Tag Archives: Summer

Lemon Chiffon

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It was early morning. I wandered out into the front courtyard garden and was greeted by a late-blooming lily of exquisite delicacy. Flower - Lily

 

Like a parachute at dawn, this lily had silently landed – petals spread aghast – in a color impossibly soft.

 

Made of flouncy fabric with ruffled edges, so like a trill of tiny pie shell scallops that I jolted.

 

“Lemon Chiffon,” I thought.

 

Yes. The lemon silk pies my mother baked in the moist summer heat of her cherished kitchen.

Pie - Lemon Meringue

Attributed to BettyCrocker

 

The kitchen designed in tones of mocha icing: big brown blocks of linoleum knitted the floor together in a spray of geometric patterns. Countertops were speckled with confetti inlays of chocolate and bronze-metallic.

 

Why, I wonder, was tidy splatter ever appealing as décor in the 1960s?

 

Was it the mirror of a rebellion brewing in the human heart, or, something simpler: camouflage for crumbs?

 

My mother’s kitchen was, always, well-scrubbed with elbow grease. She had little to hide. Perhaps just a few . . .

 

Stealthy crumbs like pie crust crystals left behind after the rolling pin ironed the dough ball flat and the pewter knife trimmed the jagged ends and the crooked knuckles of my mother’s hands had crimped the 9” diameter of a tenderized tin plate.

 

The hot clammy summer weather soothed her crippled fingers, while its weight caused the pastry ruching to droop.

 

The process always looked futile.

 

Until she poured molten lemon custard from a stainless steel double boiler into the slumping, buttery pie shell.

 

And slide the tarnished pan onto the oven’s middle rack, baking it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

 

Tangy Lemon Chiffon Pie Photo by Taste of Home

Although this routine raised the already sweltering heat of the kitchen, she produced an animated, flaky-crusted, glossy-skinned meringue that floated cloud-like atop a lemon silk pie.

 

Impossibly soft in color.

 

Tartly refreshing in flavor.

 

Bordered with crisp, fluted edges.

 

Just like the perfect lemon chiffon summer.

 

And as the dog days of summer relax their bark and collar their bite, a slice of nostalgia seems so fitting to me.

 

A vision carried from childhood on the breath of God.

 

A snapshot of mother-magic.

 

To boost me forward on my earthwalk.

 

Front Porches

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House - Black & White Illustration

 

My childhood largely revolved around front porches.

Front-porch life was stuffed with neighbors, waves, smiles, spontaneous conversations, sounds of children playing, delivery men, coffee klatsches, repose, daydreams, and mosquitoes.

On the East Coast, screened-in porches were a necessity if one wanted to linger in summer’s hazy, lazy, crazy days of white heat. And that quivery, tar-colored mesh created a new seasonal room overnight.

It was magical.

And I claimed it as my secret space .  .  . sitting on the painted mocha concrete, hidden from the gregarious world by a hedge of boxwood. So perfectly sculpted in geometrical angles. It was my father’s pride, as an engineer, to bring his drafting skills home from the office and share them with our landscaping.

It was technical perfection as it rounded a porch corner, and, tall enough to camouflage a tiny girl playing with her simmering fantasies.

Sitting on my front porch in the summer, I would look out at the world through a mesh veil of tiny squares. Small enough to prevent a mosquito from flying in. Fine enough to allow my child-eyes to see through. To see the details of life.

It was nearly transparent, but screen vision left an imprint on my inner lens.

Life always wore a tulle shroud of imperceptible right angles, square snapshots multiplied exponentially.

Vision was defined by bolts of woven wire. A plain weave. A diaphanous wall through which angels and children watch the world. Not yet knowing that life is really lived outside the graph paper rhythm of mosquito screening.

Insects do bite. And vision gains clarity outside the porch cloak.

But as a child, I felt protected inside the porch with its concrete floor and painted wooden side door. And the screens, where windows once sealed a space, now permitted breezes to visit in diced ripples.

I didn’t know yet that tiny squares were prisons, too.

And I didn’t know why mosquitoes were feared.

I was a child designing hopscotch blueprints and diagonal dreams for the asphalt avenue just outside the porch.

I was unaware of my containment in squares.

And unaware of what a vast breeding ground little square porches and concrete steps can offer to someday stoop-sitting philosophers like me.

