Monday, July 24, 2006

I've made the best batch of raspberry jelly ever. I mean seriously, the flavour is amazing, the colour is astounding. Makes it worth all the fly bites and nettle burns.
What, you think I went and picked them in the garden?
No, I don't think so. I have a battered, slightly pink wicker basket that I bungee on the back of my mountain bike, and pedal off into the woods. The deerflies are vicious and insane this year, biting though Off if it hasn't been applied in the last quarter hour. Even a short nip from one is painful and leaves an itchy, scarring welt. The only remedy is to cover all skin with Permethrin-sprayed cloth. I even use a ballcap sprayed with Permethrin. It also repels the flying deer lice -- like ticks with wings. There are regular ticks as well, and danger of encephalitis. I've used tansy flowers as fly whisks, after I discovered that the flies really don't like the stuff. No kidding, the houseflies won't even land on the garbage can after I laid tansy sprigs across it. No wonder Medeival households used tansy as a "strewing herb".
I have a gorgeous bouquet of tansy topped by a tawny sunflower from my garden on our kitchen table.
Raspberries grow on all the edges here, from forests to brooks, streams, and agricultural irrigation channels. It's very dry this year, so the berries are fattest by water. Meanwhile, I have noticed that the schlehen, or sloes (wild plums) are thriving in the dry (by Germany's standards) heat.
I'm not doing so badly, either. This is nothing compared with Texas heat, and it gets deliciously cool in the evenings, down to almost 50. Texans would kill for 70 or 60, round about this time of year.
Cherries are at the end of their season. I found a wild cherry tree with yellowish fruits that was just delicious. I washed them and popped them in the fridge, snacking on them now. Apples are bulging green on the trees, some with tantalizing rosy cheeks. I'm enchanted by hazelnuts in their lacy casings, but I'm honestly not sure what to do with them. We have wild chestnuts too, in tresses of spiny casings, "hedgehog eggs" I call them. Poor mommy hedgehogs!
In my forest forays, the thing which thrills me most is the finding wild gourmet mushrooms.
Naturally, I must disclaim that I spent years of study getting to know them, and if you just go devouring random fungus, you can easily end up dead, permanently insane, or worse.
I've gotten to know the European chanterelle, known in Germany as Pfifferling. Whitish yellow to egg yolk yellow on a dry day, their fresh peppery fragrance is enchanting, mixed with the mossy musky smell of the earth they hide on. I also enjoy the European boletes in their variety. Get the right kind, treat it right (porcinis on pizza!!) and cross your eyes and hope to die, it's amazing. Chanterelles are best for breakfast. Grate an aged Gruyere into two farm fresh scrambled eggs and a dash of cream. Sautee sliced, cleaned Chanterelles in fresh butter, very gently. Dash with dry white wine, then add eggs/cheese mixture and cook on cooling burner. Snip chives over, and serve. O. M. G. I'll find even more of them when I go hunting for blueberries and cranberries in the fall, along with elderberries, and the later harvest of blackberries. I don't preserve apples, so far, just eat them. There's nothing in the world like a crisp tart apple right off the tree on a snappy fall morning.
It's an experience I trade being home for.
Like most natural progressions, I am here, there, and everywhere with it on a given day. This time of year the tunas are ripening on the cactus, and the muscadines are getting ready to pick, but it's the same story of protective clothing and timing. I got the worst case of chiggers once, picking wild muscadine grapes at McKinney Falls State Park where I used to work for Tx Pks & Wild. I worked so hard, to work for them, and then they disappointed me enormously.
I like my job much better now, I like who and where I am much better now, I like my health better, and by damn I may be chilly in the morning.
For a Texan, there ain't much to beat that, in late July.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cat kept going to the edge of the garden today. Before we left, she never passed the line of grass at the edge of the stone patio. Now, after we have left her alone for a month, she explores more. First, to be out with her most beloved human, my husband. Second, well, it's, oh, sniff, what's this? oh, what's over here? wow this is a warm surface! ooh! a bird!!
It's not much different than anyone else's train of thought, so lets not make fun of this cat who is old enough to vote.
I'm twitchy, itchy and bitchy, coming back. I'm not sure how much of it to hide.
I'm conflicted about where I want to be. The good Southern girl in me just wants to go back home and take care of my mom and dad and support my brother. My wild streak says, what good would it do? you'd just be pouring good time after bad. Tears find me, when I think of not being able to be there, if they need me. I keep in mind that they don't need me yet. Not badly. Certainly my folks miss me, but I was never Miss Available. Especially with my family, where I developed my four-chambered life, I am partitioned and walled and carefully, compassionately, alertly aloof.
It's shaped who I am and how I interact with the world.
I always reserve the big guns far too late, when my attacker realizes that I am actually not only armed, but willing to unload, I generally get a few powder burns myself. I've learned that I need to walk a little taller, to avoid conflict. Still, I realize that stupid people are eaten by moose on a regular basis, just because they thought the big thorny apartment-building looking thing was harmless. Mostly harmless.
Anyway I'm mostly wild streak. Hubby, when I am on a cooking or cleaning tear, calls me the Domestic Goddess. I remind him constantly that I'm only feral. I'm just here because I can sleep without scratching.
Today the house was closing in on me after a day full of (doubtless inspired) cooking and errands. I had to run out on the bike and pick raspberries. They don't ripen as fast up here, which is good since downhill in Graf, they are starting to wear out. The occasional wild strawberry or chanterelle is a real thrill, and it's never really HOT. Deerflies are vicious, but long pants and Permethrin turned them today. They leave terrible, filthy bites and scars.
The German countryside shines like few others. Silence, grasshoppers, and bees. Smell of warm barley in the sun. A drift of liquid manure, followed by the sunny, furry smell of drying hay. Blue tits fuss and frolic in the birches, and magpies scurry around doing magpie mafia deals. The evenings are long and cool, with a warm golden sun. People talk, and blackbirds perform incredible blackbird operettas.
Soon the evenings will quicken and sharpen, and the apples will redden and ripen.
Mornings will be gilded, not with sun and birdsong as they are now, but with rimes of icy dew, leading to frost.
But for now, summer is wild and broad and in full swing.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Home in Bavaria, enjoying a glass of Indiana port. You have to know a great vintner, to get a decent glass of port in Indiana. Lucky us, our old landlord there has a love and a hand for the grapes.

