Posted by: ktzefr | July 16, 2018

Crispy, Crunchy, Nippy, Fresh…

Bunnies in the crispy, cool grass eating white clover flowers; Photo:KFawcett

I am tired of the word “crisp.”

It’s been overused by writers, reporters, and restaurants.  Not as overused, perhaps, as “unfold,” but that’s another story.

I like my bacon crisp, prefer crispy fried chicken, and enjoy the crispness of an autumn morning.  But I don’t normally like crisp air in July (today, however, I wouldn’t mind a crisp breeze).  I also don’t like crisp words or being burnt to a crisp at the beach.

Crisp sheets are nice but towels need to be fluffy.  I love apple crisp as long as it truly is right-out-of-the-oven crispy and not 30-minutes-later soggy.

If you’re an avid reader, you will run across crisp to describe both good and bad things.  But whoever heard of “crisply cool china”?  I read that somewhere recently and wish I’d made a note.  A “fresh, crisp taste” is used often.  Someone wears a crisply starched shirt.  What’s the difference between this and a regular starched shirt?

There are crisp sheets of paper, crisp answers, and a zillion different things to describe as being clean AND crisp, from fancy table linens to the lingering minty taste after brushing teeth.

No one would want a potato chip or pretzel or tortilla chip that wasn’t crisp.  We like crispy snacks to be…crunchy.

But crunchy cannot be substituted in all cases.  Who wants crunchy sheets or china?  I wouldn’t like the feel of a crunchy sheet and crunchy china would just be broken china — crunched beneath a big foot or a tricycle wheel or in luggage enroute from Zanzibar, no matter that it was wrapped solidly with t-shirts and underwear.    

Crisp can be good as often as it’s bad.  I’m just tired of it.

The next time the word starts to roll off your tongue or fingertips, consider these substitutes: brittle, crusty, crumbly, snappish, brusque, terse, curt, blunt, frosty, bracing, brisk, nippy, fresh.

What’s your favorite word to hate these days?

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Posted by: ktzefr | July 6, 2018

It’s all about chorizo!

     My local market is now selling fresh chorizo.  I haven’t tried it yet.  I’m afraid it won’t live up to its kin south of the border.  I always buy the imported chorizo from Spain.  But I love the fresh, spicy, sweet, and/or hot variety in Mexico.  

Chorizo, Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

     First meal in Mexico when traveling?  Sopes with chorizo in Guanajuato City.  If you’ve never had sopes, they are luscious corn cakes (thick tortillas shaped into a “dish” to hold all the toppings).  For three years running I’ve had these terrific traditional antojitos at the cafe La Bohemia on the main plaza, Jardin Union, in Guanajuato City.  They are served as antojitos/appetizers with one chicken, one beef, and one chorizo, but it’s enough for a meal.  The other ingredients often hard to find here are the wonderful fresh Mexican cheese and crema fresca.  A thinner version of creme fraiche, maybe, is about as close as you can get.  In the last couple of years, however, my local market has been selling a type of Mexican cheese and cream, though not always available, and close but not quite the same.

Sopes, La Bohemia, Guanajuato City, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Sausage…

     At home in Kentucky we used to butcher hogs every Thanksgiving and my dad enjoyed making the sausage.  The scent of sage filled the kitchen for days.  My mom would can sausage patties in gallon jars, freeze it in plastic bags, and fry it late into the night to eat as we worked. The scent of sage sausage is the scent of my childhood.

     For the poet Ray Gonzalez that scent is chorizo…

I praise the chorizo and smear it across my face and hands,

the dayglow brown of it painting me with the desire

to find out what happened to la familia,

why the chorizo sizzled in the pan and covered the house

with a smell of childhood we will never have again,

the chorizo burrito hot in our hands, as we ran out to play.

~from “Praise the Tortilla, Praise Menudo, Praise Chorizo”

     How is chorizo different from plain old sausage?  It’s the chiles.  Chile paste made with vinegar and dried Mexican chiles add the zing and the intense red color to the sausages.  The meat and seasonings are mixed and then left in the refrigerator a few days to develop that distinctive fermented, fabulous taste.

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If you can’t try the sopes at La Bohemia in Guanajuato

La Bohemia, Guanajuato City, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Check out Mely Martinez’s Mexico in My Kitchen to make at home!

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Posted by: ktzefr | June 29, 2018

St. John Blues…

Over the last 40 years some of my favorite memories are from moments on St. John in the US Virgin Islands National Park — sitting beneath a seagrape tree with my head in a good book and my feet in the sand, morning walks and hikes in the forest with the critters, dinners at sunset — with always a view of the sea.

