Now, where did I leave that?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More Gratitude

October is a feast....of color, abundance, bounty, beauty. Every year I try to gorge myself on it like a child who knows that birthday cake only comes once a year and so eats until sick. Of course, unlike that child, I never get sick of or from October; I want more and more....and its inevitable passing breaks my heart.

Ah, but then, cooling balm to the riotous color, peace to the frenzy of activity, November arrives. Its winds blow away the warm Summer evenings' haze, and there's a delicate, naked beauty in the blue-black night and bare trees adorned only by the waxing Moon and Venus.

November can be harsh and intense; even as I began to write this yesterday,  the stiff breeze had the wind chimes calling out in alarm and the sun shades banging the window frame. The fire was up, we wore double layers, and I was tucked into red alpaca socks all day. It was a gray day, but the kind of gray that is unmistakably November, the perfect backdrop for the golden browns and and lingering yellows, a day that requires the simmering of soup & burning of cedar incense, and so I embraced November with nary a glance back at October. A farm market visit was followed by the making of an amazing roasted squash and apple soup (with bacon!), not a creamy and refined soup; no, this soup is hearty, chunky, beautiful and comforting.

I will say the recipe has a few vague moments, and the end result was a tad too sweet. I recommend leaving the bacon in large pieces and removing once the simmering part is done. The recipe uses "white wine or water"; water seemed a bad plan, and I didn't have white wine in the house, so I used cider. Next time I'll use a dry white wine, and tarter apples, and perhaps a wee bit of ginger. I also suggest not mincing the garlic, but instead throwing in a generous amount of halved cloves (I think I halved about 10 good sized cloves) with the apples and squash and onions. I mashed the veggies just with two big spoons, purposely leaving some chunks. Oh, and I added a bay leaf to the simmer pot. It's a soup worth experimenting with, and will go well with grilled cheese sandwiches for a comforting dinner tonight.

We took a ride through the encroaching dusk, dogs in the back of the car watching the world pass by; our destination was the piece of property we're in the process of buying. We have a contract but it's an odd and convoluted story that may take quite a few months to iron out. It's several acres about 40 minutes from here, elevated just enough to change horticultural zones from 5b to 5a, and just a wee bit cooler, 5 or so degrees, from our own house. The wind blows nearly all the time there, sliding off the slopes of the northern Catskills, a living being ever present.  We've yet to manage photos that truly capture the beauty, 

so it will have to be enough to say that the mountains are right there, so close they look like you could walk to them, so close the land feels nestled into their lap. I'm learning alot about patience and trust (as my sister & I say about patience & trust--blech!, although she's so much better at them than I) as we wait to see if it will all untangle. 

This morning I stood out on the porch, coffee in hand, surveying the yard and the vast amount of buttoning up left to do, telling Linda it'll be easier to just move than try to get it all done. And then I realized that the back yard was filled with birds: gold & house finches, bluebirds, chickadees, juncoes, at least three kinds of woodpeckers, and more....gorging on coneflower and black-eyed susan seedheads, in the weeds and trees and quince bush, in the raised beds and tomato pots. I love watching the birds; next weekend's chore list includes setting up the feeder stations in the front yard, but to see so much activity in the back was such a gift, and an affirmation of our plan to begin turning part of the back yard from lawn to meadow. I can watch birds for hours, but alas, too many tasks are lined up for the day, from creating storage for a large quantity of Winter squash to making room in the freezer for several more quarts of soup, roasting veggies for dinner later this week, and cleaning two cupboards to make room for the plethora of spices we purchased while on Cape Cod.  But the window shades will stay up so I can watch the birds as I work. If you're not seeing so many birds today, perhaps a visit to this webcam will make you smile and give you a taste of November's peace. Because amidst the chores and the impending holidays is an oasis of calm. November (in this hemisphere, anyway) invites us to prepare for Winter but also to begin hibernating, snuggling in, to sit by a fire and take time to watch the birds; to simmer soups and stews; to knit and spin, sew, read, write; to dream and plan; to savor this moment. November has moments of such quiet, almost the hushed whisper of a Winter snowfall but not quite...November is our chance to catch our breath, recoup, and prepare for the months ahead. And for that, I'm deeply grateful.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Giving Thanks

Do you ever catch a recurring theme out of the corner of your eye? Maybe you're bringing in groceries and catch a glimpse of shirttail as it disappears behind a tree. Perhaps it flits past your window just as you look up from your desk. Or you're outside watching the sky at sunset, hear a rustle in that pile of leaves, and it's gone. And yet, each time you spy juuust enough to recognize and name it. In this particular case, its name is Gratitude. Suddenly a call to this particular grace is appearing like pumpkins in October, glowing without a word, waiting peacefully if not patiently for me to sit up and heed the call. There was this post by one of my favorite bloggers. There was an invitation in my email inbox for another 21 day meditation challenge (I admit, i never get farther than a week and a half, but this invitation came at just the right time) dedicated to 21 days of....gratitude. I was working on a post for Sagewomon blogs on resolutions for the spiritual new year, and the one that was most insistent on being included was--come on, say it with me--gratitude.

I like to think I'm good about being grateful. But when I'm being honest, maybe I'm sometimes a tad cursory about it, flipping off a thank you in the same vein as saying "have a nice day" to someone when you honestly couldn't care less about that person's day....not that you wish them a bad one, just....not invested in whether their day is good, bad or indifferent.  I've never been all that fond of Thanksgiving day, believing that what we learned about it in grade school 'history' class was a revisionist fable, and self-righteously declaring that we shouldn't need a government-appointed day to give thanks. But November really is a big lead-up to that day; it permeates the air like wood smoke this time of year. So it seems I need to take the not-so-subtle hint and take some serious time to revisit gratitude, to learn from Kelly at Minding My Nest, to take part in the (free)
21 Day Gratitude Meditation Challenge, and work on honing general thankfulness into something rich, deep and tangible, to experience Gratitude as a state of grace, and share it with you, if you'll allow me to.

Yesterday's meditation thought  (please note; you can pick it up at any time, even if you 'missed' the first day or two or ten...) was "With profound gratitude, I live my purpose." Well, this may not be the most thankful of thoughts, but as soon as I heard that, I was in a tizzy.  Purpose?!  Live my purpose?! Not by a long shot, buster! What I do to make a living is most definitely not my purpose and I'm not doing it with gratitude, that's for dang sure! 

Sigh. There goes the enlightenment train, speeding away from the station, me waving my arms like a fool as I run and trip along the tracks behind it.

But then my brain stopped clamoring. I let myself take in the glorious photography that accompanied the meditation, let the words roll over me, and then, like a butterfly landing in my open palm, I knew. I knew what I've known since I was--seriously, not making this up--eight years old. My purpose is a version of translation and expression: observing and taking in the world around me, processing it and then expressing it in a way that lets others--even just one person--recognize it & think that's what I felt/saw/thought but didn't know how to say! Forgive me if that sounds like hubris, because it isn't meant to be. I want to meant to be....a voice. I judge it, belittle my efforts, hide from it, but that is my purpose. And today, with profound gratitude, I'm claiming my purpose. Living it will come, perhaps in baby steps, but owning it here and now is worthy of heart-felt thanks.

How about you? Interested in sharing this gratitude journey? What is your purpose, and are you living it yet?