“Now the woods will never tell
What sleeps beneath the trees
Or what’s buried ‘neath a rock
Or hiding in the leaves
‘Cause road kill has its seasons
Just like anything
It’s possums in the autumn
And it’s farm cats in the spring
Now a lady can’t do nothin’
Without folks’ tongues waggin’
Is this blood on the tree
Or is it autumn’s red blaze
When the ground’s soft for diggin’
And the rain will bring all this gloom
There’s nothing wrong with a lady
Drinking alone in her room.”
~ Murder in the Red Barn by Tom Waits
i’ve been thinking. And when i think like this – i go far out beyond fatalistic borders. It’s not a cruel darkness, just one that avoids phonecalls and voicemail and email and fax machines and blenders and microwaves – most forms of digital output and noise.
It’s the kind of thinking that makes you sit in front of sci-fi films for half the afternoon with a bottle of wine, contemplating alternate futures and ultimately deciding there’s no blindingly beautiful promise, no achieved perfection, no immortality, no homogenized version of gender, no egalitarian, peaceful rule meant to blanket the world, no disembodied intelligence – only the regression to a base understanding of what makes one truly human and sentient and in it’s crude but lovely way . . . alive. For a spell.
Never do you grapple with what a production this whole thing is until you do something as simple as say, cooking a small breakfast for yourself. Or more eating and appreciating food. You get out a pan. Not clay, not tin, but some poly-cluster creation with a gleaming handle and Teflon coating bearing a brand name recognizing a long-dead, strong sounding Norse god. A pat of butter to grease it with. No. Not butter, not taken from a cow, churned for hours in wood cut from a pine or hickory tree. Well, not even butter – margarine. And from an evenly sprayed dispenser. You turn on the fire. No. The stovetop. No, not even that – an electrified flat black surface with the pan placed over the approximate round etched size of your pan. It’s hot because water skitters off the surface so you add your egg. From a carton, from some far away chicken you never fed or robbed of its children from under the warm straw nest while it protested. It whitens, sunny side up you cover it to steam and cook faster. And while you wait . . . you get two slices of bread. Oat Nut. Two things. Several really. Yeast you didn’t produce, oat flour you never milled, nuts you never grew or shelled or chopped. And you turn them into toast in the four-slotted drawer that pulls out of a recess in the wall. And while you wait . . . you’re out of orange juice, a fruit which you definitely did not grow in this northern climate but you do have apple cider, in a plastic container from a towering orchard you never walked. Somewhere before all of this, you started a pot of coffee. Not on a kettle nor pressed, but all orchestrated by one machine whose compartments allow for whole beans you never grew under a hot sun or carried by donkey pack up a steep ravine and no need for paper or filters, the mesh basket strains the ground coffee and the receptacle purifies the water of all the chemicals you added to kill the previous undesirable batch you added before which you did not take from the riverbank or pump from underground. And so onto the glass plate you never saw baked with the margarined egg and the oatnut toast and into the deep mug with the coffee and so to add sugar you never knew as brown cane once harvested by slaves now white and bleached into angelic recognition and something to cream it with . . . some milk. You’re out of milk. No cow for that i’m afraid but never you worry, powdered milk to add filtered water to in a cup with measured lines and the unused rest – down the drain because it’s not palatable enough and you’ll never use it in cereal with a glossy protective varnish or cookies with chocolate which is another story altogether. And this is 10 minute preparation. Just breakfast of 2 foods and two beverages, plus condiment. Nothing farmed, all stored in various airtight and plastic refrigeration.
And what’s this to do with the season of harvest and the impending winter? Everything, had you need of preserves and jellies and canning and warm storage and feed for animals. But don’t fret –there’s a 24-hour mega-store when you run out of toilet paper and sundries. Even some carrots for the horses. Hunting season consists for some of avoiding the sprinting deer across the four-lane highway – and you never thought you’d see them here. Possums are as plentiful as pets and just as many wasted, lost and flattened. And all that processed specialty cat chow they’re missing out on.
No. i’m not really disgusted. Not entirely sarcastic. Just incredibly appreciative (and occasionally fearful) of the labor and death that comes from bounty.
And please . . .
don’t ask me about my plans for Thanksgiving.