Category Archives: Uncategorized

October gold

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10.16.19

As we pass the mid-point of October, it has lived up to its golden promise, despite the early bitter cold winter storm and the continuing below normal temperatures.  There is a duskiness to the red colors and some of the leaves look ready to fall without turning, but the yellows and oranges are glowing.  I’ve been spending as many late afternoons as I can around a campfire down by the water.  We have so much driftwood to burn, and at 45 degrees, with a bit of sun, the fire is just enough to make an hour or two of reading quite pleasant.  A little black kitty on my lap warms my hands.

So that I feel deserving of these afternoon soirees by the fire, I’ve given myself a hefty list of chores to accomplish, including the commitment to do one organizing/deep cleaning/clearing-out project every day.  Last Sunday, I decided to go through a cabinet in the kitchen that includes many cookbooks, collected over the years.  Oh, was that a long journey down memory lane, and in the end, there were only six books I was prepared to take to Goodwill.  I saved the ones with food stains, reminding me of all the times I prepared that dish through the years, when the three girls still gathered around my kitchen table each night.  There was the one from my mom, her crisp hand-writing inscribing my name, and signed, “From Mother”.  All the cookbooks which friends have given me over the years, including several from a friend when I lived in Boston, now 43 years ago.  And, there was one book with Mrs. Chard’s recipes from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in which she recorded sweet and lovely little stories about her life as a farmer.  Here was one from the harvest season:

“This autumn, Nature first gave us lovely plumes of red here and there, then the oranges came, and last the maples’ gold that makes the woods look like sunshine even on a cloudy day.  Then she spread a beautiful paisley shawl over our big hill and we were treated to Heaven’s finest colors.  We here at the home-place are especially favored when the winds come to bring the golden leaves whirling down like a dance of fairies.  We have witnessed one of Nature’s most beautiful miracles, the grand finale of a bountiful season and the promise of a new one to come.”  —Hollyhocks and Radishes Cookbook

There was a sunset one evening that lasted three hours.  I’d started the campfire about 5:00 and, with nary a hint of breeze, it was utterly quiet. The only sounds were the loons talking to one another, and an occasional pop of the fire.  As the light continually changed, I took photo after photo, each more stunning, and watched a Bald Eagle swoop over the water, looking unsuccessfully for a fish.  I’d never heard this before, but Chatpeau let out a low growl.  I didn’t even know that cats growled.  She then dashed up to the porch to watch me from safety, and I clapped my hands a few times, knowing there is a bear in the woods, and decided it was time to go into the house, and watch golden light from inside.  The Hunter Moon appears full, night after night, and our bedroom is awash in white light.  Come morning, there are sparkles across the lake as it finally begins to set over the mountains on the west side.  It’s been “the grand finale of a bountiful season…”.

“But quite typically, something happens during the third week of the month..  The jet stream sags south, storms–lined up in the Pacific– make their way into the region.”  Cliff Mass, University of Washington meteorologist

It is all coming to an end tomorrow as the Pacific storms make their way over the mountains to our neck of the woods, with valley rain and snow at higher elevations.  I see nothing but wind and rain for at least a week, and temperatures which flirt with snow.   But, October has been grand, and has put on quite the most wonderful show.

A visitor

A visitor - 1

10.12.19

We’ve been the only vehicle on the lake, and then we had company one day last week.  You can hear a seaplane from inside the house, so we rushed out to the dock to see what was happening, and there was this cheery yellow plane doing take-offs and landings on the calm water.   It seemed like he was putting on a performance just for us, and we waved hello, and stood out in the cold until he disappeared high in the sky to the north.  It was so quiet after he was gone, and it felt quite lonely out there on the dock, with all the summer people now gone, and our solitary sailboat bobbing in the water, fresh snow on the peaks across the lake.

