Slow Thaw

plum_new_moon

The little chest freezer in the garage is about the same size as a child’s desk. It barely fit in the cargo area of the Forester to haul home after D. bought it for me as a birthday gift a dozen years ago. I wanted to freeze more blackberries, more blueberries, more tubs of Oregon strawberries. Back then, I filled it with berries and jam..

I thought there was a whole chicken in the freezer.  I rummaged among the pounds of butter, frozen peas, beef bones from the butcher for Mercy, lamb bones from summer souvlaki, and cartons of leftover bean soup stashed when we grew tired of it. In the panic of the pandemic, the freezer was stuffed full and the chicken remained mythical or a memory.

Last March, California locked down to the south. Seattle was ravaged early by contagion to the north and paralyzed. We were caught in the middle between the anvil and the hammer. Lettuce, citrus, avocados, and other vegetables travel I5 from Mexico and the San Jaoquin Valley to feed the West Coast. We didn’t know if supply channels would hold. I couldn’t find seeds to buy.

Dad eats a banana and fresh berries on his oatmeal every morning. He was bewildered by the bags of frozen berries I shoved in his freezer.  California locked down, I said. Butter freezes well, I assured him, and four pounds is not too much. It may not be enough. Toilet paper was scarce, as was hand soap and bleach. I filled the freezer week by week and bought cans of tomatoes, salmon, tuna, and pineapple to add to the pantry shelves.

There is a cardboard box next to the freezer filled with anchovies, tomato paste, sesame oil, shoyu, a kilo of basmati rice, and cans of dog food. The box is slowly being emptied. I rummage through it, taking from the hoarded goods to use, resisting the impulse to buy more to drop into the box. I wonder what I was thinking when I bought the package of grilled artichokes or dried bing cherries, but realize it was not thought so much as premonition. We’ve come through better than many, better than most.

I found the chicken down at the bottom of the freezer. I rolled it out like an icy bowling ball, cradled it to the kitchen, and dropped it in the refrigerator so heavily I thought the plastic drawer cracked. Every morning for four days, I put the frozen chicken in the sink for an hour to thaw.  On the fifth morning, I put the chicken in the sink and took up my cauldron. Mercy ate simmered giblets for dinner.

The garlic planted in the dark of winter is now two hands high. This year I found sets of red and white onion and golden Dutch shallots. I put them in the ground flanking the garlic on the waxing water moon. The green tips are barely visible now.

In the I Ching, after Heaven and Earth, follows the third Hexagram of Difficulty, which gives birth to all the ten thousand things, the tao of “Bursting, Sprouting, Hoarding, Distress, Organizational Growth Pains, Difficult Beginnings, Growing Pains, Initial Obstacles, Initial Hardship.” Of this, like the onion first spying sky, the commentary notes: “It is visible, but has not lost its dwelling.” 

It’s a slow thawing spring.

Author: Kim K. McCrea

Kim K. McCrea earned her BA in English before embarking on a career in technology and public service. Kim won Oregon Writers Colony 2018 essay award, Treefort’s 2017 Wild West Writing Prize, and was named runner-up in Cutbank #88 short prose contest. Her creative nonfiction is featured in Cutbank, Tishman Review, Cagibi, and Watershed Review. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Kim lives in Oregon, where she studies the moon and stars and wanders with her Labrador in the rain. Unless otherwise credited, all photographs and images on this site are the original work of the author who retains all rights to their use .

7 thoughts on “Slow Thaw”

  1. Glad you make and share, McCrea. What tree blossoms are in the image? My first thought was a dogwood tree, but they do not usually have “little sprouts” and their blossoms only bear four, not five petals. Love your attention to plants, sustenance, and survival in dearth. Glad spring springs for us all.

    Like

  2. I savor your reflections, they have the depth and dense quality of a weird medieval kitchen, like my mom’s in southern Germany. How did you do that bowling ball of a chicken? Did you roast it? Roasted chicken (walk-away style with potatoes, garlic and herbs) is a Sunday staple for us. Then stock the next day, and so on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I made a vat of chicken soup, reckoning the bird was frozen nearly a year and might be toughish. Simmer with veg and aromatics, pick the bones, chill the stock and skim the next day. Build the soup from stock with fresh veg, orzo, herbs, tumeric, and shredded chicken.

      (It takes me three days to make beans, as I’m slow)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right! True cauldron style then! I love it. Yeah, toughish is right. My mom would call herself that: “tough old bird.” Here’s to that!

        Liked by 1 person

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