We sat companionably, my neighbor and I, in white wicker rockers, sipping chilled Chardonnay. A nearby fan hummed quietly, keeping the mosquitoes away and cooling our warm skin. It was our custom to retire to her shady front porch after our respective garden chores were complete, and the hot southern sun dropped behind the western oaks.
Kathy is one of those rare people who's inner peace radiates off her in waves, seeping into anyone lucky enough to be close by. I call people like Kathy, Light People. (You can read more about Light People in a past post http://goo.gl/JVjJbK) I am instinctively drawn to Light People. They give of themselves and demand nothing in return. Light People are wonderful porch-sitting comrades. Especially when there's wine involved.
"You're so lucky." Kathy said suddenly. I gasped lightly, to keep from aspirating the wine.
"Oh yeah, that's me, all luck!" I joked.
"I'm serious." She set her frosty stemware on the glass table separating us. "You're so creative. You cook, bake, take wonderful pictures, draw, paint, make quilts, and write. I can't do anything like that."
"You can balance your checkbook." I returned. "And read a billing statement. You can do your own taxes, and remember where you put things."
"But anyone can do that." She laughed.
"Really?" I said. "Not me."
"Oh come on," she pushed. "You're kidding me!"
"Nope." I sighed. "I can't do any of those things. If it weren't for Jeff handling all the financial details of our life, I'd really be in a mess."
"But you're so gifted!" She insisted.
"Being gifted doesn't pay the bills, Kathy." I pointed out.
"Does it have to?" She said. "Sometimes things just are."
Friends like Kathy are hard to come by. Steadfast, reliable, trustworthy, salt-of-the-earth folks- even those who aren't Light People. But creative, they're not. And there are times I wish I wasn't either. Being creative can be a gift, but more often than not, it's an anchor. Every day, ideas and concepts throw themselves in my path, interfering with all manner of mundane, but necessary tasks. Meal ideas and story notions form while I sit at a red light, or clean the kitchen. Sometimes the idea is so powerful, I have to stop what I'm doing and write it down. If I'm out and about, I send myself an email, so I won't forget the names of characters, where they live, and what they're doing. I write ideas on napkins, scrap paper, envelopes, even on my hands, because they flit so quickly into and out of my brain, I have to lasso them before they fling themselves into the heavens, never to be seen again.
Normal people don't have these visionary missiles firing at them on a daily basis. Better yet, regular folks are consistent. Each day is more or less similar to the last. Not so for creative people. One day can be overflowing with inspiration, and the next as hollow as a rotten tree. It's like a roller coaster. As I've aged, I've learned to accept this. Days filled with story, art, or cuisine brilliance are often followed by a crash; as though I've poured out everything I have, and must wait for the Universe to refill me.
I know it will, so I wait.
I don't try to push myself on "empty" days. That's why recipes like today's are so great. Solidly good, easy to prepare, little skill or thought required, and quick. I pulled this recipe card out of Family Circle magazine, probably while I was a young mother, sitting in the pediatrician's office.
Kathy and I have both moved away from the neighborhood where we became friends. We still keep up with each other- she still insisting that a creative life is to be admired and envied.
I'm not so sure. One thing I do know. Kathy's right. Sometimes things just are...
The Rediscovered Recipe Box #33- Chili Casserole
1 box (8.5 ounces) corn bread mix
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 packet (1.25 ounces) mild taco seasoning mix
1 cup frozen chopped onion
1 1/4 cups frozen sweet pepper strips
1 can (15.5 ounces) kidney beans, undrained and slightly mashed
1 can (11 ounces) corn kernels, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Heat oven to 400. Great 2-quart casserole. Combine bread mix, milk, 1 tablespoon oil, egg and cayenne in bowl. 2. Heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey and taco seasoning mix; cook 5 minutes. Add onion, pepper, beans and corn; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Spread bread batter in prepared casserole. Top with turkey mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Grease piece of foil; cover casserole.
4. Bake in 400 oven 20 minutes. Uncover; bake until browned and cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes.