The old town looks the same as I step down from the train

Damn, that was a gnarly winter. Winters here generally are, but this one was especially long and cold and snowy and stormy and full of work and anxiety and obligations and upheavals. Our old car died; we got a new one. Our tenants moved out; we lost their rent income but gained access to the upstairs apartment, which is in dire need of renovation, which come to think of it is another source of anxiety. We installed a baby gate at the foot of the stairs so Dingo’s poor old hips wouldn’t slip and slide down them every morning, but then we took it away when he made it clear he wasn’t ready for his baby-gate years and would descend at a more stately pace from now on as befits his elder dignity, thank you, and he’ll continue to sleep in his room, which he prefers to the living room downstairs.

I traveled too, all winter long, most of it for business. Sometimes with Brendan, more often not, I went to Austin, Miami, Virginia, Los Angeles, New Mexico, Arizona, South Carolina, New York, Los Angeles again, Miami again. The astute reader will note that these are all points south; the astute reader might further surmise that these trips were welcome diversions from a climate standpoint, and he or she would be right, and every single one of those trips was flat-out wonderful for a lot of reasons, but they were also grueling, because they entailed getting on planes.

My hatred of flying has shaded in recent months from virulent to grimly resigned; there’s no point in spending all those hours shoved in a cardboard seat in a tin can with gritted teeth and slitted eyes, because life is too short for that state. So I’ve given up and learned to acquiesce to all the depredations and humiliations flying now routinely entails, from the security conveyer belt through the toe-tapping, claustrophobic agonies of disembarking. Now, a flight that leaves on time is a blessing. A flight that isn’t delayed, rerouted, or canceled is cause for in-flight sparkling wine and a deep breath of thanks to the gods of the air.

However, eating on planes is the one challenge I haven’t quite figured out yet. Sometimes I bring hard-boiled eggs, cut-up raw vegetables, goat cheese, and gluten-free bread with me, but by the time I’m hungry, it’s all taken on the sweaty, crumbly sheen of third-grade brown-bagged lunches. Sometimes I buy food from the terminal, but I have to read labels obsessively to avoid gluten and basic dreck, and it never seems to be what I want; I’m suspicious of those fruit-and-nut bags that cost eight bucks, which I always seem to overeat without feeling satisfied. And don’t get me started about on-board food, always overpriced and overpackaged, at best a ripoff and at worst an insult.

Anyway, I didn’t come here to rant. I’m home now finally for the entire summer, for four months, till the Moose book is published and I turn my attention and energy to its fate in the world. What a luxury this is: I have nothing to do all summer but be a hermit, hunker down, and write my novel. I feel triumphant about this. I feel as if, by dint of repeated forays out into the world to read, talk, and teach, I’ve earned the right to withdraw from the world and write fiction again, the greatest joy I know.

Brendan’s in Los Angeles right now, and he’s coming home in a few days. Meanwhile, I have the house to myself. So what did I do, yesterday and today? Anything but write. Last week, I ordered a squirrel-repelling electronic noise machine; it arrived this morning, whereupon I installed it up in the crawl space on the 3rd floor, Dingo helpfully panting below as I climbed the ladder. Because it appears to be spring at long last, I bagged the piles of brush, leaves, twigs, and detritus leftover from fall and winter, six big leaf bags full, and stored them in the garage, then I hauled out the patio furniture and set it up on the patio.

Afterwards, I researched growing vegetables in pots in this northern climate. It was all I could do not to drive straight to the gardening store, but the adult part of my brain reminded me that Brendan would probably appreciate it if I waited for him to come home, because this is the fun part of home-owning. So I drove Dingo to the eastern prom instead and walked with him in the liquid-gold late afternoon while the bay unfurled its blue, blue waves on the rocky shore and the sailboats bobbed with the suddenly-green islands behind them. Spring in Maine is always like a protracted gasp of apology that feels sexually dysfunctional but really, really hot—I’m sorry I hurt you, baby, I know that snow was deep, I know you were cold, I know it was dark, but look what I’m doing now with my rich green grass and unfurling buds and vibrantly feathery, bursting blossoms, smell this sweet air, baby, you know I love you, I’ll never do it again. I fall for it every year.

And the curb-to-compost bucket also arrived this morning. Big excitement! So I set up a Tupperware thing on the counter to put coffee grounds, eggshells, vegetable scraps, and fruit peels into while I cook, and the bucket is in the mudroom with the recycling bin, and I’m dreaming of farmer’s markets and a CSA box if we can figure out how to stay put long enough to make it worthwhile.

Right now, I’m listening to bluegrass turned as loud as I want (no tenants!) and cooking dinner just for me: a mildly schizophrenic but delicious-smelling pot of sweet short brown rice with minced fresh turmeric, garlic, rosemary, oregano, red onion, jalapeno, Bragg’s amino acids, sea salt, mushrooms, green beans, and currants. The Sriracha is standing by. The windows are open. The hot pink flowers I bought at the co-op yesterday are opening with languorous decadence in the vase right in front of me. Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

About Kate Christensen

eater, citizen, enthusiast, curmudgeon
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9 Responses to The old town looks the same as I step down from the train

  1. Leah Graves says:

    Your description of spring in Maine…yes! Good luck with the squirrel machine.

  2. mary mcmahon says:

    Kate, On the (few) plane trips I take, I make a green lentil salad w/ cukes,peppers, green onions, and bacon. It holds very well and tastes delicious. Oh, and vinaigrette.

  3. Reading this and commenting on day three of a business trip and year ? of business travel. So much that’s true in this piece. Counting the hours until I’m home with the people I love and to the places that matter. Until then, I have your descriptions of liquid-gold afternoons and wide-open windows as you cook. Thank you. Beautiful.

  4. Kim says:

    Loved every word of this. I’m glad you’re back.

  5. Liz says:

    Hi – If you look at 101 cookbooks – she is always talking about the things she makes to take on planes – all seem very healthy, and if not gluten free, could be amended. (I’m a big fan of your writing – drinking Sancerre always makes me think of The Great Man – but thought the airplane food part was more important, so didn’t lead with the praise)

  6. Amy says:

    I second the recommendation to check out 101 cookbooks plane food recs.

  7. Kristin H says:

    I hope you love your new compost bin – I seriously love mine. I’m getting better and better at creating good compost and it makes such a difference in the garden. I also love never feeling like any food is going to waste. It all gets recycled.

  8. Ken from County Cork says:

    Here in Ireland they say the only way to tell the difference between winter and summer is the temperature of the rain.
    Sri Lanka, Antigua and St Pete Beach were my winter escapes this year.
    Devon and Crete my plans for the summer.
    The only thing I miss when I’m away is a creamy pint of stout viewed from my favourite bar stool.
    Great to have you back Kate.

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