Here’s me awake in the dark of the morning again.
Quiet today. Not even a breath. Always leading into summer, there’s this rush and then a hush, grabbing fistfuls of life and then squatting behind the shed to gobble it up. Maybe don’t want to go back there right now. As it’s hush time. But it’s such a short pause. Just a breath really. Then it gets down to the business of heat. I don’t like heat. Never have. Don’t know if anyone does. It’s all cranky and sweat and meanness. The hens just pant.
Which reminds me, got to see about shearing.
I never used to like morning, but this old body has its own opinions now. And maybe I’m coming around to it. It’s quiet. It’s cool. There’s not much to do but think, remember. Use these old hands for small jobs. Brew tea. Bake scones. And it’s the best time to be out in the garden. Under the waning moon with the morning stars blinking and the morning light blossoming. Rake up the fire in the horno. Clip this, pull that, gather the morning into wicker baskets. And sing to the plants. They listen in the stillness of the morning. Sometimes they answer.
Of course, the birds all have things to say to the dawn.
There’s a robin who lives in the jack pine. Don’t think he ever leaves. Shouldn’t he be migrating? Well, anyway. He sings plaintively every morning for the pure want of song. Morning air is so still, his voice fills it up with intimacy, as though he sang just to me, singing me all his memories and sorrows, his dreams and joys. Which probably run to fat worms and soaring under the sun, but yet I can share in that while it’s quiet enough for my thoughts to settle and still and soar with him. In the early morning I can be a robin.
Until my body has other ideas. Pressing ideas.
Once upon a time pipes brought water into the house. I’m sure it was a nightmare, plumbing. So many things to go wrong. No steady state when water is involved. And water mixed with metal? Who thought that would last? Well, they didn’t think much about duration back then, did they. Seems like they truly believed the world would end when they died.
Not all of them. Some planted trees. Some saved seeds. Some built houses with thick walls.
But still, water flowing into the house. Sometimes I wish. But usually only at times like this.
Because I do like the rhythm of water. Routine bit of work is calming. Pump, bucket, carry, fill. Helps that my well is still flowing right outside the back door and the necessary is in the herb garden. I know some that must walk to the river to fill up every day. Must be excruciating for an old body. Those shoulder harnesses. But one does what one must. And right now one must make tea.
Bit of mint today, I think. And lemon balm. The morning scents in the stillness are as much song as the robin’s rhapsody. This one high piercing rose note and a glissando fall of apple blossom. The bass rosemary resin and black earth. The burbling of lavender and germander and bergamot. And the murmuring counterpoint of cutting celery and chives and sage. And oh! the morning scent symphony when the tomato vines are singing and the agastache is piping. But that’s later. Haven’t even planted the tomatoes out yet.
They’re getting close. Used to be that I’d plant out on May Day. Well. Long ago, used to be. Time foreshortens at my age. But anyway, I remember otherwise. Seed on Candlemas for sturdy plants by May Eve. Still seed on Candlemas, but my tomatoes are in a hurry these days. Rush before the hush. Gobbling up fistfuls of life. Potted up twice by Easter and ready to ramble by Earth Day. Not complaining too much. I like early tomatoes. But it does make for a lot of canning in the summer heat.
Things to be grateful for: the horno and the grill.
That’s another thing from back then. Some decided the heat didn’t belong in the kitchen. Well, there’s the solar range. But it hardly gets warm. And there’s the wood stove. But who doesn’t like a glowing fire at Midwinter?
There’s this idea that it’s always hot in the desert. Never need a fire to warm your old bones in the desert. Never have to worry about frozen tomato vines. Don’t know where that supposition comes from. Yes, it is hot in the daylight. And long hours of daylight make for torrid evenings. But every desert breathes and the exhalations are cold. Cold even in the middle of summer boiling. Where all this wind and blowing sand comes from after all. No cloud up there to hold in the rushing air. All the heat flies off into space. Though it settles with the monsoons. And by harvest all the rush has gone out of the valley. You look out over the river and see the cold air brooding above the bosque. Smoke doesn’t rise in the autumn desert dawn. But that’s cold, not hot. An insulating blanket of frigid blue air over the golden vegas. Beautiful, if eerie.
So fire in the hearth. But under stars not sun. Nobody wants to can tomatoes in the kitchen. Miserable that would have been. It’s said that women did that. Those burning ovens and flaming cook tops. Suppose there’s air conditioning. But a swamp cooler doesn’t work when you’re boiling water in the kitchen.
Some wise woman must have figured that out. Moved the kitchen to where it could breathe with the rest of the desert. There’s sand now, but that’s better than sweat. And a sweat you’d never escape, putting all that steam into your house. Imagine trying to sleep. It’d be like the hen house in June. But all the time. All. The. Time. I’d be like the hens, plopped on a perch, panting and put out, feathers all akimbo trying to catch some air current to cool my skin.
Sometimes I wonder how I’m here with all they had to survive back then.
But here I am. In the still morning light. Me and this robin singing the sun into the sky. Scallion scones baking in the horno. And there’s tea.
That’s another thing about back then. It’s said that most folks didn’t even have gardens, never mind chickens. And what many of those old folks used those kitchens for I’ll never know because it’s also said they didn’t even bake bread. They rushed about from place to place in those car things, buying the morning brew and bread. Couldn’t even carry it all on a cargo bike, I suppose. Guess that solves the indoor heat problem. But it makes you hot and bothered all the same. And all that rushing about like spring wind. For what will just grow outside your door.
Well, not the bread. That would be a neat trick. But you only have to get grain a few times a year. No rushing around for daily bread.
Things to be extra grateful for: fresh baked scones with the sunrise.
Then off to milking.
©Elizabeth Anker 2021