Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

So much got done last night and today that it’s hard to think how much got done. Sometimes I just blink at the sky and am amazed. I wonder how people do this every day and then I try to forget that and just enjoy what I can do.

Last night I 1. made dinner. It’s been weeks. The last dinner I made was a bean and tortilla casserole that did not live up to my expectations. I had eaten lentils for lunch and when I tried to eat bean tortilla casserole for dinner…it was hard to swallow. Too many beans in one day. The next day didn’t improve my feelings on it. Or the next. In the end, I gave most of it to the family on the farm. So this dinner was the one to overcome my despondency about cooking. I got Mark Bittman’s book “How to Cook Everything: Easy Weekend Cooking.” The book delivered. I made the “Best Scrambled Eggs” (I don’t like eggs but these were to die for), Blueberry Muffins and Home-Fried Potatoes. It was a scramble for everything to be done together at the same time and the potatoes were boiled too long but everything was still very edible and still very good. And today for lunch, I took those potatoes with a bit of olive oil and fried them up. Yummy with muffins.

Last night I 2. baked my first cake. This is a Tasha Tudor recipe called “Washington Pie.” It’s a really a layered cake with raspberry jam filling. Not just raspberry jam. Raspberry jam mixed with cherry brandy. That’s right. Oh, it turned out great and so pretty. I like baking rather then cooking. It’s restful with those breaks in between while the cake bakes and then cools. My next cake will be chocolate cake with white frosting- but I need a double boiler for that. I’ve been trying to think of a good excuse for making this chocolate cake. No one’s birthday around, no holidays (the double boiler is coming at the end of this month- pay day) so how about life? To life. L’chaim. The excuse for my raspberry cake was for life and for Jan coming by to visit today! Yay! We had a lovely time, talked about writing and I think she enjoyed the spiked cake!

Last night I 3. Finally worked on my fiction. Its been so long due to being sick and then being busy and getting caught up with cleaning. I didn’t write for too long since it was late but I sat down and did it. That’s the hardest part, getting started again after a break. Finally.

Today I…today was gardening. Today was hauling up sod, turning over clods, breaking them up and then mixing in mushroom compost. Ugh. This work means another day without going to the gym because who needs to? My back is a little sore from it all but nothing unbearable. I did that and then planted. I planted astillbe (Elisabeth Van Veen), I split up and planted the hostas Dad gave me. I planted the Japanese painted fern he gave me. I moved yet another delphinium over to the other delphiniums. I planted my herbs, my geranium, the nasturtium. I moved the lavenders over to the rose bed and the sage over where the herbs are. I dug big holes and put in Oriental lilies- Stargazer, Muscadet and a freebie that I got that I didn’t realize was a freebie …till I opened up the bag and realized…crap, which are Tom Pouce freebies and which are the Muscadet? No one knew then or now. They are buried in trenches in that square of the garden. I raked soil back into the beds, I raked the beds, I watered.

Then Jan came and we had a terrific chat, drank Stillwater Iced Tea and ate some cake. And now I am here, considering about taking pictures of cupolas but a little nervous that someone might run out and ask me why I’m taking pictures of their house. Maybe that’s for tomorrow in the morning when people are (mostly) at work.

Well, here’s the unlooked for bonus of Tom Pouce lilies. I hope you’re nice and work with the colors of the others. Cause if you ain't, its farm time for you!

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Winter Aconite & Snowdrop

Spring is whimsical and wary right now, first appearing in a patch of sunlight and then fleeting away in an ice-cold breeze, only to reappear a little later in the liquid song of a redwing blackbird. I wear my winter coat one day, a hoodie the next, and then it’s back to the winter coat the next morning as a heavy frost sparkles on rooftops. Only recently have I given up my thick scarf, though if there’s a wind tomorrow, I may have to pull it out of the closet and wind myself up in it once more.

None but the bravest flowers are blooming, the winter aconite and snowdrop. Winter aconite is a small yellow flower that’s easy to overlook; it remains shut until the sun has deeply soaked its petals, then pops open like a tiny jewelry box to reveal gold petals centered on delicate pistils and stamens. The snowdrops this spring huddle close to the ground, nearly lost in the mud and dead leaves. As of yet, there are no daffodils blooming—their leaves have come up only an inch or so out the brown ground. They are cautious and since it freezes each night, I cannot blame them.

