Posted tagged ‘burning leaves’

“Autumn bowed to place a beautiful crown on the Queen of Morning, and her velvet robes sway merrily in the chilly breeze.”

November 4, 2017

The morning was chilly. I took Gracie out into the backyard and sat and waited for her. I smelled a wood fire and all of a sudden my memory jumped back to Ghana and mornings during the harmattan. Those mornings were cold, as cold as I ever felt in Bolga where daytime temperatures often reached over 100˚. The morning air was filled with the aroma of wood fires burning in the compounds behind my house. I could hear muted voices and the sound of water from the tap filling my students’ buckets for their morning baths. Roosters still crowed. Those mornings were a delight.

Gracie has muscular degeneration. Signals aren’t getting to her back legs. The vet said it will get worse, but she is hoping we can slow the progress. Gracie is now getting a pain pill every day. In two weeks the vet will assess the value of her continuing to take them. After that two week mark, Gracie is going to start acupuncture. She’ll have two sessions and then an evaluation to see if it has helped.

I could barely walk this morning and my back pain was horrific. Yesterday I had to lift Gracie three times: twice to the car and once to the backseat of the car after she had lost her footing and couldn’t get back on the seat; consequently, I have ordered a back dog lift. I wish I had it yesterday.

Every time I look out at the deck, I feel a bit of sadness. All the furniture is covered. The flowers have been moved off the rails. The candles hanging off the branches are gone. Only the bird feeders remain.

When I was a kid, the preparations for winter were my father’s jobs. He took down the screens and replaced them with the storm windows. He removed the screens from the two doors and put in the storm doors. He went to the gas station and had the snow tires put on his car. Every weekend he’d rake the lawn, move the pile of leaves to the gutter by the sidewalk and then burn them. The smell of burning leaves is one of my all time favorites, and it carries memories of my dad. I can see him standing there by the flaming leaves while smoke billowed into the air. He held on to his rake and used it periodically to move more leaves into the fire. I stayed until the leaves were gone.

“Leaves leave this world in beautiful fall colors and songs.”

November 5, 2016

I have returned. My computer is working just fine; Gracie is outside barking, and I am in a far better mood. I went to the ATM and got $100.00. I then got gas as the little gas pump had appeared, and finally, I went to a vintage/handicrafts fair. Now I have $10.00 and several bags. Spending money and buying presents were just what I needed to get me out of that funk. I bought Christmas presents and a few stocking stuffers. I still need bread and cream, maybe later.

Today was another lovely day. If I were a kid, I’d want to jump into a pile of leaves. It’s just that sort of day.

I remember the piles of leaves up and down the street on a Saturday afternoon. All the fathers raked on Saturdays as if it were a rule. My dad had a bamboo rake. I remember he had a pattern to his raking. He’d leave a few small piles here and there then join them into a giant pile he’d rake then sweep to the street. After that was the burning. I loved the smell of burning leaves, and I loved to watch them burn. First came smoke in the middle of the pile then they’d be a small flame. My dad watched and monitored the burning. He always warned us not to get too close, but we got as close as we dared. After the burning, I loved how my jacket always smelled like the smoke.

Turning the clock back means I get an extra hour of sleep, but then again I figure I am just getting the hour which was taken in March. I still don’t get the need for daylight saving time. It seems you can pick and choose which seems to complicate the whole time thing. Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t observe daylight savings (the exception is the Navajos, who do observe daylight saving time on tribal lands). Throw it out is my advice.

I wore a flannel shirt outside today, and I was plenty warm. I thought about adding a vest, but sometimes I live dangerously.

“If God had created celery, it would only have two stalks, because that’s the most that almost any recipe ever calls for.”

November 21, 2015

Today is the quintessential New England fall day. The sun is shining, the sky is a light blue, a breeze becomes a wind then a breeze again and the temperature is in the high 40’s, low 50’s. This is the sort of day when all the fathers in my neighborhood would rake then burn the leaves. Each would stand on the side of the street in front of his house rake in hand as he tendered the fire and fed it leaves. The smoke carried that wonderful smell which still means fall to me. I loved to watch the small fires and listen to the crackling sound the leaves made. I remember the smoky smell stayed on my jacket long after the fire had gone out. I miss that smell of burning leaves. It was my favorite fall ritual.

