Slow-Cooked Sentences

Aeromancy or between the raindrops

Rachael Conlin Levy

(n.) the prediction of future events from observation of weather conditions

Pronunciation | air-uh-man-see

Origin | Middle-English

My days are built around the assumption of rain. It’s the scaffolding from which I hang the jackets and galoshes that drip puddles onto the floor. It’s a near constant, like the morning bickering and my afternoon tea, and as equally bitter.

The clouds have returned, rolling in like the tide to fill up the blue caught in the tree branches. I don’t look up at this flat sky. I only watch the rain fall, knocking on the door of the earthworms, which slide onto the sidewalks and bask in the bleak weather. I walk around them, but I don’t avoid the slugs. Their meaty pop sends a shudder across my shoulders, and the gray-green smear brings in the squirrels, who lick the concrete. What they leave, the rain washes away, so there is a hidden benefit to the clouds, I suppose.

But on a day not long ago, a strong westerly wind shoved the clouds aside, and the sun found me on a damp log waiting for my youngest to finish soccer. I squinted up at a sky burning hot blue, felt the warmth of the sun through my cords, and laughed at the upending of a day that had called for laundry and library. Absence of rain throws the day into a tailspin, and I find myself chasing sunshine across the yard.

With soccer ended, I dragged shovels from the garage and began to dig, because a day where clouds skip like stones across a watery sky is a perfect day to plant a tree. I needed a hole deep enough to bury the roots of the katsura, with its delicate heart-shaped leaves that turn a bright yellow, pink and apricot in the fall, and a hole wide enough to hold my sorrow over the move of my sister and her family. Where we once shared days predicated on rain, her future now is shaped by unfathomable cold.

The urgency with which my sister uprooted and unloaded her family and their belongings was startling. Their move was made and carried out within three weeks. She passed on to me plants whose pots she’d sold, and gave me the frozen placenta of her small daughter to bury. Her abrupt and desperate actions were influenced by the aeromancy of Fairbanks, Alaska’s subarctic weather. For you see, if they didn’t get on the road, the weather would prevent them from getting there at all.

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My shovel’s blade cut through old sod. A small mountain of dirt rose, and Ivan collected rollie-pollies. I widened the hole in order to avoid the tough, thick roots of juniper, then dumped in the frozen afterbirth, and began to shovel.

I miss my sister, and her vigorous effort to improve herself. I miss her small spunky daughter, who’d just learned to say my name. I miss her husband, who tenderly and thoughtfully treated my family’s bruises and cuts, and her opinionated young son. I miss my sister’s hot, bitter tea.

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Kyna usually drank either green tea or chai. I’ve found comfort in the latter since her move, its spicy darkness taking the edge off the damp autumn and my dark mood. For as the Dutch say, what is bitter in the mouth will heal the heart. My chai, inspired by Alana Chernila’s “The Homemade Pantry,” has a fruity sharpness that I drink straight, although my children tame it with large amounts of milk and honey.

To make it, place a pot on the fire and pour in five cups of water. As it comes to a boil, add a slice of orange and a handful of roughly chopped and unpeeled ginger. Drop in three cinnamon sticks, three whole cloves, four cardamom pods and three peppercorns, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot slightly with a lid and walk away for fifteen minutes. When a spicy smell fills the kitchen, take the pot off the burner, add four black tea bags, and cover and steep for about five minutes, testing occasionally until spices and tea are balanced. Then strain the tea, pour it into a big glass jar and store it in the refrigerator, where it will keep for a couple weeks.

And with that I went inside and warmed up a cup, having buried everything as best as I could.

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7 responses to “Aeromancy or between the raindrops”

  1. Andrea says:

    Aww, so sorry your sister is going so far away from you! But katsura trees are amazing and your chai sounds lovely.

  2. It is so hard to be uprooted and leave others behind, or to be the one staying in place while loved one leave…I keenly remember the longing I felt when I traded the east coast for the west, the joy when so many of my family moved out here, and once again the longing as some of that joy slips into the past and becomes memories. I hope the katsura’s ever-changing beauty brings you solace. (Love the picture of your sister and her family.)

  3. kyndale says:

    This makes me so sad Rachael. Hugs. ♥

  4. Mom says:

    I only wish my teacup was filled with spicy, hot chai tea. Instead it holds my tears.

  5. Kyna says:

    Thank you, Rachael. I’m so glad for the two years we shared a city (and cups of tea, lots of laughter and tears, our families, many meals, and the comfort of having a sister and friend for a neighbor). We all miss you guys a ton. I love you.

  6. Beth says:

    I left my two sisters out West when our family moved to Pennsylvania. I understand the hole that grows in the heart because a sister is no longer ten minutes away.

    What a beautiful post, Rachael. I hope your sister arrives safely in Alaska and that you enjoy your cups of chai.

  7. Now I feel sad. I hope you two live close again at some point in the future. I haven’t made chai in a while. Tomorrow might be the day. That last photo is adorable. Wishing a little sunshine for you, Rachael.

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