Author Archives: ccorleyjd365

Pandemic Potato Soup

I often make potato soup in the winter months.  Today I made a large enough batch to last for several days even if I eat it for lunch and dinner.  Please enjoy this pictorial illustration of the process. 

Stay safe everyone. 

Be good to yourselves and to anyone who comes your way, even if you remain six feet apart.

#mytinylife #happyathome #makinglemonade

The Missouri Mugwump’s Pandemic Potato Soup

(Actually, just my normal soup recipe.)

Ingredients:

1-1/2 bags of purple potatoes (the small string bag; not sure of the size)
¾ lbs of crimini or baby-bella mushrooms (Use white if you prefer; I do not care for them.)
3 large carrots
½ onion (white or yellow)
½ red, yellow, or orange sweet pepper (Please do not use green!!!! As a personal favor to me.)
Coarse salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-32 oz carton of the best vegetable stock you can afford or your favorite brand, unsalted
Optional: Red wine or soy sauce to deglaze
Light oil such as grape seed, about 2 T. in the dutch oven and ½ T. in the skillet

Tools:

3.5 quart or larger heavy Dutch oven
Small skillet
Wooden spoon
Vegetable peeler
Knife
Cutting board (I use one my father made from a tree that fell in my parents’ yard)
Spoon rest
Patience

Into the world

While I was cloistered in my house, the world turned another click.  The snow geese continued their migration, leaving only a few stragglers who soon rose into the sky and carried forward.  The birds of prey returned to the trees of Andrus Island.  Branches tower and sway against the expanse of tender sky, bearing their leaves in verdant contrast. 

My eyes do not see well enough for true photography, nor have I skills with which to venture beyond the auto-setting.  Nonetheless I leave my home before eight when I can, throwing my Canon onto the seat.  I nudge my car to the shoulder on the narrow levee roads and tip my glasses to the end of my nose.  I squint through the view finder, straining to discern the blurred shapes.  I often cannot tell whether the camera has not focused or my eyes have come undone.

I worked at home for a week even before the state-wide shelter-in-place order because of a low-grade fever and a skittish climate.  Two days ago, I ventured back to my darkened office to help keep pace with the demands of our estate-planning clients who often cannot wait for their wills and trusts.  Time presses against their frail bodies.  We feel that keenly and strive to satisfy the pressure.  I also need the income, and the vagaries of my internet connection made working from home somewhat difficult.

So I drive to town in the eerie silence of a lockdown morning.  The turn to HIghway 12 poses no challenge at an intersection where white crosses and scattered flowers mark the tragedy of frequent failure.  The Rio Vista bridge remains open without the frequent river traffic which seems to have slowed. I pass over and into the silent city.  On the way home, I stop to watch the hawks studying the vineyards.  They let me gaze.  They do not flinch.  I raise my camera and press the clumsy shutter.  Then I continue home to my silent dwelling, some kind of peace settling on my soul.  The pandemic has given me this gift:  I no longer need to mutter excuses for my solitary situation.

It’s the twenty-seventh day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Consensus

I went into town yesterday for the first time after seven days’ of self-isolation following a fever.  Though I had gone outside from time to time to stand on the porch, I had not moved my car or left the park since Tuesday of last week.  The drive lifted my spirits.

I came home after a brief rainstorm and stopped on the levee road to take a few pictures.  Later, I heard voices through my window and looked out to see my neighbors Noah and Margaret conversing from a respectable distance — Margaret on her steps, Noah at the edge of her yard.  I went outside and spoke as I came around the corner.

I was just going to chide you all for risking contact, I remarked.  Then I realized neither of you had enough sense to come in out of the rain.  We all laughed as the gentle mist of an early Delta evening settled on our shoulders.

Noah said, It’s good to see you out, Corinne.  I was worried about you.  Then Margaret left to do a little necessary shopping and Noah and I each went to our respective tiny houses.  As I closed the door, I could see a pale glimmer of sunset over the clouds to the west.  I found myself smiling.  Same, Noah, I whispered.  Same.

It’s the twenty-fifth day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Searching for the bright side.

