Saturday, April 8, 2017

Weighing and Awaying

Preparing to move, I have been living in the future and the past for several weeks—weighing the space available in our new home-to-be and what it will desire or require of worthy owners, and in preparation sorting through old memories (clothes that no longer fit, books that go back to college—The Magus, The Sun Also Rises, high school—Red Sky at Morning, Le Grand Meaulnes, still earlier favorites—Pogo, Eloise, Misty of Chincoteague), getting rid of the fondue pot my parents gave me in my 20s, the doleful red teddy bear my mother's cleaner brought for her from Mexico, my wedding shoes, two hundred plastic lids from every-other-Friday take-out from Janta Indian restaurant, Cat Stevens and Musical Heritage Society LPs that gave way to cassettes and then CDs and then got transferred to iPods.  Clothes that have defined me, skins that I have shed.  With all this weighing going on, I've also been weighing the way forward and the way back, in the two pans of the balance scale; the weight of me, my worth, the grand sum of my life after all of the additions and subtractions, at this moment of reckoning, this juncture between what I've been and what I might yet be when I am somewhere else.  Lady without fondue pot.

Last night I cooked the jerk chicken which I'd been meaning to for months, and in the process of chopping green onions, cutting a lime (a gift, whose fragrance brought back all the limes I used to take to Kona to squeeze on my morning papaya), reeling a little from the habañero peppers whose trace now remains on my skin, I remembered that just before I left my beloved "treehouse" on Forest Avenue, two moves ago, I gave myself a ten-years-overdue housewarming party, with friends from all ends of the Bay Area and all eras of my sojourn here gathered on my leafy deck and wobbly outside stairs and slanting sun porch with its hundred wavy little windowpanes on the second story of the Victorian house I was about to leave, and made jerk chicken along with many other Caribbean dishes.  That batch was hotter than even I could bear—weaned though I was on Santa Fe's hottest chiles.  I'd bought all new spices for the occasion, and so the cayenne and others were at their most potent, not lulled to sleep as I was used to their being after years of sitting shouldered up to other, duller, spices and herbs on kitchen shelves.  Maybe I'm subconsciously replicating that previous leavetaking.  Maybe it's some kind of necessary ritual for me, making jerk chicken before I move out and on, like a Jamaican version of a sage smudge to smoke out the spirits of the dead, the apprehensive ghosts afraid of being left behind.

image:  spices on scale (Can stock photo)

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