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tying up the heart songs

October 18th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

I look around the table at the women gathered there and I’m caught, just a bit, by the warmth and authenticity sitting with me. I feel blessed, and caught up in the moment of our conversations, of life and marriage, parenting and food and everything in between.

It’s chilly, and clear, but the wind is gusting hard against the old patio doors, making them rattle and throb in the gale. It is October, after all, and no one came here expecting to sunbathe and swim. We knew we’d find bare trees and dry brown grass, and everyone brought slippers or warm socks. Several people came with thick blankets to help ward off the chill of an October night.

But at this moment, no one is thinking about the cold hard wind outside. Because when you gather eight women who are all passionate about food, amazing things happen and we lay it out before us, gazing at the repast with gleaming eyes, exclaiming over the sight. We pour wine in to glass jars and pull up our chairs. Fragrant soup simmers and there is never a break in the conversation as we segue from one topic to the next, easily, like we’ve done this all our lives. Several of us have only met, just today and the moment the cabin door opened and the laughter swept in from the yard. But we know each other, as old friends, regardless of how much face time we’ve had. It’s inherent, this tribe. We have a bond and we just know, in our hearts that we belong here.

Outside the cold bright day turns to a brisk and clear night. There is warmth inside those rattling glass doors that the chilly Autumn night can’t chase away. We sit over homemade salsa and tortilla chips, freshly made bacon jam with crackers and toasted bread, deeply flavored roasted nuts. The promise of warm soup hangs in the air, and there is more bread, delicious and healthy salads and the conversation that feeds us, on and on, an endless succession of nurturing topics, filled with appetizing laughter.

There is more wine poured, glass jars clink on the table and plates come out. Bowls are set near the stove and a ladle dipped in to the pot, drawing forth a steaming amount to smell, while quiet smiles play across faces rich with anticipation. There is no one in this room who isn’t wholly in love with food, passionate about it in every way; who loves to feed others, who lives to share the bounty. They are kindred, these women, these beings that I love. There is a depth to the emotion that runs further than I could have imagined. Food sustains them, and they sustain others with it, through emotions, and heart songs and old glass jars. Through fragrant bread studded with herbs, through kicky salsa that dances on your tongue. Beyond the crackers, and the tortilla chips, there isn’t a processed item in sight. We love our food in exactly the way it should be; freshly and lovingly made.

The darkness outside is impenetrable now, and the dishes are cleared and washed. We slowly move to the sofa, the comfy chairs. Blankets are drawn over full tummies, feet pulled up and tucked under for warmth and yet the conversation never stops. No topic is exhausted or drained from our lips. Now there is dessert, and coffee to give us a brisk resurgence, but soon the home brewed beer is brought out and we taste, slowly sipping, loving the results. It’s close to midnight before we admit defeat and stumble sleepily, happily and with stuffed tummies and hearts, in to our beds.

The morning is more clear sunshine and sustained winds, a humming furnace and sleepy smiles. “I slept like a rock.” resounds from every mouth that appears, eyes relaxed and dreamy, arms wrapped tight in a cocoon of contentment. The coffee pot bubbles and we slip easily into conversation, watching out the windows to a morning rising bright and clear over the lake outside. Breakfast, again, is a dizzy array of fresh baked quick breads, creamy scrambled eggs dredged through with colorful vegetables, the ripest and juiciest pears and apples plucked fresh from the trees only days ago. We’re quieter, more relaxed. We smile and need no reason. We just are; in the moment, right here with our tribe, right where we need to be.

With a sigh, we rise and clean and organize and pack and hug and hug and hug again and laugh and wander across the crunchy leaves to the waiting cars, calling out, again, a goodbye, a thank you, smiles so wide that it seems to split our faces right in two. I close the door against the battering winds and face the empty cabin, the incredible array of foods they’ve left for me to enjoy. My heart is full, the song played out with a few last fading notes to a silence that feels rich, yet forlorn.

They’ll be back again. This much I know.


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A reminder of glorious October

October 28th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

I should have known. Us Minnesotans wrote the book on the phrase ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.’

Right on time, at the heels of my dreary October report, came a smashingly beautiful Fall day; just in time to lift spirits across the city, to pour sunshine down on the deprived and saddened. It was blinding. It felt hot. Car interiors warmed up and jackets were shed. Lots of skin came out to say ‘Hello’, to welcome the sun.

And while most of the city wandered around in a daze, strangers smiling at each other with lots of contented sighs, I escaped.

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Just a few short months ago, that deck was covered in soggy footprints, soaked towels, half empty sunscreen bottles, juice boxes, a few toys, often a stray lifejacket and maybe a wet child or two. It held chairs that held bodies that held hair off their warms necks and cold drinks in hand. The deck groaned under the weight of languid summer days, resplendent in the hot sun. And the lake laughed up at the blue sky, at the boats skipping across it’s surface and popped up a turtle or two to take stock, or a loon that just as quickly dove for cooler waters beneath. At night, the waters slept, still as glass, covered occasionally in a gentle fog, as the rubber band snap of bullfrogs sang harmonious shoreline lullabies. Idyllic barely does it justice. And it always ends far too soon.

