Recipes for Love

Ever holiday I find myself seated at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, sifting through a drawer of recipes. The search is as much for family recipes as it is for memories. It doesn’t take long before I find them both.

Before my Mom and Aunties passed they gifted me a few of their kitchen secrets and well-used kitchen items. There’s Busha’s (Grandma’s) hand-forged, three pronged fork. The stubby handle fits perfectly in the palm of a hand when cutting in shortening. Busha cooked on a woodstove. Any meal was a laborious monumental task. I don’t think the stove was ever cold to the touch.

I treasure Mom’s solid wood rolling pin and flour sack towels. Mom always rolled out her dough on a well floured flour sack. Thin from two generations of washings, I handle them with extreme care and use them exclusively for rolling out dough. To find one of Mom’s recipes with actual conventional measurement is not the norm. Her measurements were by feel or taste. It’s probably why Mom would call me up to come over and “watch” her make something. She would often tell me, “I’m not going to live forever. If you want to learn how to make this keep watching.” I’m glad I did so her love can nourish the next generation.

There’s Auntie Anna’s substantially cracked and chipped blue speckled enamelware pan. It must have been a favorite based on its condition. I’m so happy she held on to it and passed it on to me. Believe it or not nothing ever sticks to that pan! Auntie Anna’s cooking instructions were loud, clear and concise. Her stern direction carried over from her many years running the kitchen for the local church’s annual picnic.

Then there’s Auntie Rosie’s titanic sized cast iron frying pan. In her later years, arthritis prevented her from lifting the heavy weight. The pan than became a permanent fixture on her stove-top. Cleanup was a wipe or two with a paper towel. Still is.

I can’t forget Auntie Vickey’s delectable dessert recipes. The handwritten recipes have yellowed with age. Torn edges of the fragile paper taped together several times. The tape too has yellowed. A busy farmer’s wife, Auntie Vickey’s countertops and kitchen table held much of the overflow from her cupboards. She could make a meal fit for king in minutes!

If you haven’t guessed, I am descended from a long line of amazing Polish women that knew their way around a kitchen. Ever since I’ve been old enough to hold a  wooden spoon in my hand, they pressed me into service at some task that was age appropriate. Any gathering of the family cooks ended with a meal. Crumbs on the table were never casually wiped to the floor. Licked fingers firmly pressed the bits against the tabletop. The finger with moist crumbs attached was promptly licked clean. Ever last crumb of life’s deliciousness was savored.

The strong Polish women in my life grew up in a generation that didn’t say, “I love you,” out loud very often, if ever. Words of love may have not been shared but what they did share was the recipe’s to taste it. What else could be created in the heart of the home—the kitchen—but love?

Sweet Drops

By the shift in the winds direction and speed I can tell the weather is about to change abruptly. The sky’s sunny disposition is no match for the clouds angry demeanor. As Wally and I make a bee line for the shelter of the shed they come, sweet drops of rest.

I take a seat on an overturned pail near the open shed door, peering through the curtain of rain. Wally waltzes over for a scratch behind the ear then lies on my feet. The distinct odor of wet lab cuts through the scent of fresh rain. I breathe in both deeply. There we sit, work waiting, listening to the peaceful rhythm of the rain. Peaceful because there is no hay cut or seed to put in the ground.  Rain and I have a fluid relationship. To a farmer rain can be a curse and a blessing. Weather is a master at teaching acceptance. Over the years, I’ve learned to move with the rhythm of the rain.

While thoughts tossing and turning in my mind are put to sleep by the rain’s song, I feel content. We control uncontrollable circumstances by choosing how we cope with them. Today, I’m choosing to sit and listen to the sweet drops of wisdom coming to rest in my soul.

Put Your Lips Together and Blow

You don’t hear much whistling anymore. Dad whistled his song of life, a gift that unbeknownst to him brought happiness to many over his lifetime. There is playfulness to a sound made through puckered lips, the air tongue-tickled as the breath’s bellows pump, making music on the inhale and exhale, the breath of life’s soul music.

