Feeds:
Posts
Comments

” heart and hearth”

Then . . .

. . . there were chunks of ice, falling en masse, individually, randomly, sporadically. The racket would stop; a calm, silent, pregnant pause that would last a few minutes or an hour, then a fresh volley of frozen winter “fruit”.  Born from an ice storm, the chunks of ice would frazzle the steadiest of nerves as they hit the roof of the house, the skylights, the pavement, the arbor and more.

With frost quakes and frozen cannonballs, we have been experiencing a rather raucous winter,

a winter with tree “fruit” sparkling amid uplifting sunrises and spectacular sunsets.

Snow can be peaceful, pristine and startlingly beautiful. It is a great equalizer; a coverlet, in equal measure on all that it touches, with indifference to income level or social status – at least at first snowfall, before the snowplows work time-and-half or double-time to clear the roads.

Ice, in all its glittering glory, is a lethal weapon when falling from above. It is challenging to walk upon. Its weight bears down on wires, creating outages which can become emergencies for medical needs, heating, communication. We have been fortunate. Our power has remained on, though our cable connections (which include landline, television, and internet) went out the other day. Thankfully, service resumed in a few hours. We really cannot complain.

We are coping, grateful for a warm house, food, cars that start and roads that plowed and are salted.

We have, however, entered into that 5th season –  pothole season. Rough winters and heavy vehicular traffic conspire to create amazing crevices – potholes –  in the pavement. This year, for some reason I have yet to discover, the potholes are harder to see. They are smaller, deeper, closer together and reveal themselves upon impact! I am wondering if the frost quakes have something to do with this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it goes, here on the cutoff. Stews and soups, hot tea and books are good for the winter-weary soul (not that I need a reason). More often than not, I can be found near the front window, a blanket on my lap, tea on the table and a book in hand.

On a recent late afternoon, I pulled out an old friend, “An American Year; Country Life and Landscapes Through the Seasons” by Hal Borland. It is a journal of sorts, filled with Borland’s seasonal essays and accompanied by illustrations from a host of “Distinguished Contemporary Artists”.  These are Hal Borland’s words from February, page 179.

The temperature still falls and the wind still roars, but there is smugness here and comfort and companionship. The night draws us all closer together. Surely it was not by chance alone that hearth and heart came so near to being the same word.

 

 

Advertisements

THAT Was the Week That Was

OR

How We Survived the Polar Vortex

From significant snowfall and frost quakes, to plummeting temperatures, cancelled airplane flights, school closings, business closings and even suspended mail delivery, we have been held captive by biting winds and subzero temperatures the likes of which will be long remembered in the annals of recorded weather –  and in the memories of those who endured it.

Let me begin by letting you know that we are quite fine, our electricity stayed on, we had contact with family and friends, enough food and water (and coffee and tea) and we remained safe and sound throughout. We are grateful.

I hope that those of you impacted by the Polar Vortex were warm and safe during it and are doing well now.

Predictions for snow, strong winds, and dropping temperatures came with ample warning days before the onset of sleet and snow. By Sunday afternoon, weather forecasts sounded more urgent with a bleak outlook for the week ahead. Early cancellations of meetings on Monday were prudent and appreciated, especially as the snow began to accumulate mid-afternoon.

Talking with a dear friend on the phone, we commiserated over the hardy souls who work in all  kinds weather; crossing guards, those who plough the roads and put out fires, law enforcement and mail carriers. It seemed that we no sooner mentioned mail carriers than I saw ours coming up the road. Tom was using the snow blower out front, clearing our long driveway. I noticed the mail truck wasn’t moving, then the Antler Man pushing the snow blower to the back. I, of course, in the comfort of our living room, kept talking. The mail carrier wasn’t moving, but, Tom was, shovel in hand he headed back down the drive and was soon working at getting the mail truck out of a ditch created by snow plows that had earlier made a pass down the Cutoff.

It was the last mail delivery for several days, not only for our town, but, for a large part of Illinois as well. It was dangerously cold to be outdoors. Even with several layers of clothing and coverings, frostbite is a serious condition and happens quickly in sub-zero temperatures.

