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The hardest hue to hold . . .

DSCN6424The leaves are falling fast and furiously here on the Cutoff. With a wind advisory for tomorrow and a slight chance (please let it be slight) of snow, the trees hereabouts will be skeletons of their summer selves for Halloween, so, indulge me, dear reader, as I share one last post of October’s leafy splendor.

These verses are from one of my favorite poems of Robert Frost’s. It is one I’ve posted before. I offer it up once again as we bid farewell to what has been a resplendent fall season.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
 From Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

 

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In a Rut

DSCN6471 - Version 2He was sauntering across the road as I executed the turn into our drive.  Watching me watching him, he paused as the driver’s window rolled down and the camera’s eye targeted him. He cunningly kept to weeds in the lot next door as I slipped out my cell phoned to call the Antler Man, who was working up in the barn. I knew Tom would be excited to learn that the boys were out roaming the Cutoff. We had recently discussed the fact the neither of us had seen any bucks in a long, long while.

Tom has a bird’s-eye view of life here on the Cutoff. His own aerie on high with which to watch the world we live in.

Meanwhile,

I needed to get the perishables into the fridge, so, motored on back, took the bags out of the trunk, put food away, and then wandered out front to see what I could see.

There I was, hiding behind the cross-the-road neighbors’ tree, staring down a doe who had better things on her mind than me. My Antler Man was patiently waiting on our lawn, which I discovered as I turned around. A buck, a doe, Antler Man and Penelope Paparazzi , all  coexisting here on the Cutoff. We ARE a PBS documentary.

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Rutting season has commenced here on the Cutoff.

Drones

We had been frolicking under the welcoming arms of Olga Larch, amazed at her beauty, and taking silly pictures of the Purple Peeper, Penelope.  Maybe it was my camera, an aging but dependable digital that the Antler Man gave me for Christmas a decade or so ago. It is held together with duct tape and construction grade rubber bands, but, golly by gee, it does the job and keeps me cataloguing walks and dinners, grandkids and life.

So, there we were, emerging from under Olga’s leafy protection, anticipating the walk back up Frost Hill to our car.  We heard “it” before seeing “it”. Tom thought it sounded like a chainsaw on wood, employed elsewhere on the grounds of the arboretum. I thought it to be a small plane sluicing the pristine sky. Then, astounded it, we saw it zooming in, dipping down, swooping low, meeting the curve of a path, and then, like a bee full of nectar, darting back to its illusive hive.

Two women of certain age were resting on a bench, oblivious to the unidentified flying object. A couple walked ’round the bend, he querying  with a nod and a wink,  “think it was government?“. We laughed, thought CIA – or Amazon practicing book deliveries.

Back in our mocha colored VW with its luscious latte interior, we motored on, up hill and dale in the autumnal glow.  I was behind the wheel when I spied a Kodak moment, my thoughts on shadows I was collecting.  Does anyone else collect shadows?  With no one behind us, I idled and asked Tom to try to get a picture. He humored me, as he always does, took a few shots, and on we went, leaf peepers at full throttle.

Home again, I downloaded (or is it uploaded?), the camera cache of the day, prepared dinner and so forth and so on, later posting about Olga and sharing a few sillies on Facebook.  It wasn’t until a few days later, fiddling around with the photos, that I saw “it”. There, on the ground, not far from the shadowing tree; could it be that illusive drone that buzzed by us as we bid farewell to Olga?

Alas, dear readers, I’ve droned on and on, so will end this missive of a fly-by-photo of a tree, a shadow and a trash bag – or is it . . .?

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Burnt toast – and other things

9780670015443I’m Swedish, which makes me sexy, and I’m Irish which makes me want to talk about it.”

So begins Kathleen Flinn’s delectable memoir of her family’s journey and food.

It wasn’t the cover that drew me to this book, it was the title, which recalls Flinn’s grandmother Inez, who refused to use toasters when the oven worked well.  The end result was often burnt toast, which she said “makes you sing good”. Don’t you love it?  My Yia Yia would come up with phrases like that, and so would my dad. “Children are starving in China” comes to mind admonishing a picky eater, though my sister got a tongue lashing once when she replied “then feed this to them“.

I digress.  Actually, I really don’t  digress, for this book brought on memory-upon- memory of my own family, both paternal and maternal, and the role food played in making me who I am. I read this in two bites, er, two days, and found myself wanting for more.