The weather gods have blessed us the past few days with crisp, cold autumn days of deep blue sky and golden leaves.  The boat was finally sailed south to dry dock yesterday on such a fine day.  While they looked like they were headed out for the Iditarod, Don said it was glorious to be the only boat on this enormous lake, with tundra swans flying overhead, their feathers so white in the sunshine.  I went for a long afternoon walk over in Somers, so I could be closer when I got the phone call to retrieve them from the Dayton Marina.  Colleen recently returned from spending most of summer in Alaska, and we walked everywhere through the Waterfowl Protection Zone, catching up on our months apart.  There was ice at water’s edge and through the wetland grasses, but the sun was warm and a pair of swans flew low over our heads.  I felt goosebumps to hear the beat of their wings.  At home late in the day, Don paddled out to bring the raft back from the mooring ball and removed the bridle, and we got it all stored away in the boathouse.  Chatpeau and I stayed out at water’s edge all through the golden eventide–that beautiful Old English phrase for “evening”–when the setting of the sun is a magical event, outside of Time somehow.  I took photos of the golden paper birch tree reflected in the water, and the blue and white mooring ball, left alone by the sailboat, and tried to capture the remains of a splendid day, coming to its bittersweet end.  Autumn will do this to us–it always does.

“What, then, of autumn — that liminal space between beauty and bleakness, foreboding and bittersweet, yet lovely in its own way? Colette, in her meditation on the splendor of autumn and the autumn of life, celebrated it as a beginning rather than a decline. But perhaps it is neither — perhaps, between its falling leaves and fading light, it is not a movement toward gain or loss but an invitation to attentive stillness and absolute presence, reminding us to cherish the beauty of life not despite its perishability but precisely because of it; because the impermanence of things — of seasons and lifetimes and galaxies and loves — is what confers preciousness and sweetness upon them.”  Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

Autumn light

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While sitting in the library last evening and watching the bad news of the day, Autumn’s golden light came streaming across my dining room table.  As I broke from the news to take a photograph, I thought of what Joseph Campbell taught us:  “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.  We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”

It’s raining this morning and yellow leaves are blowing sideways.  A quick hit from another winter storm is coming from the Northeast this afternoon.  Don had planned on sailing the boat down to its winter harbor yesterday, but with the downslope winds predicted, and the damage they did to boats last week, he felt she was safer tethered to the mooring ball, twirling and swirling with the wind and waves, just riding it out.  I can see the weathervane spinning around out my kitchen window, and the sailboat follows suit–moving in sync with the waves of the storm.  The wind is raging, making me feel unsettled and anxious.

And, yet, firewood is stacked on the porch, and the little model sailboats on my mantle have been replaced by velvet pumpkins and fairy lights.  The furniture is snuggled up next to the fireplace, and between the furnace and wool throws, it is warm and cozy in our house.   I guess our missing cat, Gary, will miss out on cocktails next to the fire this winter, and his sister, Chatpeau, is just not the same since he left, behaving as spooky as those black cats in Halloween tales.  The dark mornings continue to startle me with how fast we are losing light.  But,  “this is not a new story...What else is there but waiting in the autumn sun.”

“What Else”, by Carolyn Locke

The way the trees empty themselves of leaves,
let drop their ponderous fruit,
the way the turtle abandons the sun-warmed log,
the way even the late-blooming aster
succumbs to the power of frost—

this is not a new story.
Still, on this morning, the hollowness
of the season startles, filling
the rooms of your house, filling the world
with impossible light, improbable hope.

And so, what else can you do
but let yourself be broken
and emptied? What else is there
but waiting in the autumn sun?

After the storm

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It is always wonderful when we return to the lake from the West.  As we crest the top of the final hill, before making a steep descent down into the Flathead Valley, I find I sit up tall in my seat to catch that first view of the lake, nestled between mountain ranges.  Ahhh…home– right over there on the other side.  As we drove past Dayton Harbor, we could see a tall sailboat mast listing sharply to one side with the boat heeled over–evidence of the historic storm we missed while we were in the San Juan Islands.  Two boats were reported to have sunk, five or six were damaged beyond repair, and there were stories of volunteers who kept watch at marinas all night long, wearing life vests and safety gear, and tied together to keep from being blown into the water by ten foot waves.  It was so fretful to be away, knowing our own sailboat was still out in the lake, and having left our little cat, Chatpeau, who was still obviously missing her brother who disappeared over a month ago.  Every year, as the weather turned cold, they always slept curled together, never separately, and when they were nervous, they would walk next to one another with their tails entwined.  Carol tried to get down here last Saturday to check on her, but the highway was blocked by downed trees.  On Sunday, Don and Colleen came to the rescue with a chainsaw, and reported back that our road was clear, the sailboat still upright, and a fat and happy kitty was safe in the garage with plenty of food and water.  Oh, was that happy news, and our holiday felt so much lighter and brighter.

