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These Days

Friday, August 4, 2006

Today was kind of a bummer. On Tuesday I got up at 5:30 AM to start the four-hour process of making pesto to send to my family. At Christmas time, I was so overwhelmed trying to get Letters from Eden--the text and all the art--in to the publisher that I couldn't get it together to send gifts. So I promised everyone pesto from the amazing basil I can grow here. The season has been perfect: just the right amount of rain and sun and heat. The basil leaves are easily five times the size they usually are in a dry year, incredibly sweet and spicy. My problem was finding four consecutive hours I could rub together so I could make the pesto. So I started early, before anyone was up. I carefully plucked each leaf off its stem, because my brother-in-law Chef Dave says the stems make the pesto turn brown. Luther serenaded me from the ash tree as I worked alone. I got two large grocery bags packed full with the leaves from four bushel-basket-sized plants. I got all my ingredients lined up: the finest Parmesan, olive oil, butter, and pine nuts (and we know how dear those are!). And I merrily blended away until I had twelve jars full of emerald-green pesto.
I put the jars on the sideboard, intending to ship them right off. And like many things in my life, it didn't happen right away as I'd intended. There was the matter of a little catbird who came in, victim of a tree trimming service that destroyed her nest, who needed to be fed every half-hour. And then Wednesday afternoon she fell off my drawing table, when she should have been confined to a cage, and broke her leg, so I spent all day Thursday driving her to Columbus to the nearest veterinarian who might help.
So this morning, Friday, I'm standing in the kitchen talking to Bill when I smell pesto. Why do I smell pesto? Because all twelve jars' lids are bulging, and olive oil is seeping out of them, and I realize in that sickening moment that all that work and those fine ingredients have just gone to naught, because I couldn't find the time to send the jars off or at least refrigerate or freeze them.
I call Chef Dave to make sure. He suspects some kind of fermentation between the butter and the Parmesan. He says he might try a little to see if it makes him sick, but he wouldn't send it out to loved ones. And I have to bite the bullet and throw all that beautiful pesto away. I put it in the refrigerator because I can't bear to do it.
About an hour later I call the clinic and they tell me that the catbird's leg has very little circulation and she can't be stabilized for surgery, which means that she will likely need to be put down. A one-legged catbird has very little hope of a normal life. I'm still awaiting final word. They're not giving up on her as of Friday night. But it looks bad for her. I'm all cried out. How could I fall so in love with a catbird, so fast? You'd have to know the catbird.
The rest of the day is a blur of packing for our trip and getting lyrics together for our gig. The weather is lovely, for once, cooler with high summer clouds floating in a vapid blue sky. The kids are sweet. Phoebe and I cry together. Chet rolls in something and Phoebe takes him downstairs and washes him in lavender without being asked. Bill gives me extra kisses. Liam, Phoebe and Chet do, too. Life could be worse, but then again it could be a little better, too. It was one of those days.

These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to...

Don't confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them.

From "These Days" by Jackson Browne


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