Opinions on leftovers seem to fall into two categories: Lov’em or leav’em. Staring at the plastic containers and jars hidden in the deep caverns of my refrigerator, I decided it wasn’t too late to create something new from something mold (I mean old). In the kitchen, soup stirs my culinary capacity to create. Most would agree that the freshest ingredients are essential to achieve goodness but in a pinch leftovers will do. It is decided, soup for supper!
I assemble the lost containers on the countertop to take stock of what I’ve got: a half a cup of taco meat, an almost full can of tomato sauce with lime juice, a half -pound of Italian sausage, handful of roasted yellow and red peppers and a quarter jar of spaghetti sauce. Looking over the jumble of containers, soup morphs into chili. As it is with most things in life, I’m going to work with what I’ve got.
From the smell wafting over the simmering cast iron pot, I can taste spicy success. There will be toppings of oyster crackers and cheese to entice the picky eater in our family, my daughter Sophie.
“Mom, this is good. Really good”, proclaims my son, as he heads back to the kitchen for a second helping. Shhh, over the years I have learned that the secret to repurposing leftovers is to keep it a secret from my family. There is a pinch of truth to the saying, “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them.”
As a ladle of goodness empties into my bowl, I think to myself, it’s a shame that “this” good can never be repeated again. And then the burn of that thought heats up like the piece of jalapeño I just spooned into my mouth. I remember to savor the taste of “this” good because “this” good is all I have at the moment … the slow burn of now.
There is this sound tree leaves make when autumn winds brush over them with broken brisk strokes. It happens at the time leaf edges curl inward like the crest of a wave, the stems in between letting go and hanging on to the branches. If I close my eyes it doesn’t take much imagination to see myself sitting on a sandy beach listening to the motion of the ocean or the bank of an old river rolling with laughter. I hear the soothing, calm voice of water and instantly my tight thoughts unravel. I call this phenomenon tree water.
Sitting on the porch this morning, the sound of tree water from the little patch of woods in front of our home rushed into my ears and flooded my mind with wonder. Indigenous people teach water is life, the Peoples’ first medicine. For me the meaning of that teaching goes beyond physical well-being. Water creates a spiritual thirst for connection, a non-verbal intercommunication of belonging. For many of us, all we need is to hear the healing sound of water to feel the powerful peace of belonging.
The wind stops and I feel merged with Spirit. I am left with this strong desire to participate in life. I belong to something much greater than this world. I am like water, everywhere. Together we heal. Apart we lose heart.
“I believe in God, only I spell it nature”. ~Frank Lloyd Wright
Fall, the peak of harvest time, tugs at my good farm roots. The air takes on a sweet earthy smell. In every direction, the land’s bountiful gifts lay over the fields like a table set for a feast. When farmsteads were established, it was customary to have an apple orchard, usually planted close to house and heart. Planting an apple orchard was a priority when our home was built. The scent of apple blossoms perfuming the air in late spring is like the breath of an angel. The aroma of apple anything emanating from an oven enhances the spirit of the dreariest soul. A crop of apples gives me a plentiful harvest of happiness.
“The pickles aren’t gonna pick themselves. The cows aren’t gonna milk themselves.” This was one of my Mom’s favorite directives growing up. There seemed to be an infinite number of things that couldn’t get done by themselves. During autumn’s bounty on our small dairy farm, harvest season had no end. The difficulty can be in discerning when enough is enough. There is no greater feeling of contentment that I know of than having enough … enough hay to make it through the winter … enough preserves in the pantry … enough time … enough love. Enough more times than not meant rolling up your shirt sleeves and wiping sweat from your brow. Fall, in the peak of its bountiful harvest is a time when I feel the essence of what enough is….it’s the feeling of thankfulness that fills you with contentment … enough.
Our apple trees are bearing fruit. The crop is good but not as good as years past. I was raised to believe happiness in one’s life required a certain amount of effort. You had to work at being happy. Gathering happiness may necessitate going out on a limb but it’s there hanging on every branch on the tree of life. Happy doesn’t always come to you. You have to go out and get happy.
As I gathered up the deliciousness of apple harvest, I came to understand a wider perspective of things that can’t get done by themselves like being happy. Happiness doesn’t fill you unless you are grateful and being grateful means it matters not if you have a handful of apples in your bushel basket or it’s heaping full. Understanding the fullness of gratitude means anytime happiness doesn’t come to you, you can go to happiness.
Get grateful and harvest happy.
Apples to Apples
Summer is drowsy, ready for sleep.
A dreamy scent perfumes the breeze.
Youth’s green tang mellows.
Tart and hard: surrender
to sweet pink and easy yellow.
Wolf River. Prairie Spy. Lodi. Zestar.
Voluptuous ornaments adorn
each limbs length.
Rosy streaks from stem to blossom end
graceful as swan necks, the branches bow.
Fruit at perfection’s peak now!
McIntosh. Cortland. Red Delicious. Granny Smith.
Teeth crush down through tender flesh.
Taste the ripeness
in a season’s end.
Juices run apple-soul deep, blue-sky wide.
Wipe your chin ready
from side to side.
Gala. Sweet Tango. Empire. Golden Crisp.