I live just west of two creeks now, just shy of the intersection between Dunnings Creek and Bob’s Creek. In a house too big for us. In a town I used to think was too small for me. There’s a store here run by a Mennonite family. They’ll sing to you if you buy bread in the morning. Hymns about salvation, the ascension, peace on earth. I just wanted a loaf of rye.
I’m tempted to start smoking again, to fiddle with a cigarette between my lips. Breaking promises I never thought I could keep. I’m busy now, watching the houses turn from wood to vinyl to brick on my drive to the gas station. I see a horse swat aimlessly at flies with its long, shaggy tail. I look a little closer and see it’s matted in horse shit. I get angry and then get over it. I keep driving, still craving a cigarette.
I don’t buy a pack, though. Not yet at least. I think of an uncle my mother had. She called him Old Relic. He was ancient and his nails were bitten to the quick; he left small drops of blood on napkins when he’d twist them too tight in his hands. His voice wheezed and grated, his windpipe as fragile as china. At night I’d hear him snoring from the hallway, his breathing a constant moan, a motel air conditioner that’s only half-assing it.
I didn’t buy a pack and I turned around. The filthy horse didn’t even move an inch. I go back to a home that I craved for years while I lived in California. A home where the chipped paint of the back deck breaks off in large strips. The paint was called terra cotta when my mom bought it. It’s hardly blushing anymore.
It’s a home where six cats live and two dogs. Three Midwesterners still sometimes feel out of place in rural Pennsylvania, too. Cats that step in my mother’s Gold Bond powder dusting the bathroom floor. Small footprints and nothing but whispered running on the floorboards while I’m upstairs working. Cats with sleepy, glaucoma eyes that stare and blink and still trust me in their fog. A bucket of screws fell when the wind swung the door open too fast. The bath sometimes takes a half hour to drain completely.
This is the world I live in now, not the one of wanting and remembering. I see it for its beauty now, the uneasiness and the imperfections that lie just beyond the quick when I bite the nail too low, when I drive too fast on the windy roads. When I think of Old Relic and the cats that can’t see and the horse that seems to have given up on life. It’s all beautiful in its own way, because I’m letting life happen around me these days.
Orange Marmalade Cake with Tahini Frosting
Makes two 6-inch cakes
Ingredients for the cake:
- 2 cups AP flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup orange marmalade
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Zest of half an orange
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons shortening, room temperature
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
Directions for cake:
- Prep two six-inch pans with butter and parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 350*F
- In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside
- In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together vinegar, milk, marmalade, vanilla, and orange zest. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat fats and sugar on medium-high until light and ribbons form
- Add eggs, one at a time
- With mixer on low, alternate between adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture in thirds. When both are mixed in, turn mixer off and scrape bowl with rubber spatula to ensure batter is fully incorporated
- Divide batter between prepared pans
- Bake for 34-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Check at 30 minutes for excessive browning on top, due to the sugar content in this recipe (with the marmalade). If so, tent foil on tops of cakes
- Allow to cool before icing cake
Ingredients for Tahini frosting:
- ½ cup tahini
- 2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2-4 tablespoons whole milk
Directions for tahini frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, beat tahini and sugar together. If dry and crumbly, add a thin stream of milk until you yield your desired consistency