Tag Archives: cookies

I am a Comet

7 Jun

texas_sunsetSomeone check the lunar calendar, because there’s a resurgence of nostalgia in the atmosphere. Some tidal pull is triggering the release of countless missives from dusty old contacts, some of whom appear in my phone’s list of word-o-grams just moments after I’ve thought of them. Or in some squeal-inducing incidents, their syllables cross the screen at the precise millisecond that I think of them and happen to pick up the shiny device of telecommunications comfort.

Remind me there are more out there thinking of me. None of whom consistently, but all of whom with specific memories of what I said or how I was.

“I had a postcard from Pharmacy to send you, since you told me to send you a postcard, but realized that it would take too long to reach you before you’re in town.”

Did I request that of you? And when did I do so? Was it in February when I flipped hair over shoulder to start a turning progress and looked back to toss a stray comment that would cement the moment? It must have been then. I wanted you to see how different I look and I wanted a freeze frame in your memory. I guess it worked.

It sounds capricious, but really I will actually toy with the questions while the day evaporates. Putting softened butter into a bowl for a batch of cookies, I’ll scrape the spatula and smile sideways. I wonder if the divorce came through and now he’s writing.

And then the synapses respond to my sardonic rejection of his nostalgia with a sudden jolt of my own misty memories. The Cowboy scrawled some words this week. “I miss seeing you.” And I batted him away with my fake boyfriend, “I still gotta fella.” But now, sugar in the bowl, and the air outside feeling like humid summer that wrapped the carriage house last July, I do feel just a slight twinge connected with a perfect recollection of his smile. I bark a laugh that is actually his and stir the batter.

I am made up of these memories. I am part of theirs, and they are mine. Some people have one person they think of endlessly all day, one image that fills in all the meaning of the past. But I have a small crowd. So many moments each day are colored by a little vestige of a man I loved. And now the buffer seems to be full. I am forgetting postcard requests.

You, if you don’t act instantly, you will not catch me. If you really “take time to fall in love” like you say you do, you will miss me. I just flash by and approach orbit briefly, but soon enough I’ll be repelled back onto my own oblong course through the universe. I am on a long, long journey that will not see me near you again for such a long time. And as those days pass, I will accumulate debris and damage from contact, I will be bolstered by new matter, and I will release deadweight. It will fall away, streaking through the atmosphere and leave me lighter as I keep moving toward brighter objects.

High-Altitude Training

27 Sep

My first steps in Utah fell on the point of a mountain. It was one of the littlest mountains at the south end of Salt Lake Valley, but the perch was high enough that it looked down upon a cliff where paragliders from all the around the world flocked to hurl themselves off rock into thin air. Somehow New York me and London him thought we’d want to cohabitate in an environment completely opposite to the ones we’d known thus far in our lives.

Oops.

It snowed the first millisecond we arrived, and every single millisecond thereafter, and I spent the duration of the winter pressed up against the second-story window of my home office, watching for signs of frozen precipitation. Weather reports for Salt Lake City did not apply up there at 7,200 feet, so I found a website linked to an amateur weather station around the corner from where I was trapped in oblivion, 45 minutes away from the nearest cup of chain-store coffee.

Our driveway was a vertical cliff face, an icy amenity which probably guaranteed the property’s rental status for the duration of its existence on this planet. Despite these living circumstances, we did not procure cars with four-wheel drive, opting instead for matching VW Golf TDIs, his in black, mine in indigo.

Neither of us could ever, ever hope to park in the garage unless the driveway was completely bone dry, cleared of every last snowflake. So, I being the champion worrier and professional procrastinator that I am, took hours away from my editing job and transformed myself into a hardened pioneer woman. Unafraid to slide down the driveway in shoes meant for city sidewalks, I shoveled and shoveled in my strange new habitat. I could feel the stay-at-home moms staring at me through slatted window blinds, wondering at my ineptitude. Sometimes I looked up and smiled, hoping I looked more like a happy movie montage than some sort of misplaced, rage-filled Brooklyn DeNiro in a witness protection comedy.

Weekends were more relaxed. With no returning workaday man to worry about, I was able to indulge in a pioneer activity in which I actually held some competence. Baking. Girl can bake, and has done booked ever since she was seven years old.

So when all my batches of brownies and cookies refused to rise above a syrupy scrum of molasses-like disaster, I stood in the perfect white of my kitchen tucked into a white hill, and cried clear tears. Why. Had I lost this skill.

Dramatic irony tells the wise reader that altitude was the issue, but it wasn’t until my fifth batch of failed brownies that I realized that at the conclusion of every recipe were “high-altitude directions” I’d been ignoring my entire life. Ahhh. Ahhh. A new skill to apply! Research to embrace. Proportions and measurements, reduce sugars and leavening this much, increase liquid this much. Soon a slightly warped version of baked goods was coming out of my oven, and I was surviving in a strange new land.

Over the course of eight years, I got used to certain disappointments in Utah baking. My brownies never did quite set right, no matter what I did. Cookies always laid as flat as the dead cowboy centered in a painting that still adorns my walls. Cupcakes… well, I hated them, but Unrequited said they were just fine. Friends always ate the heaps of baked goods I dropped at their front door. I bake only to go through the comforting motions. Then I take a bite and give it away. Trust me, I’m not some disciplined dieter from the 1950s. Sugar just arm wrestles me into total collapse, so I tend to avoid it.

Cue new home at just about sea level in Fort Worth. Months go by while my baking implements rest in their new pantry, waiting for the familiar caress of their sugar-fearing mistress. Autumn tries to impress me with some darker mornings that keep me pinned in bed longer, and temperatures sinking to a crazy 91 degrees in the daytime. And it’s time to bake.

No adjustments to recipes necessary, I was vaguely curious about the results of my first brownie endeavor on the prairie. I doubted it could be very different. Sure that my recollection of childhood baking endeavors must have exaggerated the cakieness of brownies and cookies past. I needn’t expect to experience the exhilaration of good texture again. Temper your feelings, dear Bunky. Temper, temper.

Timer goes off. Brownies come out of the oven a full 15 minutes earlier than in Salt Lake, adhering to recipe directions for the first time in nearly a decade. Cool, cool, let the damn things cool. Slice, and good gawd, they are even crumbling differently! They are crumbling ferchrissakes.

One bite, and I knew. Everything in life was now completely different. Order had been restored. Joy returned. I am a baker again! I am soft and fluffy and I am the cookie of contentment. Thank you, dear Texas. Now please, who will take all these brownies off my hands?

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