Tom Petty sings a song about wild flowers. He might as well have sung it for me, back in 1999. This flower has a home, and always will, in Central Texas. The magnetic fibers of my iron heart point there, and always will. Going there fills me with joy, and leaving, I cry for a day.
It's only a day, and I bless the shortness of simian memory, for I am easily distracted by the pleasures of new places. At the same time, I realize that my perception of these pleasures are forever flavored by my experiences. Growing up in the heat and dry, my delight in cool green places is endless. My delight in the sea is also endless, however, since meeting the Agean, I'm a bit spoiled to cool, blue and clean. This doesn't mean I won't savor the Atlantic and her earthier delights. I also savor the harvest of the Atlantic, oysters and shrimp and crab, where the Agean is fished clean. The Greeks point and remark at certain fish which used to swim commonly in their waters. Gone now.

So I've been to the place I call home, and returned to my current abode in Bavaria. The goddess Bavaria and I have much in common. We are both broad and bawdy huntresses in the tradition of Artemis, her stolen Roman name Diana. Her likeness exists in the German Hunter's museum in Munich, where we made a pilgrimage. I had my picture taken with her, but one of us was looking much too serious and I chose not to publish it.

Our first week was in Norfolk VA. I could call this place home. The mild weather would allow a simply raucous garden, and the culture is friendly and casual. I would have both sea and mountain close at hand, as hubby and I would dearly love to do. He loves the sea to be near it and travel on it, and I love it to be in it and harvest its riches in fish, shrimp and oysters.

Second week was Austin, Texas. There is no more unique place on the planet, in terms of culture, intellect and interest. I took it for granted, for the first 30-odd (emphasis on the ODD) years of my life. How can one take for granted so much diversity, so much energy, so much texture and creativity, so much absolute ridiculous uniqueness?
I did. I understand now, all too deeply, the error of my ways. Indianapolis taught me first about my loss, in leaving Austin. Chuck should have gotten another job and joined me there. However, we never would have gotten the European experience, which, by the way, parallels the Austin one. This place is home. This place is home. This place is home.

If I click my heels three times, I'll get bruised heels and a lonelier heart. Texas culture is all about lonely hearts, so I fit in even better from afar. Like listening to Alana Davis's version of the Reaper, it's the same song on my own theme.
There are pros and cons to Austin. The pros include my family, my brilliant mother, my aging father and my incredibly talented baby brother. My magical godmother and her equally enchanting family (godbro J and the lovely K met us at every opportunity and we had great big fun) as well as brother KP and my beloved teachers BH and JP (points for trying, JP-sensei). I'd be sure to have work and home within biking range, only way to go in Austex.
I feel the need to be there and Pay It Forward very strongly. The best thing I can do is bring you my teacher, whether you like it or not. It's the best thing that ever happened to me, and I can't go back. It's like drinking port, once you get there, you know the difference between wine and water. If it don't got an Edge, I don't got no use for it. I hated it at first, too. I got to swallow the bitter, to find the sweet. I found it, and I'm not going back.

That flight to Colorado was supposed to be a vacation trip. I cried every mile of the way, and I'm crying now when I think of leaving home, It's another bitter/sweet equation. When I blink away the tears, the solution becomes clear. I am more than willing to spend time in Austin to care for my family, mentor/support my brother and guide their affairs. When that is done, I need to retreat to the mountains where I am at my best.
In Austin, I must negotiate the heat and the juniper pollen. In Glenwood Springs, I spring up at 6:30 or 7am, savor the light and the incredible air (thin as it is, this former asthmatic thrives at 7000 feet) and leap to the day, once I adjust to the altitude. Hikes with the amazing FG were nothing less than illuminating, astounding and enlightening (mostly because of FG's lectures). The Almighty's backyard is my destination when I decide to settle down and do my Life's Work, most likely teaching bodywork and natural history. There might be some budo involved, but only as a hobby. Much as I love it, it comes a cozy third to my great Passions.

Indiana is home to some lovely people, but the culture neither fosters nor tolerates individuality, so, piss off.
I have never been in such a stupid, ignorant, prejudiced (especially the black folks! hellO! not the way to go!) I've never met such closeminded, rude, aggressive, ignorant,careless, angry, WILLFULLY IGNORANT people in my entire life. The exceptions are statistically as opposite the mean as can be (T&LL, RC, and others in the Family) but I can't believe that the rest of you can live that way. Get a fuching clue. Get an education. Get on with your life, and realize that the rest of the World is so much bigger than you and your tiny problems.

Back to VA, there's some hope here. Folks are really nice, so long as you meet them outside of their cars on Hampton Road. They get seafood, they get the military, they have some decent music and culture.

Back in Bavaria, the nights are cool, and the welcome is warm. Where else do the neighbors offer to mow your lawn and have to be bought off with beer?

Life, in its intricate variations, is a treasure to be savoured, in any flavor. I am fortunate enough to try many.
I don't offer judgement, only encouragement to get to the ice cream store and try that pistachio chipotle chocolate scoop you've been curious about.

If all you learn is that you don't like it, you still will have learned something.