I have a fond memory of drinking parsley tea at ten years of age during a close-down-the school-in-Iowa blizzard. These kinds of memories are what inspired the beginning of the book I’m working on (working title: Who the Frack is Maddie Jackson?).

Back on that winter morning over forty years ago, I spent the whole morning outside,playing in the snow, helping Dad in the barn, feeding my ponies, and even using a scoop shovel as a sled to slide off the roof of the machine sled all the way to the ground. Finally soaked and chilly, I went back inside.

Mom had made chili for lunch–dinner as the noon meal was called on the farm. I had always hated chili because I didn’t like chunks of stewed tomatoes, and I hated kidney beans.  When the cooks served chili at school, I made a pile of beans on my plate and left the slimy tomatoes in my bowl. “What’s left? What did you eat?” my teacher always asked.  I had a ready answer: “Meat, sauce, onions, crackers.” That day in the blizzard, after stripping off my wet clothes, and chilled to the bone, I took a bite of chili, and nothing had every tasted so good. I ate my whole bowl, tomatoes and beans and all. I’ve been a chili-lover ever since, and have even become somewhat of a chili connoisseur; my chili is legendary in certain circles–for its hot-pepper heat–and for its gaseous-producing qualities! (Thanks, Mom, for chopping up the tomatoes that day).

It’s fall. Now, on October 7, it’s unavoidable and inevitable. I ascribe to Shakespeare’s sentiment: “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” I hate to see summer end. I would love the beauty of autumn, but as an adult, I’m not a fan of what it portends in Minnesota: seven months of winter. For me, it also means being back in the grind of the school year, and going from writing every day and biking a few thousand miles in the summer to working 60-75 hours a week. It’s not a transition that I relish in any way, even though I do enjoy being in the classroom.

This, however,  is the first autumn in years and years that I am enjoying every minute of the season except for the idea of impending winter. I’m so grateful every minute for this sabbatical, that I feel as if I shouldn’t even talk about it to my teaching friends. I feel guilty when I do. I get up, make coffee, take Freya outside, do a few chores, eat breakfast, and settle in to write. Sometimes, I get lost in what I’m doing and don’t even look up until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. It’s heaven. Then, when I need a break, I go for a bike ride. Some days I ride before I settle into writing mode, but that’s only when I’m riding with a friend or in my weekend morning group rides.

Biking more miles in the fall is a luxury of sabbatical, but the true glory of this semester off from teaching is the amount of writing time I am getting. And writing time in my favorite chair brings me back to where I started: parsley tea. The afternoon of the blizzard day I described above, I spent the afternoon reading. I don’t remember the title, but the book was big and fat from the school library, and it was something like The Exhaustive Adventures of Robin Hood. All afternoon until chore time, I sat reading about Robin Hood, that outside-the-law hero of the common man, and I drank parsley tea while I read. Parsley tea was my favorite wintertime drink back then. I’m not sure how that started. Mom learned about the health benefits of it, and she and I discovered that we loved it. Now, every time that I drink parsley tea, I am reminded of Robin Hood.

ParselyI haven’t drunk it for ages–maybe a couple years. Last night, I was writing until midnight (Because I had a middle-of-the-day 30-mile gravel bike ride with my friend Emily). Around 10 p.m., I had a craving for parsley tea. Lucky for me, I had dehydrated a couple jars of parsley from our garden this yea. I made a big mug: Parsley leaves at the bottom, a tablespoon of honey, and boiling water. Yum. I had two cups before I was done writing for the night.

I wondered what inspired that sudden craving. Then I realized maybe it was a subconscious connection. My characters were spending the night sabotaging a billboard–“Fighting an unjust law” or fighting the absence of just and fair legislation. My characters at this point of the book become young Robin Hoods. And so, my parsley tea ties this story back together.

I recommend parsley tea: it’s yummy if you like green things (But not if you don’t), and it’s full of vitamins A and K; parsley also supplies small amounts of potassium, iron, and fiber. But for me, it’s a comfort food, and it’s the food of renegade illegal fight for justice. Today, and for the rest of the fall, it’s my drink of choice while Maddie, Sally, and Rafi fight against fracking.

I’m going to close now. I need to go turn on my tea kettle.

Becky Avatar

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