The Sweetest Winter

 Finally taking time to read through new cookbooks, like Near & Far by Heidi Swanson. 

Finally taking time to read through new cookbooks, like Near & Far by Heidi Swanson. 

 The Christmas tree skirt I sewed two years ago is still my favorite holiday decoration.

The Christmas tree skirt I sewed two years ago is still my favorite holiday decoration.

I feel like this has been the nicest winter. It's rare that I have weekdays off to spend at home, and with a few days before Christmas, plus New Year's Day free, Trae and I have been both quite industrious and quite relaxed, hard at work on our house, which we hope to finish in a month or so, and making the most of our hours at home, whipping up ambitious meals like Jamaican spiced meat pies or homemade falafel to go with the last of our fall cabbages we've made into miso slaw.

Without grad school classes in the evenings (and the hour commute), I've been reading more (currently Monique Troung's The Book of Salt. I heard her speak at SFA in Oxford this year, and she was fabulous! You can watch that speech here.), compiling lists of sewing projects (embroider curtains for our new house, figure out how to make bias tape), catching up on new TV shows (Transparent is my favorite.), and -- one of my favorite winter activities -- pouring over the new Fedco catalog, dogearing every other page and dreaming of all the herbs and flowers I'd like to grow this spring. 

 Second year growth in my wild orange tree, indoors for the winter.

Second year growth in my wild orange tree, indoors for the winter.

This winter we also welcomed some additional news -- the expected arrival of a baby around July 1! Trae and I are thrilled to finally be three of us, and we feel lucky to realize this dream. I feel like this is one of those winters we'll look back on and remember so fondly many years from now -- going over to friends' houses for potlucks, scrambling to pick out paint colors and door knobs, stealing away to catch a movie and dinner in Chattanooga, entertaining neighbors who stop by to check on our house progress, and wondering all the while about who the newest family member will be -- our last time it's just the two of us.

I hope your year ended well and wish you a happy 2016.

 It was so warm this December, our quince started blooming.  

It was so warm this December, our quince started blooming.  

Pressing our favorite colors

It's the day before Halloween, and today is one of the most beautiful days of the year so far – sunny, cool, breezy, and the leaves popping with colors. The hickories seem especially bright this year, but I may have just forgotten how golden they always glow:

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Several years ago when I was traveling across the hemispheres, I missed out on fall entirely. I went from spring to summer then right back to spring again, and later I wrote a song  about the seasons. One of the lines went, "autumn's arbor ashes rain in yellow, orange and red, and we keep our favorite colors presses in books beside our bed..."

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I was hiking today around the bluff of the plateau and found several book-pressing- worthy colors.  

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When I was a student, I had my mom's copy of Under the Sun at Sewanee, a book of noteworthy hikes and caves in the area. I remember opening the guide at college for the first time and finding leaves my mom had pressed in it, still drying between the pages 25 years later – sassafras, chestnut oak, maple.

I still enjoy pressing leaves. They'll fade and dry out, but it's always a pleasant surprise when opening an old book to find a little piece of the fall again stuck mid-chapter, reminding you that it was autumn at some point and the leaves were bright enough to inspire this one small attempt at preservation.

Poem: the gravity of the moon.

I wrote this poem several years ago and came across it recently. It was inspired by Alice Oswald.

                               Tennessee River, mile 455.2, 2010.

                              Tennessee River, mile 455.2, 2010.

Close your eyes.

Imagine the softest places -

light on petals resting, an infants sigh on a grown-up shoulder,

the white pocket inside your elbow,

a waterspider stepping on the surface of a puddle -

and put them aside. Now think of warmth.

The candle´s gold, the way two bodies fit

together, how to fall asleep in a cloud

of goose down...

 

Now marry the two. Laugh at their dance -

like flappers to jazz or bonfire shadows

in a fluttering trance. Spin them

and spin them in a cool silken web,

watch the dew gather like dreams

condensing on a pillow before bed.

 

Now untie these thoughts, one by one,

slip the loop deftly from its home in your head

and let them float away towards the gravity

of the moon.