This morning, I stood with my face to the sun, watching the autumn leaves sift down, and listening to the last of the acorns drop. (What a banner mast year this was in Williamsburg — an acorn extravaganza!)
Those trees, they know when the time is right to let go. To launch the fruits of their annual labor into the world and then rest for a season, gathering their energy for new growth and creation in the spring.
Wishing you a beautiful fall, with ample time for wrapping up, drawing in, reflecting on, and cozying up!
The long wait is over — autumn is officially here! The new season swept into town in a shower of raindrops under cover of soft gray skies. The trees have yet to flash autumn a warm greeting of color, but the mushrooms? Oh, the mushrooms! They are welcoming autumn with all their might, much to the delight of the deer, who have been eagerly dining on the delicate morsels springing up throughout the yard and woods.
So many beautiful forms! Rounded and smooth, ruffled with fringe, embossed with dots. Buttons, cones, discs. Red, yellow, and tan against the bright green moss. And, of course, stark white against the fallen leaves, black with rain. Perfect on this day of balanced light and darkness.
Each year on the equinox, I return to a beloved poem by Lisel Mueller. By now it is an integral part of my life’s yearly cycle. Favorite excerpts are below. Happy Fall, everyone!
One More Hymn to the Sun
You know that like an ideal mother
she will never leave you,
though after a week of rain
you begin to worry
but you accept her brief absences,
her occasional closed doors
as the prerogative
of an eccentric lover . . .
You like the fact that her moods are an orderly version of yours,
arranged, like the needs of animals,
by seasons: her spring quirks,
her sexual summers,
her steadfast warmth in the fall;
you remember her face on Christmas Day,
blurred, and suffused with the weak smile
of a woman who has just given birth
The way she loves you, your whole body,
and still leaves enough space between you
to keep you from turning to cinders
before your time! . . .
She never gave up on you
though it took you billions of years
to learn the alphabet
and the shadow you cast on the ground
changed its shape again and again
- Lisel Mueller, The Missouri Review, 2.1, Fall 1978
December! The final installment of Walking in Season for 2010. What an amazing year it has been, full of change and growth in every area of this little family’s life. The wonderful thing about change is that the more you do it, the easier it gets. The more you embrace it, the more fun it becomes. These truths — and the truth that everything new is hard at first but becomes easier with practice — are perhaps my biggest lessons of the year. And to think: it only took three decades of living for me to learn them!
This morning, December dawned cloudy, a cold front moving through. Gray skies and wind. The warm, gorgeous autumn days that lingered throughout November have yielded to something wintrier — and more befitting of the holiday spirit that is evident everywhere around us.
Darkness comes early now, and we find ourselves falling naturally into our winter schedule, cued by the light: dinner by 5:00, screens (laptops, television, phones) off by 9:30, asleep by 10:00! I must say: in no season do I sleep as well, or as long, as I do in wintertime. It is undeniable: my Circadian clock (and body and mind) are powerfully tied to the available daylight, and in winter, my only option is to embrace their dictate that bedtime come early. A rule I am not the least bit sad to follow, especially in these last pre-newborn weeks!
The final month of this pregnancy is proving such a special time. Matt and I are filled with wonder and anticipation, and it feels as though the whole world is filled with wonder and anticipation alongside us! Goodwill, cheer, and beauty abound. December, I am finding, is an excellent time to round out a baby.
That said, this month is also a month for finding and celebrating light in darkness. The winter solstice — the longest night of the year — visits us on December 21. If you find yourself feeling less than merry as that natural holiday approaches, treat yourself to a noontime walk, sans sunscreen or sunglasses, to lift your spirits (and your Vitamin D levels). Fresh air and sunshine (even the wan light of December) always work a special magic on the heart.
And, without further ado: December’s Walking in Season Photos. The full year of photos can be viewed here.
Stop 1. Looking back on the photos of this spot over the year, we were surprised to see how many months it looks just like this: brown and dormant.
Stop 1.5. Gray skies, black water.
Stop 2. I enjoy this spot this most in the cold months. The tree trunks are like sculpture.
Stop 3. Peak fall color came mid-month last month. November 1, these trees were green; by December 1, the leaves had turned and fallen.
Stop 4. No turtles today! Just ducks. This stop is my favorite, I do think.
Here we are once more: the full moon! In North America, the most common name for November’s moon is the Beaver Moon, in part because, for fur-trappers, November is an excellent time to lay traps for that animal, and in part because beavers are busy building winter dams this month. (For those of you wondering: we’ve not seen our backyard beaver since our last encounter — the tree remains downed, and sadly unused.)
The last few days have reminded us why we call the fall The Fall: from above, a steady downward flutter of leaves, drifting, blanketing the lawn. The locals agree: the autumn colors have been unusually beautiful this year — and autumn itself has been wondrously long. Many bright, warm days. Perfect for walking, and soaking up the sun’s rays.
As Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air. Well, in my case, perhaps not all the daylight hours. But at least an hour a day, Matt, the baby, and I are out in the autumn glow!
