrace it?  Does she realize how very lucky she is? 

May you never be afraid to look in the mirror or hesitate to speak your life’s number.  It is an honor indeed, to acknowledge the fact that you have lived.

DAY TWO

The snow is falling softy this Saturday morning and I’m listening to television’s “VH1 Top Video Countdown” channel as I type this, something I haven’t done in years.

Not sure if it’s because I share the air with someone else, or if I got tired of all the rap music they used to play. Or, it might because the last of my kids moved out, into their own place. I realized listening to the stuff they played is what kept me in touch and stopped the aging process.

In any event, it is playing softly in the background and I have to say, I am into it again.

Taylor Swift (“Fifteen”) and some chick that played in Michael Jackson’s band named Orianthi (didn’t catch the song title) just finished up before the commercial break, and I hear Willie Nelson singing “You Were Always On My Mind” for ASPCA.

I write this to answer your beseeching “Why the hell is she writing this?” because I am trying to stay true to an old resolution I completed a few years ago (probably when I was watching VH1 Top Video Countdown) which is to write something everyday.

I fell out of the habit of engaging my brain everyday (some would say years ago) and lost the creativity that used to hit me in the head every morning. I woke up one day and poof! it was gone. Gone missing was the spark that used to fire every time I opened my eyes. I know writers block happens everyday to other people, but this was a series case of constipation. (“Breakeven” by the Script is #17, even though the title should be “Falling to Pieces” since they repeat it 200 times.)

I didn’t write anything except for my column at the paper, and I had a whole week to come up with something to fulfill that commitment. The dry spell lasted for nearly two years, just about the time I started promoting my books and cd’s. I never thought of myself as not being a multi-tasker, but learned early on that perhaps I had pulled myself in too many directions.

I also realized writing is a very solitary experience, work which requires your full attention. I am a very social person, I love a party and I love spending time with my family. The grandkids keep on coming, which warms the cockles of my Irish heart, even though the fiscally conservative side worries how will they afford them. My realization used to be “So what, I’ll just throw another potato in the pot!” used to satisfy my worry. Now that I’m older, I think in absolutes and worry about the future. (I absolutely love Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind -New York!”)

Perhaps the passage of time has done that and it was inevitable, maturity and all that. Maybe it was the acceleration of these feelings since 9/11 and the insecurity I feel due to our present leadership. (The dogs are barking to go outside; the plow guy is here and of course, they have to supervise. Glancing up at the tv I see a group called “Lifehouse” singing about something “around the corner.” Its #14.)

Maybe it’s the interruption of the dogs, of babies, of friends and family that saps some of the creativity. I know I wanted to write when I was younger, but had a living room full of arms and legs all over the rug, spilling into the kitchen. It was much more fun than writing the editorial about Governor Pataki I had intended to send for the Opinion Page.

Uh oh. “Lil Wayne” and “Shakira” are rapping, but its not too bad. I’ll try to stand it. She’s doing dance moves that I do in my exercise class, so how come I don’t look like her? The dogs are scratching at the door to come back inside. Apparently, the plow guy knows what he’s doing and doesn’t need their help. Why does this feel vaguely familiar?

I guess its time to do some laundry and while I do that, think about how I can get the good people of Pennacook through the latest crisis they are experiencing. Don’t worry, they make it through and someone falls in love.

I don’t need to listen to the show until the end – I probably don’t know the #1 song anyhow. What the hell ever happened to Sting, anyway? Good thing Michael Buble is singing “Haven’t Met You Yet.” Some things are worth suffering through, I guess.