Posted tagged ‘charcoal fires’

“When I mentioned my early morning waking to the old witch down the street, she explained that this is the time the “ceiling is the thinnest,” the moment that the earth’s creatures have the greatest access to the heavens… It is a magical time, or so she said.”

April 21, 2015

Today is cloudy, but the day is so light the sun must be hidden behind the grey. Earlier, morning fog covered all the bushes and the lower branches of the trees. It’s warm, far warmer than I expected. Despite the clouds, I think it’s a nice day. The street cleaner rumbled by a couple of times sweeping the winter storm sand to the sides of the street. It is not a quiet truck.

My morning routine seldom differs. I wake up whenever, feed the cats, let the dog out, put the coffee on, go out and get the papers and yesterday’s mail, give Gracie her morning treats then grab a cup of coffee and settle in with the papers. I like my mornings.

No matter where I am, the mornings are different from the rest of the day. If I’m on a trip, I love to get up really early and wander the streets. I get to watch the day unfold. People sweep. Shopkeepers wear white aprons and have long-handled brooms. Africans wear colorful cloths and have hard grass brooms with no handles. They have to bend to use them. In cities, trucks stop in streets to unload goods for stores and restaurants. In one hotel my room’s window faced a side street where the trucks parked. They were my wake-up call every morning. In Santa Fe I sat on a bench and watched the Indians set up their wares while I munched on pastry and drank coffee. It was so early the square was empty of other people. At Gettysburg, I was awake before the park opened so I waited and was the first that morning to wander the battlefield. It was covered in ground fog. It was quiet as befitting a memorial.

Early mornings here on the Cape are quiet in the summer. The tourists are late risers. I sometimes go out to breakfast but most times I get coffee and take a ride. I watch quahoggers raking the river bottom while seagulls swoop and fly in circles over their heads hoping for a handout. Seagulls are always loud.

I know I’ve told you before, but I love African mornings most of all. They are filled with the smells of charcoal fires and the sounds of women pounding their mortar with pestles to make fufu. The sound is rhythmic. Everyone is up early in Ghana, even I was. I hated to miss any part of the morning.

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“Each day has a color, a smell.”

October 5, 2010

It is a put a mirror under her nose to make sure she’s breathing sort of morning. I went to bed really late, or early if you’re a stickler for exactitude, as I just wasn’t tired. I watched bad movies, read a bit and shopped through some catalogs. It was nearly ten when I woke up. Even the animals slept in with me. The day is rainy and chilly. I think I chose a good morning to stay in bed. I hate wasting sun.

Smells are amazing. They let us travel through time and space. One of my favorites is the aroma of freshly baked bread. When I was a kid, two bakeries in the square made their own bread, and I’d sometimes buy a roll still hot from the oven. It didn’t need butter. It was sweet enough on its own.

Fall is still the smell of burning leaves for me. I always thought of smoke signals when I saw piles of burning leaves with their gray smoke snaking into the air. In my memory, the day was always chilly and standing near the fire was warming. My clothes smelled like the burning leaves, and I hated to put them in the wash. Christmas smells like a fir tree. I remember walking downstairs every morning and smelling the tree in the living room. Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. On Thanksgiving, the house was filled with the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven. The kitchen windows were covered in steam, and I couldn’t see outside. I’d watch my mother baste the turkey, and we’d share a small piece of the crusted stuffing she’d pull off the end.

The smell of charcoal lighter fluid brings back my father. He was a firm believer in soaking the briquettes, and as soon as a match hit them, the flame would rise high into the sky. The whoosh of the fire always sent him reeling backwards. He set his pant legs on fire many times.

Burning wood is Ghana. Everyone used wood charcoal. Some villages were charcoal villages, and long logs were kept smoldering to make the charcoal. Every morning I smelled sweet burning wood as my breakfast was cooked on a small round charcoal burner. First it was the water for coffee, then the eggs while the toast leaned on the burner and was turned so both sides would brown. My dinner was cooked the same way.

At night, the sides of the street were filled with women selling food. They fried plantains in white enamel pots over wood fires or roasted skewers of Guinea fowl and chicken on screens over the fires. The town was mostly dark so the small fires looked like bright, low flickering street lights. The whole town smelled like wood burning, like a cozy fire in winter.