The first cold night.

Free write, with recipe links at the end:

The weather turned completely, but not entirely without warning. The morning report, on the car radio, said the high for the day had occurred already, shortly past midnight. By nightfall it would be cold, with a chance of snow.

It was a Saturday, our errand day. After coffee and a shower, the morning news, we — the dog and I — piled in the car and headed to the dry cleaners, then the grocery, and, finally, Target to buy a bag of candy.

It was raining — a chilly, relentless, soaking rain.

The tires sloshed through puddles on Happy Hollow. Windshield wipers, true as a metronome, cleared the view of the late fall trees: Orange and yellow and brown, leaves still clinging.

At each stop I would park the car, pull up the hood of my rain jacket, crack the windows slightly, and tell Ella to be a good dog, that I would be right back. As soon as I had locked the doors and turned away, she would move from the passenger’s to the driver’s side and watch for my return. It was the same every time.

By the end of our errands we were both soggy and chilled. It was early afternoon by then. We toweled off, I made tea, called the neighbor to ask about Halloween plans, spent the rest of the day puttering, reading, drawing. I’m sure I cooked something warm – soup, perhaps, or maybe an omelette.

We crawled in bed, Ella-dog and I, and watched a movie as the rain turned to snow.

Around 3 a.m., maybe later, I woke to what sounded like gunfire, although I knew immediately that it wasn’t. Ella barked in alarm. A loud crack; another. I recognized this sound, it had been etched in  memory.

The Omaha blizzard of October 1997 was — ironically — almost identical to the Memphis ice storm of 1994: A day of soaking rain; temperatures dropping steadily below freezing; heavy, ice-laden branches taking out power lines all across town; a city paralyzed for more than a week. A complete turnabout in the weather that was a surprise, but not entirely without prediction.

I think about that day every year in October when the weather changes suddenly and dramatically, as it is doing right now. That freak event set a bar, established a framework within which all future weather changes might be interpreted.

But that freak storm will not be repeated in Omaha or in Memphis, even though the experience may have encouraged me to prepare for its return. It was an anomaly, that storm; an outlier, both times, like so many other outliers — weather, people, events.

There are, perhaps, three ways to carry forward such an experience:

  • Live in constant state of wariness at any sign of a repeat; or
  • Live in preparation, watching for patterns that match previous events and responding accordingly, but without panic; or
  • Live in the moment. It will either rain or not rain. It will either snow or not snow. Whether it rains or doesn’t rain, snows or doesn’t snow, is not within my human control.

I can feel a dramatic drop in temperature through the old, thin, wavy panes of glass in the room where I’m writing tonight. I hear the wind whipping the trees, sense change coming.

And to my surprise, I hear geese making their way north in the cover of night.


Food | October 16, 2021

Brown Butter Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad (NYT Cooking)

Autumn Vegetable Tian with Cheddar (Food52)

Tomatillo Toasts with Proscuitto and Manchego (Food & Wine) (Side note: I had almost exactly this concoction, only with apricot jam instead of tomatillos, while on my wild mother-daughter trip. I could eat this every day.)

Creamy Chicken and Mushrooms (Eating Well)

Black Bean – Quinoa Bowl (Eating Well)

Ham, Celeriac, and Leek Pie (Gourmandistan)