One of the silver linings of this historic storm were the texts we received from old Colorado friends and various family members, asking how we were surviving the wind and waves and record snowfall.  I’d respond with a photo of our beautiful autumn day on San Juan Island, sunshine on sparkling blue water, and thank them anyway for their concern, and then we’d share bits of information on how we were all doing.  For all the downsides of digital addiction, the connections that are made across time and space between loved ones, is a special thing.

It’s hard to believe that yesterday morning we were on an island, out in the gorgeous Puget Sound of the Pacific Ocean, and then we drove east over the Cascade Range, across the vast Columbia Plateau, over Idaho’s Lost Trail Pass, then down home to the valley, in time for a beautiful sunset at water’s edge of our lake, whilst snuggling a purring black kitty cat.  And, then, at bedtime, the yellow new moon hung low over the water and cast golden light across my bed.  It was a grand homecoming.  And, here is October.  I am hoping that it will go slow, one leaf at a time.

October

BY ROBERT FROST
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

And, now, Autumn

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09.24.19

“I am made for autumn.  Summer and I have a fickle relationship, but everything about autumn is perfect for me.  Wooly jumpers, Wellington boot, scarves thin first, then thick, socks.  The low slanting light, the crisp mornings, the chill in my fingers, those last warm sunny days before the rain and the wind.  Her moody hues and subdued palate punctuated every now and again by a brilliant orange, scarlet or copper goodbye.  She is my true love.”  –Alys Fowler

 

The waves are roaring again this morning and the trees are swaying in the wind as a cold front moves in.  There’s even the suggestion of an early frost and a few snow flurries at the end of the week.  On Saturday, Carol and I hiked north of Whitefish, stopping to take photos of anything that read “Fall”, and we kept declaring it was the most perfect temperature and light.  And, Sunday, as I sat in the late afternoon sunshine at water’s edge, in that perfect temperature, I knew I was in “those last warm sunny days before the rain and the wind.”  This is my favorite season, and I have been mindful to wait for its arrival this year.  Summer is so wide and broad and exuberant, and I’ve slowly let it fade away, savoring the warmth.  But, now, it is truly Autumn.  I bought a cinderella pumpkin for the front door yesterday, and I’m itching to get my fall decor in place in the living room, with firewood stacked on the hearth.  But, now, I need to get ready for our trip to the sea, and all the splendors there… Autumn will still be waiting for me when I am back at home.

Song of Autumn by Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Nearing the Fall equinox

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09.18.19

“September, the bed we lie in between Summer and Autumn”–Charles Wright

There are some early-bird trees showing off their colors, the air has been cool and misty, and I made my first soup of the season.  But, it’s still September–that pause month between Summer and Autumn.  Loved ones are stopping in at our house on their various Fall journeys.  The Miller family came to rest up, after Lauren and Ethan’s wedding last week-end under the full Harvest Moon, and we all got to join the honeymooners for pizza at Moose’s one night.  Tomorrow, Joy and Fletcher will be here for dinner and an overnight stay on their way to Bellingham, for the start of college.  Life is moving on for us all–lately, way too fast, it seems.   Cormac turns 12 today and is skipping school to celebrate at the Oakland A’s game with his Dad, and, on Friday, Norah turns 14.  Sigh.

I like Charles Wright’s quote about how September is a bed we can lie in.  It’s one of those times–at a certain point in life– in which we can slow down, rest, just stop time for a while, take a little time-out.  But, it is also a disquieting time.  The summer-is-over sadness sinks in, and I miss the kids swimming out to the sailboat at sunset, supper outside on the terrace each night, days which felt so long and lazy.   I miss Gary, the cat, who never returned.  The deer decimated the window box up at the kitchen window, but random clover has sprouted in the window box down by the lake, and I had a lovely cocktail hour there this evening, Chatpeau purring on my lap, as we watched and listened to the great flocks of geese flying overhead, in front of gray rain clouds.

