I love recipes. Actually I love to eat and a recipe is just a road map to a meal.

Over my lifetime, attitudes toward making a meal have gone through several stages. When I first became aware of a meal being prepared, my mother was doing it. The kitchen was the gathering place in my boyhood home. It was large by today’s standards. Our dining table was in corner of the kitchen and that was the focus point for conversation as well as eating.

My mother cooked from raw and unprocessed ingredients. Almost nothing was prepared in a box or or in a can. Now and then she did open a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup which she liked and which we ate. My memories of that consists mostly of salt.

My maternal grandfather lived next door and was a lifelong farmer. Even though he worked full time at Standard Oil, he cultivated as many as four full sized lots in our neighborhood. He grew everything and enough of it that we ate out of the garden the entire year. Unprocessed ingredients!

When I married and left home, barely post-pubescent, my new wife could boil water if she was careful. My mother took her under her wing and in time she was an excellent cook. This was happening in he 50s when we were being brainwashed by black and white TV that kept telling us that the modern cook would have it easy in the age of prepared or semi prepared boxed and canned foods. I remember it as being the age of Cream of Mushroom soup which was never consumed as actual soup.

The standard weeknight dinner was something in a casserole dish with a can or two of Cream of Mushroom soup poured over it and baked. For company we added tortilla chips and cloth napkins. It was a matter of homemaking faith that you could mix some Cream of Mushroom soup with a sack of marbles and it would be quite tasty. Throw in a hand full of Fritos and it was Fiesta time!!

We were not in the garden anymore, Toto.

Slowly we came to our senses lead by an army of nutritionists, food police and oncologists, all waiving flags on which were the words: EAT RIGHT OR DIE! All at once we were seeing menus that included Cajun style antioxidants and green tea.

I shudder to shake off the confusion spread by food writers and gastronomical pundits who seem to latch onto any recent “study” that shows some trend or remote connection between drinking coffee or eating raw cabbage and long life or clear skin or whatever. In my humble opinion if you make dinner from raw and unprocessed ingredients you can’t go wrong. My boyhood diet: eggs and bacon at breakfast, white bread sandwiches for school lunch and rice and gravy at supper – well maybe there was a pork chop in there – is, from time to time still resurrected in our house as a tribute to truth, tradition and the American Way.

Ding Dong – it’s dinner time.

Sometimes I’m just overcome with a wave of thankfulness. It’s easy when you think about it. Big things like the roof over my head, fair health, adaquate good food – you get the picture.

What got me going this morning was not the big stuff but those items that are sort of invisible in our daily lives. Take soap, for instance. When I was a boy, my mother, Ruby Lee, was a big fan of Ivory. She liked that it floated. Easy to find in the bath. She bought into the corporate jargon that it was so pure that it floated. I doubt that purity had anything to do with it. Anyway it was a mainstay in our home for years until Lifeboy came along. I loved the tangy scent and it was tangy enough to overcome whatever body oder that might arise during a hot summer’s day. And it was red. That had to count for somethiing.

Today I like Dial, “Don’t you wish everybody did?” It has the pleasant but not overpowering scent of clover. The antibacterial bar has been around since the 40s. I even like it’s shape. It has dints and curves in places that meke the bar easy to hold as it moulds around various parts of the body.

I am specially fond of the depression on the imprinted side that is a just right place in which to press a nearly used sliver. I mean, I’m thankful for that. What an idea!

Look at it this way: If I can be thankful for a bar of soap, I can be thankful for almost anything. That’s got to be a positive thing, don’t you think? These days, I need more positives in my life. Thankfulness probably helps.

May 6 will be the one year anniversary of my cochlear implant surgery. It seems like it was just last week, but isn’t that always the case?

I have never experienced anything as life changing as this. (Well getting married the first time would qualify, but you know what I mean.) It’s not just learning how to manage the device but also the trips to the hospital in Boston for programing and learning. It has truly been an adventure.

Progress was slow in coming. I started off understanding some speech but there was little improvement for several months. Then things started to happen as I noticed sounds I was not used to hearing and we were able to “clean” up the device’s performance – searching for a purer sound.

