We walked up the long winding steps and into the party. Christina carried a wrapped painting as a housewarming gift. The painting was titled “Separate Lives”, but I had a feeling it should have been called “Separation Anxiety” which is what I knew she would be experiencing later in the night. Christina misses her paintings, deeply, when they are gone.
Having been unusually busy over the past year, the party was a Christmas card style reunion. Everyone was a little older, a little more married, a little more settled into a career, a little less fearful and searching. There was no time for gossip, there was simply too many other things to talk about. The new kids, the job, the cooking lessons, the house, the summer vacation, the workout plan. I was in the middle of explaining to Noah how I was thinking about giving up running and finding a new sport. Apparently he had heard this story of mine before because because he looked at me in bored disbelief and said, “yeah, sure, ok..”
“Speaking of running, do you ever see Matt anymore?” someone asked as I stuffed caramel drizzled apple into my mouth. At that exact instant, my pocket buzzed. A text message from Matt. “Funny you should mention” I said. I opened the screen to find a cryptic message [trail run. Tomorrow morning. Early. I’ll pick you up.] Trail running? We never go trail running. I haven’t run a step since the marathon. Adventure is a seductive temptress. Of course I would go.
At 6:30 sharp I found Matt waiting in his car outside, drinking coffee and listening to Sting, which I found to be really funny. I have probably spent thousands of hours running with Matt and up until this morning had no idea what kind of music he listens to. We drove about five minutes out of the city, and pulled up to a foggy parking lot from which began a little trail. I looked at the shiny leaf plastered path ahead
“It’s raining” I said. “and it is dark.”
“I know” Matt said “I probably should have brought a flashlight”.
We set out slowly and carefully through the muddy woods. The chill in the air caused the moon to wrap herself in cloudy blankets, and our trail was a flat shadowless abyss. I bounded with the cheery spirit of adventure, wet leaves clinging to my shoes like toddlers. The rain was not an adversary, but a diamond cut detail in the story of that time we went trail running through the mud and forgot flashlights. We dodged tree branches, hopped over rocks, shimmied down rock ledges and jumped brooks. At times we were climbing vertically through mud paths sculpted by descending water, grasping at branches to secure new heights. The view from the top of these climbs was autumn leaves against a purple sky, breathtaking.
When I got home, I immediately went to the farmers market. It is the last market day of the season. I loaded up on root vegetables, because, like me they were covered in mud. I must have carried 50 lbs of root vegetables up to our apartment, still my expression was that of a 10 year old kid just coming in from building forts in the woods. Christina looked cold in the apartment. The cats looked curious. I turned the oven on and the cooking was magic.
Never too muddy for lentil soup.
1 local ham hock purchased from a farmer who has been thoroughly questioned (your education is a part of the soup preparation)
1 1/2 cups of lentils purchased from the woman who grows only “soul food” ingredients (we are lucky to have such interesting characters at our farmers market!)
5 stalks celery (watch out for the really bushy celery, it is bitter and has ladybugs all over it)
5 carrots sweet enough to eat without peeling (you are already covered in mud, you don’t to be covered in carrot peelings too!)
1 red and 1 yellow onion (for diversity!)
1 clove garlic
3 bay leaves
3 medium potatoes (not the green ones)
Salt, muchi curry powder, cumin, turmeric, sweet basil, pepper, 1 chili pepper (if you like it hot).
Fill a soup pot with water and add the ham hock, red onion and celery trimmings. Allow this to cook for about 40 min. Then, in another soup pot, add 1 cup ham hock water, bay leaves and onions. Dice potatoes and add to onions with another cup of the liquid. Add more liquid and the lentils. Add another cup of the liquid and the rutabaga diced. Keep adding your ingredients and the liquid from the ham hock. Season to taste. When you are done simmer uncovered until the lentils are cooked and the potatoes are soft. Adjust your seasonings. Dice up the meat from the ham hock and add to the soup.