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.
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.