September 16: I was struck first by the sound. My friends and I stepped into a riot of birdsong. Perhaps we’d encountered a city of warblers commuting through this bayside forest. Or perhaps this is what the forest sounds like all the time. I’m here by chance and kindness. My friend Wendy read my blog last night and texted me: we’re in Bethany Beach too, she said. Would you like to visit James Farm Ecological Preserve this morning?
A surprising combination of forest, marsh, beach and bay, James Farm Ecological Preserve returned to wildness (and environmental education) as a landholder’s gift to the people of Delaware. Paths led us through hardwood forests to bayberry scrub to the heads of snowy egrets popping above the marsh grasses. Osprey nests were empty now, but my friends had watched all year as osprey pairs reunited to raise a family (and to eat their catch atop a “feeding tree” before taking scraps to their nestlings).
My friends eagerly shared their binoculars with me — and one of their very favorite places. I know I’ll be back.
September 17: My family and I sliced through the tape and opened the box. We extracted bags of produce and condiments, packets of protein, and four recipe cards. Our kitchen had welcomed the delivery of our first meal kit box, and I was inordinately thrilled. (All you wonderful cooks out there, please forgive me.)
I don’t mind chopping bell peppers, roasting potatoes or sautéing chicken breasts. I don’t mind banging (I mean, “carefully using”) pots and pans. I even actually like following recipes and measuring ingredients. But I hate planning meals.
At least for awhile, my problem is solved. I now open the equivalent of four new Lego kits each week. The instructions are simple and amply illustrated. The process is challenging without being exasperating. And the results disappear into our stomachs, rather than collect dust on display shelves.
What’s for dinner tonight? Sweet chili tofu bowls. Yum.
Bonus: I hurried to the farmers market today to replenish our humus supply. With just minutes to spare, I reached the table of Borek-G: Turkish Mom’s Cookin’ Café & Market, and exhaled my relief. The vendor handed me two tubs of humus and the café’s business card. “Don’t worry so much next time,” he said. “Any day, just call me and I’ll deliver your humus on my way home.”
September 18: During my walk, I made way for five dads, four children, and three of those big-wheeled strollers just perfect for jogging with your child.
Kevin called it a baby jogger, and he’d take Baby Nathaniel or Baby Jeremiah on adventures. Perhaps they’d linger next to the pond to see the beaver. Or they would cross the pedestrian bridge and wait for the above-ground Metro to slice beneath them. Other times they’d jog down to the modest cascade where (we think) Virginia’s Tidewater region meets the Piedmont. And, as the boys grew older, Kevin and his young passenger would converse.
Mommy loved her alone-time during these runs. Daddy and son, I think, were happy to oblige.
September 19: While evading the chalk-dust hands of my fourth graders a few weeks ago, I noticed a book displayed on the art teacher’s desk. It was called Ablaze with Color: A Story of PainterAlma Thomas. Today, the teacher’s hallway shimmered with rainbow dabs of color.
The simplicity and radiance of Thomas’ work suit young artists. At the same time, their efforts underscore, by comparison, Thomas’ inimitable vision, precise brushwork and immense generosity of spirit. Therefore, if Thomas had stood beside me in that hallway, she might have been the first to say, “Everything is Beautiful.”
Bonus: On Sunday during a Washington Nationals baseball game, I mentioned Alma Thomas (as one does) to my friend Katharine. Sheepishly, she confessed that, as an employee of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, she was allowed to choose an archived painting from the museum’s collection for her own office. Her choice? An Alma Thomas.
September 20: Speaking of Alma Thomas, Jeremiah and I recently spoke at length about generosity in art and literature. Not all artists and writers bring generosity to their work (or need to do so). But we agreed that Jack Kerouac’s On the Road practically saturates readers in generosity. It’s a generosity born of the details he teases from the music, landscapes and people he encounters — and his childlike enthusiasm for each. I thought of the narrator’s cross-country bus trip and, later, his hitchhiking interlude with the “Ghost of the Susquehanna.” In these episodes and more, Kerouac recorded the quirks and sorrows of his fellow travelers (and his best friend) with tender sympathy.
In an essay called “A Literature of Place,” Barry Lopez described a practice of mindful walking: “The purpose of such attentiveness is to gain intimacy, to rid yourself of assumptions.” Kerouac would agree. He paid attention to everything, always without judgment; in doing so, his work cracks open the reader’s heart and implores us to do likewise. At one point, Kerouac’s narrator says of the people swirling around him, “I wanted to meet them all, talk to everybody.” And I think he would have loved them unconditionally if he had.
September 21: Ok, I’ve exhausted you with my cooking laments, but I do truly like washing dishes. Give me hot water, billowing soap suds, and caked-on leavings and I’ll scrub and sing for hours. Tonight, I offered my dish-pan hands to my church or, more specifically, the kitchen of our twice-monthly Welcome Table, where we fed more than 550 people experiencing hunger or loneliness.
I hoisted huge pans, trays and bowls from which baked tortellini and salads had blossomed and, with my friend Carolyn, set them down again twinkling clean. I kept reminding myself that this was an act of charity and sacrifice. But among all the church helpers cooking, packaging and distributing hot dinners, I certainly was not the only one having fun.
Readers, to receive notifications by email each time I make a post, just scroll all the way down this page (next to the “word cloud”), look to the left and click on the black button that says “Join Me!” And if you think a friend might enjoy these, please share the Delight!
If you’d like to browse my past delights, please consult the “word cloud” featured at the very bottom of this post. Find a theme or two that interests you and sift through the sands. Or learn a bit more about my Blog by visiting my Welcome page. You’ll also see links to four essays that were published in print magazines. I’m glad you’re here!