In Betweens {and Martinmas}

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Making a nest I daresay – look at how STUFFED his little mouth is.

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There is a stillness this time of year as we settle into the darker days and colder weather. It’s an in-between time, falling after the vibrancy of October yet before winter truly sets in. We are inhaling, readying ourselves for the bustle and excitement of the holiday season. Around here, days are filled to the brim with teaching! I’ve been so busy creating lesson plans, grading, and reading my mountainous stacks of folktale books. It’s good to feel connected to learning again.

I’ve also been attempting to keep up my daily walks. It’s certainly more difficult as the weather gets colder, but the fresh air and open sky always changes my frame of mind if I’m juggling a million things at once. The geese in the park have been particularly active recently, and it’s not unusual to see five or six different formations fly over, honking to one another. The diving ducks have also returned for the winter. Goldeneyes and Buffleheads are now populating the lake with the usual collection of Mallards. Winter birds always make me think of Gladys Taber. She writes about how the birds that stay over the winter are her true favorites, because they weather the storms with her. She distinguishes this as the difference between true friends and fair weather friends. I couldn’t agree more. I love the chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, and blue jays who visit our feeders in the back yard all year round.

We also celebrated Martinmas on Saturday. We were going to dip candles, but the entire process was curtailed because the wax I bought smelled TERRIBLE, and the dipping pot was too light and floated to the top of the double boiler. Sigh. I will try and procure new wax and a new pot and try again another time. We salvaged the night by making yummy roasted carrot and parsnip soup and lighting candles. Martinmas is all about nurturing your inner light during the darkest time of the year, a message I always feel I need to be reminded of as the days grow shorter. For more on the holiday click here.

Next week we are planning a slow Thanksgiving at home. I’m so excited to cook some delicious food, and have a chance to relax. We also might be getting a certain tree for another certain holiday at the end of next week… Is it too soon?

Sending warmth and light to all.

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Halloween

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I’m finally all caught up with posts! It feels so good to not have such a big backload of photos, even though I was excited to post them.

Here are a few glimpses from Halloween last week. We had a wonderful day, carving pumpkins, making soup, and handing out candy to trick or treaters. Tip: sour skittles are king. It seems like no matter how deeply hidden they are in the candy bowl, sneaky little fingers will dig to the bottom to find them. The best handmade costume we saw was a little boy dressed up as an anglerfish. He was incased in a cardboard fish body complete with a lure dangling in front of him. So creative and fun!

I’ve been doing some research about the history of Halloween, and have found a couple interesting tidbits. I discovered they used to carve turnips, not pumpkins, hoping the scary faces would frighten off the evil spirits said to walk about on All Hallow’s Eve. Pumpkins were introduced when the holiday came to America, as they are not native to Europe. In Celtic tradition, this time of year coincided with the festival of “Samhain” representing the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. The veil between our world and the spirit world is said to be thinner during this time, hence the connection with death and with the spirits of relatives revisiting their living ancestors. I also learned that it was traditional to offer soul cakes to folk going about “guising” from house to house. To incorporate some of these traditions, I made “Old Sussex Soul Cakes” on November 1st (aka All Saints Day or All Souls Eve). The cakes themselves were a funny texture, almost a combination between a pancake and a muffin, but were quite good eaten warm with butter. They are seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and decorated with currants in the shape of a cross.

Now we have passed Halloween and Daylight Savings is over, we are truly transitioning to winter. Today was cold and frosty – perfect for chicken noodle soup! It’s an odd time of year, one foot still in autumn and one foot in winter. Some trees are still golden, while others are completely barren. The geese have been migrating in droves, honking to one another as they fly overhead. It’s one of my favorite sounds in the world. The past few mornings I’ve listening to their calls as I lay in bed waking up.

I hope everyone is finding little ways to enjoy this chilly time of year!

Walking with Crows

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The days of October are filled with so much magic. I’ve been walking almost every single day for the last month, and it’s been incredible to see the slow shift around me. The light is certainly enchanted looking. The shadows are beginning to stretch further and further. I think I’m unusual in that I love the darkening of the year. As someone who doesn’t often feel anything spiritual is present in my life, this time of year creates an opportunity for me to reflect and to have quiet space to think. I think I’m the only one who is happy that daylight savings is over! I’m ready to light candles and to create a warm space in the home.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about crows. Sometimes portrayed as sinister, sometimes as tricksters, crows represent magic and healing. This time of year it’s not unusual to see a whole tree filled with crows, cawing and cackling as they eat acorns. I’m not sure if they migrate, but I suppose they must for they gather in such enormous numbers. I saw a huge flock while walking last week, zooming back and forth between the elm and oak trees at the edge of the park. I’m so grateful for their presence, as it encourages me to think about magic even in my little corner of the world.
I’ve also been thinking about the crow’s message of healing, especially during some of these hard weeks for our country. It can feel isolating and frustrating when we are faced with hard news, and I don’t know if I have any answers. What I do know is that things often feel less lonely under an open sky, and things feel better when we connect with one another. Reach out, send a letter, make a phone call, write an email. Send some magic and healing into the world.

