For twenty-five years, the back burner’s been occupied by a plan, a dream, a vision, a life. The kettle contained rubber boots, a few fish hooks, a deckhand license, and not a few recipes for wild foods. There were the nautical charts and square boat buckets, rain gear and cotton liners, all manner of accoutrement to commercial fishing. I hope I’ll find a piece of old, dried kelp frond a daughter had written a message to her mom on, a bit of Green Slime concocted from the summer resident’s stash of Nordstrom creams, donated by her sons to the ingredients list. Maybe a tree fort or two, or at least an old 2×4 with a bent nail hammered in with a rock, and the washed-up sign, R Dreamboat, formerly fastened to the stern of Grampa Bill’s boat. There’s plenty of weather in that old pot – storms and wind and high tide surge. Gulls and eagles and ravens soar in there, talons locked and patience worn thin, a single deadly taunt that ended a winged life and set feathers afloat. Not all the weather is rough; there are balmy summer breezes, a waft of heather from a beach meadow warmed by the sun, and tangy salt air. Lift the lid and the tide is up, or down, and twice a day you can count on the flavor changing.
I’ve given the whole thing a stir. The lid has come off, and it now occupies the front burner, a small flame lit below to warm things up. Surprisingly, it’s hasn’t gone moldy or rancid over the years, lost any flavor or color, and the contents are fresh as when they were added. Alongside is a piece of beachfront, remote enough to satisfy my reclusive nature, near enough to skiff somewhere if I want proof that human life still exists. Mainly, there are bears and beach grass, tall trees and tideline, and plenty of peace. Quiet. Solitude. Aloneness. There will be an enormous stash of oatmeal, a staple of my life; thick-cut, slow-cooked, and eaten with butterscotch sauce drizzled over top. I make my own and it serves well for dessert. One appreciates very simple pleasures.
When I turn up the flame and this pot begins to simmer, I’ll be on my way. Back to a life of Xtra-Tufs, daily beachcombing, exploring, and surviving. I’ll be in life mode again, serving my own purposes, doing the thing I was put on earth for, tending to my own needs. Now, with forward momentum, I look ahead eagerly and with all the energy I possessed when everything was put in this pot and the lid fastened securely, stored safely until I could open it up and start cooking again. It’s been a long, long time since the lid came off for more than just a looksee, and it’s good to pull it forward a bit and begin reheating. One month and we’ll increase the flame, add a little seasoning and give it another stir. Stay hungry, my friend; this is one good meal to look forward to.