Monday, July 16, 2012

Soft Summer

The ghastly heat of a week ago has subsided into moderation. It’s being the kind of summer I always hope we will have, here in the parched foothills. The nights are cool; the morning dawns with an eastern breeze tinged in chill; and the days are long, drowsy and filled with sun, without scorching. In the gardens, squash are plumping, a deluge of tomatoes is just on the verge of turning red and inundating us, and we have more lemon cucumbers than we know what to do with. In the courtyard, cosmos are nodding on the morning air; bees mob the basin of the fountain; and cone flowers are raising their magenta standards amidst the greenery.

Everything is in that slow, sensuous state of gestation that heralds harvest. Yesterday, I made a tomatillo sauce that’s so good it’s drinkable. I harvested the fruit from my own plants, in the courtyard. I stood at the kitchen counter, meditatively shucking the paper lantern husks, enjoying the surprise of either green or purple fruit, depending on which plant they came from.

I went down through the dry, fragrant grass to David’s pepper plot and harvested two ancho chilies, then roasted them in the flames of the stove burner and sluiced off the burned skin under cold running water.  I sliced and diced tomatillos and roasted chilies, sautéed diced onion, added fresh cilantro and cooked the whole thing down to a thick and sensuously green sauce.

I have Frida Kahlo’s recipe for potatoes in green sauce and was eager to try it. So David went down to the potato patch and dug me a bowlful of fresh new potatoes. They’re sitting on the kitchen counter now, awaiting a good scrubbing before they’re parboiled and then cooked in the sauce, along with chicken thighs I’ll dredge in herbed flour and cook very slowly over newly-harvested garlic cloves.

David and I revel over the miracle of eating this way, from foods fresh from our garden and cooked with love and imagination. We linger over our meals, out on the deck under the oak tree. We plan and we plot what our next annexation of the mountain will include. Last night our plan was to reclaim the next of three abandoned and brush-covered terraces in the orchard and to build a gated entrance across the front of the property, to shield us from the road. David used the grocery list to sketch the footings for this project and I rummaged old journals for sketches I made in Taos while in my 20s, of simple but elegant double gates studded with hand-wrought rivets. We discussed the possibility of making these from boards cut from downed sugar pine logs that are stacked at the south end of the property.

There’s always a creative ferment, here. Whether it’s writing or painting or sculpting or gardening or cooking or building or clearing new land, we’re happily involved in the act of living in the present, with an optimistic eye toward the future.

And that brings me to my point for today: I need a vacation. I’ve been writing and writing and writing for several years straight now, without a break. Commune of Women consumed three solid years. Fiesta of Smoke was completed slowly over the last 30 years but almost half of it was written within the last 12 months. Basically, my brain feels like cooked oatmeal. I’m going to give it a rest.

 So, I’m taking a break from the blog until the first of August. I want to indulge myself shamelessly in not much of anything. To give that chaise longue David gave me for my birthday back in March a good breaking-in. To read the writing of someone besides myself. To putter in the kitchen and master a few new cooking techniques. 

For instance, both the Mexicans and the French do versions of fried zucchini flowers. Now, I don’t know about you but on a normal day of endless pressures and demands flower fritters don’t come readily to my mind. I want to spend the kind of day where they do. I want to take a basket and go down into the garden and pick those big, spreading stars of golden light. I want to slowly and delicately separate the fresh eggs from my neighbor’s hens and whip up a thick and gooey batter. I want to enjoy the smell of grapeseed oil heating in the pan. And I want to have the pleasure of serving these little morsels to my husband on an old Mexican terra cotta platter and of watching the smile of relishing spread across his face as he bites into the crispy tenderness.

I want, in other words, a slow summer. A summer of blue shadows, rocking hammock, the drowsy hum of bees. And mostly, I want the spring in my mind to fill back up. I want it to brim with the waters of the unconscious, cool, laden with deep minerals, whispering of an aquifer of limitless inspiration. And when those waters spill over, you my friends will be the recipients of the first drops.

Until we meet again in a few weeks, I hope your summer is slow and fecund and filled with the small joys of the season.

1 comment:

Melanie Stewart said...

Dear Suzan, Today is the day before the celebration of your life and work in your studio. The saddest of news occurred a month ago when you passed away. I was shocked as were so many people. So many of us whose lives will forever be changed because we crossed paths with you. The time together was too short, but the quality was rich. You will be missed terribly.
Love Melanie