Sean Dietrich

It is raining. It has rained all day. My wife is making chicken soup because soup goes with rainy weather. It’s been a lazy, wet, boring, sleepy day. My wife has had the soup simmering since breakfast.

“The secret to good soup is plenty of time,” my wife told me earlier. “Time equals flavor.”

I liked that phrase so much I had to write it down on a legal pad. The same pad I am using to write you. I made a note to work that clever little sentence into this column.

“Time equals flavor.” That’s good.

Anyway, my dogs have been cooped up because of the weather. Around ten o’clock, they finally went stir crazy and started a professional wrestling league in the den.

So I left for the quiet porch with my legal pad. I have been here all day, listening to rain.

Once, I was in New York City. It rained downtown. It didn’t faze the city buzz. Life kept moving. Horns kept honking. People kept racing from Point A to Point B.

But here in the woods, a good rain stops everything. In this weather, our small world becomes lethargic.

I can smell my wife’s soup from here. She made it from a chicken we bought from our friend, Lonnie. Lonnie is a strange hippie who names all his animals. Apparently, the chicken’s name was “Daisy” before the bird met its end.

My wife likes to know these things before she buys chicken. She likes to know the bird had a good life, and if possible, a Christian name.

Once, Lonnie tried to sell us a frozen chicken he had named “Mary.” My wife wouldn’t take it because Mary was her mother’s name.

The rain keeps falling.

I take a break from writing to read a book. It’s not high-brow literature. I’m a little embarrassed to tell you what I’m reading.

It is Minnie Pearl’s book of jokes. I’ve almost finished the entire thing on the porch today.

One joke is particularly good:

“A teacher wrote a sentence on the blackboard, which read: ‘I ain’t had fun all week.” The teacher said to her class, ‘How can I correct this sentence?’ A boy in the back stood and answered, ‘Teacher, maybe you oughta get a boyfriend.’”

They don’t make them like Minnie anymore.

The smell of chicken soup is strong, wafting through the cracks in the windows and beneath the doors. Suppertime approaches, and I am getting hungry.

It’s past five and I still haven’t figured out how to use the phrase, “Time equals flavor” in this column.

The rain falls harder. It’s loud. I can hardly think, let alone write. The humidity has made the legal pad limp.

I am interrupted by the voice of my wife. She is on the phone. She’s using a voice loud enough to be heard in the next county. I eavesdrop only to find that she is engaged in juicy gossip which I can’t repeat here.

So instead I’ll tell you another Minnie Pearl joke:

There are a bunch of newborns in the hospital nursery. One of the babies smiles at a girl-baby and says, “Hey sweetheart, I just figured out that I’m a boy-baby, wanna know how I figured it out?”

“How?”

“Wait ‘til the nurse leaves, sweetie, and I’ll show you.”

The nurse leaves.

The boy stands and lifts his nightgown and says, “See? Blue booties.”

God bless Minnie Pearl.

The sound of the storm gets stronger. Distant thunder, quiet and low. White noise. The sounds of frogs come in pulses.

And I smell wet earth. Have you ever smelled a million acres of pine, saturated by Heaven? It smells as good as it sounds.

Some people associate rain with sad things, but the farming people I come from do not. No rural person would ever think badly of rain. Rain is a gift. It is the greatest thing the world will ever see. It might be inconvenient, but it is holy.

My wife shouts, “Soup’s ready!”

I stand to leave the porch. Before I go, I catch a glimpse of my legal pad. There are notes and doodles all over it pertaining to this column.

One phrase reads: “God bless Minnie Pearl.”

Just below that, another sentence is underlined, the sentence my wife used.

“What a shame,” I think to myself. I was going to work my wife’s phrase into this column. But it’s raining too hard, and I’m feeling too lazy.

Maybe I could slap the sentence onto the final paragraph and hope it means as much to you as it does to me.

Because after all, it’s true. All the things I have gone through, the ingredients of my life, the heartaches, the triumphs, the failures, the hell, the victories, they impart taste.

When they have simmered long enough, maybe one day I’ll find that no part of my life was without meaning. My experiences made me into me. Yours make you into you.

And make no mistake about it, we are great works of art. It just takes time, that’s all.

Because time equals flavor.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, The Tallahassee Democrat, Good Grit, South Magazine, Alabama Living, the Birmingham News, Thom Magazine, The Mobile Press Register, and he has authored seven books.

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