Yes. It’s always a surprise to pause, take a moment to look back to childhood, and see how that child birthed the woman I am today.

A woman happy to sit in a rocking chair on any vintage front porch and daydream as cotton-candy clouds scud overhead.

Will I ever truly grow up?

Only time will tell.

Time: that faithful, gossipy scribe that records all life’s events – both visible and invisible.

 

 

Some Days are Written; Some Days are Read

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Old books, inkstand and scrollSome days I write thousands of words and soak in their imaginary meanings like a healing hot tub.

And then some days, I have no desire to write. There is no fulfillment in either the act or the outcome.

Why this inconsistency of creativity?

It’s not writer’s block. There’s no fear.

It’s something like a shift in circadian rhythm.

My creative clock doesn’t tick according to night or day; Hallmark holidays, patriotic holidays or religious sacristy. It doesn’t bow to the lunar cycle or bend to the ocean tides. But if I examine its pattern a little more closely, it does seem to follow the four seasons – the solstices and the equinoxes.

Right now in the Northern Hemisphere – in the middle-of-nowhere desert where I live – it’s summer.

The days are warm with azure skies in the mornings and monsoon thundershowers in the afternoons.

The sky is center stage. It’s theater is spectacularly bold and diverse. Its performances are fully absorbing and keep me curious.

I’m satisfied at a core level, at a visceral, molecular stratum of being.

And I’m going to posit here that I’m not just simply lazy; I’m actually content and at peace.

When I exist in this place of balance, I’m withdrawn from the urge – or the need – to create.

Because I’m complete.

Momentarily.

For three months, perhaps.

My inner world is not having temper tantrums. It’s not needy, desperate, dwelling in its wounds, picking its soul-scabs.

It’s still.

And when stillness rests over my private cosmos, I’m not inclined to write or create in any venue.

Why?

I’ll suggest that creativity is, in part, at least, the heart’s quest for fulfillment; the ego’s cry to preach; the spirit’s hunger to bite the marrow inside the bone.

If I x-ray myself, I see a world of chaos and haze; of potholes and teardrops; of fears and muddy, gravel-less roads of quicksand.

It’s a messy tableau.

It craves order.

So it tries to collect all its stray cats and thrust them outward in an act of creation that’s volcanic. Eruptively beautiful, poignant, provocative, disturbing – an objet d’art that purges some inner pain and places it tangibly in the physical world for others to bask in.

Be moved by. Feel empathy with. Turn away in disgust at the cavernous echoes it sends back to their own hidden wreckage.

A peek at the creative process from a different angle.

This slantview: part selfish; part reverential .  .  . may be skewed.

 

Back to those summer days, though. I do find myself passively reading. Like a chipmunk gathering stock for the winter, I collect word-concepts for the burst of creative urgency that nips at the frigid hiney of every Winter Solstice.

A life-cycle that I’m unconscious of until I step back and watch myself with all the marionette strings severed.

A lightning flash of a new landscape blinks.

It’s a veil unblackened.

There’s a temptation to draw a conclusion.

But, I know the little assassin in my mind will shoot bullet holes in whatever billboard I erect. Billboard

So, I’ll hug darkness with wonderment.

 

 

 

 

The Grind

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Mocha Muse has its very own newspaper, The Grind. It may contain a quote, a poem, song lyrics, snippets of overheard conversation or fascinating facts about creativity/life. So, leather sofa in Home Interiorsnuggle into the sofa, unfold the paper and reach for your morning cup of coffee.

Here’s the twelfth issue. . . just click on newspaper to enlarge, then continue to click until text is readable for you!

The Grind - (6-22-2015) Ode to Dad on Father's Day

Many thanks to Ron Sickler for sharing the opening quote in this week’s The Grind. The moment I read his words, I knew that they echoed the ghost of my father.

To read more of Ron’s witty quips and quotes, check out his book, Out of My Mind, From My Heart & Off My Chest!

And in case you’re unfamiliar with Icebox or Zebra Cake, here’s a little sample to tempt your taste buds:  Icebox Cake

It was a staple in my mom’s summer dessert repertoire. Perfect for those hot, humid “dog days” of East Coast summer!

There’s even a Mocha Chocolate version of the original Icebox Cake. It’s far more decadent .  .  . perhaps best served as a winter dessert, accompanied by hot espresso or mulled wine.