It’s a beautiful island with beautiful people…may the storms stay away this season!

10 favorite “blue” photos:

 

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

Pelican, St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

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Posted by: ktzefr | June 26, 2018

Six 30-Second People Stories

The woman in red velvet boots was crossing the parking lot as I was walking to my car.  She was not young.  She was not pretty.  She was not friendly.  But she was wearing bright red boots, soft and plush looking like the fabric of a Santa suit.  A large woman in elf shoes.  Otherwise, her attire looked ordinary.  She would not have been noticed but for the boots.

In high school I had red suede penny loafers.  They were fabulous.  At first, I wore them with everything, even when they didn’t match.  I had gotten them in another town and no one else had a pair.  And no one else cared.  “What do you think about my shoes?” I asked.  Shrugs.  “They’re not Bass Wejuns.”  I asked for Bass Wejuns at Christmas so I would fit in instead of sticking out.  That was a long time ago; that was a different person.

**********

The man behind the counter is Sri Lankan.  He is soft spoken and patient.  I’ve watched him age over the past decade, his beard and hair gradually becoming more salt than pepper.  Today I was shocked to see an overnight change.  His beard, while almost entirely gray, looked the same, but his hair was as black as coal!  He or someone else had turned his hair back ten years and left the beard alone.  Imagine Santa with black hair.  But this man was all smiles, so that’s all that matters.

When my dad was in his fifties he started going gray.  He’d always had a full head of black hair and wasn’t happy about the change.  Most of the time he let it be, but on occasion he would douse it with Grecian formula, which allowed him to look and feel young, again, for awhile.  I didn’t know until recently that Grecian formula that was sold in the US (until this year, 2018) contained lead acetate (which had already been banned in Canada and the European Union).  Sometimes the price can be high for trimming off a few years.  An acquaintance of mine had plastic surgery, a face lift that left his eyebrows in a permanent high arch as if he were at an unending horror flick.  

**********

Juxtaposition — the nice looking Congolese guy, with the perfect dark chocolate skin, was shelving the suntan oils beneath a poster of a pale woman in a white bikini. 

1966.  We smeared our bodies with baby oil and Iodine and stretched out in the sun reading Valley of the Dolls.  Our comments went from being intrigued at first, then disappointed, then disgusted.  After the movie came out, the author Jacqueline Susann said this: “Valley of the Dolls showed that a woman in a ranch house with three kids had a better life than what happened up there at the top.” 

**********

She walks everywhere.  I don’t think she has a car.  I suspect she lives in an apartment close by for she is in the library every time I go, no matter what time of day.  She often wears a long, ankle-length coat, regardless of weather, and carries a small, proper purse and an umbrella.  Outside, the umbrella is up, rain or shine.  I have never seen her with anyone or even speaking with another person.  At the library she is ensconced at one of the computers, bent over toward the screen with the intensity of a 13-year-old boy playing Grand Theft Auto.

Twenty years ago I tried to get my mom interested in the computer.  Of course, everything was pretty basic back then — no Facebook or Twitter — but there was email and the amazing ability to look up all kinds of stuff on AOL.  She wasn’t interested.  Mom liked to be with people or sew or watch her programs on TV.  Besides, she said, “it (the computer screen) makes my head swim.”  Sometimes, for altogether different reasons, it makes my head swim, too!

**********

In line at the market…a scruffy looking man wearing a tie-dyed tee shirt, an aging hippie out of place here at midday when the market teems with local business folks grabbing something quick for lunch — suits and heels all around.  He reminds me of men I’ve seen on beaches in the Caribbean.  They left in the 60s, but they never quite left the 60s.  And they’re usually all smiles, no regrets.  I’m curious (perhaps nosey is more specific) about the things people buy, so I check out the man’s cart.  Bottles of carrot juice and three large bags of carrots in a neat stack.  That’s it.  Normally, I might conjure up a story to go along with the man and his cart but…

I remember that I need carrots.

**********

I’m driving down a back street, short cut to avoid stop lights, with a big yellow truck in front of me.  The truck makes a left turn and there’s the sign painted on the side: Penske.  I start laughing.  I see George Costanza with the Penske file.*  If you were a “Seinfeld” fan, you’ll know exactly what I mean.  If not, it doesn’t matter.  There’s nothing to be gained or lost either way.

