Posted tagged ‘wood charcoal’

“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.

“Silence is also speech.”

February 25, 2017

Today is far warmer than I expected. It’s a sit in the sun day because tomorrow will be colder, back down to the daytime 40’s, to our usual February weather. This morning there was some fog. I couldn’t see more than an outline of my neighbor’s house. After I got the paper and yesterday’s mail from across the street, I stayed outside a while just to take in the warmth, the fog and the songs of birds.

The aroma of wood smoke is one of my favorite smells. The guy in the house on the next corner has been burning wood in a rusty metal barrel. At first I though a house fire then I saw him putting more wood in the barrel. He’s the same neighbor who thought Gracie was a wolf when she jumped the six-foot fence into his yard to go after his dog. I’m thinking he doesn’t have a permit to burn wood. but I don’t care one way or the other.  I like the wood smoke. It is one of my strongest memories of Ghana where wood charcoal is used for cooking every meal.

I had a portable cassette recorder in Ghana. The tapes stuck all the time because of the humidity so mostly they had to be rewound by hand using a Bic pen. I didn’t have a huge number of tapes, but I had my favorites including PP&M, CSN, Simon and Garfunkel, and Joni Mitchell. I think I played music every night. The adaptor had a red Christmas light size bulb attached so I could play without a converter. I could plug the cord directly into the wall. My friends Bill and Peg and I got together every night. We had dinner outside in their small courtyard. After their one-year-old went to bed, we played games. Password was our only actual comes in a box game, and we played it over and over and never got bored. We had the cards memorized through repetition so we sometimes changed the game. There were contests like the winner is the one who finishes the whole card first. That kept life into the game and kept us occupied.

I lived alone for the first time in Ghana. It was quite an adjustment getting used to being alone in a place so different, so far from home. My PC friends weren’t close to me geographically. (They were a letter away, no phones back then). I was teaching for the first time and not teaching well. My students didn’t understand my English. I was frustrated and lonely but determined. It took time. I did my best and so did they. Finally, we understood each other, and I was teaching, really teaching. I loved going to town and the market. I filled my days with teaching and my nights with music and books.

After my first year, Bill and Peg moved to my school, and we lived in a duplex. I loved having them near, being with them, and I also loved my quiet times, my alone times. We gave them to each other.

“Once the rain starts falling it’s hard to tell it to stop…”

June 3, 2013

Last night it was a mighty storm. I saw the lightning then came the thunder, booming thunder getting closer and closer until it was over my house shaking the rafters. I fell asleep to that rain, but it was gone when I woke up. In its place was a dark, quiet day, the sort you sometimes get after a storm when all the sounds had been used up by the rain. Right now, though, the rain has started again, and I can hear the drops falling steadily on the trees and the deck. It will be around all day into tonight. The sun will be back tomorrow.

The rain makes me want to do little or nothing today, but my mood is neither lethargic nor somber. It is from the quiet and the darkness. Rain muffles all sounds except its own. My room is dark lit only by the computer screen. The window is wide open, and I have heard the progression of the rain. It started with a few small drops but is now the heaviest of rains. I have no gutters on my house so nearest the windows the rain falls in a sheet from the roof. No shopping for plants today, no planting flowers today.

Gracie is asleep in her crate. Fern is asleep on my bed and Maddie is in here with me sleeping on her chair. Animals know how to be cozy on a rainy day.

When I think of Ghana, I remember the smells and colors. My favorite of all is the aroma of wood charcoal burning. In my mind’s eye, I can still see smoke rising from the compounds behind my house when small charcoal burners were lit in the early mornings. My own burner was small and held only a single pan. First the charcoal was started. Thomas cooked for me and he’d squat in front of the burner fanning with a reed fan. When it was time for breakfast, he’d first boil the water for my coffee, my instant coffee, then the eggs and bread were cooked at the same time. The bread was leaned against the side to make toast. The eggs were cooked in groundnut oil, peanut oil, which gave them the best flavor of any eggs. I think breakfast was my favorite meal.

When I bought my first grill for this house, I never bought briquets; instead, I always bought wood charcoal. I used to sit outside on my little farmer’s deck not only to mind the grill but also to smell that charcoal burning and to remember and relive in a small way those mornings in Ghana.