Monday, February 25, 2013

Taking It All In

This weeping cherry tree (prunus pendula) is just outside the kitchen window and I've taken to calling it the tree of tits.  I was tempted to use that as the title for this post, just to see how many hits I might get from people thinking it was an actual tree of tits, breasts that is. I got about triple the normal number of hits per post for Foxey a few months ago. It's crazy isn't it?  Do you know that something like 40% of men who are in relationships view on-line pornography on a regular basis?  Sad.

But this is not a breast tree, no, it is a bird tree.  When I gaze out the window each morning, washing the coffee pot, doing my morning thing, there are on average 10-12 birds, mainly titmice but also juncos and chickadees, sitting in the branches of this tree.  It's hard to tell in the picture above, but look here and you can see three juncos.  I guess they feel safe among the curving branches.
This tree has grown miraculously fast, we planted it three years ago and it has about tripled in size, I'm hoping it is getting to the height it will remain and then just keep weeping and getting more interesting shapes and curvy branches, its got a beautiful architecture, but I don't want it to grow up so tall that it blocks our view of the rest of the garden, we'll just have to see what happens, its grown faster than any tree we have ever planted.

The weather is loopy, one day cold and rainy, the next warm and sunny, then somewhere in between.

Yesterday was a warm sunny one.  I went for a long walk just soaking up the sunshine and checking out the woods. The creeks are way up thanks to much rain.  The first trout lily flowers were showing their yellow and dusky pink petals down in the warmest most protected stream bottoms.  I sat on the bridge over Tilley's Branch for a long while, listening to the sound of the water flowing, watching the foam and bubbles, small and large, flowing by, merging together, piling up against a jutting out rock or stick, circling together in small eddies, small bubbles swirling round and coming together to form a larger one in the center that would eventually pop and then the process begin again.  Little blobs of foam rushing over the tiny falls.  The play of light, on the rocky, mossy creek bottom and also, reflecting up and dancing on the stream bank and overhanging tree branches. 
How lovely it was to sit at length, just taking it all in, trying the whole time to squash the feeling down under that I should be moving, I should be getting back, I should be doing chores, I should be sitting at the computer writing, I should, I should, I should... ad infinitum, and instead, no I should stop shoulding on myself and just be, there, with the water and the light, absorbing the sunshine, freeing my soul up into the clear blue sky above, climbing the heights just like the tree tops, to hell with the chores, with the garden, the firework, the cooking, the cleaning, "TAKE A BREAK!!" my spirit was shouting out from deep down inside me, as I forced myself to sit there, still just a little longer, just a few more minutes, before jumping up to walk fast up the trail, up the mountain and down again, trying to get my heart rate up, make it exercise, go fast, but then I miss what's under my feet, under my nose, the birds flying above, the sound of the wind.

It is an impossible push and pull, this life, the musts and the shoulds constantly bumping up against the wants and needs.  All I can do is try and enjoy some piece of every day and make the most of every minute I guess, be Zen, be mindful, enjoy the dish washing and the wood hauling with as much pleasure and purpose as I do the woods walking and eating, make it all part of a practice of living life fully and thoughtfully.  Oh that sounds so preachy and highfalutin, but I believe it is something to strive for.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Snow Day

It's been snowing hard this morning, big puffy flakes.  We don't expect much to accumulate but it's so beautiful to sit inside the warm house and watch it fall.  Or open the door and listen to the soft sound of snow landing wetly on leaves.  David read about storms where the snow flakes were the size of cakes!  I cannot imagine how crazy that would be.  Looking up into the sky it was like this:
This picture does not do justice to the dizzying sensation of swirling snow coming down around you.  It makes me sad that we do not get the kind of snow we once did, at the same time, I don't relish being stranded for days either.  I wonder if they have dug themselves out from the 3 feet that fell up north yet? 

Did you hear about the meteor the size of a bus with the power of 20 atomic bombs that fell on Russia yesterday! Nature- wow.