I’ve been in my house for six days straight, except for occasionally standing on my porch to breathe.  Through the transom over the door, I see that the meadow glistens with the fresh green of a burgeoning spring.  I heard baby birds through the bathroom window this morning.  I did not hear the geese; I think they have continued their northward travels.  They will return, assuming the world endures; and whether or not I manage to do so.

When I began my #journeytojoy in December of 2013, I could not have foreseen this intense week of enforced solitude.  Nor could I have envisioned that I would struggle to see the bright side of confinement as part of a world-wide pandemic.  Yet here I sit, in my tiny bedroom, at my tiny desk, in my tiny house, while the last of the winter winds sweep across the island and the world teeters on the brink of madness.

I pause.  

The world could end, it’s true.  Perhaps not tomorrow; but possibly in a few weeks or months.  The planet itself might continue to orbit the sun, while human life implodes.  A wicked virus whips through nation after nation, preying on the weak and the aged.  Politicians bicker over solutions and publicly imply that a few of us might have to fall on our swords in the name of capitalism.  Lament comes easy to my pursed lips in the face of such folly, such disastrous selfishness.

But I refrain.

Since I have little, I can easily survive with less.  Since I have so much compared with many,  fortune shines through even this dreadful mist.  Trapped for this spate of time in the 198 square feet which I crafted for myself, I see its imperfections but find joy in its precious contours.  I stand on the bright side.  I shall linger here for a little while yet, before I face whatever tomorrow brings.

It’s the twenty-third day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

A moment in time

On one side of a moment, a cedar box measuring 198 square feet inhabited by a single sentient being squats on the southern edge of a meadow in the California Delta.  Through a slight rend in the fabric of time, a momentary waft of wind reveals that same figure huddled beneath a table, arms wrapped around an unfamiliar bundle of sweet smells and gentle stirrings.  In a room half the size of the wooden dwelling waiting for her on the other side of time, the woman crouches with thirty others, streaks of tears spilling onto winter jackets and starched white coats.   Through the grey veil of the intervening years she steps, into a small house with four walls, a pitched ceiling, a whispering fan and absent voices stilled by order of the governor.

20 March 2020.  The California Delta; a tiny house on wheels gives refuge or becomes a prison, in the middle of a pandemic.

20 March 1981.  Kansas City, Kansas; a locked examining room at the University of Kansas Medical Center harbors terrified patients or leaves them open for slaughter in the middle of a senseless tirade.

Today I woke before dawn.  My brain expected a sharp rap on the door, an early delivery of needed supplies for the day’s work.  I paced the area of my house which forms the kitchen as I waited for the kettle to boil.  After I had relocked the door and settled my supplies by the desk, I brewed coffee and opened the digital Times to gauge the level of disaster awaiting my nervous glance.  

Since Tuesday evening, I’ve seen only three human beings:  The friend’s son who came by on his way to work this morning; a neighbor bringing packages; and another neighbor toting a bag of groceries.  I’ve talked to two more on the phone.  Messages from around the world have come to me in every imaginable digital venue.  I am not alone.

Yet, I see an empty dwelling.  

The electric heater sends a wave of comfort into the air.  The small refrigerator bulges with enough food for the next ten days. I have a dozen liters of the kind of drinking water which I shamelessly prefer, and a strong tap of water filtered by the in-line charcoal mechanism that a friend changes for me on a regular schedule.  The washing unit functions.  The door securely closes against any evil which might hover on the stoop.

Yet, I shudder with apprehension.

Nearly four decades have passed since a SWAT team crowded me into that small room with the doctors, patients, and visitors hiding from the stark red spray across the walls.  Forty years, since my friend Joyce and I passed that baby back and forth between us while its frail mother rested on a pile of coats beneath the gurney.  Our murmurs to the infant blended with the muttering of the resident who had lost his friend to the shotgun’s blast.  He scribbled in chart after chart while salty tears stung his eyes. 

The horror which brought that group together threatened destruction more quickly than the virus which now keeps each of us sequestered in the solitude of our homes.  Why then does the memory of that night rise in my mind?   I did not realize that today was the anniversary of that awful event, when a brief unwitting visit to the emergency room stretched into a night of terror.  But I was not surprised with the discovery.  My restless soul stirring in the chilly dawn of this fated day surely knew.

