Today rocked, because I spent time doing meaningful work. Translation= actual physical labor. Life for most of us in America is insular, removed from water, land, and sky. Today, I chose to bathe my actions in sunlight and meaning. In the morning, I used my $4 four-tray dehydrator to process several pounds of fresh chanterelle mushrooms, that my mother and I harvested from my friend Steve’s woodlot in Searsmont.
The fragrance of those heady, earthy life forms brought me back to the days when I was a boy, living with my parents and grandmother, when I would leave my room and wander through the kitchen upstairs where my grandmother had lines of sliced wild mushrooms dangling from threads of cotton in the dark warm cupboards. Tonight a hard frost is predicted, so next on my to-do list was to harvest any remaining vegetables that would be ruined by the cold. Most of what I picked were bell peppers, Ace variety, with those bright reds and mottled greens into a basket, next to the eggplants, zucchinis and tomatoes that were left amidst the weeds at this time of year.
I was still aching for more of the outside that I could not clearly identify. Thus the hour and a half of moving and stacking firewood. I had bought two cords of mixed 24” and 16” lengths of oak, beech, and maple a month ago and have been moving the pile from where it was dumped up by the road to the woodshed, several hundred feet away.
Normally, I crank up the little John Deere, hook up the trailer and shuffle back and forth, moving the stuff. Today, was different. I used my wheelbarrow instead, lifting lots of heavy loads, and then pushing and grunting my way up the little hill to the shed. Lately, I have been seeking genuine experiences with real work that include heavy lifting, pushing, pulling. What follows is the sweetness of genuine fatigue, the kind that makes sleep come easy and deep. I have also enjoyed cooking for myself, with my wife away for four days. For supper, I fried up a mess of the fresh peppers, onion, and a half pound of chourico, accompanied by a half a plate full of fresh tomatoes, topped with mayonnaise, salt and pepper.
Tomorrow is going to be a long day, and before I laid out on the couch for a while, I put into the crock pot the fixings for a roasted butternut squash soup, including kielbasa, yellow split peas, sage and marjoram. The squash was one of two dozen that my mother grew for me in Massachusetts. When I come home from my ferry ride to work on Vinalhaven tomorrow afternoon, the house should be filled with the aroma of real food, from real vegetables, produced by real hands, from the very real world.