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Saturday, December 29, 2007

It's better than it sounds

Advent candles: A photo on Flickr
Beloved's Advent candles

[posted by risa]

It's, as usual for December in these parts, nasty out there. The snow line, like a dithering hemline, has been up and down all week, dusted us twice and whitened our world once -- for a brief hour -- and is currently off the valley floor and onto the second line of hills. A few days ago, leaving the house, I caught a "blue hole" -- a bit of rare sun -- and almost slunk back into the house for dark glasses, as the snow on the hills behind the River was stunning, like the January photo of a New Hampshire calendar. Today, though, we're just drowning, which is more usual fare for these parts.

The small city library where Beloved has picked up work has been needing more and more of her time, and she's gone today, while I rattle around the house alone, a reversal from the past year's practice that I had wished would come more frequently. I've made the most of it.

All of the baubles have come down from the tree and been packed away in their paper wrappings in the bauble-tub, which is back in its spot on the high shelf in the garage; Susie Snowflake, the angel who was handmade in 1952 or thereabouts, receiving the greatest care as she is quite fragile now and has earned household-goddess stature.

The "tree" was, as is now traditional for us, a branch sawn from one of our fir trees (and the tree's wound painted over), which had had to be trimmed quite a bit to simulate a properly conical tree. The trimmings had been used all along the long mantel in the living room. These, as well as the "tree" itself, have been gathered, reduced to small bits, and added to the day's consumption in the woodstove. The house has been straightened, dusted, and swept (we almost never vacuum anymore) and the dishes have been washed and put away (no dishwasher either).

I have made next month's kindling, riving some old cedar fence boards with a hatchet down to lath thickness and an inch wide, then leaning them on the kindling-block and stepping on them at intervals to make sticks about a foot long, piling them handy to the mornings' fire-building rituals.

I've steamed some black beans and made a soup with them, adding home-grown corn, pok choi, tomatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes, some creamed butternut squash leftovers, beet greens and a small onion. It's better than it sounds; I had some for lunch.

The rest of the leftover squash has gone into a loaf of bread for Tallest Son and his family, who live near the Big City to the north.

Tallest Son (he's around 6'5" [!!]) is an independent sort and has always banked on youth to overcome life's troubles, but he is now twenty-seven or so. He recently lost a best friend in a very sad way, involving hospital-borne infection, and so is feeling his own mortality. So he was understandably stressed from learning he would have to undergo a rather debilitating oral surgery, which took place a few days ago.

While his friend was dying, Tallest Son ran out of his own sick time, so the recovery from his own surgery represents ill-afforded lost income. They couldn't easily come here for the holidays, so we will go to them -- for just a few hours, so as not to be too much of an intrusion -- deliver some of Beloved's free-range eggs and the loaf, exchange a few gifts, make a discreet investment in the household, and return.

The next day, Beloved works yet again -- so I get yet another home-alone day. I may find it hard to give up all this solitude, come Wednesday!

I wish it were not so far. I've come to detest the internal combustion engine, but there are just no real alternatives yet -- given the route.

With the curtains pulled back, there is enough light coming through the storm windows (even with our pea-soup sky) to do most things without artificial lighting. The afternoon's natural illumination, alternately grey and golden, suits the mood of a day like this, and helps remind me to slow down, to not rush at tasks, to pace them through the whole day and not tire myself.


I have just checked the bread. The baking stone Beloved gave me seems to have heated unevenly and broken, the two pieces springing apart about an inch. I did think it was rather wide and thin for bread -- it's meant for pizza, but I don't do pizza as a rule -- the bigger shard would do for small loaves on its own, but I think I'll be going back to the green-glazed ironstone dish, which has lasted me for three decades so far.

I didn't make it outside much. There are some potted lavender plants that are in danger of becoming root-bound. perhaps on New Year's Day I will indulge myself. Then, early in the year, fruit trees.

"God willin' and the crick don't rise."



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