Wednesday, November 22, 2017

taste and see...

...the theme for fall gatherings this year:  taste and see.

inspired by the book "bread, wine, chocolate:  the slow loss of foods we love" by simran sethi, i became interested in agricultural biodiversity and all the ramifications thereof.

and i also knew exactly what seven things we would taste:  coffee, wine, beer, cheese, bread, olive oil, and chocolate. (these should be a food pyramid in and of themselves in my humble opinion.)

why not have people bring brands and flavors they enjoy to share and talk about why?

(and to talk about what we like and don't like in normal every day language, without the pressure of a tasting room or sale.  i rarely get a 'bouquet of grapefruit' when everyone else i want to take the pressure off, have some fun.  i'm always tempted in fancy locales to say loudly, 'i'm getting a hint of mossy gutter with maybe a little leaf mold' but never can bring myself to do it.  that and the fact that everything is always quite good.)

psalm 34:8 says, "taste and see that the Lord is good, and blessed are all those who trust in Him." i, for one, am so grateful to have had healthy food to eat every single day since coming mewingly dependent into this world.  not only for nourishment, but also for enjoyment.  let's slow down to savor and really taste our food and all the hands it passes through to get to us.

errands took on a whole new flavor as i took my time and got to know the people who make our local cheese, bread, and olive oil.  i am within walking or driving distance of many of the vineyards, orchards, and fields where it all came from. 

so what are some of your top varietals in these categories?


giving thanks away
makes room for more
i know this but still
it startles me
like a flock of snow geese
ascending to become a trembling
glimmer of light on the ever-nearing

ls 11.22.17

cat-chasing sheriffs

i've been pet-sitting now about as long as i've been working with kids, around twenty-five years all told.  but this was a new experience for the books.  i'm watching my friends' indoor and outdoor cats while they are away and i'm still in my pj's thinking how nice it is to be on vacation and how i might take an extra long shower before going wine tasting with my neighbor...when the doorbell rings.

first of all, their mudroom door, to anyone who is a friend, is the "front door", as no one actually uses the front door, which is my first clue.  i open it, still in my pj's and hair in a messy bun, to find a sheriff in full uniform.  stunned, i ask how i can help him and forget the door is open just enough for the indoor cat to escape. 

"ma'am, i'm here inquiring as to why a car registered in the name of the home owners is abandoned in a nearby orchard?"  i have no idea and quickly tell him that i am the house-sitter and would be happy to assist him in any way possible.  he takes down my vital information, "name?  date of birth?  address?" like a crime scene and i can tell he is thinking maybe the car has been stolen.

through a series of texts and phone calls, i connect with the home and car owners and hand my cell phone to the sheriff, all the while chasing *rosie the cat.  "i read a lot of detective fiction," i tell the officer, "so maybe i can help you figure out the mystery."

"well, it's technically my fault the cat got out," he replies, "so i'll help you catch her and call it even."

we both simultaneously relax as i realize he is keeping the neighborhood safe and he ascertains that i am not a car thief.  meanwhile, the cat streaks maniacally through the bushes and trees chasing birds and in general having a riotous time and of course, the more we chase her, the further she runs.  a long shower is the furthest from my mind at this point, when the UPS man pulls in with a package (did i mention i'm still in my pj's?) just in time to make it a real, live three-ring circus.  "try cat treats", he says in a mail-people-have-experience-with-outdoor-pets kind of way, "and leave the door open, maybe she'll run back inside." 

"roger that," i holler to the UPS man, and then to the sheriff, "did you figure out what happened with their car?"

turns out, they had gotten stuck in the mud on the way to the airport and not had time to get unstuck, so they left it in the field, notified the property owner, came back for their second car, and made it to the airport in time, all unbeknowns to me.  she talks me through where to find the spare set of keys for the sheriff because he noticed the car window was down and that it was too nice of a make and model to get ruined in the rain.

while the sheriff secures the car, i secure the cat, dust myself off and promptly make a second very **strong cup of espresso.  when the sheriff returns with the car keys, i don't know whether to high-five him (which seems disrespectful) or pat him on the shoulder like a comrade (which seems equally presumptuous) and so i stick out my hand to shake his and say, "you're the nicest sheriff i've ever met.  i mean, thanks for helping with the car and cat and all.  wow, this is like a real, live lord peter whimsy moment."

"a who?" he says. 

"oh, lord peter is a fictional british detective persona on par with the more well-known sherlock holmes."

"i see," he says, adding, "did you catch rosie?"

"i did, indeed.  and the car?"

"ship shape"

"well, all in a morning's work.  you're going to make it into the book i write about housesitting. are you ok with that?"

"i am. i'll look forward to reading it.  and you have yourself a nice day now, ma'am."