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*From Urban Dictionary — To refer to something as the “Penske File” denotes being given a task, not knowing what to do with it, but going along with it as if you do. This can consequently result in a lot of ‘doing nothing’, while looking like you are working hard.

 

Posted by: ktzefr | June 22, 2018

The Wild Beauty of Pointe des Châteaux, Guadeloupe

Favorite Foto Friday

Pointe des Châteaux (Castles Headland) — where the Atlantic Ocean collides with the Caribbean Sea on the far easternmost edge of the island of Grande Terre in the Guadeloupe Islands, French West Indes.  These incredible rock formations were formed over time by erosion and turbulent waves.      

Pointe des Châteaux, Grand-Terre, Guadeloupe Islands; Photo:KFawcett

The Pointe is reached by driving east along the D118 from the village of St. François.  The drive is lovely and the scenery is stunning.  There are hiking trails and a viewpoint with a 10-meter high cross (zoom to see in the foto).  

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Posted by: ktzefr | June 21, 2018

The Sweet Habit of Afternoon Tea

The tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

~ Issa

The first time I went to a proper afternoon tea was sometime in the early 1980s.  It was in the Caribbean, the last place I would have thought of drinking any hot beverage in the afternoon with the heat and humidity.  But the tradewinds seemed always to be blowing and tea was served promptly at 4 p.m. every day — white linen, silver utensils, cookies and scones with lemon curd.  I was hooked!  

Later, when I worked for an international organization where a tea/coffee break in the afternoon was customary, I continued the habit.  I still look forward every day to afternoon tea.  And something sweet — most of the time.

A few years ago a friend was traveling on business in Taipei and brought back a tin of oolong tea leaves.  I put the tin in the pantry to wait for a special occasion.  I forgot about it.

Teatime; Photo:KFawcett

When I discovered and opened the tin a few weeks ago I figured the leaves were so old they would have no flavor left.  I was wrong!  

At the time I knew nothing about Taiwanese teas, but since discovered that the island grows some of the best oolongs in the world.  This Alishan High Mountain tea is grown in the mountains of central Taiwan.  The high elevations produce hardy leaves with a high concentration of flavor.  Some say the tea has a light orchid or gardenia aroma; others describe it as a complex mix of fruits and flowers with a light creaminess.  I call it tasty.  

I especially like the light-to-medium color, the flowery flavor, and the way the leaves last well for multiple brews.  Sometimes for a second brew I’ll add a couple of jasmine pearls.  The two flavors mix well.

“Balls” of oolong tea; Photo:KFawcett

These tea leaves are usually rolled into dense little balls that unfold when you add hot water.  I was surprised at the size of the leaves once they unfurl.  

My tin came from the Wang de Xing Tea Company, but Alishan High Mountain and other excellent oolong teas are available from a number of tea houses and online sites 

The something sweet?  Scones and lemon curd are always perfect.  But I like these cookies, too, and they’re quick and easy.  Start with a package of Betty Crocker’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie mix.  Follow the recipe but add: extra chocolate chunks, pecan halves or pieces, and dried cherries.  Don’t skimp!  Drop by big spoonfuls for big, lumpy cookies.  Yummy!

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Posted by: ktzefr | June 16, 2018

Father’s Day Food for Thought…

My dad (second from left) with fishing buddies.

My dad loved good food.  He liked to plant vegetables, raise livestock, and hunt wildlife.  Every year we had a vegetable garden with tomatoes and green beans, squash and onions, and a huge cornfield.  Mom canned corn, froze corn, and fed the dried version to the pigs and chickens.

When my dad was a young man he spent a few years living in the city in Ohio where he worked for awhile in a bakery and in a butcher shop.  On rare occasions at home he would make donuts in the deep fryer, but Mom did all of the day-to-day cooking.

At hog-killing time my dad was in charge.  He sugar-cured the hams to hang in the smokehouse and supervised the mixing and grinding of seasonings and sausage meat on the formica kitchen table.  Mom canned sausage and froze it and fried it to eat while they worked.

Dad had clear preferances about some things.  He liked cake hot from the oven without icing.  Cakes always made it to our supper table with one slice missing and icing dripping down the insides.  When Mom discovered the bundt cake pan she bought two — one regular-sized pan and one that was most appropriate for a child’s Easy Bake Oven.  After that, Dad got his own cake without messing up the big one.

He would try any food once.  When they came to visit us in D.C. we took them to the Eastern Shore and ate seafood everyday — every meal except breakfast.  At home, when fresh oysters were available at the A & P store, he made his own version of a thick, creamy oyster stew.

