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Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary War’

Getting grounded is high on my list of making it through this year with my sanity (such as it is) intact.* But I’ve been surprised at how often grounding has come as a result of getting off my bottom and doing brand new things. Of wanting to.

For one thing, I’ve visited Monmouth Battlefield three times in as many months. This is a major Revolutionary War site, about half an hour away, where George Washington and the Continental Army were able to hold the field. It’s also where I find my Concord grapes in August. A few weeks ago I visited a small clapboard house whose family hightailed it out of there when the fighting got intense; the British used it as a makeshift hospital. Since building is prohibited on that hallowed ground, except for the soldiers and the whites of their eyes, the countryside for miles around looks the same as did was back then. And yesterday I visited a church that served as a Continental Army hospital, still bearing bloodstains on its wooden pews after 242 years.

These places of brutality are now serene; all I ever hear is crickets, birds, and the wind through the drying leaves. But I feel the ghosts there. They’re not scary. They were in the same situation in this country, in their own way, in their own time. They get where I am, and it’s comforting.

From my quince tree (that no one pays attention to, hooray), I also nabbed more fruit this year than in any other. Cinnamon-poached quinces and turnovers resulted so far. Got another recipe, a new one that a friend remembers from a trip to Turkey, on the horizon. This feels enormously peaceful to me.

Plus there’s the below. For years — I mean it — I have wanted to put up tomatoes, but always chickened out, scared of botulism. But this year, with the help of two online resources, a print one, and a Zoom with a smart friend, it finally happened. They’re in the coolest place in my house. In my bedroom closet behind my sweaters, obviously. I laugh when I see them every morning, my own docile army of Redcoats.

It doesn’t make sense that following my nose to new and different and surprising would be grounding, and not Sticking to What I Know Thank You Very Much, but exactly what makes sense these days?

There will definitely come a point this winter when I ease up on doing new stuff and park an open book on my lap. Maybe.

*’Why fight it? I’ll just go crazy and be inconspicuous. — Hawkeye, M*A*S*H (the episode where Klinger and Colonel Potter start doing yoga)

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This is been a milestone summer for me. I’ve had to learn to balance a new job and commute, which provides what I need to survive, with time in nature, which provides what I need to live.

I’m not going to say it’s been easy, late afternoon- and weekend-warrioring. But man, those moments have been sweet.

This summer I found wild blackberries growing along banks I’ve wandered since I was a kid, but never noticed. Made tea from flowers and leaves I dried, made lattice-topped pies from olive oil crusts instead of butter (never thought it would work, but guess what), and made sure to throw a pebble into the lake just to hear the PLUNK that always, always satisfies.

For the first time, I saved my molars and got every pit out of the wild Concord grapes I found, smacking my lips on their tartness. Swapped in my beach plums for cranberries in my favorite crisp, and they were fantastic. Sneaked onto footbridges in the woods and onto the lawn of my shamelessly absent neighbor, where in the dark of night I shamelessly picked enough fruit to make sour-cherry tarts.

I sank my tired feet into powdery sand and let the wind and 360-degree pink-and-grey sunsets wash the stress off me. There were 17 seagull tail feathers at the beach the other night, perfect quills for my next production of “1776.” Was serenaded by a Russian mulberry-lover, very much off-key (don’t ask. Actually, do. Great payoff.). Discovered that honeysuckle blooms in fits and starts all summer, just right for drying, and jammed May-fresh ones into a bottle of Laird’s to flavor the whiskey. Twice I sat and watched the yellow sunlight sparkles chase each other over the lake, and once I saw a fleet of catfish making kissy-faces at the surface of the water.

Walked the trail at Monmouth Battlefields, the Revolutionary War site, and marveled that Washington and the boys withstood 90-degree heat on that day in June while in wool uniforms (many couldn’t, and succumbed to heatstroke). Sat down to take a shot of a lone apple, looking like a dropped musket ball, and spent the next 15 minutes plucking vicious grassy needles off my bum. Freedom has its price.

Yesterday I really felt the sun and wind and crunch of sycamore leaves as I trudged along the banks of my lake. Today, driving home, I really loved the different greys of the clouds, layered like deckled pages in a book, and felt the coolness — new to the season but old, coming back.

So the wheel starts its descent, so the fall of the year has begun. Falling with it.

 

 

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I had every hope of finding Concord grapes today in a local park. But the guy who told me about them impressed upon me the fact that they tend to wrap their viney selves around trees, way out of reach. So I might find them, sure, but would they taunt me from their lofty perch, giggling at my dinkiness? Probably. I suited up (boots past their prime, socks over the cuffs of my jeans, old t shirt, and backpack) and went anyway. I looked like a bohemian infantryman, which worked since the grapes were supposed to be somewhere at Monmouth Battlefield, the site of one of the most intense fights of the Revolutionary War.

It had been years since I’d been on these hallowed grounds—acres and acres of rolling hills, old fences, tree-lined pastures, nodding false Queen Anne’s lace blossoms, and no sound but the whirring of crickets. No sound except for today, when I was hiking behind two elderly couples who stopped every few feet to discuss in detail why the battle was an important one, even though all were Americans and might have heard of the kerfuffle we’d once had with the British. The gentleman who took the lead in enlightening the hikers, the pastures, and the crickets on the battle had the kind of manner that always seems as if he’s pontificating, even if he’s talking about tomorrow afternoon’s forecast. I’d planned on taking a right after the bridge, but took a left to get the noise out of my ears. At a place like this, all of that yammering felt blasphemous.

At first I found a lot of what looked like grape vines—they were all over—but found no grapes on them, so I figured I’d just enjoy the walk and the soul of the place. But I kept looking. And when I spotted my first few, a few feet over my head under an awning of leaves, I just stared, dumbstruck. These are the variety that’s made into grape jelly. Treasure is in the eye of the beholder.

There were in fact a few clusters out of reach along that pathway, maybe a half mile long. I think the deer probably got to the lower ones first. But a lot were accessible, even for Miss Five-Foot-Three, and I got about a quart’s worth.

Most important thing I learned while picking Concords: Wild rose canes are vicious. I’ve added their tiny vampire-like cuts to the ones I got last week while picking beach plums (more on that later). War wounds on war-grounds. Worth it. And I’m so grateful to those couples for their insufferable prattle or I never would have turned left.

I think I’ll make peanut butter muffins and top them with these.

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