My fridge runneth over, and I have pine mouth. What the fuck is pine mouth? It’s been the kind of day that makes me almost so happy I could cry, except for the fact that everything I put in my mouth tastes bitter.
Several neighbors are out of town and I’m watching their plants and pets. That always makes me feel like I belong. I’m sitting down to asparagus soup I made last spring from wild asparagus picked by one of them, and romaine salad from my own raised beds. I just returned from tending two neighbors’ houses, picking up beet greens and dropping off kefir at another’s, and borrowing a book and sharing a cocktail with a fourth. One young friend brought me wild mushrooms from the mountains the other day, and another let my dogs out the past two days during some nine-hour work days away from home. We are all here for each other.
So my refrigerator is full of fresh-picked beet greens and chard, cucumbers, romaine, zucchini from the patio pot, asparagus soup, eggs from yet another nearby friend’s free-range hens, kefir I’ve kept going for almost two years from grains given by a friend in the next town north; purple bush beans, poppies, dahlias, zinnias, morning glories, scarlet runner beans, and sunflowers started from seed fill the gardens, and a few peaches ripen on the tree. Local happy pork waits in the freezer. Kittens romp in the living room and happy, healthy dogs play in the yard.
I’ve got great work this week filming a yoga guru from Brazil who’s helped heal my body over the past eight years. And I live in a valley with clean, fresh air, clear wild water, extraordinary views, and the greatest variety of local, organic food a person could hope to eat. This morning a wild turkey led her pullets down the driveway; this afternoon returning from work a two-truck traffic jam slowed me on a sharp curve on the last hill home: the first big pickup pulled wide into the downhill lane, the second slowed steeply, and I braked to see a young redtail flapping to the edge of the cliff with a squirrel. One of this year’s fledglings from the nest at the confluence of canyons. At dusk a flock of nighthawks flew overhead. August.
My heart wells up on days like this, I am so full of gratitude for how and where I live. I can’t imagine wanting anything more.
Except world peace, an end to hunger and abuse of power, reversal of climate change, respect by everyone for all life, and protection for the wild. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction lately (what’s happening to me?!) including The Sixth Extinction, and Death in the Marsh, both scientific accounts of human-caused dire circumstances facing life on earth. Only denial can help me now.
And on top of all that, I’ve got pine mouth. It’s a small but annoying thing. I first encountered it five or six years ago when all of a sudden, everything I ate or drank tasted bitter. It worried me intensely for a couple of days until I searched online, and kept running across references to people with a similar complaint who had recently eaten pine nuts, the commercial kind grown in China. I figured that had to be the problem, because I had eaten grocery store pine nuts a day or two before this unfortunate gustatory distress. That time, it lasted well over three weeks, and was really awful.
This time, it hasn’t been quite so bad, and after six days is already diminished. Recently I ran across a reference to the condition which called it “pine mouth.” I betrayed my intuition at the store last week, when I picked a pack of pine nuts off the strip and purchased them. In that moment when I pulled the package from the hanging plastic, I thought, or maybe felt, a warning: pine mouth. Should I drop that bag and pick another? They all looked the same. It’s often hard for me to discern the difference between intuition and neurosis, so I laughed at myself and dropped the bag in the cart. I made a special dish for another couple of friends who needed dinner, and ate a bowlful myself.
The next day I tasted the first twinge of bitter in some kefir, and some trail mix. Since then it’s been everything. Granola, chili, salad, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, M&Ms, vanilla ice cream, asparagus soup… all of it bitter. It’s bearable. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a drop in the bucket. I’m still the luckiest girl alive. As the yoga guru says, “If you know what it is, it’s just pain.”
I know what it is, and it’s just bitter. Of course, I don’t really know what it is, or why it happens. Does anyone? But it will go away. And in context of all the complex sweetness in my life, any day that pine mouth is the worst I have to contend with I am grateful.