 

 

The first “boom” I heard occurred at 5 am on Tuesday. It was loud and shook the house just a bit. I padded down the stairs to have a look, thinking one of the neighbors had slammed a car door. Sounds are different, louder, more pronounced in extreme cold and heavy snowfall. A car was idling in a neighbor’s drive, so I assumed that was the source of sound, even when another one followed and the walls trembled a tad. On Wednesday, we both heard more “booms” – an oddity hereabouts – but it was extremely cold temperatures that had our attention.

Registering at -23 degrees (F), it became the coldest temperature for Chicago on record for that day.

(photo from WGNTV.COM)

BOOM!

In between the falling temperatures, the draft slipping in through the windows and doors, and the furnace that never stopped running, I kept apprised of family and friends through phone calls, emails, and social media. It was on social media that a news item appeared from out local television station, WGN. The sounds we were hearing were actually a weather-related phenomenon called cryoseism  – also called frost quakes or ice quakes!  The ground was quite sodden from warmer temperatures and rain, followed by snow and then rapidly falling temperatures. Suddenly, all news sources and social media were a buzz (or a boom) with this unusual weather related occurrence.

(photo from WGNTV.COM)

We are a hardy bunch, we Midwesterners. We adjust to the variable temperatures, the heat and humidity, the freezing cold and snow. We experience appreciable temperature variations often enough, especially here near one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. I think, however, that we will all remember the Polar Vortex of 2019 as we remember the Chicago Blizzard of 1967, Mother’s Day snow and more.

As I write this, Saturday night, it is 40 degrees (F). It was -21 degrees (F) on Friday morning! The groundhog saw his shadow, a yearly ritual to predict an early or late spring. Who knows? Maybe spring will be early this year. Predictions are for 50 degrees in a few days. As for me, I’ll wait and see.

Spring will come when it will and I will rejoice in all it brings, but, for now we are still n the heart of winter and February has just begun. I am a few days late in wishing Rabbit! Rabbit! to all, which is a greeting come the first day of the month. I blame it on the Polar Vortex – as did the bunnies when Tom came down the stairs on February 1 to discover this mayhem pictured below. Neither of us heard the crash, and the bunnies aren’t talking. I’m pretty sure it was the vibrations from a frost quake that jostled the glass top just enough to create this little scene.

THAT was the week that was!

(Do any of you, on both sides of the pond, remember that television show?)

 

Engaging Reading and Literary Tea

 

Sitting in my favorite overstuffed rocker, a cup of tea precariously positioned on a pile of decorative storage boxes at my side with a current “read” in hand, I was quite content in the stillness of the approaching end of day. I like this spot for reading, and other spots as well, but, truth-be-told, I can read a book just about anywhere.

How about you?

Do you have a favorite spot where you like to read? A chair, perhaps, or on the couch, in the cafeteria, or your car? Really, Don’t laugh. Natural light pouring in from the sun roof on brilliant day naturally illuminates the words on a page, especially for those of us who find the need for “cheaters”.  It  isn’t a very practical place for a long read, but works quite nicely when stopped by a freight train, but, I digress. Do you like to be wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace or propped on a beach towel at the pool? Do you need complete silence or mood music?

This is the first page in my Reading Women engagement calendar. The painting, by Adolphe Borie, brings to mind my Greek grandmother who read to me while I sat on her lap. She would turn the pages and tell the tales, even though the book was often upside down and without illustrations. Yia Yia could neither read nor write, but, she gave me a love of books sitting on her lap in much the same way as Borie’s painting.

As my mind was wandering with bookish thoughts as sipped a new tea, I realized that it has been awhile since I have shared some books that you might enjoy and asked what you might be reading. Here are few books that captured my interest over the past several months.

“Here’s a thing I believe about people my age: We are the children of Hogwarts, and more than anything, we just want to be sorted.”  

from “Sourdough” by Robin Sloan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would also like to recommend this wonderful tea. It was a gift from a dear friend who knows how much I enjoy tea along with literature.

Literary Tea.

