Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Carrot in winter

From that close I could smell him. A musky almost fungal scent, a smell I was familiar with after two months on the trail. But his was almost spritely, green, alive. A funk so deep I could grow broccoli in it.

“So, Maaaaah-zipan,” he says. “How'd you get that name?”

After a month of being saddled with a ridiculous name from an online comic, I was sick of explaining. Sick of dividing marzipan from marscapone, explaining how it's like playdough, made of almond paste, and that people build things out of them and then eat it. People in Hungary build statues of speed-skaters out of it. And that cracked me up, to no end. My secret, truthful reason for my fascination with marzipan was the exquisite molded mangoes and custard apples I used to spy at the Thai department store. Central. When Mom finally let me buy some they tasted like wax.

But I told one more person the story. I breathed his funk as I made everyone at the shelter laugh with the story of marzipan.

“Big County,” I say, finally, my revenge. “How'd you get that name?”

“Biggest county east of the Mississippi,” he says. Aroostook County, his home far away. Where he has Belgians and 120 acres of fir and spruce. So big that to locals it's just the County.

The first night we camp together I make my favorite, mac and cheese. It should have been only mac and cheese in my mail drops on the trail. I leave behind my wild rice mix and dried shiitake mushrooms at hiker boxes, unable to stomach them. I pick up mac and cheese and taco fiesta liptons, grab pepperoni and tuna packets whenever I can find them. I'm still cooking in my dad's old boy-scout pot, and it's far too small for even one mac and cheese, plus the additions I'm starving for. I'm distracted by County, still, so distracted that I can't manage my soda-can alcohol stove. My noodles stick. The pot is half-burnt at the bottom, and the top half is crunchy and raw. Orange powder unevenly distributed.

He laughs at me, cooks rice and beans—my rice, that he retrieved from a hiker box behind us—and feeds us both.

Tonight, nine years later, I make ham, carrots, potatoes and broccoli dauphinois. Carrots, potatoes, broccoli, garlic grown from our Aroostook soil. Happy valentine's day, lovers.

Mars Hill potatoes, our broccoli and garlic, Houlton Dairy milk

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Could I be

Birch, chopped
 Winter has been getting the better of me, I must admit. The first ice storm of the year sent trees down all along my snowshoeing trail, which entangle Shadow when I take him out and frustrate me. I'm forced to hold one broken tree aside while I push past another, and switches swat my face, leaving welts. Like that Frost line:
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
There's a man who understands a New England winter. And how'd he deal with it? Liquor and suicide and eating his family alive from the inside. Is that the fate that waits for all of us?

No, that's the lack of vitamin D speaking, although at this point I'm up to 1000% a day. Plus the heat lamp, which is only supposed to be effective if I use it to support my circadian rhythm, meaning I'm supposed to have it on at 7:15 every morning. If I could get up at 7:15 in the morning, I'd probably be fine. Another case of bootstrap-ism. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Physician, save thyself!

Lately I've taken to walking through the woods with a handsaw grazing the snow. I attack the bent poplar with vicious intention. I take all of my anger out on them. Good for my anger, perhaps. Bad for my shoulder.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Neither one gonna turn and run

They’re making a voyage to the sun
“His Master’s voice is calling me”
Says Tweedle-dee Dum to Tweedle-dee Dee

We had a thaw here on two weeks ago, with a high of 50 degrees, and then a week of twenty below. It seems as if the climate has changed even since my first winter here, in 2004. Bizarre weather patterns breaking out all over the place, lows broken in California, highs broken here. No surprise for those of us who believe in global warming, but everyone else seems to find it remarkable.

Are we making a voyage to the sun? Are we going to turn and run? I have not called Goldman Sachs, my investment bank, home of my meager savings. I hope to convince them to divest. Maybe I should just write an open letter on these pages.

Dearest Goldman Sachs:

I am greatly appreciative of the work you do managing my money. I appreciate that much of my happiness in retirement--if, in fact, happiness is dependent on financial security--is dependent on your management. I appreciate that, even in difficult circumstances, you have made my investment savings grow, at a rate beating my CD by about 1000%.

What I am less appreciative is the demeaning names you call me behind my back. Although I am a “muppet”, I am also intelligent, well-read, educated, and driven. Just because I entrust my financial future to you does not mean that I am dumb. If that is your opinion, I would like to know. I am not a cow to be milked of whatever you can suck from me. I am not ahuman to your vampire squid.

I ask you to take a look at the evidence for climate change. Take a simple, unbiased look at what 99.5% of scientists, commonly accepted scientific theory, not that provided by your employees, the executives of carbon-based energy companies.

Will you please divest entirely from carbon-based energy sources? Even if you view me as food for your hungry vampire children, in need of cleaners and nannies and boob jobs and botox and gardeners and private school and Harvard, you must care about their future. You must not want them to live in a world of chaos, despair, disaster, and economic collapse. If so, do you think you can change course, you, middle-manager, sitting there, deciding whether or not to invest some muppet's pension in Exxon-Mobil?

Only you can slowly, but surely, turn around this great ship of state. Unfortunately, such power no longer is held by our elected officials.

Do you love your children? What about your grandchildren? If you love your grandchildren, do you believe they will love theirs? Their future rests in your hands.

I also believe it is a sound—nay, prescient--investment strategy, enriching us both. Warren Buffett is currently investing in alternative energy sources. If you choose to stop buying shares in buggy-whip-factory stock, your children may end up not just surviving apocalypse, but also retaining their position in the oligarchy.

Also, will you please refrain from manually abetting terrorists and mass murderers? [See HSBC.]

Melissa Jenks