Monday, November 29, 2010

Just one more day of deer hunting season left, and then there's muzzle-loader season that extends into mid-December. We're not even going to talk about the ruffled grouse, pheasant, bobwhite quail, rabbit, fox, and bobcat, whose demise comes next.

But never mind that. Last week I took a nice long road trip to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday. It's always good to get away and remind yourself how many people are out there just waiting to be met. Because believe me, there are many.

During my 18 hours on the road, I passed countless people on their way somewhere. Some were alone in their cars and trucks, others had company. I played peekaboo with a dog in the back of a Subaru along the Massachusetts Turnpike, and somewhere near Albany I admired a brave little black cat whose kingdom had been reduced to a pile of clothes in the back window of a Nissan. I sympathized with a hotel desk clerk whose pants were producing a most unflattering static cling, and I held the elevator door open for a distinguished-looking man who was towing his granddaughter's bright purple Power Puff Girls suitcase. I enjoyed peeking into back yards, glancing at porches and balconies, and repeatedly wondering to myself, "What would it be like if my entire life had been spent in that house?"

Behind the wheel, people seemed distracted and stressed, driving aggressively, using the bulk of their giant fenders to bully and intimidate one another. But once stripped of their vehicular shells, people softened back into human beings.

Thanksgiving itself was a gluttonous feast. Trays and platters and heaps of food, succulent turkeys and hams (yes, in the plural), dishes that have long been staples of the gathering. Culinary delights whose recipes inevitably feature a can of something, a can of another thing, a bag of frozen something else, loads of cream and at least one stick of butter. But once a year and for just a few brief bites, oh my goodness do they taste good.

There were babies and newlyweds and wise elders, there was a roaring fire, and there was an abundance of tiny dogs in sparkly dresses providing welcome entertainment when conversation lagged. "So how's life in Maine?" people would ask, or perhaps, "You still doing the knitting thing?" or, for the brave humorists, "So, did you knit that yourself?" pointing to my impossibly fine machine-knit sweater. (That one never gets old.) At the end of the day, we all swore we'd never eat again.

And yet here I am tonight with a chicken roasting in the oven, potatoes and Brussels sprouts on the stove, fire in the fireplace, snoring cat on the couch, and blaze-orange please-don't-shoot-me vest by the front door. Grateful for the recent journey and yet so happy to be home.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On avoiding getting shot

It's hunting season, which means the return of the sudden "blam" somewhere disconcertingly close to my house...followed by one or two more shots as I envision a panicked animal trying desperately to flee the inevitable. I understand why we hunt, and I appreciate those who have the courage to source their food while I whimper in line at the grocery store meat counter, buying anonymous flesh that's been tidied up by an equally anonymous stranger. I get it.

But still, every time I hear one of the shots, chills run down my spine.

November is also the return of what's called "blaze orange," a near-fluorescent incarnation of orange that could not possibly exist in nature. We clothe ourselves in this ghastly hue from head to toe in an attempt not to get shot. Where I live, we wear blaze orange when taking walks in the woods, when walking our dogs, when getting the mail, and even when walking out to the car in the morning.

It baffles me, but here people here are allowed to shoot at things on other people's land. What makes sense in theory becomes far more upsetting when you hear tales of women shot dead while hanging their laundry - and the hunter being dismissed with an understanding nod because, well, she sure did look like a deer to him. (In case you were wondering, there's always an abundance of empty beer cans in the woods after hunting season.)

Besides pinning blaze orange fabric all over your body, the only other way to avoid getting shot in your own yard is to post your land, which instead involves stapling signs every few feet around the entire perimeter of your property. An added benefit of posting your land is that you will also alienate yourself from pretty much everybody in town - the guys who plow the road, deliver your oil, and volunteer for the fire department. People with whom it's wise to stay on friendly terms.

So, since the woods are stocked with semi-intoxicated men with loaded guns who are really quite eager to fire at something, I tend to spend my November nesting inside. I find the orange of these maple pumpkin Claramels with ginger cinnamon pecans far more attractive than blaze orange. And if I eat enough of them, I'll be too full to leave the house at all - thus keeping me safe from hunters for another year.

It's an idea, right?