 

 

On My Way Home

 

Tom awoke even earlier than usual to shovel the drive and carve a path to my car before leaving for church to help with set up for Sunday service. I heard the door close and lingered a little longer under the warmth of the covers, then padded down the stairs where the kettle was filled and sitting atop the stove. A few tea bags and a cup and saucer were set out, as they are every morning, waiting for me. I forget to thank him, far too often, for his thoughtful gesture each morning – a gesture for which I am always grateful.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

G. K. Chesterton

I took the long way home after church, as I often do. It gives me time to ponder and pray, to sing along to tunes with the volume at “rock the car” loud, or to simply hold close the gift of silence, solitude, and scenery. I drove through stately old neighborhoods with bumpy brick streets and wound through pleasant subdivisions and past neighborhood parks that brush the suburban landscape.

I had a William Kent Krueger audiobook playing in the car today. “Sulfur Springs”. Krueger’s mysteries hold my attention. I appreciate his writing, in part for his ability to create with words a vivid sense of place and in part for strong character development in his tense, tangled mysteries, which are usually set in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. In this latest book, I was taken along with Krueger’s main character, the protagonist of most of his mysteries, Cork O’Connor. A frantic call from Cork’s new wife’s son on July 4th thrusts the reader into the oppressive summer heat of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. This was, actually, a welcome change of scenery as the heater in my car was being fussy.

I headed toward the sloughs and preserves that I often visit. The Saganashkee Slough was frozen and still and reflected the mood of the frosty afternoon. I sat for a few moments then turned onto the route home.

A summer monsoon was drenching the Sonoran desert in Cork’s audio predicament while the temperature gauge in my car showed an outdoor temperature of 19 degrees (F). Homeward bound, I made a quick stop at Crawdad Slough, curious see if there were any ice skaters gliding across this pond. With nary a blade or a hockey stick in sight, I turned the car around and was greeted by this heavenly glow which arrived, as if on cue, to  guide me home.

 

When Death Comes – Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

When Death Comes – by Mary Oliver

 I was saddened to learn of the passing of Mary Oliver. A recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, her poetry touched the simplest things in life with wondrous placement of thoughts and words. She touched me with her poetry and I heard her “voice” so often in my wanderings, frequently placing her poems in tandem with my photos and with my feelings.

Rest in peace, Mary Oliver. You did much more that just visit this world.

 

There I was, on the top of my tippy toes, a would-be heroine of the supermarket, brandishing the largest roll of Reynolds Wrap – surely the only thing in the store older than me. With my signature scarlet red overcoat (of Toots fame) and my ballerina flats, I hoisted my box of foil in an attempt to slay a box of Saran Wrap on the very top shelf.

There was a younger man – a fit-as-a-fiddle power shopper reading the label of something or other, a last-minute purchaser on Christmas Eve day. The store with aisles crammed with eleventh hour shoppers for that one ingredient needed. He seemed oblivious to my to-and-fro lunges as I leapt across the aisle with my weapon of choice in pursuit of the one item I needed.

On the very top shelf (isn’t it always so?), in the very back of said shelf were two rolls of the plastic wrap I needed. One on top of the other, as far back as possible and quite impossible for me to reach. I made room on the very bottom shelf to step upon, but, really? me? I don’t do well on any steps, let alone the very bottom shelf of everything and anything used in food storage.

I reconnoitered, looked helpless and hopeless, but, no one seemed to notice me, especially the fit-as-a-fiddle shopper, who seemed oblivious to my plight. He was at least six feet tall. What WAS he reading?

I uttered an “oh bother“, then proclaimed “en garde” as I leapt upward in a determined maneuver to pry the sticky wrap down, only to be bombarded with parchment paper and snack sized plastic bags. A squeaky wheeled cart snuck past and then a kiddie-cart whose diminutive driver actually looked up at me.

“One more try” said I to self. I lunged once more – then heard a sweet voice say “let me help you“. I looked down to the see the softest beige coat with hair to match gazing up at me. Not more than an inch taller, she said “We short people have to help each other out. Let me get that for you. ” – and she did. She reached WAY up and she nailed it. Really. She had these perfectly polished long nails and nailed it! She handed me the plastic wrap, I thanked her, wished her a Merry Christmas – and she drove out of sight.

