Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Autumn knocks

"The first breath of autumn blows through the trees....." (D.F. 2003) And I am both saddened and expectant. Every year I mourn the passing of summer. The long days, the sultry nights, the garden, the river, the seemingly eternal twilight. But when autumn knocks, it is a door that must be opened. Evenings are chilly, the air smells crisp, yet days are still warm enough abandon shoes and wade in the stream. The sun has gone golden, softening shadows that lengthen before our eyes. It makes me want to nap in the sunlight and purr. Soon there will be carpets of leaves to wade through instead of water and darkness will come to claim its increasingly early hold. Time to light the candles and the fire, pour the port and break the chocolate, time to sing the songs of autumn.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Way down yonder in the paw paw patch redeux

The paw paws are ripe. Our friends’ woods are yielding sticky messes of them now. You shake the trees, they fall from the sky and if you’re lucky they don’t split as they hit you or the ground. Ones picked off the trees are just a tad under ripe, ones that have been on the ground a while are often suspect. Ugly things, greenish brown and splotchy and the point between ripe and spoiled is a fine one. A perfect paw paw should be firm but not hard, give to pressure yet not be mushy and have a heady fragrance. In theory, you are supposed to be able to cut open the fruit and scoop out the flesh. However, like my other favorite forest-gathered treat, the persimmon, paw paws have many seeds and the flesh tends to cling. So scoop if you want, but the best way to get all the pulp off the seeds is with your fingers. Once all the work is done, though, the reward is sweet. The flesh is custard yellow, soft and distinctly tropical. Imagine mango mixed with a little banana, cream and just a hint of pineapple. It’s creamy, rich and leaves a sparkly feel in your mouth. While there are an increasing number of paw paw recipes out there, they are perhaps best eaten fresh to savor a flavor like no other. If you have too many, the seeded flesh can be frozen. Or better yet, live on the wild side and make some paw paw ice cream. Mmmmmmm.

Paw Paw Ice Cream
3 cups whole milk
3 cups cream or half-and-half
3 cups granulated sugar
3 lemons, juiced
3 oranges, juiced
2 cups mashed paw paws

Mix together milk, cream and sugar. Place ingredients in ice cream freezer and turn until mushy. Add the juice of lemons and oranges and mashed paw paws. Turn freezer until frozen, then let stand one hour and pack freezer. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Plant & Krauss

You can take Robert Plant out of Led Zeppelin, but you can't take the Led Zeppelin out of Robert Plant. Tonight at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, a restrained Plant showed us why a Led Zeppelin without him would be a bad idea indeed. Even in the understated environment of the Raising Sand tour, he posed and postured, waved the mic stand and once even managed to sling the mic. At times he looked like he was going to break out of his skin, about to kick, gesture grandly, wail like a banshee or dance, but all that was mostly held back, much to the dismay of STL's classic rock mecca inhabitants. No matter, as the music was the thing.

Plant and Krauss have an odd chemistry. Their voices melt together finely, sometimes changing character so much as to lose distinction. Much of Raising Sand constructed the set, showcasing this vocal phenomenon. Their version of "Killing The Blues" is possibly the best cover of it ever, and tonight it was note-perfect. The one- two punch of "Please Read The Letter" and "Gone Gone Gone" hit the audience with both band and vocal excellence that left everyone smiling. Some of the best moments, though, were when they helped each other shine. Alison Krauss was stunning on "Down To The River To Pray", aided in lush harmony by Plant, Stuart Duncan and Buddy Miller. And girl still plays a mean fiddle. A reworked "Black Dog" was spooky, "Battle of Evermore" seemed to be the night's fan favorite. They could have played all night, as far as this fan is concerned. When you have royalty creating magic, everything is never enough.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mast To My Sail

The mast to my sail, I depend on your strength
Hold me up, let me breathe in the morning sun
And I will urge you on.

The anchor to my wave, I need your focus
End my aimless drifting, let me rest safely
And I will rock you gently.

The sky to my cloud, you are my only home
In you I live, let me dapple shadow and light
And I will adorn you.

