Posted tagged ‘wood burning’

“Music replays the past memories, awaken our forgotten worlds and make our minds travel.”

December 30, 2017

The deep freeze continues. It is 16˚ and snowy weather is predicted. The sky is grayish white, and the air is still. I have to go out later for the one thing I didn’t know I needed the other day when I shopped, toilet paper, an item as essential as food and water.

My car needed only the oil change. Everything else checked out just fine though I was told to keep an eye on my tires.

In Ghana this time of year I loved the weather. Today in Bolgatanga it was 88˚ but tonight it will be only 68˚, and that’s the way it will continue for the rest of the week, even getting as low as 63˚ at night. That’s one thing I didn’t expect in Ghana, cold weather. I had no clothes to keep me warm. My students every morning were dressed in sweaters on sweaters and layers after layers. I had bare arms and sock-less feet, but I had steaming coffee in a huge mug to get me started, and the mornings warmed quickly.

I watched a movie today which partly took place in Jordan. One scene was of the city of Amman in the early morning light of dawn, and the only sound is the call to prayer. I stayed right near a mosque during my Peace Corps live-in, a three week stay with a family. I was in a town called Bawku which is heavily Moslem. A small mosque was on the street below my room. The pre-dawn call to prayer was live, not recorded. I heard it every morning and still remember so well the beauty of that song. The single voice was clear and powerful. It became familiar. I’d lie there listening then at the end of the song I’d fall back to sleep.

In Marrakesh I also heard the songs to prayers every day coming from a mosque not that far from my riad and also from the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest one in the city which towers over everything. Its minaret is sort of a landmark for the city. I was usually out walking around when I’d hear the afternoon calls. The voice was recorded, but it sounded over everything else and was rhythmic and lovely.

I know smells become familiar and trigger memories. The aroma of burning wood   always brings me back to Ghana, especially the mornings, when breakfast was being cooked over the fire. When I was in Morocco and heard the songs to prayer, I was reminded of Ghana, and that small mosque and the beauty of the single voice singing. It seems sounds too carry memories.

“Each day has a color, a smell.”

October 8, 2017

The day is cloudy dark. Rain is predicted. It is also windy which makes it feel colder than it is. I had to shut the back door. Last night was Gracie busy. She had me up every couple of hours, and we went out at 3:30. I went back to sleep but woke up when I heard her moving around at 8:00, but she readily jumped on the couch with me, and we both slept until 10.

I did all my errands yesterday. I had a route in mind, but the cars in long lines at the lights had me reconsider how to get there from here. I should have realized they’d be lines as this is, after all, a three day weekend, sort of summer’s last hurrah. Today is a stay off the roads day as the weekenders will be driving around looking for something to do.

I can smell wood burning again. The smell has again triggered memories. I remember overnights at Camp Aleska, the Girl Scout camp in the town where I grew up. The camp was up a dirt road across from the zoo and was surrounded by tall pine trees. Paths were behind the camp and led all through the woods. There was one big room in the camp with a huge fireplace. My favorite part of the overnight was falling asleep as the fire waned and the embers glowed in the dark. I have mentioned mornings in Ghana several times. The air smelled of wood fires as breakfast was cooked over wood charcoal. In the market, huge bags of charcoal were for sale. In some villages tree trunks were slowly burned into charcoal and bags of it were for sale on the sides of the road. Even the irons were filled with wood charcoal.

At night, aunties, older women, sitting along the sides of the main road in Bolga cooked food over wood charcoal and sold it.  I remember the smell in the air was a combination of the wood charcoal burning and food cooking at my nighttime snack stops. That was the first time I ever tasted grilled corn and deep fried plantain and yam chips. Guinea fowl was rare, but I always bought it if I found it. I remember the spots of light from the lit lanterns up and down the street and the blazing embers under metal bowls filled with groundnut oil where the food cooked.

I am ever so thankful for having served in Ghana and for the memories still strong and vibrant.

“I have a very bad relationship with mice.”

October 6, 2017

When I went out with the dog, the air smelled of wood burning. It was morning in Ghana. All that was missing was the rooster crowing.

The day is again remarkable. The doors and a few windows are open. The sunlight made me squint. I felt like a mole emerging from my underground burrow. It is a day in October wearing the best of a summer’s day.

I slept in this morning, waking up at 10:30. It was close to one when I went to sleep so I was surprised by how long I’d slept. My mother would have said I must have needed it.

Yesterday, Leandro, one half of my cleaning couple, went into two lower cabinets to clean them. I suggested he might want a mask as those cabinets are where the mice used to live. He actually had one with him as well as gloves. He started pulling out everything: the pots and pans, paper goods, Tupperware, baking supplies and dishes. He vacuumed the bottom of the cabinet as he uncovered it. He mentioned my mice must have been diabetic given the number of empty Equal packets he found, each chewed at the top. He checked the expiration date of the food he found: all had expired years ago. I didn’t even remember food was there protected by Tupperware. I was hoping he would find two of my favorite missing kitchen tools: my apple peeler corer and my old double loaf pan, the one I always used for my date nut bread. He didn’t find the pan. I was disappointed and perplexed. I can’t imagine where else I could have put it. Lee found a good size mouse nest made of paper towels, dust and pieces of cardboard. It might have been the home of the three dead mice he found, all mummified. One clogged his vacuumed. That was the only one I saw. I had him throw away some worse for wear pots and pans I never use, didn’t even remember they were there far back in the cabinet. They are as old as the house and were gifts from my aunt when I moved in. I filled the dishwasher twice.

It rained last night just after I’d turned out the lights. The window beside me was open, and I could hear drops hitting the leaves though it took me a minute or two to figure what I was hearing. That was the sound which lulled me to sleep.

This will be a quiet weekend.

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”

July 25, 2011

Today feels as if I’m living in a new world. It is cool and pleasant with no humidity. Last night I didn’t even need the air-conditioner in my bedroom. The next few days will be the same. I’m thinking I’ll be living on the deck for a while, and I suspect tonight’s outside shower might be just a bit chilly.

We had our movie on the deck last night instead of Saturday. Continuing with our Boston film festival, it was The Departed. What was fun, and I’m not referring in any way to that movie, was recognizing scenes from our Boston movie tour last fall. The best one was where Matt Damon, after a rugby match, was sitting on a bench in the Common looking at the state house. In real life, a statue would have been in the way. That’s movie magic.

I’ve written the start of this paragraph three times and deleted each one. I just wasn’t interested in what I had to say. Twice I got up and did something in between. I cleaned the coffee pot and on my second run I moved around a few things I hide behind the TV set. One of those things was a diffuser, and it got me thinking about smells. I have a few favorites. Cookies baking is one of them. I think of my mother and sugar cookies and Christmas. She made them every year, even when we were adults. They were as much a part of Christmas as were our stockings. Turkey roasting is another smell I love. I can see my mother standing hunched over the turkey bulging out of its pan. It always just fit without any spare space. I remember the baster and how she’d use it to suck up the juice then baste all of the turkey. She used to steal a bit of the stuffing, the crusty part at the end. Burning wood is another favorite smell. It reminds me of Ghana. The Ghanaians used wood charcoal for cooking, and I could smell it all over town when I walked. At night, especially, the smell was pervasive. Women sitting along the side of the road cooked and sold food. I was a frequent visitor to the fried plantain aunty, a polite address for older Ghanaian women. From my deck, I can smell barbecue. It makes me want to invite myself to dinner. My dad is the one I associate with that smell.

If I get forgetful in my old age, I hope a smell will trigger a forgotten memory, especially a memory about someone I dearly loved.