Letter from Birdland: Surrounded by love on the road to recovery

Birdland is unseasonably cool and green. April in July? I'll take it. I can always put on a sweater. We've had a fair bit of rain too, and it would be so delightful to sit in the garden pulling weeds, only I can't. In fact, I've spent the last several days in the house, despite the lovely mild weather. Oh, can any words make me feel more old and useless than "bunion surgery?" First the drugs, and then the immobility have made me as cross as Ethan Frome's wife, or his mistress, or anybody in Starkville. After two days I gave up the pain meds and feel better, but I see myself becoming demanding and ungrateful, and that makes me even more cross. Before the surgery I gathered some chores I could do while sitting, but it was almost a week before I felt like doing any of them.

But let's try to be positive. My peaches are getting ripe peach by peach and I look forward to pies. I peeled and cut up a bucket of apples from Pam and David's tree before the surgery, and then went back for more to peel while I was sitting. Rust stains my fingers, in the cracks in my skin, in the lines of my fingerprints, at the edge of my nails. I tried making crockpot apple butter, but it's more like applesauce. I just peel and quarter them and pop them in the crockpot. No water, just apples. They cook down into a tasty mush. The peaches are sweet and delicious.

My grandmother used to drop them in boiling water for a moment so they would slip out of their furry jackets easily, but I just pull back the skin with a paring knife. If I wait until they are just ripe (when your fingers can make soft indentations with a little squeeze) they will peel almost as nicely from the flower end tip. That way I don't get burned. But peeling ripe peaches is quite a juicy affair, and the sweet nectar runs down my arm and drips off my elbow.

The apples peel quickly with my apple peeler. I turn the handle and the skin flies off in long, bouncing coils. This peeler would also core and slice them, but I push that blade away. The slices come out pretty thin, and I like my apples in bigger chunks for pies. I've had the apple peeler for maybe 15 years and I decided the blade needed sharpening. I bought myself a file, curved just right for the blade. I tried my best, but when I put the blade back on I found that maybe I could peel an apple made of butter. If it was a warm day. I took it off and tried again. A half an hour later I had a blade that was only a little duller than the one I started with.

Back to the Internet and I found I could buy three new blades for a reasonable price. When they came I had Ellis set me up at a table in the kitchen with everything I needed to peel a big bowl of apples. My youngest was going to make a pie. He pulled out the cookbook for pastry recipes, but then got distracted. By the time the apples were peeled, he had disappeared, "The Joy of Cooking" lay open on the counter.

I crutch, crutch, crutch around the house a little. My world has become so small, and I'm dependent on the kindness of others. I am supposed to keep my foot elevated and stay off of it most of the time. That means I go from my bed to the couch to the recliner. I've read books and watched movies. I've had some lovely visits with friends and relatives, but I find myself slipping down into complaints and self-pity. I need a new perspective. I'm going to roll up this newspaper and make some binoculars to widen my world.

Look: there are my chickens tails up, grazing in the yard as usual. Michael has been feeding them and keeping them safe while I'm down. My husband now does twice the household work without complaint. There goes Ellis to work, bringing me coffee before he leaves, asking if I need anything. Here down the driveway come my Uncle John, bringing me a spaghetti lunch, my Aunt Kate for a visit, John's Jane to stop by on her walk to check on me. My sister cooking dinner for me, my friends with texts and phone calls. Everywhere I look, I am surrounded by love. I can't wait to be on my feet again to reflect some of that back.

Wait in beauty; heal in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is delighted to read in the paper that the city of Champaign will allow backyard chickens. You can read more of her writings at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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