A Particular Shade of Blue

One thing you didn’t know about me: blue is my favorite color. While I’m most often drawn to the endless, sibylline array of turquoise shades that are only to be found in tropical waters, pretty much any blue will do. M has amazing blue eyes that are often the color of stormy seas, with a tinge of fall-painted aspen leaves in the center. My bed is covered with a piece of fleece my mother bought for me the year before she died; it looks just like the swirls and shallows of the ocean, seen as we fly into the Bahamas. It also is covered with Mr. Man’s fur – he loves it too.

As photographers know, there is a time around sunrise and around sunset, called the “golden hour” where the light has a luminous that is unique to that time. Light is a curious and playful thing. In Santa Fe, the light always has a certain quality I’ve never seen anywhere else. In times of great change in my life — the birth of K, the death of my mother — I watched the light evolve through the windows of the day, and it was strangely memorable as I tracked those passages.

But I digress, which I have a tendency to do.

One day, a long time ago, I was sitting in my truck talking to my best friend, watching the sunset. After the sun had stolen behind the mountains, it left behind a shade of blue I’d never seen before. Not while sailing in the Caribbean, not while looking into a lover’s eyes, not in empty robin’s eggshells in spring, not even in forget-me-nots. I have never forgotten the color, and look for it in each sunset. I caught a tiny glimpse of it today, in the unpoetic venue of a WalMart parking lot, but somehow, I can never see it in my photos.

My best friend is gone now, a victim of leukemia he didn’t even know he had while we spoke that day. That blue, on those rare occasions when it chooses to show itself in the sky, makes me smile, knowing that the angels are looking after me, come what may.

Someone’s in the Kitchen: Part 1

And it’s me. Which, historically, does not always work out well. I am hopefully now beyond the days when I felt the need to alert the fire department if I decided to cook, but I can’t say for certain.

What is the saying? The kitchen is the heart of the home? I suppose this is true, because a lot of love emerges from cooking and most of the best parties somehow wind up in the kitchen. Growing up, my mother did most of the cooking and my father did more of the baking. He was known for his fruitcakes and pies, with my mother making the pie crust, a skill I have yet to acquire, even using her recipe. She told me she needed to show me how to do it, but she died before we got a chance to try it together. My mother was best described as an obligatory cook. It never seemed to be something she enjoyed, just something that she had to do. That said, our kitchen, with it’s green tile floor and red cracked ice table, chairs, and formica countertop, and knotty pine cabinets, was warm and sweet. We had breakfast there every weekday, though my mother never ate with us. I think she was up earlier than the rest of us and must have eaten then. It’s a shame I never thought to ask her about that.

While I was very proud of being able to make my father cinnamon toast and pimento-stuffed celery at about age eight, I never was much help in the kitchen. My brother never lets me forget a time when I was about 14 and had no idea how to boil water. But I progressed from there to being able to make bacon and eggs. And that was it.

With an irony that is not lost on me, my first job at 17 was as a cook in a restaurant. My parents didn’t want me to get a job. They thought it would negatively impact my education. But I’m really quite mulish, so I looked for a job, and happened into a downtown restaurant, asking if they had any openings. The owner looked me over, had me fill out an application, and hired me on the spot. Later, I discovered it was because she thought I would look good working in the front window, and she was desperate. So I learned on the job as a lunch and dinner line cook, and I managed pretty well. I burned myself a lot, cut my thumb open on the meat slicer on my 18th birthday, threw fruit salad at the head waiter, and cried while picking a case of chickens at midnight on a school night. But that job changed my perception of who I was and how the world saw me. And I still remember how to make a good coleslaw, chicken salad, grilled cheese sandwich, and Rueben.

Since this is only Part 1 of Someone’s in the Kitchen, I’ll be back with more kitchen chronicles. But today, since it is cold, and my husband M and I aren’t in the same house yet, and my daughter K has gone back to her own house in New Mexico, I felt the need to make my house warm and sweet as best I know how. Today’s little kitchen has produced boiled broccoli, chicken salad, veggie stir fry, brown sugar chicken, and, just out of the oven, wonderfully fragrant pumpkin bread.

If I could send you the scent of pumpkin bread warm from the oven, please know that I would.