The only time I recall that he got upset about something he had eaten was when I offered him a box of exotic looking chocolates and didn’t tell him — on purpose — that the rich chocolate chunks with the rice-crispy-like crunch were chocolate covered ants.  I did not do that sort of thing again.

My dad named the pigs in spring that would become hogs over the summer and then butchered at Thanksgiving.  He shelled dried corn and handfed it to Sharp Ears, one of his favorites.  He talked to that pig the way people talk to dogs and cats, as if the little critter didn’t have an already-set date with destiny come Turkey Day.

Sometimes it was hard to reconcile my dad’s abiding love for animals and his love for hunting.  He never missed the first day of hunting season.  He was up at two a.m., turning on lights, getting his stuff together, and frying bacon.  I couldn’t even think of eating bacon and eggs at two o’clock in the morning.  And there were biscuits, too, when Mom was feeling charitable enough to get up and bake.  Dad liked to be in the woods in the Blue Grass region where he hunted, by daylight.  It was a two-hour drive.

I ate wild critters (I won’t go into details).  We all did.  Dad would not kill anything that he wouldn’t eat.  Friends often asked him to go bird hunting, but he turned them down.  The only birds he would shoot were clay pigeons.

I bought the two of them a parakeet once to keep them company.  Dad named it Charley Bird, giving it his name.  Charley Bird learned to talk, but his voice was deep and gravelly and sometimes hard to understand as he tried to mimic my dad.  The bird was allowed to fly in and out of his cage at will, traipse across the kitchen table, and amuse himself at a magnified mirror on the counter.  The mirror gave the little bird stature.  He fluffed his wings and strutted as if he actually were the monster in the reflection.  Unlike the rest of us Charley Bird had no restrictions.

I became a bird watcher.  I shoot photos and keep notes about the birds I see.  I feed peanuts to the local squirrels.  I buy my bacon and sausage in packages at the store where it comes from pigs that, in all likelihood, never had names.  The scent of sausage, especially on a cold morning, reminds me of my dad; cake just out of the oven reminds me of my dad; fields of corn ready to be harvested remind me of my dad.  

Memory is one of the greatest gifts we humans get — and it’s free.  I hope my memories stir some of your own.  

Happy Father’s Day!

 

“Those odds and ends of memory are the only wealth

that the rush of time leaves to us.

We are our memory,

we are this chimerical museum of shifting forms,

this heap of broken mirrors.” ***

~ Jorge Luis Borges

 

For my Mexican readers who also celebrate Día del Padre…

“Esas miserias son los bienes

que el precipitado tiempo nos deja.

Somos nuestra memoria,

Somos ese quimérico museo de formas inconstantes

ese montón de espejos rotos.”

~ Jose Luis Borges

 

***”Cambridge” from In Praise of Darkness

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | June 13, 2018

9 Sunsets and Sayings…

Over the years I have gotten up early on occasion to see the sunrise at the Eastern Shore, and it can be pretty spectacular.  But my favorite time to watch the sun is at sunset.  From my own back yard to the Caribbean Sea and the mountains of Mexico…

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

Sunset, Virginia; Photo:KFawcett

 

“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”  ~George R.R. Martin

Sunset, Basse Terre, Guadeloupe Islands; Photo:KFawcett

 

“The first stab of love is like a sunset, a blaze of color…”  ~ Anna Godbersen, The Luxe

Sunset, Sierra Madre Mountains, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

 

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free.  Don’t miss so many of them.”  ~ Jo Walton 

Sunset, Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico; Photo:KFawcett

 

“Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under!” ~ C. JoyBell C.

Sunset, St. John, USVI; Photo:KFawcett

 

“A sunrise or sunset can be ablaze with brilliance and arouse all the passion, all the yearning, in the soul of the beholder.” ~Mary Balogh, A Summer to Remember

Sunset, Cayman Islands; Photo:DFawcett

 

“And the sunset itself on such waves of ether/That I just can’t comprehend/Whether it is the end of the day, the end of the world/Or the mystery of mysteries in me again.” ~ Anna Akmatova, The Complete Poems of Anna Akmatova

Sunset, Cooper Island, BVI; Photo:KFawcett

 

“Now she’s lit by the warm orange spreading from the horizon as not-quite-day, becomes not-quite-night.” ~ David Levithan, Every Day

Sunset, Bethany Beach, Delaware; Photo:KFawcett

 

“Each day is born with a sunrise/and ends in a sunset, the same way we/open our eyes to see the light/and close them to hear the dark./You have no control over/ how your story begins or ends…The journey of the sun/and moon is predictable./But yours,/is your ultimate/ART.”  ~ Suzy Kassem

Sunset, Grand Terre Island, the Guadeloupe Islands; Photo:KFawcett

 

Enjoy the journey…and don’t forget to take time to see the sun set.

