20 September 2010

The Town of Dust and Fog

This was my walk to work last Wednesday. The dabbling ducks were toppled over trying to catch breakfast. My fellow pedestrians slipped out of the fog like actors emerging from behind the red velvet curtain. I caught myself repeating "nebbia, nebbia, nebbia..." having stored the proper Italian description for the day's weather in my long-term language reserve.

On less foggy, damp days, there is the dust to contend with. This town only has one paved highway and the rest of the roads are mostly gravel and dirt. Seeing as the JV budget does not allow for taxi rides (which is how most locals without their own cars get around), we inhale our fair share of the dust and dirt that car tires spit up into the shoulder. Given my poor health the first weeks I was here, I've taken to daily neti-pot practice. In the past, I had only used the neti-pot when I was ill, but given my overdose on road grit and grime, I think my nasal passages appreciate the irrigation. I know some people find the whole neti process to be unappealing, but imagine if you had never brushed your teeth before, and were suddenly handed an electric toothbrush, baking soda toothpaste, and later some floss. The neti-pot before and after is of similar magnitude. But I don't mean to proselytize so much as celebrate any method that ensures my sense of smell that I so desperately missed during my weeks of sinus chaos.

If there was a moment when I determined I was finally better after those unpleasant days chronicled in the last post, it was in the kitchen one afternoon after work. Our house made the executive decision to use a solid segment of our meager food budget towards a CSA box of vegetables. It was a great decision, especially since we do not buy meat, it makes sense to dedicate a healthy portion of the budget to veggies. We had taken some salmon out of the deep freezer to have for dinner, and in the bottom of the box I discovered a couple bunches of parsley, one flat-leaf, one curly. I got out the cutting board and the biggest, sharpest knife in the hodgepodge utensil drawer and went to work. I pointed the tip of the knife towards the board and started rocking the blade back and forth. While sometimes cooking lulls me into a meditative state, in that moment I was highly aware of each sensation--the verdant green color of the leaves, the rhythmic knock of the uneven cutting board against the counter-top, the curve of the knife in the cup of my palm, and most intensely, the crisp, fresh scent of the now finely chopped herbs. This was a moment of inexplicable and exorbitant elation. So far, it was my best lesson in the JVC value of "simplicity" in a Trader Joe-less world. Without access to every ingredient that the recipe calls for (or my heart desires) I find myself more appreciative of each ingredient. I refuse to see any food in our pantry or freezer go to waste not only because of its economic value in this ten-dollars-for-a-gallon-of-milk town but because in scarcity I have found an abundance of gratitude.

So while car engines are wallpapered with dust and boardwalks seem to drop off on misty mornings, I am still running smoothly and feeling sure-footed. Even if I am stomping in muddy tracks, my eyes are still attuned for verdurous views.


  1. Have you started driving the bus yet?

  2. No bus. It's broken and would cost too much to fix. I drive a Honda Pilot most of the time. I know it's not as great of an image, but it's probably safer for all parties involved.

  3. We have a hodge-podge utensil drawer, too. And, amazingly even out here in the 703, our family lives in a Trader Joe-less world. There, however, the similarities between your life and mine diverge. What did you cook with all that parsley?