Carrots and celery are chopped and piled high in blue stone bowls. Onion grows clear and fragrant over chicken breasts in the slow cooker. I slice a small brick of yellow butter into a red mixing bowl. Each slice lands deep in the white mound of flour, baking powder, and salt. I lift the pastry cutter and go to work until it creaks in my hand.
I've used the cutter so often over the last thirteen years that the handle has begun to loosen. I must hold my thumb firmly over one side to keep it together. I can't bring myself to replace it.
A gentle mist has replaced the gentle autumn sunshine outside, collecting on the yellow leaves of the sycamore. Our wall heaters have begun to turn on during the day.
It is Sunday, and my mind is whirling around all the things to be done during the coming week. Presentations to create. Handouts to write and post. What do I want my students to consider when they read Zitkala-Sa's "The Soft-Hearted Sioux"? Did I really schedule a vet appointment for Disney and a doctor's appointment for Little P on the same day? Social media promotions to organize. Travel planning for a quick høstferie trip next week. Also an insurance claim to follow up on. Baby gifts to deliver to a friend. Updates to my CV and my website. Some contract work. Work for Democrats Abroad. Meetings with colleagues. Coffees with friends. And wifehood. And motherhood.
I scatter flour across my countertop. Powdered handprints appear on my red apron. The lid of the slow cooker stutters lightly against the rising steam of the soup, then stops. Jonathan has taken our daughter on a climbing date. I am alone in the house with my thoughts and the patter of rain on the window.
It is dark enough for candles now. The scent of the matchhead always strikes some happy part of my brain, reminds me of lighting Duraflame logs in my family's fireplace as a child. My Dad let us take turns doing that grown-up job. I remember kneeling at the tile hearth and double checking that the flue had been pulled open. The brown paper packaging on the logs had yellow arrows at each end: Light Here. I watched the flames crawl up the surface, devouring those words, and curling the paper into oblivion as they went. Then I put the matches back where they belonged.
Today, Jonathan and I hung some artwork in the kitchen. His Grandma Camp cross-stitched these changing seasons almost 70 years ago. They hung in her kitchen, too. We were lucky to be able to visit her one last time this summer. She and Little P played quietly together, passing a handful of dominoes back and forth, noting the number of dots on each one. When Little P found a domino without any dots, she handed it to Grandma and said, "It's broken," which made everyone laugh. A few days later, Grandma passed away.
I knead the biscuit dough. Fold and push. Fold and push. Pat and shape and sweep some flour and fold and push. Fold and push. Cut. Stacked. Wrapped. Stashed in the fridge. And I turn to see these little framed heirlooms--the work of Grandma's hands--in the fading light. It's World Quaker Day, and I'm spending my silence thinking of all the grandparents I've known and loved, all the legacies I've inherited, all the things I need to tend and pass along to my own daughter.
Friends, I haven't written for myself in a while.
I've written a lot in the last year. Tens of thousands of words. Not only my master's thesis at the university, but magazine articles and blog pieces and ghost writing and profiles and stuff for teaching. I've enjoyed it and hope the work keeps coming. But I have missed writing things based on my own simple pleasures, my own lessons learned. I think it's time to return to that. And isn't that the beautiful thing about seasons? They come and go and then come again.
Time to stir the soup in the pot. I hope to find more quiet, nourishing moments like this soon.