right before I woke up. I was in Manhattan with Lark and Sam, and it was dusk, and we were cruising down these wide empty streets. And the best part is that we were on rollerskates. And I could feel the wind in my face, and I could see the wind in Sam’s big red fro. We were trying to catch our flight at the airport, but we missed it, of course, so we went to the roller rink instead. And we were such good rollerskaters! And we could go so fast! And do so many tricks! And there was even someone there that I vaguely knew from Portland, to rollerskate with us!
Yesterday was an incredible day out here at Happy Camp. Had a mid-day kitchen meeting with the head cook and S., my co-cook, who I haven’t told you about yet, and after looking at our time sheets the head cook gave me the rest of the day off, since I was getting perilously close to 40 hours. This is the first year they are trying to keep the kitchen staff (at least the two assistant cooks, because we work hourly) from working a zillion hours of overtime, and for this I am grateful. It remains to be seen if we can actually do all the work we need to do in just 40 hours. It may just turn out that the quality of food served here (wheat bias aside) is no miracle, but the end result of a team of people working overtime and not getting paid for it, which has been the m.o. of previous years.
It was hot by the time the meeting was over, out on the back deck of the lodge. Back in the bunkhouse I changed into shorts, wrapped my knee brace around my leg, and stuffed a backpack with old cookbooks I’d found in the shed, along with my copy of Nourishing Traditions. A sheet of scrap paper and a pen, some water and my sunglasses, and I set out on the trail leaving camp to find a nice mossy clearing, where I could lay back and look at the cedar boughs, and plan some new dishes with the cookbooks. As I walked my stiff knee gave strange little cries, but mostly it was ok. Earlier in the day I had realized that the rear derailleur cable on my bike was broken, and with that had solved the mystery of my knee inflammation. I hadn’t had any easy gears for weeks! And I hadn’t even noticed! But my knee had. I think the final straw had been the night I biked up hills to Jasper’s for dinner, with Nicole’s dog in a sling on my back. I wondered, at the time, why it had been so hard to go up those little hills. And my knee has been a little inflamed ever since.
It felt so good to walk through the woods, with nowhere to be and the rest of the day off, I ended up on another trail that crossed Da Nile and cut back through the most beautiful 700 year old cedars. Every day when I hike here has been an adventure, because I don’t know where any of the trails go and my backyard is a fucking wilderness area that goes on for miles and miles, filled with ancient trees, pristine streams and secret forest clearings.
It was warm and the sun made the perfect dappled shade along the path. I started to get that “I’m on a mythical quest” sort of feeling, like I’m a kid again and I’m just playing in the woods, and just over that ridge there could be anything- anything. The forest around me flattened out to little pools that dripped from mysterious sources and fallen logs the size of couches, and beyond that the ground climbed a bit to what looked like a clearing way up high, where the sun shone down and beckoned me. I left the little dirt path and started picking my way across the forest floor, climbing hand over hand up the damp, mossy slope, using young hemlocks as handholds and scratching my bare ankles on berberine-rich Oregon Grape. Every so often I would find a sort of shelf, soft and matted and narrow, and I would think, this is where the animals walk. And I would follow it up the slope, but it was for far shorter animals than I, and I was much too big for their little hemlock archways. In the end I was a sort of awkward bear, stepping clumsily over their archways and tearing moss from rock with my big feet, the sound of my passing ringing over the still mountainside like a car accident.
I climbed and climbed, and then I got tired and so I stopped at a last mossy shelf and sat. I was sitting in a little sloping nook, my legs over a decomposing log, a pillow of moss under my head. The fingers of a young hemlock swayed over me, filtering the light. It was so still, for a long time I could only sit, and smell the damp moss smell of the forest, and feel the warmth of afternoon. It was so still, and I was so far off the trail, and there was not a person or a thing anywhere that was not this old, old forest. I took off my shoes and socks, stripped off my sweaty t-shirt and changed it for the warm, dry hoodie in my bag. Laying back, all the thoughts ran their ragged courses and then left my head. There was nothing left, only this gentle wind and beyond the trees a soft blue sky, and triangles of sunlight like warm beings curled up to nap on the south slopes of logs.
I love being spooned by the forest.
After an appropriate amount of time, I opened the battered copy of The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd that I had found in the shed behind the lodge and started flipping through recipes, looking and not finding the treasure chest of legume dishes I had hoped would be buried there. There were a few, all of them a little strange- lima bean chili made with cream cheese? ewwww….. Instead I found lots of the standard pre-millennium united-statesian vegetarian fare- lasagna, tofu sandwiches, cous-cous, and pasta, pasta, pasta. Good god, people! The world is not made of wheat and dairy alone! Not only are legumes the least-weird way to get your precious blood-sugar stabilizing protein if you don’t eat meat, but they’re also a food indigenous to this continent, that people here have been eating for thousands of years! What is it with us? Is it because we cook them wrong, and they upset our stomachs, and so we never want to eat them again? No, I would not be making bread with bread sauce. Not now, not ever. Giving up, I pulled Nourishing Traditions from my bag, trusting Sally Fallon to bring me back to my comfort zone and reassure me that there were, indeed, people in the world who knew to rinse the beans after cooking and weren’t overwhelmed by the idea of steaming brown rice.
I didn’t get to the recipes, I ended up reading her incredible rant on what sort of water you should drink, which turns out to be hard spring or well water right from the source (not via bottle, for other reasons) because hard water actually has magnesium in it, as well as all sorts of trace minerals, and there have been studies in hard-water-drinking parts of the world that have found double the bone density, and a tenth the tooth decay of other areas where folks drank softened water. Sweet, I thought. Here I am, in the village of “we-all-get-spring-water-right-from-the-tap.” Only thing is, there’s a big softener in the supply shed, so it’s all been stripped of its minerals in order to make it suitable for washing clothes and bathing. I’m going to have to find a way to get it before it gets to the softener, I thought. Or I’m going to walk to the creek and get it myself, bucket by bucket.
I also read about sea salt, which is not as interesting, but similar- refined salt has been stripped of its minerals, etc., etc.
It was getting towards dinner time. I packed up my stuff and picked my way gingerly down the slope, ending up at the trail and finishing the loop back towards camp, stopping on the way to stare at the spot where Da Nile crashes down through shear rock to a deep aquamarine pool- the swimming hole. I live in paradise, I thought. Paradise!