Monday, November 12, 2012
use or freeze by
what remains are tall, straight-backed trees—dark statues on view until may—displayed in the hushed gallery of autumn's forest. the bright colors vanished (although this year, due to a lack of cold nighttime temperatures, the usually fiery colored maples in our yard were merely a ho-hum-so-so-washed-out red) right along with the built-up anticipation of the season. how i looked forward to those colors and to sweater weather, to the crisp tang of mcintosh apples, hot cider, and the snap-whoosh of fall wind spinning the leaves in a whirling carousel of motion.
colors i don't look forward to with eager anticipation are the insidious shades of gray and green that are hiding—make that residing—in my refrigerator. they're inhabiting what's been pushed toward the back, living and multiplying in forgotten jars and plastic containers containing the dregs and leftovers from weeks and weeks ago (how many weeks ago, i am ashamed to say) that i have ignored with a scrupulous avoidance similar to my avoidance of edges—edges of high places like cliffs and the tops of tall buildings. (although years ago i crossed the aptly named knife edge on mount katadin, facing my fear of precipices by staying as close to the middle of the narrow pile-of-rocks trail as possible. i tricked myself into believing that there was a middle when, in reality, no such place exists along most of the dizzyingly narrow ridge between pamola and baxter peaks.)
one of my favorite things about maine and new england is the change each season brings. call me crazy, but i think i would be bored senseless in a perfect paradise world of forever hot and warm and green and nothing else, no in-betweens, no extremes (except scorching heat), no variability, only the same brand of tropical sun and air day in and day out. what grows in tropical climates stays visibly growing for four seasons. that's it. not much anticipation for what comes next.
in maine, though, anticipation for what comes next is always ripe, even if, for now, the dormant kernels of life are hidden and will remain hidden for some time to come. they must wait—and i must wait with them for winter to have its turn—before waking up and announcing their appearance, making a grand show-stopping entrance into yet another season of change.
in my refrigerator the storyline is different.
dynamic new life forms are at this very moment hard at work, increasing their numbers by patiently building sprawling colonies of puke-colored fuzz in a few tablespoons of leftover rao's tomato and basil sauce, or cabot farm cottage cheese, or on top of boneless chicken breasts well past the "use or freeze by"or "best by"dates. these densely packed communities—a biology experiment unfolding right in my kitchen—live in an ideal environment, a utopia of jars and packages. they have no idea about the cataclysm that's about to annihilate their population. but i do, as i clutch a giant hefty trash bag and—grimace! shudder!—force myself to swoop into the depths beyond the open refrigerator door.