Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter: azaleas, waterways and swingtime

We're not vegetarians and we're not even very good Catholics but we do know an excellent holiday dinner when it presents itself. And we don't ignore meals that promise to serve as lunch for the following week. With Mac away in Connecticut this year, I didn't have the heart to make the glazed ham he loves. So I made homemade baked macaroni and cheese (which, by the way, he dislikes rather strongly), and we heaped up piles of salad on our plates, topped with fresh (Plant City!) strawberries and sliced almonds, carefully toasted in our oven. We had mandarin oranges, golden raisins and feta cheese as salad topping options.

There are deviled eggs, egg salad and just plain old boiled eggs in the fridge so we don't lose sight of the festival's heart which is, after all, to speak of fertility. To ancient (and not-so-ancient) people, the vernal equinox had significance to the Goddess as the returning light meant the hope of abundant crops; it was an affirmation of life. In the Christian calendar, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring after the vernal equinox. The ancient Egytians built the Sphinx so that it faces the rising sun on the very day of the spring equinox. There is powerful energy here, in my opinion, no matter what your personal language of spirituality. And there is poweful magic in homemade macaroni and cheese, and I mean no irreverence. Really.

For more evidence that Easter's tidings are upon us, the azaleas have finally burst into color. A long, chilly spring has made them reluctant to open their faces to the sun, but here they are, at last. (You already know this if you visit here often or if you live in a garden zone analagous to Zone 9A. I'm sorry for boring those of you who already have azaleas blooming at home.) Here they are along our fenceline, their deep fuschia colors looking glamorous in the golden light of late afternoon. All the plants along our driveway were rescued by Rodney when someone else thought they were dead. He planted them and carefully nurtured them until one spring they burst into this astonishing display of color. We've never looked back. But wait. That's not the best of spring in St. Augustine.

Here's even better evidence: the rope swing at the back of our property. To our endless joy and amazement, we live at the tiny, occasionally tidally navigable point where land meets the narrow Stokes Creek and spills out to the Tolomato River, almost directly across from our much-loved Guana. The Tolomato River is the western boundary of Guana and part of the the Intracoastal Waterway. Water flowing into the river becomes part of the ICW and eventually pours into the Atlantic Ocean.

Long before it gets there, it is overhung by water oaks and live oaks, one of which (at our house) is draped with a long, thick rope. It's a type of rope called "hawser" in nautical terms, which means it's nearly as thick as my wrist and certainly heavy enough to carry my fat butt from our bank out across the marsh for a roller-coaster-like head rush and the best view of the grass river you can see without being in a boat. That's the academic description, of course. Once you get past that, you'll just see Rodney laughing, joyfully weightless, reflected in the thin stream of water on the edge of the marsh. It's not a bad reminder of spring, albeit less elegant that the Pyramids or the Easter Vigil or even a gorgeous Easter bonnet. It's a fine Easter reminder, indeed. Sometimes the boundary that sets apart our spiritual wellness is blurred positively by physical pain. When my dear old friend Carrie was dying this was very much how it looked to me. For other people in other circumstances, the blurry line takes on a faint taste of bitterness and one's reach to peace is harder and less forgiving; perhaps this whole equation is harder to resolve when the situation is indefinite. The rope swing lets me see someone I love, released from any worries or pain or concern: this is a vision of resurrection we can all believe in.

Finally, this week Adam comes home to Katie, to his mother and his father, to celebrate spring (and a WEDDING!) and love. He's an unlikely Easter bunny. Come to think of it, he's an absurd Easter bunny. But there it is, no more weird and unbalanced than any other part of our wacky lives. Happy Easter, everyone.


  1. Happy Easter to you! I'm not doing much on the holiday either. A bit of writing (okay, a LOT of writing) and a simple meal of jambalaya. I don't do many holidays. But I'll relax for a time.

    It did take some time for the azaleas to appear. It got really hot here (over 80 degrees) and then we had a cold snap the next day and now another warm spell. I'm not sure how the flowers will react.

    The rope swing looks delightful! I can imagine a person hanging weightless, feeling the breeze rushing past the face!

  2. You've got a rope swing? I want to live where you live!

    Happy Easter!

  3. Wow, Michelle: As you know you've now stepped into ominous Eat Here territory. You can't just say you're making jambalya without telling how you make it. Give! And please do keep us posted with azalea photos if you can... <3

    Suldog, come on down. Our boys (one now 20 and in the Navy; one now 18 and about to graduate from high school) actually used to scale the tree when they were (dare I say it?) nippers and when their dad got hold of the nautical rope...well, voila: life with boys. I'll try and take more pictures...stay tuned!

  4. I can't take credit for the jambalaya recipe. It came from my good friend Angie "Gumbo Writer," whose currently on blog sabbatical. Here's her web site with the recipe (she also did a wicked white beans and ham).

    And here's her recipe:

    -Jazzy Jambalaya

    -2 onions, 1/2 cup celery, garlic cloves to taste (chopped fine)
    -{This is what is known as the holy trinity of cooking.}
    -Salt, black pepper, Tony Chachere's or cayenne pepper to taste
    -2 lbs. of your favorite sausage
    -4 cups rice
    -Kitchen Bouquet

    -Saute veggies in olive oil until sweated. Add to large pot of prepared rice. (Leftover brown rice works great!) Add 4 cups of water in which you've mixed Kitchen Bouquet. Simmer on very low until serving time if you are using leftover rice, making sure rice doesn't stick to bottom of pot. Your ingredients are already fully cooked.

    -If you are beginning with raw rice, put all ingredients in pot together so rice can cook and absorb the flavors. Perfect for a meal or hearty side dish.

    I did tweak the recipe a little, where I added beef broth into the recipe in place of some of the water and the Kitchen Bouquet(a southern browning agent which I've never seen in the stores where I am) and I cut down the ingredients for a meal-for-one. Personally, I never do any actual measurements. Just throw everything into the pot and give a taste now and again to see how it fares.

  5. Michelle, I am trying this for sure. Let me know if you want to try Kitchen Bouquet - I don't usually use it but it's in every store here and I could drop some to you via the USPS. :)
    Thank you SO MUCH for the recipe from Angie L.; I would also love the white bean recipe!


Please share your thoughts. If you have trouble getting past the gatekeeper, email and let me know.