But now, it’s just empty, save for the few hardy anglers, a lazy boat or two that holds tight to the remaining light and good weather and maybe the eagle, if he’s fishing today. Still, in it’s emptiness, and the solitude that tends to follow Labor Day like a reluctant puppy, Loveless Lake retains it’s beauty in entirely different ways, and offers a means to escape just once more before it settles down for a long winter’s nap.

october sun at loveless6783october sun at loveless6787

And I settle in, pulling a bag of two of food with me and some warm clothing. The furnace kicks out it’s cozy heat and a few candles lead the daylight hours into night. I settle into the profound silence with a good book or two, some music and the need to just be me for a day or two. To hike and sit on a stone overlooking the St.Croix River, or to just stare at the water outside. Maybe I’ll do nothing at all. Stay in my pajamas all day and drink coffee, invite the muse to visit and tap away until it’s satisfied. I might rake leaves and lay among the crunch. There certainly should be a nap on the sofa, a good snack. And a bonfire as the sun disappears over the tree line. The bed is piled with blankets and I turn off the furnace at night, hunkering down under the weight that lulls me to sleep. I think about nothing at all. And everything, but really, it’s nothing. Winter is coming and this will end for several months. I won’t be able to walk down the hill, with the water winking an invitation at me beyond the corner of the cabin. There won’t be the giddy anticipation of a weekend with my nieces and nephews, racing around the water in the boat, dragging an inner-tube with a shrieking child holding on for dear life. It will end, with the last drop of water drained from the water heater, and the final look around before the car door slams on yet another season.

It’s always bittersweet.

My apologies for running away

July 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments »

So this is how I am, hmm? Wax philosophic about blogging for three years and then vamoose for parts unknown? Some ‘reach out and touch someone’ blogger I am. In my absence I have been astonished, overwhelmed and sometimes moved to tears by your comments and I hope I adequately thanked you individually for your support, your love and your unimaginable kindness. You, dear readers, are the ‘raison d’etre’ that keeps me chug-chug- chugging along.

But I’ll tell you, I needed escape in a big way. I went to our lake home, a mere hour’s drive from where I reside in real time but eons of light years away in terms of the ultimate escape, proving that you don’t need to go far to leave it all behind.  Remember Mike’s broken back? The huge perspective shift? It’s been six weeks and he’s doing pretty well, but the constant vigil that I have laid down in order to help him has drained away a large portion of the ‘Me’ that makes me who I am. And in the empathy that I feel for him, I sense every wince of pain, every ache and twinge and see the frustration in his eyes in dealing with his limitations and it wears on me. It’s love, plain and simple; nothing he hasn’t done for me in spades, but still,  I needed to recharge my batteries.

After a few days of feeding all of our souls (again) with this beautiful face,

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I took my leave…..

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And Loveless Lake, in Western Wisconsin was just the place I needed. It’s been at the heart of my life with Mike in so many ways; we shared our first kiss there, I fell in love with him (and his family) there and we announced to everyone that we were getting married on the beloved screen porch to shouts of riotous cheer. It’s in my blood, my very bones. And this summer, with Mike’s back injury and the often rotten weather, I just haven’t been there as much as I need to- and I need to;  my heart has missed its solace, the sunsets and the ripple of the water, lulling the harshness of life out of me and replacing it with a steadier pulse. A glass of wine is often more indulgent on the deck at sunset, and coffee just never tastes so good as it does on the screen porch as the new day unfolds over the backyard and the first ripples touch the glass surface of the water. The smell of the lake, the call of the Oriole in the evergreens…..I need it like oxygen. And food.

And I need time away to just cook a few simple and favorite things- food for me, for my restoration. It always changes when I go, depending on the time of year and my current tastes. I craved fresh fruit and more greens- rabbit that I am- but I also wanted meats, like a good steak and some bacon. And I shamelessly wanted to be selfish. The steak, generously rubbed with a spicy jalapeno and garlic rub, was sputtering and so delightfully charred and burnished as it came off the grill that I couldn’t manage a photo before my knife and fork tackled it forcefully. It was  more rare than I ever imagine myself eating, still I contemplatively devoured each bite, delighting in the flavor, and the solitude as a gentle rain shower left it’s fragrance outside the open patio door. My bacon served it’s purpose across many meals, most notably atop a crispy slice of ciabatta, toasted on the grill and smeared with natural grainy peanut butter for a delicious and decadent breakfast treat.

What else did I do? Well, I watched the resident eagle fish for it’s breakfast; the great blue heron survey the water as the eager English Spaniel several doors down kept vigil over it from the dock. I spied hummingbirds on the lakeshore plantings. I stared at the leaping flames of an aromatic fire for a very very long time with nary a muscle twitch, nodding off in my chair outside and awoke, most likely just a few minutes later to a heavy splash in the water behind me, the flames still crackling, barely a few feet from where I was dozing.

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Seriously!? I fell asleep outside by the campfire. Honestly, if I could have I would wrap up in blankets and sleep under the stars. I indulged too, in that simplest of campfire offerings.

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I listened to the chipmunks chatter and chase each other around the yard, and I walked. I walked in casual pace along a gravel road, the peace of a Tuesday morning held tight around me, touched by cool breezes in the refreshing morning air. I listened to the wind, sipped another cup of coffee and napped if I felt like it. I absorbed ‘Treasure Island’, losing myself in Jim Hawkins’ narrative, cursing the fickle Long John Silver, cheering the bravery.  By all accounts, I disappeared; and I’ve never wanted it so much. Some people crave chocolate, or ice cream; I wanted uninterrupted time to just be me.

But I’m trying to refocus now on another round of blogging; I’m scheming, making plans and thinking about summer’s bounty. After a delightful holiday weekend, most likely back at Loveless, life will resume some semblance of normal, hopefully, and the blog will be back on it’s sumptuous feet. Thanks for your patience.