We both woke up feeling well-rested and chipper this morning. I made French toast with vanilla and cinnamon, custardy on the inside and crisp on the outside, and served it with hot wild blueberries with maple syrup. We drank big cups of coffee and then we took our usual 4-mile fast walk over hill and dale along the lake and through the woods. The sun was shining, there was a breath of warmth in the air, not one car passed us the entire time, and the road wasn’t too muddy.
We came home warm and a little out of breath. After we’d shucked our jackets and shoes, I opened a window to let the fresh air into the house, whose atmosphere is tinged with a winter’s worth of wood smoke. It’s not unpleasant, in fact it reminds me of BBQ potato chips, but it’s a decidedly wintry smell. And it’s time for spring.
Then we sat at the table at our computers, tapping away like industrious, wholesome little chipmunks, just as we’ve been doing nonstop for the past many months. We have our formation: I sit at the end of the table, looking at the long meadows stretching down to the lake and the hulking mountains beyond and the huge sky above. Brendan sits to my left, facing the short meadow that slopes down to the beaver pond, Dundee Hill rising behind it, the same huge sky above. My long meadows have the birch trees; his short meadow has the lone, ancient crabapple planted far from the orchard and a lone, short, handsome oak.
Dingo lies either sacked out behind Brendan’s chair, half on and half off the braided oval rug, off-duty, or vigilantly on the windowseat, keeping his eyes out for invading nogoodniks and dastardly porcupines. Sometimes he leaps up barking like a gunshot, giving us both near-heart attacks and causing us both to yell DINGO! SHUT UP! We shove him out the door to the porch, where he leaps onto the grass and rushes to the dirt driveway by the barn, barking so hard his whole body convulses. Sometimes it’s the beleaguered UPS man, sometimes it’s a car turning around at the foot of the drive, sometimes it’s a flock of wild turkeys, but mostly, there’s nothing there at all.
We’ve been calling this the Year of the Woodshed, but it’s turning into two years: two years of nonstop effort, paying for our ongoing house renovation, getting our shit together, working hard to get settled and secure and replenish our savings account, taking no vacations and hardly any days off, waking up every morning with a to-do list and a sense of urgent pressure, clenching our jaws at night in our sleep, lying awake in the early morning hours, stewing and worrying, wondering whether we can get it all done.
Of course, writing is the only thing we want to be doing. It’s our calling, passion, and ideal occupation. We’re not working at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart for minimum wage. We aren’t forced to sell our bodies or drugs or pyramid schemes or fruit by the roadside or Jesus.
And we have this farmhouse to escape to when the banging and sawing get to be too much. We’re free and lucky. We know it.
Anyway, so there we all were, at just before noon today, everyone at his or her station, doing his or her job.
After a while, Brendan looked up at me. I looked back at him.
“I am so sick of this shit,” he said.
“I am, too,” I said.
“We need a vacation.”
“We don’t get a vacation.”
“Fuck that,” he said.
“FUCK that,” I echoed.
“I want tequila,” he said.
“It’s Saturday,” I pointed out. “So we’re allowed.”
“I don’t care what day it is,” he said. The car keys were in his hand and his shoes were on. Dingo and I caught up with him and then we were all in the car, off to town.
We came home with a bottle of Herradura Silver, some grapefruits and limes, a People magazine, and, because we needed it and therefore it sort of justified the gas we used to get to Hannaford and back, a 12-pack of toilet paper.
So now, here we sit at our computers, still in formation, me here, Brendan there, Dingo on his windowseat. But now, at our elbows are daytime cocktails: hefty slugs of tequila shaken over ice with the juice of one fat grapefruit and one juicy lime, poured with the ice into tumblers and garnished with thin jalapeno slices. Between us is an open bag of Lay’s Simply Natural thick cut sea salted potato chips. The only sounds in here are the clinking of the ice as we drink, the crunching of potato chips, the rapid-fire tapping of our computer keys, and the gentle, yearning exhalations of Dingo as he lifts his wet black snout to the tabletop, trolling for a chip or two.
It’s 3:00 in the afternoon. I’m sure that one of the primary warning signs of alcoholism is day drinking, especially of hard liquor. FUCK that. I’m going to run a hot bath and make another round of drinks and go and lie in the tub with People magazine.
Another Haddock Recipe
I can’t stop cooking haddock. It’s cheap and local, so fresh it quivers on its shaved ice in the store.
My new thing with haddock is the following meal, of which we are currently enamored:
Simmer a cup of well-rinsed red rice in 1 ¾ cups chicken broth.
In a big skillet in plenty of good oil, sauté 2 chopped leeks and 2 chorizo sausages and 6 chopped cloves of garlic.
Cut 1 pound of haddock filets into chunks and marinate in the juice of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon harissa spices (or paste). Add to the leeks and chorizo and gently poach on both sides. Stir well.
Meanwhile, chop as many cloves of garlic as you like and add to ½ cup chicken broth in a huge pot. Steam a pound of baby spinach, covered.
Serve rice, spinach, and fish-leeks all together in 2 big shallow bowls. Add hot sauce as desired.