First were the bushels of
peppers chilies waiting to be roasted. It was chili season, and [in addition to this treasure ,] heaps of shiny red, orange,purple, and green peppers were in baskets under a tent.
Eight kinds of potatoes, more varieties of the chilies, small sweet cantaloupe, tomatoes, string beans, pale lavender to dark purple eggplant–the market stalls burst with color. Okra. Stone ground flour. Hand pies. Gourmet donuts, thick enough to dunk. Sage wands wrapped in rose petals, and bunches of cosmos and stock and delphinium. Here, the photos are worth far more than the words.
Moscow and London were out because of my accident resulting in a broken wrist. August left one further plan. My brother wanted my mother’s long-cherished dream of seeing Hawaii to come true, so he booked passage on a cruise, and I was invited. Seven days sailing along the Hawaiian islands, visiting various ports with garden tours, coffee-tastings, and a luau thrown in. The first kink in the plan was that I threw my back out while leaning to brush my cat who was sitting on a chair. The second was Hurricane Lane. I traveled to NJ as scheduled. There, we wondered what to do. After much delay, our flight to Honolulu was cancelled and Norwegian trimmed the cruise back to five days. After hemming and hawing, or humming and howing, along with intense perusal of weather forecasts, and pondering the ethics of visiting a disaster-zone as tourist-consumers, we cut the cruise out altogether. Thus, New Jersey, on my back, waiting out a pulled back, on a carpet or bed of my choice.
Published in the year of his death from cancer, Henning Mankell’s After the Fire is a slow examination of a seventy-year-old’s confrontation with solitude and loss. The protagonist, a retired doctor, lives in a archipelago being visited by an arsonist, and we begin at the site of the first fire. Finding the arsonist is relegated to the background, as what it means to live in a community where trust is replaced by wariness is explored, even as death and old age is the larger specter in the forefront. Yet this is an optimistic novel, where friendship and family, however distant, is embraced, sometimes gingerly, sometimes with affection.
This was the one of the last books I read before I broke my wrist, but not the last book I’ve read since. There was a fatalistic stoicism in the narrative that strikes me deeper as I now try to fill my days with no-impact activity. Thus constrained to cat care, lackluster weeding, a great deal of sighing, a fascination of one-handed bottle opening techniques, elevating my arm on pillows, watching repeats of mysteries, instagram, I am reading with an awareness that my situation could have been worse. The Great Believers by the quite brilliant Rebecca Makkai, a Claire Messud novel, Elif Safak‘s Forty Rules of Love,and a wonderful novel by Caitlin Macy called Mrs. Now, biding my time, easing insomnia, I am romping through Kevin Kwan‘s Crazy Rich Asians, which will become a film*. it has an all-Asian cast, for it is story about Asians. Apparently, one filmperson wanted the heroine to be re-cast white, but no. She will be a wary non-rich, non-crazy Asian woman portrayed by an Asian.
Sometimes the fates shift the balance.
*the book is different than what the film preview shows, from dialogue to fashion, alas.
I broke my wrist.
I broke my wrist on Wednesday, planning to leave for London on Monday.
I broke my wrist on Wednesday, planning to leave for London on Monday, attend a masked ball ballet on Thursday, after visiting the queen’s gallery.
I wanted to meet an old dear friend and his dog, visit museums and gardens galore, and see how many cake shops and tea rooms I could visit.
I was going to research in the British library, see a scholar on south asian art, but I broke my wrist on Wednesday.
I uploaded the London transport app, the London bus app, trip-mapper, and culture whisperer with high hopes, or no hopes because it was practical. I bookmarked a dozen or more must-see lists.
Then I was going to fly to Moscow, visit St Basil’s, the kremlin, go for a banya, drink at the metropole, flood instagram with photos of old world Russian architecture from The Golden Ring. I planned to eat blini. dark sweet bread. Food from Georgia. But for the wrist.
I planned to return to London, see Mark Rylance in Othello, hear Sir Simon Brattle conduct at Royal Albert Hall, and return, sated, tired, and fully limbed.
That was the plan… but my tryst was with a trying wrist.
Let me try to describe it. You open your mouth to take a taste, but it is like swallowing a thick river. Then you remember to sip, and the maneuver works. It is chocolate, but more so, in a cafe crowded for the weather, customers lined up for “hugs in mugs” ( TM) and hot mocha. I order two thin chocolate lemon peels, thinking of espresso. The taste complements, tart sweet. Actually, that is almost the name of a smoothie here, made with beets, cukes, and more good things. An eleven-year-old in this sweet shop orders it ; bless him.