On my short hike I overheard Japanese, French, I think Swedish, and English, lots of English, too much to lose myself in solitude, but the beauty led to a sweet unguardedness among strangers. I stopped to watch a woman compose a photo of the reflection of leaves in a large puddle where the trail crossed Big Tesuque Creek. “I’m crazy, I know!” she said when she looked up from her camera and saw me. “No,” I said, “You have a good eye!”
Two women walked side by side, deep in conversation. “I mean, how do you explain to someone the theory of complex systems?” the older one asked the other, with the intonation of a conclusion. “Maybe you explain it not by saying it but by showing?” her friend replied, her answer inflecting up like a question. Up the trail a ways, a little girl lifted a fuzzy caterpillar off the trail on a stick and laid it under a tree with words of encouragement.
Changing seasons are on my mind for all the obvious and some less obvious reasons. This week’s emails included some from my brother with mock-ups of our parents’ memorial plaques. Mom and Dad are still with us, but their time’s getting close, and we’re ones to plan ahead.
“I'm not old, am I?” Mom asked me on my last visit in September. Which some would have taken as a good occasion for benign denial, but that’s not my easiest note to sing with my mother.
“I think at 87 you can claim being old,” I said. She asked me to repeat that. I did, adding, “People dream of living to their 80s with someone they love.”
“Yes,” she said. “That’s true.”
I’m bracing for losing my parents as I am bracing for winter: I know that it’s inevitable, and that there’s justice in the changing seasons, that we're lucky to have time to prepare, and that it’ll be hard anyway.
I drove home from the woods with my share of photos, but my favorite was just a mental snapshot. Driving up the mountain I saw two women in an overlook by the side of the road. One thrust out her arm to take their picture with her cell phone, and the other squeezed her face as close to her friend’s as possible. They were a little pudgy, post-middle-aged, not what you’d call glamorous, but they beamed with delight, their selfless abandon giving a new twist to the word “selfie.” I went to the woods to find what they found.
Red Lentil Soup
2 cups red lentils
4-6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon coriander
1 T Kosher or other coarse salt
1 lemon, cut in wedges
Red pepper (Aleppo pepper if available)
Put the lentils in a large kettle with two quarts of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Red lentils are actually brown lentils with the hulls removed; expect them to turn to a golden mush, the consistency of thin porridge.
While the lentils are cooking, crush the coriander, salt and garlic together into a paste and fry it in oil in a small pot for just a minute or two. Stir the coriander paste into the soup and cook another 10 minutes or so. Serve in cups or bowls, garnished with a sprinkle of cumin, red pepper and a little chopped cilantro. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice, or serve with a lemon wedge for guests to do the honors.
A word to the wise. The Bible says Esau traded away his birthright – just the family inheritance and a direct line of communication with God – to his brother, Jacob, all for a bowl of red lentil soup. Keep your head.