My mother picked up a green bell pepper and placed it on the cutting board. We were at the close of the growing season—the table was heaped with peppers, fresh from the earth. In moments, she had gutted and sectioned it. We were making pickled peppers, something Mom did every year. I was fourteen—this was my first time helping. “You do the yellow chilies,” she said. “Cut them in half, then take out the seeds. We’ll put a half pepper into each jar—they’ll add a little heat.” I nodded and set to work. The peppers felt smooth against my skin. They were lovely to look at. A little heat would be good. Looking back now, more than fifty years later, I have to say, yes, a little heat is good—until it’s not.
Corduroy, I thought, early last fall as the leaves turned and daily temps began to fall. I need a pair of cords. Before I go on, I’ll note that what you’re reading here isn’t about buying slacks. What’s on my mind is love, which is what’s usually on my mind, but my musings today are a bit unusual. They’re about love, and car thievery.
It started May 25th, when a hen turkey walked her slow and careful walk past our patio. The trees in this photo border our narrow back yard. They loom above the house. Our dog loves to sit out on the patio, on my husband’s lap, and gaze into the woods. There’s a gully hiding there, with a stream that drains a nearby wetland. We’re close to the Mississippi, and the water in the gully flows to the river. All sorts of wildlife move through the yard, just outside our patio doors—deer and bears, squirrels and chipmunks, an occasional skunk and a diversity of birds. Watching those wild creatures go about their lives reminds my husband and me that we’re part of that leafy world. Our window on nature reminds us of our own humanity, the impulse in us toward compassion and sympathy. That reminder has never been more needed than this summer, 2021, a summer mired in pandemic, but also, thank God, a summer of turkeys.
The photo at the top of this post is of my mother, Rauha, reading the newspaper in her room at our family farm. A few years ago, she made the hard decision to sell the farm and now lives down the street. She is deeply private, doubly so because she’s a Finn. We Finns are famous for our reticence. Mom would draw apart to that room, sometimes sleeping, sometimes reading. I quietly snapped the photo that winter day, wanting to preserve the moment and even the place. I could see the day coming when we would no longer have the farm, its quiet fields and serene tree line. I was sensing the approach of days so upending that I’d want to make my own retreat to the woods.