occupied

This afternoon I’ve been occupied with picking up a heavy dresser that I saw listed on Nextdoor, chopping up vegetables to make roasted mirepoix, and practicing Spanish on Duolingo.

When I pulled into the alley just a few blocks south to pick up the dresser, the woman who listed its availability happened to be there. She said they had it for many years and pointed out that the entire right side was covered with découpage: old photos and messages from which I did and continue to avert my eyes, because I am stunned by its sentimental value. She said that she had taken a picture for her daughter. It was a task to put the dresser in the car, involving removing a seat belt, folding down the seats, removing the cover and netting, and then lifting the hefty object. This afternoon I will bring the dresser into the house, clean it up, haul it to the second floor, organize some clothes. For now I’ll leave the collage.

I enjoy roasted mirepoix and it is so simple to make. I was inspired years ago when Marissa was making a delicious roast in a cast-iron pot, and the aroma was marvelous. Having been a pescetarian for exactly sixteen years today, I had to find a solution — so I made a vegetable roast, with ingredients similar to what I would use when I made pot roast, minus the beef. Besides chopped carrots, onions, and celery, I pour generous amounts of good-quality extra virgin olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt. Today I omitted the potatoes (usually I incorporate root vegetables, such as a variety of baking potatoes and sometimes sweet potatoes). It’s not exactly how I would make beef pot roast — in my version, there would be powdered onion soup and condensed mushroom soup — but it’s healthier and simple. Over the years this simple recipe has received good reviews from people whose tastes I respect very much: Jason at a office holiday potluck; Kelly and Kyle during Thanksgiving. The only difficult part, once the shopping is done, is chopping everything up. To cook down six kilos of vegetables requires a lot of chopping. Because it cooks for well over an hour, it’s also suitable during the colder months. I hope the oven, with its unreliable digital controls are unreliable, holds through. I just stirred the vegetables in their roasting pans to baste them, and the LEDs flashed in a worrisome way when I opened the oven door.

There is a relatively new feature on the Duolingo app, to listen and respond to audio. This is exactly the sort of feature that Duolingo had been missing and for which I turned to Pimsleur in the past. Pimsleur is more comprehensive and demanding — I can feel my brain working at the end of a half-hour session — but it is also requires a greater length of uninterrupted time. With Duolingo, I can be chopping vegetables or cleaning house while listening and responding. I do remain highly motivated to learn Spanish as well as other languages: in the short term, for our trip next month; for the long term, to be able to become more of a global citizen.

The sky is getting dark and the sun will set soon. I should take a walk over to the Homewood Library to return and pick up items before they close, and I do want to empty the car before tomorrow morning, when I will head over to campus for office hours and to continue cleaning the office. But I also need to mind the vegetables. Probably I should rake the leaves this weekend too — the yellow leaves from the neighboring gingko tree rained down on the sidewalk and front lawn overnight. At least that can wait until tomorrow afternoon; it’s a Sunday night game this week, and there is no precipitation in the forecast.

It happened around this time, exactly sixteen years ago — actually, it probably happened around the time I began to sit down and write. The sun was bright that day, the weather was warm. He breathed hard, he labored to hang onto life, he wouldn’t give up. We were together for sixteen years, one month, and four days. Sixteen years ago today I said goodbye.

It is difficult to lose a friend.

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