Carol Ann, my partner in life, has a voice that has been surprisingly difficult to understand, even with the implant. After my last adjustment or mapping, things took a leap forward and we can now have meaningful conversations in most environments. Some restaurants and driving together are no longer situations non-gratis. We are thrilled about this.

Group conversations can still be a challenge and many public places are still out of bounds. The telephone is still troubling – depending on the voice on the other end. Even TV is better, but BlueTooth helps with the addition of the RemoteMic and an audio looped room for the T-Coil.

There are remaining tweaks and dedicated programs to be tried out but all in all this is a happy anniversary. There might even be a cookie somewhere.

Thanks to all my friends for your encouragement and understanding. Thanks to my friends on the Hearing Journey Forum who graciously listened to my whining and complaining and whose advise, encouragement and judgement have been invaluable.

I believe there is a new year ahead. I’ll hear you there.

The rumor is this, older people have issues around getting enough quality sleep. It’s actually more than a rumor. I know this because I am older and I have trouble getting enough quality sleep. Talk about science.

It used to be that I usually got a good night’s sleep and once in a while I’d toss and turn all night to wake up tired and cranky. Now that ratio has turned around 180˚. Since I am retired and don’t have to “be there” at 8 o’clock in the morning I try not to make too much of it – unsuccessfully, I might add. And therein lies the rub.

Years ago I participated, briefly, in an on-line discussion group for seniors. That was back when I was learning how to be one. Almost immediately it became apparent that an overwhelming majority of the participants were insomniacs. One night I had one of my wee-hour wake-ups and decided to check out the group. They were all there! I asked if anybody slept at night. Generally, the answer was “No”.

The consensus was don’t lay there and fight it – get up and do something you enjoy doing. Call a friend four time zones west of you. Sitka, perhaps. There’s the internet, of course. Read that book that kept you awake too long in the first place. Mop the floor. Eat cake. Get sleepy and go to bed. If only …

Now I have this pregnant robin who spends hours every day banging her head on my window. I just knew she was going to break her neck or beak or whatever. I finally got my loppers out and cut the branch she perched on – – so far so good. I thought I’d outlast her but she finally got the best of me. That’s when I realized that eating cake at 3 AM is not as crazy as banging my head against the wall of sleeplessness.

IT FELT JUST LIKE SUMMER ON THE OCEAN TODAY. That’s quite the happening on Easter Sunday near the 44th parallel. I have never seen so many people at Wolf Neck as there were today. Bare legs and arms bleached from winter’s darkness hanging out in springtime sunshine and soft, warm ocean breezes. Pinch me – am I dreaming?

When we returned home, there were Easter Baskets to open, sent from the Florida branch and in particular the newest of the clan – the Ethiopians. One basket addressed to Grandma B and the other sent to Grandpa Jerry. Out of respect for these lovely children – and for no other reason, as I normally avoid those abominable things – I ate a chocolate dipped Peep. I have to admit, it was good! Actually it was fantastic. I never cease to be amazed at the pure transformative joy a little chocolate can produce. There is another one, of course, but it will have to wait for desert time tonight.

Since CA and I are many miles from family, we could find little reason not to indulge ourselves with a couple of nice fresh Maine lobsters for our supper. A small spring salad, baked potato and a bottle of good Chablis from the cellars at Bow Street Market will round things out. Such indulgences do not replace family but do a pretty damned good job as a placeholder until someone shows up.

Tee shirts and sock-less sandals, walkers, joggers and cyclists everywhere. I even heard a motorcycle blast by a moment ago. It ain’t daffodils but the signs of the season of growth and harvest are at hand.

I’ll resist putting up the deck umbrella today. Maybe tomorrow. – after checking the forecast.

Last evening, CA and I were enjoying a pre-supper appetizer along with an adult libation. She was dipping her favorite little puffy crackers into some spicy hummus and I was having a few slices of my favorite blue cheese on a Ritz, “Everything tastes better on a Ritz”. I mentioned that I had made some hummus from scratch a few years ago. She didn’t seem too impressed. Nevertheless, that thought lifted a rock somewhere in the backyard of my mind from under which crawled all these recollections of those times in my life when I felt that the essence of personhood consisted mainly of the practice of making it from scratch – doing it myself.