*****

Posted by: ktzefr | May 31, 2018

The Gift of a Good Teacher

On First Hearing Carnival of the Animals

Artwork:DFawcett

Friday afternoon, fifth grade. Mrs. McCormick* drops the needle on the record and sets it spinning, spinning, spinning.  Close your eyes, she says, and you’ll see the animals. The music goes from loud to soft, quick to slow; a melody pauses and a new tune starts.  I recognize the piano and flute.  I do not see animals.

Wire-rimmed specs sliding down her nose, gray hair twisted in a tight bun, old-lady shoes squishing, squishing, squishing,  Mrs. McCormick walks the aisles, up one, down the other.  The lion is marching.  Do you see the roosters and hens?  Ah, listen to the twitter of birds.  And there are donkeys and turtles and kangaroos.  An elephant.  A swan.

I am nearsighted.  No grownup has discovered my problem.  This is how I see at a distance:  Christmas tree lights have watercolor halos around them.  Tree leaves blur together into green umbrellas.  Faces disappear into round blobs.  I cannot see clearly the words and numbers written on the blackboard unless I’m sitting in one of the front rows.  I sit in back now because I’ve been talking, talking, talking.  Disturbing others.  I have so much to say and the words cannot wait.

I squeeze shut my eyes.  I’ve been looking forward to this day all week.  She was going to play a record and, like magic, we would see animals.  There are no elephants or kangaroos or lions In Kentucky, so I’m excited to know how this is done.  What magic allows one to listen to music and “see” wild animals?

The tune does not stay the same, not like other music, and there seems to be no tune at all most of the time.  It is not real music, as far as I can tell.  And I don’t see any animals.

Could it be because I’m nearsighted? If I had glasses, would I see the lion marching? If I open one eye just a peek, I can see birds, but they are the same birds I see everyday outside the window – brown or gray or red fuzzy images flying in and out of the maple trees.  I look around and all the other kids have their eyes closed, heads nodding, nodding, nodding to the music.  Yes!  They can see! Do they all lie?

*****

No one spoke about the mind’s eye (or I was talking too much to hear).  If they had or I had heard, I would have understood, as my own mind’s eye was always jumping, jumping, jumping from here to there to everywhere. 

At that moment I started planning a summer circus to attract kids who could see invisible animals.  But I would make real paper animals and put them in cardboard box cages, line the boxes across our front yard beneath the cherry and elm and oak…

By recess I was making and selling tickets for a quarter.

*****

*Mrs. McCormick was one of my favorite teachers.  Though I have forgotten most everything from many of my grade school years, the memories from her class linger.  She introduced us to classical music.  She read books aloud for fun, with no assignments attached — Tom Sawyer and Heidi and Lassie Come Home and others — that I would never forget.  She took us on an imaginary trip to Mexico via a big wall map and a bunch of plastic cars.  And she shared home videos she’d taken on trips out west and led us on our own vacarious expeditions.  She didn’t always “go by the book” or stick to a schedule or teach the subjects in proper order.  Sometimes we had geography instead of math, reading instead of history, or a civics lesson instead of diagramming sentences.  Those days were extraordinary days.  Gifts.  

I acknowledge her in my book, To Come and Go Like Magic, because teachers make a difference.

*****

 

Posted by: ktzefr | May 23, 2018

Sunday in the Blue Grass

Summer, 1950s…

     We didn’t take vacations when I was growing up.  The closest thing to a summer vacation was a Sunday in the Blue Grass.  Thus began my love of travel…

     Before daybreak we pack the truck and head to the Bluegrass.  My sister sits in front with Mom and Dad so as not to get her hair mussed in the wind.  We have the bench seat from an old car we picked up someplace and haul it over the side and into the back of the truck.  This is where my brother and I sit — on the car seat, looking through the truck’s back window between the heads of my dad and mom and sister, watching the road ahead.  Up and out of the mountains we go on a treacherous two-lane road, around steep curves and into the morning fog. 