Am I the only one who has such adventures at the grocery store?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Prc8zLJO83I

So it is . . .

So it is that a new year has arrived, with the midnight madness of fireworks, toasts and resolutions, the anticipation or anxiety toward the year ahead. I’m not much of a New Year’s Eve person. I never do resolutions, preferring not to set myself up for disappointment, instead feeling that each new day, with the first one of the year or the last one of any week, holds opportunities, much to be grateful for, sadness to hold in my heart and for joy to ripen like summer fruit into gratitude . . . on and on as each day goes.

Our Christmas was on the quiet side, with Christmas Eve church services and a Christmas Day meal at our daughter and son-in-law’s house with cherished family. Burrata and pesto slathered on crusty bread from Heather and Andrew and an amazing frittata from Suzanne whetted our appetites and was a recipe/tradition of her grandfather’s. Jennifer, always daring in her menus, served us the most succulent of meals: duck comfit with a pickled raisin sauce, lentils, potatoes and smashed Brussels sprouts. It took her days to prepare it – and mere minutes for us to consume.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Vase appeared, as did holiday cookies, pastries and Jason’s crullers – another family recipe.

 

Gatherings with others and quiet time, as well as moments of pure delight and those of poignant memories. Elegant meals as well as simple suppers, my mountains of Christmas books and the cheerful cards that came through the mail – it was a meaningful and lovely Christmastide.

My Antler Man and I dined in for New Year’s Eve – we usually do. A rare treat of steak and potatoes to celebrate year’s end, and some Belgium chocolate gelato for a wee desert. I baked and baked and baked some more this year. I don’t know where the flurry of flour activity arose from, but, it did and I will confess that it is rather nice to end the year, any year, on a “sweet” note. My pièce de résistance was a most delectable pork tenderloin on New Year’s Day. Gently stuffed with spinach and Swiss cheese, I topped it with cinnamon apples, baked in a very hot oven and ate with wild abandon. (Well, not exactly wild abandon, but, we did eat well 🙂 ).

So it is that a new year has arrived – and with it gratitude for each and every one of you that visits here on the Cutoff. I appreciate all of you and am humbled that you take the time to read my ramblings.

Thank you, one and all, and best wishes for a healthy, happy New Year!

Penny

Dining with Donald

Donald on dining in and out

definearth

environmentally conscious and proud of it.

Poesy plus Polemics

Words of Wonder, Worry and Whimsy

Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Relax --

God even loves gulls.

Barnstorming

Barnstorming: Seeking Sanctuary in the Seasons of a Rural Life

Mike McCurry's Daily Blog

Creative information about Real Estate and Life in the Western Suburbs of Chicago

ChicagoNatureNow!

Chicago Nature Information & News

Interrupting the Silence

An Episcopal Priest's Sermons, Prayers, and Reflections on Life, Becoming Human, and Discovering Our Divinity

The Pioneer Girl Project

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Pioneer Girl

Juliet Batten

Author, artist, speaker, teacher and psychotherapist

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

Thoughts about writing and life

leaf and twig

where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry

mirandasnotebook

Your Guide to a Stylish Life

Apple Pie and Napalm

music lover, truth teller, homey philosophy. newly woke

Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth

My Chicago Botanic Garden

A blog for visitors to the Garden.

Living Designs

Circles of Life: My professional background in Foods and Nutrition (MS, Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, RDN, LDN) provides the background for my personal interests in nutrition, foods and cooking; health and wellness; environment and sustainability.

Women Making Strides

Be a Leader in Your Own Life

Middlemay Farm

Katahdin Sheep, Chickens, Ducks, Dogs and Novelist Adrienne Morris live here (with humans).

Book Snob

FOR DISCERNING READERS

teacups & buttercups

An old fashioned heart

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Begun in 2010, this blog offers analysis and reflection by Susan Bailey on the life, works and legacy of Louisa May Alcott and her family. Susan is an active member and supporter of the Louisa May Alcott Society, the Fruitlands Museum and Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House.

breathelighter

Reducing stress one exhale at a time ...exploring Southern California and beyond

Kate Shrewsday

A thousand thousand stories

Blogging from the Bog

musings from and about our cottage in the West of Ireland