Squash and Pine Smoke

The day before last I ran to Whole Foods for a few items: tabouli mix, Baji's Creamy Yogurt Dill Papadums, paper towels, and a rotund orange squash bearing a strong resemblance to its cousin, the pumpkin. I did not need a flame-colored squash - we are members of an organic co-op - yet it seemed urgent to place it on our fireplace and thus ended up in my shopping basket. Johnny looked happy about the tabouli mix, but perplexed about the squash. He kindly asked, "What will you make with it?" (a justified question as we receive more produce from the co-op than my lazy butt will cook each week) "Oh, it's not for cooking. It is for decoration!" Blank look from Johnny.

Our living room is not entirely picturesque. I do my best, but our apartment is small, towers of magazines loom over the coffee table tapestry, our black futon and cream slipcovered-loveseat clash, Harley's well-scratched cat tower is a beloved eyesore in the far corner, and well, it's not exactly Martha Stewart, a living room fit for a squash. If we had a front porch, I would place the squash, a large pumpkin, yellow and green-striped squash, a medley, all together to foreshadow Thanksgiving. We don't have a front porch. We have an entrance now filthy from recent power-washings by maintenance men. I placed the gourd on our fireplace in an attempt to channel my inner-interior decorator to be let loose in our future house. To my eye the squash complements an orange-red-green-sparkle-brown wall tapestry from India and a new pumpkin-hued throw we purchased for Milo.

It was originally intended for Milo anyway. He grows by literal leaps and bounds every day, and he learned how to RUN. Gone is the wobbly walking, now he runs, doing his best to explore under the bed, under a bookshelf, under anything that makes it difficult for us to grab his sweet-smelling furry body. Still healing from ringworm, he is not allowed to run where he pleases. We purchased the throw for wide, open space to run amuck with our supervision. But before we moved it to "Milo's room," Harley staked his claim. He curled up and slept on it the entire night.

Related to decorative vegetables and cat blankets, I choose to believe Autumn will soon permanently reside in Houston despite recent indecisive weather. This morning it was cold! I opened the porch door for Harley as usual, and we wimped out after only thirty minutes. I pulled on socks and wrapped a blanket 'round me to eat breakfast and watch the news. We even turned on the heater breathing a rusty smell. I live for this weather in our sauna town. The chill brims with promise. Coffee is extra savory. Though vain, I feel prettier when it is cold. I love my old forest green coat. I even like socks and Birkenstocks, an old fashion habit, God help me.

Every morning and evening I burn incense. Typically I burn frankincense and cinnamon incense sticks. Cinnamon has been the choice fragrance lately, and I was disappointed to find it missing from BookPeople's shelves last week. We made a very quick trip to Austin to visit Johnny's Mom and sister's family for a day. He promised me at least half an hour at BookPeople which turned out to be somewhat disappointing. No cinnamon incense, no more Eloquent Ink cards, no more Moleskine daily planners, and no sock monkey for Jenni; not because Johnny is mean, but we already paid the hipster cashier when I spied the little monkey, and we needed to rush in order to meet our family.

My incense woes were satiated at least. Today I opened the incense drawer and an Incienso de Santa Fe sampler scooted forward which had slipped mental inventory. I was delighted to remember the aromas ideal for Autumn. I lit a Pez-sized brick of pinon and inhaled memories. This particular brand of incense is different from cinnamon, frankincense, or benzoin which our priest burns the first Sunday of every month at Church, lingering visibly over the altar like the Holy Ghost. Incienso de Santa Fe smells exactly like firewood: pinon, cedar, juniper, hickory, holder, alder, mesquite, and fir balsam. Pinon (pine) especially transports me to childhood. Eyes closed, I clearly see Uncle Bill's old ranch in South Fork, Colorado. He and Aunt Faye must have burned pine logs in the fireplace or in an outside pit; I know the scent of pine. I mourned the day Uncle Bill sold the ranch. The sandbox filled with cousins. Adult relatives sitting at picnic tables, always laughing. The men in cowboy hats and boots, plaid shirts or coveralls. Sprawling Colorado brush out back, hills to explore with the cousins. Papaw younger and taller, his laugh, smiling Memaw by his side. A thunderstom approaching, rumors of tornadoes scoffed, the grand mountains a shield. Uncle Bill's basement studio full of his Western art and bronze sculptures - cowboys frozen in a distant, dusty rodeo.

Flying snake-wisps of pine incense also conjure camping with my Dad in Colorado. Guitar in hand, he led worship for a high school retreat at Ravencrest Camp in Estes Park. My Mom and brother opted for a warm dorm room while my Dad and I roughed it out in a tent. We froze our rear ends in the onyx night. I don't recall wearing sufficient layered clothing; my Dad and I squeezed in the same sleeping bag back-to-back for dear warmth. We survived, and zipped out of our tent the next morning to sunshine and crisp pine air. My brother did join us for seven mile hikes up the moutainside, our little legs trying to keep up. Coach Dad encouraged us to climb, climb, climb! as we whined and complained. His coaching paid off when we reached the top, the stately Colorado vista rinsing our eyes with beauty.

From day one of married life, I begged Johnny to take me back to Colorado. I miss the Rocky Mountains in a peculiar way. I am a city girl with a mountainous soul. In singlehood, Johnny often traveled to New Mexico, stayed in Eagle's Nest by a lake, visited Taos, and drove up to Durango, Colorado. All of this for the distinct beauty of that American region, the same region which offers Incienso de Santa Fe. As it says on the box, "The pleasant smell of burning natural wood is traditionally associated with sleepy little towns and pueblos throughout the Southwest and the Rockies." Until our road trip, I will burn firewood incense, close my eyes in Autumn, and pretend I'm hiking my mountains and sipping coffee by the lake while Johnny thumps the tabla and doumbek, ever drumming.


Kimberly said...

Jenni, that is a beautiful squash! Avery and I got a pretty little pumpkin for our dinning table last Friday and, like you, it reminds me of Thanksgiving and Fall in general! What a wonderful time of the year this is!

Lauren said...

Jenni, Beautiful writing. Your descriptions here of scenery and family are vivid & telling. I've never burned incense, and yet, your regular references to it make me want to light fire to slender fragrant sticks, rather than the candles I'm accustomed to. Although I must say, that I LOVE the scent of my Henri Bendel Firewood candle. It is so fabulous- you must have one if you don't already! If you have a Bath & Body "flagship" store in Houston (I'm sure the Galleria would!), then you have access to these candles :)

Jenni said...

Kimberly - a tabletop pumpkin is an excellent choice. I love those little white pumpkins, too.

Thanks, Lauren! I still love candles, and I've been looking for a good one lately, so I'll hop over to the B & B flagship store in the Galleria soon...