Posts tagged: fall
October 11, 2012

Leaning into the Light

Here are some truths:

I sniffled and sneezed my way through Brooklyn and midtown last week before changing into my pajamas each night before dark and pulling the bed covers over my lap, hours before an acceptable bedtime. During that same bout of head cold suffering, I somehow tweaked my back so that a wincing tender spot ran from my right mid-back, up the inside of my shoulder blade along my spine and marched achingly up my neck to my ear. I groaned like an old woman turning over in bed.

When I climb the subway stairs in the evening and arrive above ground, the world is closing in on full darkness, and it’s not yet 6:30.

We ate ramen noodles for dinner on Tuesday.

And yet.

I smelled the first fire of the season on Monday, woodsy smoke lingering in the air as I rounded a corner near the library.

At the farmer’s market on Sunday, when the dahlias looked frowsy and trampled, I bought an armful of untamed eucalyptus branches. Also four honeycrisp apples, an acorn squash and a pumpkin. Carrying the tall branches down 5th Avenue, Sebastian remarked I looked like a koala bear. At home, I pulled out a tall mason jar, a footed orange planter, and a slim vase of milk glass for arrangements on the dining table, atop a bureau, and in our bedroom. Each time I rise from bed for a glass of water or to fetch a book, the leaves brush my arm and fill the room with their medicinal fragrance. I can never quite decide if I like the smell or not.

I roasted the squash in the oven side by side until their ribbed walls collapsed, then cut them open and scooped out their seeds. I cubed the acorn squash and cooked it with tender red lentils and turmeric in a stew, but the pumpkin fell apart and could be scooped out of its skin, as soft and formless as a puree. I warmed it last night in a pan with butter, olive oil, and soft translucent onions, before adding crushed tomatoes and thyme. We ate it with hot spaghetti and a scoop of goat’s milk ricotta. I felt like a farmsteader.

I am talking about small things, of course. More so than usual, I find myself lately holding up each day’s tiny, quiet moments as if they were nuggets of gold I’ve panned for in a river. In a way they are. Earlier this fall I read a book that felt like a wise, intimate companion, The Journal Keeper. Phyllis Theroux writes that she uses her journal to “lean into the light.” It’s a phrase that’s stayed with me. Does it take more effort to lean into the light than into darkness? I don’t know, but as someone who has at times been subsumed by darkness so cloaking there seems no light at the end of its narrow tunnel, leaning is the endeavor I care most about these days. It’s what I’m scribbling about in my little red notebook and right here. Leaning, panning for gold, finding it in a bowl of ramen soup and the insides of a pumpkin.

October 2, 2012

Bright Spots

Happy fall, says the sign at the Locktown Grange, and so say I.

Today was the kind of day when city rain soaks through your shoes, leaving your tights damp. Beating a few eggs for dinner feels like therapy. Now, zucchini is cooking on the stove, and a pot of water is set to boil. That zucchini, sizzling away in a cast iron skillet, is my bright spot today. So, too, are those eggs, soon to be scrambled, as is the scoop of ricotta that will go with the whole mess of it. Then the couch, and Parks and Recreation, and every other little joy that comes from closing the door on the wet, rain-soaked world and coming home.

These photos are from a walk I took over the weekend while I was out at my mom and step-dad’s farm. That’s a horse, up there, who lives around the corner. Leaves floated onto the blacktop every time the wind blew, and dry, brown-stalked dandelions stood by the side of the road, tall and scraggly save for the clusters of seeds, dense and puffy as cotton.

Before my walk I searched my high school bureau to find a pair of socks. Among the mismatched pajamas and flea market half-slips was, to my great delight, a note and a stack of tea bags from my beloved high school English teacher. She wrote:

How often, in a poem, do we mangle the real beauty we were moved by? How poorly in our art do we reflect our world…and yet, we cannot stop trying. We are driven to create, write, sculpt, and share our crude reproductions of the fine and perfect stuff of our lives.

They were words unearthed at just the right time. I thought about them all through my walk, looking up at the changing leaves, at the blue jay that stirred inside a thicket, and at the vast overcast sky. I hope her note might be a bright spot for you, too, whatever your (fine, crude, perfect) creation may be. It is always worth a try.

September 9, 2012

Songs for the End of Summer

Elegantly-made or sorely-felt, this time of year is all about transitions. It is a time of year that makes me think of quiet transport, like sitting in a passenger seat on the way home from one of the last swims of the season. I’ve got that to-the-core chill and we drive home the scenic way with the windows down, my hair wet down my back. It’s like waking up from the sweetest sleep. The heat of the day has finally burned off, and I’m ready to eat something warm. Probably fried chicken.

There are five seasons in Chinese medicine. The fifth season, the one we enter now, is late summer. Here’s what my kinda weird book says on the topic:

Late summer itself is a short season, but it can be a time of intense metamorphosis in nature and within ourselves…During transitional periods, it is especially important to stay centered, a state of being in contact with the Earth that we call “grounded”…Centering has to do with finding balance in which we are aware of our polarities, the yin and yang qualities of Earth and Heaven, left and right, inner and outer.

This is a transition I always feel keenly: the slow softening of the light, an edge of coolness in the evenings or on a breeze, and the way I can always feel myself savoring something I can never quite put my finger on but am certain is the end of one kind of thing and the beginning of another.

These are the songs for that.

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October 12, 2011

Sweet Suprises and Apple Pie

There is much to be said for what discomforts a change of scenery can ease. And because I have been nursing a cold with a sore throat that only tom yum soup, apple cider, and hot tea could make feel better, we went apple picking.

It was 80 degrees, and the pumpkins and hay bales looked completely out of place in the hot sun. Sebastian and I piled into a wagon filled with children and their parents and rode into an orchard where rows and rows of Piñata apples were––literally!––ripe for the picking. It was so pretty there, with tiny apple blossoms and lush, glossy leaves on the trees, dark green grass below our feet and a big blue sky above. We wandered between trees to the Empires, then the Golden Delicious, and finally the Suncrisps. Later, with our modest five-pound haul, we walked back to the orchard entrance and bought some cider donuts, still hot in their white paper bag. We shared a cold bottle of cider and sat in a shady spot in the grass. I wondered what had taken me so long to do what has long been on my fall fun list.

Colds lead to thick, murky thoughts and minutes lost to staring off into the distance. And so Sebastian had to figure out what to make with all those apples. Wouldn’t you know that the rookie would come out of the gates with a grand slam? My mom makes the simplest of apple pies: just peeled wedges, sugar, cinnamon, and dots of butter. What Sebastian baked was ultra-rich, and bubbled over with a caramel-like sauce. It might have been the best slice of apple pie I’ve ever had. We shared a single slice hot from the oven late last night and pronounced it a victory. (But I’m still partial to tarte tatin.)

I didn’t intend for this post to be about Sebastian’s triumph in the kitchen or to tell you about the killer apple pie recipe he found. Both were just serendipity! I set out just to recount this kind of magic moment in the weekend where even with an aching throat there was something so sweet about wandering, foggy-headed, through an orchard in the sunshine. Why did something so simple feel so utterly divine?

We play this game in our house from time to time, “what was your favorite moment?” And the surprising thing is that it’s never the fancy dinners or big to-dos we planned for, spent money on. It’s always something unassuming and random, like a nice walk, or seeing some hilarious dog, or reaching up into an apple tree, grabbing a piece of ripe fruit, and biting right into it.

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