The Joys Of Discovery
As a child, I found snow enchanting. Overnight, everyday landscapes transformed into mysterious lumps and bumps, tree branches laden with a blanket of frosting, smooth and glossy. Walking in the hushed woods, the only sounds were the scrunching of my feet and the song and scrabble of busy birds and squirrels hunting for a meal. These days, snow is still beautiful to me, especially when it falls in fluffy, feathery clumps. The cats are mesmerized, staring out the windows and muttering ‘mrrt mrrt’ as the fat flakes fall. The neighborhood children are delighted too, especially our newest neighbors, 8 year old twin boys. They grew up in Venezuela, then the family was granted political asylum in the US and sent to Florida, where they found the rampant racism discouraging. Moving here this summer, the children never saw snow before. The chilly air is ringing with their delighted shouts and shrieks as they learn to make snowballs and sled down our icy (closed to traffic) street.
Since the power is still on, it’s the perfect day to do some holiday baking, especially since my family poll turned up five different requests for favorites. Shortbread rounds (plain for my daughter-in-love and double chocolate for my son), oatmeal chocolate chip for my grandson, soft molasses chewies for my granddaughter, and gingerbread cake with lemon glaze for my daughter. After years of making lumpy shortbreads, I discovered that thick cardboard towel tubes, cut to about 15 inches long and split lengthwise, keep the rolled and wrapped dough logs perfectly cylindrical. Just keep the tubes tightly closed with a couple of fat rubber bands and once chilled, the logs will slice easily. However, I still struggled to slice them precisely so they cook evenly until this morning, when I had a brain wave and stuck my knitting guide under the transparent cutting sheet. Thank you Susan Bates!
Making Holidays When We Can
I’m loving this bounteous bout of holiday baking, even though it’s doubtful that our family will be able to join us for our Solstice bonfire. This is the third year in a row that our holiday plans have been disrupted by weather and disease and it probably won’t be the last. Rather than pin hopes on a certain day or time, I’m learning to celebrate when we’re together, regardless of the date. For now, I’m filling the freezer with cookies, making space by finding all sorts of things that can be moved on by the transformational experience of composting. I’ve been hoarding wood for our Solstice bonfire, which offers another, emotional kind of transformation. Birch branches dropped by local trees and blown-down fir boughs have been drying in our little sunporch all summer, and I even shelled out a ridiculous amount of cash for a small bundle or actual chunks of wood, just to make sure the fire persists long enough to work its magic.
Now that we’re living in a mobile home park with tiny house lots, our usual grand bonfire is reduced to a little fire bowl, but fire is fire. The flames, of whatever size, can carry our hopes and wishes to the stars and consign anything we want to be done with to ashes. We will write or draw or paint our petitions on something flammable, paper or sheets of birch bark, usually, adding fragrant stalks, dried herbs, and flower petals to sweeten the deal and scent the flames. Watching a year of hope and worry go up in smoke is always satisfying, even if I don’t see much immediate evidence of efficacy. As a gardener, I think about the mystery of seeds, how some sprout quickly and others may take months or even years to appear, waiting until their required conditions are met and the time is right. We don’t always know what we sow or if or when it might sprout, but Gaia Mom never wastes anything. Onward, right?