October Glory and Stories

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Still catching up! These photos are from a couple weeks ago…

October flew right past! We had some glorious days full of bright fall leaves and sunshine. I’m always amazed at how vibrant autumn colors can be, and feel so lucky we can see them here out west.

This fall has been filled with reading and cooking and long walks. Exactly what fall should be filled with! Because lesson planning is so time consuming, I’m often hunched over a stack of folktales, cobbling together my next class. The stories seem to fit perfectly with this chilly time of year, as we turn from the expansiveness of summer to inward contemplation of fall and winter. As I read about Baba Yaga or Rumpelstiltskin, I’m encouraged to think about how these tales fit into our daily lives, and how we can contemplate their archetypes, questions, and ideas. Though perhaps simplistic on the surface, folktales have staying power because they are so deeply rooted in history and oral storytelling. They mirror our darkest selves, our fears, and our hopes, creating a lens through which to think about our world. In a way, I think we need these stories to remind us of our past, and to provide a context through which to view our future. It’s exciting to imagine these stories creating community, and providing contemplation and solace. I for one, can’t wait to curl up in front of the fire with a nice mug of tea and read!

Taking Down the Garden

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A few weeks ago we dismantled our beautiful garden. After months of careful cultivation, what a harvest we received! Taking down the garden is definitely bittersweet. As the season turns to the colder months, it feels right to gather indoors, to curl up by the fire with a good book, and to cast our gaze inward. On the other hand, it’s so difficult to say goodbye to so much abundance and growth!

Early in the summer we grew lettuce, spinach and radishes and then turned over the soil for a second planting. For some pictures of the early garden go here and here. For the later harvest we grew herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint, sage, chives, tarragon, parsley, basil), tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and ill-fated delicata squash. As always our tomato crop was the most hefty and notable! What a haul! The prize winning plant of the season was the Sun Gold tomato! Pictured in the fourth photograph above, it’s the mammoth plant on the right-hand side of the frame. It took my dad and I a long time to slowly cut it down.

There are still some herbs growing outside and the carrots are in the ground. We planted a second rosemary in a pot, and it sits by our backdoor. It’s my favorite herb, so I’m looking forward to many yummy recipes with homegrown goodness this winter. Because so many tomatoes were still green when we took down the plants, we also have many green tomatoes slowly ripening one by one in storage. It’s such a treat to extend our harvest and good fortune for so long!

I hope everyone is soaking in the last warm days and enjoying some quality time in the kitchen!

A Golden Michaelmas

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I can’t believe how quickly time flies! It seems like I put things aside for a moment and all of a sudden I have heaps and heaps to catch up on. I’ve had this post almost finished for WEEKS and am just now getting to publishing. Sigh. I do have so many lovely pictures from my favorite month, OCTOBER (!), and I’m determined to post as many as I can.

Michaelmas was a beautiful golden day this year. We were still up in Wyoming then, so the celebration was much more internal than last year. Kevin and I did take a walk down the road to admire all of the radiant trees. For me, the day was spent contemplating the spirit of Michaelmas – embracing the darkening year and holding my own light inside. Certainly the trees were a reminder of inner flame! The colors were so unbelievable. For more Michaelmas content, you can look back at last year’s celebration here.  Judging by how much content is crammed into that post, I have a lot of trouble blogging this time of year!

My big news is that I’ve started teaching high school English at the local Waldorf School. I’m teaching a class on folklore and fairy tales and am having an absolute blast! It’s so unbelievably fun to get to share content I’m excited about with my students. Next week we are discussing stories about witches and ghosts for Halloween. Along with Hansel and Gretel we are going to delve into stories about Yamanba the Japanese mountain Witch and Baba Yaga who lives in the Russian forest. Things are certainly starting to get spooky around here…

I hope you are all finding moments of quiet amidst the chaos during this beautiful time of year. Back soon with some visions of October!

Minutiae

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Little things in the big land! From tiny mushrooms on a hike at the lakeshore to autumn leaves on the ground – I tried to notice the details in the grandeur while we were in Wyoming. Around every corner were more hints of the changing season. The underbrush was turning red and yellow, the air chilly enough in the shade to warrant a light jacket.

Our favorite little visitor was a chipmunk by Phelps Lake. He scurried around our feet before eventually venturing close enough to put his little paws on my aunt’s shoe. Kevin – a big fan of squirrels and chipmunks in particular -was so excited when the little chipmunk came over and put his front paws on his shoe too! We were definitely suspicious that this little one’s gregariousness came from park visitors feeding him tidbits. He gained no such handouts from us (though I suspect Kevin would have eventually acquiesced).

I’m still catching up with several posts that have been on the back burner. Stay tuned for some thoughts on Michaelmas and glorious October days at home.

Wishing everyone crisp days and cozy nights.