Sunday, October 05, 2014

At Grandmommy's & Days Before

Grandmommy and I went out to the side yard this afternoon rake up "that ol' squirrel mess" as she called it. The squirrels are eating their way through the ripe pinecones, skinning off the wooden petals of each cone in their quest for seeds, and dropping the chips and the cone cobs around the trees.  Each tree's cones seem to be ripening at a slightly different time, as the fluffy-tailed blighters have left a mess around each thick trunk successively. Grandmommy said she picked up 42 cone-cobs beneath one tree one day.  Those squirrels are packing on the pounds for a long, cold winter.

It was a beautiful day, breezy and cool, and before raking we had lunch on the screened in porch. Grandmommy left all the doors in the house open to the fresh air.  Anyone who sneers at the consumption of leftovers has not had Grandmommy leftovers--vegetables, sweet potato soufflĂ©, potatoes, barbecue--all absolutely delicious. As I inhaled forkful after forkful at the porch table, looking out at the green lawn, the sun-dappled leaves, the confederate rosebush with its pink and white blossoms, listening to the swish of the wind through the treetops, I couldn't help but revel in quiet joy.  A foretaste of heaven, really.

Grandmommy is moving a little slower, and she's more cautious about maintaining her balance, but she still can best me raking and at most other work. I wish I were as productive as she is.  The cone-petals rattled like seer's bones as we brushed them into piles and lifted them into the wheelbarrow to take to the roadside, an incongruous death sound on such a clear and life-filled day. And the pecan trees are clouded with caterpillar webs, an early and unwelcome Halloween look.  Grandmommy said that Granddaddy used to back up his truck under the trees, set up a tall ladder in the back and climb up to cut out the webs, but none of us are as brave or as foolhardy to do this these days.

After a break for pie, teacakes and Scrabble (I won the first game, she the second), we went down into the backyard to pick up the falls from the Kiefer pear.  And though my uncle thought he'd gotten all the fruit within reach still on the tree, I pulled off pears enough to pack a five-gallon bucket.  There were limbs just a few feet higher that were loaded like bunches of grapes with huge golden fruit (each bigger than my fist), but they remained tantalizingly out of reach.

People often can't comprehend how Edenic Grandmommy and Granddaddy's back yard is until they visit--the sheer abundance of edibles from spring to fall is difficult to imagine. The scuppernong vines are also loaded.  Grandmommy said the other day she stood there and ate fifty purples and then fifty green-gold ones to see which she preferred, couldn't decide, and ate ten more of each.  The ground is thick with scuppernongs that have gotten too ripe and fallen, and scores of ants and yellow-vested black bees are busy devouring them. I'd love to have scuppernong honey!

The anticipation of an interview—no matter how trivial the job—leaves me sleepless and jittery, filled with nervous energy.  Wednesday night, I was up until 4 AM, and back awake at seven Thursday morning.  Fumbled my way into the kitchen for breakfast and poked through the pantry, hoping a fresh plate of scrambled eggs and crisp bacon would be sitting on a shelf, but eventually ended up fishing out a bag of desiccated store-brand “steam in a bag” veggies from the back of my refrigerator and eating them raw.

“Baby” carrots, hah!  These were not tender orange nubbins, tumbled to smooth cabochons, but clearly mutton dressed as lamb—the tough hearts of ancient sticks, their bark roughly whittled away by irritable men with pocketknives.  They resembled primitive railroad spikes (the taste wasn't dissimilar). I felt braced and ready to forge ahead, like a locomotive.  A handful of candy corn and a can of reconstituted tomato juice completed my morning repast.

I actually have both eggs and turkey bacon in my fridge, but preparing them would have required getting out a skillet and five minutes of cooking.

I was up to the wee hours Wednesday constructing a personal statement between 500 and 800 words about why I wanted to teach English to speakers of other languages overseas, what my teaching philosophy was, and how I handled cultural differences.  The next stage of this particular application for international employment is to compose a comprehensive lesson plan.  So far, only one of the four people I emailed asking for recommendation letters has responded.  I think I must live near a digital black hole, into which all internet correspondence to or from me is sucked away, because not only do I seldom get any acknowledgement of my numerous employment applications, conventional interpersonal emails go unanswered.

Back in the analog world of my yard, for months I have been waging war against the elephant ears my mother had planted in the bed beneath the bathroom windows.  The initial plants had metastasized from the original location, depositing pointy root-pods hither and thither, and I've been yanking out young plants and the alien tubers until I am exasperated. I want to have fruit-bearing plants like a miniature version of Grandmommy's yard, not a thicket of huge inedible tropical weeds!

I found out why one of my in-ground blueberry bushes died (the two in the patio pots are thriving)--two inches below the surface of the soil in my blueberry patch is solid red Georgia clay, something I couldn't see when I was planting by candlelight. Clay does not "perk", and so the poor blueberries have basically been sitting in stagnant water all summer. I'm going to have to dig up the whole bed, add mulch and sand, and re-plant the survivors, plus the replacement Grandmommy has promised me from the "outliers" in her back yard.

Not a peep from any of the interviews from last week and this. I need sleep.

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