Monday, January 15, 2007


I’m an oaf. It's always been that way. You could call it clumsy, but I’m not sure it’s that. Back when I was young and lithe (oh to be young and lithe again…) folks would ask me if I was a dancer or a model. Once, when I said no, one fellow said: “Huh. You move like one.” He might have had ulterior motives, but the point is: mine is a curious kind of clumsy.

I used to chalk it up to a tall girl thing [1] – at 5 foot 12, I’m not built to the same scale as the rest of the world. But I manage to get through most days without tripping up too much. I’ve only been in one auto accident (if you don’t count the curbs that I’ve clipped) and then it was the other guy who sideswiped me in the early morning in a neighborhood intersection (later that day I told my grandmother about it: “Grama: I was in car accident this morning -- I was hit by priest.” Her voice soaked with concern, she wanted to know: “Oh Dayna dear: Was he drinking?” Grama’s a good Lutheran. She knows all about those priests.)

No: when I destroy something it’s usually sudden, startling, and forceful. And entirely unexpected. Never with malice aforethought, although my darlin’ companion has suggested it has something to do with a certain lack of awareness (thanks for the vote of confidence, dear).

Take tonight’s meatloaf incident. Buoyed by the success of Georgia’s Cabbage and Apple Salad I turned back to her cookbook to make the first meatloaf of my life last night (I figured if meatloaf was good enough for one of America’s preeminent modernist artists, it was good enough for me) – and, frankly, it wasn’t half bad. Tonight I warmed up the leftovers and – and here’s the crucial point – after we had eaten I left the glass Pyrex loaf pan on the front burner of the stove, to cool.

A little while later I put on the kettle to make some tea. Not the kettle that I summarily destroyed last spring – this is a new, as yet unscathed, kettle. But I made a mistake that I’ve made before with our &#~$%! stove – I turned on the front burner, thinking I was turning on the back burner.

And of course I turned it up high enough to boil the water in the kettle – the water that was in the kettle on the BACK burner.

I stepped into the living room where I can still hear the kettle doing its thing, but very soon the sounds from the kitchen became very un-kettle-like. Bubbling and gurgling – not hissing and boiling and whistling. I stepped into the kitchen to find the glass loaf pan cooking on a red hot burner.


I turned off the burner. This was the correct thing to do. And then I did something that I shouldn’t have done: I lifted the loaf pan (with oven mitts, of course) and set it on a wooden cutting board that was perched over the sink.

Just as I set it down I thought to myself: “This probably isn’t the best thing to do.” And as I stood there in my mitts, studying the situation, the pan exploded with a brilliant bang.

Glass shrapnel flew everywhere. Boom, clatter, bang.

The beautiful thing was that I was in a position to witness the whole event.

Later, as I was picking a piece of glass out of my middle toe, I realized that it was pure good luck that a piece hadn’t flown up into my eye. It took me about an hour to clean up the whole mess and wash all the dishes that had been exposed and sift under cabinets and down drain pipes to get every last piece.

But here’s the thing: It was beautiful. And exhilarating. My only anxiety was attached to my darlin’ companion’s reaction to the mess (he's a tidy soul and I suspect that my inclination towards messiness makes him a little bit crazy) – and so I immediately shouted – as I have on so many other occasions where something not unlike this has occurred – “don’t come into the kitchen! I’ll take care of it!”

Another important point: This kind of destruction occurs in my life with some frequency. Despite my best efforts it's not uncommon for things to explode or otherwise self-destruct under my influence.

While sweeping up the chaos I flashed to a conversation that I had in Guatemala with some friends. We were talking about the plausibility of our Mayan horoscopes – they’re determined according to the Mayan calendar, so they take into account not only the month and day on which an individual is born, but also the year. My sign is the Ik’ – the North Wind – which is one of four days, or Mams, on which a new year may begin.

It’s a forceful sign -- and violent. It represents “wind, breath, life, one’s spirit” – a little like the Chinese idea of Ch’i. “Imaginative, physically strong, dreamers. A child born on Ik’ will be a bravo, strong, wild, even violent person”. Of course I took exception to the violent part. Me? Violent? I wouldn’t hurt a flea. When the truth is: I wouldn’t mean to hurt a flea. But of course it’s my nature, like Steinbeck’s Lenny, to squash it flat before I realize I’ve killed it.

And of course I’ve done the same thing with words, to friends, and to family, before I realize the damage I’ve inflicted and can’t revoke, goddammit.

Ik’ is the wind that precedes the rainstorm, kicking up the clouds and shaking down the trees. If you’ve ever been in Boulder, Colorado in the summertime at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, you know exactly what I mean.

And Ik’, I learned tonight, can be Pyrex -- cooked past its tolerance, shattering in a furious storm of light and noise, scattering diamonds of glass across the tiles.

[1] heatherlorin's posted some great tall girl stuff over at mixed bag recently »


Lolabola said...

I just laughed out loud enough times to make B come over and ask me what I was doing.

Your Grandmother is a doll! I love all stories about her.

The shattering glass is fantastic.

And as for the burner, I once gave B a stern lecture on turning on the wrong burner and walking away, only to have him politely point out that it was in fact me that had turned it on, walked away AND forgotten so completely that I was giving him a lecture.

anniemcq said...

When you got to the part about the glass shattering I had the most completely freeing reaction, one I haven't had since Joe-Henry was born. I actually "oooooooh"ed like you do after fireworks. I'm usually so pent up, so completely "ohhh, be careful" I got kind of excited about your accident myself! This was immediately followed by, "is she okay?" Just so you know I'm not a completely heartless bystander!
I truly loved and appreciated this post. And I'm really hungry for meatloaf now!

heather lorin said...

Girl you are too funny. Glad you made it out of the kitchen ok ;)

Being 5'12" and having been accused of a "certain lack of awareness" myself, I can totally relate to the clumsiness factor; although in my case it usually results in headaches and bruises from misjudging the distance between me and a sharp and/or hard object.

bhotw said...

Great story, I loved reading it! It's nice to be able to read AND COMMENT.

Regarding your observation that the meatloaf wasn't half bad; I need to point out that you are almost guaranteed success when you prepare almost any meat in loaf form. I realize this may not be terribly correct and I apologize if I offend, but I have to quote a great philosopher who once said "if God didn't want us to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them out of meat". Sorry, that's what passes for philosophy to us Oklahomans.

suttonhoo said...

LOL! clearly I need to write about how ridiculous I am more often -- these comments are the BEST!

anne said...

Glad there were no serious injuries!! I made a somewhat similar mistake of heating up a bowl of silver sulfer patina in a non heat proof bowl on one of Pratt's hotplates. The whole bottom came off and boy did it stink. Oh well...
I think part of the challenge of being 5'12" is that I, as well, have proportionately long arms which I am yet to be accustomed to. :)

Brilynn said...

I had left a comment over at Mixed Bag about her tall girl post and she referred me to this post of yours. Trust me, I feel your pain. I'm 6'2. Another problem in the kitchen is that kitchens were made for midgets! The counters are always too short, most of them are too small in general, I'm always bumping into everything... it's no wonder I wreck as many meals as I do...

MGL said...

Out of curiosity, what was the right thing to do? Leave it on the burner to cool down more slowly?

suttonhoo said...

mgl: that's my theory, but now I no longer have a pyrex loaf pan to test it on. ;)

burnett879 said...

what a great story. i'm on the clumsy side myself but at 5'3" i probably run into fewer issues, seeing as how you have several more inches of stuff to deal with up there. :)

btw, where can i look up some info about my mayan horoscope sign?

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