It’s the twentieth day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

With Broadway silenced and shuttered, I offer this memorable portrait by my kinswoman:

“Broadway” by Sara Teasdale

This is the quiet hour; the theaters
Have gathered in their crowds, and steadily
The million lights blaze on for few to see,
Robbing the sky of stars that should be hers.
A woman waits with bag and shabby furs,
A somber man drifts by, and only we
Pass up the street unwearied, warm and free,
For over us the olden magic stirs.
Beneath the liquid splendor of the lights
We live a little ere the charm is spent;
This night is ours, of all the golden nights,
The pavement an enchanted palace floor,
And Youth the player on the viol, who sent
A strain of music through an open door.

And because you cannot come to me,  I send you a sight of the beauty here:

 Photo c. C. Corley 2019 – 2020.

Home Sick

For a long time, I owned a pair of grey socks which had belonged to my mother, if one can claim ownership of something taken without consent.  My father slid them from her feet as she lay on her deathbed, easing them gently over gnarled toes.  He told me about it later, since I had gone to my cousin’s house hours before she passed and arrived back at home just as they loaded her into the ambulance to take her to the mortuary.  He pressed the laundried little bundle into my hand when I left for Kansas City after her funeral.  I wore them until they disintegrated.

When I visited my sister at Christmas, I discovered that the only shoes which I had brought with me did not fit very well.  My awkward walking demands a stable perch from which to stride.  My sister asked what size I wore and when I told her, suggested thicker socks since none of her shoes would fit me.  She left a pile on my bed while I was in the shower.  I touched the soft wool and picked the thickest.  On my last day, she told me to keep them.

I’m wearing them right now.  I stayed home from work with a low-grade fever, mostly to protect my co-workers just as the experts tell us we should do.  In normal times, I would ignore this dictate; but the times stopped being normal weeks ago.  Cities and counties hunker down, crouched on the edge of their surrounding mountains and shores.  Children wander into living rooms strewn with books, and toys, and forgotten backpacks filled with homework that will never be graded.  A nation shivers while its people try to fashion life without the warm embrace of friends to comfort us. 

My feet sit beneath my desk, cradled in the turquoise wool embodiment of my sister’s concern for my security.  Outside the transom, I see a groundsman slowly crossing the meadow with a weedeater, skimming the early growth of grass beside the creek.  The branches of the willow sway in a soft breeze, the budding tender shoots drifting through the air. 

While I wait for my co-workers to send work for my remote attention, I think about my mother.  She always wore socks to bed, feeling the cold on her arthritic feet.  I never understood the endurance of the relate between my mother and father.  His violence, his betrayal, his failings disqualified him from her fidelity and yet she never withdrew it.  Something persisted between them.  I have no doubt that he slid those socks from her cold feet with the greatest of tenderness, with reluctance, perhaps even with a tinge of regret.  I understand why he gave them to me.  He had nothing else to offer as testimony to his eternal and unlamented love for the woman who gave me life.

It’s the eighteenth day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Taken from Jackson Slough on Andrus Island, en route to work on 03/17/2020.  My mother would have loved this place; and her feet would have been warm at night here.

Birds in the sky

For many years I longed to be in theatre.  My sister Ann starred in several high school productions.  Mother opened our home to the cast and crew for rehearsal, costume creation, and post-production gatherings.  I hovered in the background, mesmerized by the nonchalant sophistication of the seniors and the sharp sexiness of the aspiring stars.

Mother took my little brothers and me to see The Roar of the Greasepaint in the late 1960s.  Afterwards we belted out the signature songs in our living room. We relished the giddy glory of the rising strength of Cocky as he strove to gain equal footing with Sir; the bold embrace of freedom in the Negro’s victorious stride; and the tender, hopeful chanting of the chorus.  The  entire soundtrack became my personal survival anthem.  

