Points of Refuge and Respite

woman meditating on rock
Photo by Felipe Borges on Pexels.com

I watched too much TV yesterday and Saturday. Granted that a lot of it involved watching Rep. John Lewis make his final trip over the Pettis Bridge, but still too much of it. It wasn’t the worst thing that I could have done, but it may not have been the best.

In other times, I would have seen who was available for lunch or gone to physical yoga class. But not these days. We have the accursed COVID-19 still in play, messing with most restaurants and many retail establishments. The yoga studio went back to online classes only. And we have had a long stretch of days topping 90 (I wilt at 85 and curl into a blackened ball over 90, especially when humidity comes into play) that’s been interfering with our ability to walk.

But these are extraordinary times we live in. Not unprecedented, since we’ve had the Spanish flu about 100 years ago and the sweating sickness and before that the Black Plague. And countless other epidemics that didn’t get recorded. Oh, and the political upheaval on this scale is nothing new.  Just highly unusual.

How, then, does a person cope?

I’ve been reading. A lot, specifically rereading Jane Austen. The rogues, rakes, and scalawags in her books behave with a modicum of propriety and panache, unlike the miscreants grabbing the headlines of the moment.  Otherwise, it’s a steady diet of books and websites about England, France, and Italy. I’ve found inspiration and entertainment through reading menus from places such as Cafe de Flores, one of the great literary hangouts in Paris. Sigh.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to France, or finally to England or Italy, but I’ll be ready. Thanks to YouTube, I’m learning Italian. I feel confident that I can order coffee and something to go with it. Plus I’m picking up more of what they’re really saying when I watch an Italian mystery on MHz and not just what the subtitles say.

And there’s period dramas. Still on the hunt for something to replace “Downton Abbey.” Or at least fill in the gaps. (Yes, I tried “Poldark,” but when Ross came home  from fighting in the Revolutionary War to find that his father had died and his girlfriend was engaged to his cousin all in the first five minutes put me off.) (Oh, and “Victoria?” They killed off two of my favorite characters. One they had to for historical accuracy, but the other was a shoddy way to advance the story line.)

But there comes a time when one must turn off the tube, put down the book,  and get outside. The problem is finding the sweet spots of the day when it’s relatively cool and the forest preserve isn’t overrun with other walkers, especially the ones who don’t mask up or respect social distancing. Technically, the preserves don’t open until 8 AM, but as long as you don’t bring a marching band with you, the workers pay no mind if you sneak in at 7:30 give or take a few minutes. We go after 5 PM when the hoards thin out. If we walk on the back trails and horse paths, it’s not too hard to avoid other walkers.

If the nuances of weather and thinned crowds fall into place, we walk out to the observation platform on the east end of the preserve. I sit for a few minutes and watch the river tumble to the southwest while Oakley sniffs around the  the platform’s edges to see which critters have been there.

Refreshed, we walk up the trail to meet the common world, ready to take on whatever gets shown at us.

 

 

Pasta con Broccoli, Por Favore

Are you acquainted with MHz? It’s a less well known public broadcasting network that we discovered by the grace of our converter box. Most nights find Hubby and me watching their “International Mystery” rather than the offerings on network TV. One night viewers might find a procedural from Germany or a walk on humanity’s dark side from Sweden; another a look at cultural clashes through the eyes of an Australian police officer.  

This winter’s salvation arrived in the form of Saturday afternoons with our favorite detective, “Inspector Montalbano.” In addition to catching the culprit, Salvo and the gang from Vigata have likely kept us from wandering off into the swirling whiteness engulfing the fields around our house throughout this too-long too-drawn out winter. Here’s a taste in the form of a promo from a couple of seasons ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js74ASrRbxM. 

While solving the murder offers plenty of twists and turns, there are some guarantees for each episode: Salvo will get into an argument with Livia, his longterm lady friend, and throw a cordless phone; Catarella, the officer who handles the phones, will irritate Salvo at least once and mispronounce someone’s name ; and Salvo will enjoy his food. One of his favorites is pasta and broccoli.

It’s become one of my favorites, too. Easy to make and on the table in less than 30 minutes. Pour some good olive oil into a small pan and slice in lots of garlic. I use anywhere from three to five cloves depending on size and my attention span. Add a good shake of red pepper flakes. Place over a low flame and gently heat until the aroma of garlic fills the room. Don’t let the garlic get brown. Now, fill your favorite pasta pot with salted water and broccoli. The florets of one stalk usually do it for the two of us. Bring to a boil, and then add the pasta. I’ve been using brown rice fettuccini. Takes about ten minutes to cook. When done, drain and pour the lovely garlic oil over it, grate Parmesan or asiago on top of it, and you really won’t care what the weather is doing.

Unless the electricity goes out and you can’t watch Salvo and company. You’ll still have a lovely bowl of pasta, but it’s just not right without the music, the scenery, and the humor of daily life in Sicily.