The modern D.I.Y. movement is, I believe, the attempt by modern humans to get in touch with the default human activity of making it yourself. Until very recently, everything was the product of a do-it-yourself effort. When it comes to making it yourself, I am a transitional figure. My childhood took place in the 30s when everything that appeared on the dinner table, for example, was made from scratch. Grocery shopping consisted of ingredient shopping. Mr. Galina would dip his scoop into the rice barrel, the flour barrel, the pickle barrel and yes – there was an actual cracker barrel. There was very little in the way of graphic art and packaging to misslead the appetite.

I can remember my stomach flip-flopping as I eyed all those wonderful edibles just lying in a glass case, barrel or big glass jar waiting to be scooped up, put in a paper bag for me to take home around the corner. It’s been a while since my stomach did anything like that in a modern market.

I have to smile as I remember when I first moved to Maine – the quintessential homemade state – that among the first things I wanted to do was to make cheese. That was over 35 years ago and I still can’t recall why I thought that making cheese would define life in paradise. Purchasing a little bottle of rennet was as far as I got.

I’ve been making bread for years. I am fairly competent at it. I remember once when a friend of mine asked me after she sampled my Anadama, “You made this with your hands?” I looked at my hands and showed them to her and said, “Yep, it was these two that did it.” She had this quizzical expression on her face that seemed to say, “I’m trying to decide whether or not you are jerking me around”. I was, of course. Poor thing – she was a sliced Wonder Bread baby.

One more thing: I get funny looks when I talk about one of my favorite homemade meals – rice and gravy. I just had a little for my breakfast. About half a cup of leftover jasmine rice that I made myself. Well I suppose I should say my Aroma rice cooker did it. But I could have done it. I stirred into the rice a dollop of my hand made roux based gravy that is so good that on occasion it has made people forget their names and addresses.

I’ll admit that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but, if it was, they would be better people. I usually make enough of it to freeze and have along the way as needed. If truth be known, and it should, of course, a little gravy is always needed.

THIS LAST ICE STORM DID SO MUCH DAMAGE TO THE TREES ON OUR LITTLE PLOT OF GROUND THAT IT WAS BEYOND OUR AGING ABILITIES TO DEAL WITH IT.

The crew we hired to come in showed up Wednesday morning and began taking out damaged and and other trees suspected as potential threats to our house, and hauling them off. This needed to be done as a matter of safety and survival. It had to be done. Yet there was a sadness watching them fall.

Watching these men work was a marvel of competence and coordination. What they accomplished in a matter of hours would have taken me the rest of my life – even if I had the ability I once had, or imagine I had.

I can live with the departing pine trees that threatened our home, but loosing a beautiful maple, also near the house, that I had watched grow from 8“ across at the base to over 15”, was sad indeed. At least that wood will warm us next winter with memories of its beauty as well as the energy that beauty contained. I loved that tree.

I am not a “tree hugger”, but I do value trees as givers and sustainers of life. Add to that their truly lyrical beauty and there is enough reason there to have them for their own sake. There need not be some branding as a commodity to demonstrate their value. Also I heat with wood and I have wood products in my home and I love living among trees. And I have a chainsaw and an axe, neither of which are my favorite tools

A stand of pine or hardwood is not “undeveloped” land. It’s just what it is supposed to be. There are those among us, I fear, who would “harvest” (an interesting connotation that one would usually find while discussing, for instance, the harvesting of beets) every marketable tree on the planet for money.

I lived in the south for half of my life. There you can grow longleaf pine to profitable size in about 40 – 50 years. If pulp is the object I believe that number is somewhat lower. Paper companies and others have thousands of acres planted all in neat rows evenly spaces so as to allow machinery to come in at the proper time and “harvest” them. This is an industry and it produces a product, employs many workers. And none of those trees threaten our house. Think dollars not Joyce Kilmer’s “I think I shall never see / a poem as lovely as a tree”.

But that’s exactly what I thought about that beautiful maple that split and had to be taken down. Obviously it was damaged beyond repair. Obviously it needed to be taken down. And so a lovely poem died.

Back in the late 1980s, I began to suspect that my hearing was suspect. I went to an audiologist and had a hearing test. Her report was that I was borderline, but still in the ‘green zone’ and did not need immediate help. I now know that understanding is the backbone of hearing loss. If I was having problems understanding then that needed to be addressed. I have always been able to hear things, but understanding had fallen off precipitously over the years.