A storm threatened the Delta yesterday.  I heard the stark and steady cries of the snow geese as they descended on the fields of Andrus Island.  I stood on my porch, straining to spy the staunch formations knifing the sky, south to north, high to low, swooping downward to settle.  My neighbor Robin scurried by, her dogs tugging their leash, urging her along.  The wind rifled the grasses along the creek.

Across the meadow, a solitary mourning dove settled on a slender branch.  I raised my lens to capture these moments, seconds which might be my last, which might be the ultimate instant on earth for any of us or any of these creatures.  The wide expanse of clear sky spanned unbroken above me.  The air snapped and crackled.   I stood in silence.  Then I went inside to start supper, closing the door against the gathering gloom.

It’s the fourteenth day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Feeling Good

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Reeds driftin’ on by you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom in the tree you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done
That’s what I mean

And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me

Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

 

Soundtrack to “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd”

 

Perspectives

Once in a while, a sharp reminder that my point of view might not be completely valid prods me to explore a different angle from which to regard life.  This morning, some vague, irrestible urge for clarity drew me from the house as the sun rose above the Delta.

With my camera on the seat, I pulled into a turn-out on Brannan Island Road just west of the park in which I live.  To my right the sun burst through lingering rain clouds.  On the western horizon, wispy vapors drifted past the moon. 

With my lens fully extended, I gasped to behold the contours of the owl’s nest in the towering birch at the end of our meadow. I could see the mother as she greeted the dawn surrounded by a silent gathering of crows.  Out my other window, the old crane kept its eternal vigil over the glimmering stillness of the river.

I shot until my battery died.  This evening, I scrolled through a hundred frames, from moon to sun and back.  I thought about a friend whose feelings I carelessly bruised last evening.  I see his perspective quite clearly now.  I long for his forgiveness, for his certain decision that I still deserve to dwell in this place of enduring beauty.  I know that he would tender this pronouncement if I asked it of him.  That knowledge will suffice to comfort me.

It’s the eleventh day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

In Which I Put Aside First World Problems In Favor of Other Pursuits

Derek and Noah and I sit in Noah’s tiny house, talking about the virus outbreak, some children we know about whom we are worried, and the impact of adversity on humankind.  Derek says, somewhere in the conversation, that whatever else you can say about it all, we have so much.  He suggests  that we might need to look at our bounty a little more closely.  I’m paraphrasing, true; but not a lot.  We nod.  We take his point.

I walked home in a light drizzle, watching Derek and Noah haul the last of the old boards collected in the clean-up day.  They hoist them into the dump trailer.  Their voices drift back to where I’m standing.  A minute or so later, they pass my house and Derek stops to look at a small modification in my bathroom that I can’t quite figure out how to do.  He suggests a solution. I know that in a day or two — by and by — he’ll wander back and the task will get done.  He’s that kind of neighbor.

I could spend the evening doing chores, but I see that an impromptu game night has been organized in the community room.  I’ll grab a bottle of wine and wander in that direction.  A longer missive had risen to the surface, pining to be written.  I intended to wax self-righteous about tolerating inconveniences, overcoming sleep-disturbance, and the 170 pages of medical records from Stanford through which I’m slogging to figure out the full extent of the apparently unnecessary treatment which drew me to California.  But — did I mention? — it’s game night, and anyway, it’s hard to be self-righteous and uncomplaining at the same time.

It’s the seventh day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Taken on Andrus island, as most of my other geese photos have been.  Offered solely for enjoyment.  Canadian geese and snow geese co-existing, not worried about first-world problems.

From Me To You

Here is my gift for you.  I forswear any words with which I might have thought to preface this tender.  I stand silent.  See my hand stretched toward you.  Put down the burden in your arms.  Reach instead to take what I offer.  Something sweet, something unadulterated by election returns, or scowling lovers, or the flutter of bills to the floor when the letter carrier comes calling.  This loveliness makes no demand of you.  This glory exists merely to beautify the world where otherwise you might see ripples of dark and unrelenting pain.  Serenity: that is my gift for you.  Wrap yourself close.

It’s the third day of the seventy-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Taken on Andrus Island, on the California Delta Loop, near Isleton, California, 03 March 2020.