The weeks are flying by. One month until the first day of winter, the winter solstice — which also happens to be December’s full moon. A fun coincidence! And just over a month until this baby arrives. He or she is growing well — healthy and strong! Big kicks this month, and lots of hiccups. Above: a quick photo snapped late this afternoon (staring into the sun — explains the squint!). The belly is big, and I love it! All is well.
Happy autumn to you all!
This fast, delicious chowder is perfect for fall. The parsnips lend a tasty, sweet complexity, and the freshly-grated nutmeg is a treat! The original recipe calls for watercress, but since watercress can be surprisingly hard to find in this town, we usually use baby spinach instead. Sweet potatoes and yams can be used interchangeably here, so don’t fret if your store has no yams. Resist the temptation to skip the blender step — the puree makes the chowder thick and creamy. Oh, so good!
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
– 4 cups 1/2-inch cubed, peeled parsnips (about 4 large)
– 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
– 3 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
– 1 cup chopped, peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 medium)
– 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubed, peeled yam (red-skinned sweet potato; about 1 large)
– 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
– 1/4 cup whipping cream (or half-and-half)
– 4 cups baby spinach (or watercress sprigs — tops of 2 bunches)
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add parsnips and onion. Sauté until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups broth and apple. Cover and simmer until parsnips are tender, about 12 minutes. Puree 2 cups parsnip mixture in blender until very smooth. Return puree to pot. Add yam cubes and nutmeg. Cover and simmer until yam cubes are tender, about 12 minutes. Mix in cream, then spinach/watercress. Stir until spinach/watercress wilts, about 2 minutes. Thin chowder with more broth, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recently, Matt went on a Faulkner marathon at bedtimes, reading sections aloud when the mood struck. Last weekend, we spotted this late-season rose — undaunted, determined, the last on the bush — and recalled this passage:
There was a rose, a single remaining rose. Through the sad, dead days of late summer it had continued to bloom, and now though persimmons had long swung their miniature suns among the caterpillar-festooned branches, and gum and maple and hickory had flaunted two gold-and-scarlet weeks, and the grass, where grandfathers of grasshoppers squatted sluggishly like sullen octogenarians, had been pencilled twice delicately with frost, and the sunny noons were scented with sassafras, it still bloomed. Overripe now, and a little gallantly blowsy, like a fading burlesque star.
- William Faulkner, from Flags in the Dust (1929)
Wow, what a month October was: a parade of family members in town throughout the month; the baby shower; and, in the last week, the excitement of life without indoor plumbing!
A week ago, the main water line to our house sprung big leaks, and the repairs — for various logistical and bureaucratic reasons — could not be completed until today. From last Tuesday until just an hour ago, the water line was shut down, and we had no running water in the house.
If we had to be visited by such an adventure, this last week was an ideal time for it. Two sets of friends/family were out-of-town, and their empty homes were open to us for showers, cooking, laundry, and the filling of large tubs of water to haul back to our house for toilet-flushing the low-tech way. To these kind folks, we say: THANK YOU!
But now it is November! This month, everywhere around us, the natural world begins to slow and settle in for the long winter ahead. The trees drop their leaves… the nights lengthen… the days become cool and crisp… the plants offer up the last of their fruits… the animals stock up and hunker down — including many of us humans!
This month is a wonderful time to follow Mother Nature’s lead: simplifying, drawing in, shifting our focus from outward to inward. After the bustle of summer, we partake of this season’s quieter pastimes. As we warm ourselves by the fire, or stand stirring at the stove, or sit stitching in the lamplight, our minds find space and opportunity for introspection and reflection.
And, hopefully, around the fourth Thursday of the month (for us Americans, anyway), we also find opportunity to be thankful for all the good that our lives hold!
Less than two months to go before the little one makes his or her debut — we can hardly believe it! Today, we had a raft of errands and a faraway prenatal appointment, so we admit: November’s Walking in Seasons photos were taken October 31st, to ensure they got taken at all. Blue skies reigned both days, however, so we’re confident that yesterday’s shots are near-perfect representations of November 1′s path.
Complete set of Walking in Season photos here, all by Matt.
Stop 1. The leaning tree trunk in the center of the photo finally fell!
Stop 1.5. Sing along, everybody: “Muuuuuuuck on the wa-ter, and glare in the sky-yy.”
Stop 2. It’s strange but true: I like the wetland much better without green leaves.
Stop 3. Leaf by leaf, the canopy falls.
Stop 4. This stop is the most-transformed each month, I think — even the changes in the last three months alone are impressive!
The heart of autumn must have broken here,
and poured its treasure out upon the leaves.
- Charlotte Fiske Bates (1838 – 1916)
Last Sunday, we went for a walk with our families along our favorite trail. The day was sunny and warm, and in the wetland, the turtles were out basking, soaking up the sun’s rays before a long winter underground.
Turtles cannot make their own body heat, so they sunbathe to raise their body temperature. The warmth allows them to better digest their food, rid themselves of parasites, and (for females) develop their eggs. And, it turns out, like us, turtles need ample sunshine to manufacture Vitamin D for healthy bones!
The large turtle in the middle, who held out its hind leg in a reptilian arabesque, was particularly charming.