The Mundane & The Magical
A Short Backyard Intermission
November. December. Post-election fatigue. Pandemic blues. The dreaded time change. Colder, wetter mornings. All factors conspiring to put a dent in our ritual of daily morning walks. While we still manage to get out for weekend trail explorations, there has been a change in our energy. We hunker down. We stay closer to home, experiment with new culinary recipes, read more books, stream more movies, and hold our collective breath as we ride out these uncertain times.
A couple of days ago, with the winter sun lighting up the fence line outside our back room, I heard frantic rustling coming from the decaying palm tree at our corner property line. Looking up I noticed multiple squirrels in some high-wire cacophonous dance, darting in, out, above, and across the palm fronds and down onto the aging fence. This was no normal squirrel chasing and I still have no clue as to the cause of their frenzied excitement.
As I was marveling at their acrobatics, I noticed a few boards loose from the fence and decided that an early morning home improvement project would boost my outlook for the day ahead. A rather mundane prospect, but I felt that getting a project finished early in the day would be harbinger of good things to come. Armed with a hammer and a few nails, I made the initial steps to reach the broken fence slats, accessible via a narrow gap between at the back of the house, currently overgrown with the dreaded Nandina.
Earlier this past summer I did battle with a large growth of the this so-called Heavenly Bamboo in our side yard, crawling on hands and knees for hours, chopping out the sprawling root structure in an effort to redesign the yard. The result is a cleared spot, now sporting some native wildflower growth as well as a small Agarita bush.
I recalled that earlier battle as I pushed aside the Nandina, along with the random sticker bush, making my way past the dryer outflow and AC unit, to where the fence boards were loose. Much to my surprise, next to the air conditioner, I came face-to-face with a mature chile pequin (Capsicum annuum) bush in full glorious bloom, the red berries bursting forth. [Correction - this appears to be a child tepin (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum)]. The tepin is the official state of Texas native pepper and the berries can be used for flavoring vinegars, brines, and salsas. The simple act of fence mending opened the doors to new culinary delights.
Arthur Machen, the Welsh author and mystic, wrote a story titled The Inmost Light, which features a narrator commenting how the town of London is too complex to understand since in daily life you walk blindly by simple homes that may hold unique or peculiar delights, unseen to a passerby. In sum, behind the mundane lies the magical. This perspective was evident once I spied the chile pequin thriving just a few feet from my work desk, unseen by human eyes for many years.
Over the past months, while we walked and explored our neighborhood, we were energized by finding seemingly secret spaces and private hidden passageways. Behind the “no trespassing” signs, down dark alleyways, and under the bridges was where we would uncover some hidden magic. However, as I reflect on our hiking hiatus, I realize that the remarkable is always there, right outside your door and under your own nose. As we work to comfort our selves in this “year like no other” we are reminded to embrace the mundane in our own lives. With just a little bit of cajoling the magic can be revealed within the ordinary.
And for those foragers out there, we have harvested some of the berries and are making both a simple vinegar sauce and a roasted salsa. Happy Holidays!
This is a sweet one, James.
Simply lovely! ❤️