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!

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!

Eclipse 2017

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At long last the promised eclipse post! It’s been a month since we experienced totality in Jackson, and almost every day since I think about the dark moon covering the sun.

The morning of the eclipse was (thankfully!) very sunny and clear. I’d spent the days leading up to the eclipse checking my weather forecast obsessively and reading about eclipses and eclipse history. I set out four glasses of water to soak up the sun rays in order to infuse with eclipse energy (click here to read more about eclipse rituals.) While the sun began to eclipse, we ran around the yard snapping pictures, blowing off steam, and checking the progress of the moon. Kevin and my dad set up their phones on chairs to record the view of the Tetons during the eclipse. About ten minutes from totality the air began to get very cold, so we all had to run and grab extra layers. The light took on a subdued unusual tinge and shadows began to darken and intensify. Soon, the light was almost silver, akin to moonlight. As the moon slid over the sun completely, an orange rim appeared all around the horizon, as if we were encased in a 360 degree sunset. The sky was deep indigo blue, and planets appeared. The sun itself was black, wreathed by the silver corona and near the edges of the sun, a rim of orange was visible. We all stood in amazement, crying and laughing and cheering with our neighbors. I only let myself take a few pictures so I could be present to experience the moment fully. The two minutes and thirty seconds of totality felt extremely short. The instant the moon moved away from the sun, a bright light exploded from the upper right rim and the world was thrown back into sunlight. The light remained silver-y for a few moments, but the day was swiftly returned to sunshine and warmth. We all waited outside and chatted until the sun was fully uncovered again and the “eclipse water” was ready to drink.

Afterward, we all felt very tiny in the world, but simultaneously very comforted to be part of something so amazing, even in a small way. I loved the raw chorus of whoops and cheers from our neighbors as the total unreality of the moment was shared by everyone. We watched a TED talk about eclipses, and the speaker, David Baron, spoke about his experience with his first total eclipse in Aruba.  “For the first time in my life, I just felt viscerally connected to the universe in all of its immensity. Time stopped, or it just kind of felt nonexistent, and what I beheld with my eyes — I didn’t just see it, it felt like a vision. And I stood there in this nirvana for all of 174 seconds — less than three minutes — when all of a sudden, it was over. The sun burst out, the blue sky returned, the stars and the planets and the corona were gone. The world returned to normal. But I had changed. […] when I think of my own mortality –and I do, a lot –when I think of everyone I have lost, my mother in particular, what soothes me is that moment of awe I had in Aruba. I picture myself on that beach, looking at that sky, and I remember how I felt. My existence may be temporary, but that’s OK because, my gosh, look at what I’m a part of.”

Celebrating Lammas

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Around here, the summer has shifted. Though we are still steeped in heat, there’s a glimmer of something else in the morning and in the evening, a slight whisper of chill in the air. By no means have we entered into autumn, rather, the summer is in a different faze. Gone are the long days of June or the scorching hot early July days, and here instead are thunderstorms in the afternoon, ripe peaches and tomatoes, and a transition to the harvest. Our garden has begun yielding its bounty, with green beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers harvested last week. We’ve used garden thyme, basil, chives, tarragon and rosemary in our cooking, and we are enjoying golden plums, peaches, and tomatoes from our farm share. What a wonderful time for cooking and eating!

In the spirit of celebrating this bountiful season, I chose to celebrate our first Lammas at the beginning of the month. The name Lammas originates from the pagan holiday “Lughnasadh,” which was later christianized to “loaf mass” and then “Lammas.” Observed on August 1st, Lammas celebrates the first loaf of bread baked from each year’s newly harvested wheat. Though we don’t grow our own wheat, we nevertheless baked bread to mark the beginning of our harvest season.  I like that this holiday recognizes the beginning of the bountiful time of year, and also marks the transition I was already feeling from early to late summer. Our bread ended up being a partially successful experiment… We think our dough was too wet, and are eager to try again soon! Now, I’m trying to soak in these stormy days and raucous nights as the crickets, cicadas, and buzz-bugs create a cacophony in the trees.

A storm is beginning outside my window, and the trees are sighing as the wind picks up. I hope everyone gets a chance to go outside and enjoy some thunder!

The Fourth of July and Around the Garden

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I’ve been a bit slow with posting recently, so here’s an assortment of the best garden photos from the last month along with some snaps of July 4th.

The garden is in full swing, we harvested all our remaining lettuce last week and are now looking forward to some ripening tomatoes. Asters, California bluebells, Victorian climbing roses, poppies, and sage are all blooming and the honeybees love the abundant blossoms. Our little herb garden has doubled in size since I last mentioned it in this post and I’ll make sure to add some photos next time. The California bluebells are from that herb garden, and our very own pink hollyhock is about to bloom. I always feel so grateful for the midsummer abundance. I regret that I didn’t celebrate Midsummer this year – I had to work that evening – but being out in the garden feels like a celebration in itself, and with our Green Man looking over everything it feels almost enchanted.

July Fourth was quiet this year. It was Kevin’s idea to “grill out” and I’m so glad we did! We spent time with family, cooked delicious burgers for dinner (with homemade pickles!) and watched an amazing fireworks show with family friends.  Afterwards, we had our traditional black cows (root beer floats), which were perfectly refreshing on a warm evening. I might have to continue the black cow tradition throughout the summer…

I hope everyone is having a beautiful and relaxing season soaking in the sunshine.

 

 

 

Celebrating Easter

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The Easter Hare postcard and a new pussy-willow fairy (from Kevin) are part of the Easter nature table.

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I finally got around to dyeing those easter eggs! My mom and I got out the dyes and enjoyed a lovely afternoon outside last week. We used brown eggs so the colors are extra rich and vibrant, and I put some eggs out in the grass as if the Easter Hare had been to our house for a visit. Now, the eggs are slowly being eaten (egg salad and perhaps a Salade Niçoise tonight) and we are enjoying the early fruits of spring. Around the garden, we have some tangerine poppies, deep purple iris, and little radishes are pushing up through the soil in our raised beds. Our cherry tree seems to be thriving this year and was filled with lovely white blossoms – we hope there will be enough fruit for a whole pie in July!
This spring, the lilacs are particularly incredible. At the botanic gardens a whole rift of lilacs is blooming along a hillside, filling the air with an irresistible sweetness. They come in so many colors too: white, pink, lavender, and deep purple. I feel so lucky we can take the time to enjoy them.

Yesterday, my mom and I took a little walk in the park to celebrate Earth Day. We walked along the lake, enjoying the cormorants, geese, snowy egrets, and a lone pelican. After a few minutes of gliding around the lake, the pelican took flight and as we watched he ascended so that he looked almost like an airplane, barely visible but for his black wingtips against the clouds. We also stumbled across a Black Crowned Night Heron busily eating some buds from a tree. He wobbled and swayed, stretching out his long neck to reach the berries. Tentatively, he clambered down the branches to reach his plunder, all the while we wondered if they would even hold his weight. What an incredible creature to see by our own lake!

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I hope you have all had some time to celebrate the new life and growth of spring! Cut some flowers from the garden, read a poem, make iced-tea, soak in the warmer days.