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September 27, 2013: Harvest Moon Cornucopia

September 27, 2013

Harvest Moon CornucopiaLast week, I got an opportunity to visit my friend Ellen, whom I had worked with at my last temp job. The job was a miserable, dirty one scrounging trough and cataloging old financial records. What made the job palatable were the fine people assigned to get this odious chore done.

Ellen was a particular solace. She is one of those rare individuals who is not only easy to converse with, but who constantly looked out for her fellow workers. To my memory, not a single day went by that Ellen did not supply us with baked goods, either made by her or from various bakeries. She also had a knack for bringing in cleaning supplies, that she had collected from sundry supply centers to repurpose to people she knew. With every penny counted, it was a relief for me not to have to worry at all where detergents were coming from. While reading a story of Lafcadio Hearn, where he cites the particular human quality of “active beneficence” it was a revelation to look beyond my page and recognize a living example of this quality in one of my fellow workers.

Ellen’s active beneficence does not end with her fellow humans. She is very committed to programs that help to neuter abandoned cats and dogs, and even uses her own home as a half-way house to help place strays to willing and responsible owners.

Ellen used to tell me about her husband, Jack and his fine garden. As gardening is one of my  interests that have fallen to the wayside due to hard financial times, I was curious to see his.

And what a garden! Even in late-Summer, Jack’s garden had an obvious bounty of peppers, sunflowers, squashes, eggplants, various greens and tomatoes. Through the blur of my imagination, I could picture how full it looked a month ago, at the height of a home garden. I love talking to experienced gardeners like Jack. They are always full of helpful advice and knowledge, and especially a pride in what they have grown.  I found his use of support of vines by 5′ aluminum poles to be a practical (and perennial) solution. To be truthful, I did not absorb all he told me about the individual pepper plants he had, but one thing stuck: watering peppers well decreases the capsicum (the “heat” element) of peppers.  I found this true when I made a tomato and cheese omelette  and topped it off with not only grilled spring onion and peppers from Jack’s garden but also with Ellen’s wonderful homemade salsa.

Tomato and Monteray Jack Omelette, topped with Ellen's homemade salsa and Jack's grilled spring onions and peppers

Tomato and Monteray-Jack Omelette, topped with Ellen’s homemade salsa and Jack’s grilled spring onions & peppers

Jack and Ellen supplied me with a cornucopia of delicious veggies from their garden:

Garlic; Tomatoes; Spring Onion: Summer Squash; Eggplant(both Globe and Japanese varieties); Swiss Chard; Bok Choy; Various Peppers; Thyme; Cantaloupe; Beets and Beet Greens.

Harvest Stir Fry

Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Beet Green, Spring Onion, Pepper stir-fry with Black Rice/Orzo and Basamati Rice in veggie broth and Thyme

I also made  fine stir-fry from all the greens, onions and peppers. A splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus a grind of pepper was all it needed. I made a combo of black rice+orzo and basamati rice, both cooked in the veggie broth from the green leavings and flavored with Jack’s fresh Thyme.

As Ellen was taking me around to show me her flower gardens, it was clear where she had gotten the habit of repurposing. Generations of her family members had repurposed, what was essentially junk, into quaint, personal, and eclectic decorations for the yard: a huge, brightly colored windmill and the painted planters made from old factory hardware held Ellen’s beautiful late-Summer flowers.

I wanted to meet all the animals, both owned and boarded. I first met “Nippy” a miniature Pincher who, despite his name, did not nip at all, but was quite friendly. He was a bundle of constant energy ‘tho, and did not once stop moving until we had a tug of war with a tennis ball, where his abundant energy was momentarily stalemated by mine.

Next was a beautiful Siamese: clear, crystal blue eyes with soft fur of shades from brown to black. At first skittish, he quickly decided I was the OK sort and cozied up. Ellen said he was most likely abandoned due to the “imperfections” in his markings. Ellen had matched him up with a young Cambridge couple, so he was off shortly to a new, posh life.

Then there was a tiny black kitten. As I picked him up, he was so gentle and content that my first thought was “Oh, here is an old soul.” The poor little thing was suffering from a cold and as soon as my attention was on him, this set off Nippy to rough-housing with him, in a bid for attention. The besieged kitten finally had enough of his ears being chewed on and gave Nippy  a soft bat with a hiss and went up on a table, snuffling out of reach.

As I was heading home, my trunk full of Ellen and Jack’s active beneficence, the tawny Harvest Moon skipped over the bough-tops and I thought of those words we associate with this season: harvest, bounty, cornucopia (the “horn of plenty” representing the harvest bounty.)

HMC-BannerI do admit, in my darkest hours, I consider my own late harvest to be a bitter one: my good and earnest labors left wasted as if a barren field. Still…life is painted by so many forms and is colored by so many sundry good things…so I will take these precious moments: the generosity of the wise and the good (which can never be undervalued); the cleverness of repurposing our resources; the richness of a well-tended garden and the bounty of the good Earth.

Even the little ones had lessons to teach: the friendly comfort of a sultry, posh kitty; the stillness-in-tension from a hyperactive puppy; and the zen-like patience of a beleaguered, snuffling kitten.

By this age, I am supposed to be wise, yet often feel anything but (save if wisdom be the stoic acceptance of one’s ocean of ignorance.) But, the cornucopia of kindness and experience, acquired my Harvest Moon evening west of Boston, is something I can safely say is truly known.  One could not  wish for a better bounty.

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