Tagchipmunks

Sunday morning snapshot

The house smells of curry. My hands do as well, faintly, the tips of my fingers a little yellow from messing about with spices. Stronger than curry is the scent of clementines when I touch my face. That, more than anything, more than the snow outside, more than the chill wind that blows in when someone opens the door, tells me winter’s coming.

There are chickpeas bubbling on the stove. There’s bread rising on the counter. There’s a new sourdough starter fermenting in the corner. Ripley, the “young” cat at seventeen, is migrating around the house with the sun, finding a warm patch here and there.

(Have I told the story about how Ripley got her name? She came to us at one week old, when her feral mother dropped her by the side of the road. Aside from being much too young to have no mother, she also had been exposed to distemper in utero and had a terrible case of the shakes. I felt like she needed a tough name in order to survive, and at that moment the toughest one I could think of was Ripley, mighty fighter of aliens.)

Our old lady dog is sleeping on the recliner. It’s a break from my son’s bed, which she believes was bought for her and which she generously shares with him. She likes winter coat season because coats that drop to the floor are also fair game as beds.

There’s tea that’s already been drunk, and tea still to be made. I owe my dear spouse a chapter of Crossroads, and owe myself another game of solitaire. I still have carrot soup to make tonight as well, and it seems like the kind of day when all I should do is bake. Almond…something with almond, because that is what I want when things turn cold. There’s the threat of a nor’easter this week, and that brings out the chipmunk in me, stashing food around the house. I’d be grateful to pass through another winter without any of the weeklong power outages we’ve had every few years of late.

But that is not today. Today is blue sky and brisk wind and pines dancing in the back yard. The kind of day I could find fox tracks in the fresh snow if I were to look. The kind of day to close my eyes and start to imagine a Montana blizzard, and a seventeen-year-old girl wandering out into it and finding…well, that’s mine to write.

Interlude

Yesterday there were thirteen turkeys in the front yard. Four adults, and the rest half-grown young ones from this year. There were also two turkeys in a pine tree out back. If you’ve never seen a turkey in a tree, trust me, they don’t exactly look at home there.

There are chipmunks with full cheeks everywhere, and red tomatoes, and apples coming in. There are beautiful, spotless blue skies, and that wonderful light that tells us the dark is coming. It’s the time of year to wonder why I didn’t spend more time outside, and why summers are so short in New England.

In another six months the snow will be almost over, and the sun will be stronger and stronger. We’ll be waiting for the birds to return, and the grass, and hungry for the first asparagus of the year. We’ll be thinking about no longer wearing coats, and cracking open windows now and then.

But for today, the trick is to look neither back nor forward, to stay right here, in this perfect, endless summer afternoon.

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