I've been on a pasta kick, homemade pasta that is.  It's not so much work really and incredibly tasty and toothsome.  It all started when I baked one of those humongous Long Island Cheese squashes that we grew last summer.  They are tremendous.  I like the flavor and the texture but I do believe I'll go back to butternuts for a couple of reasons.  1) they are smaller, 2) they are denser 3) they are sweeter 4) they don't take over the entire garden!

But faced with a gallon of cooked squash I made a big pot of soup, flavored with garlic and sage and finished with creme fraiche and toasted pumpkin seeds.  Then we made 4 dozen raviolis stuffed with squash mixed with ricotta, Parmesan and bread crumbs. These were super tasty finished with brown butter, pecans, fresh herbs and Parmesan.  But alas, I still had a couple of cups of that ravioli filling, so last night I made another batch of pasta, cooked up mushrooms in bechamel sauce, steamed a big bowl of spinach from the garden and put it all together in this magnificent white lasagne.
It's sort of like the Cat in the Hat, one squash became all of these meals and happily, there is now in the freezer; prepared soup, 3 dozen ravioli's ready to drop in boiling water and a few servings of lasagne ready to pop in the microwave for those nights when there is no energy left.

I find it hard to imagine that the average American only spends 30 minutes a day preparing food, how empty I think my life would be without the time I spend growing, preparing and best of all, enjoying good food.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Love, a day late...

I meant to post this yesterday, in honor of Valentines day, but alas, wood cutting and the resulting incapacity that led to a long hot bath, coupled with a bottle of Prosecco, in celebration of said holiday, left us laughing, silly and further incapacitated, enjoying the most romantic of dinners, tuna melts (the only thing we were capable of generating at that point) and falling early and exhausted into the bed.

So now, I want to share another passage from the fine book, Andy Catlett, Early Travels, by Wendell Berry, which I have finished and was so short and sweet I'm tempted to read it all over again, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

In this passage, about time, birth, death and love, he presents all of this so succinctly and well, I thought it perfect in recognition of the day of happy hearts and want to give you this:
"Time that is told by death and birth is held and redeemed by love, which is always present. Time, then, is told by love's losses, and by the coming of love, and by love continuing in gratitude for what is lost.  It is folded and enfolded and unfolded forever and ever, the love by which the dead are alive and the unborn welcomed into the womb.  The great question for the old and the dying, I think, is not if they have loved and been loved enough, but if they have been grateful enough for love received and given, however much.  No one who has gratitude is the onliest one. Let us pray to be grateful to the last."
I've not ever put a lot of store in Valentine's day, liking to think that really, we should show our love daily, and the message of the passage above speaks to me in this regard. I think too, it's not just for the old and dying, but for all of us, to be grateful for love received and given. Every day.

So I'll close with another image of this spectacular quince which has been blooming for several weeks now, its unspectacular name "bright red".  So much for creativity!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Winter Blooms




The only thing missing is a Daphne, they've all died in the way that Daphne unfortunately seem to do, they go along happily, often for years and then one day they begin to shrink and ultimately die completely.  Heartbreaking really.  The fragrance is delightful, a little lemony, a little gingery, can't quite put my finger on it other than its strong and will turn heads.  

Today is grey, more rain, I'm glad for the rain we've had, truly I am, but I must say I can't help getting a bit gloomy when the sun don't shine.  Still, it won't be long at all before I am busy again with spring time garden chores and wishing for a day like today when I can stay inside and close to the fire.

I've been reading Andy Catlett; Early Travels by Wendell Berry.  It's a gem, the reminiscence of an old man, told now, of a trip taken when he was a boy in the 1940's to visit his grandparents.  The picture of a life now gone; a farm, with mule drawn carts, milk cows, hand pumped water and wood stoves. Evenings filled with reading and sewing and thinking.  It's rich with sweet recollections and observations that only time can bring.
"No place anywhere would ever again be satisfied to be what it was, I was surprised, and I am more surprised now, by the rapidity of the change than I was then.  In only a few years the world of pavement, speed and universal dissatisfaction had extended itself into nearly every place and nearly every mind, and the old world of the mule team and wagon was simply gone, leaving behind it a scatter of less and less intelligible relics."