Things came to a head one week when I was house sitting for friends. I was watching a movie in their bedroom from their bed on my last night there and the next day they were to return from their trip. The movie was GUNG HO. It was a propaganda piece designed to give the folks at home a good feeling after the historic disaster at Perl Harbor.

I got a call the following day when I was told that I had a serious hearing problem. What do you mean, was my reply. It seems that when they got into their bed, that first night after their return, they decided to take in a little TV. The volume blasted them out the window. They didn’t understand why the neighbors didn’t call the cops on me.

The theory goes that if I needed such volume to hear my movie then there was a problem. Furthermore, I had just taken a job at LLBean where I needed accurate hearing skills to perform. It just wasn’t going to work unless I got help.

I arranged for a hearing test at which time I found that I was seriously impaired and needed serious hearing assistance. That’s when I began to wear hearing aids. That was 20 years ago. Hearing loss doesn’t get better over time – it always gets worse. And, it’s understanding that counts. If you don’t understand what you are hearing, you are hearing impaired. It’s as simple as that. Get help.

I must be getting old. I’m feeling the cold this morning – more than, I think, usual. Checking the facts – a popular pastime these days – it was 9˚ when I woke up and stoked the fire. That qualifies as bloody cold. We like to say things like, “It dropped into the ‘single numbers’ early this morning”. Insider talk. You had to be there. That kind of stuff.

At sunup there was actually some sun visible in the distance. It is now cloudy and – though my eyes are not quite fully open – I am pretty sure that was a white speck that I saw drifting past my window that gives a narrow view onto the hillside out back.

I’ve loaded the little Waterford stove twice now and the base chill that kept gnawing at my hands and knees (I hate to wear long pants inside) is finally broken and I feel safe and warmly secure in my little bubble of heat.

Oddly, and completely off course, thoughts of warm rain bounded down the years and there we are walking out of a pocket wilderness in southwestern Arkansas in a gentle but persistent rain that I made no attempt to avoid. Soaked to the bone without a single shiver. Pure joy!

Then, all at once, that little white speck is a genuine squall streaming horizontally across my window to the woods.

When I was a kid, and the almost like-a-clock afternoon summer rain shower came along, we would put on our bathing trunks (we called them bathing trunks) and went out and turned our faces up into the falling rain. There was no chill. It was almost amniotic. Perhaps it was truly an unconscious attempt to return to the safety and promise of he womb that made this ritual such a prize.

March – don’t bet on it.

I get a newsletter from the author Louise Penny on the first of each month. They are as interesting and fun to read as her outstanding books – all of which, I am sorry to say, I have read.

She begins the March letter with a quote from Al Gore – “Air travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo”. She goes on to say, “Always makes me a little upset when the customs person looks at me, then at the maniacal passport photo, and never says, ‘This can’t be you.’ ”

Anyway, I thought I’d share that with you. I had just written an old friend down in the Old Country – SE Texas – saying how good it would be to see them again and how difficult air travel was for me. Of course I took the opportunity to add my 2¢ about the industry by saying “I sometimes think the airline industry is run by aliens. Surely no human would treat other humans that way!”

After sending that note off, I thought back to when I first lived in Texas and there was an airline called Trans Texas Airlines. TTA. Somebody started calling it Tree Top Air. It seemed to fit. It had flights to most cities with sufficient airports. I flew quite a few times on those old and comfortable airplanes. My favorite was the Supper Convair. Cruising speed 360 mph. About half of today’s jets.

I can remember walking from most terminals out onto the tarmac, usually past a small fence. I remember carrying my bag and sometimes an attendant at the airplane would take it and put it into a compartment in the belly of the plane. When you walked up the stairway into the front of the cabin you faced a huge closet – yes, I said closet. You hung your hanging stuff there and there was space enough for a small suitcase as well. Now you found your seat which was roomy enough to cross your legs with a little to spare.

Well, it’s time for something like, “Ah, those were the days!” I remember thinking that those airplanes were designed with people in mind. This is probably revisionist thinking at best.

I did love flying in those days. I even learned to do it myself. A thrill a minute!