And Now For Something…

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…

(Attributed, maybe wrongly, to C.S. Lewis…)

**************************************

Early in the morning, when the house is still, I light up the computer and play my morning word games. Then I pull up my personal email (look at all those unread messages!) and sort things out.

I ditch junk mail after junk mail, but I do save these things:

  • A recipe for chicken cordon bleu lasagna; I save it, and I send it to the boyos. Whaddaya think of this idea? I ask.
  • A notice about the Aminah Robinson display at the Columbus Museum of Art. (I forward that to the boyos, too.)
  • The confirmation of my registration for an online book club. It’s through a newspaper I subscribe to; serendipitously, the book we’re reading arrives today as well.

A new recipe, a potential outing, a fresh connection with other book lovers…nice things among the ads and trash of email. I clean and file and delete, delete, delete, until I am down to five unread messages.

Some days I just don’t have the energy to wade through all the gack, but now I am glad I did.

And I think this to myself: Something about today is different.

**************************************

Here’s something new, and something to celebrate: Mark and I are fully vaccinated. James gets his second shot this week. In two and a half weeks, then, we’ll be a vaccinated pod.

We can start judiciously venturing out; an art museum browse on a spring afternoon sounds like a nice way to push open that heavy door between us and the real world.

Maybe we’ll do our annual Easter trip to the botanical gardens, as well: all that room to safely distance and walk…

That heavy door takes effort to shove open; we won’t be flinging it wide and running through it willy-nilly. But the opening is big enough to slip through, and the breeze that comes curling in smells of fresh grass, newly turned dirt, a flower or two, freedom.

This week, we reserved a little Airbnb house in the town where I grew up. We’ll stay there for Mother’s Day weekend, and Mark will be able to give his mom a hug for the first time in 14 months. If things work out, we’ll be able to see Matt and his family, too.

Today I am thinking about visiting.

That’s a very, very unusual feeling.

***************************************

The sun is shining this morning after yesterday’s dismal, all-day rain. We went to the mall and walked yesterday, and the place was crowded, rife with young families. Toddlers scooted and heart-broken babies wailed. Teenagers put their heads together, grabbed arms, giggled. Sedate seniors walked methodically. Clerks stood sentry at the entrances to their stores, controlling numbers.

The security guard smiled on his rounds, doing the thankless job of asking people to mask up.

The air in the mall was a little bit stale; in one corner, leftover movie theater popcorn aroma wafted. In the food court, the smells of hot pretzels and pasta sauce and grilling burgers lured people to lonely tables. The floors were shiny and slick, and the people walking them had different paces. I had to dodge and zag, murmuring.

“Hello.”

“Excuse me!”

And I remembered what it was like, all winter long, when the sidewalks were thickly packed ice for a month and more, and the mall was our only walking spot.

But these are outdoor walking days.

Today, I walk a letter down to the mailbox near Maple Avenue, and think that the old expression, “Not a cloud in the sky,” is literal. The air is crisp, and robins hop—I try to pull my phone out in time to capture them, those harbingers, but they’re too fast and too skittish.

The flowering trees and bushes have fat buds swelling, and there’s a haze of red on many of the trees: leaves coming soon, that sign says.

The middle of March; winter not quite over.

And yet, the signs of Spring are clear and definite and filled with promise.

*********************************

Time for change, we agree at home, where tried and true recipes and menus have grown a little bit boring. I look for ideas in newspapers and magazines. In the early morning, I page through notebooks of long-ago clipped recipes and through cookbooks that have been waiting patiently on the shelves.

Mark sends me recipes he sees online.

We confer and experiment.

We try…

…pasta e fagioli

…fondant potatoes

…baked rice

Joy of Cooking’s rice pilaf

We buy leeks and clementines, and I order Easter chocolate from Ohio chocolatiers who boast of bean to bar fixin’s, sustainable goodies that reward the far-off farmer, too.

Mark notices a big ad in the Columbus paper; there are great butcher shop bargains. One Sunday we mask up, grab the hand sanitizer and drive to Carfagna’s, just outside of Columbus. There is brisk business, but mostly empty aisles, as people shop and go, and a smiling meat room clerk calls our number almost immediately.

We buy chicken and a whole beef loin, which the clerk, swinging a gleaming knife, cuts expertly into steaks. There is a gaudy belt, the kind World Wrestling Federation champions wear, hanging above his workstation.

I ask him what that’s for, and he smiles. It’s not for a champion wrestler, he says; it’s for a champion customer service provider. He grins at us and we laugh.

“Champion BULLshitter,” another white robed meat clerk coughs into his gloved hand, and he winks.

“What’d he say?” our guy demands, stacking white-paper-wrapped packages on the gleaming silver countertop; then he hurries away to get our pork and Italian sausage.

Checked out, we pack the meat into the big cooler, iced up in Mark’s trunk, and we drive home discussing recipes and menus and the best way to cook a steak. Mark is looking forward to smoking two nice pieces of white fish in his little smoker, and he ponders the merits of different wood chips.

It feels good to think of changing things up at dinner time, to use loved ingredients in different ways.

It feels good to do something a little differently.

*************************************

I sign up for a New York Times book club in April and for a Buffalo (New York) News book club at the end of this week. The library has one of the books; the other I order from an online used bookstore.

One book is a classic thriller; the other is a retelling of a classic tale with an interesting spin. I would probably not have picked either of these books unless nudged. It will be fun to read something out of my ordinary wheelhouse, and fun to see what the moderator says about the book, and how the participants respond.

***************************************

One morning I am reading the paper, mired in tales of discord and dissension at all levels of our government, and a fully formed thought plunks down into the bony mind cavern. “They don’t control your everyday life,” reads the thought, lettered in black on heavy rock.

I carry that thought with me and examine it whenever I have a chance. I roll it over, look at it from every angle.

And what I think is that life is HERE. There are outside forces, of course, that poke and prod, that take our money and give only chunks of it back, that issue mandates, that try to uproar and uproot us, but really, life is here.

Somehow, pandemic winter pushed us away, made us feel that life was taking place somewhere else while we, snowed in and quarantined, waited for a thaw, a vaccine, an end…waited to be able to join in.

It is good to be global, to be aware and attuned, and it is essential to fight against things that are wrong and pervasive and woven into society. But I forget, sometimes, that real life is right now, right where I am. If a butterfly flaps its wing in China and a hurricane results, what happens when I sneeze?

What happens where I am–where each of us is–matters.

Our everyday is important…the books we read, the food we eat, the places we venture out to visit. The words we utter, the silence we embrace; the people we reach out to and the things we let go: all of these matter in a real and vibrant way.

It’s easy, I think, to be constantly looking away, looking for where the power lives, to peer through our computer screens, to try to translate the newsprint into understanding…to ask how those Big Things happening affect my small life.

But today, something has shifted. And today I think: the little changes, the shy crocus, the unexpected book, the card from a friend, the spoonful of savory soup—maybe these are, truly, the big things. And maybe my job is to catch my perspective before it wanders off, to keep that focus, and to remember just exactly where real life really takes place.

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