English Weather, English Tea

The chill has returned. I put on my “tete d’artiste” beret and wound my scarf around my neck. Shoving my hands into my pockets, I set off this morning at a brisk pace.

Halfway down my usual path, I noticed an unusual sight: one of the live oaks had been decorated with long strands of red and green beads. Looking more closely, I saw that each strand had a small mirrored disco ball dangling from one end.

On the other side of the driveway, candy canes surrounded a small plastic Santa holding his belly.

Back home, I took my favorite Japanese bowl out of the drainboard, the pink one with a fat cat and tail on its sides, and prepared to pour tea. It wasn’t until I went to lift to the bowl to my lips that I noticed I had serendipitously placed it so that the kitty on the inside of the bowl faced me, its eyes closed in pleasure, a small bell around its neck.

I too closed my eyes while sipping.

Where Doves Rest During the Day

Yesterday I took my time rising. When I went out for my walk, the air had warmed from the cold snap earlier in the week, though the sky was still gray.

On one of the wider streets, I looked up into a tree and found a long slender branch, the thickness of my thumb, had grown from the third lowest branch and meandered its way upward, winding around the tree’s trunk.

As I tried to follow its path, I found the treetop filled with mourning doves. Most swayed with the wind, one fluttered to a new branch.

Later, after I’d returned home, I heard a rushing sound. Going to the door, I discovered a steady rain.

The Respite

This week I went to the country. Two nights and a day on a small ranch near a small town in Texas. It was near dusk when I arrived but still I stopped at the small body of water near the gate and took photographs of the dried reeds, the rippling reflection of tree tops.

The next day I took walks and drank tea, read an old New Yorker and watched home makeovers.

When I left the following day it was still overcast and drizzly. I stopped for coffee but got a peppermint hot chocolate. Back on the road, I turned on the windshield wipers and listened to Christmas carols on the radio.

Bare trees lined the way, limbs bending earthward. Everywhere colors were muted: brown fields and gray skies.

Crossing a bridge, I glanced down. Mist hovered over the river.

My Mother’s Recipes

This morning I set out to make cookies for my brother. Unable to find my own notes, I went to my cookbook shelves and, for the first time in a long time, pulled out a small wooden box of recipe cards. I had expected my grandmother’s handwriting, but opening it, I began to thumb through card after card in my mother’s hand.

Seeing her familiar writing, I remembered the years this recipe box had stood in one kitchen or another of her houses. I flipped past a recipe for “Trudy’s Bran Muffins” but stopped briefly at “Scripture Cake,” where each ingredient had its own passage from the Bible, and which was written in what was most likely my great-grandmother’s hand, since the notation read “copied 1893.”

I made a mental note to come back and investigate the typewritten letter, from my grandmother, no doubt, nestled in among the cards. “The lawyer said she would be unable to take the strain if Jensen did want to come home,” read the fragment that caught my eye. (On the other side, a recipe, also typed, for rhubarb crisp.)

I put the recipe box back onto the shelf. A small wooden box, now leaking dust, crammed full of instructions on recreating memories.

The Lasting Joy of A Brief Miracle

Two nights ago it snowed. I have lived here for eighteen years and in all that time this is the first time anything I would call “snow” has fallen.

I walked from the lighted house into the already dark evening to find large white flakes floating down from the sky. As I drove, I watched the graceful dance of flakes too numerous to count. An endless falling of an endless curtain.

Watching them, I was taken back to my college apartment, to a time where I would sit and watch this same silent show.

Often I would wrap a scarf around my neck and brave the cold to lift the heavy sash, open the window wide. By listening intently, I could hear the sound of snowflakes as they fell and fell, and then, with a sound like the contented sigh of a child after play, nestle into the bed of flakes that had fallen before them. It was a hushed sound, like listening to the footsteps of God.

Back home from my errands, I push open my front gate. On the top support, snow is piled an inch deep. It has stuck no where else, melting as soon as it hits pavement.

By morning, I know, the fence snow too will be gone.