After a month-long break, I’m back! For those of you who didn’t notice, I get it. For those of you who did (and missed me), I love you completely!
I’m happy to report that I did make the cut for The Ubergroup, the private online literature critique group for which I’ve been trying out. And it was intense. We had lengthy weekly homework assignments, we were assessed on the critiques we gave each other (there were seven of us in the trial group), and we were expected to participate heavily and poignantly in a discussion forum about everything from synopses to competitive titles to outlines.
Last week, I went back to school. Kind of.
I’ve been selected to be a part of a private fiction critique group on a trial basis, so for the next six weeks, I’ll be critiquing the work of six other members and hoping my critiques are useful enough to earn me a permanent invitation.
Bored already? Yeah, I get it. Don’t worry, I won’t be talking about critiquing fiction.
But I’ll tell ya, I had forgotten what it’s like to enter a new academic-style setting. And all of the feelings that go along with that.
Last week, I woke up bright and early and realized that I was furious. William was home on vacation. The day was sunny. The dogs were healthy. There were all the ingredients to make this a happy day.
Except I was pissed.
I went upstairs to work on some editing, which usually soothes me, but I just got madder. So I hopped on Facebook, scrolled a bit and then came upon a newspaper story about how the health department had recorded the deaths of four more Pulaski Countians due to Covid.
So I read the story. And then I made the big mistake of reading the comments.
The above photo, taken in Toronto’s Pearson airport, merits some explanation. When I crossed customs back into the U.S. on Aug. 10, 2021, I was one of two people doing so. When I arrived at the terminal, composed of 20 gates, I was one of about 25 people in the entire terminal. Pearson is Canada’s largest and biggest airport.)
A few minutes ago, in the wake of the mask mandate for schools, I had a friend text me about how the pandemic was being handled in Canada. I just returned from a trip home after a year and a half and, yes, it sure is a different place than when I left it. Because my friend was curious about what things are like, I thought you might be too, so I decided to share some of what I witnessed.
I’m sitting on an airplane right now and wondering if I’m too old to bounce. Does a person run out of time to get this excited? Does it become unseemly after a certain age? I’m honestly not sure, so, in a few minutes, I plan on bouncing. Because how could I not?
After 529 days of being away from my family, I am finally on my way to them. The border to Canada opened to Canadian citizens near the beginning of July. It opens to American citizens (double vaccinated only, please!) Aug. 9. So here I am, masked to the max, amongst a planeload of peeps who look a little nervous to be here.
It took me about 18 hours of not having a kitchen sink before I found myself looking at a fork and wondering if it was too dirty to use again. I mean, I’d only eaten a fruit salad with it. Fruit was clean, right? Cleaner than, like, soap in a way?
A few hours later, I found myself staring at a water glass I’d used the day before. Water glass water is pretty germ free, yes? Germ free enough to be able to hold out washing a water glass for, like, a week?
My answer to all of these questions ended up being a convenient yes. So I could get out of washing dishes.
Last summer, my husband William and I spent a lot of time pretending we were on vacation when we were really stuck at home. Each weekend, we would choose our destination. Sometimes our VRBO would “be” in Italy, sometimes in France, once in Spain, once in England, at one point we were in Switzerland.
Then we would have the food and wine to match: pizza, pasta, jamón, rösti, fish and chips with mushy peas. We would listen to French or Italian or Spanish music. We would sometimes build a fire and tell ourselves we had had a great day skiing or hiking or sightseeing. We would spend quite a bit of time talking about the quality of our VRBO, especially how relieved we were that they accepted dogs and that their kitchen knives were sharp.
We had a lot of time on our hands. And we are a couple of nerds anyway.
“No regrets,” Baby Hugo said after it was all over.
I was kneeling over the rug scrubbing it for the third time and realizing that it still smelled shockingly bad.
“Oh no?” I asked.
“Not a one.”
“Is that your stomach? Or is that thunder?”
Hugo was quiet for a long second.
“I’ll be right back.”
So went the conversation I had with my puppy dog yesterday 24 hours after he’d had the biggest “meal” of his life.
One of the luckiest things that happened to me after I moved to Kentucky was finding Ike Adams’s column, “Points East.” I remember sitting at my orange desk in The Sentinel-Echo newsroom and suddenly being immersed in writing so clean and a tone so meandering it felt like water rolling down a creek.
Ike was writing about a Philco refrigerator in his garage, one where he used to keep beer, pipe tobacco, night crawlers and watermelons. The column was the story of the fridge — how he’d rescued it from the dump, the plans he had for it, how old it was — but what it really was, as were all of Ike’s columns, was a love letter.
Without even a bit of sarcasm, I have decreed the past year the Year of the Onion in my cooking life.
My relationship with this beautiful bulb was a complicated one as a child as I, in turn, was complicated. I loved the green onions my parents grew in the garden, in large part because I got to watch their tooth-white heads emerge from and thicken in the black soil. At dinner, they would appear intact on my plate, but with the roots sliced off, and a pile of salt beside them. That meant I was invited to dab the head into it and take a big bite. The only other time salt appeared in our kitchen was if we were having corn on the cob, so this seemed like a rather decadent treat.
So I’ve always like green onions.