His favorite tune was merry and light, the chorus at the forefront of my memory. I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t hear that tune when I worked alongside him. He loved to whistle during milking time on our dairy farm. The melody danced between the clang of cow chains against iron stalls and through the persistent chug of the vacuum pump. The sound relaxed and eased the cattle. When we worked outside the sound of his whistle was clear and free, traveling far to spread the cheer of his spirit. For some reason even the faint sound of his whistle drew your attention. It had a way of calling you home—calling your heart. At Dad’s funeral, I became aware of the distance his whistle traveled into the hearts of our neighbors, far and near, and how missed it was going to be.

I have memory moments when I expect to hear his whistle. As if I could will it to travel through the dimensions of space and time. My ear searching for the sound only my heart can now hear. Every now-and-again, usually when I’m working on a problem alone, I start to whistle Dad’s song and I am called home. I’m called to listen to my heart and the answer comes.

Dad passed in spring, when the spirit of a new season is ushered in with the songbird’s whistle and the nightly chorus of Peepers, those tiny frogs with the loud chirp, echoing over fields of hope and promise. He left at a time when everything held a song in their heart. Dad had a simple pure-noted purpose in his lifetime. He was a fixer— he worked at fixing life—for his family, friends and neighbors, the earth, his animals and crops. His life was alive with the sound of his own music. What a gift to give yourself. Whistling kept him in tune with his heart, his life a living song.

I can whistle, not as well as Dad, but it’s not stopping me from living to the beat of my own heart like Dad and occasionally I put my lips together and blow.

In memory of Edward Galkowski, Sr.

Holy Hive

Reluctantly, I turn up the edge of my wool hat, exposing an ear’s tender thin skin to the air’s frosty bite. I feel the white flesh turning pink then bright red as the sharp prickle travels down deeper and further into the ear tissue. I momentarily suspend my breathing as I firmly press the naked ear to the hive wall. Sealing out all the noise I can, hoping to funnel in the familiar soothing hum of the hive, hinting that winter’s wickedness hasn’t desecrated the hives holiness.

Early on in our beekeeping venture, these late-winter checks filled me with strong worry. Six years and four hives later, my faith and trust in our ability to keep bees alive over winter has grown, but with the abundance evil’s rising against the bee, I still rely heavily on God’s ear hearing the hum of my prayers.

One of the biggest contributors to a hive’s winter survival is having ample food stores. Bees create a substance in the hive known as beebread. The secret recipe is a mixture of honey, pollen and bee saliva. A process of fermentation breaks down the pollen’s protein which is indigestible in its natural state. Beebread is an invaluable high-energy food source.

Beebread is also known as “food of the Gods”. How appropriate! A bee’s life work is creating a space to unite the gifts of light with the gifts of darkness. They are Creator’s original light workers! Bees show us that when we bring our Spirit’s light into our soul’s darkness, we can make a honey of a life.

May you receive honey’s sweet sacrament. Take communion from the buds and blooms of Creator’s Divinity.

Blessed be thy bee.

Holy is thy hive.

Tale of a Tattler

I’m a school bus driver. Our district has a “no eating “rule on the buses. Mostly, to protect those children with food allergies from a medical emergency while they are in transit. It also helps deters bees and wasps from coming onto the bus looking for sweet treats in the garbage.

On this particular day, a kindergartner tattled on a friend for eating candy on the bus. The candy was a large lollipop. I gently asked the little boy to either throw it away or put back in the wrapper for later. School buses now-a-days have high backed seats. You can’t see anything that is going on in the seats which makes enforcing the “no eating” policy extremely difficult. I’ve adapted a strategy of intentional listening (it sounds better than eavesdropping) on conversations that light up my misbehavior radar.

I can hear a quiet exchange of indiscernible words between the tattled on and the tattler. Within a few seconds, the tattler had another tale to tell, “He’s still eating his candy, Bus Driver!” I now resort to pleading. “Please, put the candy away. You know eating isn’t allowed on the bus”.

That’s when I hear the rule breaker speak up. In a loud, deliberate voice directed at the tattler he says, “For the last time, I’m not eating. I’m LICKING!”

I can’t help but bust into a big smile. Good one! I’m admiring his manipulation skills with a limited vocabulary while at the same time leaving the tattler tongue tied. Then the pure innocents of the situation revealed a profound truth.

We all know we should talk less and listen more. This experience taught me what we should be listening for—meaning. The meaning given to words is defined by the speaker. If we are not giving our complete attention to listening, talking is meaningless.