*her real name.  and she wants me to add that she had a blast in her short, but raucously wild foray of an escape into the great outdoors

**there is no coffee strong enough for mornings like this

feeding the birds

surely a benevolent hand opens to us,

i think, as i pour black sunflower seeds--shimmering
mounds to overflowing--for the jays while juncos
dance around my feet for spills

this hummingbird also knows there is enough
and then some, so much that i catch a glimpse of
even her at rest

flash of squirrel-tail, tree chatter as i move
into a clearing watched by three deer
efficiency of motion, distilled

for any of us could go bounding off at any moment
but instead i look back at them, concentrating my eyes
with as much calm and St. Francis as i can muster

before we all go about our grazing on these
same hills, storing up in all the ways we can
a share's worth for

our wintry world

ls 11.22.17

poem for a tree

"what do the tall trees say...birdsong is all they've wanted all along." wendell berry

name me and i will hold you
swaying with strength and calm
sap-lit from within

survey as i see the long and
tended view, in love with
all i will outlive and even,


ls 11.18.17

Thursday, November 9, 2017

a study in scarlet

this book-loving woman's year was made recently when entrusted with an old copy of sir arthur conan doyle's "a study in scarlet" complete with original artwork!

once my heart rate returned to normal (this would be considered reading as aerobic activity!) i turned the pages carefully, just wanting to stop the work day and do nothing but read.

i told my friend who loaned me the book that there are really only two other times i can think of where i had such a notable book experience.  one was when i bought a lord peter wimsey book in london in 1995 and the other was when i finally crossed the threshold of shakespeare & company in paris (2012).

not just a rare book (she purchased it for 42 pounds) but a rare sherlock holmes.  "wow, wow, wow, wow" was all i could say while putting it in a safe place.  she and i agree, we would both rather have books than food.  smelling them, touching them, owning them.

there's nothing better!  i would love to hear about any rare book experiences you have had...

Sunday, November 5, 2017

tiny house in a tree

dreams do come true!  i've had "stay in a tree house" on my wild woman list of things to be about for twenty years!  all the while i would have no idea that the beals family, within walking distance of my house, had begun construction on their dream tree house five years ago and that my friend and i would be the first paying guests.

constructed with the utmost care, love, architecture, and sense of design, this marvel sits forty feet in the air held by six stumps of a giant sequoia named catherine (after catherine of siena--beals is a philosophy professor and it shows in his attention to detail, book list and property in general).

i've driven by this tree house for years now, each time making a pledge to myself that i would, one day, spend the night inside and finally that dream came true.  after climbing the ladders of three decks, you can use the ingenious pulley system to bring up the rest of your things.  inside they have cheese and wine waiting for you, along with a fireplace, amenities in a small fridge, and an assortment of books.  there is power, but no running water (and the toilet is the composting style that uses biodegradable materials).  they are in the process of converting their garage into a showering area on the ground level.

there is nothing like literally sleeping among the birds and the house is complete with a flicker box for their resident male.  chickens and goats graze below and the rooster makes the country setting complete.  in the morning, they literally climb a farm-fresh breakfast up to you at the hour of your choice, including french press coffee with cream and sugar, homemade quiche with fresh herbs, and sliced fruit.

i can't stop smiling about the whole thing and when i'm once again feeling reflective, plan to write a poem for the owners about the experience.  they plan to post it on air bnb within the next week or so and i'm sure it will be an instant sensation!  it's not inexpensive and can fit one or two comfortably, but it is worth every moment and every step you climb to the top!

it's no surprise that a rainbow came out over the fields or that the tiny house calendar features a tree house for the month of november:  it was meant to be!

a big year

this movie is a must-see for birders.  (and the correct phrase is not 'bird-watching', as evidenced by steve martin's character when he corrects someone in all seriousness, "it's 'birding', rick.' ")  joining steve martin in the cast are jack black and owen wilson, who compete for the record number of bird sightings in this hilarious comedy.

a big year is a real thing.  it is commonly referred to as an informal competition between birders to identify, by either sight or sound (on the honors system), the largest amount of species in a specific geographic area within a single calendar year.

the ABA, or american birding association, gave the award to john weigel of australia who sighted 783 different species in 2016.  that same year, arjan dwarshuis from the netherlands received the world record of 6,833.

it's fun to think about actually doing a big year.  in the meanwhile, happy birding...

a world with octobers

november got here fairly quickly, it seems to me.  wasn't i just in sandals?  at any rate, i love this quote by the author of anne of green gables, "i'm so glad to live in a world where we have octobers."--l.m. montgomery

and this quote by renowned food aesthete mfk fisher, "one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that i, with my brain and hands, have nourished my beloved few, that i have concocted a stew or a story--a rarity or a plain dish--to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world."