The life to my heart, we were destined to be
In sky and stars, let me be with you always
And I will love you

Friday, September 19, 2008

Billboards and Greenbar

Since returning from vacation, I've sort of been working on the house. We have way too much stuff and it needs cleared and organized. Last night I was sitting on the floor of the living room sifting through a box of old magazines and papers. It's something I hate to do; it leaves me emotionally spent. Perhaps this is why it never gets done. Finding a stack of long expired business cards welled my eyes with tears. Today I tackled another trunk filled with useless memories. Under the first layers of outdated spare mac parts and manuals lay some of the last vestiges of my previous employment: reams of greenbar computer paper and stacks of Billboard magazines. Reports, data overload, financials for a business long gone, a calendar with in-store appearence dates marked, upcoming release and concert information, a Chris Isaak backstage pass, charts scribbled with circles and stock counts, it was like a music retail archeological dig. Most of it will be gone when the recyling is picked up, as if Pandora's Box had never been opened.

Sometimes I wish I could erase my past, other times I enjoy a good cry or a hearty laugh. I guess I should be thankful that I can remember it at all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay

Watching the sun set, dangling feet, scolding birds. I could have stayed until all the stars came out, but my friends drew me away to walk off dinner on the beach. As the sky darkened, we crossed the dunes. There was a ring around the moon that lit our way down to the water. White caps rolled in over my ankles. Salt kissed my cheeks. We stood staring at the sea, mesmerized. It became a part of us as the night surrounded us, a velvet blanket of crashing sound and mist. Finally, we tore ourselves away. I wish I could have stayed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Broken yet perfect

The beach was littered with broken shells. Abalone glowed in shards of pearl, tangerine, gold and green. Sand dollars made nothing but change. One small piece of what was once a tremendous shell had been tumbled by the sea into a smooth rock. Everywhere I walked lay beautiful, broken homes. They begged a story like remains of pottery found at the site of an ancient city. Where did they come from? What was inside? Why did it break? These natural vessels of white and tan, russet and cream that churned with each breaking wave were a constant source of fascination. The closer I looked, the deeper I could see. Such fragile beauty, so complete in their imperfection, broken yet perfect. Just like us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Changes in latitude

Sailing off the coast of Florida.... now that's a vacation. I am blessed with friends and family who live in paradise and are happy to share. They open up their homes, hearts and yes, even boats to this poor, weary midwesterner seeking escape from the upper latitudes.

It was a perfect day. Sun and breeze, not unbearably hot, porpoise jumping. Plenty of time to anchor for a picnic lunch and jump out to play in the water. My friend calls it "island time". Life not dictated by an alarm clock, but by the rise and set of the sun, by the tide, by the stars, by the internal clock that is forever out of wack in our closed up, windowless, little cubicles of the work-a-day world. A day on island time is worth more than a month in the city. Two months. More. A day on the water? Priceless.

Friday, September 05, 2008

In the pines

I love long needled pines. White, Loblolly, Longleaf, there's something about them, how they offer a bed and filter the light. Little is more inviting than the soft carpet beneath a stand of these trees. Long brown needles cover the ground like a handwoven blanket, obscuring hard edges of rock and earth. Sunlight is diffused by green boughs until barely a glow remains. Branches catch each breath of air; it sings and whispers to me. Come. Come lie beneath the grove, drink in the shadows and green. Come rest your head in the quiet and dream in shelter. Come, says the grove, as I thankfully give in.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Going going gone

Nine days of escape, dodging hurricanes, gettin' on the water in between. Beaches and mother ocean, exotic flora, greedy birds and sunshine. Time to relax, play some music and embody the spirit of Margaritaville. But I can't be ready. Something is just not right. I must be forgetting something coz I'm finished packing and there's still room......

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Forbidden Fruit

Apples. I got apples. Two little trees, loaded. Never have these trees set this much fruit. Ever since I planted them about five years ago, I tried to do everything right for them. I bought all organic sprays. Before bud I sprayed this, after flower it was that, while maturing something else was squirted on. And I got a few apples here and there. Last year the late spring hard frost killed most of the crop set, so maybe they'd just stored up a lot of energy for this year. Or maybe the bees just did a better job of pollinating. It sure wasn't my crop management, because I was busy and fell down on my job. No sprays, no feeding, no nothing. I kinda ignored them. And now look! Boughs are bending, two limbs even cracked and had to be removed. That not quite mature fruit was cooked down into apple butter. The rest seem to be hanging in there. The greenish yellow one is called Winter Banana. It has a mild, sweet, softer flesh. The red ones are Arkansas Black. Tart, very firm, a great keeper. Together, these heirloom varieties make an amazingly delicious pie. Is there any better use of an apple than pie? I don't think so.