When I was growing up, my mother was an average cook or maybe I should say cooked average foods or common foods. She knew fancy meals and my father were not a good match, and we four kids would probably refuse to eat something for dinner hithertofore unknown. What is it was usually the kiss of death for any new dish. I’m not eating that said in disgust generally followed my mother’s answer. Potatoes were always mashed and so were carrots to disguise they were vegetables. I don’t know why vegetables had such a bad rap with every kid I knew. Just saying the word gave us a shutter. We knew they’d be at least one on our dinner plates, and we hoped it was a vegetable from the sanctioned list of acceptable vegetables. It was a small list. Peas topped my list and corn of any sort was on all our lists. Creamed corn, though, was not a huge favorite of mine. I always hated how it spread all over the plate and its color wasn’t all that appealing. We seldom left food on our plates because my mother was smart. She always served us stuff she knew we’d eat.

When we were older and our palates had expanded, my mother cooked all sorts of food for us. By then I had gotten over my distaste for vegetables except for beans and Brussels sprouts. Potatoes didn’t have to be mashed and carrots no longer needed a disguise. My mother, it turns out, was a fantastic cook. She had hidden her culinary talents until we were old enough to appreciate them.

I was my mother’s sous chef. It was a huge honor.

“Autumn flings her fiery cloak over the sumac, beech and oak.”

October 7, 2013

The weather is quirky. One minute it is dark and gray then the next is sunny. The house is cold while outside is warm. Showers are predicted for later. On my way to breakfast, I noticed many leaves had fallen. Piles of yellow were on the road and sidewalks. I thought it strange. Many trees have yet to change color while others are almost bare. My oak is still green.

Nothing was more enticing than the piles of leaves in the gutters next to the sidewalk curbs on my way to school. I’d kick through the piles and spread leaves all over the side of the road. The dry leaves on the bottom made a crunching sound while the newest fallen leaves on the top always seemed a bit damp and filled with morning. Most of them were yellow leaves. The trees were spaced beside the sidewalk edge. In summer the sidewalk was shady; in winter it was bare and open to the wind. The sidewalk was a straightaway to school. From the top of the small hill I could see to the railroad tracks and once there I could see the front lawn of the school building, but I couldn’t see the statue. It was too far off the road. I never minded that walk except when it rained. That was when the straightway seemed to go on forever. If I had known how perfectly descriptive a word it was, I would have said I plodded my way home.

The Cape has few sidewalks. Only the oldest parts of some towns seem to have them. My town has a few which slope and have cracks. None of them have curbs. No one kicks leaves.

I remember my dad and all the other dads standing on the side of the road near the curb burning piles of leaves. By then the leaves were curled and brown. They burned easily. All of us kids stood near the fires and watched. Our clothes afterwards smelled of fire and burning leaves. It is still one of my favorite smells, one of my favorite memories.

“Each day has a color, a smell.”

October 5, 2010

It is a put a mirror under her nose to make sure she’s breathing sort of morning. I went to bed really late, or early if you’re a stickler for exactitude, as I just wasn’t tired. I watched bad movies, read a bit and shopped through some catalogs. It was nearly ten when I woke up. Even the animals slept in with me. The day is rainy and chilly. I think I chose a good morning to stay in bed. I hate wasting sun.

Smells are amazing. They let us travel through time and space. One of my favorites is the aroma of freshly baked bread. When I was a kid, two bakeries in the square made their own bread, and I’d sometimes buy a roll still hot from the oven. It didn’t need butter. It was sweet enough on its own.

Fall is still the smell of burning leaves for me. I always thought of smoke signals when I saw piles of burning leaves with their gray smoke snaking into the air. In my memory, the day was always chilly and standing near the fire was warming. My clothes smelled like the burning leaves, and I hated to put them in the wash. Christmas smells like a fir tree. I remember walking downstairs every morning and smelling the tree in the living room. Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. On Thanksgiving, the house was filled with the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven. The kitchen windows were covered in steam, and I couldn’t see outside. I’d watch my mother baste the turkey, and we’d share a small piece of the crusted stuffing she’d pull off the end.

The smell of charcoal lighter fluid brings back my father. He was a firm believer in soaking the briquettes, and as soon as a match hit them, the flame would rise high into the sky. The whoosh of the fire always sent him reeling backwards. He set his pant legs on fire many times.

Burning wood is Ghana. Everyone used wood charcoal. Some villages were charcoal villages, and long logs were kept smoldering to make the charcoal. Every morning I smelled sweet burning wood as my breakfast was cooked on a small round charcoal burner. First it was the water for coffee, then the eggs while the toast leaned on the burner and was turned so both sides would brown. My dinner was cooked the same way.

At night, the sides of the street were filled with women selling food. They fried plantains in white enamel pots over wood fires or roasted skewers of Guinea fowl and chicken on screens over the fires. The town was mostly dark so the small fires looked like bright, low flickering street lights. The whole town smelled like wood burning, like a cozy fire in winter.