One of my favorite minor characters from the oeuvre of Lois Lowry is Mrs. Kolodny, the housekeeper in Taking Care of Terrific. Mrs. Kolodny is a colorful character — literally. But what I remember most about her is the power rush she gets from running all of her major appliances simultaneously: “…she had all the machinery running: the dishwasher, the garbage disposal, even the washing machine and dryer. Mrs. Kolodny says she likes to run the machinery; it makes her feel like Captain Kirk in Star Trek, gives her a sense of power.”
I thought about Mrs. Kolodny the other day as I was preparing for houseguests and Christmas dinner for twelve. The washer and dryer were running. So was the dishwasher. Beans for the vegetarians simmered in the slow cooker; soup bubbled on the stove. I felt strangely content.
Confession: I love making things in the slow cooker. I love making soups that simmer on the stove for hours. I almost love doing the laundry. Why?
Becuase I only have to begin these things, and then time and chemistry do the rest of the work for me.
And even as I boiled the cranberries and trimmed the green beans…the final two chapters of the third draft of my next novel were simmering away in the very slow cooker that is my mind.
Work on the novel, due in my editor’s office on January 15, has been suspended many times over the past months — by holidays, family medical stuff, student packets, and crises of one variety or another. And, though I sometimes daydream about having six months alone in a mountain cabin with nothing to do but write, I know that’s probably never going to happen. And it might not be good if it did.
Because the slow cooker of my mind is actually smarter than, um, the front burner. (Possibly I need to jettison the household appliance metaphor at this point.) But I want to say that while there’s no substitute for setting one’s butt in one’s chair for extended periods, it’s also true that, away from the chair, time and chemistry can be surprisingly productive on thier own.
In a couple of days, when the feast is but a memory and the guests have all gone home, while the dishwasher and laundry machines are churning away, I’m going to set my butt down, pick up my novel, and find out what’s been cooking.