     Once off the mountain, the hills gradually turn to flat land, the fog gives way to blue sky, countryside, and rows of tobacco with their big, oblong leaf tips turning from green to yellow.  We slip through sleepy towns with no stop lights.  Church bells ring but everything else is closed up tight on a Sunday morning.

     Two hours later, we are finally at the turning-off place.  We leave the paved road and turn onto a one-lane dirt trail that meanders through rolling hills and long tracts of green pastures.  Cows and sheep and horses and goats dot the fields.  Every few minutes we have to stop, jump over the side of the truck, and open one of many gates leading back to the farm.

     We open and close and do this again and again.  Don’t let the sheep out.  Watch for mud holes.  Distant blue skies touch the horizon in glimpses between thick stands of trees.  A pond here and there glistens in the sun. 

     The house sitting all alone at the end of the road is, in my mom’s words, “99 miles from nowhere”– perched in the center of its own green universe.  A barn and some sheds.  Chickens in the yard.  Somewhere a rooster crows.  It smells different here.  Scent of the boxwood circling the house mingles with animal smells, flowers in bloom, the green, clear air.

     The old house holds mysteries.  In the living room a cuckoo clock with a pink girl and a blue girl foretells rain or sunshine.  When I hear it chime I run to see which girl comes out to twirl her umbrella.  Will we sail back to Appalachia on a golden afternoon or will the rains come and wash away all the good cheer of this one-day adventure?  Will it be a pink or blue day?

     At the big table in the dining room we are treated like royalty.  I get to drink milk from a thick, heavy German beer mug that has been frosted in the freezer.  There is fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, just-picked green beans and corn and carrots.  Hot biscuits in a basket and home-churned butter the color of a milky sun.

     Later, sitting in the shade, the men tell stories and the women talk about canning and quilting and growing flowers.  There are no other children here, so I gravitate from one group to the other, back and forth, not wanting to be left out and not fitting in anyplace.  But joy is in the air, almost palpable.  Everything is more colorful, sounds more delightful, familiar scents somehow made exotic in this place.  I had started, even then, to associate travel with the extraordinary.

     The house had an upstairs that I wanted desperately to explore, but my mom said no.  It was impolite to go “pilfering” around someone else’s house.  I should not go upstairs unless the old lady offered to take me.  But how would she know to offer if I didn’t ask?  I had to be satisfied with exploring outside.  Swinging on the porch swing, picking wildflowers, searching beneath the porch and around the evergreens for the Persian cats. 

    Once I discovered a big ram asleep under the corn crib and when I stooped to get a better look he woke up and raised his head, rolled his eyes at me.  Thick horns curled above his ears.  He didn’t look happy to be disturbed.  When he started to grunt and move, inching himself from beneath the crib, I ran.  Over the years my curiosity would lead me into other risky places, but I always seemed to know when to run.

     I learned other lessons, too, on these short outings.  Once, while riding bareback I almost hanged myself on a clothesline.  I was overly confident and came galloping around the house and didn’t see the bare wire strung across the yard.  Sometimes when you go flying head first and don’t take stock of the surroundings, you risk hanging yourself.

     Years later, I will find myself amongst a zillion varieties of cuckoo clocks in a little town in Germany, a picture perfect medieval setting, right out of a story book.  The people there will remind me of the old man and woman who lived in the house at the end of the lane on a farm in the Blue Grass. I am tempted to buy a clock, but I buy a tiny cuckoo clock charm instead that will remind me of both places.

     Now, when I look at pictures, the old farmhouse looks small, rather dilapidated.  And where are the boxwood I remember so well, the hedge that circled the front porch and gave off its musty scent on July afternoons?  I have a suspicion that the upstairs that seemed so mysterious back then, the place whose passages I yearned to “pilfer,” likely held no mysteries at all. 

     But it was all so lovely in my imagination.  I reflect on places I’ve been that others may think are just okay, nothing to write home about.  But me?  Why, it’s marvelous!  Didn’t you see or hear or taste or feel (fill in the blanks)?  Ah, the eye of the beholder makes all the difference. 

     Five ways I’ve found to behold beauty almost anywhere: make friends (i.e. never meet a stranger), find something to love about every place you go, taste almost any food at least once, and try to speak the language – even if you make a fool of yourself.  The most important of all – don’t expect any place to be just like home.  Otherwise, why travel in the first place?

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The word “pilfer” did not mean “steal,” as the dictionary claims.  It meant being nosey, rummaging around in other people’s stuff, checking in drawers and closests without permission.

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