Beyond the flowers there is the ground itself: a muddle of browns, thick with the rotted tree leaves and the dead foliage of last year. There is nothing lovely to see here, only the form of the land itself. It swells and slopes up from the river, lies low along the horizon, and finally drops into a ditch.

On an unexpected day in early March, once the snow disappeared, city workers came to clean up the young trees and invasive species that have been growing avid and unchecked along the creek near my home. It is the first time I can see the contours of the land clearly in all the years I’ve been living here, and I’m struck by the curves and lines that slope down towards the creek, a rollicking bed of dark brown that makes a strong contrast to the bright blue overhead. The undulating land here is small but it’s a dream, a reason, a mysterious being that wraps through the neighborhood’s mind. Soon enough, this dark and curving space will be clad in green, heavily wreathed by plants, bushes and eager saplings. But for now, it is bare and exposed, revealing the dark space between winter and summer. This is where the wind snaps cold like a knife, but the brilliant sunshine keeps calling everyone out despite the drear.

Tips on Surviving the Never-ending Winter

It’s been a long, hard winter. Now that it’s mid-February, the cold days have started stealing into my bones, urging me to stay in bed and sleep until the warm weather comes. As much as I long to take a three month long nap, there’s stuff to be done and living to do.

I’ve gotten more intentional about warding off the winter blues this year and not let myself, mentally or physically, wander off into a nearby snowbank and fall asleep. I’ve been observing and writing down little notes to myself on what lessens the gloom. These notes have become guideposts of sorts, gently illuminating the path through a difficult winter.

  1. The first guidepost may be the most essential: drinking hot beverages continually and consistently helps to ward off the deep cold. I brew a small pot of my favorite breakfast tea blend in the morning, switch to ginger and lemon herbals mid-day, and then return to caffeinated teas like black or green at night. Other people love coffee and others their tisanes. Find one or many and slurp away happily all day. Hot drinks are so deeply comforting when it’s cold and dark.
  2. I’ve learned to take walks even when the weather is crap. Obviously if everything is sheeted in ice, a walk isn’t going to happen but for the those other days, time willing, I make an effort to head outside. There’s the exercise aspect but more than that, it’s important for my spirit and soul. I walk to de-stress, to come in contact with a bigger world than my own, and to climb out of my circular thinking. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that clears junk out of the mind and soul. Our bodies evolved to walk over this earth and so when we participate in it, the old rhythms occur. Walking is a way to feel freedom. And it’s a way to fight too. I feel incredibly alive upon coming inside after walking through high winds and bad weather.
  3. Reading extensively helps to cast off the smothering feel of an endless winter. Last winter I read Alexander Pushkin and discovered the joy of reading Russian literature during the dead of winter. This month, I read City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya, one in a pair of sisters that wrote during the mid-1800’s. City Folk and Country Folk is a delightful satire, ridiculing a variety of “city folk” and everyone else besides. Among the cast of characters is the intellectual Ovcharov, a dead ringer for Austen’s Mr. Collins. The book centers on neighbors visiting each other, eating each other’s food, drinking each other’s tea and generally getting on each other’s nerves until they all decide to stop visiting one another. Needless to say, I adored this plot line.
    And after a three month long wait, I received The Library Book by Susan Orlean from the library with two week checkout period to read it. No way was I going to read part way through, return the book, and then have to go back into that long waiting line. I set up a rough estimate of how many pages I needed to read a day to make the two week goal and then started. To my surprise, I enjoyed having a book reading goal and  diving into Orlean’s generous and easy-flowing prose every evening.
    My last read for this month is Frederick Douglass’ My Bondage and My Freedom. February is Black History Month and the perfect time to read his work. I’m only a few chapters in but his thoughtful and beautiful prose has pulled me in hard into the tragedy of his story and it’s hard to stop reading his eloquent prose.
  4. Spring will come. It feels so far away and even the evergreens and pines are looking haggard but it will come. When the sky is a certain shade of blue, I remember that it will. I remind myself of this daily.