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Being Teachable

  March 13, 2002

  Until a few months ago I lived alone in a small cabin in the woods. I would go out regularly for work or to be with friends. Although I wasn’t really a hermit, I rarely had guests out to my place. I was comfortable going to other folks’ homes. That better fit my style of

 housekeeping and food preparation. When asking me to bring something friends knew to keep to something that came in a pre-sealed bag.

    But I now have a full time partner in the cabin. With her have come some changes and adjustments on my part. Because of the relationship, I have been more than willing to learn new things, but still the learning curve was rather steep for a while.   

    I try to be teachable. I knew there would be adjustments and I was right. One was in the area of food - now it gets cooked. Another was in the area of housekeeping; there seems to be more walking around area now.

    Let me talk a little about food. See, I am the master of the one course meal. For example, chips are a meal; dip is another meal. Whichever the meal, it was washed down with beer. My favorite was that domestic standby Ol' Thunder Butt beer. A special meal might be a can of pork and beans, but I didn’t know they were supposed to be put in a pan and warmed up. On those rare occasions when I felt I needed to be a gourmet I prepared, say, hamburger helper, or some other like delicacy, in the one pan I owned. Then, to be efficient, the pan became my dinner plate and the meal was consumed over the kitchen sink.

    Now most of the food brought into the house isn’t even ready to eat. Each meal now requires, sometimes, several minutes of preparation, such as vegetables that need washing and meat that needs cooking. This creates dirty dishes. Which brings up the housekeeping.

    My former style of housekeeping didn’t leave an area for this accumulation of dirty dishes. Back then the space would be filled with empty chips bags, empty dip containers, beer cans and an occasional tin can, not to mention some dirty clothes. With the new system the dishes get washed and the area is then open. The open space seems a waste until later in the day when only one meal will fill it with dirty dishes again.

    Finding where everything needs to be put, now that it has a place, has been interesting. I am teachable but it has taken an effort on my part.

    There are a lot of dishes. Before I had one and I only washed it when it needed to be used. Now they all must be washed very shortly after they get used and put in a cupboard. Okay, I can do that, but each one needs to be put in a specific cupboard. Now this is tougher. I start by looking at the dish in my hand and then for similar items in a cupboard and put it there. This usually works except for glasses. Another new lesson for me was the difference between a glass and a jar. In my former life they were the same. If there was a difference it was how they came into the house in the first place. A jar came from a store with some kind of product in it, say peanuts. It was a great mystery to me where glasses came from. Occasionally a new one appeared as if by magic after someone left who had come in with a drink in his hand. Jars come with lids that are removed and used for target practice or to patch a rodent hole. Glasses don’t seem to have lids.

    Another mystery came when my new partner asked where my pan was. It seems it was just right for the meal being prepared. I knew right where it was because I had just changed the oil in the tractor.  I told her and started out to get it. She stopped me. I noticed she looked surprised and a little scared. She started to ask a question but stopped and I think she didn’t want to hear the answer. Finally she decided it wasn’t so perfect after all and suggested I leave it in the shed. A minute ago she wanted to use it for the meal, now it has to stay out with the tools. Of course, over the years, it’s always been used there more anyway and there seem to be plenty of pans in the house.

    I must admit living under these new conditions does seem to have some advantages. Meals are no longer the gastro-catastrophic events they once were; they taste good and stay down.

    My clothes seem to be getting smaller with this system, but eating is now a joy instead of just a bodily function. Sitting down to the dinner table with someone who is fun as well as a good cook makes all the adjustments worthwhile, and the table works better than the sink for a dining surface.

    I think I like being teachable.


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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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