We will be taking a trip to the sea late next week.  It’s becoming somewhat of a rite of passage for me, to go to the sea in Autumn.   We’re headed out to Seattle to watch the final A’s game of the season, and then off on the ferry to San Juan Island for a few days.  To be at the edge of the sea, and take in the endless horizon and rhythm of the waves, always offers up a new perspective about the passage of time, and my own place in the grand scheme of things.  It will be a welcome transition before the golden days of October, and, perhaps, a bit of solace, for the long, dark nights coming upon us, after the brief and momentary balance that is the Equinox.

“September days have the warmth of summer in their briefer hours, but in their lengthening evenings a prophetic breath of autumn.  The cricket chirps in the noontide, making the most of what remains of his brief life.  The bumblebee is busy among the clover blossoms of the aftermath, and their shrill and dreamy hum hold the outdoor world above the voices of the song birds, now silent or departed.”
–   September Days   By Rowland E. Robinson,

End of summer rains

 

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09.10.19

Wow, has it been raining.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so much rain pouring off our steep roof as it did Sunday and all Sunday night.  We’re waiting for the snow plow man to come and fill in the gullies up the road.  There have been passing showers ever since and low hanging clouds move up and down off the surface of the lake.  It feels like a game changer.  When the rain is over by the end of the week, there’s likely to be a day or two of cool, clear 70 degree days, more yellow leaves here and there, and then more rain showers, with nary a hint of those hot summer days.   We turned on the furnace for a blast of heat this morning.  As the new season is moving in, I feel the stirrings to prepare my nest.  Summer clothes need to be moved to the upstairs closet, sweaters out of storage, and the stack of wool throws returned to the living room.

I love the nesting season.  I change the furniture in the living room to cozy up to the fireplace, and the sailboats on the mantel return to the basement.  Tartan throw pillows replace the marine blue striped, the Portmeirion botanical dishes are swapped out for the holly and ivy ones, and I cut red and golden branches in the woods for the dining room table.  As the sun gets low in the sky, the screen doors get removed from the line of French doors to the lake, and Don washes the glass, and sunshine makes glittery reflections of the lake on the walls and ceiling.

The Mindfulness in Ireland workshop I attended last September met again a few weeks ago, in the same place, on the west coast of Ireland.  I’ve loved seeing their photos, knowing just how the air felt and how it smelled to be next to the sea.  My favorite day was when we hiked in The Burren, peeked into Coleman’s cave, and then sat on the rocks next to the little spring, under the hazel bushes, where yellow leaves rested at the bottom of crystal clear water.  It was a “thin place”, as the Irish say, where heaven and earth meet.  I’m thinking of that place, here in my place, as we move into Autumn, and grateful for the calm, quiet there is in my life at age 72.  It’s a nesting time of life, as David Whyte tells us in his poem, Coleman’s Bed, and an invitation to “make a nesting now, a place to which the birds can come…”

Coleman’s Bed by David Whyte

Make a nesting now, a place to which
the birds can come, think of Kevin’s
prayerful palm holding the blackbird’s egg
and be the one, looking out from this place
who warms interior forms into light.
Feel the way the cliff at your back
gives shelter to your outward view
and then bring in from those horizons
all discordant elements that seek a home.

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.

See with every turning day,
how each season makes a child
of you again, wants you to become
a seeker after rainfall and birdsong,
watch now, how it weathers you
to a testing in the tried and true,
admonishes you with each falling leaf,
to be courageous, to be something
that has come through, to be the last thing
you want to see before you leave the world.

Above all, be alone with it all,
a hiving off, a corner of silence
amidst the noise, refuse to talk,
even to yourself, and stay in this place
until the current of the story
is strong enough to float you out.

Ghost then, to where others
in this place have come before,
under the hazel, by the ruined chapel,
below the cave where Coleman slept,
become the source that makes
the river flow, and then the sea
beyond. Live in this place
as you were meant to and then,
surprised by your abilities,
become the ancestor of it all,
the quiet, robust and blessed Saint
that your future happiness
will always remember.