The book starts with Flinn’s mom and dad hastily moving from Michigan to California, via Route 66, with all their belongings, including three toddlers and one more on the way, to help run a pizza parlor owned by her Irish uncle – in the ’50s! This was long before pizza was known in most American homes. The Flinn’s eventually move back to Michigan, where they lived on a farm, ate plenty of chicken and eggs, and make do. It is, in its way, the story of growing up in the midwest in the fifties.

“Burnt Toast . . . ” is the love story of Flinn’s parents, and maternal grandparents, finally her own. It is also about the abject poverty she eventually discovers her father grew up in with her grandmother raising a large family, in the Depression, on her own. It is about how her grandfather, once jailed for bootlegging, becomes a cook in the army during WWII and how she goes about doing sunshine work, dressed as cowgirl delivering her mom’s baked goods, in her new, suburban neighborhood.  This is a well-seasoned ragout of colorful grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins,. It is Flinn’s familial immigrant stories, and more, as she weaves chapter upon chapter of memories, replete with a relevant recipe for each chapter.

“Burnt Toast . . . ” is not just about food. It is also about how the hardships, trials, and tribulations of life often serve to harden our resolve, build character, and furnish life lessons. That burnt toast can make us sing good is also about the grand midwestern spirit – and more. It’s mostly sweet and funny, just a wee bit sad, and waiting for you to open it’s covers.

Off I go now to bake a Jack-o-Lantern Tea loaf to take to a friend’s house for dinner tonight. My own story of how I came to this long-loved recipe can be found here.

 

Such a sight!

DSCN6200Such a sight was afforded on a crisp Autumn afternoon.

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 Time was spent under the low, sprawling branches of what I mistook for a bald Cypress.  Please click on the picture above to get a better sense of how expansive this tree is.

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Like pines and balsams and cedars, larch are also conifers.  This magnificent specimen is an Olga Bay Larch.

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Olga is situated at the base of Frost Hill, along the Conifer Path, toward Meadow Lake and just outside the Children’s Garden at the Morton Arboretum. From whichever direction you meet her, she invites you into her inviting embrace, to inhale her woodsy fragrance, discover her dainty cones, and to feel her silken needles.

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From the windows of space under Olga’s welcoming branches, to the fern-like crown of her canopy, this specimen is a charmer, with room enough underneath her ample skirts from which to spread one’s wings and imagine fairies and wood sprites, elves and gnomes, even the illusive Purple Penelope Peeper .

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DSCN6121The Lake Isle of Innisfree

by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

This poem of Yeats is so very lovely, and just spoke to me today.  I hope you are finding peace wherever you are.

DSCN6229In between leisurely walks in the Autumn woods, raking leaves, or conjuring up soups, late afternoons will often find me these days curled in a leafy corner somewhere, pages of words in my hands.  It might  be a cookbook, a vintage copy of Victoria magazine,  or Laline Paull’s “The Bees”, which will be our garden club’s January book discussion.

This afternoon found me in the arbor, sycamore leaves the size of dinner plates rearranging themselves here, there, and everywhere. The sun wove through the latticework. A light jacket kept me warm from the chill in the air and William Lange’s “Tales from the Edge of the Woods”  kept me company.

I’ve come to appreciate Willem Lange’s writings since Favor Johnson took up residence on a bookshelf one Christmas. You can read about my copy of “Favor Johnson” here.

“Tales from the Edge of the Woods” is a lovely collection of memories and words in short tales with titles like Sliding on a Shovel, Not Love at First Sight, or The Old Canoe, not to mention Favor Johnson. These are well varnished stories of folks you may know, or wish you did, and simple reflections on life.  I hope Mr. Lange won’t mind too terribly if I quote a few words from the story that found me in the arbor today, The Carpenter and the Honeybee. You will need to find “Tales from the Edge of the Woods”, which is available in all the ordinary bookish places, or from his website to read the whole story.

From The Carpenter and the Honeybee by Willem Lange

“She was a honeybee. Just as I was about to put my hand down upon her accidentally, my unconscious mind hollered, “Look out!” and the reflex jerked my arm back. I staggered, out of balance. If she noticed the close call we had both had, she gave no sign, and continued to try to wedge herself into that crack. Intrigued, I put down my plank and bent down to watch her. I wondered for a moment, as I pulled my specs down my nose, the better to see her up close, how it would feel to have a bee sting right on the end of my nose.”

Favor Johnson is a story from “Tales from the Edge of the Woods” as well as a children’s book.

Do you have some favorite books of short stories, memories, or essays?

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