feeling the bite

I typed that title, erased it, wrote “nibble,” erased that because it wasn’t true and was too clever by half, typed “feeling the bite” again and am going to let it stand even though it makes me feel like a traitor.

Sexy as hell in a black silk t-shirt, Buck sat on the end of my bed and tried to explain that the day would come when the 14 year difference in our ages would bite. I was 30 then and couldn’t imagine my own mortality, much less his.

Like the two intelligent communications professionals we were, he and I “talked through the Scotch” over many fire-and-bedside chats, and eventually came to the conclusion — in classic cost-benefit analysis style — that if we could get a good 20 years, it would be worth unwinding the dregs of two failed marriages and making a life together.

That was 38 years ago. The investment ripened with years of reinvested dividends and was amortized decades ago. It’s been cream off the top ever since, and more exciting than most Blue Chips.

Buck told me to keep my seatbelt buckled; that it was going to be a wild ride. And I’ve done that. Good thing, too. Especially for this part.

Guess I’ve broken the ice for myself on this delicate subject. It may take a few more food pictures before I broach it again. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, time’s precious, and I’m shutting down the computer for tonight and joining Buck and Lou Lou Belle in our bed we fondly call “the cloud.”

gathering strength

I’m getting all the food pictures out of the way so when I write in this space tomorrow morning while it’s still dark, drinking a great coffee so black and strong it barely needs a cup, I’ll be ready to talk some truth.

But for tonight, one more food photo. It’s emblematic of me gathering strength: fresh collard greens made with onions, garlic and a small smoked turkey thigh; boiled plain turnip roots; a buttered cornbread muffin.

Oh, and hey — we’ve got a storm coming — a late tropical storm with an intriguing name: Potential Tropical Cyclone 16. Sounds like an edgy perfume. A cold front and a tropical storm. Should be interesting.

Shrimp, Blue Crab & Grouper

Lucky to live here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where any day of the week Buck and I can drive the shady lane from house to gate in the Longleaf woods and drive roughly 17 miles to Joe Patti’s Seafood down on Pensacola Bay. We come away with treats like the ones you see above. Two pounds of Gulf shrimp go a long way with us: first night peel and eat with Buck’s spicy cocktail sauce, second time around a version of scampi redolent with garlic and laced with capers, then a third go chopped for a lunchtime salad. Similar story with the blue crab claw meat: tossed with a smidge of lemon butter as a delicacy with the boiled shrimp, then another night as a luscious topping for garlic-Parmesan baked grouper.

my summer of no writing, no art, no music

Sounds pretty terrible, right? I missed the interior thinking, storytelling, and creative connection, but Buck and I have been working hard on a couple of projects that absolutely required our attention and best thinking. And are, in their own way, enormously creative.

We’re a little ways past midstream, so I can’t share yet, but that time will come and along with it, some interesting yarns.

Meanwhile, I did at least snap a few photos over the summer and when I looked at them this morning, that old desire to memorialize them in this space bloomed like the scent of a much-loved and nearly forgotten perfume.

Here, then, some summer snapshots:

Cicada shell on a fencepost.
Fragrant summer peaches, the best in memory. I remembered the old trick of dipping the whole fruit into boiling water for a few seconds. The peel slips off like a snake’s skin.
Some sort of fruiting spores on a mushroom. I don’t know if the spores were opportunistic travelers or part of the mushroom itself. Strangely wonderful.
American beautyberries in the morning light.
A favorite lunch: my friend, Bette’s, bean salad and half a buttery avocado.
Even the hottest summer in memory will moderate soon. Already, the morning temperatures are cooler and the before-7:00 a.m. air has turned from blast furnace to baby’s breath.
Collaborative supper with family: honey-bourbon balsamic glazed salmon, asparagus (half wrapped in prosciutto), cauliflower, and new potatoes.
Black beans, brown rice, salsa, wok-cooked chicken-apple sausage with onions and red peppers, and luscious papaya spritzed with lime.
Sugar snaps on romaine, tuna, and homemade hummus. Favorite lunch #1.
Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burger on romaine. Favorite lunch #2.

Crack the Dark World Open

I dreamed last night of my long-dead father. One of those rare dreams I’ve learned to call a major gift.

Standing on a sidewalk at a busy intersection, I was waiting for a car or a bus or a taxi or something to take me somewhere. It was crowded. Lots of people. Many of them seemed to know me. They waved and shouted friendly greetings.

I remember adjusting the shoulder strap of my heavy bag that was filled with notebooks and sketch pads, craning my neck to look for my ride, when someone called out: “Wait! Don’t go yet. Your Daddy is coming to see you!”

My head snapped up and sure enough, a man who could not be anyone but W. T. Jones was striding through the crowded sidewalk, pulling off leather work gloves as he walked. His crack-the-dark-world-open brilliant smile went all the way to those flashing bright eyes that never left my face.

Before there was time to think or react or, thank God, wake up, I was wrapped up in those dear arms. “Baby girl!” he crooned, nearly waltzing me around, his joy my sunbeam path.

I awoke then and nearly sprang out of bed with energy and a smile, still feeling that loving affirmation from my sweet, long-missed Daddy.

In the dream, Daddy was slightly heavier than I remembered, still sun-browned with crinkles around his eyes and a light sheen of sweat as though he had just come off the construction site of one of his subdivisions in central Florida, circa 1964, the year his heart suddenly stopped.

Tough blow for a thirteen-year-old to lose her dad. My older brother was sixteen; our younger brother only nine. Mother was fragile and unbalanced. Tough all the way around. The lodge pole of our family structure was jerked away and the roof quickly fell in.

For weeks, now, I haven’t been sleeping well enough to dream, much less to remember a dream. Several hours have elapsed since the dream. I’ve walked to the gate with Lou, fed her breakfast, and brewed coffee.

Cutting strawberries and oranges for Sunday breakfast a few minutes ago, I laughed to realize I was whistling Daddy’s favorite song.

Morning

Each morning I slip out of bed early. Lou-dog pads silently out of the room with me, leaving Buck to roll over in the warm space, hug my pillow, and dream a while longer.

The cedar and sage scent from a bar of soap greets me, a reliable standing stone symbol. Dried peonies hang over the framed photo I took years ago when, on a fire-line walk in our woods, I happened upon a field of blooming pitcher plants. The photo is a touchstone from a time that I was braver in my woods walking, less fearful of the coyotes and snakes who live here, too.

I was drawn to the small pine cone. It had fallen from a tree on the far side of our gate down by the main road. After several days of seeing it on a morning walk, I popped it into my jacket pocket, where it stayed another week, nestled into the soft, dark fabric. Now, I see it each morning and ponder while I brush my teeth: Why does seeing this little cone add to my feelings of comfort and joy?